Lame Duck

Posted in Ancona, church, family, leadership, ministry, Newsletters at 2:10 am

It’s a weird thing, being the lame duck.

Maybe that’s putting things a little strong, but I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago. We were enjoying dinner together with the church, like we do every Sunday. There was a question about some plans we were making and everyone started giving their opinions. At a certain point, someone remembered that they forgot to ask us what we thought, and sort of sheepishly, half-apologetically asked if we had anything to say. There was no malice. No one was trying to exclude anyone. It just sort of … happened.

In the moment, there was a bit of a lump in my throat as I realized that things are moving on without us. After the initial moment passed, I was so relieved that things are moving on without us! Isn’t that the way that it should be? Isn’t that exactly what we have been working towards since our arrival in Ancona? Don’t we desire to see the believers that God has gathered to depend on the Spirit instead of the Americans when it’s time to move forward as a body?

So with about two months to go until our departure, we are starting to watch things happen from the sidelines. It’s humbling, but in such a good way.
Which is great because we have so much we have to do before we are ready to move! Most everything in our house is being put into one of three piles: pitch, sell, or ship. We are putting as little as possible in the “ship” pile because it costs a lot to get stuff from one continent to another! Heidi is on a first name basis with the woman who runs the consignment store that is selling a lot of our stuff. And I make regular runs to the city’s recycling plant to throw stuff away or donate things that others can use.

Emotions are running high in our house as we get ready. The kids are grieving the loss of friends and familiarity. It’s hard for Heidi and I to know that our decision does have an impact on those we love here in Ancona. An international move with a family of six is enough to drive everyone over the edge! But despite all of this, underneath it all, there is a peace about our decision. There’s a quiet calm and the promise that no matter where we go, God goes with us (a promise that Chloe reminded us of the other evening in church).

Can I ask you all to keep praying through all of this? Pray for the Ancona side of things (the team, the church, our friends here) and for the US side (new ministry opportunities, a new church, and new friends over there). Thank you for going on this journey with us!


A Whole Bunch of Thank-Yous

Posted in family, leadership, Newsletters, travel at 9:47 am

My wife is an incredibly gracious woman. At the beginning of the month, she took over 100% of all of our family responsibilities (and with four kids, that’s a lot of stuff to do!) so that I could fly back to the US for two weeks to attend two special events.

The first was the Team Leader’s Summit, which is held every two years at the Team Expansion home office. They ask all the team leaders from every team all over the globe to come in for a wonderful conference that is really very unique. All of us, no matter what country our team is in, face similar challenges in both leading a team and planting churches. Many ideas were exchanged, friendships were renewed or created, lots of prayers were prayed, and encouragement was such a present thing that it was almost tangible. There’s no cost to us other than transportation to get there and back, and the home office crew goes out of their way to spoil us rotten. Can you tell I came home recharged?

After the conference, I made the trip to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the International Conference on Missions. My mom lives in KC and my sister made the trip with my nephews, so I also got to spend a lot of time with family as well. Team Expansion has a large booth at the conference, and I was privileged to be able to talk to many people about Team Expansion and its worldwide mission. One highlight: praying with a young couple who started the application process to serve in Kosovo, a place that is near to my heart. Can’t wait to see what God does with them!

Thanks to all the people who made my trip possible and especially Shively Christian Church, who paid for my plane ticket. Thanks to those who opened their homes and took great care of me. Thanks to Randy for the free trip to KC.

It all makes me so thankful to be a part of a team here in Ancona. Kyle & Rebecca took over so many responsibilities with the church (in addition to the ministries they are already involved with!) to make my trip possible. Thanks, guys!

Thanks to Heidi for filling in for me in so many ways. Thanks to the kids for being good for mom and for watching Frannie more than usual.

Kind of appropriate that this newsletter is coming out around Thanksgiving: I have a lot to be thankful for. We’re thankful for you and your part in our ministry. Your prayers are so valuable. Your donations literally make everything possible. We’re thanking God for you!


Falling into Place

Posted in church, leadership, ministry, Newsletters at 7:35 am

Yesterday I got a little glimpse of the church not needing us anymore. And it was awesome.

One of our church members, Cri, recently started a job as a care-taker for an elderly man in her city. This man also has a live-in nurse who is from Romania, so Cri struck up a conversation with her. Her Italian is pretty rough, so it’s hard to understand everything she says, but Cri got the distinct impression that this girl was searching for God in some way.

We have some Romanian immigrants in our church, who called a friend who happened to be coming this way from Romania, and they brought her a Romanian Bible. Last Sunday after church we passed the Bible around and signed it. The dedication was John 14:6: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” After all of our names I noticed that Mariana had written her phone number.

So yesterday I called Cri to see what happened at work on Monday. The young girl eagerly took the Bible and said she couldn’t wait to start reading it! Later that afternoon she had already called Mariana to thank her.

Now that she was able to speak to someone in her own language, we learned more of her story. She’s alone here with three kids and her ex-husband is still in Romania. She has two Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly coming to visit her, and she’s not really sure what to believe. Her work schedule only gives her three free hours per day, so she’s not sure when she could ever come to church. Mariana assured her that we will bring the church to her!

So go back and read that story and see how much the American missionaries were involved…

My heart swelled with pride as Mariana and Cri shared their stories of sharing the Gospel in a very practical way with their new friend. Interestingly enough, neither one of them would have been able to reach her alone. They needed something that someone else in the church had, and God put them together to make it happen.

Our prayer and our hope is to hear more and more stories like this; stories of the believers working together and using their gifts for the Lord.

Until next month…


I need an introvert day

Posted in family, friends, kids, leadership at 5:59 pm

I’m an introvert.

There was a time in my life when I thought that was a character flaw. Introverts don’t like people, right? They’re kind of anti-social and maybe even a little snotty. How can that possibly be a good thing? I once had a friend question whether or not an introvert could even be a missionary.

Then I learned the real definition of introvert. We’re not anti-social and snotty. We like people just as much as extroverts. But the difference is that being around people is draining for introverts. It makes us tired. Extroverts come home from a party excitedly talking about all the great conversations they had. Introverts would rather drive home in silence, ready to slip into bed. One time after church my wife was asking me all kinds of questions about things that had happened, and I finally had to sheepishly admit that I was out of words – I honestly didn’t have it in me to have any more conversation!

This week has been full of meetings. And the kids have needed a little more attention than usual. And being the interim team leader means people turn their head and look at me during a meeting when it’s decision time. Which all adds up to a very tired introvert. When I saw being an introvert as a bad thing, it also would have added up to a lot of guilt. “Maybe introverts really shouldn’t be missionaries?” I would think. Now I see it as a part of me being me. I need to take some time to get recharged before I drain all the way to zero. Staying at zero too long often leads to bad things.

It’s a good thing to start to feel comfortable with the personality that God gave me.


How to be a leader

Posted in administration, leadership, Team at 6:46 am

My team leader is about to begin a six month home service in the US. Team Expansion strongly suggests that someone on the field be appointed “Interim Team Leader.” Though I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge, the job has fallen to me this time.

On one hand, I know that my job will be to keep “the ship” sailing, rather than make huge course corrections. So I don’t feel like I’ll be making big decisions. On the other hand, I don’t want to blow this off and pretend like nothing is going to change. So I’ve been asking friends who are smarter than me for their advice. Here’s what one guy had to say:

  1. Listen- Create opportunities where you can just listen to what’s going on with the team, personally and “professionally.”
  2. Encourage- You’re a nice guy, keep being that way. Let them know you want the best for them by encouraging your team in who God is making them and what He is doing through them, individually and on the team.
  3. Communicate- Don’t assume they know what you think they should know. Don’t hold information back from them. Unless it’s a really dire circumstance, there’s nothing you know that they shouldn’t know. Through communicating with them, you show them that they are valued enough to be trusted with information, even if they don’t have much to do with the use of the information.
  4. Don’t avoid conflict with them- I’m not encouraging meanness but conflict is good and can say, “Hey, we’re not all on the same page but we are all people who have been given minds by God and who can have a little excitement when discussing things, if only we’re willing to disagree in a Christlike way.” Check out this article for a cursory look at what I’m talking about regarding this.
  5. Love- Man, you’re a loving, cuddly guy, this should come easy for you. Really, influence is what John Maxwell says leadership is all about. I think people are more influenced by love than anything else. Not the cuddly kind (accept with wife and kids) but the gracious merciful kind that everyone needs. Keep things gracious and you’ll do great in this interim period.

I’ve got some smart friends, huh? Except I don’t think I’m cuddly.