Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Time for Reflection and A Time for Looking Ahead

As 2012 comes to an end in just a few short days, it is a time of reflection for our family and ministry.  God has truly blessed us this year, but that is not to say that it has been an easy year.  Actually, it's been quite the opposite- much of that having to do with the adoption of our daughter.  It has been a year of growing, learning to trust, and having faith that God's plan and timing are perfect.

Ministry-wise things have been a little different too.  We said goodbye to our ministry partner and friend, Doug, in January as he left to go to Bible college in Kentucky.  So, the first couple of months of the year were spent adjusting to doing ministry as a couple and without his help. 



We continued to minister in the villages of Cockleburr and Chuichu on the Tohono O'odham reservation.  Our relationships have only gotten stronger in these 2 villages, and we can see that the seeds that we first planted almost 2 years ago have taken root.  We are trusting God for the harvest!

After going to Cockleburr every week for the past 2 years, the kids still get excited when we pull up for "church night" and still continue to shout "It's Eric and Brittany!!"  How it makes our hearts happy to know they are excited to hear about Jesus!  There is just something about that village and those kids that our hearts will forever love. 

 
 
We never know what to expect when we get there!
 
 


In the village of Chuichu, we were able to build a ramada this year (with the help of HBC mission team).  This serves as our "church building" and where we hold special services and VBS.  We love this village too and are trying to find a way to go there more consistently (weekly).  The kids are always awesome and we've had several parents come to events that we've done.  Not to mention, Miss CB is absolutely the greatest and has a desire to reach her own community! 

 
 
 
 
 

Not only did we get to continue our ministry to these villages, but we added another village- Kohatk.  We have formed a great relationship with a couple in this village, who have graciously opened up their home/yard to us anytime we want to do something.  The kids in this village are so well-behaved and polite.  They are always eager to listen to the Bible story and always ask when we are coming back.  We have also met several adults from the village.  Our goal for 2013 is to be able to do more ministry work/events in this village and to start a discipleship program for the men that are interested.

 
 
 
 
 

We also spent a great deal of time ministering with/to the church at First Pima in Sacaton.  There were several events that took place that we (Eric especially) helped the church work through.  We spent a lot of time with the youth.  Unfortunately, we had one of our youth commit suicide just a little over a month ago.  This is the first time we have ever had to deal with it being one of our "own".  It was a hard time for us.  He was only 14 years old, and he has 3 siblings that are also in the youth group as well.  Please continue to pray for the family and for us as we continue to minister to them.

 We were able to get a youth facility for the church (with the help of a mission team from FBC Fredonia).  We also helped with the children's ministry and tried to help develop a strong Sunday School program. 



youth facility before pic


youth facility pic after

We even had someone donate their time and material to make curtains for the inside of the facility. The youth love them!

We had our first "Spring Break" mission teams come out this year in March.  They were Flat Top Unity Baptist Church from Mississippi and Hardin Baptist Church from Kentucky.  They were both really awesome teams! Spring Break Kids Camp was a success and we plan to do it again in 2013!

In May, we welcomed our first summer interns- Mark and Jessi Davis.  They arrived just a couple of days before the beginning of our "Summer" mission teams.  Our summer was great and full!  We had mission teams from Simpson Baptist in Illinois, Christian Fellowship and First Missionary from Kentucky, Damascus Baptist from Georgia, and Fredonia Baptist from Kentucky.  We also took the youth girls to church camp in KY.  Our summer consisted of VBS, contruction projects, and other outreach events.  If you look back in previous posts, there is a slideshow of pictures that you can watch.

Also, if you haven't noticed, my blog updates have been really inconsistent this year. :)  One of the reasons for that is because we also became foster parents this year.  The foster children brought to our house are from the Gila River Reservation.  Our first foster children came to our house in March. We have had 6 total foster children (2 years old and younger) this year.  A couple of them only stayed for a couple of weeks, but the majority have stayed for several months.  The most we have had in our home at one time has been 3, making a total of 5 children all under the age of 7.  We have been so blessed!  Can you see why my lack of posting?  I am still trying to figure out how to be a stay-at-home mom and work at the same time :)

In November, we traveled to Congo to finally bring our daughter home.  It took us 2 1/2 years, but she is finally here and seems to be adjusting well!  We enjoyed our time there, and we still think of and pray for the people and children we met on daily basis.  Our hearts long to go back again one day!  We thank you for your prayers!  It was a hard journey (especially the last couple of months before travel when we found out that she was missing), but God is good and brought our family together at last.  We hope that each one of you that reads this blog will be able to meet her at some point and see what a joy she is!

First kisses

Loving her momma!

So beautiful!


As we reflect, we can see the hardships, but most importantly the blessings.  We have seen God's faithfulness, and we have seen His provision for us time and time again.  We are thankful for all things. 

Now is the time that we look ahead to the future and anticipate what 2013 will bring.  We are excited about the new year because we know that God is the one who holds it in His hands.  We know that He has been preparing us and our ministry for great things.  We know that He has given us big dreams- ones that only He can accomplish.  We know that some of you will be used by Him to accomplish some of these things, whether it be financially or by physically working on the field. We look forward to see how He chooses to bring Himself honor and praise and glory.

We want to say thank you to all of you who have supported us these past couple of years.  We hope you see that you are making an eternal impact in the lives of Native Americans here in AZ.  We pray that you continue to support us, whether financially or by prayer.  Please pray with us for more supporters (financial and/or prayer) to come along side us in the new year. Like I said, God has given us BIG dreams, and we just know that He is going to use His people to accomplish this project!!

Finally, because several people have asked, it is possible to make end of the year tax-deductible donations.  At this point, because Live Love Ministries is not a 501c3 yet, tax-deductible donations must be sent through the North American Mission Board.  We do receive 100% of the funds. 

There are 2 ways to do this:

1. Mail a check.  Simply make your check to NAMB and put Gibbs 9611 in the memo line of the check so they know it is intended for us.  Send to: NAMB, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022

2. Make your donation online.  Click this link: http://msc.kintera.org/faf/search/searchParticipants.asp   There should be a spot asking you for the missionary's first and last name.  Simply type in Eric Gibbs.  It should then come up with Eric Gibbs, Sacaton, AZ.  Just click on his name.  It should take you to our page and you can click on the button that says "Give Now". 

We thank you so much for your financial support.  We are self-funded missionaries, meaning that all the support we raise not only supports our family, but all the ministry that we do.  We could not do what we do without those of you that choose to give to our ministry. 

Although your financial support is important, your prayers mean more than anything.  Thank you to those that pray for us by name on a daily basis.  We can tell when people are praying for us.  We thank you and love you!

Looking forward to what God has in store,
Brittany

P.S.  Christmas in the Villages was a huge success!!  It will be my next post.  I still have to go through all the pictures first.  But please know, it was awesome.  Every child was "adopted" and received at least 3 presents each.  It was amazing!

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Adopt a Child for Christmas"

Wow!  It's hard to believe that it is almost time for Christmas!  It seems that this year has flown by. 

We are, once again, going to try to provide Christmas for several families on the Tohono O'odham Reservation.  Last year was such a huge success, and we want to thank those that participated.  Out of all the things (activities, events, etc) that we have ever done since living here, the "Adopt a Child for Christmas" campaign has been my favorite thing to do hands down.  It is such a joy to see a child's face light up when they see that someone cared enough about them to get them specific presents that they need!

Sweet Christian
 
This year we are expanding the "Adopt a Child for Christmas" campaign from 2 to 3 villages:  Chuichu, Cockleburr, and Kohatk.  We are expecting to be able to provide Christmas (with your help of course) to about 150 children.  For many of these children, the presents that they get through this ministry will be the only presents that they receive. 

Isn't she just precious?


Please do not miss out on this opportunity to be involved in a child's life this Christmas!!!!!


Here's what you need to do to get involved:

1. Contact us either by email (liveloveaz@gmail.com) or on facebook or by phone to let us know how many children you would like to provide Christmas for.  (If you have been on a mission trip to the T.O. Reservation before and have a specific child or children in mind, you may request them.)  Please pass this along to your church, small group, youth group, etc.  We have at least 150 kids that we need to provide for.

2. After we hear from you, we will email you a list of things you should know specific to the child. We have already passed out forms for the families to fill out.  You will know specific details such as age of the child, size of clothes and shoes, specific interests or toys that the child likes, and anything they are in need of.

3. Then you may either shop and buy the presents or send us the money that you would like to put forth for the presents.  We give this option because we know that everyone is different in how they like to do things.  We know that some people love to actually pick out the presents themselves (it feels more real this way and like they are apart of your family), but we also know that some people live across the country and prefer not to spend the money on shipping the presents to us.  Although the majority of people chose to actually buy the presents and send them last year, we still had about 20 that chose to just send the money and let us do the buying.  This is completely up to you and your family/church/Sunday school class/small group.  Either way you choose will be appreciated!!!

4. We don't really give a certain amount of money that you have to spend, but we ask that you at least get the child some clothes and at least one thing that is fun or that they are interested in.  I would say the majority of people spend around $50 per child.  If you want to do more, that is fine. We just ask that you don't go overboard.  Most children will have brothers and sisters and we don't want one child to have an Xbox and the other child to get a book.  Does that make sense?

Also, it seems silly to have to say this, but please make sure the presents that you send are NEW.  Our goal in providing the children Christmas presents is not just so they have something to open up on Christmas morning.  Our goal is to share Christ with them and their families. We make contact with many families during this Christmas ministry that we otherwise would not be able to.  If we give them hand-me-downs or used presents for Christmas, the message we send is that they are not worth our best.  We want them to feel like they are apart of our family.  We want them to know that they are valued and loved.  We want them to know that God sent his best- His Son Jesus to earth in the form of a human to be born and live and ultimately die for us and them.  We want them to understand that the reason we love them and buy them presents for Christmas is because of the overflow of love we have for them because of the love God has for us.  We want them to know Jesus too!!!

5. The deadline for sending us money or presents is Friday, December 7.  This means that we need them at our house by this date. Please do not mail them on this date.   We need at least a week to sort through all the presents, purchase those that have sent the money, wrap the presents that are not already wrapped, etc. before we hand them out.   Our address is: PO Box 2237, Sacaton, AZ 85147.  If you would like to use UPS or FedEx please get in contact with us for our physical address.

6. Please fill free to send cards or letters to the child as well.  You don't have to do this, but I think the child and family would enjoy it.  On another note, I asked the families to include their address on the forms that they fill out so that if you choose to, you may write to them throughout the year.

7. Several people asked last year if they could also send something that could be for the whole family to enjoy.  Of course you can!  This is not something that you have to do, but feel free if you would like.

After all the presents are in and sorted and wrapped, we will have a special service in each of the villages the week of December 17-21.  Each village will have their own night.  This year we are going to have a potluck meal, a church service to share the true meaning of Chrismas, and then pass out the presents to each child.  I promise to take lots of pictures and try to capture what it was like to be there.



If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in contact with us. 

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing God be glorified through you this Christmas!


Love,
Brittany

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Missions 2012


We had an awesome summer! It's hard to believe it is officially over. However, we are looking back at the things that God has shown us and anticipating and already planning for the fall. We are excited for the things that God is going to do and for the doors He is opening!

I know that I did a poor job of explaining everything that took place over the summer, and I apologize for that. I know that many of you pray for us regularly and look here often for updates. I promise I will try to do better.

Today I am going to try to give you a quick recap of everything that took place. Also, at then end of this post will be a picture slideshow of the entire summer.


1. Summer started for us when our interns arrived on May 22. I posted about them.

2. Next was our first mission team from Simpson, IL. They arrived May 25 and stayed until May 31. This team worked building a room onto the back of our house, a VBS in District 2, they hosted a free day at First Pima, and held a softball game for the community. I also posted about this mission team.

3. The next week we had a small group of men from Oklahoma come hang the sheetrock in the new room of our house.

4. The week of June 9-15 we had a joint mission team of Christian Fellowship and First Missionary Baptist Church (both from Benton, KY) come out and serve. This team did VBS in 2 different locations- Chuichu during the day and First Pima at night. We had a great turnout of kids at both locations. To top it off, one of the boys in Chuichu was saved during the week!! Part of this team came last summer, and it was so great to have them back again. We love this group and the heart that they have to serve here in AZ (plus they are from our hometown and are some of our close friends)!

5. We left the same night as this group from Benton with 6 of our youth girls + 1 baby to travel to Crossings Camp at Jonathan Creek for a week. I cannot explain to you what this week meant to our girls. It was just so awesome! To see them experience things for the first time, whether it was something simple like flying in an airplane or seeing lots of grass and trees to something huge like figuring out what youth groups can be like and how to truly worship God- it's just hard to put into words. Our girls never get to experience weeks like this so it was just awesome. My favorite parts of the week were seeing one of our girls finally surrender and give her life to Christ (and then she was baptized in KY lake) and hearing every single girl say that there most favorite time of the day was spending time alone with God.

6. Our next mission team from Damascus Baptist Church in Appling, GA arrived June 30-July 6. These ladies did an excellent job and were so much fun to have here! They also did VBS in 2 locations- Kohatk and Cockleburr. It was the first time we had done a VBS in either village!! This team got to experience monsoon season with us. One day the roads were so flooded that we could not get through to one of the villages. We waited for over an hour and even ate lunch in the middle of the road to see if the water would go down over the wash, and after watching a Border Patrol 4-wheel drive truck almost get stuck, we decided we wouldn't be able to get to one of the villages that day:( This was an eye-opening experience for most of us to see how far out many of the villages are on the Tohono O'odham reservation and how secluded they are to everything. It made us think how important it was for the Gospel to get to these villages regardless of the circumstances.

7. The next week 2 friends from KY (Michael Lawrence and Dalton Groves) drove the new bus we purchased (with the help of many supporters). It only took them 2 days to drive out so they got to help us with some ministry stuff for the next 2 days before flying back out. They also got a chance to spend some time with the kids at Cockleburr and love on them.

8. Overlapping these guys a couple of days, were the Hutchens family. They are the family of Jessi- our intern (or I guess I should say was our intern now). Eric and I know the family well as we went to church with them and are friends with Josh and Stacy Leigh. It was great to have them visit (even though they weren't necessarily visiting us). Stefan and Josh helped Eric put the siding on the outside of our new room, which was a huge help. Also, they were able to help us in several ways by going to Chuichu and Cockleburr and attending our Wed. night youth class. We are so glad we got to spend time with them.

9. The last mission team of the summer came July 27-August 3. They were from Fredonia Baptist Church in Fredonia, KY. Almost all of their team came last summer, and it was great to see them all again and meet some new faces as well. This group was large so they split up during the day. The men worked on contruction projects which consisted of moving a mobile home, setting it up in the new location, and remodeling everything in it. This is going to be the new youth building at First Pima! There were also a couple of men that finished the sheetrock in our new addition to our house. They also painted the outside of the room and inside too!! The women taught VBS in the village of Chuichu during the morning and early afternoon. Some of them came back in the afternoon and helped the men with some painting projects. The team went to different places each night. Monday was to Kohatk to do a lesson and craft and pass out school supplies. Tuesday we took the kids from Cockleburr to a water park which was absolutely awesome!! Wednesday we had church at First Pima. Thursday we had church at the home of a lady (Doug's aunt) in Sacaton and one of the men was saved!!

10. On August 7, Mark (intern) left to go home to KY. (Jessi had to leave the week before because she got a new job teaching.)

11. That same day, a couple from GA came to visit and to plan about how they and their church could be involved in serving. They were able to help us in doing a Bible lesson and craft in Kohatk and Cockleburr. We also went to every district on the Gila River and all three villages on the Tohono O'odham that we work in to see the needs and to pray for ways that God could use us. This couple left on August 11 and so did Doug (after visiting for 2 weeks).

And just like that- our summer was officially over.

We pray that God receive all honor and glory for the work that was done and for the ones who gave their life to Him!!!

Enjoy the picture below!








 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

When God Changes Your Dreams

I know it has been almost 2 months since the last time I have blogged.  I apologize for that.  However, this is seriously the first afternoon that we have not had something planned or going on in those 2 months!!  Life has been crazy, but I promise I will do my best to give you an update on everything that has happened over the summer.  In fact, I am working on making a video to post in the next couple of days.

This post is something that I have been thinking over the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you. 

Eric and I recently met with a lady that is the director of Crime Victims Services here on the reservation.  We have also had a first aid class in the past week.  During these meetings some new statistics were shared with us and I, in turn, would like to share them with you.  (A couple of these we already knew but several of them we did not.)



*Less than 1% of Native Americans on the Gila River reservation are Christian.


*The life expectancy for males is 40 years old and for females is 55 years old.


*The #1 reason for the cause of death for males is trauma (either violence or drug/alcohol related) and for females is diabetes.


*For the most part, people here do not have heart disease simply because they do not live long enough.


*Native American women are the most victimized people group in the United States (meaning more sexual assault and other violent crimes happen to them).


*Out of 565 tribes, Gila River is ranked #1 for violent crimes.



Those last 2 statistics I did not expect.  They blew me away.  They made my heart sink in my chest.  Because I do not hear these statistics and just view them as such.  When I hear them, I see a face or a family pop into my head that is being affected or has been affected by these things.   I know they are real people and not just a number.


And to be honest, apart of me said to myself when I heard them, "What in the world are you doing living here then?" 


Because those statistics were not in the life I (which is the key word) dreamed I would have. 

I remember my dreams from high school.  They included things like this:

Nice house with other nice houses around it in a nice neighborhood
                                            


Brand new cars
                                            

Being able to travel to exotic places like this
           
                                   
And working in the medical profession was how I was going to afford all those things.
                                               
        Basically, my goal was to have the "American Dream"- be rich, be successful, have as many things as I could get.  I remember my senior year in high school having this life planned out in my head and going to a Bible study at Boulder's in Murray (for all you KY people that read this).  If I remember correctly, Justin Crowell and Darryl Diebold were leading the study that night and it was about this- "The American Dream".  I remember them saying that, as a Christian, the "American Dream" should not be our goal in life.  And I remember getting so mad at them for saying that to me.  (How thankful I am now to all the people that invested in me as a youth and told me things that I needed to hear even if I didn't want to hear them at the time!) 


 It was in my senior year of high school that God began to change my dreams.  It was through many different experiences that occurred that year: mission trips in the US seeing the "least of these", intense Bible studies, losing a close friend in a car accident and realizing for the first time the brevity of life, and other things that God used to show me what His dreams were for me. I didn't know then what was in store exactly, but I knew it would be something way different than I expected.

Which brings us to present day (10 years later):

My house
     
My neighborhood
                  
Another view of my neighborhood.  (This picture was not taken by me; it was taken by Mike Olbinski, a photographer in the area. )
   
My car- which is not brand new and has had to be towed once or twice
               
There are no vacations to exotic places.  In fact, there are no vacations at all, unless you count a weekend camping trip.      


These things pictured directly above are way different than the other pictures, and they have honestly become my dreams.  Don't get me wrong- There are still times when I think of my old desires or see other people have those things and think "Man, I would really like to have that house" or "I wish we had enough money to go on vacation there".  

But then I think about all the things I would have missed and the things that God has showed me by moving our family to Arizona to live with and love on Native Americans, and it literally brings me to tears of thankfulness to God for changing my dreams.  I honestly can't picture my life any other way now!

I think about the 18 salvations that I can count just quickly off the top of my head that have happened in the last 5 months.  I could have missed that.

I think about these sweet faces that I get to see on a weekly basis and know that I could have missed that.


    
I think about where this man would have spent eternity if God had not directed us to this specific village and to this specific man to share with him about Jesus.  And then I think, how could I have missed that?  What's more important in this world than someone's salvation?  Definitely not houses, or cars, or vacations. 


      

And I could go on and on with many different stories and pictures of the things that I could have missed if God had not changed my dreams.  But, thankfully, He did change them and I don't have to think of that.

Now I think of those statistics that I mentioned at the very beginning of this post.  And I know that God has our family here "for such a time as this."  I know that those statistics drive me to work harder, to care more, to love unconditionally. Because there is only a short window to reach these people.  And I pray that God would use our family even more than he has already to bring this nation to Him.  I pray that in a couple of years from now that we will not have an unreached people group in the United States.  Yep, those are my dreams now.  They are big dreams, but I know that we have a big God.



“If you’ve never had a God-sized dream that scared you half to death, then you haven’t really come to life. If you’ve never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small. If your vision isn’t perplexingly impossible, then you need to expand the radiuses of your prayer circles.” (The Circle Maker)



Thanks to all our family, friends, and church leaders who have supported us along this journey of figuring out what God had in store for our family.  Thank you to those that are supporting our family now, whether financially or through prayer.  We love and appreciate you!!!


Love,
Brittany



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thank You (to a bunch of people)!!

We need to say "thank you" to so many people!!!  God has truly blessed us with friends and family and even strangers that care so much for our family and the ministry here in AZ.  There is no way that we could do what we do without the support of so many of you. 

This post is being written to thank a couple of specific groups of people:

1. The mission team of Trinity Baptist Church from Wellston, Oklahoma- This group so graciously (and at the last minute) included our family into their mission trip by hanging the sheetrock in our new addition to our house.  There is no way Eric could have done it all by himself, and we are so thankful to them for their willingness to serve our family in this way.




2. The WMU of New Zion Baptist Church in Benton, KY- This group of ladies worked so hard to make such cute pillowcase dresses for us to give to the little girls here on the reservation.  They were definitely a hit too!  We passed out 80 dresses in 1 day!!  (and they just sent us some more!)  Thanks ladies!!



3. The individuals who gave so generously towards getting a van-  We cannot say thank you enough to those who gave.  God totally blew our mind with this whole ordeal!!  We thought we were going to get an older 15 passenger van to transport individuals back and forth to church.  However, that fell through because God had something better in store.  We were able to get a 19 passenger minibus!!!  It is several years newer and has about 100,000 miles less on it!!  We are so excited to get to use this for our ministry!  That is 19 more people that we can transport to church to hear the Gospel!!! 


4. The youth of First Missionary Baptist Church in Benton, KY and Paul Wilkerson- These individuals worked hard all year to raise money to pay for 6 of our youth to go to Crossings (church camp) at Jonathan Creek.  This past week was so amazing getting to see our girls experience so many things for the first time.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for them.  I believe it was life-changing for all of them, but it changed the eternity of one of them forever!!  We are so thankful to you guys for all your hard work raising the funds for this amazing week!! (I plan to write a separate blog post just for this week so check back soon.)



Love,
Eric and Brittany

Friday, June 8, 2012

Simpson Baptist- Week Review in Pictures

So, I had really good intentions of updating on a daily basis so that it wouldn't be so much at the end of the week.  BUT, things got busy as usual, and I got tired at night and decided to go to sleep rather than blog :) 

I did post updates from Day 1 and Day 2 that the group was here.  Here are pics from the rest of the week:

Our new addition becoming more complete!!

Community Softball Game

Jessi showing us her pitching skills :)

Working Hard!!

VBS in District 2.  This is Mrs. Margaret teaching the lesson and using the kids in a demonstration so they better understand the Bible story.


Eric and Mark playing ball with some of the youth that came to VBS

Jessi and Jackie

Tuesday night @ Cockleburr- This is the children's class.

Adult Bible Study in Cockleburr

Praying for James to overcome his alcohol addiction through Christ!  This was his first time to ever come to "church" and we've been going out there for a year and a half!!

Mark checking for snakes in the outhouse before he goes in :)

Sweet Baby Alejandro

Some of Simpson's group with some of our girls from First Pima

New shower installed thanks to John Tanner!!

Here's the group the night before they left


Thanks Simpson Baptist for coming out and serving for a week!!  We appreciate all your hard work!!




Love,
Brittany


P.S. Our next mission team arrives tomorrow.  We would appreciate your prayers for them and us as we begin this week of ministering together.  We are excited for what God is going to do!!  I will try my best to update every night :)