One of the main things I've been enjoying doing here has been hanging out with my family a lot. I'm working on ministry stuff with Gretchen and Houghton every day so it's inevitable that I see them and my nephew and niece too. My nephew can't say Laura so he calls me "Wara" and he's super fun to play with. My niece, Gwenny (Gwenyth) is a lot bigger and a lot happier than when I saw her last in Vanuatu in March and any day now she'll be walking.
She stands and balances beautifully but hasn't figured out the stepping out part quite yet. This picture is of Jesiah and I after he'd been "fixing" my hair for me and we were wrestling around. They are both very fun and I'm thankful to get to be involved in their lives.
So what have I been doing? Well, it would seem that life here has been crazier than I even expected it to be. We've been running from the time we wake up until when we head to bed. We have about 7 books we are to have read by our training July 16-26 in Georgia so we started a "book club" and have been reading either during afternoon kids' nap time or after they go to bed around 9PM or both. We've finished 1 1/2 assignments so far so have a long way to go, but we're trying to get through them. If you are bookworms, I'd highly recommend 2 of them so far anyway. One is "Passing the Baton" by Tom Steffen about doing ministry in a way that raises up leaders rather than making dependants. It is specifically for church planting so making sure church leadership is native driven rather than missionary driven but wow - if we only did discipleship and ministry like this in the States! There would be a lot more dynamic leaders here passing the baton on to those they've shared Christ with and we'd have really amazingly well trained "laypeople" out there spreading the gospel with confidence. It is a must-read for any Christian, I think. The other that I've only just started but is very good so far too is an old school book by Roland Allen called "The spontaneous expansion of the church" and so far seems to be similar in topic to the first book. The others on our list are:
"Missionary Methods - St Paul's or ours?" by Roland Allen
"Planting churches cross-culturally" by David Hesselgrave
"Mission Deputation: A Biblical Ministry and a classroom of learning" by Harold Loucks"
"Cross Cultural Connections" by Duane Elmer (we are most of the way through this but it is a bit more elementary so hasn't been as helpful)
"Let the Nations be Glad" by John Piper (I have read this one too actually and it is a must-read for every Christian too - very convicting and a great discussion about what missions really is about theologically.)
Aside from reading, we've been helping a lot with some huge fundraisers put on by my mom for one and another by some people in my sending church here. There is a family outside of Miles City about 11 miles that is moving to Lewistown, MT who decided to sell all their old farm tools and equipment and donate them completely to the Vanuatu fund. The money raised by that covers a lot of our outgoing expenses for a shipping container to send over to Vanuatu when we are moving so that was an awesome provision! The other big one was the one organized by my mom that pulled in around 25-30 families from our church here. It was like the mother of all garage sales. We had it in my parents' yard and had 15 tables piled with all the donations to sell. That was quite an ordeal to clean, price, set out and sell everything and God brought a huge amount of people to buy stuff! The picture to the right is my sister, mom and Gwenny, Houghton, and my dad when we were working on setting everything out. Jesiah was helping me take the picture. :) The Lord raised enough money from that one to fully cover our plane tickets to Georgia for our training as well as the majority of the cost of the training and board to be there. Wow! The Lord has been so good to provide all along the way for each step and each expense. Praise Him!
Another activity is that I got to go visit my grandpa and grandma in the teeny tiny town of Newell, South Dakota. It was nice to see them, even if it was only for a day. My grandma's sister, Aunt Ann, who is the one I inherited my car from lives there too so I saw her as well. Another surprise is that my grandma's brother and his wife (Bob and Virginia) drove through that day and visited a bit too so I saw them again after many years.
We have also been working on having things together to present to churches as well as packets to send out to individuals and churches interested in being part of the ministry. I've been brushing up on my piano and we've practiced some songs together. We met with and updated my pastor here, Jerry Coon (www. gbc-milescity.org) and the elder in charge of missions, Shawn Kelly. Grace is supporting us now as we are in this time of sharing the ministry so when our savings run out in the next month or so, we'll be living on and traveling on that.
Here is the schedule for what is upcoming, Lord-willing:
July 5 (this Thursday) - leave for Minnesota
July 8 (Sunday) - present at a church in Deluth, MN
July 9 (Monday) - drive to Minneapolis to hang out with my mom's side of the family and share with them the ministry in Vanuatu
July 14 (Saturday) - fly out to Georgia for training called "Pre-Field" with our organization, Biblical Ministries Worldwide (http://www.biblicalministries.org/)
July 16-25 (Monday -Wednesday) - training in Georgia on team-building, finances, church planting, and being effective cross-culturally
July 26-28 (Thurs. - Sat.) - meeting with our team, hopefully welcoming in a new family to our team!
July 28 (Sat) - fly back to MN
July/Aug? - possibly present in another church in MN, then drive back to Montana
August - spend most of the month in Western Montana at churches there, possibly into September as well
September/October - Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska churches
* salad/dessert dinner at home church here in Miles to fill in on our schedule, training, and more about the ministry in Vanuatu
*Sept 15-21 training in CO Springs on cross-cultural church planting with our whole team and another chance for further team-building
Fall - California?
Winter - Boise area
That's what we have so far and time is flying so it is crunch time to get meetings set up. If you think your church would be interested or if you have a group of friends or home group you'd like to have us present to, that would be awesome! Just let me know and we'll get it in our tentative schedule. Please pray for us as we travel this week that the Lord would ordain meetings with people he'd have be part of the ministry to Vanuatu and that we would be prepared for the training. Also, as always in traveling with young children, please pray that they would be able to endure all the driving and flying! I'll try to update while on the road from Minnesota and Georgia to let you know what we are learning and doing. Thanks so much for your prayers and support up to this point!