I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

One of my favourite things to do is sit at my sewing machine and work on a new article of clothing while listening to a podcast.  My sewing area is outside so I get a little bit of a breeze and if I get a full twenty minutes of uninterrupted work, I am in heaven!

Today, I listened to a speaker talk about suffering and what it means to follow Jesus.  It’s something that is near to my heart at the moment as I am praying through how to disciple my kids in a way that God is real to them.  I want them to understand from a young age about what it really means to follow Christ.

I’ve been listening to a lot of teachings on suffering and it’s the first thing I want to share with my children – following Jesus does not mean that you will never suffer.  It doesn’t mean that bad things will never happen to you.  The Bible even goes so far as to say that we should consider it pure JOY when we face suffering.  It might seem a little doom and gloom to teach this to a first grader and kindergartener and of course I will point them to the truth that God is always with us and promises that He will never leave us but I think it’s really important for kids and young Christians to know that life will not be smooth sailing once you decide to follow Jesus.

It kind of reminds me of marriage in some ways.  It does young people absolutely no good to extol the virtues of marriage without ALSO telling them how hard it will be.  I’ve witnessed this too many times and our culture is literally saturated with false expectations of love.  I listened to a lyric this week in a pop song (we’re so out of the loop here culturally I have no idea who actually sings it! haha) that basically said that the love interest was going to save the person’s life.  Yikes!  No wonder so many young men & women are sorely disappointed once they get back from the honeymoon and real life sets in.  And we do it in the church too.  We talk about the excitement of the wedding and about where the couple wants to honeymoon and we might slip in a “Marriage takes work” but do we really get into the nitty gritty?  Young people…get thee to a mentor!!  This should be a prerequisite to getting married!  Older couples….be available!  Be honest; share the wonderful things about marriage but don’t, please don’t, leave out the hardships.  They will come and if all we ever talk about are the advantages….our young people will think there is something very wrong when the storm hits.

The same principle applies to following Jesus.  We have to be honest and real and hopefully our honesty will prepare our young people for the times when suddenly following Jesus isn’t so easy and there are things happening in their lives that are difficult and painful.

I had to learn this myself recently as I walked through a period of hardship where I just didn’t understand what God was trying to tell me.  My thought was that something was obviously very wrong if we were experiencing such hardship.  I invented all sorts of problems in my mind before God finally said “I told you you would endure trials.  There doesn’t have to be anything wrong.  You just need to turn to me and learn to rest in me.”

As per my last post, I have a hard time “resting”.  I like to tackle problems.  I am a list-making, google-searching, article-reading problem tackler.  And God has been telling me to stop.  Stop and seek Him.  Stop and rest.

I’m looking forward to talking about some of these things with my kids this week.  It’s a big responsibility to disciple our children in a way that makes them want to know more about Jesus and to stick with this thing throughout their lives.

 

 

Let the Little Children Come

Thursday nights are chaotic around here.

The neighbourhood kids start showing up around 4:30 for English class and usually stay til around 6:30.  We can keep their attention for studying for about a half an hour so the rest of the time is games, sports, crafts and just all around craziness.  It’s perfect.  I love having a house full of children; laughing and chasing each other.  It’s awesome for our kids too; they’ve made some great friends and I love hearing them trying out their Khmer as they attempt to communicate.

I know each of these kids by name.  They call me “Ming Ashley” – Aunt Ashley – and come running to hug me when they arrive.  They love to watch me bake or sew or do just about anything.  They always have lots of questions and I am happy to chat with them.  They are patient when I mispronounce a word and helpful when I don’t know one.

I’ve always been a “kid” person.  I volunteered and led Sunday schools and kids groups as a teen and young adult so I’m not the kind of person you have to remind about how precious kids are.  Except that it just kind of hit me again.

 

I guess I found myself measuring success by other standards and I got a wake up call today.  There’s a push in our “work” for results.  We have to relay what is happening in our ministries to supporters and partners and there should be some evidence of “fruit” – or some indication that something is happening.

I listened to a teaching this week from Francis Chan about “The Vine”.  At one point in the video, he says “the branch/vine does not have to work to produce fruit; it simply stays attached to the tree and fruit happens”.  I don’t know if that hits you like it hit me but I was really struck by that.  I am a doer by nature.  I kind of love projects.  I always have a list of projects on the go – sewing, painting, rearranging the entire house (Chad frequently comes home and asks “WHAT did you do?!”)

Sometimes, I want to approach ministry/serving the same way.  “Ok God, this is what I am going to do.  These are the results I want.  I’m going to make this list and raise these funds and do this and that and etc etc….”.  I’ve learned quickly that God’s timeline is not always our own and the things that we characterize as valuable are sometimes not what He sees as such.

We had visitors here recently and while we were talking about what we do and the presence we have in our neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods that we are involved in with Asian Outreach, our friend remarked that it’s a long, slow process – a life journey if you will.  It’s not flashy or glamorous; it’s every day life lived with intention (with a cow crossing here and a fried frog on a stick there).

We’ve always kind of known this;  that we’re in it for the long haul.  But to hear it said brought to mind two things for me.  One, our journey is relational in nature.  We will be involved with projects but it’s the relationships that we develop that truly matter.  Those relationships will give us the opportunity to speak life and hope into people’s lives.  Relationships take time.  And two, we need to constantly be searching our hearts to make sure our “results” are the ones that God wants.  Not ours, not even our churches, supporters and friends…but God’s.

To bring it all around again, the push for success or results can sometimes bypass the little things that are important.  Like kids.  I was reminded tonight about what every children’s worker already knows….kids are precious and the chance to speak into their lives should never be taken for granted.kids

Tell the Story

Today I sat with four young ladies from the States who are in Cambodia to research and study fair trade and how it works (and doesn’t work).

We walked down the dirt road to SreyRohm’s house waving at neighbourhood kids who greeted us with chorus’ of “hello!”

SreyRohm and I shared with them about how the sale of Hope Family’s products directly benefit the lives of the women that are involved.  They asked lots of great questions and we talked about the demands on women in developing nations, and encouraging national leaders, and creating sustainable business that values the women & families involved.  We also talked about consumerism and the drive in most developed nations to have “stuff”.

They admitted that they had taken in so much in the last six days that they were just still trying to process it all.

I realized as we chatted that many of my thoughts have been moulded by our time overseas.  On a small scale, I have a deeper understanding of the value of something.  I know the woman that made that dress.  She has a husband and three small children to care for.  She has to go to the market daily as she doesn’t have a refrigerator to keep her food.  She is expected to make all her meals from scratch and keep her house clean and look after her children and than, when everyone is bed, she will stay up til 1:00 or 2:00am to be able to do some sewing to bring in an income for her family.

On the larger scale, God has shown me something about our role in relation to the people He has sent us to serve.  I am not a foreigner.  I am a sister in Christ supporting and encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ and being a light where He has placed me.  I expected to feel like a stranger here…but I don’t.

The girls today mentioned that they loved the organic way in which our life and relationships were playing out in response to a need that was identified in our community.   It reminded me that we do have a story to tell.  I forget that sometimes.  It’s kind of a part of our job description…..to tell the story.  I wish everyone could visit so they could see firsthand but since that’s not possible; it’s up to us to share what God is doing in a way that impacts and touches people.

And so, we will endeavour over the next few months to share stories of how God is moving and what it means to serve in a context such as ours.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

It’s Worth the Asking

This was written by a fellow global worker and I thought it put into words well the feelings around fundraising.  To be perfectly honest, it has been a part of our lives that I do not relish.  I have been anxious about what people think of us;  hesitant to ask.  But actually being here has changed my perspective somewhat.  I see firsthand the need; I see how God is actually using us to reach people and I see that the funds given have a purpose.  It’s still not easy to ask.  I still worry about what people think.  But this IS bigger than us and….it’s worth it.  It’s worth the asking.

People MUST get tired of missionary petitions, because WE get tired of asking. It’s embarrassing. It’s humbling. It makes us feel like a needy child instead of responsible adults.

But missionaries ask. It’s part of our job description. We ask because…

• this job we’ve chosen is WAY BIGGER than us. So we ask you to join us in prayer, in dreaming, in completing the mission.

• working overseas strips us of the usual framework that allows us to be independent. So we ask you to support us.

• we commit to a mission without available resources to complete it. So we ask you to contribute.

• our kids LOVE chocolate chip cookies, so we ask you to treat us

• It’s when missionaries QUIT asking that others should be concerned. It happens when we grow weary of feeling like the needy child. The problem is that when we quit asking, it means that WE HAVE QUIT DREAMING. We have limited the reach of God’s work through us to our own resources. And the kingdom of God is far too big for that.

Seize the Day

Hi Friends,

Most of you know, we have signed a 3 year lease on a property just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. We chose this location because we have been visiting this community for over a year now. Both the Teen Challenge center and our friends, SreyRohm & Abraham are located there.

Truthfully, when we first felt called to this neighborhood, we were thinking that yes, someday we would like to have a ministry center but we weren’t really considering that right away. God has been speaking to us over the past few weeks and the message has been clear “Why wait!” Luke 9:62 in the Message Bible says “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” So….we are seizing the day! Our aim is to have the center up and running by October!

Below you will find an outline of the costs involved and what we need to raise. Though the numbers can be overwhelming, we feel a sense of peace that we are in the will of God and that He will touch people’s hearts to give. Our heart is also to welcome teams to this center to be a part of what God is doing in this community.

We are expecting great things! Thanks for taking the time to read and please join us in prayer that the funds will come in quickly and we can start on the building this month!

Building Project: $8900
(includes building with bathroom & small kitchen & gate/fence)
2 sewing machines: $380
2 Desktop computers : $500 Tables & chairs: $380 Woodworking equipment: $630 Projector: $300

Existing building: $2500 Perimeter Fence: $700

Total $14, 370 Cdn

Watch this video to see the site and hear more about this project

This is an example of the type of building we will add to our property to serve as a ministry centre

This is an example of the type of building we will add to our property to serve as a ministry centre

You Matter

I apologize in advance as I don’t know exactly how this entry will end.  I usually have a plan when I write but this morning I will write simply from my heart.

This week I received news of the suicide of a young girl I once babysat.  She was 20 years old.  I haven’t stopped thinking of it since; it seems impossible.  She was young and beautiful, was studying at university and had oodles of friends.  From the outside, she led a charmed life.

I started jotting down some ideas a few weeks ago about how we matter to each other.  People I mean.  I meant to turn it into a blog entry but I just never got around to it.

You know, life can get hectic.  I know…I have 4 children under the age of 6.  Our jobs, our homes, even our ministries and projects can consume us.  It’s not that we don’t care, most of us do truly care, it’s just that we’re busy and distracted.

Friends, some of the things we put the most energy into are things that will pass away.  The ONLY thing that matters in the end is people; relationships.  Your spouse, your children, your neighbour, your co-worker, that girl sitting on the sidewalk crying…THEY are what matter.

How we love is the most important thing we can do in this life.  I believe it was how God intended for us to reach people.  To care, truly and deeply.  To ask the difficult questions and to listen to the answers.  To expend ourselves for others; to be available to those who are hurting and need encouragement.  To look outside of our circumstances and see who God is putting in our paths to reach out to.

Those of us who have lived through the questioning years, through the unsure years and have come out the other side…we OWE it to the younger generations to be there for them.  It is God’s own design.  Never underestimate the impact you can have on a young life and never get too busy to be a mentor or a friend.  Talk to them, listen to them, take them seriously.  LOVE them.

It was my own children clamouring for the attention of a young friend of ours that really drove this home for me.  Now, I do A LOT with my children…I mean, I spend every day caring for them, listening to them, engaging them in conversation, planning activities, going on outings, I even homeschool!!  They are not lacking for attention by any means.  Yet, I watched as they hopped eagerly from foot to foot, each one trying to talk over the other to keep our friend’s attention.  We matter to one another.  YOU matter!

I wish I could have been there for Jenepher.  In that moment, when she believed that she just couldn’t take it anymore, I wish I could have held her and told her how precious she was and how valued she was by our Father.  God, help me never to miss an opportunity to show your love to someone who needs it.

love

U is for Unity

Just a quick thought for this evening (day, if you are in the western hemisphere)….this past Sunday we sang “Did You Feel the Mountains Trembling”.  An oldie but a goodie.

But this time these lines jumped out at me:

“When all the saints join in one song”

“And all the streams flow as one river”

It impressed upon me again the importance of unity.  Unity within the BODY…not just the church or the denomination…but the Body.

I used to love playing in streams as a child.  We have one on my parents’ property that meanders through the fields.  I loved taking the kids to the stream to play when Evie was a newborn and they never tired of throwing pebbles into it’s clear waters or chasing water spiders in it’s shallow curves.  It was a gentle stream but not all are alike.  Some run quickly and cascade over waterfalls and rapids.  Some are murky with sand bottoms while still others are cold and clear.

I’m sure you can see where I am going with this.  Just as the streams will flow as one river so too are we, believers, different as we all are, to join together as one in purpose.  The next line in the song says that we shall wash away our brokenness.  What a beautiful picture.  In our unity, we will be renewed.