On Mission

Serving Others after the Storm

Photo Taken from Spartanburg City Facebook Page

Our sweet little city took a pretty hard hit yesterday with tornados striking in several places. It was pretty scary, honestly, and we are all praising Jesus that no one was killed that we are aware of at this point. Our city leadership, county and city officers, and linesmen have done an amazing job assessing and beginning the cleanup.

Now our community will be serving and working and cleaning! If you’re local and looking for ways to step in, there are opportunities all around us! It might be a little harder with our little ones with us but there are always ways to serve! Here are just a few simple ideas.

1. Buy some coffee or bake something yummy! Stop by and grab a big carafe of coffee and cups and all the sugar and creamers. Or bake some muffins or cookies or a little easy snack and stop and deliver it to our linesmen and tree clean up crew! They are working today in really windy and quite dangerous conditions even though the storm has passed and will be for many more days!

2. Open your fridge and your home! A lot of our friends are without power and it may be a couple days before it’s restored. Offer to store their items in your fridge. Invite another mama over to hang out, take a nap or whatever she needs. Go and pick up their kiddos so they can have a few hours to clean up or work around their homes without distractions.

3. Buy them a gift card! Our friends may not even be aware of what they need yet. Their power is still off and they just wanna figure out the next step. Stop by Publix or Ingles and grab a gift card. Trust me, when you start having to replace all the food in your fridge it adds up. Grab a gift card to a pizza place or nice restaurant. They will be so excited when they don’t have to think about where dinner is coming from because it’s not coming from their fridge right now.

4. Call and Listen. Yesterday was scary for some. Ask your friend or neighbor or even the lady behind the cash register if they are doing okay and let them just talk. Just listen. They will want to tell their story more than likely. If they don’t, that’s okay too. Just be ready to listen. Be ready to pray. Be ready to encourage their weary, overwhelmed and anxious hearts with the truth that God loves them and you love them.

5. Step in and work! Spend a couple hours helping your neighbor or friend clean their yard or their house. If your little ones can help, great! Let them see the example that you set. You know what your little one can handle as their mommy. Check with your church for opportunities that they may be organizing. Make sure though that you’re doing the right kind of help at this point and not causing more harm or slowing down the work. Sometimes we need to step back and let the experts do what they know how to do.

Stepping in and serving our neighbors and friends during this time is so very important. May our city be known for how we loved and served other another and may they see Christ displayed after this terrible day of storms.

What other ideas could you share as we work to restore our city?

On Mission

Showing Up!

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A lot of my friends have had little ones with the flu recently and as a mama it gets a bit overwhelming when our little ones are sick.  We have to readjust our schedule to fit in doctor appointments, continue working, and try our best to keep the other kiddos well, among the million other things we already have going on. I’m tired just thinking about it all! This past week, one of our small group families had two of their little ones down with the flu and the ladies were all texting back and forth, encouraging this mama and promising to pray for them. We’ve only been meeting a few weeks together so several ladies don’t really know each other well. One of the ladies offered immediately to stop and bring them a meal.   I was amazed and convicted and so excited for both of the ladies!  As a side note, I’ll also share that this same sweet lady that offered had just closed on a new house and they were in the middle of moving, but she saw the importance of showing up. She reached out to this mama with sick little ones and offered a tangible help and blessed and challenged the rest of us in the text group. Isn’t that what the body of Christ should be doing? But how can we be like this sweet friend who decided to just show up!

1. Leave some margin in our schedule!   Man, we can fill up our calendars week to week, can’t we?!? We have to begin to leave some  blank space so when emergencies do arise, or a friend waves the white flag and needs some help, you can! Isn’t that what friends do for one another anyway? What do you need to say NO to in order to clear out some space to be a good friend? What do you need to say YES to? It’s all about learning to balance and prioritize our time, our wants, our desires and our callings. If we want to be a mama that shows up, then we have to live like a mama who shows up, right?

2. Keep some things on hand, ready to go!  I used to be really good about this. Living overseas, I often kept cookie dough in the freezer so when the doorbell rang, I could throw a few cookies in the oven and serve my guests. I’ve gotten quite lazy in this area though honestly. But, that’s no excuse.  It’s easy to make a double batch of chili or chicken noodle soup and freeze half of it for your family later or to give away. A couple of my favorite go to recipes are a Slow Cooker Chili Recipe or Easy Taco Mac.  It also doesn’t have to be extravagant! At times, I’ve bought into the lie that in order to serve someone else or invite some one over, my house has to be perfect, it has to be a four course meal, I have to pull out the fine china. You don’t. Just show up with a pot of chili, paper bowls, and plastic spoons. Or maybe stop by and grab a pizza and drop if off. Your friend will love you and be so very thankful and they won’t care if your containers all matched or not.

3. Just be that friend! Just decide to be that mama friend who loves and serves your other mama friends even when you’re inconvenienced or it’s not easy. Be the friend who sends the first text to check in when you saw their facebook post. Be the friend who grabs an extra coffee and drops it by your friend’s desk when you realized their morning had been pretty tough.  Be that mama friend who grabs a bottle of children’s tylenol or a LARGE container of ice cream and drop it off. Don’t let fear hold you back. Just ask and offer and be ready for the opportunity to serve and love.

Do you have a sweet friend who is having a hard week? Who do you need to show up for this week? Just show up! I’m so very thankful for a mama friend who stopped and noticed and served and loved, despite her own busy. She reminded me and challenged this mama’s heart in so many ways this past week. 

On Mission

Sending Well

I’m usually the one that is “going” so it was just kinda weird to not be the one packing the bag or boarding the plane this time. It was his turn though and I was determined to send him well!

We baked the cookies and hid the notes in his bag. We made a countdown paper chain to help us all visualize how many more sleeps we had. We had prayer points for each day to remind us how to pray for him. We FaceTimed a few times to be silly and giggle. We made the welcome home sign and drove to the airport.

But for me this time, it was also about more than just doing those little things. It was about preparing my own heart to see God work there with him and here with us too as we stayed home. It was about walking in faith and not in fear or anxiety, which I’m sometimes honestly prone to do.

I had to remind myself of these things (often):

1. God is the same loving and caring God here with us and present with him, 2000 miles apart.

2. God has called us to GO (and send, welcome, pray, and give) and He alone will sustain us whether it’s a week or a lifetime.

3. God is at work all around the world and also right here and He has welcomed us to be a part of His work!

Isn’t that worth celebrating!?

Was it hard, sure!

Were there tears? From all of us, at different times and different days!

Am I tired – it’s 7:30 and I’m already in my PJs…

But if God is calling us to go and send again, our answer is yes! In fact, I’m already planning my trip! Ha

And now that daddy is home, all is right in our little world.

On Mission

Local Mamas: Pray & Play

Join us for a fun morning of praying and playing at Jesse Boyd Elementary. While I wish we could do this at every school, we had to choose one. BUT, we will be spending some time praying for those schools that are represented.

We also want to bless the school and the teachers so please be sure to bring the best school supplies or a gift card that can be given to a teacher to use in her classroom as a simple way to say thanks and that we love them!

Be sure to sign up HERE to let us know that you are coming!

See ya there ready to pray and play and start our school year off with lots of fun!

On Mission

A Mom Who Goes, Carol Ann’s Story

I’m so thankful for my dear friend and former teammate, Carol Ann, who loves Jesus, her hubby, and her family and is such an example to me in her going – even with little ones!  I pray she encourages your heart to go too!

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Before you read my story, here is a quick word about me.  My name is Carol Ann.  I live in Norman, Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner!).  I am wife to Blake, who runs Life For All International an International Pro-Life Ministry.  I am mom to Jordan (7) and Marcus (4).  I homeschool.  I serve in my church in many areas, but I especially love discipling college students.  I go on short term mission trips to Guatemala every year and last year went on a college trip to South Padre Island.

Missions is in my blood.  I can’t help it.  It’s how I was raised…in Panama (Central America) with a mom and dad who were called to take the Gospel to the nations.  My childhood was exciting and a blessing, which is something I took for granted until adulthood.  The lessons I learned were numerous.  I know what true poverty looks like.  I’ve seen a church planted and growing.  I’ve worshipped in a completely different context and culture.  I did not always appreciate where God placed my family, but I would not trade my childhood for anything.

As an adult, I’ve wrestled with my call to missions.  I married a guy who felt called, even though I was unsure of my call.  God worked that out and we headed off for two years in North Africa.  Even though we were passionate, we failed miserably and learned tough lessons on reliance on God and not on our own pride.  It was a hard season, but we always assumed we would land back on the mission field.

“Assume” is not a good word for a follower of Jesus.  We also assumed that we could have kids whenever we were ready.  God had other plans and more lessons to teach us about reliance on Him.  After some hard years of waiting, we adopted Jordan in 2012.  He was a fire cracker; full of energy and life.  He also had some bonus challenges as a result of pre-natal exposures.  But we loved being parents and tried to adopt again three times.  Once again, we assumed we knew what God had in store.  After a year of loss and grief, God surprised us with a biological baby.  Marcus was born in 2014 and is the sweetest boy I know.

So, there we were with this call to missions and yet, because of the challenges our then 3 year old was facing, we did not know what God had in store.  We had “assumed” that our call to missions meant our going, but God made it abundantly clear that this was not His plan.  It took a lot of wrestling to figure out that God wanted us to stay.  We handled it in our own ways, but to summarize, we are called to be Senders in our church.  We give, we pray, we teach, we encourage, and we go!

When my kids were born, short term missions was not on my radar, because most of my time and energy were spent restraining an overstimulated Jordan and keeping Marcus alive (if you’ve met him, you would understand that statement).  I was drowning in diapers, potty training, toys, discipline…you know the drill.  Being a mom to little humans is so hard.  But somewhere in the chaos, God whispered “You need to go”.  At our church’s annual missions banquet, a friend shared about his experience in Guatemala and his desire to take a group from our church.  I said “yes” to God and signed up, but the trip was still seven months out.

As the trip approached, my anxiety grew.  Marcus was 2 and Jordan was 5.  They were wild, and as I mentioned earlier, Marcus is extremely accident prone.  The day before the trip, my anxiety level was at an all-time high.  I purchased an overpriced security system and wrote an 8 page schedule (manifesto) with every single detail I could think of, including warnings about parking lots and water in the area.  Blake is a great dad.  He was willing to let me go, but I was a mess.  I was having nightmares about my kids getting hit by cars or drowning (hence the manifesto).  I forgot why I wanted to go.  I didn’t want to leave my kids.

But I did leave.  I got on the plane, only after one last call to my mother-in-law to remind her about the small lake by the ball fields.  But I got on the plane.  And I’m so glad I did.  Turns out, God protected my children even though Blake never read my manifesto.  I got home after a week and there they were with their unmatching clothes and dirty faces.  But they were alive!  All of the anxiety was for nothing.  And I’m so grateful that I went, because God showed me He was faithful and gave me a deep love for Guatemala in the process.

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I recently returned from my 5th week-long trip (3 to Guatemala, one to Padre, and one to Virginia).  This time I only had one pre-trip nightmare and my schedule for Blake was just a schedule with reminders about ball games and birthday parties.  Blake travels for his job, so my kids have adjusted to parents who go.  They even are counting down the years until they are 16 and can go to Guatemala with me.  Even though they are a little sad to send one of us off, they do just fine and they have learned so much from having parents who go.

So what does being a mom who goes look like?  Why do I do it?  Well, because I am a mom who loves Jesus and He can use me in all of my “Mom-ness”.

1. I do it for Jesus.  He saved me and He wants to use me.  He called me and He provides.  I can stay here and share the Gospel but I am honored that He would allow me the privilege of telling people in Guatemala about Him.

2. I do it for my kids.  I want them to understand God’s call for us to take the Gospel to the nations.  I’m so thankful that I can be an example of obedience.  They make sacrifices, yes.  But they do it for Jesus and for the people who are hearing God’s Word in Guatemala.

3. I do it for the moms in Guatemala.  I love sitting and encouraging a sweet lady who is overwhelmed with parenting children.  And many of them are parenting children in very difficult situations like extreme poverty or absent husbands.  On this past trip, I was able to share with a group of moms, all raising kids in the shadow of the dump, just how proud I was of them for how they were raising their children.  I have had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with many moms who have then accepted Christ.  They are now trying to teach their children and are praying for unbelieving husbands.  It’s a blessing to hug them and encourage them and pray for them.

4. I do it for the students on our teams.  I have several high school and college students who call me their “Guatemala Mom”.  This is a very specific passion that God has given me…to encourage and disciple students who are experiencing missions for the first time in their young lives.  I’ve held girls while they sobbed about the poverty and brokenness they had witnessed.  I’ve encouraged and counseled students as they struggle to share the Gospel.  I love the “on the ground” time with the girls on these trips and they have always turned into discipleship relationships here in Norman.  I’m even “mom” to a few boys, which means they can come to me for hand sanitizer and hugs.  I cheer them on and have had the joy of watching them mature into leaders who are experienced and passionate about sharing the Gospel.  I love being “Guatemala Mom”.  It’s a joy and a privilege to walk with these young people.

Being a mom who goes is a blessing to my family and to my church.  It’s not for everyone; I understand that.  It takes a lot of faith to get on that plane and leave your kids behind.  It takes a rock star husband who holds down the fort.  It takes lots of conversations with the kids about God’s heart for the nations.  That first trip was brutal.  I came very close to not going, but I’m so glad I did.  I would have missed out on so many blessings.  God doesn’t need me, but He’s chosen to use me and I get to go be a part of His work across the ocean.

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On Mission

Moving To Action: World Refugee Day

Refugees have been close to my heart for some time now. Traveling to the Middle East a few years ago to see a little of their world was not only eye opening but heart breaking. We see and hear a lot on the news but how can we as mamas know where to even begin… honestly, I sometimes just stay stuck in the “heart break” stage.

My super fun friend Misty works with World Relief, an organization that walks alongside refugees and helps them get settled in their new homes. She was kind enough to answer my questions and help us know what we can do.

It’s also World Refugee month during June leading up to World Refugee Day today, June 20th. Will you take a minute to read and respond as God leads your heart.

 

Photo Credit: World Relief Organization

“America is so great. The mail comes every day here.” 

I have never sat back on my couch and been in awe of our postal system- I am certain it is because I take amenities like receiving the mail daily for granted, but this was the first thing a refugee mentioned when asked about first impressions of the U.S. Since 2015, over 450 refugees have been resettled in Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg County. Each day at work, I have the opportunity to serve refugees daily and partner with them as they begin to rebuild their lives in a place they have never known. As an employee of World Relief and a major fan of On Mission Moms, there are a few things I want you to know about the refugees we serve!

1. A refugee does not choose to come here. 

A refugee, by definition, is someone who has been forced to leave their home country because their lives or safety have been threatened. Today, over 65 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes. International law defines a refugee as someone who leaves their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for one of these five reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership in a particular social group (UNHCR).  For more info, be sure to read, “What is a Refugee.” 

Refugees are not the same as any other kind of immigrant or asylum seeker. Resettlement is the last option for a refugee, and they are placed in a variety of countries. Generally (there are a few caveats) a refugee does not get to choose the country they will move to. An extensive vetting process makes the Refugee Resettlement Process the most difficult way of entering the US. The average processing time for a refugee’s case is just over 18 years. This means that if a person is a part of the small percentage that has the opportunity to go to another country, they will wait years before the move actually comes to fruition. 

2. Not all refugees are the same.

Refugees have all experienced persecution but because they come from all over the world, they are very different from each other. They are light skinned and dark skinned and Christian and Muslim. They are eating things we have never heard of but also passing you in Costco. They dream of having families or growing up and being mamas. They dream about the career they will have and have hopes for their children. They want a family and a safe, peaceful life for themselves. 

A volunteer, Jim, recently stated, “As much as we’re different, we’re a lot alike. Some of us have just been given better opportunities at certain times. We have the same basic needs, the same desires for our families. So I really believe we have a responsibility to love and serve our vulnerable neighbor.”

3. Refugees make America better. 

The only thing that has really stood out to me as typical amongst our diverse population of refugees is their spirit of hospitality. More often than not when I walk through the door of someone’s home, I am given tea and water with a variety of accompaniments! I had to say accompaniments; there is not a better word that describes the plethora of snacks I am given. It has completely reshaped the way I think about hospitality and inviting people into my life.  

Extensive studies have been done to show how essential refugees are to the U.S economy. They pay more in taxes than the amount of help we give them in the beginning, and they are essential to filling vacant jobs to keep our country’s businesses going. 

Will you take a minute to read about the contributions of Refugees here? 

4. We need your help. 

  • GIVE. Our office has recently undergone some budget cuts. We are constantly doing more with less and need private donations more than ever before. Your donations could go towards things like bus tickets to get clients to work, stocking an apartment with groceries, etc. World Relief is holding a fundraising campaign for the entire month of June.  If you would like to donate to our local World Relief office, click here! 
  • Volunteer – Volunteer to be a “Friendship Partner” or “Language Partner” to another mom with little ones! 
  • Notes – Have your children write some notes to other littles for us to place in backpacks! These notes would be encouraging them as they prepare for their first day of school in a new country, where they don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language. 
  • Put together a Welcome Kit! We have a list of essential items that make up a “Welcome Kit.” Every refugee family receives one upon arrival. 

 

Where can we go to learn more about the Refugee process or how to be involved? 

For questions about our office or our work, please contact me. I would love to chat with you about the backgrounds of some of our refugees and how they make it to the Upstate. If you are willing to volunteer, I can connect you with our Volunteer and Church Mobilization Specialist to discuss our training process!! Our contact info is here! 

 

 

Mission Ideas, On Mission

China: Praying & Eating

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We have recently fallen in love with China around our home. This past school year, our family “adopted” a college student at one of our local colleges that had moved here from China on a two year program. We hosted her in our home. We celebrated Thanksgiving with her and a few other holidays. We met for dinner and enjoyed our little town together. She is a breath of fresh air and just loves (or tolerates) my crazy family. She returned back home to China for her summer break and we already miss her. There is usually not a day that goes by that my oldest doesn’t ask if we can send her a funny picture or how much longer until she comes back. It’s hard to explain to a two and a five year old the concept of summer break lasting three whole months! ha

She has taught us lots of fun things about China like how to make homemade dumplings. We also celebrated Chinese New Year with her and many of the other families students and my girls fell in love with the food and attempting to eat with chopsticks.

This summer while our student is away, our plan is to continue to pray for her and enjoy some yummy Chinese food to remind us of her until she returns. It’s not as good as her homemade dumplings though!

Praying:

  • Pray for the national church that is highly persecuted right now. Pray that they will be wise and bold.
  • Pray for families to come to know Jesus. Many do know follow Jesus and many are living in a spiritual darkness.
  • Pray for missionaries living and serving in this beautiful land and among these beautiful kind people.

Eating:

There are quite a few Chinese recipes that are easy to make so I’m just going to share some links to different recipes and be sure to also check out our Pinterest Page for more ideas!

Classic Chinese Chow Mein

The Best Fried Rice

Chinese Dumplings

Or if you’re like me some nights during the summer and you just don’t want to cook, stop by a local Chinese restaurant, bring it home, and then spend some time praying for China together! Don’t forget to use the chopsticks. It’s always fun to try new ways to eat the yummy food too!

What are your favorite Chinese dishes?