Here’s To You…

If there is one thing to say about me, it’s that I have quite a few problems. Habits and tendencies I’ve developed over the many years of a, politely put, interesting journey. And if you ever want to hear them all, I will happily sit down to talk about them, but there is one that has been interfering with the work the God is doing within me.

I get very caught up and very passionate about whats right there in front of me. The people that need something or wish for help that I physically encounter every day, face to face. An assignment at work that needs to be attacked. A situation that I can get hands on with that needs to be resolved. Whatever it may be, I try my best to serve whatever it is as best as I can. I really do and I can be honest with myself about it. But with that comes a problem that I have a habit of doing.

I have been incredibly, outstandingly, amazingly, fortunately, TRULY blessed with absolutely wonderful people surrounding me in my life. Parents, brothers, girl friend, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, great aunts, great uncles, so many friends, so many parents of friends, so many friends of friends, so many families of friends, so many people! Even strangers. Kind hearted, incredibly spirited, gracious, giving, supporting, willing, unselfish, loving people. Its humbling. SO humbling that it brings me to tears, sits heavy on my heart, and brings me to my knees thanking God often. Don’t make fun of me, but early on in this process, I seriously found myself crying one time because of how blown away I was by the things all of you people do for a dumb, punk kid like me.

When I get so caught up in whats right in front of me, I sadly leave a lot of you people in the dust behind me, which is the absolute most selfish move I could ever do. I’ve struggled the last few months in discovering that I’ve done this to a lot of you, and I will admit, its been sickening and really tough to swallow discovering it. It’s not fair to any of you. And it’s a struggle that’s become a battle with the devil about it. Like I’ve said before, the devil attacks us. And I apologize to a lot of you for my struggle in the battle.

To keep this very simple, I want to thank you. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for investing in me, whether in prayer support, financial support, loving support, friendly support, whatever, its a blessing. Thank You! I wish I could show up to each one of y’all’s home and give you the biggest hug (or a handshake if you’re not into hugs, but you’ll have to get over that) and not stop thanking you. And to be honest, that will likely happen at some point. But for now, I write on here thanking each of you. I praise God for each of you. I pray for Him to bless each of you for blessing me and, especially, blessing Him.

You all make this journey possible. You make it possible for me to become the person God wants me to be. You all make it possible for me to be a part of the people’s lives here who, fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you’re talking to, I encounter and befriend. You all allow me to do God’s work in a powerful place.

This all happens, yes, because of God and his blessings. But I can tell you with a big smile on my face, each of you are those blessings. Thank God for you!

When The Dust Settles….

We’re coming up on almost 5 months on the ground here, which is mind-blowing to think of because it doesn’t even feel like its been nearly half a year. Now the dust is settled down and the adrenaline and excitement from arriving in a new country, a new place, a new adventure has worn off.

It’s been a while since I last posted, mostly because it has been a very difficult struggle in the last 6 weeks or so. I’m not afraid to say that and not scared to think it either because in any journey with God, especially a big one like this, there are huge struggles. It’s been very distracting.

At first it was a battle between my human nature, my personal desire, and the Lord’s intention and plan. Since the new year began, I’ve had a very unsettling feeling, a lack of content, in my work with the organization. Not because of anything the organization is doing, but just because of how I work as human, and in some cases, even an American in a foreign country. And for several weeks, I struggled with approaching that feeling as my own personal desire to do more, or the Holy Spirit to push me further along. So I prayed for a while about it, and I got to one weekend where I was so frustrated and looking for a way to distract myself and get away from it all for a few days.

At that time, the opportunity came to join several men from my church, King Of Kings Baptist Church, here in town, on a Men’s Retreat at a farm a couple hours outside of Cape Town. I jumped on it for a couple reasons. One – to actually get away, and hopefully meet a bunch of great men from the community and fellowship with. And two – hoping the Lord would show me something. During the retreat, the gentlemen who spoke during our 3 times of worship during the weekend, spoke from the book of Philippians. Well, being so caught up in my own mess in my head, I was distracted from his message. So, I returned home replenished and excited to serve, but still deeply frustrated.

Then during both devotions, Monday morning and Tuesday morning, at Living Hope, the people spoke from Philippians, and I thought to myself “Huh, that’s crazy they’re speaking from Philippians, too.” It was the next night, riding in the car with Joey Lankford, talking about what God is doing in our lives and showing us at the moment, he told me that earlier that morning, he found himself reading in Philippians, and before he could even speak another word, I laughed. And I told him how he was the 5th person in so many days who had shared with me something from Philippians. And he said to me, “Brother, I think God wants you to open up the book of Philippians and read it.”

I got home that night, no longer ignoring God trying to get my attention, apparently, and opened up the book of Philippians. In the book, Paul is writing to the town in Philippi. And he’s found himself in prison, locked up. But he writes expressing joy and thanksgiving, and that he had learned to be content with any situation he is in. He says in Chapter 4, verses 11-13:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to be abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

And he challenges the Christians of the town to be servants just as Jesus was instead of clinging to their human nature.

A very difficult challenge, but such a clear direction from God. An encounter with God, that just blew my mind and immediately, unquestionably, incontestably put me in my place. It may be a struggle to fight your human nature, how you are wired, but when God has a plan for you, and you surrender yourself and commit to Him and His plan for you, He will help you with those struggles.

But trust me when I say the war never ends. When we as humans have a vulnerable point in our lives, in our journeys, the Devil will find it, attack it, and the Lord helps you to shape you, but it still doesn’t make it easy. And I’ve got quite a few points in my life right now that are easy targets. Some more than others, but all very vulnerable.

I say that the last couple months have been struggle, because I have found myself having to trust the Lord more than I have in pretty much my whole life, even more than when I began this journey and moving to a new country. And God takes us and walks with us through these tough times to help us with areas in our lives need to be addressed. For me, relying on Him for everything. Not only serving those I think are in need, but the ones who love me, support me, and need me as well. And trusting Him when trusting shouldn’t be so difficult.

In order for faith to become real, it must be tried and tested.

I’ve tried living without the guidance and direction of our Lord, and there is no victory. God has walked before me, protected me, guided me in the right direction, and provided for me up to this point in my journey. So why mess with that success?…..

Mom Always Knows What’s Best For You

It’s days into the new year now, and what’s been on the minds of several other people, including my own, here in Cape Town with me serving is what a crazy year 2013 was. And it makes the topic even more insane when we think back to where we were at this point a year ago. But I’ll never forget where I was.

Fresh off a second attempt at a college education, making a run at growing up on my own (without the guidance and personal relationship with our Leader), and not succeeding once again, I felt lost. The Lord had closed the doors to what I was working for, and frustrated, I returned home. I had no idea what to do or where to look. Clouded by frustration and discouragement, I couldn’t see what God was putting together and literally laying out right before me.

After really thinking over what it would be like, and actually praying intentionally about something more than I had in a very, VERY long time, I finally heard God’s command to serve in the missions field.

It was a Sunday morning at church, sitting in my Dad’s office, hiding out with a lot on my mind. And in walks my mom. Concerned, like any mother would be with their son feeling like I did, she was asking how I was doing and what was on my mind. Now at this point, I had been home for just over a month now, trying to figure out what I should do next. And I looked at her and told her I felt like God wanted me to go serve somewhere for a year or two, to teach me some things, and it was the least I could do to serve Him. Before I could even finish what I was saying, a look of relief came over her and she said “YES! Finally! Thank God!”. Confused, I asked what that was supposed to mean. And she replied “Son, I’ve felt like that would be the perfect thing for you to do, but I didn’t want to be the one to tell you. I figured you needed to discover that out on your own.” Sometimes God gives you little winks that you’re really onto something, and then there are times like these, when God gives you a big fat slap on the back, saying “HEYYYY, now you’re figuring it out, ya idiot!” It’s those times of assurance that really motivate you, and give comfort when you’re not sure what to do next.

The next 12 months were those of chaos, growth, patience, cooperation, trust, and joy. Several were months of prayer, following the Lords hand in choosing the place he wanted me to serve. Next few were preparation, with settling everything state-side, training with several others on the same journey, and getting rid of everything I thought I needed to survive. Then celebration with the ones I hold closest to me, the ones I think and pray about every day, the ones who make me who I am, and the ones who support me through this journey. And then the beginning. The beginning to a journey that wasn’t even a human thought less than a year ago at the time. But also, the fresh beginning to a life guided by the right path, the assured path, the path of success, of faith, of love. The path where you have no idea what’s going to happen next, but you’ve never felt so okay and at peace about anything like that before.

Some one asked me last week, during our first week back at work, what I look forward to the most in 2014. And there are so many answers that I want to say to that question, but the best one I could think of was “I don’t know, but I’m so happy I don’t”. I put my trust in the Lord that He would provide what’s best when I am ready, and protect me a year ago when I answered His call. Who am I to mess with that success? I can get hyped up about so many things, but the fact that all I have to do is serve today, and that tomorrow will come, and He’s right there before me, showing me what’s next is enough for me.

“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” ~ Philippians 3:13-16

The Lord has been winking at me quite a bit these past couple months, giving me those little assurances here and there, and I get the feeling that I’ll get one of those big slaps on the back again soon. And from what I’ve been shown so far, 2013 was a huge year for me, but 2014 is about to blow that one out of the water. Stay tuned…

We All Need Somebody To Lean On

It’s beginning to hit me now. The idea that I actually live halfway around the world and this isn’t a short term trip for a couple weeks. I’m actually settling in and making some-what of a life here. I’ve finally moved into a permanent spot and equipped it with everything I need now. I’ve got a car, while I feel like I’m going to break it every time I get in and out of it, the vehicle gets me from A to B. And the most important for me to really feel settled, the relationships.

At first look, you could easily breakdown the relationships the are beginning to grow for me here in country into a couple groups. The first being the individuals I run into through my every day life. The sweet ladies that work the checkout counters at Food Lovers Market, one of my frequent visited spots for lunch during the week. Just saying hello and asking them how their day has been so far and seeing the smiles on their faces can make your day so much better. Seeing the guy at Chapmans Hardware Store here in the valley where I go almost every day for supplies during work and learning more and more about his life and seeing how fascinated he is by the life of an American and hearing why I moved over to this side of the world. Hanging out and working with my new buddy, Brighton. Brighton is from Zimbabwe but moved his family to Masi, here in the valley, to find work. Too see how much he enjoys what he does and being able to joke around and goof off, while getting a lot of work done at the same time of course, only after spending 6 weeks with him so far, is just incredible to me. Only just a few examples of seeing God lay out the bread crumbs in these interactions with these people to lead me closer and closer to sharing the Gospel with ones who dont know, or helping ones grow deeper and deeper in their relationships with Him.

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My new buddy, Brighton, and the christmas tree we just finished putting up on Living Hope’s campus. Love this dude!

 

The other being group is friendships. I’ve only been here for a short time now, and the word “friendship” isnt even close to being a good enough adjective or noun or whatever to describe the relationships with some of the people in this category. Throughout my whole life, but even more in the last 10 years or so, I have been about the most extreme extroverted individual some of you will ever know. Almost all the energy and fuel that the Lord provides for me is through the people that He surrounds me with wherever I go. And my oh my, oh good Lord, has He placed some of the most incredible people around me. With the holidays upon me, and my birthday happening just recently, I havnt had my family or my very best friends here to celebrate with me, but praise the Lord to blessing me with this absolutely incredible group of people. For Him to place me here in this country with these folks is a blessing that I do not deserve one bit. People I can grow with, learn with, love with, and fellowship with. 

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And all who believed were together and all had things in common…And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, and they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” ~ Acts 2:44-47. A passage I think best describes this photo from Thanksgiving.

The reason I said “At First…” earlier is because now that I’ve been here long enough for these relationships to unfold and develop, I’ve realized what I say about one group, I can say about the other. The best way to say this is that when you do all things through the Lord, in this case create relationships, whether they be good friendships with people you hang out with every day and on the weekends, or you run into at the checkout counter, you get the same things and put in the same things. Whether you talk about the gospel, family, hobbies, your day, your week, WHATEVER, no matter who you talk to or spend that time with, you grow WITH them. Your learn WITH them. And most important of all, you love them. More than ever in this moment of my life, I only desire to love the people in my life. In this country, in some other foreign country, or back home. I desire to appreciate and hold dear to me what I learn from them, what they do for me, and what I can do for them. Loving the people in your life and growing in the gospel with them is so important that I dont know how to describe it. And while I hold some people closer to me than others, God forbid me from ever taking advantage of any interaction, acquaintance, conversation, interaction, or whatever and thinking that one may not matter.

It is so easy to get so caught up in what the road looks like ahead and worry about what comes after this and you lose sight and miss out on what happens right in front of you, what person you ignore, what opportunity the Lord presents you that you overlook. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” - Matthew 6:34

Lord, keep me near sited and let me not miss out on what you have before me….

Update From The Field And Lesson Learned

Forgive me for taking so long to update. I’m a little disappointed in myself for how long its taken me to write, one because many of my friends, family, and supporters have been asking me how I’m doing, or if I even made it ha, and two because you all deserve it!

Well, I am alive and well! Hit boots on the ground three weeks ago to this day (again, I know, it’s sad it has taken me this long to update). I am currently shackin’ up at The Team House, which is a rather large “Bed & Breakfast” run by an absolutely fantastic group of local South Africans! For those of you that do not know, almost every short term team sent by organizations and churches, including Brentwood Baptist, from around the world that come to volunteer with Living Hope stay here at The Team House. As if the name didn’t kind of hint towards that. It has been a great time here! The staff and folks have spoiled me with hospitality and friendliness more than I could ever ask for. It’s tough living 30 yards from the beach and 50 yards from trail heads that take you up to the tops of mountains that overlook the valley. Suffering for Jesus here, folks! The only unfortunate part is that I am still not quite fully settled. I locked up a spectacular place across the valley in Fish Hoek with a great deal for long term living (Praise The Lord!) but it isn’t available until the first of December. So that is why I still reside at this difficult residence. Yes, there was sarcasm in that last sentence.

 

I am fortunate to have transportation, as well! I rented a full sized ruby red Ford Fiesta, coincidentally nicknamed Ruby by the folks who rented it to me. When I say full sized, I mean big enough for me to pick up and drag if necessary. One day, while arriving at work, I pulled up next to one of the other volunteers, and it was a struggle for me to squeeze out of the car, and he said to me “Did I just see you roll out of that car?”. And “roll” was not an exaggeration. Luckily, Miss Danielle Schnieder lent me her car for a week, which was a HUGE upgrade for the time being. Now I’m back in a tiny little white car (nicknamed, by me, White Lightning) which, while efficient in gas mileage, is, again, a struggle to fit in. The goal and prayer I have right now is to soon acquire a nice pick-up truck, otherwise known in South Africa as Bakkie (I know, weird! Something I’m struggling to get on board with.) It would make things easier with work at Living Hope in the future, and with the right model, would be easier for upkeep and not that much worse than a car on fuel. 

Work! It’s great! And just another way God is teaching me a lesson about servitude and purpose. At this moment I am under the Living Services branch of Living Hope as part of the Facilities and Maintenance team. It’s a small group of just four of us, one of which being my supervisor, Des Cramer. Des is an incredibly wise and respectful man not only in his work, but in his spiritual life! A very strong believer and servant of The Lord, and never, EVER mistakes his ultimate objective which is serving God and gives him every bit of praise and credit in everything he does. A local South African man, whom which God has placed me with right now to help guide me through my journey here in his home country. For the time being we are doing a lot of construction work with Living Way moving their offices off their old campus and onto the main Living Hope campus. Also, with Christmas coming on soon (which, real quick, a personal fact about me that I am struggling with here is that I do not begin to celebrate Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I love Jesus, and I am glad he was born, but one holiday at a time for me! No skipping!) there is a lot of work to do getting set up for all the parties and gatherings for children groups and youth groups in Masi and Ocean View, the two communities in the area Living Hopes ministry is focused on. From mid-December to mid-January things shut down across the country for holiday break here. So after January, things will kick back up and new projects and roles will be taking shape! It’s a process!

But while touching the subject of roles and purpose and intentions of serving in the missions field, and really in anything we do in life, I’ve learned something new that tends to happen to a lot of folks in the similar journey. Often what happens, is God attracts you to a place in this world, or an organization, or a project, or a ministry of some sort. And you decide to answer His calling for you there, or in my case, His command. And you leave with an idea of what you’ll be doing when you arrive and what your role will be when you enter. And what happens when you do something like what I did, which is you get to focused on what your role will be with that organization or ministry, and you get too caught up and distracted by what you want to do, what kind of impact you will have, what YOUR purpose is. And when that happens, you instantly become less useful to God. Hard to say and realize, but it is true. Personally, I have to read over and over again the passage that actually led me to the decision to enter serve in ministry, and that is the one that highlights my personal testimony, and that’s 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

For consider your calling brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standard, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring nothing to things that are, so that no human being may boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

What I have learned more and more everyday, prayed about everyday, is that I am not here for my purpose. My role does not matter. I am here for God’s purpose, and His alone. And my purpose and His purpose are not the same, until I realize that my purpose is being willing to serve Him however that may be. I do not need to know what His purpose is, that’s not my concern. THE most important thing for me is not the works that I do, but that I continue to build and maintain my relationship with God and the influence and relationships that are created from that. I am here to serve, however God wants me to. That’s it!

I’ve heard it said that “the wilderness” is where God takes you when He wants your attention. “Wilderness” is a place for you where it is only Him. And God takes you there when He is preparing you for the next big thing. So far, in these previous three weeks in a place FAR away from home, He has taught me more and spoken to me more than I can think back to.

So…….Lord……I’m here……in my “wilderness”……lets get to work!

 

The Calm Before The Storm

It’s been nearly 40 days since FPO Training wrapped up. While the majority of the participants were planning for a departure within the two weeks following our commission, I was looking forward to a solid month to relax and spend some time with great people I hold close to me. Soon, I came to find that if you are ever planning on leaving the country for an extended period of time, there is no such thing as time alone prior to you leaving. Which, I will tell you now before I go any further, that it is a blessing in disguise.

Straight from training in Virginia I flew up to Boston to visit Jamison. For those of you who don’t know, Jamison is truly the person I hold closest to me. It’s just a bonus that she is a girl. And, somehow, over the previous 6-½ years of our lives, I have managed to do something to keep her interested in me. She is my best friend, my gift from God, my drive, my life investment, and my future. Our story is one that doesn’t make sense to anybody but us, and even sometimes we don’t get it. God continues to prepare us for something we can only trust is going to be freaking awesome and, no offense, way better than anything other people are doing, because He wouldn’t do all of this for nothing. Anyways, Jamison is currently attending graduate school in Boston. And it was very important to me to understand what her life is like in a “foreign culture” as well. Again, it’s just another bonus that I happen to be a rather big Red Sox fan, never having been to Fenway Park before, which is Heaven on Earth for someone like me. So, we enjoyed some solid, old-fashioned American specialties, saw some super cool historical sites, and enjoyed one of the country’s most beautiful cities before taking off for foreign land.

Returned home to Tennessee after one week in Boston, once again, hoping for some slow, joyful time in the greatest state in the country. But catching up with the best friends someone could ever have, moving out of my apartment, and preparing for South Africa would consume almost all of my last few weeks at home. One of the highlights of all that being the HUGE garage sale we hosted. And there is a reason “huge” was in all caps.

Overwhelming isn’t even a close enough word to describe the kind of chaos that went of at this garage sale. Word of advice to anyone who is moving, wants to raise money for something, and/or has too much crap piled up in their home…find the closest neighborhood that is hosting a community garage sale, and put everything out there! We could not get the stuff out fast enough for people to look at before they were picking it up and buying it. Just setting up and staging everything the day before, we sold nearly 25% of the stuff out there. The sale was technically supposed to begin at 7 am, and old people with headlamps on were sorting through my junk at 5:15 am! What normal human being gets up before 6 am to do anything?! At one point, a good friend brought a truck load of stuff over half-way through the sale Saturday, and the moment he set an item down on the ground, some would pick it up and hand him cash and run away with it. Literally, one kid handed him money and road off on the bike that was set before him seconds earlier. On some level, it makes you feel good inside that everyone out there wants to buy your junk. On a serious level, there is a debt of gratitude that I owe to a large GREAT group of people that brought by furniture, clothing, and household items to donate to my garage sale. I honestly don’t know why God continues to bless me with such fantastic people like you in this world, but all thanks goes to him and you guys, and trust me when I say this, your stuff was the most attractive and most popular items in the sale.

After departing on Thursday from the U.S., I had the awesome opportunity to pit stop for the weekend in London to hang out with my good friends, and fellow followers on a journey similar to mine (pretty much better than mine), Matt and Jamie Hoppe, and their son Jackson. God not only blessed me with the chance to walk around one of the most impressive and beautiful cities in the world, but some quality time with friends whom I haven’t seen in quite a while. Typically, when visiting a new city, you stock pile your days full of tourist activities and eating at special places, but I actually really, REALLY appreciated the time to just relax and visit with good people.

All in all, over the last month God continued to show me how blessed I am with good people surrounding me, talking to me, caring for me, watching after me, doing so many unnecessary things just out of the goodness of their hearts and similar love for our Lord as well. There is absolutely nothing I have done to even come close to deserving this, but our Father is a giving and loving God, and wants to prove that to me. He’s assured me through all of this by these good works and actions of my friends and family that I am on the right steps for his plan he has for me and everything he is preparing for me. And let me tell you friends, it has to be the best feeling I have had in a long time. A REALLY LONG time. All the praise goes to Him, the one deserving one.

Thanks to all who have supported and continue to do so not only financially, but with the actions and love you’ve shown me, and most of all the prayers. And not just the prayers for me, but the prayers for my family and close loved ones as well, because they need them just as much, if not more, than I do. You all are great people and God will bless you for everything you all do, that is promised.

I’ve posted a ton of photos from the recent month. Check them out! Enjoy! And thanks for following and loving!

God Bless!

Quilts, Mustaches, Laser Tag & Church Planting – A Summary of FPO Training

I made a quilt at FPO training

 

I know what you’re thinking…..”I really wish I could buy a super, awesome quilt like that.” Well, feel free to contact me and we can negotiate a reasonable trade within both of our interests. The rest of you are wondering what it takes to grow a Tom Selleck-like mustache similar to the one you see in the photo. And most likely, having these two thoughts has led you to ask yourself, “What kind of baptist organization is this guy a part of?”. Well let me tell you!

For those that don’t know, since late July three other missionaries (Matt Pringle, Paige Stillwell, and Scott Drennan) and myself, through our sending church, Brentwood Baptist, have been participating in the International Mission Board’s training program for their employees called FPO (Field Personnel Orientation) as independent missionaries, otherwise known as Southern Baptist Church Direct missionaries. It is an 8 week program located in the state of Virginia. Here, we get extensive training on living in foreign cultures, church-planting, discipleship, evangelism, and even a little theology.

To be honest, when I was told I was going to spend eight weeks in training, away from friends and family, I had this miserable idea of being trapped on a small campus in the middle of no where, with no way to leave and spend two months trying to entertain myself, feeling like a freshman in college again, living in a small closet of a dorm room, eating cafeteria food that messes with your digestive system, required to attend everything on a schedule that starts at 6am and goes until midnight, monday through friday, and all the while missing out on quality time I could have spent with people back home. Well, it wasnt quite that.

YES, we have been on a very small campus in the middle of no where, that is somewhat oddly similar to what the Darma Initiative experienced in the famous television show, Lost. A property surrounded by wilderness with a  whole lot of small housing buildings that all look the exact same, with playground areas in the middle for the kids to play on,  and everyone here is assigned to a team to help maintain and operate the facilities. The only thing missing that I’ve been anticipating, and secretly excited about, is a large smoke monster to come tearing through the woods and cause mass destruction. But that likely won’t happen. We’re very fortunate, though, to have a gymnasium, as well as a large field, to play different sports like basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, kickball, and even make up our own new games. And it wasnt until these final two weeks did we discover a satellite tv box wired to a large projector in one of the auditoriums that allows us to watch any live sporting event, or anything else we’d like to watch. Probably better off just finding that out now instead of early on and avoiding distraction.

YES, there is a cafeteria on campus that provides three quality meals a day. It still messes with your digestive system, but still very thankful. Like any cafeteria, there will be days where the food option might be questionable and you debate inside your head whether you’d rather choose to pass on the opportunity or partake and fear the possibility of regret afterwards. But luckily, there’s a large breakfast cereal bar, with several options of your favorite choices from your childhood. And, in addition, we are blessed with the freedom to leave campus and dine-out at the many options closer into town. Even then, you can’t help but feel that wonderful sensation from senior year of high school, when you left campus during lunch hour to drive 1/9 of a mile down the road to Wendy’s to grab lunch. Returning to several faces of jealousy because instead of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, you got the famous square burger and french fries. But here at FPO, instead of Wendy’s, it’s Buffalo Wild Wings every time!

YES, there has been a required schedule. BUT, fortunately, it’s not a 18 hour day. Breakfast is served at 7am, which is reasonable. Then we break into our small group worship, which has been a great experience. Along with in-depth study into certain chapters in the bible with 10 other believers, we were trained on how to lead a small group/house worship style and practiced facilitating discussions. Then from 9am to 3pm, with an hour lunch break from noon to 1pm, we meet as a large group and sit in on lectures and training exercises covering world views, discipleship training, church planting movements, evangelism, and theological discussions, like doctrine and spiritual warfare. All of which were incredible and very resourceful and beneficial. The remainder of the day, with dinner at 5 pm, is free game. Time to get in some exercise, take care of any errands, knock off items on the To-Do list, and any other ways to kill time. You may be asking yourself, “What other possible ways could there be to entertain yourself out there?”.

Enter, the Quilting Quad! A housing unit full of retired missionaries. Most of which are wise elderly women, but dragging along their loyal and bored husbands who sit back in the corner and piece together large 1000 piece puzzles, fix mechanical issues with the sewing machines, and go get snacks for everyone else. Here you can learn to sew just about anything you’re willing to take the time to make. Quilts, aprons, hats, bags, pillow cases, shirts, pants, socks, anything! If there was ever a moment of discouragement during these 8 weeks, all you had to do was go to the quilting quad and you would leave happier than ever before. I went in early on to see if they could stitch up a hole in one of my shirts. Sadly, they said it was done for and could not be fixed. So in a moment of emptiness, I was encouraged to make a quilt! They did suggest I make a rag quilt, which is one that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot mess it up. Several weeks later! Complete!

That wasnt the only thing to do, fortunately. The area we are in may be in the middle of no where, but its only 20 minutes from plenty of things to do. Laser tag (which is awesome no matter how old you are), bowling, a drive-in movie theater, Dave & Busters (because who doesn’t love large arcades), and best of all, The Byrd Theater…

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An old-fashioned theater into town, where they show movies recently removed from theaters, but not yet released on DVD. The best part, it’s only $2! And to make it even better, there is a guy, every saturday, who comes out of the ground on stage and plays the organ before every movie. It’s incredible!

All in all, despite this being possibly the longest eight weeks of my life, it has been fantastic! God continues to put me in my place and show off. I was sceptical and in question about what kind of experience this would be coming in, and God told me to shut up, and proved me wrong. I am extremely thankful for Brentwood Baptist Church sending me here and providing this experience and training that has answered so many prayers and given me so many necessary tools to really be effective on the field and expanding God’s kingdom! God continues to show me that I am on the right path He has laid out for me and that He is absolutely with me every step of the way. Praise Him for that!

Also, sorry to disappoint you all, but the mustache is gone. There was a brief mourning period, then God provided strength and perseverance. Praise Him for that! He probably knew it would interfere with the ministry.

Thank you all for all of the thoughts and prayers during these past eight weeks! Graduation is Wednesday! Exciting because it’s the first thing I’ve successfully graduated from since high school (also known as a win in my book).

Then I’ll be onto Boston for a week to experience a new culture, foreign to my southern traditions. And also spend some much-needed quality time with this beautiful lady!

my beautiful lady!

my beautiful lady!

 

Thanks for the support!

 

Matt

Welcome

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Welcome to the area to follow me and hear what I have to say during my adventure.

Let me thank you all for your much appreciated support throughout this time. You have no idea what it means to me. This whole thing would not be possible without each and every one of you!

I am currently off at training for the missions field and will be finished in mid September. The current plan is to depart for Cape Town by mid to late October.

Here is a photo of the Fish Hoek Valley from the top of Masi Mountain. It’s overlooking the township of Masiphumelele, where Living Hope’s work is mostly focused on, and where I will be spending the majority of my time.

Please pray for the Living Hope Organization, the employees there, and the people of Masi.

For me, please pray for the final details and pieces to come together in preparation for departure.

Thank you so much for what you all do for me!

Matt