Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Drawing Pictures

We are grateful for the four Brook Hills families with servant hearts that came, shared, loved, served and left a mark on all the lives here.  Although words don't do it justice, a clear picture imerges from the image they left behind while living out our daily lives simultaneously...

* Gods plan is better, more productive, fulfilling and infinitely more effective than our own
* Our first mission field is always our families
* He consistently proves HIS plan, purpose and provision for us, sometimes revealing it slowly
* Trust not in why or where you walk but in how

But, pictures do sharpen the focus and bring it into view.....

 Anita hugging newly arrived orphan Josue, saying goodbye begins with saying hello

Fall Concert, pouring into sometimes means pouring out 

Legacy minded Disciple Making - Father knows best

Bobby holding firm onto that which propels him forward - His joy!

Steele getting dog-piled, providing a foundation of support where once there was none

Ann with Baby Sam, joyfully carrying the burden of others

As I watch this video I am again reminded of why we are here.  Not to build, develop or provide a camp for teams to serve God but produce a place where families can come and model HIS love, communicate our worth to HIM and reproduce a picture of the character of God drawing others to be served by God!  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Planting and Sowing

Websters defines the following:


noun \ˈplan-tiŋ\

: an area where plants are grown for commercial or decorative purposes; also : the plants grown in such an area 


verb \ˈsō\

1: to plant seed for growth especially by scattering
2: to set something in motion : begin an enterprise
transitive verb
1a : to scatter (as seed) upon the earth for growth; broadly : plant 1a
  b: to strew with or as if with seed c : to introduce into a selected environment : implant
2: to set in motion : foment <sow suspicion>
3: to spread abroad : disperse

Can you tell which one has design?  The former being used and the latter for a purpose.  We, as the seed, do the same - plant seed to see some produce, and others not.  
Oftentimes I wish we could be in the business of sowing, but have come to learn that for God to get the glory  - we merely plant. Being planted here ourselves 16 months ago, we see the soil, sun and water that brings life to something belongs to God.  He directs the resources. He produces and provides the outcomes. 

Currently, these are seeds that seemingly had promise - but have remained dormant:   
At the camp - a church home (...that might be telling us something), developing a mentoring/agriculture program with Catholic University allowing orphans to grow mushrooms, BMX/skate park on site, connecting Ecuadorian youth with our orphans.   
At school - a faculty women's Bible study, launching a track/running club (or sports opportunities in general), a Christmas musical that remains held up in customs.

We trust God with His ways and wants.

Now, here are a few seeds unknowingly that have sprouted or continue to grow: 

 At school - 

Senior girls are being mentored by faculty ladies

Tim and Bobby assuming leadership roles
both in Christian Service Outreach (above)
and in Student Council (below)

Vocal Ensemble Retreat - a chance to minister to
and engage in the lives of our diverse student population

At the camp - 
Liga Inglesia Christiana (a soccer league on the camp)

Bathroom and facilities to support that League

New Washer and Dryer for sole use at the camp

Tio Ramon, (a friend of a friend) providing shoes to Our kids recently

Deeper relationships with those who He gave us to serve


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Follow the Leader

As I write this, I am thankful for two things.  We had a friend last night that blessed Beep and I with two tickets to a new show: The Illusionists. It was a great time spent with my son trying to figure out how each illusion was performed.  Inside, I was grateful our God is the image of truth.  Secondly,  I am thankful for the Ecuadorian involvement and participation at the camp beginning to take shape. It is encouraging.  Automatically, our nature is to look to see what people are affecting the change.  Gods story on the camp is beginning to look more like a cast of characters in a play rather than athletes in a game (trying to outwit their opponents to win) as depicted in most theological analogies. 

There is a book out that explains the bible as simply this: The Kingdom of God = God's people in God's place for God's purpose.  If you notice in that formula, He comes first, us, our location and path falls in line behind him!  Why do North Americans struggle so hard with this simple formula for follower-ship? Although the design was for Him to be reflected in us, we must first lift the boundaries of our life to follow and trust in Him, not in ourselves or man!  The roadblock is our sin.  In the old testament, even when God made the five covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, man's sin was at the core of breaking these covenants. This will never change, we are incapable of removing that barrier Jer. 17:1,9.  The good news and the core of the gospel is this: that Christ is the new covenant, consummation of the previous five and releases us from the weight of our sin, worry and control of our lives.  Although this is unattractive to most, let me give you a few good examples on our end that would provide reasons to do so. 

Ecuador is a place of extremes, from the regions (they have 3 diverse climatic zones: Coast, Sierra and the Amazon) to the people.  Last night, both the Coe and Brock couples participated in the annual school faculty retreat.  As a side note, the Nichols were both missed and their lack of presence felt within the entire group.  As Ann and I sat at our table to eat dinner, we couldn't help noticing that the Chief of the National Police (arguably the second most powerful man in Ecuador behind the president) was sitting next to and breaking bread with one of the Quichua cleaning ladies from the school!  God orchestrated such a meeting, which would have never taken place outside of the event, to remind us that He has ultimate power and control regardless of our title, position or perceived status in this life!  In addition, The Lord has placed two very different but effective gringo's in our lives who know the culture, are willing to help guide the Ecuadorian end of our ministry and overall have had a significant impact on the Kingdom of God in Ecuador (next generation of disciples putting their lives in His control).  Rich, a board member at the school and a youth leader within the country, has raised a son who has befriended Tim and models Christ while his wife shares her faith through music by touring with a Christian rock band throughout South America.  Don, a free-spirited missionary kid, gave up a lucrative engineering job in the states to return to serve the people and culture from his adolescence. He has followed what God has laid on his heart by providing a camp for pastors and churches, planting pastors in gospel vacant locations and placing leaders in businesses to freely give away his resources.  Both are examples of selfless friendship, using talents for clearly different visions and life patterns to follow because of who they follow!  Lastly, it's been said; it's about who you know, not what you know.  I can't agree more.  A certain date this fall marks the 2nd anniversary of the release of the Ecuadorian president from his captors who kidnapped him, celebrated by a national holiday.  I wont comment , that's for others to judge.  But, because of his beliefs he spends most of his time trying to keep many small factions happy within the country through social programs and making many politically weighted decisions to win over his power base (sound familiar).  No doubt a difficult job and tough position to be in. So, when I look at this picture from now on, it will always remind me clearly of the similarity of actions that need to take place for the people of Ecuador while weighing the purposepower, plan and goal to give people better lives.

See, it may seem that we 'randomly' ran into the president of Ecuador by chance, that on the surface our visions for the people of Ecuador are the same.  Scripture clearly puts all of us in one of two camps: "A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.  Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord! will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter."  Matt. 7:18-20.  Although the Lord will be the ultimate judge of all of our work in the end, we can know for sure that our entrance into the Kingdom of God assures our price into the Kingdom of Heaven.  It won't be what we accomplish or how well intended our actions are at the end of our lives.  It will be for whom.  The impact of one was made solely for the audience of ONE, to provide nourishing fruit rather than feasting on poison fruit inherited!  What king are you following today?  Our destination does change who we follow and what type of fruit we produce.  I took advantage of the opportunity to have my picture taken with him not to show who I know, but as a time-stamp to remind me to follow 'Who' I already know and by whom I am known!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Messy Faith

Take your stand in the middle of the field and fight.

That was the sermon that I heard years ago from a flawed and troubled pastor who for years had been knee deep in personal sin unbeknown to me or others at the time.  It has stuck with me ever since. Could a bad messenger carry a good message?  His sin infected others like a virus, looking for a host.  Let's explore four others whose lives have been infected though, through no fault of their own.  A middle age guy, Stan, who builds a trailer business for two decades alongside his dad whom he deeply admires, losing him unexpectedly to a heart attack only to be fired by his step mother to gain his fortune. Or, two foster kids, Brenden and Carleton, beginning life unwanted by a prostitute mother and absent, drug-addicted father struggling to develop their identities.  Lastly, Maria, a 14 year old Hispanic girl, having to live under the shame of being both undocumented and raped by her own Dad. Although the names have been changed, I've come face to face in the last few weeks with these personal tragedies. How does someone overcome those issues?  Maybe our circumstances are not as great or grave, but little changes in how and who fights the battles for us.  Deut. 20:2-4 states, "When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall say,' Hear O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies.  Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.'"  You see, we have a high priest that knows our circumstances, troubles and baggage (read Job for evidence) while understanding our sin disease.  All He asks us to do in the midst of it is simply take your position and stand firm, allow Him to do the fighting and not allow the enemy a foothold or control of your life by being disappointed in people or blaming Him. Sin is real around us, wounds deeply and unfortunately a consequence of the fallen world we live in. Our hope is that all that He needs to work in, through and for us is to drop our agendas, give over our pain and flesh responses and submit to His justice and will!  Sound impossible?  Just before I left for Ecuador last year, Birmingham was hit by a F5 tornado. One consequence of that event was the loss of hundreds of lives, from college kids to babies to working moms. One death, a pastor, was that of my 60 year old plumber's son. Previously, we spoke of God's redeeming love many times as we worked on my houses together without much response. My plumber had to make a choice how he would respond to his loss which impacted and changed his life in a moments notice.  Fairness, chance or orientation toward God had nothing to do with it, otherwise that son, pastor and father of two would still be with us.  As it turned out, my friend and plumber has chosen to walk with God in peace and not in opposition to Him (picture peace-walking plumber).  In the midst of the storms of life we either allow what we are experiencing to influence our view of God, or we allow our view of God to influence what we are experiencing. The gospel will advance with or without us, our help or whatever we or others try to do to thwart it. In Esther 4:12-14 we see this played out as Mordecai encourages Esther to speak up and intercede for her people, the Jews; "'Do not think that because you are in the kings house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"'  Has the Lord positioned you perfectly to eternally impact His kingdom or are you paralyzed by your own self-preservation?  Are you looking at your situation as God ordained or cursed?  Its been said that for evil to triumph all that good men need to do is remain silent.  Here's the long and short of it.  Satan wins when we are silent and not standing but "He who is in you is greater than he who is the world."   1 John 4:4

Today, I am praying for three people to have a 'saving faith' of the creator of the universe, director of all things and seeker of each heart:  My Dad, my nephew who is heading off to fight in Afghanistan next month and Victor, an Ecuadorian business owner.  He is yearning to purchase that which He gave such a heavy price!

" You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.". Isaiah 26:3

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Losing It

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  -Psalm 73:25-26

Those words encourage and urge us to seek God and carry heaven in your heart!  As I sit in the states now, I can testify today that God is among us, He is present in us and wishes for others to follow Him by using us!  As I listen to Platts' Revelation series, the question begs are we basing our lives on "how its going" instead of "where we are going?"  Recently, I've been experiencing conflicting events all at the same time:  Massive vacancies (money needed to financially support us) - help falling through and no plan to renovate the properties in the future, lack of interest, support or even relationships with my extended family back home for us being in Ecuador and 10 hour days of dirty work, cleaning up after other peoples messes.  Contrast that with now having our friends and partners with us (Brocks) on the camp,  having friends step up to support, feed, house and equip me even with a truck (you know who you are) while filling 2 vacancies/talking another out of leaving all within the first week and then experiencing Him beginning to move at the camp - two churches praying about supporting the ministry, the local church beginning to get involved and three new in-country groups coming this fall.  Its a lot to take in but regardless how its viewed, its all temporal.  I tend to want to calculate, do the math, try to link 'how we are doing' with 'what we are doing or not doing' but that's not how He works.  His long view trumps our clouded perspective that at times is too close for clarity!

Take Nehemiah for example.  The prophet received word that the Jewish remnant that survived the exile were in great trouble since the walls of Jerusalem were broken and gates burned down.  He fasted and prayed before God, "O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your nameGive your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." Neh 1:11 (He was cup bearer to the king).  The king agreed to let him go and also provide support in the endeavor.  While surveying the damage without telling anyone, he then made his plea, "'You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.  Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.' I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.  They replied, "'Let us start rebuilding.' So, they began this good work." Neh 2:17-18.  After being ridiculed for attempting to do so, he answered by saying "The God of heaven will give us success."  verse 20. Why didn't the Jewish people there in Jerusalem see the condition of the walls staring at them in the face, realize their vulnerability and fix it themselves?  Why did it take the action of another to identify the need and formulate a plan?  What's interesting is how the people responded when prompted.  Each rebuilt a section of the wall, with scripture noting that each section "next to him" was repaired by another group - tying all the work together and generally as it states in Neh 3:28, "each in front of his own house,"   Are you relying on your own strength or basing the work God has for you on the outlook as you see or He sees?  Are you always looking for the grand purpose in everything or content with the work that He has clearly set before you - right in front of your face! Neh 4:13 then goes on to say, "Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows."  Where are your areas of vulnerability where the enemy can get in?   Is it repairing the holes in relationships within your very own family?  These are not blind spots, they are as visible as the holes in those walls.  I've had to ask myself those tough questions over the last few weeks while on my own.

Unfortunately, we don't get to choose the circumstances or methods of how the Lord works in our lives.  He doesn't save us from difficulty, just through it so that His glory will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).  We will continue to be a people like the Israelites in need of constant prompting, prayer, reflection and restoration to reach hardened hearts for God because we're also the same.  So, today if you are struggling with what we are doing for God begin asking where we are going for Him!  Where is he leading you to act?  Most often, its right in front of you, no need to go anywhere other than exactly the station, situation and location of your life because He put you there.  Just know, it may look nothing like you planned, anticipated or prepared for but have comfort in that He purposed it.  Lastly, if you don't have a personal relationship with the King of King's, Rey de Reyes, you are offered the opportunity to be His cup bearer.  To bring life and living water to those in thirst......

"Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Matthew 10:39

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


We just finished up camps for the summer and are resting, relaxing to catch our breaths: Brock's in Banos and the Coe's here on campus.  We had incredible fruit that occurred on campus and off at our partner sites where kids made professions of faith, connections were made and others in the process of being changed by the One who changes lives!  In addition, it was evident HIS moving in the hearts of local nationals to invest and come alongside us in our efforts - which has been a yearlong process of prayer for both families. Our investment in the older orphanage kids also was evident in their involvement and interaction with the groups. Despite rejoicing in HIS provision and progress in the ministry, something has been nagging at my heart which I couldn't quite square with what we were seeing.  Some of it has been earthly stuff and some questioning our impact, ability and even calling here.  It then became apparent.  A couple of weeks back, a good friend from the Crossgate Team gave me a book on the life of a US Navy Seal from his church that gave the ultimate sacrifice for his family, friends and country in Afganistan.  I just finished the book 'Fearless' which described how Adam Brown, a Christ-follower, lived both his personal and work life as an example to us all. Even in sight of and through tremendous movements of God, our enemy can sow seeds of doubt that can lead us to question ourselves!  No pictures, pithy comments or stories to convey about this summer, just concluding words in Hebrews 13:5-8 to stand on: 

'"I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.'"  So we can say with confidence, '"The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me?'"  Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.'"

Today, my heart is assured: I have the power of the Holy Spirit in me to make the best decisions for HIM, nothing to fear, people who have poured into me as an example and the ONE who was poured out for me that will never change!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sweet Summertime

Blog posts have been few and far between lately...I apologize for that, but we have had an incredible time of renewing, rejuvenating and reconnecting. After school ended June 8th, we were on a plane to Birmingham June 9th. Let it be said - we waste no time. All in all we spent 3 weeks with family and friends both in Birmingham and FL. My mom and 4 sisters (along with brother-in-laws and nieces) went out of their way to travel to South Florida to celebrate Christmas in June together.
It was great to reconnect, share stories, sing a few Broadway tunes and tease each other relentlessly (a Kirby-girl tradition :-). We threw as much as we could into our 5 days together - missed birthdays (mom turns 84 in August), missed Thanksgiving meals (let's just say we ate. Alot.), and most of all - precious time together. My sisters are all wonderfully different, incredibly strong, and beautifully gifted women. They are totally in support us being here in Ecuador, although at times I heard them asking our kids aside "don't you want to come and live with Aunt Jane?, Aunt Barb?"...etc. They miss their nieces and nephews as much as we miss them and their families:-)
Back in Birmingham we ran at 110% every day. I never realized how much there is to do to prepare your family for another 365 days away from North America. Things we HAD to do: completely buy-out WalMart, eat at Chic-Fil-A, get Maggie's drivers license, eat at Zaxby's, renew mine/Bob's license, eat at our local BBQ place, get Tim's learners permit (a bust - more on that later), coordinate and drive kids to meet with friends/sleepovers/hang-out places, eat some more, replenish clothes and shoes for the coming year (Plato's Closet, anyone?) and most importantly meet with and thank our prayer partners and supporters. Did I mention that we went out to eat? Our good friends helped us pull off a support luncheon. These servant-friends cooked, served and helped coordinate a time where we could share our life and ministry in Ecuador at one time and in one place. The Rodriguez family - awesome friends and neighbors hosted all 5 of us in their home for three weeks. It was so comforting to come 'home' to their house to crash. Marita and Ed are incredible cooks, hosts and friends. Their girls selflessly gave up half of their living space for us - we are forever grateful.

Back in Ecuador we (again) hit the ground running, as our summer teams were already in full swing. Our partners, the Brock family, were still trying to unpack and get settled since just moving to Ecuador while the first two teams were underway.

Brook Hills team July 7-13
BH team leaders John and Anne Marie Touliatos
We have been non-stop ever since. We are so grateful that the teams from Northpark (AL), Brook Hills (AL), Clear Branch (AR), Benton (AR) and Wylie (TX) that have chosen to spend 2% of their year serving the lost and poor of Ecuador with us.I am still amazed at how God can use humble servants to do amazing things. These teams have shown amazing strength, patience and compassion to not only children at the orphanage, but to rural villages that have never heard the Gospel! 

Saying goodbye to friends and fellow servants
As the people of this valley have been blessed, so has our family been blessed by their presence. They have renewed and rejuvenated us by reminding us just why we are here. 

The Brock's and the Coe's are grateful for their presence, their prayers, and their passion to 'make disciples of all nations...' (Matthew 28:19)

Puede Dios recibir la gloria por todo lo que hacemos.
(May God receive the glory for all that we do)

Those we serve

Friday, June 1, 2012


As I sit in the Miami airport enroute to Birmingham, the tropical rain is pouring down!  What a contrast to the driest month of the year in Ecuador.  Dust is on, in and around everything 'on the hill'.  Already feeling the affects of culture shock, I am comforted that HE is on, in and around me as I type this.  After leaving Ann and the kids at the airport, I received many comments from them and emails now already wishing they were heading home.  Although it's been a long and challenging year, we are thankful for the fruit and purpose in our lives as well as the work that God is doing in and through the Ecuadorian people.  Riding to the airport this morning, we expressed our openness to embrace whatever lies ahead both at home and back in Ecuador.  In a phrase, we are Listo (ready)..Ven (come) whether it be teams to the camp, people in our path or the Lord's return!

Dining and Sitting Area

Sleep Appliances
View of our Mission Field - Los Chillos Vale

 For the Directionally Challenged
'The Corner'

The 10 Hectares

New Pump for the Cistern

Cotapaxi Volcano in the Morning

U know who..

Plus some crew...ready to come home!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wrapping Up...

It's that time of year when all teachers yell, "hurray! it's the last school day!!!". Ok, so maybe it is not just teachers...:-) We are fast approaching the last school day at Alliance Academy. June 7th will close a memorable year not just for our seniors, but for the Coe family's first year in Ecuador.
Maggie and Kyndal N. at their Jr./Sr. Banquet last night
As I look back on this year I am in awe of God's provision. He has provided in so many ways it would take this reader days to pour through the blog post. To keep it simple let me share just a few...
He provided a job for me so that our family could serve in Ecuador. Without Alliance Academy taking a risk in hiring a music teacher who had not been in the classroom for 15 years, we would not have a secondary ministry nor education for our 3 kids.
My spring show choir from Alliance Academy - loved the 'Hairspray' number!
He provided a mentor teacher/administrator to help walk me through Alliance history and various do's and don'ts of this culture. He sustained me through long hours, long rehearsals, long lesson plans and long (and late) bus rides home. He provided an avenue for me to share the Gospel on a daily basis for not only 3/4 years old preschoolers, but to 18 year old young men and women who are about to embark on the next chapter of life. What an awesome opportunity! He provided a way for me to communicate with the younger students in their heart language. (footnote: my Spanish is malo - bad, but God continues to give me (and my students) grace and mercy:-). He provided a way for me to be with my 3 kids during the day.
Maggie's chemistry class
Maggie, Tim and Bobby may not have been too happy with that on certain occasions, but it has been a beautiful thing to watch them grow and mature in my sight every day. I could not be more proud of them. He has provided just what is needed - income wise. The little I make at Alliance has been a blessing and I give Him all the glory for that provision! He has provided a outlet for Bob to "get off the reservation" and come join us at Alliance 2 days/week to volunteer. Bob get's to connect with the kids and I - the school get's to see Bob's servant heart in SO many capacities (assisting the school nurse, joining the older orphan boys from the Foundation with Alliance staff for Wednesday afternoon soccer games, assisting the music teacher with set-design for concerts...:-). He has provided and incredible Faith Family that prays for us, nurtures us, and comes to visit us!!!!!
Bobby and Tim with friends from Book Hills who came to serve during Spring Break
He has provided an excellent education, new friends as well as challenges for the kids. And the list goes on...
The Wollett Family - friends and fellow servants from NC

Jer 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you...". That's good God, because I sure didn't! I only knew to trust Him with my children, my marriage and my life. "Plans to prosper..." I am rich in so many ways. Not monetarily mind you, but I am rich in friends, family and gifts from God. He knew long ago that we would need these things to prosper in our first year in ministry - for our kids to survive, for my marriage to grow and for the gifts He has given me to be revealed and utilized. "..not to harm you..." ok, this one takes the cake...after 2 house robberies, multiple bus pick-pocketings, bag slashing, stolen phones, illegal police stops, etc... not once were we touched, harmed or violated. He provided these experiences so we would grow yet not be harmed. Not just physical harm. I believe we were not harmed spiritually or emotionally either. After our home was invaded in February we needed to 'unpack' what just happened with the kids. We had an incredible opportunity to seek the Lord: understand Him more, rely on Him more, trust Him more and thank Him more. I am grateful our kids did not come out of that experience with hatred or mistrust of our neighbors.
Tim and friends at a Spartan's (AAI) soccer game
We saw God's provision in a big way here. Jeremiah goes on the say in verses 12-13 "Then you will call upon me and and come and pray to me, and I will listen. You will seek me and find me..."
Ecuador is a wonderful place. It is sometimes a dangerous place. It is a place in need of the Gospel. From our ministry in the Valle (building the camp) to our ministry in the city (Alliance Academy) there are families that are hurting, searching and (just like in the U.S.) beginning to see a new generation of Christ Followers. May our days be weary in Jeremiah 29 so that all who hear will pray to Him, seek Him and ultimately find Him.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Gracios A Dios

Gracios a Dios,
The Lord continues to bless our family by working through our struggles, challenges, victories, defeats, issues and experiences.  He is the rock, the stabilizing force which sustains us...1 Sam 2:2, 2 Sam 22.32, Psalms 18:31
Thanks to God,
He provides a Faith Family and fellow believers that although far in distance walks alongside, encourages, sends, supports and most importantly prays with us!  We are so grateful for the prayers and skype calls from so many.  This week we hosted both Bob and Suzi Flanders from Brook Hills who were here simply to love on us and the kids, and share their 25 years of experience with our family as member care!  Please lift up Madge Noland in her Mom's passing.  Madge is the picture of love, encouragement and comfort that comes to mind when caring for brothers and sisters in Christ!  2 Cor 1:4, 2 Cor 7:6

Gracios a Dios,
For the people in our lives in Ecuador....  Adam Yoder, Brent Becker, Jeff Shurman, the Evan's Family, The Gozales Family, our vacation crew (they know who they are), Carolyn Wofgram, The Brock's, the Nichols, The Moreira-Montenegro Family, Jesus, Ephrahim, Columbia, Christian, Tio Bill, Ms Dorothy, Roberto Bravo, the entire Puga Family!  They have shaped our experience here, without them there would be no learning, understanding or adjusting to sharing the Gospel in this context!  Romans 12:4-5, 2 Cor 5:10, Eph 4:4, Col  3:15

Thanks to God,
For provision and investment in our lives by others and us in them - with Christ at the core!  Recently, Tim and I participated in a Men's retreat to study/reflect on what it means to be a real man.  We were challenged both there and through circumstances in our own lives over the course of the last two weeks.  HIS example is the one that is set before by using others and HIS sacrifice, why lean on anything else to hit the mark! John 13:15, Phil 3:17, 1 Thess 1:7-8, James 5:10, 1 Peter 2:21

Gracios a Dios,
That we are continuing to rely and be dependent on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for language learning, development of the camp, assimilation of new partners and those HE has called according to HIS purpose instead of leaning on our limited understanding of our knowledge of how HE orchestrates and purposes things.  Give us the strength and courage to throw away all that is not found in HIS Word and doesn't Glorify HIS Name among the Nations!  Psalms 138:8, Isaiah 14:27, Lamen 2:17, Acts 13:36, Romans 8:28, Eph 1:5, Rev 5:9-10

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Servant Leadership

We see so many arbitrary and contradictory things here in Ecuador that it becomes difficult at times to square it with our North American frame of reference.  How can a people put so much emphasis on having full-breed dogs when the cost of them is the same as in the states while the average salary is roughly $300/mos.?  Or why does a culture which treats each other so rudely on the road (drivers are three times more aggressive and discourteous here than NY city drivers) greet everyone in the room as they enter an eating establishment with ' Buenas Tardes' or 'Buen Provencal?'  Yesterday, as I was driving down a busy road, I noticed a boy on foot trying to catch up with a horse running loose along a fence.  To help out, I tried pulling in front of the horse twice to cut off his advance so the boy could put a harness on him.  The horse managed to get away both times and I last saw both disappear into a residential area after he thanked me for helping.  I'll finish the story later and explain why this is relevant to the topic........

Servant leadership is many things, but arbitrary and contradicting it is not.  I'm currently doing a study on the book of Joshua to use his leadership as a model to teach spiritual principles utilizing the confidence course we are developing here at the camp. In the first chapter of Joshua, the Lord simply states three things as he charges him with his ministry: 'I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised to Moses.' , 'No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.' and 'As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.'  Inherent in those statements: HE always proves faithful to HIS word, ordains the events in our lives for HIS purposes, no new work is being done - just being built upon, blessing comes with obedience and HIS power is available to us if we are in HIS will.  The encouragement is that even with imperfect models in our lives, we learn that the Kingdom continues to advance regardless the failure or in completion of our individual work, our predecessor's or the ability of either.  Joshua simply led with a sole focus in mind, pleasing God.  The evidence is in the results: Joshua's defeat at Jerico, destruction of Ai, defeat of the five Amorite Kings, conquering of the southern cities and the defeat of the Northern Kings, the eventual division, allotment  and appointment of the Land.  Afterwards, the Lord reminds Joshua at Shechem in Joshua 24:13-14, "So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.  Now, fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness."   Who are we giving credit to of that which is given to us?  The legacy of Servant Leadership is 'paid forward' as seen in verse 31 of the same chapter, "Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel."

I have been convicted of what this looks like in my life about how I am preparing my kids for their future lives.  Is it man-focused or God-focused?  Am I teaching them more about how to get good grades, get into college or how to improve rather than teaching on overall personal responsibility, how to deal with disappointment in people and circumstances by changing their focus and helping to direct them on the path that God is shaping for them?  What if they want to take a more non-traditional route?  Am I more focused on the head rather than the heart?  On behavior rather than belief?

There are several pictures of Servant Leadership I have in my mind.  One is of how the orphans serve each other on the foundation.  As inconvenient as it is, no one 'owns' anything, it is all shared.  Home is not a location but a state of security in their mind based in relationship with others.  Family is not blood related but based on 130 others caring for needs by apportioning skill sets and looking out for the welfare/well-being of others first above their own.  Lastly, adoption is not done on paper or through legal channels but occurs in the heart by the miracle of salvation!

 The second picture is that of two second grade classes at Alliance Academy holding a drive by collecting clothes, shoes and toys because their needs were more than met but they heard there was an orphanage in the Los Chillos Valle that could always use those items.  On the receiving end is a Director apportioning those items appropriately among the needs of orphanage.  A Director who as a boy himself came to the same foundation 40 years earlier because his father was shot to death and had no where else to go.  A Director who could have been comfortable in that position just looking out for his own interests in a system that relishes power and position.  But, he chose to use his position as a platform to birth five  churches to provide hope to the hopeless and unveil a faith with a future.

Normally, I like to leave us out of most discussion but this hits close to home and is relevant to the topic.  The last picture is that of family members who had 3 months to prepare to uproot, move and adjust to a language and culture they neither chose nor were familiar with.  A family living and bridging between two very different worlds on a daily basis: the very rich in Quito and very poor in Conocoto.  No better example was the recent decision for Maggie to participate in the play, "Puss and Boots" and the families corporate commitment.    Sounds simple enough but it took significant effort by each person to pull it off.  Rehearsals took place each night until 6 pm and the last two weeks from 6-9 pm.  School lets out at 3:45 pm and we live an hour away.  Translated, since Ann chose to do the choreography for the show, it required her to be there for rehearsals after all day teaching and sometimes taking two buses home. The boys had to do the same every day I didn't drive to pick up the girls.  I'm starting to think there was some grain of truth in Hillary Clinton's statement, "It takes a village to raise a child".............This picture will always remind me of the sacrifice and servant hearts it took to allow Maggie to worship Christ with her God-given talent.
   So, where does the horse come in?  Later on that day, I ran into the same boy on his horse with the  loose horse in tow.  I gave him a thumbs up and began to wonder why I couldn't get this event out of my head.  And it dawned on me.  If we want to be servant leaders, we must first desire to want to bring our direction under the owners control.  It is not in our nature to be saddled, given tasks or be led by the reigns. We yearn to 'do our own thing' and run wild like that horse.  Secondly, the rope attached to our halter is necessary for two reasons.  We must  follow His lead for both our safety and His purposes.  He knows where the work is, the direction to get there and where home is!  Have you made it easy for people to follow your Servant Leadership or is it arbitrary and contradicting?  When we look behind us, how is the well-being of those who are following us?  Are our actions, behaviors and decisions based on  what we can see ahead or do we have the end in mind?