FollowThePeace 1

Faith or Foolishness?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

“When I read this verse, I understand that God’s first answer to prayer is peace.”  I heard this statement in a sermon from Pastor Alan Johnson of Rogers, AR First Church of the Nazarene.  I will never forget, and it has provided a background for a core belief and foundation that has sustained me and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  In the last 30 months or so, I have come to understand more and more what God’s peace is, why it is needed in the life of a Christian, and how its’ absence is an indication that we nee to do some serious self-evaluation.

I have come to learn that there is a fine line between foolishness and faith.  The way to determine the difference is the absence or existence of God’s peace.

For example, learning about Extreme Nazarene Ministries in late July and two months later, moving my family to Arequipa, Peru, was viewed by some (possible many) as crazy, at least if you think of it through the eyes of the world.  I sold my belongings, quit my job at Walmart Corporate Headquarters, left a comfortable environment with my family nearby, to go to a place I didn’t know, to work with people I didn’t know, and to do a job I was far from fully understanding.  The differentiating factor between the two was the constant, assuring peace of God that gave us the faith needed to truly believe that God was calling us and that in our obedience, he would execute his divine plan for provision and purpose that we needed.

Anndee and I were talking the other day about whether we would want to change our blog name one day.  The current name is “Follow the Peace.”  She asked that because it is a recent theme for us, and maybe we would have a different theme that we want to highlight.  I ademantly disagreed, insisting that is it only God’s peace that will continue to lead and sustain us as we move forward withe the next chapter of this fantastic adventure called life.

Is the Lord calling you do to something that seems crazy in the eyes of the world?  I hope so.  That means that he is calling you to do something that will require faith in and dependence upon him.  When we obey, and force ourselves into that level of trust and dependence, the Lord can really begin to work in us and do “more than we could ever ask or imagine.”

Blessings.

Chris

 

Pursuing Fluency 1

Less Than Two Months Till…

“Christmas is just two months away!” is a post I read on a friend’s Facebook that started to focus my thinking on what the next two months hold for my team, my ministry and my family in Peru.  I thought, “Ha! the Christmas season for me will be about five days long, from the time we land in Arkansas until Christmas and there are a ton of things to do, people to say goodbye to and a thousand emotions we’ll feel between now and then.”

As we hand over ministry and think about the logistics of moving, my thoughts fly backward over the last two years and forward over the next two months, then five months in the States, then on to Ecuador.  And in both directions, doubts creep in.  Did I do enough?  What should I have done differently?  Was I enough for the task God gave me?  Could I have been more ________?  Can I get everything done while we’re in the States and still connect with friends and family and rest and recharge and…and…and?  What did I not do as a mom in Peru that I want to provide for my girls in the States?  In Ecuador?  And on and on…

This morning I was reading a post from A Life Overseas, a blog about living cross culturally from the perspective of missionaries, aid workers and others.  While reading, the Lord reassured me through words of a woman I’ve never met, who is living and ministering in Bolivia.

I finished the post in tears.

Confident that I am enough because God has called me, not because of my own ability.

Reminded to see the beauty in each place that God leads us.  That by accepting change instead of trying to fight it or control it (or beat it’s effects to death with an army of lists), I acknowledge that God is in control (and not me).

Challenged to not focus so much on the doing as the being with and loving the people around me while we’re still together.

I’m so grateful for that encouraging word this morning.

I recommitted the next two months to the Lord and to leave any human regrets in His hands and reoriented my thoughts and heart to God’s purposes for the next two months and beyond.

Please pray for my family, my team and for me as the next two months are huge.  Pray for the goodbyes, hellos and all the activity that makes them possible.

 

Anndee

FollowThePeace 3

Finishing Well

Those of us who have enjoyed the challenges and privileges of employment have (most likely) encountered the “short-timer” (not to be confused with the short-termer, that is another subject all together). This “short-timer” knows that their time in their current employment situation is limited, and that their decreasing level of productivity is often greatly effected by their level of concentration on their next step – whatever that may be. Or they may be thinking that what they do doesn’t matter (be it nothing, or doing something and not doing it with excellence, efficiency, etc.) because, what is the worst that would happen, they would be fired? I experienced this first-hand, with professing Christians and non-believers alike. In one instance, I took on the work load of this “short-timer” and found an inadequate quality of work that was sloppy and/or incomplete. The temptation is great to coast to the end, to do the bare minimum necessary to keep in reasonably good-standing with your current employer. It is understandable that, to some extent, a level of attention has to be given to the next step. However, that can become an excuse to ditch current responsibilities and arrive at the end of the time just barely doing enough to get by.

What kind of witness is this? Is this a way to distinguish a Christian from the world? Or is it one more example of how the life of the average Christian is looking more and more like those who do not profess Christ?
Does this exhibit integrity, character, or a Christ-like dedication to and respect for our employing company, managers, and co-workers? Is it Extreme? Is it a way to help expand God’s Kingdom here on earth?

The Cercado team is encountering this face-to-face right now. As we inaugurate the new temple this coming Sunday, the goal is that everything has been handed off to our national leaders (everything primarily being fixed roles of ministry in the church and the leading of our in-home Bible Studies). This is completely healthy, appropriate, and necessary for the long-term sustainability of the Puerta Abierta Church. However, this means a great adjustment for our 40/40s. Those who are used to having control, to being involved in every event and in making key decisions are retreating to an extent to allow space for the voice and leadership of the national leaders.
In that, their job roles are changing and becoming less structured. Their weeks used to be filled with preparing for and leading Bible Studies, attending various church leadership meetings, visiting new contacts, and initiating all the steps necessary to accomplish these tasks. Now, the goal is to be in charge of nothing. To work themselves out of a job. Their job now is to come alongside a national leaders and take a secondary role, supporting and encouraging the national leader. The goal is that, in a very short time, they aren’t “in charge” of anything.
We are now two months out from our finishing date here in Arequipa. “Normal” is for people to begin checking out and coasting to the end.
Part of my job is the lead them strong to the end. The 40/40s need to work 100% until the end. That means that I need to do the same.

I have been reminded more and more lately that we are always teaching others, and everyone has something to teach us. We can’t deny our constant influence over others, and we can’t assume that someone doesn’t have something to teach us just by their personality, personal appearance, history, etc.

With that in mind, how our team finishes here has great ramifications.

1) This is the first team to use a single-church model within Extreme. No one before us has finished in the way that we need to finish. Pioneer work is always more difficult. We are teaching the clusters in Ambato, Ibarra, and beyond how to finish well and pass the church off to the national leaders.

2) Finishing well helps our 40/40s and the Cercado Cluster demonstrate integrity and character in how we spend these final two months.

3) We are teaching the national leaders in our church how to finish well, how to be different from the world. Hopefully, they can transfer these examples of integrity and character not only to their co-workers in their current jobs, but also to their disciples. One day, they need to pass their responsibilities off to someone, and will need to instill these same values, priorities, and processes.

Our Pastor told the team recently that, if they are not willing to give 100% to the end, then why not just go home? If we are not willing to go all-in, there is no reason to be here. That is a great challenge for me, and for any of you who are in the process of finishing something. Be comforted in the fact that you are not alone.

Genna Report 3

Story of a Broken Wrist

Last Saturday, Genna broke her wrist.  Here’s an interview of what happened from her perspective.  (I’ll do the typing.) ;)

A: Tell me how you broke your wrist.

G: I was riding my scooter, racing a girl that I know (kind of).  And we were racing and there was a big crack in the sidewalk at the park.  My scooter stopped and I didn’t.  I fell wrist down and I hit my side.  And that’s it.

 

A: Did you think it was serious when you fell?

G: Well, I was kind of, well, I kept on saying, “Go get my Dad!  My Dad!” and Dad was already coming and I didn’t know how serious it was.

 

A: How did we know to go to the doctor?

G: Well, mom said that with a few more hours, she would have probably taken me to the doctor, but we went right after lunch the next day [Sunday] because the mom of my friend said that we should probably go to the doctor.  So we did. [We went to an emergency room, since it was Sunday.]

 

A: What happened at the doctor?

G: I waited for a little bit and I got an x-ray and the doctor said it was a hairline fracture.  He started with a sock-like thing and he put cotton on it.  Then he dipped something in hot water and wrapped it around and around and around and around the cotton.  Then he did another roll of the same stuff.  Then it dried and I had my cast on.

 

A: What happened with the doctor since the emergency room?

G: We went went back on Thursday and he made sure my fingers weren’t swelling. Then today [Monday] he took a not-sharp tool that made my cast shake and it tickled a lot.  He cut my cast to a short-arm cast.

 

A: How do you feel about being able to bend your elbow now?

G: Great!  I can do everything a lot easier now.

 

A: How much longer will you have your cast?

G: Two weeks.

 

So, Genna’s healing just fine and isn’t in any pain.  So, that’s good news.

And…

That’s the Genna Report!

Follow the Peace 8

Long-Term Thoughts on Short-Term Missions: Our New Role

I am very excited to announce that Anndee and I have accepted new positions with Extreme that will officially begin January 1st.  My new role is Short-Term Volunteer Manager, and Anndee will work part-time as Short-Term Volunteer Assistant.  Our responsibilities include guiding a team of people whose jobs include leading the actual teams on the ground, as well as executing all of the pre-project communication, etc.  We also have the responsibility of policy, procedure, as well as missiology and long-term vision for what short-term mission is and how it fits in with Extreme.

Even though we don’t officially take on the roles until January, we’re working each week, revising policy and putting procedures in effect.  We begin communications with the May Project participants next month.  For the time being, we don’t have all of the staff for our team, so Anndee and I will be filling the logistics spots until we do.

When we joined Extreme, we didn’t have a specific passion for short-term missions.  Like many, Anndee and I had participated in short-term projects before (Youth In Mission during college, a trip to Macedonia in 2008).  Despite this, we didn’t come into Extreme with any plans to work with short-term as a full-time ministry role.  As Cluster Coordinators, part of our responsibility has been to do on-the-ground detail planning (lodging, food, transportation, plans for the evangelism events, etc.).  As our staff has phased out here in Peru, Anndee and I have had the honor of taking on more and more of the responsibility of short-term projects in our city.  During the September Build Project, I had the responsibility for every aspect of the project from the time the volunteers landed in Lima until they returned home.

We have hosted six teams here in Arequipa during our roughly 20 months of full-time ministry.  While that was almost too much for us to handle, the number of teams we have had, coupled with the levels of responsibility Anndee and I have had during projects have prepared us very well for our next role with Extreme. The Lord was preparing us for our next role even when we didn’t know we needed to be prepared.  After the May College Team, and after our application for another position similar to our current one (based in Chile), our director approached us about taking the Short-Term Manager position.  He noticed our passion and energy and natural giftedness and saw a great fit.  It was a surprise for us, but not a hard decision to make.

Build Day 18 - 07

One of my favorite parts of a project is getting to meet such fantastic people from all walks of life who answer to call to come alongside us to expand God’s Kingdom.  In my current role, I will get to work behind-the-scenes before and after a project, making sure that everything is getting accomplished in an efficient and timely manner.  Then, during projects, I can be on-the-ground support and spend my timeconnecting with the short-term volunteers and encouraging the missionaries in the field.  What an awesome opportunity.

As we help our current team through the transition of handing their ministry roles over to church members and finish our ministry in Arequipa well, we are also laying the groundwork for what it to come in Extreme Short Term Missions.  Our emphasis is in two places: 1) Revise every aspect of the short-term process (registration, communication, roles, responsibilities, etc.) and make necessary adjustments.  2) Really think about what short-term mission is (and isn’t), think about how to do it well, why we do it, how it fits within the over-arching goals of Extreme, etc.

Both of these are great challenges, but Anndee and I are very excited to see how the Lord uses us to expand his Kingdom through this short-term process.

The current time-frame for our family is to work part-time on our new roles as we complete our jobs as Cluster Coordinators for the Cercado Church Planting Team.  January, Chris will begin full time and Anndee will continue part-time from Rogers, Arkansas while we raise support.  Chris and Anndee will fill the logistics roles for the two College Momentum Teams in Ecuador in May.  We’ll return to Arkansas for the North Arkansas District Assembly and move the family to Quito, Ecuador in mid-June.

Chris

To follow all things “Short Term Missions” in Extreme, please like our facebook page: facebook.com/ExtremeMissions

EverydayStringers 1

A Little Saturday Night Fun

We had a little girlie fun tonight before bed.  We’ll see how the curls turn out tomorrow!

Along with the photos, here’s a quick update on the girls.

Lately, Genna’s been reading up a storm, enjoying Charlotte’s Web (twice!) and Little House on the Prairie.  I’ve picked up a couple of free children’s mysteries for kindle lately that she’s going to love.  She’s getting tired of her cast, but it isn’t slowing her down much.  We went to a restaurant with a huge playground for lunch today and she had a great time playing.

Juliana is looking forward to our upcoming time in the States.  Every time we talk about going somewhere, she asks, “Are we going on the plane to Arkansas?”  She had a really great time during our September short term team, making friends and stealing hearts.  She calls Darren, one of the team members, “my favorite boy.”  The love that is lavished on our girls and the friendships they make are just a couple of the sweet benefits that we have as we meet and host so many great members of the body of Christ.

EverydayStringers 3

Looking Back: Genna’s New Bed

After Love Extreme and a new job role in Extreme that starts January 1st plus getting ready for back-to-school for Genna and I have tons on blog post ideas.  But first…a look back and one of my favorite home movies.  This is Genna’s reaction to the big-girl-room makeover we did when she was four.  You have my permission to laugh.  I still giggle every time I even think about this video.

*No children were harmed in the making of this video.

Enjoy!

 

FollowThePeace 1

Making Plans…

So last week we announced to friends that our next ministry assignment when our Arequipa project is finished is with Extreme as Short Term Volunteer Manager in Quito, Ecuador.  I’ll write more about that in a later post.  (It’s really exciting!)

For the last couple of weeks Chris and I have been going back and forth with “what about this” or “how are we going to fit this in” or, at one point, “If we spend six weeks in Quito in February and March, what if we let Genna continue school and see if one or more of our parents would bring her to Quito for two weeks in the middle so she only misses two weeks of school and I don’t die from not seeing her for six weeks?”  After some discussion we decided it isn’t necessary for us to spend six weeks in Quito in February, but we do need to be there for about a week.

Then it gets a little complicated.  Two friends have weddings planned for February.  On two different continents.  Five days apart.  (Not to each other.)

Since we need to be in Quito in February, we can plan that to coincide with the wedding in South America.  (Maximize those plane tickets!)  The wedding’s in a city ten hours or so by bus from Quito.  The first of the two weddings is 10 or so hours by car from Rogers.  (Yay, road trip!)

So, Chris and I were talking about driving up to the first wedding on a Friday (probably without the girls), wedding on Saturday, driving back on Sunday. Then fly out on Monday  (with the girls) for Quito, arrive on Tuesday, get on a bus on Tuesday to arrive late Tuesday or early Wednesday, celebrate the second wedding on Thursday and then within a couple of days bus back to Quito to jump in with our work responsibilities for a week or more then fly back to the States.

This seems like a pretty full schedule to me.  Then Chris kept trying to figure out how to fit in some visits with friends along the route to the first wedding.  (Maximize that road trip!)  He stopped when I put it into perspective for him.

“I really think that two weddings on two different continents in five days is plenty.”

I really just feel blessed that two amazing couples from two different continents want us to celebrate with them.  And I hope I survive the trip.

___________________

We really would love to sit down with you and talk about how God is working in South America and how you could be a part of the fulfilling of the Great Commission here!  Email us at anndee@stringerfamily.org to set up a time.  We’ll be in the States from January to May 2014.  (Except for two weeks in February.)

FollowThePeace 7

Rudy’s Story – Part Five

Today we conclude this series of Rudy’s testimony, but his story continues.  Pray for Rudy that he will continue growing in his relationship with Christ and will not be deterred, discouraged or distracted.

 

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