Q and A - part 2

So, here is part two of my Q&A.  Thank you for your questions...it succeeded to bring Spring my way, or at least distract me for a few hours while I waited.   I've been a really lame blogger lately but maybe now that we are emerging from hibernation life might seem more worth documenting once again.  Sorry if a few of the answers run a bit long.  Feel free to skip to questions that actually interest you.  

Here goes...

-How did you get started on your vacation/mission trips to Mexico and what is some advice you would give to someone (me) who is interested in doing something similar?
-Did you foster kids you knew you were not going to adopt, or was the intention always to adopt and it just didn't work? What are the difficulties of the aftermath or present-math of those situations? What is the oldest age you have fostered?
-Who is that tiny baby in pink you're holding in one of the above pictures?
-How do your kids respond to doing different types of schooling?
-do you bake bread everyday?!
-do you have a fail-proof bread recipe? (Without a bread maker.)
-What first attracted you to your husband? How do you guys compliment each other? 
-What is your favorite book (that is not the Bible or a Christian book)?

1.  Mexico trips:  How we got started going to Mexico is a bit of a long story but I've highlighted a bit of that journey here.    My first trip to Baja, Mex. was back in 1999.  We have learned so much over the years as we have served and visited in different capacities and places over the last decade.  We've learned many many lessons the hard way.   Anytime you step out into this messy world, particularly into areas wrought with poverty and brokenness of every kind...there are no easy answers.  It's humbling and it will remind you that you are not a Savior of anyone.  The only answer ultimately is Jesus.  Knowing how exactly we enter into that  is the tricky part.

One huge lesson we have learned over the years is that, if you're going to volunteer or align with a Christian ministry for any significant amount of time, or any significant amount of money, it is very important that you find one that is healthy.   I'd say that goes for any church or a charitable organization.  It's very hard to judge a charity by news letters, web sites, and short visits though because the whole point of those things are to gain a donor base, and it's very easy to create a facade.  We've been burnt by thinking we could thrive or even survive under an umbrella of unethical conduct, shady theology, an "end justifies the means" attitude.  It has surprised us how broad a wake of destruction can be caused under a perceived "good".   That doesn't mean we don't embrace, serve and partner with brothers and sisters from varying denominational backgrounds, or theological tribes.  We don't expect perfection from any human or ministry, but we've learned there is a huge spectrum between healthy and unhealthy ministry.  No matter where we find ourselves we desire to show grace, because we realize how much we need that grace too.

  Right now we're just open to what God has for us with these trips, whether that's going longer term, staying home, relocating to a different area,  or looking at different ministry options that might work for larger families.

The last couple trips we've taken down to Baja have been for shorter time periods (because of foster parenting) and we viewed them more as a family vacation/adventure with some broader purpose woven in.  We just love it down there.   In reality everything we do as a family is "missional"....even our family adventures.  We have visited friends we've made over the years and help out where we can.

We've seen how beneficial these trips, and our time spent in another culture have been for our kids.  It has shaped who they are, and how they view the world around them.  I don't think it's wrong as parents to do trips like this for the benefit of our kids, because the things we do down there will have a more lasting impact on them than it will on anyone we've known there.

Answer to the money question:    We have funded our own recent trips down (not actively raising money) and don't sell them as "mission trips" (not that we are in any way opposed to doing that)...we don't view them in that manner, since "mission" encompasses our whole life.  Our trips have just been a relocation of that. In the past couple years our kids have raised money before hand to fund outreach ideas of their choosing (buying groceries for a single mom family of several children, buying Christmas presents for children, helping with  a Christmas party etc.)

 Last winter we didn't think we would make it down, but we had booked a rental house ahead of time hoping we could.  We needed to either confirm or cancel.  We just did NOT have the money...heck we had no money period.   Plus we had adoption expenses still not covered.  We prayed, left it in God's hands and accepted that God would answer one way or another, knowing it was entirely impossible for us.  We tried to content ourselves with the idea that we would be most likely staying home.   Within two days...I kid you not...we got a check for the remainder of our adoption expenses ($6000), and someone called out of the blue offering to buy our sail boat for $5000 (we didn't even have it for sale).   We had bought it as a "fixer upper" a few years earlier for $3000 and had really enjoyed family time spent on it.  It was glaringly obvious, even to us dense folk, that this was our answer. It was a sacrifice but we felt totally at peace about it.  It was plenty of money to take a road trip to Mexico, rent a house for a month, have a short vacation in San Felipe and live generously, being able to pass on the gift of encouragement we had been given to friends and kids we know down there.  God never ceases to amaze me.  Always faithful, his purposes always working, even through our weakness and fears.  So my next bit of advice is, trust that our generous God will get you where you need to go.

In summary my advice to families who are interested on venturing out together to serve in a cross cultural context  is to pray about your desire to serve.   Trust that God will lead and provide the answers to your hearts longing.   Do your homework with organizations and ministries (ethics, humility, policies, and leadership are all important for healthy ministry)  but be willing to take a risk, show grace, and learn lessons the hard way. Even mistakes along the way won't be wasted. Keep your eyes on Jesus while you're loving people surrounded by darkness.  Don't be paralyzed by fear.  Pursue what you are passionate about already, don't wait until you can do "ministry" in another country...be doing it right now, where you are.  Unless you're already reaching out, loving and serving others here at home, you really have no business trying to do it somewhere else.   Be flexible and scrap any preconceived ideas about what you might accomplish while you're there.  Don't over complicate it, go get your hands dirty.

2.  Fostering:  We began our fostering journey with these kids.  Our first boy was the oldest foster child we've had at three years old.   We've mostly taken babies or toddlers.  We had no intention of adopting (at least my husband didn't) but after loving a few kids who had come and gone we gradually realized that we were open to adoption.  I would have kept every one of them if I could have.  I think the change of heart in my husband was the biggest transformation during our years of fostering.  Our year spent working at an orphanage in Mexico also solidified in our hearts the reality that kids need families...permanent loving families.   By the time we discovered that Cece would eventually be adoptable we didn't even hesitate to wave our hands in the air saying that we wanted her to stay with us forever.  As I said in my last post, saying goodbye is hard, but I'd totally do it again...because it's not about me. Fostering and adopting has been great for my bio kids.  The way they didn't even skip a beat welcoming Elijah into our family really proved that to me.  They have no problem at all sharing, sacrificing and welcoming others into their circle.  We did discover that having babies coming and going was most difficult for our youngest at the time (Silas).  He was only about 6 months old when we first started fostering and within the next 3 years we had 6 foster siblings come and go.  That did create a lot of insecurity (and some attachment issues) which later came busting out as behaviors rooted in fear.  We are taking a "break" from fostering right now while we have  young children and now an adopted son with extreme insecurity and attachment challenges.  Aili and Roman were 4 and 6 when we started fostering and they were totally fine, they understood it, and the heartbreak that came with the goodbyes only softened their hearts and grew their compassion.

3. The pink sleeper baby on Romans back in the previous post was Cece.  The tiny baby in the blue sleeper was a baby I called "Peanut" on this blog...Ryan.  sigh.

4.  Schooling:  My two officially home schooled kids are both very right brained, imaginative, scattered, disorganized, easily distracted, creative types.   This has both amazing strengths and challenges.  Home schooling has been a great fit for them.  They have lots of  freedom to be their quirky selves without ridicule from peers. They have tons of time to explore and pursue the things that interest them, and be able to work around, and work on, any deficits without falling behind.  Silas is the opposite in many ways...very focused (sometimes hyper focus), attention to details, a mind that must be challenged, and a boy who thrives on routine and structure.  He is in public school this year and most likely next as well.  After that we'll reassess. Right now he's thriving there.   I am really seeing the benefits (after 3 years at it) of home schooling, especially during the middle school years.  We love the freedom of it too. I would imagine that all our kids will at least spend some of their school years at home.   Most likely Elijah will begin officially home schooling next year.  This year we're just doing normal preschool activities with him in an unstructured way.

5.  I don't bake bread every day.  I do a giant batch of bread and buns about once a week.  It gets us mostly through the week, with a few cheap store bought loaves thrown in.  I'll post my bread recipe soon.

6.  What attracted me to my husband?  What a great question.  It's a good idea to think back and remember those sorts of things.  The things that come to mind first when I think back to my interest being caught were probably his humour  his ability to have fun, and his sense of adventure.  I think it's those things that still keep us ticking 16 years later.  Life is hard, but when you have an ability to laugh, to see the humour in absurdity, and to take risks, life is a lot more fun.

7.  I honestly don't read many fiction books or books that aren't of a theological nature these days.  This winter I did read one that I really really enjoyed.  "Look me in the Eye" by John Elder Robinson
A memoir of a man who grew up in the 1960's with Aspergers before anyone knew what that was.  It was very insightful, hilarious, and eye opening.  I borrowed it from my sister in law who has a son who has Autism (what would be considered "high functioning").  She basically told me, after another tear filled exasperated whine session about parenting my youngest son, that I had to read this book.   There was so much in this book that gave me a clearer understanding of  the working and thought processes of differently designed minds.  Did I mention that it was also hilarious?

how do you help your children know Samuel?

Great question.  I don't know if this is something we've ever had a game plan for.  We don't talk about him often at all, but when we do it's just natural.   Like any hard things that have made our family what it is...adoption, death of a child, loss of birth parents etc....we just work it into natural conversation, and embrace the redemption of those things.   We don't do anything extravagant.  We don't have birthday parties, or ceremonies, but we do remember him and include him as our family.   My kids have visited his grave site several times, and know that he has gone ahead of us, and that we will see him again.   Every so often questions come up and a depth of age appropriate conversation ensues. 

Why do you travel so far to church every Sunday?  I've already rambled on and on so I'll pick the short answer....the long answer would be a book on theology, plus an autobiography.  I'll spare you the details...you're welcome.  Honestly, because it is worth it to us.   Church isn't something we check of our weekly "good Christian" to-do/ duty  list.  If it were, any old place would suffice.  The closer,  shorter, and more convenient the better.  

We found ourselves in a place, for the first time in our lives, without a church home.  After decades in the same church, we both felt the Spirits strong nudge that it was time to move on, not for any major reason other than obedience.  Change was uncomfortable but it was undeniable that change was what God had for us.  We were searching and praying and growing very disillusioned.    I remember reading through the New Testament ..particularly Acts and crying out to Jesus asking "does this still exist?"  I just couldn't match up what I was reading with my experiences with modern churches that structure and behave more like corporations or social clubs.   

One Sunday we happened to be camping near Saskatoon and we discovered that there was an "Acts 29" new church plant in that city called "Grace Fellowship".  We decided to check it out just for fun.  We were hooked.  It was a totally, completely, different church model to us, but yet so basic.  So real...yet not one of those trying to be cool and different for the sake of being cool and different.  It seemed a little crazy to travel 1 1/2 hrs each way to church every week but we realized that it's really just a matter of priorities.  People do that much travelling each week for other less important things.     Church for us is an essential community, a family, not a weekly event or a building.   We are saved, not to be lone rangers, but to be a part of a replicating local church that is actively on mission with the gospel.  Sundays are only a small part of who we are, and what we do as a church. 

{that's my hubby on the drums, I snapped this pic from his phone while they were practicing before service.}

We currently meet in a theatre but in the past two years that we've attended this little rag tag group, that was once a home church, has had such steady growth that we're busting out of our current location, and running out of seats.   It's awesome to see so much growth (and more importantly depth of growth)...despite no gimmicks, no entertainment, and no watered down ear tickling messages.   We love it and our whole family is thriving under the nurture, discipleship, and guidance of loving servant leadership and great teaching.  Just check out some of the recent sermons .   We get to hear that level of preaching every week!   We went from making every excuse we could not to go to church, to being bummed out if we had to miss...and then waiting by the computer to download the sermon as soon as it was posted.  Once you've developed an appetite for meat and potatoes, it's hard to be satisfied with cocoa puffs.   Anyway....we love our church, and it's worth three hours in the car every Sunday...even with 5 kids in the car with us.   

A few stats about "Acts 29" church planting network, for those who are curious. 

the President of the organization is one of my favorite preachers to listen to on Podcast (I'm sure you can find him on itunes)-   Matt Chandler from The Village church in TX

468 churches
18 denominations.
61 countries
171 church planters sent out in 2012
656 church planters in training
19, 259 baptisms in 2012

That is a lot of exciting new growth.

Here is a recent sermon from Grace Fellowship. 

2013-04-21 - Who Do You Say That I Am? from Crimson Filmworks on Vimeo.

1 comment:

Gigi said...

Thanks for sharing so much! It was all very helpful and has giving me stuff to think and pray about.