The Lord has risen Indeed!

Happy Easter - It had been five years since our last western Lenten Journey toward Easter and we must say it was been wonderful being in Texas to make this spiritual journey.  The worship liturgy, music, and renewed friendships have really brought new meaning to the Resurrection.  

The Work of Waiting

"For you I wait all day long."  Psalm 25:5
We thought our wait would be over by now, if not by New Year's, then Valentine’s Day, or if not, then certainly by Ash Wednesday, and if not then most assuredly by Easter, but as each passed I was reminded of the old Gensu Knife commercial [link], “ “But wait, there’s more!”... waiting that is.   Last week, in the Holy Week Liturgy, we heard the words Jesus said to the disciples when he asked them to wait with him at Gethsemane. 

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Jesus told them.  “Stay here and keep watch with me.”  

Watching or waiting is not very popular, Henri Nouwen once wrote. “In fact, most people consider waiting to be a waste of time. The culture says, ‘Get going! Do something! Don’t just sit there and wait,’” but that is exactly what Jesus asks the disciples to do then, and it seems what He is asking us to do now. 

“When Jesus came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more.”

Some see watching or waiting as analogous to being in the desert between where they are and where they want to be.   It’s a desert filled with doubt: Did I miss the turn off?  Is God finished with me?  How long will I be here?

While looking out from the wait has seemed like a desert at times, where we are also feels like an Oasis, a place where our body and soul are being restored and readied for what comes next.  

In the mean time we have reduced our salary by half, since although the waiting is work, it has gone on too long for us to continue on full salary. Thank you for joining us in the work of this waiting.  

In this eNews Suzanne explores The Spiritual Side of Waiting, where she shares a bit of our process of waiting and what we have learned, and Steve shares the Practical Side of Waiting exploring what could be next.  

Suzanne and Steve

The Spiritual Side of Waiting

by Suzanne
West Texas Windmills
After our vision trip at the end of 2018, we set upon prayerfully discerning which of the places we visited, if any, we were called to join. At the same time, the leaders of those organizations also prayerfully discerned if they felt we would be a good fit and/or felt we were called to serve with them. This included an extended time of back and forth emails and Skype or equivalent conversations, answering follow-up questions We pretty quickly felt God saying “no” to two of the three opportunities from the vision trip. We were thankful for the clarity, but it is always difficult to say “no thank you”. When praying about the third, an International Church in Vietnam, we felt like we should be hearing a clear “yes”, but we didn’t. We kept our prayer team informed of our discernment progress and asked them to keep praying for us and to let us know if they heard a word from the Lord. Interestingly, almost universally, they heard nothing. At one point Suzanne heard in a dream,
“It is not that you are not ready to know where you will go, it is that the place is not yet ready for you.”

We then renewed our conversations with a mission training center in Colorado, and set up to do a face-to-face interview with them while we were nearby on a family ski trip in January. It seemed to go well, we prayed and prayed about that and Vietnam… still no direction from God that felt concrete. One of our TMS Global Colleagues, serving in an undisclosed location, heard we were still searching for our next appointment and contacted us with an idea of joining her in delivering various trainings in the city in which she serves. We had several discussions with her and one of her colleagues, and while it seemed a good fit for our experience and skills, we told her that we felt that Steve was being called back into pastoral ministry. It turns out an international church in the city in which she serves has had an interim pastor for several months and was looking for a pastor! So, Steve had an e-interview with several of their elders, and we are now invited to visit them, which we will do in conjunction with a conference in Dubai after Easter.

All along we had been praying, and not hearing no (or yes) to Vietnam, and seeing all kinds of connections and synergies between the now three possible locations: Vietnam, Colorado, and the undisclosed location*. At another point Suzanne had another dream in which she heard
“If the way you are praying isn't working, change the way you are praying.”

Last fall a friend of ours in Central Texas had told us that she engages in the Ignatian Examen daily. After talking about it with her, she gave us more information and we had been doing the Examen many evenings. After the “change the way you are praying” dream, we doubled-down on that, and added in some 1 to 3 hour prayer times in which we adapted the Ignatian discernment process to our needs, and unplugged the phones, locked the doors, lit a candle, and PRAYED. One time we each heard something different, and one time we both heard “not yet”. During this time, we heard from those praying for us either conflicting messages, or, “you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing right now.” We felt most strongly that the message from God was, “wait.” We continued along the process with the training center in Colorado, and completed a set of psychological evaluations with them, and are set to “shadow” some of their trainers in June.

We’re not sure why God has us waiting this long. However, we are so very thankful for the time. We have seen our first grandchild born and been around to watch the first 9 months of her life. What a JOY. Around Memorial Day we’ll (finally) get Suzanne’s childhood home on the market to sell. And we’ve been doing all the deferred maintenance on our house and yard, and figuring out what we own and what we don’t need anymore. At the same time, we have been working on ourselves – getting ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared for our next calling. We have also been doing a lot of shared ministry together, for the first time (in such quantity) ever. We have led a Bible study, including an Ignatian Examen practice and some Taize music at our church throughout Lent. We have pitched in and shared a listening and prayerful ear on several occasions with friends. Steve (and in one instance Steve and I) have preached some, and we have shared about missions at two churches’ special mission events. I would say most importantly, though, we have come to incorporate significant margin in our lives, not in the leftover spaces, but as an integral part of our days. We look forward to being much more fully present in whatever path God lays before us.

It has been a blessed 9 months, and we are so thankful to God for his grace in allowing us this time. Thank you for supporting us through your prayers and gifts.

*Note: we have to say “undisclosed location” since it is not always advisable to disclose that someone is a Christian working in a “closed” country, even if the work does not directly entail proselytizing.

The Practical Side of Waiting

We are currently moving forward with three different possibilities. Interestingly, none of these came about through an advertisement for an open position; all came about through a very rich and interesting series of God-incidences.
A church in Vietnam - has asked us to pray about making a commitment to coming on staff.  They are clear that we need to feel a strong call to Vietnam, as each of them have received.  The church would include us both on staff, and have us leading discipleship, International students, and several operational and special project tasks.  Steve would preach when the other two pastors are on leave. Initially they would have us going through all the departments, spending time at both church sites in the city of Hanoi, observing the church’s strengths and weaknesses, and identifying their needs and opportunities. This could be for 2 to 3 months at the start, in conjunction with language learning, after which we would spend time with staff assessing our best fit in their ministries in more detail. Not that we wouldn’t be plugged in right from the start, but we wouldn’t be locked down with so much that it would be overwhelming and inflexible, especially during language learning and cultural immersion. 
A Missionary Training Center in Colorado – we began a process with them several months ago, and we continue along in their process.  A few weeks ago, we took a battery of psychological tests that will conclude with an on-site evaluation.  This part of their process is similar to the UMC ordination process, a bit like the TMS Global process, and oddly enough like when I worked in a Navy research lab that required a security clearance.  Fun and a bit weird to be again answering questions formed in the 1980s, but in a 2019 context in which we have been away from the US for several years.  We have been invited to shadow two different weeklong debriefing sessions in June to see if we are a good match, if we need to expand our placement search within the organization, or if we are not the fit they are looking for.  
Undisclosed Location – we have been invited to visit  a church in an undisclosed location after Easter to observe their services one week and preach the next. We will meet with church leadership and engage in some of the church’s ministries during our time there. Steve is seeking to be their pastor and Suzanne would likely have some time to work with TMS-Global Colleagues.  We’ve had a number of good interviews with two different consulting and training organizations and the church’s Elders.  It’s a really interesting opportunity that of the three, potentially makes the best use of our gifts and graces.  This one was not on our radar, but after our TMS-Global friend contacted us in January to see if we might be interested in the consulting and training opportunities, we thought, maybe this is where God was leading us, especially when we learned the local International Church had an opening for their next pastor. 
All three possibilities have been “long coming,” as they say in Ghana, but we feel God at work in all of them.
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