This past week confirmed that even though we’re living in Perth and enjoying the city, our hearts are in Brookton. It was wonderful to spend a couple days observing the Brookton Mission, catching up with friends and getting to know more people.This is one of my favorite pictures during morning tea after Sunday service. Ryan was visiting with a group of people from Calvary church in Brookton. These people all have a special place in our hearts already and since Ryan was out in Brookton during the same time last year, the morning tea time gave him an opportunity to reconnect. Please pray for us as we try to find the right balance of living in and being present, pursuing people and relationships in the city, as well as spending time investing in, learning and connecting in Brookton.
All Nations is a pretty great church name. For me it automatically signals Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” It’s a beautiful picture of heaven, and although we know we can’t achieve it fully here on earth, it doesn’t mean we can’t work and strive towards it here. Ryan and I have been attending All Nations in Perth for three weeks and we love the community as well as the ways we see this church striving to reach all nations in the city as well as representing all nations in the church body.This is the first church I have ever attended that is very friendly to non-native English speakers (and I would say new Christians or non-Christians as well) while at the same time not apologizing for their English worship, English preaching and English fellowship. For example, the page numbers are always given before the scripture reading so someone following along in the church Bible can easily find the text. And if the main pastor is preaching, he not only gives a sermon outline but he hands out the entire sermon. He has a gift to be able to preach this way, sticking very close to what is written but still communicating clearly and articulately. If it wasn’t for the sound of the pages turning, I would not be able to tell he wasn’t simply preaching from a typical outline. I love that sound of people turning the pages to follow him, almost in unison, being a part of the preaching. For non-native English speakers and also visual learners like my husband, it’s great to be able to see the sermon and therefore absorb more of the content.
All Nations also offers English classes during the week as well as a Bible study in easy English. These classes are not just for church members but for the community. Perth is a very multi-cultural city and English classes are a way for All Nations to welcome the nations into the church. I hope that my university schedule allows me to participate in some of these classes and be a part of this interesting and effective ministry.
Ryan and I are thankful to have a place where we can continue to get to know people and surround ourselves with community as we are introduced to life here in Perth. Please pray for All Nations. Please pray that we would be effective in reaching all nations represented here in Perth so that one day, before the throne and before the Lamb, we can stand together and sing praises.
Since we don’t have the snow to remind us that Christmas is coming, we have to rely on decorated shopping malls, cheerily lit homes after dark and our own Christmas traditions to help us get in the spirit of things. Some of these things are on pause for us because we’re in transition but I can still do my best to celebrate what I can and savor the traditions I can still enjoy. Here are 14 ways that I try to remind myself of the good things about the holidays and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas.
- I blogged last week about The Season of Advent. Having Advent reading, an Advent wreath and pausing at least once a day to read scripture and pray through the season reminds me of what is important during the holidays.
- Christmas music! Once Thanksgiving has been celebrated, I am all for Christmas music. Christmas music in the car, Christmas music at home, Christmas music in almost every store I walk into. I love a good mix of secular favorites and Christian songs. Each are festive in their own way. It all makes me happy.
- Baking and making delicious goodies. I will do a little baking this week but I look forward to making cinnamon rolls for my family to enjoy one morning and I’m sure there will be cookies made at some point too. My tastebuds love Christmas. And the smell of baking treats definitely helps get me in the Christmas mood.
- Decorations! I really enjoy decorating for Christmas but this year in our home all we have is our Advent wreath because we are moving. However, I look forward to being in my parent’s home and enjoying the beautiful tree lit for the week leading up to Christmas. Next year we’re decorating right after Thanksgiving and we’ll leave it up until January 6th, 3 Kings Day also known as Epiphany. I love stretching out the holiday season and enjoying the decorations as long as reasonable to my own standards.
- Christmas movie marathons. I will watch Elf multiple times this season. We’ve already watched Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone and A Christmas Story. Tonight we will watch It’s a Wonderful Life. There are so many good ones! It’s fun to snuggle up in a warm house when it’s cool/cold outside and enjoy a good movie. I’m also looking forward to watching the TV classics like Charlie Brown, Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman.
- Walking or driving through beautiful Christmas light streets. Almost every town has a street known for the amazing Christmas decorations. It’s always fun to gather a few friends, dress warmly, carry something warm to drink and enjoy the shining lights and creativity of our neighbors.
- Opening Christmas letters and cards. In my circles, I have a lot of friends who keep in touch all year around but it’s typical to just hear major updates from people at the end of the year. I love opening cards, seeing how the families have grown and hearing about the past year. I enjoy celebrating the joys of life with people and being able to pray through the hard things too. A mailbox filled with Christmas cheer is a wonderful thing.
- Early Christmas shopping. There is nothing better than having your Christmas shopping done early. Even if things don’t get wrapped right away, I love not having to think of last minute gifts. This is definitely the planner in me but it allows me to better enjoy the holidays not having yet another unfinished list.
- Christmas wrapping. Seeing a growing pile of pretty wrapped presents is always cheery and festive. A little Christmas music or a Christmas movie and wrapping with a cup of hot chocolate is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
- Eggnog. So before this year, I never would have said that eggnog was a necessary part of the holiday but then my sister-in-law introduced me to Royal Crest Dairy eggnog and now I’m hooked. Although Royal Crest isn’t available everywhere, eggnog will definitely be a staple in our refrigerator this season.
- The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t always go and see The Nutcracker but when I can, I always enjoy it. During the holidays growing up it was always a treat to dress up and attend The Nutcracker as a family. It’s such a festive, entertaining part of the holidays. And the music is beautiful too!
- Stockings. There is something that is special about stockings to me. Leading up to Christmas, I love looking at them hanging across the mantle or on the wall if there is no fireplace. Even if we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, stockings were always Christmas morning. And my favorite tradition is always finding a tangerine in the toe. I look forward to making stockings something special for my own kids some day (this is NOT a pregnancy announcement).
- Candle Light Service. There is something particularly beautiful and celebratory about a Christmas Eve candle light service. It’s a wonderful way to calm our hearts and refocus during a busy season.
- Christmas reading. In the past couple of years I would download a Christmasy book to enjoy leading up to Christmas. Today, I sat with the pile of my childhood books that we will be shipping to Australia and read through all my favorite Christmas stories. From The Polar Express to Santa Mouse, these are Christmas classics for me. The Story of Holly & Ivy is precious and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree always makes me cry. I fondly remember reading these books as a child and I still enjoy them now.
What are the traditions that help you remember, enjoy and anticipate Christmas?
This weekend one of our churches had a Sunday highlighting the ministries they support and they requested us to make a video. We added a little something to the beginning and the end of the video specifically for the people in that congregation and for that event but we wanted to share the rest of the video with all of you. Hope you enjoy Ryan’s handiwork.
And just a little reminder, if you want to be a part of what God is doing in Perth, Brookton and beyond, November matching is still going on. When you make a reoccurring pledge this month, the monthly amount is matched for an extra one-time gift. The easiest way to give is through this link: Ryan&Joy. Just put the amount you intend to give in the ‘give’ box at the top of the page and when you click through it will give you all your options (frequency of giving, payment method, etc.) Thank you for being a part of this with us!
This post from a fellow MTW coworker came at a good time for me. We’re towards the end of a crazy season of support raising and all I want to do is say, “This is hard.” But each day where we have too much to do and honestly can’t possibly get it done, we have to trust that we are going where God wants us and He will make it happen in His timing. I hope you are also encouraged and emboldened by these words from Mike Pettengill: Stop Saying Raising Finances for Missions is Hard.
Mike Pettengill writes: Money and the Christian faith has such a cloudy relationship in the minds of most Christians in the modern Western Church. Don’t misunderstand what you just read. God and the Bible are very clear about finances. Throughout time and in the rest of the world, other Christians have had a healthy biblical understanding of finances. However, in the modern Western Church, we turned finances into a complicated topic.
Because money is such a powerful idol in the West, raising financial support for missions is a murky topic in our churches. Contrary to popular misconception, it is God who controls all finances. Many Christians say God is sovereign and in control of everything, but their actions and attitudes toward money prove differently. Too often missionaries, churches, and congregants act like they have ultimate sway over who does and doesn’t make it to the mission field by their actions surrounding money. God controls every dollar, pound, franc, and peso. If this is true, why do missionaries view raising financial support as such a hard task?
A missionary is not a super-Christian, simply an obedient Christian. Because of this, many missionaries enter missions with the same sinful attitudes the rest of us share about God and money. Missionaries view raising financial support not as a God-centered activity, but as a man-centered venture. Missionaries think the burden is on them to sell themselves and their ministry to individuals and churches who may or may not deem them worthy.
If God wants you on the mission field He will provide the means when He deems it appropriate. We have such a sinful attitude toward money and raising support that potential missionaries avoid missions once they learn they have to raise their own finances. Missionaries are scared to ask people for support and then feel too beholden to supporters when they receive it. We too seldom even bring God into the equation.
Do a web search for “God and finances” and the articles that pop up have titles like, “Trusting God with Your Finances,” “God and Your Money,” and “10 Ways God Works Through Our Finances.” Dear gentle reader, let me be crass for a moment to provide a little clarity … YOU DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY! Our view of God and finances in the Western world is unhealthy and unbiblical. We too often act like we earned our money and it is ours. God is the owner of all money and He has seen fit to make us temporary stewards over a small part of it.
Give wildly to God and His ministries. Go crazy with God’s money. Spend the money you have, but spend it on God’s glory, not your own comfort and security. Do not view God blessing you with money as some sort of reward for your loyalty to Him or some kind of blessing to be lavished on yourself. God put you through school, provided your job, and gave you opportunities so you could more easily fund His ministries in your town and around the world. When we give our wealth and financial blessing back to God we experience His glory. If we have a perspective that says, “I just can’t afford to tithe or support missions,” we have already placed our own comfort ahead of God’s glory.
God has made the Christian Church that exists in the Western world today the richest, most financially blessed church in the history of the world. He did not do that so we could have softer cushions on our pews, but so we could finance the global spread of His gospel. Do you believe your church needs a more expensive building, new carpet, or another secretary while the missionaries you’ve partnered with are struggling to pay for new Bibles, translated books, or shoes for their own kids?
God’s Great Commission is a mandate given to the corporate Church to spread His gospel around the world. Yes, you are called to reach the heathen in Iowa, or Tennessee, or Illinois. Yes, the people in your town will go to the same hell as the people in the jungles of Zimbabwe, Laos, and Colombia. However, the people in your town are not more deserving of the gospel than the people around the globe. Please continue to reach the people in the town where you have been called to minister, but never forget God has mandated you to participate in His global march toward the end of days. The Great Commission is not optional.
When we act like man controls all the money, missions seems impossible. When we acknowledge God controls all the money, missions seems much easier. Too many missionaries act like raising support is a hard task, because too many Christian disciples take God out of finances. When God is in control of finances things like an economic downturn, a local factory shutting down, or a rich family leaving a church are far less relevant. When Christian disciples are focused on God controlling all finances, God will receive greater glory, and no Christian will ever again say, “Raising finances for missions is hard.”
A church in Sacramento wanted a way to connect with us that would specifically get their kids involved. We decided that a reachable goal would be for their summer tithe to go towards the cost of enough gas to get us from Perth to Brookton. After doing the math, the goal ended up being $17. Ryan and I were excited about the heart behind this gift and this week to attended the church and were told that the kids had a gift for us.That’s right, check out this amazing, giant check. This check isn’t for $1. This check isn’t for $17. This check is for $100. And we do realize this check isn’t cashable but it came with a check that we could take to the bank:-) We were blown away that a small Sunday school, with very few regular attending kiddos, could raise this much money. We were told that when the kids were frustrated that their pennies, nickels and quarters weren’t adding up fast enough, they decided to do something about it. So they had a very lucrative lemonade stand and we are abundantly blessed to be on the receiving end of such hard work.
When I receive the picture from the check passing ceremony, I will post it here:-) Ryan and I love having kids being a part of our ministry. We’re definitely making a video from our first trip from Perth to Brookton to send back and show these kids how they have tangibly contributed to our work and ministry. This definitely proves that little blessings can be huge.
A few months ago we were given a reading list and now we’re using the books we’ve read in order to inform and dig a little bit deeper during our classroom sessions. I appreciate that our reading list was thoughtful and applies directly to our training. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
On Tuesday this week we enjoyed a morning spiritual retreat. We dug deeper into scripture as a community, then enjoyed some solitary time of reflection and came back together again to worship and celebrate communion.
We discussed, as well as practiced some of the well thought out points in Life Together. Bonhoeffer is a Christian who we can definitely learn from. Although some of the book is a little legalistic and outdated, there is a lot to absorb that can benefit any Christian working towards living in community with other believers.Get Real: Sharing Your Faith Everyday by John Leonard
Today we get to hear directly from John Leonard. I’m thankful that evangelism isn’t just a theory but instead it’s a lifestyle. It’s not about just truth or just grace, it’s about both together in love. This is not motivated by guilt but instead by our desire to love our neighbor.
This book might just change the way you view evangelism. Depending on your situation you may see evangelism as a bad word or the ultimate goal of Christianity. You may equate real evangelism with street preaching or alienating relatives during family gatherings. But if you are a Christian, no matter your opinion or view, evangelism is commanded and we should be excited to share the truth. This book gives you practical, helpful tools in order to make evangelism a normal, regular, part of your life. Just talk to people, listen to people, love people.Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester
This book we haven’t talked about directly yet but it was by far my favorite to read. I’m looking forward to the discussions about this book during our church planting time in the next couple of weeks.
Radical definitely belongs on this book cover. As I read through this book, it kept pushing against my current church paradigm. I had to remind myself to keep an open mind and rethink the things that I thought I knew and the way I believed church should look and happen. I think a lot of what this book talks about is very applicable to the church today all over the world. If we did even part of what this book is suggesting, it would transform the church and Christian community in a beautiful Biblical way.