This morning started off with a bang. Well, not literally, but close. Our missions team to Mexico boarded our plane only to find out 45 minutes later that our radio transmitter is broken and either needs to be repaired OR we will have to board another plane. Either way, we will most likely miss our connecting flight. We’ll see. 😬

On the upside of things, I have the great privilege of going to Mexico with 14 outstanding individuals- one of which is my daughter, Hannah. The last time she was on an airplane she was 10 months old. And this is her first international experience and missions trip. We are all kinds of excited over here! I have literally dreamed of taking our children on missions trips since before they were born.  My various experiences on short term missions trips have had such a profound impact on my life: learning about other cultures, stepping out of my comfort zone to share the Gospel, doing things I would never do at home, deepening relationships with people from our home church as we share a cross cultural experience, worshiping God in a different language, etc.  I want my kids to see that God is not an American God. He is active and present throughout the entire world. His Son, Jesus Christ, came to be a savior for ALL people of every nation, language and skin color.  I want them to see real need and understand how much we have both been entrusted with and have excess of .  I want them to get a glimpse of God’s purpose for their lives- which somehow seems to gain clarity when one is removed from the distractions of our American materialism. I want them to see that this life is not about them- it is about Jesus Christ and living to be useful to Him in whatever vocations or contexts He gives us.

So… if you think about us this week, will you please say a prayer for our team? We have many young people on our team. Pray that:

  • this trip would have a profound impact on their lives
  • we would have hearts to see the physical and spiritual needs of others and a quickness to serve
  • we would bond tightly as a team- laugh, cry and be authentic with one another
  • we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and respond to His promptings
  • we would have safe travels and logistics for our disrupted flights would be worked out
  • we would have great personal times in the Word and as a team
  • our families with be protected from harm, illness and attack in our absence

Thank you so much for your prayers- they are the greatest blessing to us as a team!! Stay tuned for more updates here through the week.

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But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10

I love how God often illustrates His word in our lives.  Upon returning from our recent missions trip to Belize, my husband and I had a lot to process.  Going on a missions trips will do that to you: flood your mind with thoughts about what you learned and the changes you want to make as a result.  One of the things that really stuck out to us this time around was the sheer amount of excess that we have.  Whether wardrobes, toys, school supplies, books, entertainment, and beyond- we have so much.  I think what we find troubling about the excess is how it can detract from Kingdom work: time spent managing our stuff, means time wasted from ministering to others.

Joe was processing the problem of excess in our home one day when the kids began fighting over toys.  It seemed the perfect opportunity for us to share about the meager means of the children we have encountered in Rwanda and Belize, and to  give our kids a small taste of what their lives are like.  Joe instructed the kids to gather all of their toys from around the house and put them in the basement. It took a while, but once the house was cleared of toys, Joe carefully explained that this was not meant to be punitive, but to help them understand what life is like for most children around the world.

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Two of our girls standing over a portion of their toys in the basement. When they were done collecting their toys, our basement looked as though a tornado had struck our home. <:-0

I was skeptical about this experience.  Surely the kids would be bored and fight more.  But in retrospect and to my surprise, I could not find a single negative thing about removing the kids’ toys for several weeks.  Rather than causing added strife in our home, I actually found:

  • the kids fought less, because there were no toys to fight over
  • they used their imaginations in play more (ex. role playing, building blanket forts, etc.)
  • there was more laughter in our home, as the kids looked to each other for entertainment rather than toys
  • they went outside to play more often
  • the kids spent a lot more time reading and drawing
  • the house was much less cluttered, resulting in less stress for me

After about three weeks, we decided to reintroduce their toys.  However, this whole experiment was brought about by the desire to rid ourselves of some excess.  So, I told the kids they could each keep 4 toys.  I know four doesn’t seem like very many toys, but we told them that if they wanted to keep sets like Legos, that would count as one toy. This meant that the kids had to work together and negotiate to keep their favorite toys.  They had to prioritize their possessions- what was most important to them and what could they part with?  I wasn’t sure how this part of the plan would go.  But to my surprise, there was barely a raised voice or negative word uttered by the kids as they negotiated.  I think they were just so thankful to have some toys back that they did not argue with Joe or I about the amount we were letting them keep.  I was delighted to watch as they helped each other out by reserving a spot of their choice to help another sibling keep the toy that they wanted.

Given the option, I would certainly do this little experiment again!  It was a small way to include our children in the missions experience and show them just how very much they have.  Purging our home of “stuff’ means less time picking up clutter- which means more time for more worthy endeavors.  And in case you are wondering, we sorted through the remainder of the toys and put some in storage (toys I have kept for my tiny niece and nephew to play with when they visit), slotted some for sale on the web, and others we will donate to a local thrift store.

How about you? Do you feel like you are spending too much time managing excess in your life?  Would you ever take your kids’ toys away? How have you simplified life in order to make more room to partner with God in His work?  I would love to hear from you!!! 

Do life deliberately today!

~Trisha

A short term missions trip changed my life.

No joke. No exaggeration.

As an 18 year old, newly committed follower of Christ, I traveled to Kharkov, Ukraine with 5 other members of my church. It took planes, trains and automobiles to get to our destination, where we spent two weeks teaching the scriptures, sharing the gospel, and loving orphans. Along with my senior pastor and our translator, I stayed with a tent making pastor and his beautiful wife and children.   

(From left to right) My teammate, Jennifer, Elena, myself and Natasha. Elena and Natasha are the daughters of my then houseparents in Ukraine.

This amazing family sacrificed their food, beds, privacy and comforts to host this insignificant teen. That week I experienced a God who loves His church around the world. I saw the smiles, heard the laughter of orphans who played soccer with us and delighted in the taste of gummy worms. I saw fearful hearts soften with compassion as we shared the gospel with their former communist neighbors. My heart was bound up with those that I traveled and served with- memories of laughter, illness, stepping out of our comfort zones, receiving sacrificial hospitality, and so much more.  

These beautiful people are the pastors and their families of the church we ministered with during our time in Ukraine.

And my experience in Ukraine is not unique. Since that time, I have been to Rwanda and multiple times to Belize. The joy of serving Christ with those at my church is irreplaceable- linking us together in a common hope and mission- sharing the gospel and strengthening the global Church. Consistently, my fellow team mates and myself return home fired up, ready to serve God in new ways at home, passionate for the Lord’s church. 

This is the cabin I lived in for two months in Belize (2000)- no electricity or hot water, nightly bed checks for geckos and scorpions, regular extermination of tarantulas and snakes. We often awoke to the sounds of Macaws and monkeys playing in the nearby trees.

Short terms missions trips provide opportunities for team members to do things they have never done before. When I went to Rwanda, multiple teammates shared the gospel- an experience they had never had before. The joy they felt prompted them to come home and serve in the local church in ways they had never served before! In Belize, teammates taught scripture and led worship- things they had never dared to do at home before. But now that those barriers of self-consciousness have been broken, who knows what they might dare to do in the name of Christ!  

Prior to my service in Belize in 2000, I had been terrified of singing solo and leading worship. That experience helped give me the confidence to lead worship in my local church as an adult.

I do not know what kind of impact I have made in others during these trips. I trust that somehow God has used these times to encourage other believers, spread the Good News of Jesus, and draw unbelievers to Himself. I know I am forever changed by each country, culture, church and person I have had the privilege of meeting. I have seen prayers answered in profound ways, come to understand God’s Word in a new light, and learned to appreciate different ways of worshipping God.

Have you ever served on a short term missions trip? If not, is it possible that God is calling YOU to step out of your comfort zone to serve Him in a new country and culture??  Is He calling you to go again?? I’d love to hear from YOU!! 

This is the team of my most recent missions trip to Belize. Our purpose was to equip and encourage the Church in Belize, mainly through teaching and the sharing of the Gospel.

When people return home from a missions trip, they are often asked, “How was your trip?!” Generally speaking, people want to hear, “It was great,” and then be relinquished to go about their business. It’s no one’s fault, really, but for those returning from a trip, whose lives have been forever impacted, it can be disheartening to so flippantly respond about our time away. I have been pondering how to briefly, but honestly relay to others about our time in Belize. The phrase that comes to mind:

It was hard to come home.

I was privileged to share the Gospel with this man, Tash, and a lovely Mayan woman named Angelcita while we were in Placencia.  Suddenly I found myself looking for opportunities to share the gospel where I might have otherwise tried to avoid talking to strangers.
I was privileged to share the Gospel with this man, Tash, and a lovely Mayan woman named Angelcita while we were in Placencia. Suddenly I found myself looking for opportunities to share the gospel where I might have otherwise tried to avoid talking to strangers.
It was hard to come home.  And probably not for the reasons you think. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it was HOT after being in frigid Wisconsin all winter. Yes, it was a break from my regular responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and homeschooling.   But that’s not why it was hard to come home.  I have developed a love for the missionaries we partner with.  They are people that I want to be like- in them I observed people who purposefully encounter strangers, ready to share the Gospel or intentionally seeking to encourage a brother or sister in Christ.  Man, I want to be like that! I want to be so Kingdom-minded that I seize every opportunity to share the love of Christ with others, rather than hoping a stranger won’t strike up an awkward conversation with me in the local coffee shop.

It was hard to come home because it was the first time that I returned to the same place of ministry, able to reconnect with people I had met before.  How SWEET it was to see familiar faces and receive a smile, or even a hug, of recognition!  How wonderful to be warmly welcomed by missionaries and pastors, knowing that we are partnering together to lead people to Christ and to strengthen the Church through teaching and equipping.

This is Zelda and I, working together again after we met initially at Camp Machaca in 2000.
This is Zelda and I, working together again after we met initially at Camp Machaca in 2000.
It was amazing to meet up with Zelda, a young woman I had worked with at Machaca Summer Camp in 2000.  How sweet it is to see her steadfastly serving the Lord 15 years later! It was wonderful to once again see little girls we played with last October.  Where six months ago there were shy smiles and play time, now there were warm hugs, selfies, singing, showing us their homes, learning about their lives and growing in relationship.

It was so fun to reconnect with these little cuties when we visited their home village of Machaca in April.  Our team initially met them in October 2014.
It was so fun to reconnect with these little cuties when we visited their home village of Machaca in April. Our team initially met them in October 2014.
It was hard to come home because life is relatively simple in Belize- or atleast it appeared that way to me.  Part of the simplicity is due to poverty- if you don’t have money to spend on stuff, you don’t have stuff to complicate your life.  Joe and I came away with a strong desire to simplify our lives- from diminishing our excessive wardrobes, to purging the ridiculous amount of toys our kids own, to limiting the media that our family has access to.  All of our “stuff” gets in the way of our family’s relationship with Christ- time spent managing our excess is time spent distracted from our Lord. 

I come away from our time in Belize with new perspective regarding what it important, what is of eternal value, and what some of the distractions are that I need to eliminate from my life.  I have a renewed sense of mission- God has called me to be a missionary at all times, wherever I may be.  I am to love my neighbor (everyone) and seize every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those I encounter.  That means I have to be prepared to share the Gospel!  Nothing is more important than fulfilling that mission- whether it is training up my children to know the Lord, discipling the women in my small group, or traveling around the world on a short term missions trip.  My desire is to be useful to the Lord by Doing Life Deliberately!!

In His Love,

Trisha