Stones. They are everywhere. Stumbling stones, stepping stones, stones for throwing, stones for piling. In the bible, stones are used for remembering. This is a place for me to pile my own rough stones of remembering along the road I am traveling, one post at a time. They are more than mere words thrown out into the wake of my path. They are a concrete testament of God's faithfulness, provision and goodness along the way.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Committed to God's Supply

Being home on home assignment, 3 ½ years after we first received our call to serve overseas, I want to take this opportunity to testify to the journey in hindsight. To summarize what God has done and is continuing to do in and through our calling and our lives.

The journey has been one step of trust and obey at a time. It still is. In a broad sense God had revealed where He wanted us, by giving us a heart of compassion and love for His church in Pietro’s native land of Italy. The first thing we needed to trust Him to reveal was what He was asking of us. As we prayed and waited on Him to reveal His heart for us and for Italy we were able to identify clearly (and quite remarkably for us) that He was giving us a vision to see Italian churches empowered to equip their members to effectively develop disciples of Jesus who make disciples as Jesus did. Not from the pulpit. Not in a classroom, not even in the church, but in intentional relational environments in small group settings. In relationship. In Real Life.

Our next step of trust and obey was that the God who was calling us, was going to equip us.  We knew in a general sense where He was calling us, and we knew in powerful sense what he was calling us to do but we didn’t have a clear sense of how we were going to accomplish this. It was precisely at this time in our life that after years of prayer and searching on our part for tools to disciple effectively, God led our pastor to the ministry of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho. He invited us to be part of a pilot group that worked through a 12 week training manual called Real Life Discipleship: Equipping Disciples to Make Disciples. The manual was the first step that God set before us to equip us to do the work He had called us to do. Since then our relationship and partnership with Real Life has grown, and after many years of praying for a “Paul”, our hearts overflow that in the ministry of this church we have found faithful men and women who are able to honestly model as Paul did, “Imitate me as I imitate Jesus.” But in such humility that really all we hear them say is “imitate Jesus and this is how we have learned to do that.” They have been faithful in modelling this and in encouraging and equipping us on this journey from day one, visiting us in Italy twice in two years with plans in the works for the next visit, skyping with Pietro every week, and even as I write this  investing in us in an intimate one week international missions training with the purpose “to strategically equip their volunteer international coaches and key national pastors and leaders to build and reproduce disciple making churches in their countries and regions.”

Another step of trust and obey was that the God who was calling us was going to guide us. He was going to reveal more specifically the where and the who that He was calling us to work and work with. We laugh (really laugh out loud laugh) when we look back on this one. At the time we didn’t understand why God wouldn’t tell us this before asking us to put 8 people and 24 pieces of luggage on a plane and move to another country, but we do recognize the reality that if He would have revealed the where and the who to us beforehand we can see how we would have resisted. We say regularly that Naples was Pietro’s Nineveh. We also felt strongly called to encourage and equip Italian churches and the fact that the church that God led us to work with is an international bi-lingual church wouldn’t have seemed to fit that bill as we had in mind. So God didn’t give us the option to resist, He merely led us one step of the journey at a time, until He had us right where He wanted us and there has been no shadow of a doubt in our minds that God wants us to do our part to encourage and empower Il Faro International Baptist Church to live out their mission statement “to develop mature and united disciples to reach Naples and the world for Jesus” and that He desires to use this church in the future to encourage and equip Italian churches.

A final and ongoing trust and obey was that the God who called us, was going to provide for us. When God called us into ministry He did not lead us on the path of  the traditional modern missionary organization route. We did not find an agency that had a heart for what God was calling us to do in Italy and told us how much money to raise in order to qualify. God brought together a couple with the calling to go, a church with the calling to send and an agency with the calling to equip local church driven missions. From the beginning we sensed our part was to go. God’s part was to provide. Our agency has two core values: the one I mentioned above: local church driven missions the other committed to God’s supply. God’s supply. Those words have come to mean so much to us over the course of the past 3 ½ years.

In all honesty, we have not been the poster children for this core value, but we are learning and growing. For us, committed to God’s supply means “hands off” when it comes to money, budgeting and support raising. It means extreme surrender of these areas to God. It means George Mueller is our role model in that we learn to commit our needs to God and not to man, and trust God to meet them through the men and means of His choosing. As I have said, we have not modelled this pristinely all along the way, sometimes wanting to lend God a helping hand in making our needs known, or putting our trust in men rather than in God. But He is faithful and patient and good. He continues to teach us what it means to be committed to His supply and how wonderful and amazing it is to see how and through whom He chooses to provide. This blog has become a testament to that.

Our life is full, of challenges and opportunities, and I don’t find the time to write as much as I wish I could and my stones often pile up in my lap these days. Today I have a about a dozen of them that have been picked up along the way just over the course of the past weeks since we began our home assignment. Each one of them has to do with being committed to God’s supply and through whom and how He has chosen to supply. The say cheaper by the dozen, so here are my 12 stones of gratitude:

  1. Those who provided our flights,
  2. Those who provided a home
  3. Those who furnished the home from beds and bedding, dressers, couches, to dishes and every conceivable household item. On a cute side note, God provided 2 couches and a loveseat for “our” living room from two different sources. Our good friends offered a spare couch first. Then another friend received word that someone who had not managed to sell their couch and loveseat in a moving sale were offering them for free. When he went to pick them up, they were a matching set to the first couch that had been loaned.
  4. Those who filled our fridge, freezer, cupboards, pantry, laundry and bathroom with food, cooking instructions, and every conceivable need down to razors and shaving gel, q tips and polysporin.
  5. Those who generously gifted us with funds to help us with the additional expenses of travel and accommodation while on the road.
  6. Those who provided us with vehicle(s) and fuel.
  7. Sylvia, a perfect stranger God led us to in a church parking lot in Fernie, BC when our tire blew out on Father’s Day Sunday at 1 pm. Sylvia led us to a divine appointment and before she left pressed a sum of money into Pietro’s hand that met the expense we were to incur the next day to have a replacement tire mounted in Cranbrook.
  8. Nick and Judy V. more perfect strangers who adopted us for night after we discovered that Canadian Tire didn’t have a single tire in the size we needed and wouldn’t be able to get one in for four days. They put us up for night and enlisted their son and law Travis to find us a tire in Cranbrook the next day.
  9. A stone for the Paul’s in our life. Dave and Stuart and the many other real life people at Real Life Ministries who lead like Jesus and faithfully and intentionally teach us to do the same.
  10. A stone for Dale and Donna W. who are hosting us this week in their most adorable B&B The Chicken Coop. Another cute side note, this B&B received a last minute cancellation (as in the day before our arrival)  of a one week booking which made it possible for us to stay here. Just like our home in Italy we feel like God personally arranged for the most perfect place that He knew would provide us with the perfect space and ambience.
  11. A stone for the missions team at Real Life who is serving this week behind the scenes to provide meals for our family and the other participants.
  12. A stone for the asian tourists that God used to provide parking money for us at the Coeur d’Alene boardwalk yesterday. One final cute story. We are in the states but have no American money. When we decided to take the kids for a walk on the boardwalk yesterday morning we didn’t think about parking money until we were pulling into the parking lot. Pietro got out of the vehicle and began moving over toward a ticket machine where an asian couple were plugging coins. Before he arrived they moved away from that machine toward another and a second person arrived at the first machine ahead of Pietro. When the second person plugged his money in, three parking tickets came out. The asian couple came back and gave Pietro the extra parking ticket. It might seem trivial, a parking ticket worth a mere dollar or two, but it represents a need, and it represents the God who delights to supply.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow and thank you to each of you who allow yourselves to be channels of His blessings and supply.