Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Kingdom One Mission

As I have been “home” for 3 weeks more or less I become more convinced we desperately need to understand we are part of His kingdom. Our role in that kingdom has very little to do with where we are or what task we are doing and much to do with who we are and our availability to the king. As we move about this world we are to be about the business of our true kingdom, affecting the things and people around us for the better.

We could not help but question the decisions we made to move on, to return to the US. Every time we became more assured it was right and right timing but as many of you we too questioned ourselves at the speed and timing of the decision. The thing I am learning through this is that if I want to be an emissary of my king and live by His word I have no choice but to be equally willing to obey regardless of what that is.

It was exciting to hear God saying to move our family to Brazil, it was easy to obey when there is a bit of fanfare around your decision, it appears heroic. No matter how much I wanted to be free from the pressure of what people think, no matter how much I wanted to live only to obey it was nice to have attention. Living the last four years I began more and more not only to want to be free from that but to see the necessity. Ultimately the Lord beginning to say go back was a completion of a lesson, I have much more to learn but something was completed. An understanding that what God does with me and my family is about His purposes and He has unlimited perspective compared to my very limited view point.

A great help in seeing this has been the act of obeying and “rushing” back. We see what God is doing in the kids as the reintegrate into US culture. There are still many challenges but they are really doing well, I see Daniel getting up and reading his bible for devotions, something I am struggling with at the moment. I had the chance to sit and talk with my sister in LA who is going through a few challenges, hopefully I was able to encourage her and in the very least I better understand how to pray for her.

I am able to both serve and help my grandmother in her life but also help an uncle battling addiction. Being used as a minister in his life. I see Melissa as always blessing everyone around her with compassion and love, especially in the situation I just stated. We were able to go together to the school of ministry in Corvallis and I was able to return once more. God has used us more in the last three weeks than in the previous. “Our ministry” has only expanded in our time here. I am so busy I am beginning to really question what God is going to do to provide for us here. Perhaps it will be very non traditional leaving me free to continue ministering nearly full time in this area.

The thing is we are members of a supernatural eternal kingdom and not an earthly one. We are sent out on mission all of us where ever we happen to be. This kingdom is more real than the one we more easily see, it existed before and will continue long after this world is done. How important is it for me to get better educated, make a bit of money and save up for retirement in this second half of my adult life? Only as important as that goal relates to my assignment in the eternal kingdom. Do we easily say store up for yourself treasures in heaven not earth than commit ourselves to the pursuit of this life or do we truly abandon ourselves to pursuit of eternal values. I am not saying those always must be mutually exclusive. I am believing more and more that I need a better education and a more professional job to carry more weight behind my witness but it is in His time and in His way in His place not mine.

As we are here we not settling in but going deeper into the things God has for us here. We are not readjusting but engaging new opportunities new people. God has plans for us here and plans for us somewhere else plans for us now and in the future. The purposes of an eternal kingdom are not location dependent but King dependent, Jesus must be more and more king of my and our lives. Pray for us as we continue to serve the Lord and attempt to teach our kids to be kingdom minded individuals.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sadness and Joy

As Melissa and the kids left last night it was a strange feeling. If you have moved as much as us you know there is always a book left on a shelf or clothes on the floor, things that aren’t going, have lived out there purpose and are just waiting to be cleaned up. I feel a bit that way, got left on the floor as we packed the bags. I wish I was traveling with them to lead my family as they start the next chapter of our lives. At the same time I sensed we had conquered something, finished a great task and now I am free to get to tasks and move on.

I am sad to leave, we love Brazil. Alannah was born here, is a citizen and will always be. Moriah went from little girl to teenager, Daniel gained independence going out with friends in the neighborhood. Juliah is more Brazilian than American. The people and culture of this nation are a part of us, we no longer feel American, we know we aren’t Brazilian but still it has changed us and for the better.

I am joyful to look to the tasks ahead. It is interesting that I always knew Brazil would be a season, that God would call us on to another more spiritually needy country one day. I never realized though that a significant season would be calling to the US. Our hearts for our home nation have grown as we worked in Brazil. Reading about the challenges the body of Christ faces in the US, the persecution from media, education and social pressures. I thought we would have moved into Paraguay, Argentina or Bolivia, perhaps Guinea Bissau or another unreached Portuguese speaking nation. I knew there was a possibility of finances or other hardship leading us to take a step back.

The thing that has surprised me in the end is the strong sense of being called forward and yet we are US bound. Feeling called to impact a college campus, an apartment complex, immigrants who are going through what we have went through here. We have been further equipped to greater works, we have been strengthened deepened and developed now we move on to our original nation to have an impact there. We believe after more equipping there we will move on again but without doubt we have excitement to see what we can accomplish there

I also am excited to travel down south in Brazil, sell our car, meet with friends and the chance to visit Foz, where it began. To take some time to just enjoy Brazil, it saddens me Melissa isn’t with me but I will just have to enjoy it twice as much. Pray for us as we both tackle different tasks. Pray for the kids as they are less prepared for re-entry than Melissa and I. The process of “going back” is very difficult for missionaries. You often feel you have lost purpose, people aren’t that interested in what you did. You can fear they think you are a failure….. The kids, especially Moriah show signs of concern and we pray for a smooth transition. Melissa and I have both been through these kinds of transitions and are prepared for the mental battle but the kids are on their first. Pray for them.

I do thank you all, we hope to share more with all of you face to face. For those who financially have supported us or would like to contribute to our return costs. Shepherd’s Staff will continue to process funds for us through June, we ask if you are able to continue with us through that season. After that we will be entering a self supported season as I study and we prepare for the future. If you desire to help with that we aren’t closed but it likely would have to be a gift not a tax deductable contribution. The next 3 months are still fully tax deductable but after that it will change. This is a little scary as we desire to spend a time in Oregon and then move to Kansas for a season, we know though that God holds all this in His hands and a good God doesn’t abandon those who serve Him.

God bless you, if you see my family especially the little or big cutie give them hugs for me.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Completing a Season

First of all we want to thank all of you who have faithfully prayed and supported us over the last 4 or 5 years. God has done so much in our lives not to mention the fruit we know has came from OUR labor.

We have realized that our time in Brazil has come to an end we are at the end of a season ready for another. The bottom line we are here in Brazil learning to be missionaries, growing as a family our hearts grow more burdened for those who don’t have access to the gospel.

Many of you know our purpose in looking at starting an English school was 2 sided. One, to be more self sufficient. We find a growing desire to be missionaries as a part of the community not as people entirely supported from the outside. Second was to see the establishment of a business here as a path to one day opening a business in a more closed country, where missions can not be openly practiced or even talked about. Returning from our visit with family and church in the US we were able to weigh the ability of an English school to accomplish both those objectives. The first objective is something that I am sure with much hard work, an investment of time and finances we could achieve. The second perhaps, however we have become increasingly doubtful of the necessity and efficiency. In the end  this is a much more long term investment than we are willing to make. Brazil is a highly Christian nation with an ever growing church. This is awesome, we love Brazil, it’s people and that they are becoming one of the great missionary sending nations in the world but our heart is to the unreached.

We moved to Rio because our children were showing some ill affects of the frontier we were living on, they needed a time for them and still do. In light of this I will be enrolling in college and hopefully with God’s help earn a civil engineering, agriculture or education degree. My desire is to have more international employability and the skills so desperately needed in places like Corumba, Puerto Suarez Bolivia, refuge camps who knows. This will give us more access to the parts of the world growing in our hearts. It will also require less time and investment while allowing our kids a chance to get a good education.

We are not leaving missions, missionaries is something that we are, not a job we do. We are moving forward, going deeper and adding skills to the development God has been doing in us. We ask those who support us to stick with us for a time, phase out over 6 months to a year. We aren’t closed to long term help and support may or may not be a part of our future but understand this is always a free will process. The direction we are going is definitely to be more self supported but God will certainly use His body to help us on the way.

We are still seeking God for direction as to where we will live. Obviously our home body of WCC would be a great support, loving body and a joy to be around. As we believe we are being lead to continue in missions through the process, both on a college campus and perhaps to an unreached people. We plan to head to Oregon soon for a time to decompress and communicate in person. While there we will finish evaluating our options for life with kids, college and our long term missions desires. We are looking for an area we can begin to learn Arabic and study their culture, somewhere that has a significant Middle Eastern or North African population. We appreciate all the questions you must have but ask patience as we need to finish this before we can give a hard answer as to where, when, how. We will continue to blog through this process in the same unique open way, letting you into our thoughts, ideas, success and failure.

Pray for us as we sell our things, pack, prepare to say goodbye to a country that has become home. Pray especially for our kids as their spiritual life and education are big factors in this decision. Pray that God leads the steps and that we remain submissive to him throughout this process. Pray for timing, we are looking for tickets around the beginning of April but this could change.

We can’t thank you enough and plan to continue sharing our story and what God is teaching us along the way. God bless and keep you all,



Ben and family

Monday, February 3, 2014

Memorial to my Grandpa


It is hard very hard to not be present in body with all of you. Grandpa was a unique man much like the characters in the western shows he loved. He was someone who built something from scratch, who left a legacy to his family. We have had the privilege to work side by side, to be influenced and molded by not only our parents but our grandparents as well. His work ethic, his dedication to family, his dedication to God are things we must continue to learn from. He was a singular minded dedicated individual who if he said he would do something you better not disagree. He was also generous and treated employees well. I see those qualities passed on in my father and have tried to learn from them.

Last Sunday I happened to be preaching at church. I had nothing, felt empty and drained. I only wanted to be home with the family, I went several times to call someone else and ask that they share instead. However I sensed the presence of the Lord assuring me to go ahead. Sunday afternoon as I still sat empty God reminded me of a passage that speaks of legacy, Deuteronomy 6:1-9. I have to admit I really didn’t prepare at all, I just shared from the heart what God was reminding me of the legacy Grandpa and Grandma have tried to leave us.

They read and studied their bibles, they applied themselves to practicing what they learned. Most if not all the things we loved about them were because of the character developed in their lives in their spiritual walk. God was first, they weren’t perfect but they didn’t place their faith on the back burner. It was central to their lives, they rarely worked on Sunday more rare they didn’t go to church. Their walk with God wasn’t limited to church or religiosity, it was sincere. They wanted to bless others with what God had given them. I remember one time a bus showed up full of some young people 20 years to late for the hippy movement. They asked if they could work for a bit of food. Grandpa took them to the house let them shower and take naps, grandma fed them and they were sent on their way with some vegetables, no work.

It struck me yesterday if I want to pass that legacy on to my kids I not only need to teach them what the bible says but make myself available the way my grandparents did. Available to God, to hear him, obey him and be used by him. I must be an active participant that I might have something to remember and teach.

As I returned home from Church and got the call from Jody that he had entered his final hours I was comforted by so many memories. Perhaps the most powerful was a time at Buena vista when I returned home from Brazil. I shared at church what had happened what God was teaching me. At the end of the service Grandpa made his way up front, and began to share how he was a hard man, not tender enough. How he hadn’t told us enough that he loved us, then turned to me and told me he loved me and was proud of me. That was probably 16 years ago. From that day forward I remember him going to extra effort to say those things more often, to be tender. I think it may have drove grandma a bit nuts after 40 some years of marriage to suddenly having him go soft and say he loved her all the time, buying jewelry and things.

It taught me we must always remain humble and ready to learn. That was another part of his legacy. After retiring and selling the farm he dedicated himself to reading, history, self-improvement the bible. Of course whatever he was learning must have been something I needed to learn too.

I also was flooded with memories of sledding at Mary’s Peak, I was 7 and as I went down the hill on his back we went over a jump and he fell out the center of the tube, I happened to land on it without him, thought it was the funniest thing. I remember moving pipe with him, having lunch at their house, him napping as he did every day. We walked out to go back to work and the old blue van had vanished. We both just stood there looking around absolutely astonished. Then both seen the van several hundred yards down the road and out into the Christmas trees, he hadn’t put it in park. I think the whole state of Oregon collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor took his license. I also remember the fear in my stomach pulling out onto highway 20 when he could no longer turn his head. Not being able to see if any traffic was coming he would just gun it and away we went. I remember going to Yellowstone and sleeping in the back of the truck with him, waking up under a sheet of ice. I remember us thinking of leaving him at little big horn because he had to read every sign no matter how many of them simply said beware of snakes stay on the path.

I miss you Grandpa and am thankful I will soon be with you. Thank you for the legacy, thank you for showing us to repent and know God is better than anything else we can have on this earth. I am so comforted knowing you are home with your savior. See you soon

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Youthful Energy

There is something very contagious and exciting about being around youth. For me it is those last teen years and beginning of adult hood that is perhaps most exciting. I remember as I was about to turn 18 taking our youth group to gleanings for the hungry,  a ministry of youth with a mission that dries and processes food for hungry people around the world. While there the founder asked me to stay the rest of the summer and give a hand to hosting other groups and running the plant. My farm back ground made me valuable I suppose and as I had just graduated I decided to stay. While there not only did Wally have further impact in my life an Anglican priest called Father Rob and another man Dave Hebert both had extremely profound influence on me. This was the time in my life where my relationship with God had been transforming into an adult relationship. Dave really influenced me towards doing a school with youth with a mission. These were men influencing a young man, being used by God to place the foundations in his life that would eventually lead me to where I am today and where I will ultimately end up.

As we begin to experiment with an English business as a way to connect more deeply with the culture we have faced many struggles. Not the least of which was the passing of someone who had become a dear friend in a short time. We were home less than a week before we said goodbye to Sergio, someone who had been involved in nearly everything we have done. We have had a few problems with our house which somehow are the renters responsibility. We are unsure how to pay for the kids books, tuition and uniforms. Should we be investing more money in our VW Van to try and get it licensed, it really doesn’t work for us here and we need something else but without documents could we even sell it, how much of a loss would we take. English may or may not help, so far we have spent a little money and are looking at spending more. I believe it is what God is calling me to and believe it may eventually allow us to one day be financially able to support ourselves but for now remains an expense. I know things take time.

Those are just the normal challenges we face. Those things were pretty overwhelming when we first arrived in Rio. Today though they are just details, things that will work out with time. Largely because what we have seen so far as we attempt to get some English classes going is that we are engaging that age group. I am tired, spent and feel empty like all the energy I poured out this last week may come to nothing. It feels good. I have sat in a printing office with a bunch of youth from the community next to us laughing as they attempt English. Been at a church meeting with the Pastor about the classes we will start the 13th of February as a bunch of curious youth look on. He is excited to see his church used as a way to both bless the community and allow us to perhaps make a bit of money. He wants to start showing movies in English on Mondays with subtitles in Portuguese to piggy back on the English, to attract non church kids in a non threatening way.

I find myself both spent but rejuvenated. The flesh still hopes for failure at times, that I might have an excuse to see myself with a little cabinet shop back in the Midwest on a little farm with motorcycles, chickens and a cow or two. The flesh is always going to like the sound of winning the lottery. The temptation comes as I know that if I put out this effort in the US there will be a financial reward. Here I just am not sure.

The issue is though that we don’t labor for financial gain, we aren’t doing this to make money but to be more effective missionaries. As I do this I understand why Pr. Jeff Jackson told me if he could do his time serving in the Philippines again he would teach English, I understand now why he recommended it so highly to us and to others. I have done nothing in missions so far that has so instantly connected me with that wealth of energy, excitement and passion that is young adult hood.

We have had success, soccer schools, prison ministry, girls club Melissa is still doing the girls club and is very effective with a those girls. The thing is though as youth get older they don’t want to participate. They are too cool to go to the soccer school or a girls club. To involved in sex, drugs and whatever else. It is hard to grab them.

English seems to be bridging that gap, connecting us with the age that can and will change their nation. Connecting us with rich and poor, Christian and non giving us a voice in a generation that is active, alive and waiting on the possibilities life holds for them. It gives us an identity that business men and community leaders respect. It is opening doors at the kids school. It is early but it is exciting. I love being with 17-25 year olds and can’t wait to start tutoring Renato and Rafeal next week. I can’t wait to meet their pastor who has a church full of young people. I can’t wait to start at the Baptist church in Jardim Olympio and get to know that group of kids more. Who knows who will be the next pastor, leader, business man. Who knows if I can have a similar impact that those men had in my life at such a formational time. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to learn.

We also are thankful that Moriah will be able to start school the 3rd of Feb. That they will continue to work with her through the year to finish her evaluations instead of her being forced to finish them all first. We are thankful that the church in Jardim Olympio will be starting these movie nights, that our ministry direction may prove to be part of the cure.

Please continue to pray

  • Moriah’s adaptation to Brazialian school and teen culture
  • Students for our English classes
  • Wisdom for where and when to offer classes
  • Finances as we need provision for school and a new car

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Season of change

We were recently blessed to be able to visit family and church family in Oregon. My (Ben) grandparents were in need of encouragement and a visit as they continue to age and prepare for some big changes in their relatively near future. It was a great time, we actually were able to have my sisters, parents, grandparents and all the kids together again at  Christmas time. It used to be a normal for us but had become something unlikely as we all live in different parts of the world. It proved to be a different experience than we expected as much of it was spent helping with doctors, dentists and all sorts of other errands as my Grandfather and one of my dad’s uncles are no longer able to be alone.

The interesting thing  about this trip is that it wasn’t necessarily refreshing. The other time we have visited the US we had longer, we were able to see Melissa’s family as well, we weren’t in a hurry. More than that we weren’t in the season of change we have been in. We had been fairly well established in Corumba, were tired and needed a good break. It was exciting, full of bbqs and camping. Summer in Oregon is great. This trip happened shortly after a big move with little settled as to what life in Rio will be for us. Yes we have some things going with Calvary Rio, a girls club locally, involvement with local families and getting the kids in school. However culture shock to living in a city of 12 million is going to take a while to get over.

This sense of uncertainty and flux wasn’t helped by leaving 95 degree weather arriving in Oregon for a record breaking cold storm that wound up with –5. Don’t miss understand it was a great time and sad to leave but it was full of uncertainty, change and uneasiness. We had little time to adjust to being in the states, I went from the airport to grandma’s to fix a broken pipe, next day we were sliding around in the snow, sitting with grandpa while grandma went to the dentist. We or I never had that sense of our feet being under us, my parents no longer maintain a home there, my sisters have moved out of state, our church was full of new faces, has two services instead of one, friends were busy with Christmas and we just seemed a bit lost, out of place in time.

As we have arrived home it doesn’t go away. That is the interesting thing about a season of change, every small decision becomes a monumental task. One of the big challenges for us is to finish the process of getting Moriah into school. This has been a major battle, the school is being very helpful but her fear of going to school here has blocked her from fully committing herself to preparation. It is hard for me to feel like I have to fight my little girl to get her to study. I want to hold her on my lap not push her to concentrate. This isn’t an abnormal experience for a parent of a new teen but an abnormal situation. Part of the stress is normal part though is the fact that our first calling is to our kids. We have no energy left nor ability to fulfill any call we may have here if we don’t get her in a better educational and social situation. Our future may ride on her getting into school and developing relationship with others.

On top of this our growing desire over the last four years has been to move a bit more towards some sort of business in mission. Not that we necessarily could become fully self supported but more to be able to engage the community more as a part of it than an implant. Especially here in Brazil where we can see the church growing more and more capable before our eyes. I first came to Brazil in 97, there was a solid church and many solid Christians but nothing like there is today. Brazil for both good and bad is becoming a global church leader. We love it here but must question the validity of staying as a traditional missionary, in that we had and continue to see great possibility to learn about and become foreign business people here while providing a great resource to help people.

We would like to begin English classes that may lead to an English school. English is a door to a better life for many people as they can use it for better work in oil, in tourism and many other areas. Especially with World Cup and than the Olympics to be in Brazil and Rio.

This by no means we would quit to do many of the things we have been doing. Melissa will continue to grow her club to try and motivate girls to stay in school, have good friendships and avoid a lifestyle that is often self destructive. Girls have little to do here to keep them out of trouble and spend much of their time trying to be the most sexy. Also as we look to meet our own kids needs we see the possibility to use flag football to get more involved in the kids school but also perhaps to do a mini league in the area.

These things all are good and may well be the Lord. The challenge is that until we see more stability in Moriahs life it is more than difficult to gather energy to apply ourselves to them. To recruit English students, to start a football club or anything else new takes pep, spark. When you are overwhelmed by doubts as to whether your doing the best for your daughter, whether she would be better off to spend her high school years in the states. Should she live with your sister, should you all move back? Where does the energy come from when these questions hang over head.

This is our home, we are happy here. We are more a part of Brazil than we are the US. However Moriah isn’t. She isn’t making friends, she isn’t engaging others but in fact has seemed to close up more. This was the big reason to move to Rio. I will say at church here she is more comfortable, doing a bit better. Pastor Alexandre and his wife have noticed and make great effort to help. We have the support structure here we need to deal with this if she will soften.

None of us would be upset to have a greater change. The US is easy and comfortable. I personally am always up for a new challenge, one of my strengths and weaknesses’. The idea of the kids in 4h playing sports and speaking English with friends is always appealing. However one does  not easily walk away from that which he feels called. That sense of purpose being in doing the work of God. I am aware though that kingdom mindedness is not dependent on location.

Now I have some similar experience to Moriah. I grew up partially on the farm than my parents went into YWAM. This was fairly traumatic to me, new schools I wasn’t much of a friend person anyways and we often traveled. When I was about the same age as Moriah my parents left YWAM not because of me to my knowledge. They moved back to the farm to help my Grandpa manage it to a point at which he could retire. I had a great difficulty adjusting back in school but looking back can see that it probably made the difference in keeping me able to become a semi normal person. Those teen years I was able to make a few new friends and stayed connected to one that I had made while we lived in YWAM. I had the farm, family and a bit more normal to get me through those confusing years.

We have little worry about Daniel, Juliah or /alannah. They are equally adapted here and there. We simply need much prayer for Moriah. We need great wisdom to know these next 6 months if she is adapting here, what is normal teenage stuff or if we need to be willing to take a break, to change direction more drastically for a season. If we are to stay in Brazil we need to see her healthy to see God provide students, finances for the kids school and a better car more suited to the city. I also want to make it clear Moriah isn’t asking to leave. She isn’t sure what she wants and knows she likes it here in many ways. She is just not as adapted as the others and school is a place that is hard enough for a teen girl much more so when you just aren’t the same.