Thursday, November 16, 2017

CORRECTION

In our last post, I wrote that our P.O. box is in the name of Wellspring Ministries. That was a mistake. It's actually in the name of the previous executive director, but we plan to submit our names this week. In short, the proper mailing address is: John and Samantha Jewell, P.O. Box 31615, Lilongwe 3, Malawi, AFRICA. 

Mail in Malawi

Thank you for keeping up with us through social media as we settle in to our new home halfway around the world. It’s so encouraging to receive your messages and to read your comments. It’s good to be remembered. 

Some of you have asked for our mailing address, and you’re probably wondering why it’s taking so long to get an answer. The mail system here is quite different than we’re used to, and we want to be sure we give you the right information. We don’t have a mailbox at our house, and I haven’t seen a mailman. Instead we have a post office and a post office box. The address is: John and Samantha Jewell, P.O. Box 31615, Lilongwe 3, Malawi, AFRICA. (The black and white squares in the photo are the actual boxes.) 

I hope you didn’t just jot that down and quit reading, because there are a few things you should know. First of all, please don’t bother paying for priority mail or insurance, because, no matter what they tell you at the U.S. post office, they cannot guarantee anything once it leaves the country. And, it may not get to its final destination when they tell you it should. We experienced this firsthand living in Brazil. Also, please don’t mail anything of monetary value, as the packages may be searched and items removed. (I know what you’re thinking; I was raised with the same rights and protections, but we are living in a place now where it’s legal for the police to pull us over for no other reason than to check our documents. It’s different here.) Make sure everything is clearly printed, and don’t forget to write “Africa”, even though you think it should be obvious. Before we left the States, several people asked us when we were moving to Maui, and when I lived in Austria, I received some very late mail that had made a pit stop in Australia. Not everyone is a geography whiz—myself included.


Now that all that’s out of the way, please accept our gratitude for your encouragement and for expressing interest in sending us mail. Don’t shy away from it because it doesn’t sound foolproof. The fact is, we’ve talked to other missionaries who say they receive mail all the time with no problem. We would love to get letters, photos, and any other small items you want to send. We’re very thankful for modern technology that allows us to receive communication of any kind from you. Missionaries used to leave home without hope of correspondence from their loved ones. We remember that when we start to feel sorry for ourselves for not having electricity or internet. 

P.S. If you're not into snail mail, just keep posting online. We'll take it any way we can get it.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Avoiding Malaria


Each day we meet Ben for lunch at school and each day we meet someone new. This week we met a lady who may have just saved our lives. She’s from New Zealand, and she’s the only doctor at the school clinic.

As one of our new friends was leaving us at the lunch pavilion, she introduced us to a woman sitting at the adjacent table. The timing was such that the woman was in mid chew, but that didn’t stop her from extending her hand to introduce herself. She continued with her sandwich throughout our conversation as if her meal was a necessity rather than an event. She was very cordial and articulate, with a lovely accent I still can’t distinguish from South Africa. She was obviously a person with a mission and no time for trivialities. We told her we had just arrived, and John jested that he hopes we don’t have to see her again any time soon. She smiled just enough to let us know she appreciated the humor, then answered with, “Well, take care of yourselves. Don’t go out at night and certainly don’t drive at night. The greatest cause of death in this country is traffic accidents. The next is malaria. You would be an absolute IDIOT to not take antimalarials.” 

We were slightly taken aback and looked at each other. I asked, “Is that something you can take every day? Isn’t that an antibiotic? Is that a good idea to take an antibiotic every day?” 

“Of course, it’s fine. I’m scared to death of malaria and I’ve taken doxycycline every day for fourteen years to avoid it. You would be stupid not to. I see people in my clinic all the time on the edge of death because they’re not taking antimalarials. If you’re not immune, you really should be taking them every day—especially your children. You would be crazy not to at least give it to your kids.”

Idiot, stupid, and crazy. She got my attention. “How can we know if we’re immune?” I asked. 

“Unless you grew up here, you’re not immune. It takes time to develop an immunity and that’s why children under five often die of it. The locals get sick but not like you will if you get it. It’s a killer—very dangerous. It’s listed as the highest level of risk on the U.S. health department travel advisory. They should have told you. The U.S. embassy makes their people sign a waiver if they refuse antimalarials.”

We continued our conversation as she finished her sandwich, threw away her trash, brushed her hands off, and briskly led us to the busy clinic next door. We chatted on the way. I asked her if she likes it here. She said sometimes and the other days she remembers she has a calling. She wrote two prescriptions—one for Ben because he’s younger and one for the rest of us. She then prayed for us and sent us to the pharmacy on site.

We believe this was a divine encounter. Ben has surely accumulated enough mosquito bites already to qualify him for clinical testing on the ratio of malarial to non-malarial mosquitos in the area. I would love to tell you I don’t worry, but I do. I have lost sleep over the fact that, not only is he attractive to mosquitos, but he’s also allergic. We discovered that fact in Texas when his ears swelled up like red play dough from bites he incurred while playing in the yard. 


God is truly amazing in His ability to answer our prayers in ways we could never think to ask. I do hope we don’t have to see that wonderful lady any time soon, and I know better than to trust in medicine. I am, however, so grateful for the peace of mind that allowed me to sleep through the night last night, believing we are a little more protected from a life-threatening illness that runs rampant during the rainy season that is just around the corner.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Some Things We've Learned This Week


As you may know, we’ve dedicated the first year of our stay in Malawi to settling in and learning how to thrive in this culture. Absorbing the differences between Malawi and the United States within the first week of our stay has been a bit like taking a drink from a fire hose. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but some things we’ve observed that you might find interesting.

1. Water is limited. It takes a long time for it to go through a ceramic filter for drinking, so it’s important to remember to keep the filter reservoir full at all times. In the shower, it’s best to put a bucket under the runoff to later use in the garden. Only flush the toilet when it’s necessary. Electricity is water generated so during the dry season, there isn’t much of it, which brings us to my next point. 

2. Electricity is unreliable. We have already spent seventeen hours at one time without it, and it goes off unannounced every day for hours at a time. To get electricity in your home, you pay at a kiosk in the local market. They give you a receipt with a code, which you then punch into an electrical unit inside your home. It’s prepaid, so when all your units are used up, the electricity goes out until you buy more. We have to think strategically when we have power and remember to charge our electronic devices, and (because the well pump is electric) to wash dishes and take showers during that time as well. Ben and I were in the grocery store when the lights went out. The funny thing is, people kept right on shopping.

3. The Internet is spotty and there is seldom a very strong signal. We’re learning to make notes regarding what we need to do when we have a signal. In order to use the Internet, we also need electricity at the same time, because that powers the router. We have survived almost three full days without internet, so I’m here to tell you it’s possible. 

4. Mosquitos carry malaria and are worst between 5:00 and 7:00 in the morning and evening. If we’re out at those times, we use repellent. We sleep under mosquito nets and close the closet doors at night, because they seem to like to hide out in there waiting for nightfall. A new ritual for us is checking the rooms by flashlight for mosquitos at bedtime. For this reason, I realize I will probably not paint the walls any colors other than white to keep mosquitos as visible as possible. 

5. There is no trash, but three different types of discards: the burn bucket, the non-burn bucket, and the compost. I had considered myself somewhat of an expert on compost, but this is the first time I have ever composted cooked foods. It seems to work, as there is an enormous crow the size of a chicken who picks through the pile each morning for his breakfast, leaving nothing behind that will upset the balance of the fertilizer. While we’re on the subject of waste, public restrooms are few and far between, so we (especially me, being a girl) have to plan ahead for bathroom usage. While women here seem perfectly comfortable squatting on the side of the road, I am not. I try not to drink much at least an hour before we leave the house—something I never gave much thought to in the States. 

6. Security is a bit different here. We have so many keys to the house that we build in an extra twenty minutes to lock all the locks each time we leave. To give you an idea, I just counted over fifty keys in our possession. There are more, but you get the point. We lock the rooms in the house, then lock the doors to the house, then the bars on the doors, then the gate to the yard. It takes some time. On top of that, we have a concrete wall around the house with razor wire on top and three vicious German Shepherds and a part time gate guard. Is it all necessary? I don’t know. We just got here. I guess we’ll see.  

7. Money handling is going to take some getting used to. Malawi uses the Kwacha, and the exchange rate is about 720 to 1 U.S. dollar. The largest bill they make is worth 2,000 Kwacha. To put that in perspective, if our rent is $1,000 per month, and we pay for three months in advance, which is how it's done here, using the least possible amount of individual bills, we still need to carry 1,080 bills to the landlord. While many places accept credit cards, the electricity and internet have to be working for them to function, so it’s no guarantee. We walk around constantly with an enormous roll of bills. 

8. Everyone expects communication to be different from culture to culture, but it can seem invasive if you’re not prepared, and even, apparently, if you are. Personal space is much less than we are used to in the States. If you try to leave a space between you and the person in front of you in line, someone will step into it. People show up to your house unannounced and you are expected to invite them in-and feed them if it’s mealtime. The official language of Malawi is English, but Chichewa is the most-spoken tribal language, and we intend to learn it well. In English Malawians confuse Ls and Rs, so the landlord’s initial inspection on our house included “lust” in the bathroom. As you can imagine, I was less than comfortable signing that. 

9. Driving. Wow! It seems crazy, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it. Of course, because Malawi was a British colony, they drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. The lines on the road seem to be more of a suggestion than a rule. The police can stop you at any time for any reason. If your documents are not in order, they will fine you on the spot—and sometimes, I hear, for whatever other reason they choose. We have been stopped and the officer was perfectly cordial and simply checked the stickers on the windshield, asking what we were doing in the country. Night time driving involves a bit more expertise, as many cars don’t have headlights and there are people and animals crossing the road. We plan to avoid that as much as possible. 


10. And last, but not least, is something John and I have both noticed and appreciate very much. The people seem very modest (other than the occasional necessary bathroom usage on the side of the road) and there is no visible pornography. As the mother of three boys, I am always aware of inappropriate images of women. I have only seen two suggestive advertisements, and those would be considered tame according to American standards. 

So, that's what we've learned this week. I'm sure you can appreciate why we're taking the first twelve months to learn how to live in Malawi. This is going to be an adventure.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Day 1


(Note: This is from my personal journal entry at the end of our first day here. We're just now able to publish due to internet and electricity shortages.)

John and I woke up at 2:30 this morning and by 3:00 had decided it was no use trying to sleep any longer. We attempted to unpack our bags and to find places for our things without waking anyone or disrupting the place that our hosts will call home for one more week. I’m pretty sure we failed. By 4:00am Andy and Ben had joined us and, with heavy eyes, were playing a very labored game of chess on our bed with the board we had just dug out of a trunk. Soon after they started, the electricity went out, but we kept working with the use of battery powered lanterns. By the time Jonah woke up, so did the sun, and everyone was hungry. I scrambled some eggs and cooked them on a gas stove, made toast in a second pan, and hand poured boiling water through the coffee maker, all the while reminding the kids—and myself—to keep the fridge door closed to conserve what was left of the cold. 

We all ventured out on our own to the cell phone and grocery stores. Our hosts had other plans, as they are leaving the country in a matter of days and are as busy leaving as we are arriving. John did well his first time driving, and even stayed on the left side of the road—for the most part. I kept shrieking when I saw what appeared to be cars without drivers careening towards us, only to remember that the driver sits on the right side here. (Sleep deprivation can make you jumpy.) It was hot and dry and dusty, and I found myself thankful for the stainless steel water bottles we brought that keep the water inside cold even when the outside became too hot to touch. The air conditioning only worked when John’s foot was on the gas, so we went with windows down, then up, then down, then up again. 

We walked into the cell phone store only to turn around and walk right out again when it became apparent that we were far too tired to make any decisions. We went for groceries, but every time we stopped walking to look at something, Ben sat down on the floor. I offered to let him sit in the cart, but realized he would fill it up and we wouldn’t be able to put any groceries in it. We only got a few things anyway before we all wanted to join Ben on the floor, so we knew it was time to go home. We napped, which is a no no when you’re trying to overcome jet lag. Luckily, we woke up in time to suffer through a few more hours before it was bed time, which set us on the right track to exchanging our nights for days. We got ready for bed by lantern light, searching luggage for pajamas and toothbrushes, untying and arranging mosquito nets, and turning on battery powered fans. Then, lanterns out at 8:00. The electricity came back on at 11:00. I know that because we accidentally left our light switch in the on position. It wasn’t hard to get back to sleep.


Well into the night we were awakened by the sound of machetes scraping the road. We’re told those are the neighborhood watchmen. They drag their blades along the cement to let everyone know they’re on the job. I’m pretty sure they pay them not to rob their houses, but they have machetes, so we'll gladly join in. Sweet dreams. We didn’t see each other until 5:00am, which is when the sun came up and the street on the other side of our concrete wall came to life. Birds, dogs, church bells, and chants could be heard all around. The brighter the sun got, the louder they all crescendoed, until you could hear the sound of cars and all the noises mellowed into each other and the day was officially underway. Another day with so much to learn...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Parting Gifts


Our Bible study group threw us a going away party. We’ve been with them for over a year and a half, and leaving them is not something we look forward to. The goal with this study has never been to make a name for ourselves or even to start a church, but to familiarize interested people with the word of God and see what He might do with that. I am happy to report that He has done great things. 
After dinner, Karen, who has become one of my very best friends also became my sister in Christ. She was baptized in the presence of the entire study group and asked me to be in the water with her. It was a very special moment, and when John asked if anyone else wanted to be baptized, we were blessed by two more special moments.
Jessie and her sister Tori have been asking about salvation and the significance of baptism. Thanks to the corroborated efforts of the Bible study group, John’s explanations, and a younger, hipper missionary than us, who had just enough time to share his thoughts before leaving for Wales, the girls were finally ready to proceed and were also baptized.
What a treat! We have never received such sweet parting gifts before a move. We’ll cherish these memories forever and savor our new relationships in God’s family, eager to hear all the wonderful things God is sure to do with these new Christians.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Waist Deep in Boxes


In one month we’ll be on a plane to Africa, where we plan to live and work in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. Our September 15th fundraiser deadline has come and gone and we are on to the business of putting those funds to good use. Living overseas isn’t new for us. John served on an island in the Indian ocean with the navy, and I was an exchange student in Vienna, Austria during my junior year in high school. Most of you know that we also lived in Brazil as a family for several years. But, moving is not a science and it’s never easy to decide what to leave and what to take, and when you do, it’s time consuming to make it happen. Currently our days are filled with scheduling and organizing and packing and buying and selling. It’s a lot, but we’re taking it one day at a time and hope to make it to moving day with no major incidents or omissions—like cans of pumpkin and cranberries for a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner soon after we arrive.

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. First of all, we need you to pray—not so we can get what we want, but so that we will accept God’s will in this. We’re about to face something difficult, and we’ll fare much better believing God is in charge of the details. Otherwise we’re likely to kick and scream to change our circumstances and find ourselves working against Him. We don’t need to write God’s will, we need to find it and live in it, and that's something that requires much prayer.

We also still need financial commitments. We have enough to make the move but not enough to sustain for very long. Our sponsoring church has agreed to fundraise for us, but we will be the ones to feel the burden if we’re lacking on the field. Please give what you can when you can. Every little bit helps. Very soon this blog will be about all the great things God is doing with your resources and it will be so rewarding to know that He’s using you to make it happen. 

As we gear up to learn a new way of life and a new kind of service to our fellow human being and to God, we look forward to your encouragement. Electricity in Malawi is spotty and internet coverage can be the same, but we plan to take advantage of the gift that social media is to mission work. We’ll do our best to continue to post updates and photos and we ask that you take the time to comment and give us feedback. If you really want to get involved, you might even consider a visit.


Here's a link to give to the mission work through the church: Westworth Church of Christ

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It's Official - We're Moving to Africa



Sunday we visited a church in Fort Worth for the fifth week in a row. It’s the kind of place where we could actually know everyone by name in a short while. We were first invited by homeschool colleagues from our P.E. co-op where John coached last year. They saw our Go Fund Me video and asked us to come meet their congregation. 

We’ve been attending for a month, but last week was special. I was nervous, waiting for the announcement I knew was coming after the service: The church had decided to sponsor us to move to Malawi and work with orphans. I hoped the details that were about to be shared would be accurate and well received. It’s not that I doubted the ability of the speaker, it’s just that I know our enemy delights in manipulating words as they travel from mouth to ears.

As the elder, who has become our friend, began to speak, I relaxed. His voice broke and he teared up as he recounted the weeks and months prior to our first visit, in which the church prayed for missionaries. I didn’t know that! Suddenly, God was there and all was right. He went on to encourage everyone to get to know us—their new family members—as we prepare to leave so soon after our introduction. We were warmly greeted by some of the people we hadn’t met before, and others invited us to their homes.

We’ve been trusting that this would happen by paring down our possessions little by little, but now we’re unloading almost everything we own in a hallway-moving-sale at The Gem. We’re replacing some of those things with others we would only ever need in a place like Africa—a solar-powered phone charger, battery-operated reading lights, and water purification tablets, to name a few. We’re also shopping for tickets to leave towards the end of October, trusting that the rest of the funding will come in. 

The church has agreed to sponsor us, meaning they have assumed responsibility of the mission and will help us fundraise, but they can’t afford to cover the cost of the mission entirely. We’re still lacking money for both moving and monthly working expenses. Thanks to those of you who have already given or have committed to a monthly amount while we’re on the field. For those of you who doubted this would actually happen, you’re not alone. I could say I knew it all along, but then I would be adding the sin of lying to my sin of doubt. It’s official now, and we want you on board. Please visit our Go Fund Me page or contact us to support the mission. Then follow us on social media and subscribe to this blog to see the the wonderful things God will do through all of us on the team for the orphans of Malawi, Africa.   

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Give an Orphan a Cup of Coffee


I just read a study that says the average American spends $3 a day on coffee but doesn’t put anything away for retirement. That sounds crazy, but I guess I’ve been known to neglect our economic future while overspending on that quirky green mermaid. 

Our Bible group has been studying Scriptures about wise spending practices. While there’s no directive on how to budget for coffee or retirement, there’s plenty of counsel on money handling and the heart behind it, including the importance of sharing with others less fortunate. As we take an honest look at what God really wants, instead of searching for a justification for our habits, we're finding a wealth of information.

For example, 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

If you can read this, I hope you identify with the “rich”, because most people in this world don’t have that luxury. That means you can help others. The mission to Malawi is not just about feeding kids. You could send your money to one of the many organizations that already does that. Instead, we hope to address the roots of poverty and begin to train kids to help themselves and others, both physically and spiritually. In essence, we plan to make, not just disciples, but disciple makers. 

I wonder if, while you’re enjoying your coffee and putting a little money in the bank for your earthly retirement, you would consider matching what you’re dropping at Starbucks each month to help get us to Malawi so we can do our part? According to God, you would be investing in your eternal retirement account at the same time, and that’s about as cool as an iced mocha latte. 

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P.S. Thanks so much to all of you who have already sacrificed for this mission. We're watching the mercury rise:





Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fundraising Progress


We're so thankful to all of you who have given towards this mission to get us to Malawi to work with the poor and orphans. We just started and have already raised a significant amount of money. But, we have a long way to go. Take a look at our progress on the thermometers below. 



Please share the need with as many people as you can, so we can all make this happen together. Remember, September 15th is our deadline

In case you're wondering, $10,000 is what it will take to fly our family to Malawi. We aren't planning on taking much with us, so there is no built-in expense for shipping items other than the bags we plan to travel with. Also, the $6,000 per month includes our living expenses and our working fund. We have to budget $1,000 per month each for the following: rent, international medical insurance, food, and education. Hopefully that helps you understand a bit more where the money will go.

Here's the link to our GoFundMe account: https://www.gofundme.com/movingtomalawi

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fundraising Deadline


In an effort to honor the needs of everyone involved in this mission, we have set a deadline for our fundraising efforts. We need to have our moving expenses and monthly commitments secured by September 15 to go ahead as planned.

The family that invited us to step into their shoes in Malawi needs to move to the States by October to start their new jobs. They are offering us their house, cars, and employment status with their current NGO (non-governmental organization)--things that we will still have to pay for but that took them years to establish. They also have long-time and trusted employees, relationships that also take years to form and are a necessary part of life in Malawi. If we don't get there by October, we will have to start over, which will cost much more money and time than we have budgeted for. Starting over in a third world country is not the same as making a move within the United States.

If you have already given a one-time gift or have started to send your monthly donation, we thank you. If you have made a verbal commitment, we ask you to make that a reality now. It's time to make this happen. The sooner we get to these orphans, the sooner they get what they need.

It's easy to give. Comment to let us know you're interested in committing to a monthly amount, or click on this link to go to our GoFundMe account to make a one-time donation: Donate

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Malawi Mission


Here's a link to the GoFundMe account we created.

Click Here


















It's a short video (around seven minutes) explaining what we plan to do in Africa. Please watch it and give us feedback. The details are still in the works, but we want to share the general idea with you, so you can be a part of this mission from its inception. The more involved you are, the more blessed you'll be by the updates as this comes together.




Saturday, July 15, 2017

Oops!


If you're reading this, you probably got an email from us with several old blog posts you may or may not remember. Sorry. That was an accident. We're gearing up for a new mission and, in an attempt to refresh this blog, accidentally sent out some old information.

The good news is that some of you contacted us for clarification, and--voilĂ --now we're in touch again. Nice how our mistakes sometimes work out like that. Another piece of good news is that I promise to never purposely send out that much to read at one time, so you can keep up with us in small bites.

We've taken the trip to Africa since the last post, and you can see the photos by clicking on this link: Malawi Survey Trip 2017.



By the way, I looked over the email list from years ago and don't recognize every address, so please check in to let us know you who are and what you think.

Have a great weekend! We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tickets to Africa


First Published on March 9, 2017



The last you heard from us in the form of a newsletter, we were headed to Brazil on a survey trip. That was in the spring of 2015.  

You were praying with us about a possible return to southern Brazil, where we have lived and worked and hoped to return. We visited our friends and former mission team members, considering the job of overseeing a developing halfway house ministry. We took Jonah with us, and while it was a good trip for all three of us—and for the other two who got to spend some quality time with family in Colorado—it was clearly not something God was calling us to. We continue to pray for the success of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are currently involved in that particular ministry in Porto Alegre but are confirmed that we are not to be physically present in the work. 

Since that trip, we have been investing our energy and resources into The Gem, the non-profit recreation center we run on behalf of the community in Springtown, Texas. We've been working here for five years and have watched it develop into a vibrant community center, offering safe, family-friendly programming that brings people into community with one another and offers Bible studies to those interested in knowing and understanding God and His purpose for our lives more. We have taken this charge very seriously and have even moved into the facility to keep it open when it wasn’t producing enough revenue to pay the bills. 

Now we find ourselves struggling financially to keep this place up and running but see its potential being realized day by day. For instance, we appreciate the board of directors for their recent decision to step down in a gesture that would allow others with fresh vision and energy to assume the direction of The Gem. We’re asking God to raise up individuals to step into the necessary roles to make that happen, and we continually ask Him to make it clear to us what our particular jobs should be.

That being said, we recently received an invitation to participate in a mission to Africa. This happens to be the same opportunity that was presented to us a couple of years ago when we turned it down to pursue the halfway house ministry in Brazil. Another family who had been praying with us about both opportunities ended up moving to Malawi, Africa to work in a medical clinic. We felt that both invitations had been revoked and we were confirmed that we should simply stay put and work at The Gem.


The new invitation is coming from a family in Malawi who digs wells for villages that have no running water. They have been there for twelve years and are moving back to the States in June. We are intrigued at God’s timing to transfer The Gem into our charge at the same time we are being invited to assume the role of well-digging evangelist in Africa. We hope this means that God wants The Gem to partner with a foreign mission, because we are aware of the great need in the world and would like to think that what our community has created here could contribute.

We have taken the next logical step, and John bought tickets to go see the need and how our ministry here might help to fulfill it. We’ve never felt that God wanted The Gem to be just another church in this city, but we have asked for Him to make it more than just a recreation center. We ask you to join us in praying for the miracle it would take to cause these two ministries to work together, if that is indeed what should happen here. We are completely open to whatever God wills but know we cannot face this challenge alone. What can you do to help? Please pray for certain. Also, we just bought very expensive plane tickets to Africa and will need traveling cash on top of that. Any financial gift you would like to send to our non-profit organization at The Gem will be directed towards the trip.

Tickets to Brazil

First Published on March 31, 2015


Against all odds, we finally bought tickets to Brazil for a survey trip in April. We had tentative plans last year to go, but they never came to fruition. We weren’t sure it was a good idea that we consider moving back to Brazil, so we let the powers of the air dictate our circumstances, and the survey trip never happened. This time around the resistance to our plans was just as strong, but our resolve has also grown to the point that we were willing to push a bit harder, trusting that the hindrances were not from God. 

My mother left us over 90,000 air miles to use for travel. The first day John researched the trip, it took him several hours to find an itinerary that would go through Natal and Porto Alegre (both places we have lived in Brazil, and over 2,500 miles apart). Once he had it together and we agreed on the flight details, he went to book two of the tickets with those air miles, only to discover my brother had tapped into the account and commandeered the miles. I suppose we could contest that, but, as I stated in our last newsletter, we would rather not unnecessarily engage any more with the enemy. So, we lost that itinerary.

The next time around, we realized that we couldn’t afford to take all the kids or to go through Natal, so John booked tickets to Colorado, where we plan to leave Andy and Ben with John’s family, while we take Jonah to Porto Alegre. He went to pay using our check card. It was denied. Apparently our daily spending limit was too low, so he asked for that to be raised. It was a Friday and they said nobody could approve it until Monday. So, we lost that itinerary. 

Monday came and we stayed on the phone with the bank for what seemed like an eternity. Then they told us our spending limit had been raised and we could purchase the tickets. We did. A couple of days later we got an email saying the bank ultimately denied the charge and we were not confirmed on that flight after all. They approved the one to Colorado, so we had tickets for our whole family to get to Denver, but no tickets out of Denver to Brazil. It was at that point we realized what we were dealing with. God doesn’t play games like this with his disciples and this was too crazy to be coincidence. So, we pressed on.


Throughout all of this, we have been in touch with our friends and former team mates in Porto Alegre, Kevin and Benay Blume. They’re the ones who planted the seed for our return in the first place. Kevin had the idea to let us line up the itinerary and send him the information necessary to purchase the tickets. We did, and voilĂ  we now have tickets to Brazil! 

So, why Brazil and not Africa for a survey trip? Some of you have been praying with us about those options and know we have been discussing the possibility of both. We feel we owe you an explanation. Here are some key points that helped us make this decision:

  • We have been invited into a very specific ministry in Brazil, working on a drug and alcohol rehabilitation farm, teaching and discipling men to integrate back into society. That could develop into any number of things later on, but it is a good entry point.
  • The ones inviting us are a couple we worked with in 2002-2005 and feel confident working with again. 
  • We have lived in Porto Alegre (Andy was born there), so it would not be like completely starting over.
  • We already speak the language and many people have put money into our training for that part of the world.
  • A support team is being assembled, including some former team members who plan to stay stateside and work the mission from this end.
  • Without our asking, a few individual have already given us money to make this trip and have committed to helping us financially throughout the mission.

Now, all that being said, we understand that our ways are not God’s ways and His understanding is far above ours. If He should choose to let us spend lots of time and money to survey this possible ministry then send us elsewhere, we would gladly go. Please pray for us as we plan this trip—that God’s voice would be heard above all others. 
Our friends sent us this picture, saying the guys at the rehab farm have cleared this site and will soon begin building a house for our family to move into. That’s faith! 

Eternal Inheritance


First Published March 4, 2015


I signed away my inheritance last week. It wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t my first choice, but after months of legal tug-of-war, John and I felt it was best. This started when my brother accused us of mismanagement of my mother’s estate and threatened to file a criminal lawsuit, so we hired an attorney to defend ourselves. She professed to be Christian—the daughter of missionaries. We felt like we were in good hands and that with God on our side, a Christian attorney, and the American legal system, we were sure to be exonerated. Many well-meaning friends told me with conviction that nobody can steal an inheritance from the person clearly named in someone’s will—not in Texas anyway. I might have agreed six months ago, but I now stand corrected. 


Because my brother was already quite wealthy, he was able to hire a more expensive attorney who effectively bullied ours with the threat of investigation. I considered allowing them to take us to court, knowing that there was no criminal activity to discover, but our lawyer reminded us that we were out of money and would be representing ourselves. We realized the only reason to go to court would be to prove our innocence and possibly win back my half of the estate. We didn’t feel either was a good enough reason to drag our family through any more unnecessary turmoil. 


Scriptures like I Corinthians 6: 1-8 also helped guide our decision:


When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!


One day after we resolved to put it behind us, a friend sent the name of a lawyer he had told about our situation, who agreed to take our case pro bono. He has tried cases before the supreme court and is said to be one of the best in the state. I admit it was tempting, but not as tempting as the option to be done with this whole scenario once and for all, so I signed the papers giving my portion of the inheritance to my brother—minus possibly enough to restore our emergency fund.


We are choosing to listen to God’s Word, to suffer wrong and be defrauded, because as disappointing as my brother and the legal system have been to us, I know God will not disappoint. Lamentations 3:58 says, “You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.” We realize we don’t need the law on our side as much as we need Jesus.


Thank you for your concern and many prayers throughout this ordeal. Please, don’t feel sorry for us or give in to the temptation to believe God didn’t show up. We were never promised health, wealth, or even happiness in this life. We hope for what is to come and ultimately are thankful to be included in the trials that make us more like our Savior. 


Sure, I wanted justice regarding this matter, but I do not want justice in God’s court. No, I want grace—lavish and unmerited. And so I make it my goal to listen first and foremost to the counsel I get from the Bible and am willing to be called a criminal in this life and give up my earthly inheritance if it means being judged righteous and receiving an inheritance in the life to come.

This photo of our family with both grandmothers was taken after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The hope of this heavenly reunion in the presence of Jesus is worth more money than the world can hold.

What Happened to Your Mission Plans

First Published on January 24, 2015



Our friends moved to Malawi, Africa, last year, and most of you know we planned to go with them. We took the idea very seriously and, after much prayer and fasting, made the decision to go. We gave our plans to God and expected that He would bless us with support. When we found ourselves working against the grain in every aspect of preparation, we began to rethink the idea. We were willing to do whatever it would take to answer God’s call, we just weren’t sure He was calling us to that particular mission. Eventually, we were sure He wasn’t—at least not then. But the desire and stirring never left either of us. Then we opened our eyes to another possibility.

Other friends and former mission team members in Porto Alegre, Brazil, had been hinting that we might consider returning to that city. Our team has changed greatly since we left shortly after Andy was born. There are only two families still living there and they are each involved in separate ministries, both dealing with drug and alcohol rehabilitation—very different than the traditional church plant we were a part of in 2002. After more prayer and fasting, we felt sure we needed to consider that work. This time, we even had verbal commitment from a few key individuals at a prospective supporting church. It seemed they would at least send us on a survey trip, so we got our passports renewed and began planning our trip. In the end, that church decided not to begin a new work in a country they didn’t already sponsor, so our survey trip was cancelled. Though it felt like a punch in the gut, we didn’t blame them. We felt that God was once again saying no.

You may call us fickle, but that would imply we keep changing our minds. We don’t. We are absolutely prepared to move our family anywhere God calls us. We were completely committed to join the work overseas, regardless of which part of the world God chose for us. It would take the space of an entire newsletter to explain how the doors were shut on both destinations, but for now, suffice it to say we apparently have more work here in Springtown, Texas, to do. So, it would seem, our mission field is right under our noses. You can see a picture of it and the church that has developed from it on the front page.  


We love these folks and the opportunities The Gem has afforded us: employment, recreation for us and our kids, a homeschool group, and friends that are more like family. And—most importantly—we are blessed to have people around us who are hungry for God’s word. You may remember Dave, who was baptized last summer. Well, his son Luthor has been a part of our studies and decided to get baptized just before the holidays on his thirteenth birthday, reminding us that the local harvest is still full. (That’s Ben studying the event from poolside.)
Here’s Luthor and his younger siblings, with three reasons we’re glad he chose to follow Jesus. (This was taken last 4th of July.)
So, I guess the answer to the question about our plans is that we are learning to live out God’s idea of mission above our own. It may not always be what we had envisioned, but if souls are being saved, we can be sure it’s from Him and right where we need to be.

Eden's Baptism


First Published on November 29, 2014


Recently, John baptized a seven-year-old girl, which was unusual for us, because we usually see adults or older children baptized. Sometimes kids want to do what their parents are doing but, after some discussion, we find out that little ones don’t grasp the meaning of baptism, so we wait. Eventually, the kids grow into an understanding of what their parents have done, and through study with mom and dad, they make that decision on their own. That seems to be the typical rythm of the process, anyway. Last month, however, a little girl named Eden reminded us that there is nothing typical about God’s ways.

Here’s Eden (in the middle), holding her baby brother, with her mom and younger sister: 

Her parents were baptized in September and are the ones allowing us to stay in their travel trailer until we get the legal battle with my brother resolved. Needless to say, you can get pretty close to someone when you share a back yard. That’s why we were so alarmed to hear that Eden was obsessing over disturbing thoughts and images that were robbing her of her innocence. When she shared some of them with me, I immediately thought she must have been exposed to something very inappropriate, but then she told me about a scenario playing over and over in her head, which involved my mother, whom she described to me in detail. (Eden has never met my mother nor seen a picture of her.) Baffled, we prayed with her parents that God would help her. It was greatly affecting their whole family.


Eden said she was asking God to take away her bad thoughts, but she was sure she needed to be baptized. We weren’t so sure, but after much discussion, she politely insisted that it was necessary. (I must add that Eden is a precocious little girl, who usually knows the answers to the questions asked in Bible class. She’s also memorized large chunks of Scripture and seems to be gifted with spiritual wisdom well beyond her years.) Her parents were impressed by her conviction and asked John to baptize her right away. We used a birthing tub the family has used for the home births of their children. John and I found that ironically appropriate. 

Since her baptism, Eden’s disturbing thoughts have ceased and she has returned to being her normal carefree self—a smart and thoughtful little girl. The immediate change in her demeanor is remarkable, and I have found cause to ask God to give me a deeper understanding of spiritual warfare and the accountability of children to His Word. 

Acts 16:                                                                                              
32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.