Living in Grace and Finding Joy

This weeks training is called Living in Grace.  I love this title and it’s very fitting for my life.  Because, surprise!  I’m not so great at actually living in grace.  Talking about grace, no problem.  Understanding grace intellectually, not such a problem.  Spouting grace-ish filled pithy statements, easy.  But truly understanding grace deep within me and then living in that grace, seemingly impossible.  So this week I hope and pray to continue working towards truly living in grace.  A grace that will continue with me wherever we go.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.05.40 PM.pngThis post was scheduled before we left for Living in Grace so please forgive the silence for the rest of the week while we focus on our training and marriage.  But please also take this time to note the new home of my blog: joyellen1.wordpress.com.  There is currently a first post up and that’s where I will continue blogging once we finish our time in North Carolina.  If you would like to receive or keep receiving this blog via email, please take the time to check out Finding Joy in Transition and click the “Sign me up!” button on the left hand side.

I don’t want you to miss any of the exciting news and I look forward to continue sharing with you from our new online home!  🙂

 

 

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Through Kentucky to North Carolina

waterfall at ridgehavenToday we arrive in North Carolina for training #3 (only one more to go after this!).  I’m very excited about this week.  Not only are we going to receive some great information and resources to help us in our ministry but we’re also going to be spending time with some awesome people in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 4.16.31 PM.pngI’ve been to this camp pre-Ryan and I remember being disappointed that I didn’t take advantage of the beautiful hiking trails as much as I should have.  Any place that provides a map like this on their website is basically telling you to go and enjoy exploring the area.  creek at RidgehavenPlease be praying for us this week.  Please pray that God would open our eyes, that we would have teachable minds and hearts and that we would have a strengthening week for our marriage.

June News- Weathering the Changes

On Wednesday the 1st, if you’re on our mailing list, you received our June Newsletter in your inbox and the snail mail ones were mailed out on May 31st.  I almost never send out a newsletter right at the beginning of the month but we have some great news to share.  And no, I’m not pregnant.  I still feel like I need to make this disclaimer every time I talk about “having news to share” with someone.  So I guess the time I write…we have some news to share… and don’t make the disclaimer, you’ll all know the newsletter content already:-)2016 June-online.jpgBut anyway, for those of your who have not read our news already, you can read it by clicking on the picture above or on our website under the About tab.  We share the great and the not so great and there are some cute picture of us too, if I do say so myself.

I will almost always post our newsletters to the blog but if you want to receive them first, let me know and I will add you to our mailing list.  Happy reading!

 

Let’s Do the Numbers-What will God do next?

We don’t know what God is trying to teach us in this season of slow growth for monthly support or how God is at work right now because we aren’t seeing visible progress.  However, we know though other answers to prayer that God is still orchestrating things to His glory and we are one big step closer to Australia (more on this in our newsletter that was emailed/mailed out today- you can wait until Friday when I’ll post it to the blog or email me to get on the list to see the news first!).

As many of you know, waiting is not my favorite part of life but waiting is a normal, necessary and often fruitful season.  We are currently waiting on many things, our support being one of them.  But even in this season of waiting, we are excited to see what God will do next!australian dollarWe have NOT made our last two support goals from the end of April or the end of May. We were hoping, working and praying towards being at 68% of our support by the end of May but we are currently at 60.9%.  This is up only about $100 a month in pledges since our last update at the beginning of the month.  Our goal from MTW in order to stay on track for our fall departure is the same as before but just more daunting now.  We need to be at 75% by July 1st.  And that requires $1330 in new monthly, quarterly or yearly pledges in order to reach this amount.  This is just 13 families or individuals giving $100 a month, or 26 families or individuals giving $50 a month.  But any amount is beneficial to our ministry, even if you can only afford $20 a month or a yearly gift of $240, this will help us reach our goal.

Can you be a part of helping us reach our July 1st goal?  It’s easy to give by contacting MTW (Mission to the World) or using their online giving site: donations.mtw.org.  We certainly appreciate one-time gifts.  However, if you intend to give monthly, quarterly or yearly, please be sure to let MTW know and your amount will be recorded on our pledge report.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask me or contact the donations department at MTW.

Thank you to everyone who has already been giving and advocating for us.  We appreciate all the gifts that have been given and are so thankful for our advocates that have spoken up for us with their friends, at small group meetings and in their churches.  If you want to advocate for us but are unsure of what it is, advocating is as easy as talking about Australia and encouraging others to get involved and learn about our ministry (Why Australia?).

Please keep praying for our support and God’s timing.  We have a new sense of urgency because we now have a timeline for entering Australia.  Please pray with us that we would trust God’s timing and His plan.  Thank you for helping us get to Australia!

The Flogging Parson

Facebook reminded me today that I posted a newsletter 3 years ago with some of the history of Christianity in Australia.  3 years ago today, Ryan and I were dating but waiting to see what God would do.  So I just kept moving towards Australia, trusting that this was part of God’s road for us.  Now I want those of you who didn’t get the opportunity then or maybe forgot this information to hear a little about who the flogging parson is and what he has to do with the history of Christianity in Australian.  The original newsletter can still be found here under the About tab on our website but here is a slightly updated version that you hopefully find insightful and interesting:

Let’s compare and contrast Christianity in the US and in Australia. America is often referred to as a Christian nation. We were founded on Christian principles and you can find statistics stating that 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. But identifying yourself as a Christian and being a follower of Christ are two very different things.

Australia on the other hand was founded as a penal colony. A good amount of its people brought over as convicts were protestant and catholic. This remnant of history is still a part of the fabric of Australia today. There were missionaries and clergy on the transportation ships as well. And just to be clear, as far as I can tell, the missionaries and clergy were not convicts themselves.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.09 PM.pngIn this collection of clergy one name stands out, Samuel Marsden. He was an English Anglican well known for his pioneering literacy and community development work among the Maori who had come as sailors and visitors to New South Wales. Sounds like a great guy, right? Except, he is more famously hailed as “The Flogging Parson”. His hatred of the Irish Catholics led to his most severe punishments in which those receiving the lashes were flogged so brutally that their “haunches turned to jelly”. He was of course not the only one who ordered beatings as a form of punishment for the early colony, so to have his savageness so clearly recorded in history shows you just how harsh he was. If you were a Maori, you might have loved this man but there was no grace if you happened to be Irish Catholic.

Today, there are statistics that would lead us to believe that Australia became a Christian nation on the heels of the early protestant and catholic convicts. However, the reality is quite different. Christianity is received with skepticism and often outright hostility. More recent statistics for Australia say that only about 7% of its people would claim to be churchgoing Christians.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.21 PMNevertheless, God’s fingerprints are evident and certain places in the city have visible reminders of Christianity. For example, this sculpture of Jesus with the scripture Luke 23:44-46. Even so, there is still a compelling need for the light of the gospel to be proclaimed.

 

6 Things We Want Our Supporters (and Potential Supporters) to Know

“It’s like calling a girl I like and not knowing what she’s going to say,” Ryan said as he was psyching himself up to call another church.  Thankfully Ryan has a lovely wife now (if I do say so myself:-) and has no need or desire to call girls but we both still have the responsibility to contact individuals and churches while we continue to support raise.  Each and every one of these phone calls, text messages, emails and Facebook notes require extra thought and prayer.  We never know what the response will be but we will keep working until we reach our goal or until God directs us elsewhere.Ryan.pngSo as we continue this process, here are 6 things we want our current supporters and potential supporters to know.

  1. We wish there was an easier way.  From the beginning Ryan and I have been thankful to have a long list of friends, relatives and acquaintances in our lives who care about us.  We want first and foremost for people to be a part of our ministry through prayer but we also know that if everyone who reads this blog, our newsletters or generally keeps up with us gave $20 a month, we would be more than fully funded.  But we are thankful to everyone who does what they can, whether that is fervent prayer, a smaller donation either monthly or one-time and for those many individuals who are able to and give more than $20 a month or even larger one-time gifts.
  2. Ryan and I do not enjoy asking for money.  Now before anyone jumps on that phrase to remind me that we are “asking people to partner with us” or “asking people to join in our ministry” or any other way of saying it, I understand and we truly view this as a partnership with our supporters.  However, at the end of the day we need money in our account to do our jobs and that funding has to come from somewhere.  We know people have a long list of demands on their budgets so faithfully we will continue to ask.  And prayerfully we will continue to trust that the money will come.
  3. We know that there are benefits to this system.  At this point in the process we get to travel and see people face to face.  Skype is good but there is something about sitting down for a meal or just hanging out.  Also when people join us with interest, prayers and/or finances, we want to keep them informed and keep in touch as personally as possible.  This is one of the reasons I blog, we do Instagram, keep up on Facebook, with newsletters, etc.  We see the benefit in sharing our story with those who are invested in us.  And we also love hearing from you and following your journey.
  4. Don’t be afraid of our phone call or messages.  Please believe that we do enjoy sharing our story.  We would much rather people be up front about their financial situation but that won’t change our desire to share and keep in touch.  Maybe God might even change your heart when you hear more about our ministry:-)  We are thankful for all our relationships and would love to make a time to see you face to face if we’re in the area or catch up by phone or Skype.
  5. We genuinely want you to pray about supporting us (and discuss it with your spouse if that’s applicable to you).  Pray.  Listen to God.  Seek wise counsel.  And if God is telling you not to support us or to support another ministry or give more to your church or whatever it may be, listen.  But if you are hearing from God to support us, pray for us or advocate for us, listen.
  6. No is an acceptable answer.  Or even, not now.  Or even, maybe when things change.  Or even, we don’t know.  Seriously, it’s ok.

Thank you for being a part of our ministry in whatever way you can.  We look forward continuing to share our journey and enjoy having you along with us on this ride.

Our Plans, His Way

As a planning addict, I’ve always been convicted when reading Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  Seriously, Ryan says that planning is my love language.  And I must admit that a thorough, organized plan is one way to my heart.  But I have to be careful that my own planning or even the desire to have a plan doesn’t overshadow God’s ultimate desires and will for my life, day or even the next hour.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.41.40 AMThis verse doesn’t say, “Don’t plan because God will do what He wants with you anyway.”  Instead it is a gentle reminder that although we work, plan and make choices everyday, we lack ultimate control.  But take comfort because the one who is in control is the loving, personal, creator God of the Bible.

So with this in mind, hear my heart planning our way to Australia in current circumstances.  We hold this with open hands but ask that you would pray with us as we continue to plan and as God establishes our steps.

  • 31 more days in our current support raising and training road trip.  Please pray for hearts to be opened and our support levels to grow.
  • Back to California for a week vacation on Catalina island.  I grew up going to this family camp and Ryan and I are looking forward to a week of rest and refreshment.  Please pray that this time would reboot us for the continued work that needs to be accomplished. 
  • Support raising milestone: 75%.  We have been told that we should be at 75% by the end of June in order to stay on track for our arrival in Australia.  Since we are currently at 60%, this is a big goal to reach.  Please pray for diligence in asking for support and for God to surprise us with how and where the support comes from.
  • A month in Brussels, Belgium for training.  This may sound like a vacation but it’s an important part of the training process and what better place to do cross-cultural training than in a country where neither of us speak the language.  Please pray that this would not be too overwhelming for Ryan and that I would be patient and a good learner despite having been through this training before.
  • University of Western Australia: the latest we could hear about the masters program acceptance is the beginning of July.  Please pray that I would be accepted into the program and that I would be able to apply for and receive scholarships.
  • Travel in Switzerland and Germany.  Since we’re already in Europe for the Belgium training, we contacted friends in the area and will spend some time after the training visiting people and even attending a German wedding.  This is a great opportunity for Ryan to see more of Europe and for me to show him some places where I’ve lived and traveled in the past.  Please pray for safety while we travel and for many fun memories to be made with our European friends and family.
  • Back to California again because I am in a friend’s wedding at the beginning of August and then we have a full month of visiting churches already planned.  Please pray for stamina and for God to continue to reveal what He would have for us.
  • Although we have nothing scheduled past the end of August, this will be a time to work on our visas (student visa for me, spousal visa for Ryan), continue to raise the final support needed and make last preparations for our move.  Please pray for wisdom as there are many decisions that will need to be made along the way.
  • Leaving for Australia after Thanksgiving.  A student visa allows you to enter the country 90 days before the semester starts.  Please pray for God’s timing and clear direction.

We praise God that He has been guiding us and remains faithful. I look back at our newsletter from February 2015 when we shared what 10 things needed to happen before we moved to Australia and it’s wonderful to see how, by God’s grace, we’ve been able to accomplish 6 of the steps already.  Despite the changes which include this new opportunity to study and learn at UWA, we see His hands at work.  And we look forward to seeing how the Lord continues to establish our steps.  Thank you for uniting with us in prayer and being with us on this road to Australia.