Sunday, February 28, 2010

God even uses kidneys.... by Julia

My faith has been stretched while preparing to go to Africa. One way in particular this has happened has been through the recent diagnosis of a kidney disorder that I have. The first diagnosis came in, which led to more tests. We had to wait a couple of days to hear the results from that test. During those days, I didn't know if I would still be able to go on the trip or not. I wondered if I had kidney stones or not, and if I did, would they dissolve in time?

During this time all I could do was wait. As I waited, I wrestled. I knew that God wanted me to go on the trip. Our support money was all raised, we had gotten our shots and purchased our airline tickets. Everything was falling into place. Would God allow this situation to keep me from going? Maybe He just wanted me to be willing to go, but not actually go? Or was this an opportunity for Him to get glory as He worked this out? I went back and forth.

God gave me the verse, "...for when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow..." (James 1:2) The light bulb turned on and I realized that my faith was being tested through this.

Later, I was reading Max Lucato's book Traveling Light. A quote from the book says, "The Shepherd selects the trail and prepares the pasture. The sheep's job is to watch the Shepherd." Wow! What a timely reminder. God was in charge of choosing my pasture...either in Africa or Minnesota. My job was simply to watch Him and follow. He would choose the BEST pasture for me, for the BEST reasons.

God brought me to a point of realizing that it was a privilege to have my faith stretched in this way. To think that the God of the universe would care enough about little ol' me to deepen my faith through this! I would trust Him, my Shepherd, to choose the right pasture for me.

I had just gotten done sharing this journal entry with Tom, when suddenly the phone rang. It was the doctor with the test results. She gladly gave me the green light to go on to Africa!! :-)

The Safest Place by Julia

The Safest Place

I came to church today feeling scared and anxious that our Africa trip was upon us. I was finding lots of things to worry or be frightened about. But that was about to change!

Even before the service began, people were approaching us to talk about the trip and to wish us well. One person very kindly prayed over me right there. Then she shared an important truth with me: “You are in the safest place when you are in the center of God’s will.” This was exactly what I needed to hear! My fears began to fade, because I knew for sure that it was God’s will for me to go.

During the service our mission team went up on the stage where we were commissioned and prayed for by the whole congregation. Then after the service, the encouragement continued as person after person gave us notes or hugs or just chatted. We left the building feeling so full and blessed to be part of this body of believers!

Back at home I opened up a note that someone had given me at church. It was filled with encouraging thoughts, including a reinforcement of the earlier truth, “You are in the center of God’s will.” It was then that I realized that I was experiencing joy and peace again. There hadn’t been any room for it with all that anxiety in my heart. But there’s lots of room for it in The Safest Place.

Prayer Requests - Tom Feb 28 2010

As we are within four days of leaving, there is more temptation to be anxious for pulling all the details together, and making sure we have everything we need to get ready for the trip. Julia has been doing a great job pulling the final list together of what to remember. Please pray for the following

1. Final packing details on what to bring, including many details on what to bring for the construction work
2. Strong devotion to God on a daily basis to make sure we are getting spiritually fed each day so we don't go into the trip being half starved spiritually
3. Get personal finances in order to make sure bills are paid while we are gone
4. Preparing Seth to watch household, taking care of chickens and other household responsibilities
5. Standing strong on God's promises to remember His direction in leading us on this trip.
6. Tom to get much accomplished with work before leaving on the trip, and to make sure there is a smooth transition in making sure that jobs with clients continue smoothly.

Thanks for praying.

Trip Description

There is a team of 8 (Jon and Julia Sybrant, Tom, Julia, Matthew Butz, Mike Klismith, Joel Anderson, Dan (Erik's cousin, he doesn't have a last name). Wycliff Bible translators have many locations across Africa, and these trips are designed to allow people an opportunity to help construct facilities used for Bible translation. Specifically, in 2006 Wycliff decided that it was time to move back to Sudan. Sudan is sill recovering from 18 years of war. During these years of war, Wycliff had to move away from Sudan, and squatters moved into the facilities. God protected the compound in amazing ways. None of the storage containers that had been left behind were broken into. Though a bomb came through the roof of the guesthouse, it didn't explode. God's hand has been protecting the property from any major damage, but the facility is still in need of major work to return it to a fully functional compound. There is no shortage of work needed to keep a team busy.

Send off from Church

Today, we had a time where all who were at the service and going on the trip were on the stage. Pastor Mark Stiglicz explained to the congregation of the information about the Africa trip. Jon and Julie Sybrant have been on a total of four trips to Africa, and Mark had also been on one of the trips with Jon and Julie. Pastor Doug Patterson (on left) came up after Mark's explanation and joined us in prayer. It was a very encouraging time, and it helped to communicate to the church about the trip going on, and we had many many conversations with people before we left, all wishing us the best.

Friday, February 26, 2010

One Week From Today.....

We are scheduled to leave Thursday March 4 at about noon, and it will take nearly 24 hours to get to Kenya. This means that one week from today, we will still be in transit, and most likely about to land in Amsterdam. I like long trips, when I am driving. I like the fresh air, being able to stop and grab something to eat or drink, but being on a plane for all those hours is likely to be a bit of a challenge. My longest air trip is about 6 hours, so one week from today, we will be crossing more time zones than I knew existed, and we will eventually get to Kenya at about 8 pm local time, after spending all those hours in the air. I normally don't have much trouble getting to sleep, and "they" say that it is best to try to stay awake for the better part of the trip, so we can go to bed not too long after arriving in Kenya. Stay tuned, we will let you know how things are going, one week from today....

Lists and Lists of Lists

Julia is a list person. I am glad that over 25 years ago, I made it onto her list, so now she can list for me. I am not a list person. I can be, but it is not my strength. There is a corner in the dining room which is her "dashboard" or "control center" that holds the storehouse of lists. Without these lists, we would be lost. With all the planning for the Africa trip, these lists become the map of making sure everything gets done. My job is to execute items off the list, and continually ask "is there anything I can do to help?" Julia always has an immediate item on her mind because of her frequent trips to the control center, and calls out the next item from the list. It sounds a little like longshoreman calling out for the next crate to be removed from the ship that is being unloaded. Well, we couldn't make it without the lists, but I have to admit I am looking forward to being on the plane, so we can finally cross that off the list. -->The List-->

Call to the Bank...

When traveling internationally, they (whoever "they" are) say that it is a good idea to notify your bank to make sure they are aware before charges start showing up from all corners of the globe. I made the call to Wells Fargo, and let them know we are traveling to Kenya and Sudan. The person on the phone indicated that it was a good idea to let them know (maybe that is who "they" are) and took down the card numbers that would be used on the trip. They also provided a local contact number in case I would need to call the bank (Wells Fargo). She provided a number for Kenya, and then was looking for a number for Sudan. After a pause, she said they didn't have a number for Sudan. I said "maybe that is not a good sign" she paused and laughed with me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Team Juba

Our team consists of Jon and Julia Sybrant (leaders), Tom, Julia, and Matthew Butz, Mike Klismith, Joel Anderson, and Dan (Erik Hagman's cousin). This team has a heart the size of Kansas, and are ready to go through all the hardships in getting to Kenya, make the final flight to Sudan, and serve in all the ways God has for us. We had our last meeting together this last Monday night, and we forgot to grab a picture of everyone, but you will see more pictures later. The Evergreen New Hope folks (first six in list) will be prayed for on Sunday, and we will make sure to get a picture for a future posting. I am confident that God has called this group to go, and that we will be a mighty tool for His purposes of serving Him, and allowing the kingdom of God to grow and expand. There are so many parts of God's body that work together, and the overall goal is to see God's word be translated into every language so people can understand there is a God that cares and is able to save them from their sins. Go Team Juba!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Support Raising

The mission trip requires significant financial resources, with an estimated cost of $2,677 per person, which includes airfare, and in country expenses. Total cost for three people is a stunning $8,031 for Julia, Matthew and I. Late in 2009, we drafted a support letter and began sending out the letters explaining our vision to go on the trip. We got to a point where we had about 2/3 of the support raised, and were totally amazed how God was working to bring in all the support. We have learned so much from this process, in how God can move in people's hearts to provide the funds. I (Tom) reached a crucial issue with needing to hear from God at the 2/3 point in support raising. (obvious note: 2/3 support would mean only 2 of us would be able to go). God was saying that I needed to really go to the mat with Him in asking to hear from Him. God worked this out by giving me a big "no" at first, and then a "yes" once I really gave it to Him, I received confirmation from God to go. The later stages of support raising were amazing. We had sent out an email indicating that we were very close. God was moving in the hearts of people, and we received an email indicating that this family was willing to provide a very generous gift. In this time frame, we also received a call from someone who had already given generously, and they asked if we needed anything more. We let them know the amount, and they were insistent on making sure we were not short-changing ourselves. God provided the full amount needed for the trip. What an amazing array of people hearing from God, and doing His will, all within the belief that everything belongs to God.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hearing God's Voice Feb 22, 2010

Preparing for the Trip has involved many stages. First, we needed to hear God's calling. Julia heard this loud and clear, and Matthew was all in about going. I was sensing God's calling, but not as clearly hearing His voice. This eventually got to a stage where I was assuming more leading from God than what was happening. I felt that God was pulling me back to a state of saying "no" about going, and that I needed to really seek Him to hear His voice. This happened while on a business trip, and God led me through a path of giving Him the decision, and making sure that I have a strong desire to do His will. Then, the direction for me (Tom) to go was strong, and God has used this to fuel my heart for Him in a strong passion, rather than just having a "show up for church" approach to seeking Him. God is worthy of our most intense energy and desires. When I seek Him with all my heart, the fire of this desire burns away less important things in my heart.