You were meant to soar!

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Sailing in PhoenixFor God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

This week was an eventful one!  We had a team from the Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting come to visit Rough Rock.  They were sent in response to a conflict among the leadership at this church, to bring everyone together, try to establish unity, and help to develop a plan for future interactions.  Three people came, Galen, his wife Esther, and Mary.  I decided (at the advice of the people over me back east) that I would welcome them and then leave Rough Rock for a few days while they sorted things out.  I really want to remain an impartial friend here.  After welcoming them, I was invited to attend the 1st meeting with the church and it was so interesting to watch this team engage the members of the disagreement in conversation.  I’ve never seen this process and I was so impressed by how this team included each person and affirmed what they believed to have happened and continually referred back to scripture.  I kept thinking, “I want to learn how to do this!”  By the end of the meeting, there was a “coming together” and even a few tears between the people who were at odds.  I’m praying so much that this process moves forward and healing continues!!  Please pray along with me in the coming weeks!!!

After that initial meeting, I left for Phoenix to stay with a friend.  On my way out of town I stopped in Kayenta with the Colorado team for breakfast at McDonalds.  What a blessing to hear the life stories of these people!

Mary rode with me to Kayenta, and it takes about 50 minutes to get there.  While we drove she told me her story.  Divorced 3 times before she came to know Christ, she reached a turning point when her son, at age 19, told her he wanted to live an openly gay life.  She was stunned by the church’s reaction to both her and her son and while at a conference she overheard two mothers talking. The first asked, “How long have you known your son is gay?” The other responded, “Only about four months now, we are still trying to find a church that can help us.” The first woman responded, “You better forget about the Church; they don’t have anything for us.”  Mary was so saddened by this- if not the church, then who will people go to?  She felt called by God to start helping churches to appropriately respond to these families.  She started an organization called “Where Grace Abounds” (click here for her website, if you are interested).

Galen and Esther told me their story over breakfast.  As they told of moving from place to place and learning to hear God’s call and wanting SO much to stay in one place and not move their kids out of school and having God reveal His desires for them so clearly, I started to feel that brotherhood/sisterhood that happens between people who are all running this race for God.  I could relate.

I also started feeling normal.  Normal in a sense that what I’m doing (leaving everything behind and moving to Arizona for 8 months) isn’t that weird.  It’s just following that voice I’ve come to recognize as God’s.  And these people were doing it too- and they had been doing it for years and years and were used to seeing God do incredible things along the way.  This is a normal way for a Christian to live.

I left breakfast encouraged that I’m a part of a world-wide team of people who are just following that still, small Voice.

When I arrived in Phoenix (will I ever get used to the distances here!?!), I settled in at the home of Sherry Hemsoth, director of “Encourage One Another” ministries.  Sherry and her family are from Fort Wayne and are another example of people who heard God’s call and stepped into the unknown.  Sherry spends her days cheering on many, many missionaries and pastors to the Native Americans.  She takes “encouragement trips” into all the surrounding reservations (Apache, Comanche, Hopi, Navajo, Pima and Zuni) to reach out to the workers in these fields.  She also has a little cottage on her property that is free lodging- open to any ministry person who needs a place to stay in Phoenix, or who simply needs time away from the reservation for a bit.  Her website can be found by clicking here.

David's House~ a place of encouragement
David’s House~ a place of encouragement

It was such a joy to be adopted into Sherry’s family for a few days.  She planned a picnic at a beautiful lake where Casper swam his heart out, and every morning I enjoyed a morning walk to the (dog-friendly!) Starbucks just up the street.  It was really good to talk through some of the things I’ve absorbed over the past 6 weeks with her.  She has a rare perspective and knows SO much about the ministries going on all over Arizona and New Mexico.  It was fun to hear how she stepped out in faith to follow God’s voice.  Again, it made me feel like what I am doing right now is the most natural and common thing.  Just a part of walking with God.

When I was struggling with the idea of coming here, I listened to a song over and over again.  I think God used it to give me courage- and a hope that in letting go of all the fears of the unknown I would be able to soar.  The song is “Just Live” by Kathleen Carnali (who is an amazing artist with such a heart for God!)  Just sharing the lyrics with you won’t do it justice….so click on the picture below if you’d like to hear her perform it.

You were meant to soar...
You were meant to soar…

“Afraid to lose something…when it’s that something that won’t let you go.
Until you have nothing, then nothing is all that you’ll know…
Take a chance, let it go…You don’t have to be afraid of the unknown!  “

It is a totally normal and expected thing for Christians to live in the realm of the unknown.  God wants us to trust Him each day, for that day alone.  Obviously, God doesn’t tell every Christian to pack up and move, or give up a career to go into ministry.

But what if He says it to you?

Will you go?

What if God’s voice directs you to lead a ministry or help teach Sunday School, or volunteer at a women’s shelter, or….?

Will you?

I’ve spent most of my adult life with college age students and they always ask, “How do I know it’s God?”

I tell them- know God.  You can’t hear Him if you don’t spend time with Him.  On your own.  In prayer.  In His word.  Just listening. With others, in small groups, in one-to-one discipleship, in church.  Spend lots and lots of time with Him and you will know His voice.

I love that life as a Christ follower is an active thing.  I think Paul refers to it as a race to remind us that we aren’t to be passive, but always press(ing) on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Who knows what plans God has for you?  Press on friends!!!

This has been a week of encouragement for me and I’m ready for whatever comes next!

This has also been a week of some sad news.  My friend Miranda, who is renting my house, started having seizures a few weeks ago and her doctor has taken away her ability to drive.  This is incredibly bad news for her- she is trying to piece together transportation so that she doesn’t lose her job, and she is so sad and discouraged to lose her independence.  Please pray for her this week as she struggles with questions of “why” and “how”.

This also means that I’ve lost my rent and utility income. My house isn’t prepared to rent out to just anyone.  All Miranda and I did was to clear out a bedroom and kitchen space for her, so most of my things are all still there.  I have good friends who have offered to check on the house and keep up with the yard work for me this summer, and I’ve pared down my utilities as much as I can.  I still need about $500 extra/month beginning in April.  Please be praying that God will make a way.  I’m still getting income from my dessert blog and I’m hoping to do some side jobs in graphic design maybe one or two days a week, but I need God to multiply things!!!!  Just more practice in learning to trust each day and fear not!

Thank you again and again for your prayers, encouragement and support~ I’m so thankful for you!!!

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Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:30-31

The “elderlies”

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Monument Valley

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

It seems like each new week I am a little more in the “flow” of things at this church and in this community.  I am still confused by some of the differences, but the Navajo I’ve become friends with are incredibly gracious in trying to explain these.  I’m accepting that there are some things I will never understand.  For example, there is a hesitation to take the lead over others (in all areas- church, social, work…).  People will just sit and wait for someone to step up…and wait…and wait…. It seems it is disrespectful to just boss people around.  I asked why this is and I was told- well nobody likes to be told what to do!

In Indiana, I am the person in the room that jumps in and leads whenever there is a lack of leadership (maybe I’m bossy!!)  It is SO hard to just sit and wait with them until someone tentatively steps up!  God is teaching me so much about myself, and building into me a patience I’ve never had before.

Respect is a key element to the relationships here, and I like it SO much.  There is a real sense of concern about how one’s words and actions might affect another person.  Age is considered a gift.  The elders of the Navajo are thought to possess the highest level of knowledge and life experience, along with the best understandings of the Navajo traditions.

If I had a dime for every time someone middle-aged here complained about “kids these days” not respecting the elderly…well, I wouldn’t need financial support for this trip because I’d be rich!  I overheard a parent saying to a 10 or 11 year old the other day: “Just because she can’t figure out an Iphone doesn’t mean she doesn’t know anything!”  This was in reference to a grandparent.

This respect for the older members of a community is making me think a lot about our anglo churches and how rarely we sit down to listen to the elderly’s stories.  They are the ones who have lived a whole life with God, and they carry inside of them incredible wisdom and insight about Him and His word, but we (I!!) rarely have the time to sit and listen to their stories.

I have been volunteering at the Rough Rock Senior Center on Mondays.  It is a government program, not a church one, but I was invited to help by Pauline, who is a part of our church.

The Navajo have been establishing Senior Centers in various towns since the 1970’s.  Rough Rock is one of the newest.  It was established in 2004.  It is run by the Navajo Area Agency on Aging (NAAA).  Pauline explained that they are funded by both the US government and the Navajo government.  There are 3 employees at the center.  Pauline runs it, Melina is the cook, and Doris transports both people and meals.  Those are the official jobs- but they are all doing a million different things from the time the center opens to the time it closes 8 hours later.

Every day, they are able to provide a hot and well-balanced meal to about 70 elderlies.  About 40-50 of them are able to come in and eat, the other 20-30 meals are packaged up and Doris delivers them (along with a bit of conversation!).  It’s an incredible thing to watch.  My job? Usually to just set up tables and chairs, decorate them with tablecloths and centerpieces, unpack boxes of supplies, get drinks made and dishes set out (they can’t afford paper plates/ utensils, so they have to wash everything– by hand–in soapy bleach water.  Talk about dry hands!!)

This week was special.  They have a party (with a holiday theme) every month.  This week was the Valentine’s party.  I was asked to make 100 cupcakes with Melina and she asked if I could show her how to make icing from scratch and how to pipe it in swirls on the top.

I came a day early to make them and Pauline said Melina took the day off.  So I went ahead and made the cupcakes and realized they had forgotten to get the butter and powdered sugar needed for the frosting.  I drove 45 minutes to get ingredients for them and started wondering if I would end up doing all of them by myself after all…?  The next day Melina was there and as we were making frosting together, Pauline set a stack of cake pans next to me and said- we need 8 more cakes for the cakewalk.  EIGHT cakes?  Yes.  EIGHT.  In two hours.  Melina quickly learned how to pipe frosting and she and Doris finished the cupcakes while I frantically tried to make and decorate 8 cakes before they were needed.  All around me was a flurry of activity.  Roast beef, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, a huge salad…. we finally finished and I looked up to see the room FULL of elderlies all dressed in beautiful turquoise jewelry and dresses.  We served plates up (paper this time, since it was a special occasion) and then there was dancing and music and a cake walk and laughter.  I loved it.  When I collapsed in a heap back at home I wondered how these women do this every day.  It is back-breaking work!

Pauline, Doris and Melina with our masterpieces!
Pauline, Doris and Melina with our masterpieces!

Melina and I are already talking about desserts for the St. Patrick’s day party!  Maybe we can make cakes ahead next time!!

The rest of the week flew by in a blur of Bible studies, long walks with women from the church, dinner out with friends (dinner “out” is a very rare thing!!) and preparing for a group from Colorado to come stay with us this week.  I was invited to join a family on their trip to Monument Valley this past Saturday.  There is nothing like a road trip with 5 kids, 4 adults and a dog to create fun new friendships! We laughed so hard and really enjoyed each other.  I’m so thankful for how God is weaving me into this community…slowly, but in really fun ways.

This coming week I will get a mini-vacation.  The team coming from Colorado is meeting with the church to address some of the conflict and disunity that’s happened.  I was asked to just take a few days away, so that I can remain an impartial member of the church and not get pulled one way or another in anyone’s eyes.  Before I left Ft. Wayne, I met a woman named Sherry who runs a ministry that simply encourages people who work alongside the Navajo.  She has little retreat cottages in Phoenix that are free for use to just get away for awhile.  I haven’t been here long enough to feel like I need to “get away”, but it is a free place to stay for a few days and I’m so excited to process my experience so far with someone who has spent 15 years working with the Navajo.

Please be praying this week that this team from Colorado will be helpful in rebuilding bridges between people here.  Also, continue to pray for the men here.  So many struggle with addictions, and they are SO SAD… I just want the hope of Christ for them so badly.

Thank you so much for all of your support and for cheering me on!  I hope this is a wonderful week for you.  Take a little time and listen to an “elderly” this week maybe?

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Elderlies

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? Job 12:12

Following along…

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Canyon de Chelly“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”  Oswald Chambers

It’s been a good week.  Many of you ask me what my days are like and if I know what God is calling me to here.   I can tell you what my days are like, but as far as where I am being led…?  I can only tell you that I am trying my best to follow God each day and be open to opportunities He places in front of me.  I’m still not sure exactly where He is leading.

Today was spent hiking in Canyon de Chelly and discovering how incredibly out of shape I am!  It was a great time of just “hanging out” with new friends, followed by a late lunch at Burger King, and a long car ride home with some great discussion about trust and forgiveness and the future of the Navajo Nation.  Tonight I had 9 kids and one very tired mom over for a movie night.  The kids loved the videos some of you sent this week, and mom fell asleep on the couch.  The kids were encouraged to share with me about how they came to have Jesus in their heart, and one sweet 11 year old explained that his family members all do very bad things and he wants to be different and have a different life than that- but that he realizes only Jesus can help him be a different person.  Then he asked us to pray for his dad who is an alcoholic.  Oh my.  After the kids shared, the older ones wanted to sing a worship song for us before the movie.  I posted it for you to listen to if you want.  Just click here.

That’s today.  Yesterday I took a woman from Rough Rock who doesn’t have a car into Kayenta (about 45 miles away) so she could do some banking and get some groceries.  We had lunch at Subway and she took me to look at yarn at the hardware store and to a cute little Navajo crafts store.  I had so much fun getting to know her better.  She’s in her 60’s and told me so much about how the reservation “used” to be.

Every day is something new.  On Sundays we have church, of course- which I love. Sunday afternoons I hike with friends.  Mondays I help in the mornings at the Senior Center here.  I will tell you more about that later- it deserves an entire post!  I’ve become friends with the cook there and this week we are making 100 cupcakes for a big Valentines Day party.  Tuesdays I eat lunch at the trading post (they have nachos and slushies) and just hang out with the girls there- it’s a good place to connect with the town and meet people because they all come to get mail. Wednesday nights we have a Bible study at the church, Thursday nights the ladies want to start up a craft night, and Fridays the church is discussing a possible movie night as an outreach to the community (I’m really excited they are planning something like this!!!! Cheering them on!!!!)

It’s busy here- but not an Indiana busy.  I actually have time in the morning to read, study, pray and enjoy coffee.  It’s nice to have that and not be rushing off to things as soon as I wake up.

I was riding in the car today with one of my friends here, Rod, and he decided to give me a quiz about what I have learned about the Navajo Nation so far.  I think I did fairly well- I thought I’d ask you the same questions and see how you do:

1. The Navajo Nation is comparable to what US state in size?

2. What is the population of the Navajo Nation?

3. What are 3 things that the Navajo Nation is known for (there are lots, but he asked for 3)

4. How were the Navajo key in helping the US in WWII?

5.  Who was responsible for bringing this to the attention of the US government?

6. What does Tai chi’ zih mean?

Answers:

1. The Navajo Nation is 27, 413 square miles, about the same size at West Virginia.

2. The population is right around 180,000 people, making the Navajo the largest Indian tribe in North America.

3. Beautiful hand woven rugs, turquoise jewelry, natural resources (like coal, oil and natural gas), rodeos, wildlife, Monument Valley….lots of things!

4. They were specifically chosen and trained to speak Navajo as a means to transmit coded communications in the Pacific theater of the war.  Because Navajo is such a difficult language to learn, the code was an unbreakable means of communication. (And there’s a museum all about it at a Burger King near here!)

5. The missionaries who worked with the Navajo- because they tried so hard to learn the language and knew of its difficulty!

6.  It means Rough Rock, the name of our town.  No, I cannot pronounce it- or even think of anything it sounds like in English.  I tried for awhile and Rod laughed so hard at me.  There are sounds in those words that my mouth does not make at all….! Maybe by the time I leave…?

If you want to really learn about the Navajo, I’m finding a little book called “The book of the Navajo” is SO interesting.  It was recommended by my friend Sherry, who has work with the Navajo for years, and it tells a little about their culture, history, traditions and beliefs.  I’m about half way through it and I’m really enjoying it.  You might be able to find it at your library. I got mine on Amazon.  Click here for a link.  I’ve also found some helpful articles online.  Click here for one on PBS.org that gives a good overview.

I hope you enjoyed the quiz, and a little snapshot of my days here so far.  I’m just following along…and trusting that the One who is leading me has a reason for taking this path.

Thank you for your prayers and notes (I’m finally getting mail!) and videos and cookies… I feel so incredibly loved and supported by all of you back home- it feels like we are all in this together (which we are!), and I’m so thankful for all of you!!!

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Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25

Love one another…

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Top of the mountainA new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

I have discipled and loved many college-age students over the past 15-or-so years, and I’ve heard a lot of reasons for not following God.  It seems when we want to live life on our own terms and by our own rules that we can come up with all kinds of reasons to reject God, and we defend our reasons to the point of being angry.  I don’t consider myself to be well-versed in apologetics (the practice of defending a religious view), and I often resort to simply sharing “the reason for the hope I have”.  I don’t like to argue about God.  It’s hard to be “right” and show God’s love at the same time.  Not impossible, but very hard.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16

I love the students that have been in our group who have struggled with the hard questions of how God fits with real life. I love that they are thinking about what they believe and making the truth of scripture come alive in their lives. But there is one statement- and I’ve heard it several times now- that stops me dead in my tracks.  It’s a statement that is too close to home.  It’s a statement that makes me want to point fingers at everyone but myself.  It is a statement that hurts, because it is so often true.  It usually goes along one of these lines:

I’d rather be friends with non-Christians, because Christians have hurt me.

People at church are fake.

Their love has conditions attached.

They judge me.

They judge others.

They gossip.

The people who are really there for me in hard times are my non-christian friends.

I love God, but church isn’t a safe place to bring my friends who are really messed up.

Ouch.

Ironically, the church I am a part of in Fort Wayne and the church I grew up at in Battle Creek both have the same mission statement:  Love God and Love Others, and I think they do a good job of living this out. I get fairly defensive on behalf of church families I love.  I know lots of people who love others sacrificially, who would never judge someone who’s struggling and who are genuine followers of God that sincerely love people.

But I keep hearing these words from people.  I heard these words here in Rough Rock last night.  Someone I was talking with said, “My friends outside the church are there for me when I struggle.  Even my Mormon friends have more love for me than the people I know at church. They prayed for me when everyone at my church turned away.”

I think we would like to write these statements off.  Explain them away as people who expect perfection from the church.  Tell them that no one group of people is perfect and they need to get over expecting perfection from the church. Instead, I think we should seriously think about our own role in this breakdown.  Not everyone else’s role.  Mine.  What do I say and do that turns people away from God?  In what ways am I not loving others?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  I Corinthians 13:4-8

Am I patient and kind with people?  Am I willing to dive into a long-term process with someone- walk with them through the good and bad for years?

Do I hurt people because of my pride?  Am I so convinced that the way I do things is the only way that I shut down other’s ideas?  Do I crave “important” roles in the church?

Do I dishonor others by gossiping or slandering them?  This is so subtle in the church, because we  (and everyone else) know that gossip and slander are wrong- so we get sneaky with it.

Do I keep a mental list of everything someone has done wrong- only to pull it out as proof that he or she will never really change?

Do I get frustrated with people who don’t do things my way or on my schedule?  Do I leave church angry?

Do I take secret pleasure in knowing someone else really messed up?  Does it make me feel like I’m doing better than them as a Christian?

Have I placed more importance on prophecy, tongues or knowledge than on simply loving people?

We need to seek God on these things and be honest with ourselves.  If the church is a picture of what followers of God look like, how are we doing?  How can we grow in this?  How can we hold each other accountable to love above all else?

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  1 John4:7-8

I’m just becoming a part of this little church in Rough Rock.  I see love here, and compassion.  I see a desire for the lost and addicted to find freedom in Christ.  I also hear gossip and see a struggle for who will lead, and pride from those who do.  I see a church much like the church families I love in Michigan and Indiana- good and bad all together.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:21-25

Yes, thanks be to God, who delivers us through Jesus Christ.

This week was eventful!  There are so many differences in our culture and lifestyle that I told my mom I’m not even surprised much any more.  I expect the unexpected.  Like walking by the sheepskin hanging from the porch only to be served mutton stew once inside.  Like being chased by goats at the grocery store.

This week we celebrated “First Sunday” -meaning that all of the four Friends churches in this area meet together at one church.  This month it was Red Ridge Friends Church that hosted.  We gathered in a small wooden church with a wood-burning stove for heat.

Red Ridge Friends Church
Red Ridge Friends Church

Each church took turns leading worship and sharing God’s word.  When Rough Rock went up front to lead my first thought was- it’s my new family up there!  Already the faces and stories of this little church are dear to me.  It’s amazing how that happens in a church, in spite of the struggles.  People you would normally just pass on the street become family.  You know their joys and pain, you enjoy meals together, you pray for and encourage each other.  I’m so thankful that in spite of enormous cultural differences we are all a part of God’s family!

My new church family!
My new church family!

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement this week- several of you have tried to send me videos for the kids here and discovered that my mailing address isn’t right. I finally drove to Chinle this morning to speak directly with postal workers.  Apparently the Rough Rock trading post didn’t give me the whole address.  Here it is:

Ruthanne VandenBosch
HC 61 Box 5000
P.O. Box AZZ
Chinle, AZ, 86503

Blessings over your coming week!!!

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Settling in…

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Settling in...

I’ve been here for just over a week.  It’s gone fast, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people.  I also feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of life here.

I’ve previously only done short-term trips to serve other communities, and with a short 1-2 week trip you plan ahead for months to get as much impact during that short time as possible.  In comparison to those types of trips I feel like I’ve done nothing this week!  This is an entirely different experience.

I’ve learned a few things about the church here, by talking with people who were here serving before me.   A missionary couple and their family started this church in the 1940’s.  They moved here and lived in a tent and had harrowing experiences with blizzards and horrible mud.  There’s a book written about them called Mud on Their Wheels: The Life-Story of Vern and Lois Ellis (Life-Story Mission Series) by Betty M. Hockett.  It was interesting to read about the very beginning of Christian faith here among the Navajo of Rough Rock. (You can click on the title above to find the book on Amazon.com)

Many (I cannot keep track of the names!) missionaries have followed those 1st missionaries, Vern and Lois.  Several years ago, the governing body of the church decided it was time for the church to stand on their own, after being equipped for so many years by missionaries.  They sent a couple from Colorado,  Bud and Judy, to help transition the church from dependence on missionaries to independent leadership of the church.  Bud and Judy left maybe a year ago and it seems (reading between the lines here) that the church did ok for awhile, but then people began to leave.  I’ve heard a few reasons.  The woman who led the children’s ministry got tired of doing it by herself and couldn’t get volunteers to help her (we’ve had that dilemma in every church I’ve ever attended!), so she left and attended a Baptist church with a missionary staff that provided a children’s program.  Now this church doesn’t have a program for children. They come, but go outside to climb on the rocks behind the church during service.  Others have left as well, but I’m not sure of the reasons.

So here I am.

I know that God has specifically called me to be in this place, but I cannot lead.  I can encourage things like Bible study and children’s ministry- but I cannot start them or lead them- because they need to be the church and have ownership of these things.  I can come alongside and encourage, but that is all.  This is so hard for them.  All around Rough Rock there are churches staffed by missionaries who run all the programs and bring lots of supplies and gifts for families.  It is an easier thing for them to go and just take than to become the church here that God is calling them to become.  A truly Navajo church.

This is a hard thing in our part of the world too.  How many people attend a church for what it can give them, rather than attending a church to give sacrificially so that the community around the church can know Christ?  We are just fortunate (or maybe not so fortunate…?) to have lots of money to pay people to do much of the work in our churches.

Please pray for the people of this little church.  They are genuinely trying, and many of them are stepping WAY out of their comfort zone to preach or sing up front or even pray up front over the offering.  Imagine if your pastor stopped mid service and pointed at you and said- could you come up and lead us in this next song?  These are the things they are facing and many are taking the challenge and doing a great job.

For the people of this church, I am praying for a deep understanding of God’s love, deep roots in Him and his Word, and an understanding of what God has gifted them in to use in and around the church.

As for me- I’m just getting to know people.  I’m watching and listening and praying a lot.

This week I got to know Sonny better.  He and his wife Kathy live across the “wash” from me.  I guess it’s a gully that becomes a river when it rains..?  Sonny is taking a lot of leadership in the church.  He is also a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to fixing things- he spends all of his time fixing things for people.  He also watches over me, my house and the church property since he is so close.

I also spent time this week with Roderick and Lavina.  They are two of the people I met last fall.  Lavina brought her 5 kids over to meet Casper and watch movies (we have a disappointing collection of Dr. Dobson lectures and old 70s Christian movies…if you have any VHS family-friendly movies you aren’t using, send them our way!)  We all took a long walk yesterday and Rod and Lavina made me laugh telling me all of the antics from their childhood on the reservation.

We had a Bible study on Weds.  It was really a great study.  I’m determined to not be the leader of it- but to just support and encourage those who do lead it.  I love the common ground we all have in Christ.  Everything else might be different, but we share the truth of Jesus with each other!

Why am I here?  I keep asking God that question, and it isn’t clear yet.  Can I really have much of an impact on this little church struggling to get on its own two feet?  In only 8 months?  I really don’t know.  I do know that God needs me here today though.  So please pray for me to just be faithful and obedient as each day comes- regardless of the outcome.

I’m so thankful that I’ve made some small steps into becoming a part of this community.  It is starting to feel more like home.  It is beautiful and, I am learning, tragic here.  The people are kind and gentle and thoughtful, but many are addicted to alcohol and suffer with severe depression.  They desperately need the hope and freedom that a life in Christ brings.

I appreciate your prayers so much.  We can’t possibly understand the intricacies of God’s plan for this place and these people, but we know that He loves them and wants them to be His own.  We know he wants hope and life and victory over addiction for them.  Please keep praying!

Whenever I pray I remind God of the verse I chose as a theme for this blog…more than we can ask or imagine God….IMMEASURABLY more than we can ask or imagine in this place!!!!

Have a great week, friends!

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A prayer of King Jehoshaphat when facing a vast army…it’s been one of my favorites for years.  I hope it is an encouragement to you!

2 Chronicles 20:12b, 15b
“O our God…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you…
This is what the Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’”
 
 

From There to Here

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Sunset over New MexicoI’m in Rough Rock!  It’s been a long journey!  Here’s the story:

The goodbyes.

Any new journey requires a letting go of the old.  I’ve been saying goodbye to my co-workers for months now, and it never got easier.  The last of the genetics crew was made up of Joe and I on New Years Eve.  We sat in the break room and reminisced about all the great people we worked with and all the fun stories we shared.  It felt like the last episode of a sitcom.

Many other goodbyes were thwarted by the weather.  Church was cancelled on my last Sunday and Collision (the college group I led) was also cancelled.  Fortunately my sister-in-law Steph and one of my best friends, Ricky, threw me a goodbye party.  It was SO much fun and I had a chance to say goodbye to many dear friends that I would have otherwise not seen before I left.  The hardest goodbyes were with my family.  I will really miss them.

Day #1

I left Fort Wayne at about 8 am on Thursday the 16th with high hopes of driving 10 hours and spending the night in Kansas.  My car was packed to the brim with everything I wanted along for these 8 months.  Within 20 minutes of leaving, it started to snow.  Hard.  The roads got more and more slippery and traffic slowed to the point of only going about 20 mph.  It was terrible driving for about 5 hours.  It gradually changed to rain as the temperatures rose, and then turned into hail and then sleet.  About an hour before I reached Kansas City the wind picked up and there were such big gusts that I had a hard time keeping my car on the road!  My 10 hour trip took about 14 hours, and I was exhausted!

Day#2

I left Olathe, KS early and had a wonderful, sunny day driving through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and into New Mexico.  I loved the beautiful fields of grain and the rodeos along the road in Oklahoma.  I passed so many places I wanted to stop, but I resisted them- all but one.  I stopped at Dorothy’s house in Liberal, KS.  It was a fun break from all the relentless driving.  I got into Tucumcari, New Mexico just after sunset.

 Day#3

The third day was spent driving across New Mexico.  I only had 6 hours to go, but once I got to Gallup I stopped at a restaurant recommended by my friend Quint.  I also got groceries at WalMart because Gallup is the last outpost of civilization.  Imagine a blizzard warning in the Midwest- that was the scene at this WalMart.  Utter chaos.  The parking lot was like black Friday.  Inside, everyone had two carts and they were full to overflowing.  I spent a little over an hour in WalMart- mostly in line!  I drove another 2 ½ hours and pulled into Rough Rock just as the sun was setting.  It was beautiful.  A wonderful woman from the church, Tina, met me with a key to the house I will be staying in and I unpacked.

Now I am here.  It’s quiet – very quiet.  I don’t have wi-fi or a TV, and my cell service is limited.  I think this will be a big adjustment, but I believe with all of my heart that this is where God has led me to and I will just trust Him until I see the plan unfold!

I attended church this morning and connected with some of the people here.  They are kind and generous followers of Christ and I’m excited to become friends with them.

It feels a little “alone” here today.  It will take awhile to connect in this community and without wifi I’m limited in my connections with all of you (I’m writing this in a Burger King about 30 minutes from home with wifi- lol!)  But I was texting with my friend Danielle last night and I said -“It’s just Casper and I here….” and she reminded me: “Casper, you and GOD”- and that truth makes all the difference!!! 

“Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  Psalm 139:7-10

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Blizzards and Packing

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SnowfallA week from today (weather permitting!) I will be on my way to Arizona.

I read a quote this week from Mother Teresa that seemed to fit the process I am in.

“The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.”

There was a huge snow storm in Indiana this week- the most snow I have seen in awhile! The result of this was two free days to sort through my belongings and decide what to keep and what to give away; what to leave here and what to bring along.  I’m afraid I’m not a terribly simple person- or a light packer on trips.  I convince myself that I simply cannot live without things and bring them along with me everywhere.  (Ask my family- I always have way more than I need in any given situation!)

I am limited in my packing to a very small Honda Civic.  (It feels smaller, the closer the time to leave comes!)  I have packed up everything I think I will need and I’m POSITIVE it will not all fit.  I keep looking at my pile and looking at my car…and there’s no way!

Each step of this journey has opened my eyes to new things about God and myself and the world around me.  This week I’m being forced to consider what I actually need, and believe me, it is far less than I own.  The time I have spent sorting, packing, cleaning, (and now re-sorting and re-packing to fit!) is time I could have spent with people I won’t see again for months.  “Stuff” is such a silly thing to waste time on.

The less you have, the more free you are.  

Free for things like my relationship with my heavenly Father, spending time with my friends and family, learning new things about the world around me…

Everything I will have in Arizona for eight months has to fit in my car.  I’m excited to experience the freedom of less bringing more of other things.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

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Reckless abandon -wrapped in common sense

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AZ-44I specialize in common sense.  When in doubt, I do the most careful and logical thing.  I’m not a big risk taker and I like knowing where I am going and what I am doing.

Last September when I realized my job would be ending in genetics and that it was likely that God was calling me to full-time ministry, I panicked…. and then started praying.

I was listening to Pandora radio at work one day, in the middle of all the decision making, and a song by Casting Crowns came up.  It’s not a song I’ve ever really liked, so I was preparing to skip it but I’d skipped one too many songs and I was stuck listening to it.

“Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves…
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end -and we are caught in the middle.
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His- or are we caught in the middle?”

As I listened to this song I thought, “This is me. I’m caught between who I’ve always been and who God is calling me to be.  I’m claiming to have faith in a God who can do anything, but hanging on to the security fence I’ve built around me. I want to surrender to God- but I still want control.”

January 16th I will leave on a new journey.  God has very distinctly led me to go and live in a small Navajo community in Rough Rock, AZ for the next 8 months.  I’m still not entirely sure what I will be doing, but I’m really excited to learn more about the people, history and culture of the Navajo.

The scripture I hang on to each day is a familiar one to many:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

As I learn to surrender to God and give him all control to lead my life, I pray you will continue to do the same.  There is a peace here that really does go beyond my understanding.

I’ve started a page with prayer requests, but today will you pray specifically for the young adult ministry I’m leaving behind?  They have become dear friends and they are gifted in many ways to lead the group on their own.  Pray that they will have direction, inspiration and passion to continue in fellowship together and to reach others with the good news of God’s love.

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