Friday, September 23, 2016

A Break from Planting Prep to Welcome Isaac!

Hey! It's been an interesting week! On Wednesday we welcomed Isaac into the world. He was born Wednesday morning at 8:25. He tipped the scales at 8 lbs 8 oz and is 21 3/4 inches long. Both Jodi and Isaac are doing fantastic. We've made it home and are beginning to get settled in. We're grateful for everyone who has sent encouragement our way! It's in these moments that while we push the pause button on lots of other things, we remember why we're pursuing them. God's grace and kindness toward us are overwhelming. God's incredible gift of another sweet baby reminds us of his love for us. We're reminded that he loves us so much that he sent Jesus in the very same way. Redemption is not a theory, but it's found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He came to restore us to God! Holding Isaac in my arms reminded me how much God desires to be restored to his kids. Watching Jodi care for and provide for Isaac reminded me of God's great care for us. He gives us everything we need through Jesus. We don't walk alone. In the same way we'll care for Isaac and raise him, God is walking with us and using every life situation to grow us in maturity to be more like Jesus. So, in a few moments of rest this week, I've tried to think on the Lord. I'd encourage you to do the same. While you do that, would you thank him for sending Jesus? Would you pray that we'll raise Isaac (and our other kids) to love and follow Jesus? Would you pray that God would provide everything we need as we prepare to move?
Thanks again for your love and kindness! We're grateful to be on this journey walking with you!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hi from Jodi!

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." 
Matthew 28:19-20

"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we also be glorified with him." 
Romans 8:16-17

Hello, friends!

Billy asked me if I was ready to write my first blog post, so here you go! At first I had no idea what to say, but if you know me very well, you know I can't stay quiet for too long...

As of today, I am 2 days from my due date as we prepare to welcome our sweet little Isaac James into our family. Right now it's just a waiting game, and I have to say that I am getting impatient in my waiting! After nearly 10 months of growing and preparing for this child, I'm ready to meet him. We also signed a contract on our house this week after having it listed with a realtor for only 24 hours. Isn't God awesome?! I am daily amazed by how He chooses to provide for us.

Life as we know it right now is a bit crazy. Billy is working hard at the radio station, and during his free time he is working hard to raise support for our pending move and new ministry in Oxford. Ellie Grace is doing very well in 1st grade. She loves her teacher, friends, and school. She is often tired and a bit grumpy or emotional in the evenings.  School is hard work! Will, Matthew, and I spend our days trying to stick to some kind of schedule that we know will change in the next couple of months in some drastic ways.

I share all of that information to say this: There's nothing special about us. Our lives are so very average. I always find myself thinking that there must be something extra special about (other) people that God calls to ministry. They must be super spiritual or have it all together. However, if you read in the Bible about the people that God used to lead people to him, you will notice a trend. They are all sinners unworthy of the grace and favor of God.

I have been studying Paul and his ministry for the last couple of months. It's outstanding! God took a man whose life's goal was to persecute His followers and used him to lead many to Him and plant churches all around the region. His life was far from easy. In fact, God said in Acts 9:15-16 that Paul was a chosen instrument to carry his name to the Gentiles and that he must suffer for the sake of God's name. God was so faithful to Paul, and Paul was full of joy despite his trials.

My prayer as we continue on this journey is that we would be faithful to God's calling. Trials have and will come. We are moving right at the beginning of winter, and it will be a new experience for our family. We are leaving everyone we know. It won't be easy, but I have absolutely no doubt that God will be faithful. So, pray for us. Pray that we will be full of the joy of the Lord despite whatever trials may come. Pray that Ellie transitions well to her new school and is able to make friends. Pray that we are able to get out in the community to meet people. Pray that the hearts of those we meet would be receptive to the life-giving gospel of Christ.

I hope to blog soon about my perspective on reaching people in Oxford. Keep your eyes open for it, but I ask for grace as I have no idea how life will change once Isaac decides to join us! Thank you for going along on this journey with us! It's going to be quite a ride!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Partnership...the primary way this church planting ship sails!

I've heard Dave Ramsey say tons of times that the only ship that won't sail is a partnership. He's usually talking to someone about a business venture and he's trying to talk them out of entering into a bad business deal. However, when I think about Kingdom expansion and the best way for the gospel to get across the street and around the world, I believe gospel-oriented partnerships are the way to go. I believe Christian family members should pray and commit to seek to work together to reach other family members that don't yet believe the Gospel.I believe neighbors should commit to intentionally work together to reach other neighbors. I believe local churches should partner together to reach more of their community. I believe the best way to plant new churches is through partnerships with existing churches.
While we are moving to a new town where we don't really know anyone, we believe partnerships will be one of the reasons we are able to focus our time, effort and energy on planting this new work. We're grateful to the North American Mission Board, Encounter Life Church, and other churches and individuals that are already committed to walk with us along the way. We're praying and asking God to help us find other individuals, churches, and groups who would be willing to partner with us in 4 different ways.

  1. We're asking for people to commit to pray for our family. For specific needs right now you can click here to read the last post, where I wrote about how you can pray for us! We know that we must have people walking alongside of us and faithfully praying for our family and for the new church. If you'd be among those who would commit to pray for us, we would be grateful! If your church would be willing to commit to pray for us, we would love that too!
  2. We're ask for people to consider partnering with us financially. We believe God owns all of money on the planet and he's going to provide the funds necessary for the planting of the church. We also believe, in the beginning, the primary way he's going to do this is through partnerships! We're praying for people who might be willing to make one time gifts to help with the relocation and resettling process. We're also praying that God would provide partners who would be willing to commit to financially support the new church for 3-5 years. We believe that in the first year of planting we need to raise about $60,000. That probably seems like a lot of money, but we believe God can do that! We already have several people, churches and organizations that have committed financial support. Based on the need that still exists, we're praying that God might call 35-40 individuals, churches or organizations to commit to give $100/month. We're grateful for people and churches that are able to give more, but we wanted to give you quick snapshot of one way God could meet the need. Would you consider partnering with us in this way? We aim to make it as simple as possible. Whether you're giving a one time gift or plan to give in an on-going way, here's what you can do. Encounter Life Church is our sending church. All support goes through them, so your gift is still tax-deductible (if that's important to you).  You can give online by clicking here and putting PA in the memo or description line or you can mail a check to: Encounter Life Church Attn: PA Plant PO Box 375 Manchester, TN 37349.
  3. We're praying that God would call some people and churches to partner with us to bring mission teams to come as needed to help with various projects along the way. We'll work to coordinate those as we get settled and begin seeing where God might be calling us specifically to jump in. A team might help us serve a non-profit or school in the area. We might do physical labor or we might facilitate conversation to share the gospel. We'll aim to utilize a variety of people with different gifts to try to reach more people for God's glory! Would you or your church be willing to commit to serve in this way?
  4. Finally, God may call some of you to move to Oxford with us. We're praying God would call some people to move who have a heart for those who aren't yet redeemed and feel called to church planting. If you're interested in this please reach out to us so we can begin the conversation!

Whether you can commit to pray, give financial support, be a part of a mission team or feel led to move to Oxford with us, we're grateful for whatever role God is calling you to in this partnership! Together, for God's glory and other's good, we'll partner together under the banner of the good news of Jesus Christ that others might hear the gospel and find life and hope in Him. As always, thanks for taking time to read and for walking with us on this journey!

Friday, September 2, 2016

How You can Pray!

For this post, I thought I'd just share some specific ways you can pray for us along the way. We're grateful for your friendship and glad you're tracking with our story. We're so glad we aren't walking the road alone, but that God has been so incredibly kind and gracious to give us friends like you all! We know that you're praying for us, so we thought giving you specific ways to pray might help you!

  1. Pray for Encounter Life Church during the transition. We love ELC way more than anyone will probably know. It has been the greatest joy to share our lives with those who call ELC home. We're incredibly sad to move away, but we couldn't be more excited about the future for ELC. We know the church is God's church and they're God's people. 
  2. Pray for our family spiritually, emotionally, physically as we prepare to move. Pray that we hold fast to Jesus in all of the busyness. Pray for energy as we get ready to welcome a new baby, while trying to sell our house and everything else that goes into moving.
  3. Pray that our house sells. 
  4. Pray that God would provide as we raise support. We're praying for and aiming to raise $75,000 in the first year. We know that God owns all of the money on the planet and that he desires for people to be reached, so we're excited to see how he moves. Perhaps God might use you to help us raise support! We're praying for churches and individuals to commit to partner with us for 3-5 years as we work hard to start a work in Oxford. You might want to give a one-time gift or perhaps you'd commit to give a set amount per month toward the new work. You can give online by clicking here (put PA in the memo) or you can mail a check to Encounter Life Church P.O Box 375, Manchester, TN 37349.
  5. Pray for the people of Oxford, PA and surrounding areas. We're exciting about building relationships and sharing the gospel. Only about 6% of the people in the area are likely Christians. 
  6. Pray for us to be able to find a place to live in Oxford. The realtor we've been working with says the rental market is very lean and he's asked us to think about looking outside of Oxford. We're praying God provides a place that will work for us in Oxford.
We're grateful for your prayers. We'll keep you updated as God answers prayers so you know how to specifically pray. God is faithful and we trust him. We're so glad that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, died the death we deserve and was resurrected to defeat sin and death so that would have an advocate! Where we're tempted to doubt or worry (which I'm sure we'll struggle with some more along the way) we have a high priest who understands. I'll close with Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV) as an encouragement to all of us!
[14] Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)