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!!!