That's right! You and your family can come on a short-term trip January 18-25 with FBC Hendersonville's team to pass out shoeboxes to kids and minister to the people in Sosua, Dominican Republic. We are very grateful for this team as they arrive 6 days after we move! In fact, this team is planning to bring some of our stuff what we can't fit in our 4 suitcases we get to bring!
Informational meetings are scheduled for the following times and located in Weekley Room 3311 at First Baptist Hendersonville:
As Brandon mentioned in a previous post, we had the opportunity last Sunday to have lunch with a family who lived in the D.R. for 4 1/2 years. They now live in Bolivar, but up until last year, they were living in La Romana on the southern coast of the D.R. Even though we will not be residing in the same area, they were able to offer much insight as to what we can expect.
We joined this couple at their home for an authentic Dominican meal, La Bandera as they call it. La Bandera typically consists of black beans, rice and some sort of stewed meat, in this case chicken. They also prepared tostones, which are fried plaintains. The food was very tasty and I think Brandon and I were surprised as to how much we liked it!
In addition to a great meal, we enjoyed hearing about what everyday life in the D.R. is like. The following are just a few things we learned to expect to encounter when we move:
1) Rodents. Yes, rodents. Apparently it is not uncommon to have a rodent problem (think rats, not mice) in homes, stores, etc. This also explains why cats are a vital part of Dominican life. Cats = less rodents. Did I mention Brandon is highly allergic to cats! Yikes....
2) Tardiness. Well really it's not tardiness, it's Dominican time. You see in the Dominican if someone says to come over at 6:00 pm, they really mean don't show up before 7:00 pm. And if you show up at 7:00 pm, you will still probably be the first person there. I'm thinking about just setting my watch two hours fast. Then I would always be on time, right??
3) Everything seems to take longer, move slower. This is actually one aspect of life that we are looking forward to, although I can see how it could become frustrating pretty quickly. In America we are use to everything being fast and convenient. In the D.R., not so. This couple said they would go to the doctor with the expectation that they would most likely spend all day there waiting...and waiting. Again, in some ways this will be a welcome change, in others, a daily frustration.
Honestly there were so many other things that we learned from them. One thing that really excited us though was that when they heard what we were going to be doing in regards to working in an English speaking church, they were beyond excited and encouraging. One of the main reasons they left the D.R. was because they didn't have a church or community of believers to fellowship with. They were ecstatic that we were going to be working with an organization that was meeting the needs of all people in the Dominican, including the expats. It was so encouraging to us to hear that they, as people living there, saw the need to reach out to the English speaking people in the D.R.
All in all, we were so blessed and encouraged by our time with this family. Both of their children were born in the D.R. (which was also encouraging to hear), and they both said that they would move back if given the opportunity. Thank you Darrell and Holli for opening your home to us and for your openness and honesty in sharing about your life there!
Rolling into the driveway Sunday at midnight was exhausting, yet I was energized like never before! Nikki and I spent the weekend traveling to make the rounds before we move. We also wanted to share what God is doing in our lives. It started with a lunch in Nashville with a dear friend who has been an encouragement to me in youth ministry, Bruce Edwards. Then we took off to west TN to spend some time with my Aunt and Uncle at their cabin in Pickwick, TN. Saturday morning we took off to Jackson to see a former student and a girl Nikki discipled. Then we spent the rest of the day and evening with a family who invested in me and took me in while I was at college. Sunday morning I was able to go to Englewood Baptist in Jackson, which is where I served as an intern. Immediately after church we drove down to Bolivar, TN to have lunch with a family who lived 4 years in the DR. After about 3 hours of incredible stories and advice, we headed over to another dear friend's house for some rest. And finally, Sunday evening I had the wonderful privilege to speak/preach at FBC Bolivar!
As I prayed through what to say that night, I longed for God to get the glory and it not be about what "Brandon and Nikki" are doing. It is such a struggle for me in that we want to share with everyone how incredible/challenging/exciting/difficult/rewarding/joyful/humbling it is to follow hard after Christ, yet I never want it to seem like we are trying to "promote" ourselves.
I believe God truly answered that prayer. God clearly revealed HIMSELF last night and challenged them personally in their life. One lady came to me and said, "You know, I expected to come and hear a really neat story of what God was doing in your life, I had no idea that God wanted to speak so clearly to me."
If God is working in your life, look for opportunities to share it! Don't feel ashamed, because we have found that it is an encouragment to others! One of the best parts of the worship service last night was when a man from the congregation stood up after a song and shared a 4 minute testimony of how God was at work in his life! It was beautiful.
Too often we just talk theory that God changes lives and don't get to hear personal "real" evidence of it happening! What's the real evidence in your life that God is transforming you?
Over the past year and a half, God has been working on me to understand the concept of "take up your cross." Luke 9:23 says "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his crosss daily and follow me.'" This has somewhat been a theme of my life, in fact it has really been my life! I remember writing in my journal this past summer about feeling as if I was "dying." There was a time I felt a need to "mourn." (Sounds kind of weird, I know). Over time, God revealed clearly that surrender does not take place without dying. That is why this verse does not leave any option. He clearly says, IF ANYONE comes after me, HE MUST DIE to himself.
In my devotional time recently, I read a statement explaining why Jesus was so blunt in this statement about following him. It said "His reason for this is simple: self cannot and will not follow Him, but taking one's cross results in death to self, and newness to life in Christ Jesus!"
The phrase "we must die" is not an easy one to digest. In fact, we will often refer to "cross" as some kind of burden we must endure and carry around with us. However, this is not what Jesus was referring to. Galatians 2:20 says "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
So clearly, the cross we must take up is the cross of calvary. The cross of death. I came across this powerful statement as to why it must be the cross of death.
Miles J. Stanford writes: "May we cease to confuse the words 'a cross' with 'the cross.' Sometimes believers in self-pity bemoan themselves, and say, 'I have taken, or must take up my cross, and follow Jesus.' Would that we would lose sight of our 'cross' in His cross, then His cross becomes our cross; His death, our death; His grave, our grave; His resurrection, our resurrection; His risen life, our newness of life."
I have found that dying to self leads to living completely in trust of God. This has happened in our life. When we were going through the application process, we had to get a physical. It was during this time that the doctor found what he thought to be a nodule on Nikki's thyroid. The ultrasound came back negative, but the doctor wanted her to see a specialist. After an ultrasound and bloodwork, this past week the specialist diagnosed Nikki with Hashimoto's Thyroiditus and Hypothyroidism.
This entire process went from the beginning of July until about last week. We didn't know what was going on or what the problem was. The doctor even told us when he thought it was a nodule that it could be cancerous. As we prayed and struggled through this, the one thing God continued to show me was this: If you are going to say you trust me, you must trust me with EVERYTHING, including your lives!
Hoshimoto's Thyroiditus is an auto-immune disorder that causes certain things to attack the good cells in her thyroid because they think they are bad. This has resulted in her having Hypothyroidism, which is easily treated with some medication.
We wanted to share this with each of you so you can know how to pray for us specifically. Pray that we will continue to trust in Him through this process regardless what comes our way. Pray that Nikki will not have any other complications or issues result from this diagnosis. Pray that we will daily take up our cross (not a disease or struggle), but the cross of death, and die daily to live in the newness of His life!
It has been busy since our last entry! First we had our 6th grade retreat, support meetings almost every day, getting our boat ready to sell (that's it leaving the church parking lot last week), and then a camping trip with some incredible families (and yes, I was able to wakeboard even though it was 65 degrees!).
God has been so good during this time. There have been many unanswered questions (and still are), yet we have seen God answer many of those and provide in incredible ways. Just when we seem completely worn out, God brings someone into our lives who He uses to say, "Don't worry, I have this in my hands...I AM in control. Just be faithful and allow Me to do it in My timing."
Excitingly, we have also found out that another family from our church, the Luther's, have been officially accepted to serve in the DR as well! They have been going through the application process for the past several months and just this last week they learned they were accepted to serve there too! God is forming an incredible team to pour into the people of the DR. Please pray for them in this journey. You can read more about their story and life at www.wondrousadventure.blogspot.com
Thank you for your continued support and prayer! Please pray specfically for our house to sell. We found out there are over 90 homes for sale in this area in our price range. We have toyed with the idea of renting. Pray for wisdom as we make these important decisions.
Today at work I am working on an article for our parent newsletter we are sending out. I got somewhat bogged down on it as I realized this is really my last opportunity to write something to every parent in our ministry. It feels like my "last words" to the families that mean so much to me. So, I got overwhelmed and thought I would hit the blog with a few thoughts.
Why is it that change is difficult? The best answer I can come up with is our expectation of how we think things will go versus the reality of how it does go. As I think toward people in the Bible, one of the things that we see with most all of them is change. With Paul, we see a change from killing Christians to willing to be killed proclaiming Christianity. In Moses, we see a scared, timid man who doesn't think he can face Pharoah, to a man who becomes God's servant to lead the Israelites across the Red Sea. We see in Peter, a man who denied Christ 3 times, become the man who preached at Pentecost and 3,000 believed!
Regardless of who it is, we see one thing in common among all of them. The end result is different because the beginning result was THEM doing it, and the end result was GOD working through them! I remember waking up one morning this summer doubting BIG TIME whether I could do ministry in the D.R. I feel very comfortable where I am, but the change of doing ministry in the Dominican scared me! God led me to this verse and said "it isn't YOU who is competent to do this...it's me through you."
2 Corinthians 3:5 "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God."
What are you NOT doing because you don't think you can do? Remember, yeah, change is scary but think of what God can accomplish through you if you are willing to surrender and say, "God, do it through me!"
Are you interested in partnering with us in ministry? We are looking for people willing to be involved as prayer partners with regular prayer updates, monthly financial partners as we receive no salary, and co-laborers who will join us for a short-term trip through New Missions. If you are interested in any of these, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org