Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rendezvous recap

200 meetings
4 radio interviews
10 home fellowships
5 ministry visitations/interviews
1 5th grade classroom presentation
1 reception
8 plane rides
countless cups of coffee
**Numbers are approximations

That really seems to sum up my furlough (at least the social/catching up/sharing aspect). Even today, I had 9 meetings and one of which was at 6:15 in the morning, but really it was worth it because the guys who I shared with were a huge blessing and encouragement. I have had SO many sweet opportunities to share with SO many people about what God has been doing with the youth of Uganda and I'm just so humbled by what God has allowed me to be a part of in my time here in the States. My time on furlough is coming to a close (I leave in 5 days) and I'm just still trying to process all God brought about in these two short months. I was able to re-connect with amazing old friends, students, supporters, family, and new friends. I was able to share with who knows how many about how God is an awesome huge God who desires none of the 17 million students under the age of 15 to perish. I was also able to encourage many in their callings right now being that He calls us all to make disciples, not just those who live 8,000 miles away. I won't lie, my favorite meetings I had with people were where I could hear about their lives and what God was teaching them and not necessarily do all of the talking. For all of you who I was able to meet and share with, even if I never personally met you, i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to convey in even some small way about how awesome our God is. I'm now spending these final few days really enjoying time with my family and getting all packed, and really praising Him for one awesome furlough!

I have no greater joy...

Than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. - 3 John 4

That is definitely one verse I've found myself repeating a lot this furlough the reason being that words can't describe the joy that fills me seeing what God has been doing the lives of a lot of my old students. I've been involved in youth ministry for (gulp) 8 years now, and honestly a lot of the time you find yourself asking "God, are these students learning ANYTHING?" After countless coffee dates, rabbit trails, and small group sessions I have been so encouraged by what I've seen with some of "my girls". I love seeing that they are now passionate about pouring into others like they had been poured into. I love that they have dealt with tough stuff but in the end have still surrendered to His good and perfect will. I love that they talk about having consistent times with Him. And more than anything, I love the fact that it's all because they have a pure and deep relationship with Him as their Lord, their Father, and their Savior. I hope these girls realize what a blessing they've been to me just getting to witness their lives over the past months and what a privilege it's been getting to be one of the tools God used to get a hold of them in mighty ways.

Not to leave out the boys - I'm also SUPER proud of some of "my boys". Several of them are now pastors and/or part of church plants and being used by God in HUGE ways. One thing that just blew my mind the other night was realizing that two of them ended up interviewing me over this furlough (one in Arizona and one in Albuquerque). I know for many of them they're just holding on for dear life on the crazy ride that is their lives and I can't wait to see what God is going to do in and through them as time goes on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Friends

Being on the mission field, one of the hardest things about coming back is seeing just how much things (and people) change. There are certain people you knew before who are like strangers now, but then there are those people that you are pretty sure will be life-long friends. I've been blessed with getting to spend some amazing time with those types of friends over this furlough. I don't know if I've ever felt more loved or encouraged than I have in the past couple of weeks. I'm blown away at who God has brought and how He's shown me that yet again, I'm not alone. From touching base with people on my trips to Arizona and Tennessee to people still here in ABQ, there are some pretty awesome people that God has allowed to stay in my life for many years and I pray for many more to come.

Just today, I was able to begin my day with green chile, eggs, hash browns, cheese, and the Nuanes family. It was so awesome getting to see their hilarious and incredibly cute boys and just talk to people who have been some of my best friends for around ten years now. After that, I was able to spend time with my friend Phil, and he's just one amazing brother/friend and it's always great spending time with someone who has the same heart and ideas you do, and Philly has been one of those friends for a very long time for me. After Phil, I met with Rachel who I've known since she was in seventh grade. She has become such an amazing young woman of God and I'm so proud of her, she works so hard and loves Jesus with all her heart. Then tonight I had dinner with Kelly and Michelle Bransford and my brother Kyle. We laughed so hard and had some amazing food (like seriously, un-real good food). Knowing what God has done in Kelly and Michelle's lives and seeing them together along with seeing how God is using them now is just such a cool blessing, and they really are two of my favorite people.

All in all, I'm exhausted but blown away by the caliber of people God has allowed be in my life. And these people were just a brief snap-shot of the stellar individuals I am blessed to know. I truly do thank God for all of them!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Accents, friends, the Church, and New Mexican food

Leaving California, I missed my flight and had to stay in Denver, I finally made it to Tennessee on Friday. My good friend Tiffany came and picked me up and we were able to spend some much needed time to just catch up. On Saturday, as she had to work I was able to have lunch with a friend who had served in Africa, and it was just cool to hear what all God was doing in his life. Then Tiffany and I made our way to Clarksville to stay the night with Kevin and Jenn and attend service at Awaken Church which is a church they planted about 2 1/2 years ago. To try and put into words what it was like to witness the work God was doing there would be impossible. There were tons of people there hungry for the Word and I'm so excited to see what God is going to do through the Church of Clarksville. After that, we had some lunch, passed about a foot over the Kentucky border and then had some legit New Mexican food and early Monday it was time to head back to Albuquerque. It was a great little trip and it was such a blessing to see everyone and to see and hear all that God's doing in them personally and with ministry.

Friday, January 13, 2012


In Psalm 23, we read the famous verses of God being our Shepherd. As you study it you see how He is to be the one to lead, protect, and provide for His sheep, as well as give them rest. For a while now I’ve been going about life and ministry basically all wrong. I may have said that I was resting in, believing in, and waiting on God but really as I’ve now had more time to reflect on it, I really haven’t been doing that at all.

Over the past few days I’ve been in Murrieta, California for a youth workers conference, and I must say there are few things that are more refreshing then being surrounded by 350 people who share similar passion for ministry with you. I was able to share a room with a couple of really amazing women who truly had depth to their faith as we talked about theology and realize that I wasn’t a “nerd” for doing so (of course you may choose to differ with me on that). I was hearing about what God was using these fellow servants around the country to do to minister to youth and it really was a shot in the arm like I’ve never experienced before. And I also realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling like I’d been running on empty as grown men cried about how exhausted they were and how they didn’t feel like they were spending their time as wisely as they hoped – realizing I wasn’t alone in that was also a huge blessing. But more than that, it was the times of worship and teaching that God really just hit me.

The whole conference was based around our sufficiency we have in Christ. Over and over we were reminded that “without Him we can do NOTHING”. Something that hit me was at one point we were reminded to not sacrifice our joy and intimacy with Christ at the altar of ministry. Which is honestly, one trap I fall into more often then I want to admit. They emphasized how the most loving thing we could do for our students is not only TEACH them about Jesus but SHOW them Jesus – another thing I kind of let slip through the cracks as I would spend so much time studying to teach them and very little time being around my students living it out. And then there was the idea of abiding – I am called to abide in Him and the fruit that is talked about in the chapter in John about how He is the vine and we are the branches is not fruit in ministry necessarily but the fruit of the Spirit in my own life as well.

That brings me back to the original idea about the Shepherd and how He cares for His flock. The Vinedresser is there to ensure the most fruit possible can come from the branches and I need to yield to the ways He’s trying to do that. When Jesus was washing the disciples feet – He wasn’t just showing it as the example of how we are to be with others (although that is a huge part of it) but it’s also showing what He desires to do in our own lives. He is the only one who can pour into and serve me so that I can in turn do that to others. Nobody else can do that for me (and that includes myself). I have to stop… stop working in my own strength and wisdom, stop being so focused on the work that I neglect my relationship with Him, stop being so focused on the teachings that I fail to show my students how that looks practically. I need to quiet my soul before Him… and really just stop and allow Him to be literally the one in whom I live and move and have my being.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One is Not Enough

In Tempe, they just launched their small groups which they call “One is Not Enough” based around the truth that God didn’t create us to be alone. We need one another so much in our walks to hold us accountable, encourage us, and just come along side us as we go through the life God has called us to. The team in Tempe and even other ministries I’ve been observing have awesome teams for their ministries and I really keep having that fact drilled into my head this furlough, that one really isn’t enough.

For a while now I’ve been flying solo in the youth ministry in Jinja. People have come and gone but basically I’m by myself. I don’t mind it for the most part, but the biggest thing is that I just keep thinking that if there were more people to work with the youth, how much more could be accomplished in discipling the students and reaching the 17 million students that I keep thinking about. I guess this is just basically a prayer request that God would raise up others to be a part of the work that He’s doing in Jinja and around Uganda who are passionate about pouring into the youth and seeing them draw closer to God and live lives wholly devoted to Him. And in the mean time, I just have to truly rest in Him with everything I have for the strength to be about the work He’s called me to and remember it’s His ministry and He loves those students even more than I do and He knows what needs to happen for them to grow as much as possible in their walks with Him.

Trip to Tempe

Sometimes you forget how much you love and miss people until you see them again. That’s what happened with I visited the group from the Anthem in Tempe Arizona. Getting to visit people like Mat Pirolo who really is like a little brother to me and one of my dearest friends and see what God was using Him to do was unreal. I had forgotten how much I cherished our talks about what God was teaching us and just about life and just chilling out and watching movies.

Then getting to see others who had moved out there like Chris Patterson and his passion for the work was an awesome blessing. I also had the joy of staying with Jackie Garrett and getting to just spend that extended time with her and just talking about everything and getting to spend time with someone that I just cherish so much was amazing. Spending time with Nick and Shaena Crespo, the Schwartz boys, and lots of new friends too was just so cool as I was able to see this team be about an awesome new work. I pray for them as they continue in this venture that God would continue to stoke their passion, that He was open their eyes to the opportunities He would like for them to take as well as protect them and strengthen them against the Enemy who I know is not stoked about what is going on there. I really didn’t want to leave and am just so thankful for getting a glimpse at what God’s doing there and spending time with some pretty awesome people.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A wild and crazy ride

I'm one of those people who has a sickness in that I can't stop moving, working, etc... I'm a perfectionist, workaholic, etc... and when you have those tendencies you definitely don't know what to do with yourself when the perpetual motion that is life stops or slows down. But right now I need to stop and at least explain some of what has happened these past couple of days.

Right now, I'm sitting in a hospital room with my dad sleeping after he had to be admitted due to some complications with his diabetes. Since July he was having severe memory and neurological problems and nobody seemed to know what was going on. They just seemed to try and throw random diagnoses and treatments at him and told him to basically wait and hope that they worked. It seemed like nobody really cared about getting him better. I had heard about all this from afar and finally when I came back last month I saw it for myself and I can tell you now that my heart hurts even more for those who have to care for their loved ones who suffer from MS, Alzheimers, Dementia, etc... because seeing my dad like that was awful! He would make no sense, fumble over words, stutter, stumble, you name it, he was not my dad anymore. My daddy is my hero, the strong one, the smartest guy I know, and seeing him in the state he's been in over the past month was surreal.

Yesterday morning I was having my quiet time and I overheard my dad trying to talk to my mom and he again wasn't making much sense and she insisted he check his blood sugars (He's had Type 1 diabetes since before I was born), his sugars were so high they wouldn't even register, after quite an ordeal of calling in some friends who are in the medical field and are familiar with Type 1 Diabetes, we were able to get his sugars down but still not enough and the decision was made to get him to the hospital. We got him here by around 1pm on New Years Day, and the people at Presbyterian Hospital did a great job at getting to work. They took test after test, and the on-call Endocrinology doctor we called in the morning came by and he got down to the nitty gritty. It was so awesome! By 5ish he was admitted and the tests continued. He kept improving as the evening progressed and when I left he was sleeping better than I've seen him in a long time.

This morning I came down to the hospital bright and early and my dad was a different person from how he had been the whole month before. It was so cool! Then after visiting him I went home to rally my brothers to get to work and do the laundry (our washing machine has been broken for a little over a month and we're getting a new one delivered soon but in the mean time we get to partake in the joys of Laundromats). After Kyle making breakfast and picking up coffee we stormed the place and snagged about 10 washers and then dryers and I'll tell you the visual of us there with our Starbucks and not really knowing what we were doing was pretty hilarious. Then going to the house we had a folding party and it was just way too funny having that whole experience.

And again, now I'm here with him relieving my mom so she can go to work. Getting to sit next to my dad and hear him make full intelligent conversation without stuttering or making up random things is pretty much the best thing in the world. The way that God has worked at the beginning of this year (and it's only been 2 days!) has been amazing and just an awesome testimony to how God's timing and ways are perfect and beyond what we could ever think of ourselves.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Being that I've been in the States for a month, I've had the privilege to meet up with some really awesome people who have been such blessings to re-connect with or connect with for the first time. But I do have to admit that things have been pretty much non-stop since I landed here on December 6th and I haven't had a chance to think through and process a whole lot. I look at the last year and am in awe about God has stretched, changed, and taught me. The vision that God's given me to reach the youth of Uganda and make them His disciples is overwhelming yet exciting and I've kind of made Ephesians 3:20-21 my verse for the year ,"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen". I'm looking forward to what this year may hold as I look back at the challenges and trials of the past year looking at what God was maybe preparing me for for this year.


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