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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Roads Lead to Rome

Another week has passed, and that means seven days of drifting, taking our bearings, and watching the horizon for a glimpse of Terra Firma.  I feel like a kid holding a treasure map and trying to work out the markings only to realize that I have been holding it upside down.  Turn it around and suddenly your eyes focus and you can get your bearings.

This whole journey started with Coen's "You should come to Zambia!"  and then was clinched with Mike's "Oh Yeah!  And then you should go to Italy!"  We could all see how Zambia could provide a time of great personal growth for us, as well as help solidify a vision and a foundation for our future work in Italy.  Since the idea for Zambia came first, logically, we assumed that time in Zambia would be a precursor to our move to Italy.

Last week we felt like we were standing at a crossroads with about 30 signs pointing every which direction and our heads were spinning.  I can't even begin to describe all the different scenarios that presented themselves to us when it came to the different possibilities in regards to the who/where/when/what of applications and order of events when it came to dealing with one organization (Operation Mobilization) in three different countries (Canada, Italy and Zambia) with three different time frames.  I will spare you the tailspin and tell you about the day that we got clarity.

I have lost all track of days, it may have been Wednesday last week.  I was going about my day feeling like I was carrying a house on my shoulders.  All of a sudden I had this realization.  "This would all be SO much simpler if we just moved to Italy after the house has sold, got set up there in home and ministry, and then pursue the possibility of Zambia at a later date together with them." (our leaders in OM Italy).

No sooner did I think this thought and I felt like that house lifted right off my chest.  I took a huge breath, let it out in a cleansing sigh and smiled for the first time in days.  I sent up a quick prayer that God would continue to give confirming clarity on where the road sign was pointing.  When Pietro got home I told him about the thought I had had.  His eyebrows just about hit the roof and he exclaimed, "I was just thinking the same thing as I was driving home!"  Not only that, but that very same night we got one phone call and one email from two influential people in our lives who suggested this exact same course of events.  As we discussed it with friends, it was continually confirmed as "just making sense."  We both went to bed and slept like babies for the first time in a whole week.

So amidst the jumble of people and places and processes, one road sign stands out.  And lo and behold, it points to (463 miles northwest of) Rome.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Traveling Companions

“You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid–but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.”   Merry, to Frodo, The Fellowship of the Ring."

I cry a lot these days. Those wretchedly beautiful heart wrenching tears of change and loss and recognition of how deep and tight the silken chords of fellowship are wrapped and entwined around the most tender, palpitating nerves of the heart.   And so you mourn what you are losing, but celebrate what you have.  A strange and painful and beautiful mixture of emotions.

Bilbo and Frodo were both invited to embark upon a journey.  But they did not journey alone.  If we journey to our quest alone we will surely perish, or starve, or turn back in failure or desperation.   Man was not made to journey alone.  As we look ahead, to this road stretching into the horizon, we know that we are surrounded by a loving and caring and strengthening fellowship of companions.   

And like Frodo, when Sam and Merry and Pippin came running alongside, our hearts burst with the painful, happy knowledge of what it feels like to be loved.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Detours and Rabbit Trails

"If we (man) can envision how something can work out, then the vision isn't God's or the vision isn't big enough.  The impossible belongs to God."  Coen Scholtz (I'm not sure if he was quoting this from another source.)

I sort of feel like the joke's on me, and while I would really *like* to chuckle, the lump in my throat is too big right now for that to be possible.  Excited people tend to excite you.  Or exhaust you.  Or maybe first one and then the other LOL.  Coen's inspiring thought above and Mike's enthusiasm and gung-ho "rock'n'roll baby" anecdotes can be the impetus to lift anchor and throw it in the boat and give you the push off from shore.  But once you receive the push off, you're left scratching your head, looking around wondering where the sailing manual is.  :)

Coen and Mike are wonderful.  They open creaky old doors to shine light on long sealed old chambers of the soul and stir up the dust  so that you discover old treasure maps leading to adventure.  But then you are left to equip yourself with the tools to embark on that adventure.  I feel like we received a few rushed words of "don't worry, x marks the spot, easy breezy, we'll keep this simple."  and then they were gone.  But there is no keeping it simple when you are moving a family of 8 from an established farm, to the middle of Zambia for six months and then a relocation to Italy.  And especially not if you are trying to do it in three months. 

It seemed like we were the only ones saying three months was impossible. Everyone else was saying, "Not at all! With God anything is possible!"   We didn't like to be the ones of little faith.  So we agreed to hoist sail, and give God the opportunity to "do His thing" by filling the sails and getting us there by February if He wanted to.  I realize now that in my head I only agreed to this because Mike and Coen had said "We'll keep it really simple" when it came to the application process.  

So yesterday I am sitting there with my head in my hands looking at a spreadsheet of 53 various "things" that need to be done when it comes to administrative steps alone to get us from here to there, some with multiple steps. And I start to feel like I am sinking.  Meanwhile the "let's keep this application process simple" has rather gone out the window as I am not able to get through to anyone in OM Africa that can even give us particulars about applying, and really, we are not even sure what Coen had in mind when he said "Come to Zambia." Discipleship Training School?  Missionary Training School?  First one and then the other?  Something else entirely?  And meanwhile Coen has gone radio silent. I send up an SOS prayer, and before I even said Amen, I received an email notification.  A message from the personnel guy at OM Canada offering to connect by phone.  

We have been discussing not applying through OM Canada at all, since we are Italian and know the leaders of OM Italy, to just apply directly through the OM Italy office.  Mike and Coen were both all gung ho to recruit us directly through OM Africa.  This all seemed like it would be easy breezy and pretty painless, but in the end, neither Mike and Coen are even IN South Africa right now, and the people over there don't know us any better than the people over here.

After setting up a phone appointment for today I specifically asked for prayer that I would hear back from OM Africa prior to this call, and that we would have something "more" to go on.  Well, wouldn't you know, first thing this morning I had an email in my inbox from OM Africa basically saying we HAD to apply through OM Canada or OM Italy, but could not apply directly through them. One option off the table... two left.

I started to immediately question why we had gone down the "rabbit trail" of direct application through OM Africa.   How come sometimes I am so attuned to The GPS and sometimes I go meandering off on a side trail only to eventually break back through to the original trail again? I said this to God.  What was with the rabbit trail God?  And it was the clearest of clear trail of thoughts in my head.

"That wasn't a rabbit trail."  

"Well, what was it, then?"  

"It was a detour."  

"What's the difference?"

"A rabbit trail is you wandering off distracted, a detour is me getting you around some obstacles to get where you need to be."

"Okay, that makes sense.  But I'm not getting the obstacle?"

"You were the obstacle."  


"When the water threatens to get rough, you tend to plop yourself down on the shoreline and sigh. If you would have been immobilized by the breadth of the expanse in getting from here to there you would never have hoisted sail so easily and invited me to "do my thing."  


So true.  

We really wouldn't have.

But here we are, anchor in, sail up and drifting... and only He can get the boat from here to there.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

GPS and Signposts

" And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left."  Isaiah 30:21

This morning I get to share "our story" with the JY Sunday school class.  As I geared up for this, something struck me that gave me goosebumps.  That tends to happen to me a lot these days.

I was thinking back to this summer, as fall approached and I was sorting through details for life as we know it, with commitments and activities and priorities.  All of a sudden it seemed like everything was turned upside down and I didn't know why, how or wherefore.

It was like all the signposts were pointing AWAY from the familiar.  It's like one day we found ourselves at a crossroads and we had to stand there for a moment contemplating which way to turn, and then when we finally had the clarity to step out in faith in a certain direction it led to an unexpected maze of twists and turns that didn't make any sense to us, much less others watching us venture off into new territory.

When you choose one path, you inevitably reject all of the other paths.  When you know what's around the corner of the path you have chosen, it is easier to step out.  When you don't, it's a matter of trusting the GPS and the signposts.  Thankfully for us, God has been revealing Himself in truly marvelous ways as The Great Guide when it comes to speaking clearly, if we will only shut up and listen, telling us "this is the way; walk in it."  We have also become finely attuned to His "no thru road" and "do not enter" signs and He is gracing us with the faith to trust and obey.

As I think back to this summer I can see us standing at a junction with question marks above our heads; questioning everything as a whole slew of "do not enter" signs loomed in our peripheral, we were very confused.  Why on earth would I all of a sudden have a "no thru road" sign on something that I was as passionate about as teaching at kids club?  I mean, I LOVE that job and noone else is ever chomping at the bit to do it. Not to mention last year I had started to write a three year curriculum that I was absolutely psyched about.  One year in, with all the energy and gumption to keep trekking for two more years I come to a dead end.

 In the spring I had also started dreaming about teaching JY Sunday School.  I was excited about it.  I would have loved to do it.  But all of sudden there was a huge stop sign there saying "Do not enter."   I talked to my bible study ladies about it, how God was saying "no" to all of the things that we had been doing up until now, that for this fall God was saying, "nope.  no go."  In my mind I couldn't understand how we could not do ANYTHING.  I mean it was no to EVERYTHING. 

But the voice of the GPS was like a broken record.  There was no denying its message, and so we made our announcements to all parties that there was a turn in our path and we would not be pursuing those directions.  We got alot of questions and concerns, from people who couldn't understand how or why.  And we didn't have answers.  I guess that is what faith boils down to.  Stepping forward when you can't see around the bend.  Now that I "can" see around the bend, I know why all those signposts were up.  God knew I wouldn't be here to see those jobs through. And I wouldn't have had the chance to grow in faith and obedience.

Today I am excited to share with the JY Sunday school class about God having a step by step plan for their life and futures, a plan that spans the years and is woven together over time and with many circumstances both painful and lovely, difficult and exhilarating.  I pray that they will have eyes to catch the vision of a life lived by faith, and to see trust and obedience as beautiful things that lead to amazing stories written by the Divine Author of Life.

Friday, October 18, 2013


"Bilbo’s impulsive bravery in the troll camp begins his figurative transformation from an introvert to an adventurer... by the end of Chapter 2, he has already begun to prove Gandalf’s claim that there is more to Bilbo than meets the eye. Over the course of the novel, Bilbo gradually sheds his modern complacency and becomes more courageous and adventurous."  (sparknotes)

a note from the shire in my inbox today included the following;
"Some of my neighbors park their cars on the side of the road at the crest of a hill. Those who want to drive past them have to swing into the left lane, with no idea who or what might be coming toward them. It makes driving in our neighborhood quite an adventure.
This example of lousy parking is actually a pretty good representation of our life in God. Faith is not for the faint-hearted. We are asked to take a journey, without necessarily knowing where we are going or what might be coming toward us. We are not given a map; rather, we are asked to trust that we are going someplace good. The “danger” of this journey is unlikely to result in smashed fenders or broken bones, but it may well breach our comfortable lives.
We can’t envision all the possibilities that time and life may bring to us, but faith can be exhilarating! What God has in store for us is probably more breathtaking than anything we could come up with on our own. I’ve always believed that the serious Christian life is for the adventurous. The journey, if we’re brave enough to take it, is never dull."  (from upper room devotionals)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chapter One; An Unexpected Party

As I begin to fondly think of our little farming community as the shire, and look back on that unexpected party, tears well up in my eyes.  Who knew.  Who knew that just a few short months ago as we sat around that fire listening to tales of faith and fun from two fresh, inspiring young people, and as we let them in on our secret that we, too, had our yes on the table and were waiting for directions; who knew that our paths would end up being so intimately intertwined.  They had no way of knowing.  We had no way of knowing.  In our wildest dreams I don't think we would have or could have mapped out the arrows of the journey the way God has clearly done and has been doing for YEARS. 

Flashback to I don't know when exactly.  The seventies I'm guessing.  My dad is still in school in his hometown of Waldheim, SK.  He invites a buddy from school to a bible study.  That buddy becomes a Christian and grows up to be a world shaker and a kingdom builder and a global visionary.  That man is Mike Hack.

Flashforward to the 80's.  My foster parents move to BC and "get" me. 

Flashforward to the 90's.  I leave home at the age of 17 and head off to OM ships ministry.  On the way I spend a week in Holland at the GO conference.  While there someone introduces me to a fellow Canadian, a Saskatchewan fellow.  I tell him my dad is from Sask.  Where in SK he wants to know.  Oh a very small town I say.  Where?  He persists.  Waldheim, I say. 

"Waldheim!  I'm from Waldheim!  Who is your dad?" 

"Robert Bueckert." 

"Robert Bueckert!"  He exclaims... "Your dad was instrumental in leading me to the Lord!" 

My introduction to Mike Hack.

Flashforward to 2005.  Pietro and I buy an acreage in Waldheim, SK and become members of Mike Hack's home church.  Crazy coincidence?  We thought it was :)

Flashforward to 2013.  We have had the privilege of watching Mike impact the lives of many youth in our community and mobilize them to get out and discover the big wide world and ways they can make eternal difference.  We love to hear their stories and see the fruit of their experiences impact our community.  On just such a night, we connected heart to heart with two young people whose worlds have been rocked and whose lives are forever changed.  We invited them to pray for us as we too, waited to see what story God would unfold for our family.

And today as they share a part in this story, we all marvel.  To think that my DAD who is not even my dad but who took me in and raised me like a daughter was part of this story, from the very beginning... that the circles have gone out, and come back and gone out from Waldheim, and interconnected and overlapped... from my Dad, to Mike, to Larissa, to Nic, to Coen, to us, who came from Italy to Waldheim, who will return to Italy FROM Waldheim, but all the richer, all the readier, but how this journey will first lead us to Africa and Mike and Larissa and Coen again along the way.  What a party that will be. What an unexpected party indeed .  And what a privilege to have an invitation.  We are truly, truly humbled and overwhelmed to be characters written into God's plot and purposes and to have the privilege to watch His story unfold.    

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7

We Give Thanks!

 Pietro's meeting with his boss could not have gone better.  He received the news with grace and gave us his full support.  The timing of the meeting was remarkable as that very day he was giving notice of acceptance to one of the four men that had interviewed for the department, but had wrestled to decide which of two men to hire.  After Pietro spoke with him, he contacted and hired them both.

In discussion with OM Italy, the timing of our desiring to come work with them is an answer to prayer.  The person who has been working with their discipleship program until now has given notice that this will be their last term.    

Last night we met with the E & M committee from our church.  The timing of this was also remarkable.  The night before, very late in the evening Pietro all of a sudden stopped short and said that the E and M budget was most likely already finalized and submitted for 2014.  We quickly popped off a text to the chair of the committee asking if it was too late for us to apply to serve in 2014 and he said "be there tomorrow at 7:15 and we'll take care of it."  At the meeting they told us that the funds have been there and they have been praying and waiting for someone from our church to GO.  Of course that made me all weepy again.  To think of all the people that have been part of praying us to this point without even realizing it.

2 years ago, one of my friends was seriously getting ready to go and serve with OM Italy.  God has his timing and plans and  they didn't end up going.  But she has often thought of that place with a pang in her heart and prayed for whoever God would  send there , that things would all work out for the best.  When she found out that we were going  she was just in awe that it was us.  In essence, she also has been praying for us.

We give thanks for EVERY person in our life who has helped to shape us and mold us, through good times and hard times and who has supported us through those times and who supports us now as we move forward on this journey.  Above all we give thanks to our Heavenly Father who is the author of  this story and who has invited  us to be characters in the plot of His Great Adventure.  It's kind of funny, our family theme song has always been "The Great Adventure" by Steven Curtis Chapman, even though our life has not REALLY been that great of an adventure but we just like to see life through that lens.  Now those words are ringing in my ears, burning in my heart, and I laugh as they do: "Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze, into the wide blue yonder of God's amazing grace.  Let's follow our leader into the great unknown.  This is a life like no other, oh yeah, this is The Great Adventure!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Unexpected Journey

I feel like Bilbo.  The opening scene finds us skipping around our little shire, happy as larks, eating, drinking and being (generally speaking) merry.  Yet the prologue to this story has already revealed that we are being invited on an unexpected journey.  Just like Bilbo's companions, we received this "invitation" that really left us more in the dark than informed at first.  You have read the prologue, a month has past, and the introduction is now being written, right before our eyes, and we would like to share.

When I wrote my last note, "Prologue Revisited", I really told you everything we knew.  That our family felt we were receiving an invitation to "pack the necessities" in essence, and get ready for an unexpected (and completely unknown) journey.  In the past month, our story has continued to unravel, sometimes gently rolling, sometimes with almost supersonic intensity.  I would like to share with you the introduction to our story.

It begins with me hitting send on "Prologue Revisited" but in order to tell you that beginning I need to tell you a little flashback.  When we felt that God was inviting us to "Get Ready", we both felt without a shadow of a doubt that that was to get the farm ready for sale.  In discussing it, although we were both in agreement, we wanted to lay out a fleece of confirmation and invite God to boost or seal this conviction in our hearts and minds.  We love this farm and wouldn't give it up if we weren't sure He was asking us to and had a plan for our lives.  The fleece that we laid before Him was that if He wanted us to sell the house, that He would orchestrate it as such so that when word got out that we were preparing to sell, people would come to us and tell us that they wanted to buy our farm, without us even having to list it.   We weren't thinking quickly, we thought maybe, possibly God might bring an interested party to approach us next year, which is how long we knew it would take us to get our house ready for sale.

Within a minute or so of posting my "Prologue Revisited" note on FB I received a private message.  This message in essence said, "if and when you move, we are interested in buying your property, please let us know."  Um... okay, that was a confirmation for us that we were moving in the right direction.  But of course we are humans, going in blind and so we continued to lay fleece after fleece before God asking Him to continue to give us signs of how to proceed here.  The next was in the area of our finances.  Looking at how God has blessed us and given us equity in this property and through other financial means that is so beyond anything we could have contrived ourselves (we call Him our great Equity Manager), we feel that He has given us this capital not for us to "enjoy" but as an investment to fund our lives and work in the future.  But we are not business people, and stocks and bonds and all that jazz make our eyes glaze over.  So our next fleece was to lay our capital (or what will be our capital once we sell and pool our investments and savings) before Him and ask Him to show us how it can be used to generate income for our future.

That second week after writing "Prologue Revisited" we were with friends who are savvy business people who also have a complete heart for using their business to generate income for God's work.  When we shared our current stage of waiting on God they were both very of one mind of exactly how we could use that money to generate income.  With their help they laid out a plan of how they could be part of managing this plan in a way that as long as our capital remained in industry, we would be able to make a regular salary that would go very far in paying for our monthly expenses whatever we end up doing.  

With that duck in a row, three weeks after writing Prologue Revisited we then were able to say, God... where are you taking us?  What's the plan here?  What are you asking from us and how are we going to get prepared and ensure we have the tools to do the good works that you have prepared in advance for us to do?  Within days of praying that prayer, Coen and Suria Scholtz arrived in our little rural farming community, 2 miles up the road with two daughters that just hit it off like lemon and merengue with my girls.  As we spent a weekend listening to Coen and Suria share their stories and their passion, we were butter in their hands.  A couple that also left everything to follow a call that they didn't know where it would lead, but it has led them to amazing heights of service and blessing.  Not only did I love their stories, but I loved their persona's.  Both Pietro and I looked at each other as we drove away and for the first time in our lives we felt like we had "seen Jesus" with skin on.  They awoke a fire and a passion so deep in us that as our pastor said recently, it was like a burning bush on the prairie.  

Coen talks about "putting your yes on the table" to be part of God's plan.  We both said, Coen our yes is on the table but we don't know who or what we are saying yes to.  We know that God is telling us to get ready but we don't know what He is telling us to get ready for.  We have figurative tickets in hand to get on the train, but we don't know the destination.  In talking with us and hearing our life long passions, strengths and weaknesses both Coen and Suria urged us to come to Zambia and receive leadership training under a man named Christopher Agenbag.  They spoke so highly of his influence in their own lives that we were like, if this man impacted your life and ministry, sign us up.  Amazingly, because Africa was never on our radar and even when we went home, both thinking without a shadow of a doubt that this is what we were going to do, there was a lot of raw emotion as well, because we are quite seasoned travelers, but Africa is a whole nuther story.  And going there with 6 children takes it to a whole new level. 

Last Sunday after google searches and you tube videos we sent an email off to a few key people in our lives, asking them what they thought of this.  One of these people was Mike Hack, in Africa.  That night when we went to bed, I was all of a sudden hit by the realization that we were talking about selling everything, packing up 8 suitcases and moving to Africa for six months to receive leadership training for..... we didn't know what.  That made me break out in a cold sweat.  So then I started to pray, saying "God... is that what you are asking us to do?  Walk into this blind?  Take a wild leap of faith and just trust that you have a plan and you will reveal it when the timing is right?  If that is what you are asking from us, God, then please give us the courage and faith to do it.  But if it's not.... that would be really great.  If it's not, could you please show us what we are getting ready for?"

I fell asleep with these prayers tumbling around in my head, and in the morning when I woke up and turned off the alarm on my phone, there was a message from Mike.  "Yes!!!!"  he said.  "Do it!!!  Christopher is the best of the best, we all learn so much from him, and when he is done with you I have a job for you."  He went on to explain that he has a heart to see a similar training centre to what Christopher runs in Zambia (but it services all of South Africa) set up at the OM base in Italy to service the entire Mediterranean region.  OM Italy recently took over a beautiful centre in the North of Italy (I will post a link at the end of this note) and has the vision for mobilizing missionaries to go out into the Meditteranean but needs manpower.  And needs manpower that is equipped and wired to understand the culture.  

We both just looked at each other with eyes wide and hearts saying.... "of course."  I mean, the puzzle pieces just all fell into place and the picture became crystal clear.  And for the first time pure excitement charged us.  I mean there was always a little element of excitement but mostly overwhelmed by a whole lot of other not so positive emotions, mostly related to fear of the unknown, but THIS?   We were MADE for this.  

This is not the end of the story, the pace did not slow down after this but the week continued to unravel with machine gun fire intensity as Mike says.  But I will share "the rest of the story" for another day.  Today I just felt if I didn't start to tell the story, it would run away on me and I would never be able to do it justice.  And we need your prayers as we move forward through this obstacle course of preparation.  It seems like each day the timeline shrinks and and the list of things to consider grows.  We find ourselves routinely feeling a bit paralyzed about how we are going to get "from here to there".  So we would love to invite you to be part of praying us through!  

Ways that you can support us today.  Pietro is meeting with his department this morning first thing.  Maybe as we speak.  He needs to give a sort of notice without being able to give an exact notice.  Please pray for a good communication on his part, and favor and blessing from his boss.  They are hiring and training one employee to take Joe's place which has been recently vacated, the suggestion will be to hire two people and Pietro can train them both, one to replace Joe and one to replace himself.

Tonight we will be meeting with the Evangelism and Missions Committee to share our story and request the blessing and support of Salem Church in this endeavor.  

Please pray for continued clarity to hear and see and know how we are to move forward each step of the way.  There are so many decisions to be made and things to be done that as I said, it can be a bit paralyzing.  And the pace of the story is such that I do believe I will be writing alot more frequently :)

Love you all and thanks for being part of our story.  Check out the OM Italy base here;