Monday, May 24, 2010

Member Care Explained

What do you think of when you hear the word “missionary?”  Many of us may think of historical people who have borne the title such as Lottie Moon or William Carey.  Others may think of someone that they know personally who has chosen to lay down their comfortable American life and follow Jesus to the “ends of the earth”—choosing to live in a dirt floor hut rather than a brick home in suburbia.  The word “missionary can easily become romanticized in our minds and we begin to think of them as superhuman followers of Jesus who never met a challenge they couldn’t overcome.  Many missionaries may even have this perspective of themselves as they prepare for mission service; yet they soon learn, as Jesus said in John 16:33, that “in this world you will have trouble.”  How desperately Satan wants to disrupt the work of those God has called to be His witnesses around the world.  
Each year many missionaries return home to the United States before their appointed time.  This phenomenon is referred to as “missionary attrition.”  The reasons behind this attrition are as varied as the people themselves.  However, conflict with a spouse or other team member is the most common struggle.  The stress of living in a culture which is different from one’s own, eating food that may be very different from home, speaking a language that is not native to you, dealing with civil and political unrest, and constant concern over your family’s safety can wreak havoc on a marriage.  These same stressors mixed with various personalities and leadership styles can cause great tension among missionary team members.  Many missionary organizations have identified these problems and are now asking the right question—how can we invest in our missionaries so that they will be able to continue investing in the lives of the unsaved around the world?  The answers to this question have included such things as improving pre-departure screening procedures, holding annual training seminars, and providing on field counseling and encouragement. 
How do I fit into all of this?  God has given me a burning passion to be a Barnabas type encourager for missionaries who are struggling on the field.  As I mentioned in a previous post, last November the vision that God has given me for being involved in member care finally began to take shape.  Loosely defined, member care is the ongoing preparation, equipping, and empowering of missionaries for effective and sustainable life, ministry and work.  On June 10th I will be departing on my first trip to care for missionaries serving overseas.  While I have traveled quite a bit and have even served on the mission field myself this is a new chapter in my ministry.  I will be flying to Moscow, Russia where I will have an opportunity to work with approximately 45 missionary families who are serving all across Russia.  I praise God that He has already worked out many of the details for making this project a reality.  However, I do ask that you would pray for my family and me in several ways.  First, please pray for Nicole as she will be caring for our three children alone while I am gone for 10 days.  Also, please pray that the hearts and minds of the missionaries will be open to receiving God’s truth and encouragement for their lives.  Third, please pray that I will be a conduit through which the Holy Spirit can speak into the hearts of His people.  I have been told that many of these missionaries have been waiting for over a year to meet with member care personnel and I know that many of the issues they are facing will be incredibly difficult and challenging.  Thankfully when Jesus said “in this world you will have trouble” He also said, “take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Finally, please pray that God would provide the remaining funds to cover the expenses for this trip.  Currently I have raised 17% of what is needed to cover the trip costs.  If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation you can visit us on the web at or mail it to:

Abundant Life Christian Counseling Center, Inc.
10501 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy. Suite 107
Fort Myers, FL 33966

Thank you for being a part of our lives and ministry. 


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reaching Out

Tonight as I was putting Caden to bed I took some extra time to talk to him about how special he is and how I pray for God to do amazing things in his life.  As I finished by telling him how much I loved him he reached out and grabbed my arm.  Now, it's not uncommon for Caden to want me to stay with him a few minutes before he falls asleep but I could tell that tonight was different--tonight it was going to take a while.  An hour later he fell asleep and I was finally able to get up.  He wouldn't let go as long as he was awake.  Then, when he had fallen asleep, I attempted multiple times to move his hand but would wake up and grab on again.  Often when this happens my mind immediately begins to dwell on all the things that I need to be doing.  However, tonight I realized just how awesome it is for your child to simply desire to be in your presence and how amazing it is to feel your child's love for you.  The parallel is too obvious not to mention.  Just as a child, realizing the depth of a father's love, wants to be in his presence, so it should be between our heavenly Father and us.  If we truly realized the depth of His love it seems that we would desire nothing more than to simply be in His presence.  Instead we allow our minds to be redirected by the mental clutter that fills our lives.  Perhaps I should heed more fully the words of David:  “Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually.  Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth.” (1 Chr. 16:10-12).  How about you?


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Next Step

So I think it is fair to say that we get an “F” in blogging 101.  When we last updated this blog we were a family of four, now we are a family of five.  Journey Faith Cook joined our family on February 15, 2010.  It is amazing to watch her grow along with Eliana and Caden.  Also, when we last updated this blog we were living in New Orleans where I was pursuing my Master of Divinity in Psychology and Counseling.  After five years of work I finished that degree in May 2008 and we then moved to Fort Myers, FL where I founded Abundant Life Christian Counseling Center, Inc.  For the past year and a half I have been providing counseling for individuals, couples, and families in the Southwest Florida region.  However, five years ago when Nicole and I were going through a pre-departure training program at Mission Training International, God burdened me with a desire to work primarily with other ministers and missionaries in a field that is now commonly known as Member Care.  At the time I assumed that this would be something that I would do later in life after I had paid my dues in counseling and ministry.  However, in the time since we moved back to Fort Myers, God has continued to place this desire at the forefront of my mind.  Last November I was able to attend the Mental Health and Missions Conference in Angola, IN.  There I was able to finally discover some of the ways that I could use my gifts as a counselor to serve the missions community.  Now, God is finally opening the doors that I have been anxiously awaiting.  In the coming days I will be sharing about an opportunity that I have to minister to missionaries serving in Russia as well as some of the reasons why Member Care has become such a vital ministry.  Thank you for reading this and being a part of our lives.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Beyond Hearing

Ok, so I admit, I am horrible at keeping up with our blog! (in fact, I started the draft for this post so long ago I had to change Caden's age by 3 months!!!! (so while this says November, I am really posting "as of" February 9th!)

But, With a 2 year old and a 9 month old, not much gets done beyond survival! But oh has God been working! Since we moved back to New Orleans in May I have been umm well yeah pestering is a good word, : ) Ron about plans for next year. I am a planner and I like to know! Ron graduates in May and I really wanted to know how to plan after that. I had been praying about it but certainly not fervently. I think I just assumed since we are so far out He surely woundn't tell me yet! : ) But then one night, God said very clearly, "get out your Bible and get alone with me. I am ready to tell you the next step of the plan" I was super excited and yet at the same time shocked! The next morning I was finally able to sit alone and I got out my Bible and began to pray. God clearly gave me a Scripture from 2 Samuel, and I read it. My response was, ok Lord, I think I get it but there is room here for interpretation, so can you give me something more clear? (I know, how selfish am I : )) He then gave me a Scripture that brought tears to my eyes. In Jeremiah 12 God answers Jeremiah and says he will destroy the land, leave it in waste. He will uproot his people, but then in verses 15-16 He says, "But after I uproot them I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to his own inheritance and his own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name . . . then they will be established among my people." Yeah, I was a little floored! God was so clear! So, as Ron's graduation and a slew of uncertainties come in May, one certainty is that we are to stay and serve in New Orleans. Please pray with us as we seek God's will in where He will have us serve after graduation . . . this city is in so much need of Jesus, and we are thrilled that God has called us to serve here.

Over the last month i have had the privilege of attending 2 women's conferences, in which God is getting a little monotonous! (perhaps if I had listened the first time, He wouldn't have had to repeat Himself!) This weekend, I was so blessed to hear Priscilla Shirer. She talked about how she is often intimidated with what God has called her to do, but it is about obedience. WOW! I have been so scared about all that I think God is currently calling me to do! A few months ago I really felt God sharing a glimpse of the future, and as I prayed I told Him, my greatest fear is a life of mediocrity. I want so badly to live a life of radical abandonment to Jesus Christ . . . to impact this world for His Kingdom. Well, God very clearly said He has nothing close to mediocrity for us! Now, let me just tell you, it is one thing to not want mediocrity and a whole other to follow God down the path of obedience that leads to change! It is scary! I have really felt God calling me to a ministry of speaking and teaching. Now for quite awhile I have felt this is simply a "dream" I mean what do I have to share? I feel, just as Pricilla Shirer said, intimidated and overwhelmed (and that is Priscilla Shirer, imagine just plain old me!!!) So while sitting in the conference "Beyond Hearing" the last few nights, God clearly said "what are you waiting for? It is time to step out and obey." And just as i started with my typical whining when He says that, the words to the old hymn (that we had just sang) came to mind. "This is my story this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long." And although I have no idea what God has for me in the future, I do know where my obedience has to start. With my story. Many of you know that one of my biggest losses in Katrina was my journals. Well, I am going to "go back" and begin to retell my Spiritual heritage, my legacy. I need all of you to please pray for me . . . that God would bring to mind that which He wants me to remember, nothing more, nothing less. I think that to help keep me accountable with this, I will attempt to post my journaling here (even as I say that it scares me!) but, the time has come to be obedient, to finally step out "beyond hearing."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2nd Katrina Anniversary

Two years ago today, who would have know the journey God had for us! Honestly, things are a little weird today, and since blogs are ultimately about rambling, I will do just that. Honestly, I will not try to be eloquent and not even articulate . . . today is an emotional day. Not one in which I will sit in pity or even in tears, but much more of a pensive day. Who would have known August 28th of last year that our world was about to be turned upside down? Since the time of our evacuation our lives have been, I don't even know to explain it . . . but anything but "normal" or "stable." As we have been in many different places outside of New Orleans, Katrina has been just a part of history. We often hear it talked about, but as we hear people talking about the devastation of Katrina, it is strange to feel as though you are the only ones in the room who really have something to say about it. To us, it wasn't just a storm, it was life changing. Over the last 2 years, Ron and I have dealt with our grief very differently. Ron thinks about Katrina every day. I don't. Not to say that I was affected less . . . because today on the 2nd anniversary, it is I who am having the emotional struggle. Moving back to New Orleans several months ago has been weird. For those of us who have lived outside of the city since Katrina, the world "moved on" and we were kind of dragged along with them. As we spoke in churches or with different people, our story was the same, a story of God's sovreignty, His provision, and His grace and love. Since we have moved back to New Orleans we have returned to a harsh reality. The truth of Katrina victims. Ron's internships allows him to counsel with Katrina victims almost daily. A billboard across from the semianry campus says "no, your'e not crazy," Katrina is often a topic at church or Bible studies, and 2 year later, "so how did you fare the storm" is still an elevator conversation starter. The rest of the world may have moved on, but New Orleans hasn't. The physical devestation is still very real, and so is the devestation of so many hearts. God is alive and well adn working in New Orleans. I feel blessed that God has brought us back to this broken city. When I was there before, New Orleans was simply where I went to seminary, a place of transition. But this time, I feel as though I have come home. Our Katrina story has been a positive one, a story of triumph and God's protection, but 2 years later, the scars on our hearts still hurt. I would be lying if I said the "things" we lost didn't matter. They did. The relationships lost hurt. I often ponder where we would be if it weren't for Katrina. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, we are thriving in the center of God's will and every time my heart aches in grief, I often go back to my journal entries those few days after Katrina. "God you are El Elyon--Most High . . . What a lesson at a time like this. As New Orleans lies in masses of water and all of our worldy possessions are soaking up the flood waters, I am reminded that you are the Sovreign Most High. Hurricane Katrina is and will be for your glory and pleasure, the levee breeches were and are for your glory and pleasure. Your sanction was over that, and while I know your heart breaks for my city, as does mine, your plan is to draw men to yourself." --9/2/05

This was something the Lord gave after reading from Isaiah, it has helped me often in my grief and understanding of Katrina, and I know it will help me through numerous other challenges the Lord asks me to walk through.

"You are God and there is no other
Though the winds rage and the storm howls
You are God and there is no other
From you came Creation adn from you destruction
For you are God and there is no other
AS the flood waters rise and the screams muffle
For you are God and there is no other
As chaos abounds and order is lost
For you are God and there is no other
AS lives are lost and homes are destroyed
For you are God and there is no other
You are the Giver and Taker of life and in Your hands we rest
For you are God and there is no other
It is Your hand that reaches down and rescues your own
For you are God and there is no other
Your tears fall and your heart breakss
But you are God and there is no other
Lives lost and families scattered
But you are God and there is no other
We draw near to You Sovreign Lord with no asnwers of why and yet no doubts of your faithfulness
Open up your floodgates and rain down your grace, mercy, love, adn Salvation.
For YOU ARE GOD and there is NO other!!!

So, today is a day of reflection and sorrow, but even in my grief, I look back and praise Him for what He has done and what He has doen with us over the last 2 years. We may not understand His will, but we must trust! For, He is God and there is no other

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Our Hiatus!

So, I apologize for our lack of updating! Just when we were beginning to feel settled in New Orleans, the kids and I came on a long trip to Florida. As the fall semester started, we knew it was going to be difficult for Ron to settle into school and internship so we decided the best things would be for me and the kids to give him a few weeks to get settled into the new routine without us there vying for his attention. What were we thinking! We miss him terribly! Eliana is once again confused about where "home" is. (When we moved to New Orleans, she spent 2 weeks knocking on the door crying to go "home." Anyway, things are going incredibly well, and we are loving getting to spend time with my family, but we miss Ron! "Phone Dad" just doesn't cut it! We look forward to really getting settled into our new life in New Orleans in just a couple of weeks. Eliana is excited about starting a new Kindermusik class, and she will also start gymnastics this Fall!

God continues to teach us so much in this chapter of our lives. I have always been a planner, and would love to have the rest of my life planned out yesterday, but God seems to never allow that to happen! So, we are just taking it one day at a time. Seminary has seemed to consume our lives over the last forever and while our growth has been substantial and our relationships valuable, I eagerly await the close to this chapter of our lives! As we look towards Ron's graduation in May, I would love nothing more than to "move on." But God has not promised us this, instead He continues to urge me to invest where He has put us now and to invest regardless of our time here, short or long. We are currently attending First Baptist New Orleans and I look forward to where God will place us to serve Him there. Please continue to pray for us as we seek His will in where to jump in.

OK, so I know I have been slow on getting updated pictures, but I promised and we finally took the kdis to get them done!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Wilderness

The other day I was talking to a dear friend and I shared with her my recent spiritual frustrations. I simply said, "I am in the desert, and it's not even a good one!" You know, in the Bible a wilderness experience normally preceeds a visit from the Lord. In my life it has always been the same, God meets me in the desert. The desert times, the dry times are when God can grasp our attention, because we are seeking something. Not so this time! I have felt very alone in this wilderness! But God has finally allowed me to see a glimpse of His presence and to once again hear His voice. Oh how desparate I have been for that! Just a few weeks ago, I started the Bible study, He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer. It has been amazing. God has been teaching me so much. This week we have been studying about "a single minded worship." This seemed to be a theme in my house this week as well. How often is Sunday morning the craziest time of the week! Satan so tries to distract us with everything he can, and by the time we arrive at church we are exhausted, stressed, and in no way ready to meet our Savior! God has been teaching me to truly plan for worship, such simple things as preparing ourselves for corporate worship on Sunday morning, and trully PLANNING to worship him every day. So often pride and other sins get in our way and we find ourselves distracted in worship. A big distractor for me in worship and ministry has been my desitre to people please. Seeing as though being a mom is my primary ministry these days, God has really allowed me to get perspective in this area. Having a 2 year old, my best efforts of affirmation, correction, discipline and training, are often lost when we are out in public! I want so badly to be a "good" parent, and while I know any 2 year old is far from perfect, God truly is teaching me humility through Eliana! In addition, 2 year olds are wonderful equalizers! My knowledge or ackomplishments are truly lost on her; my 2 year old does not care that I have a masters degree! Talk about truly learning to please an audience of One! All that I once sought diligently . . . as Paul said, "I count as loss." Toddlers surely put people pleasing into perspective! God is Good! Cast aside all distractions, Plan to Worship Him, Plan to please Him, Plan to be "single-minded" in worship!