Friday, November 8, 2013

Tale of Two Citites

First off, let me apologize.... I have REALLY failed at keeping this blog updated since the school semester has begun. I am SO sorry for that. I know that many of you have been keeping us in your prayers and I can't thank you enough for that. Therefore, please forgive me for not giving you more specifics on what's going on here.

 As many of you know, Zac started seminary classes at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina in August. He's LOVING his classes and doing really well in school. I'm so proud of him. I'm also taking a class on the Old Testament and I've enjoyed it so much. As great as seminary has been, it complicates our work in DC. From Sunday-Wednesday, we live in North Carolina, and from Thursday- Saturday we live in Downtown DC. 

Our friends in North Carolina are WONDERFUL and we are so blessed to walk life with people who care about what we do.We get a lot of similar questions about our work.

"How do you work with so many cultures when you don't speak the languages?"

"How is everything going???"

" Do you enjoy your work?"

"Aren't you tired?"

All of those questions are answered rather quickly. However, there's one question that makes us both either sigh or laugh depending on the day.

"What's it like living in two cities?"


I'll be honest. It's not easy.
There was one week in particular that I looked at Zac and said, "I feel like I'm living a double life."

From Sunday to Wednesday, our life is filled with all things Church and Seminary and Baptist. We are part of an incredibly solid gospel centered church. We are part of a small group that studies the Bible weekly. We live in Seminary housing. Currently, all of our friends are seminary students, church members, or other Christians. Zac takes classes and reads and reads and reads. :) I work at a coffee shop on campus so that I don't get bored. We live in the Bible belt where there is a church on every corner and morality is valued. We live in a predominantly caucasian small seminary town where people greet each other when they pass each other and live in community with one another. There's lots of families with kids running around. Walk into any coffee shop or restaurant and you are likely to find a group of seminary students studying, praying together, or discussing something about Christianity or the Baptist denomination. I get my sweet tea and Chick Fil A anywhere and at anytime that I want... ;)  Southern hospitality, southern accents, and southern living reigns in North Carolina. 

Then on Thursday morning, we load up the car, pick up a Starbucks, and switch lives.

We drive the 4-6 hours (depending on traffic) and park our car at a metro station in Franconia/Springfield, Virginia. We grab our luggage and backpacks and ride on a subway for 45 minutes to get to our house in downtown D.C. We get off the subway and walk another 2 blocks to a townhouse that the SBCV has so GRACIOUSLY let us stay in. We have a great bedroom that overlooks the street and we hear sirens go down that street every other hour or so. Well, we used to hear them... now I don't think we do. We have a kitchen here but it's hard to keep groceries in two places so when we are in DC, we tend to eat out most of the time. This is easy to do because we can get pretty much any kind of food we want within 10 minute walk of us. (Except for Chick fil A... ) On our way to dinner, we pass really nice restaurants, taxis, buses, gay bars, dance clubs, gentleman's clubs, Hooters, and lots and lots of homeless people. There's a severe lack of Jesus. Morality is all relative and up to each individual to determine for themselves here. Homosexuality is open, accepted, and blatant. The only nuclear families that we see are usually tourists. ( O the tourists... that's another blog ;) DC locals tend to despise tourists.) Most of the churches we do pass are not overly large or they have a reputation for being unhealthy. We are almost always the racial minority in DC. Because of what we do, its pretty normal for us to be the only 2 white people in a room and we're pretty used to it. In fact, I think we love it. ;) It's very common for Zac to use his French to communicate with a server or friend that we've met here. We hear all kinds of languages on the street. (In our CAPITAL CITY, let that sink in for a second...) However, as a general rule, people don't interact with each other or even make eye contact for that matter. Everyone is in a hurry and busy with their own thing. It's a city of people who work VERY VERY hard and sometimes you can feel that tension in the air around rush hour as you race people to catch a subway. Walk into a coffee shop here and you'll overhear business deals and political discussions or just see people working quietly on their laptops. Here in DC, as Christian missionaries, we stick out a little where we hang out, but we're used to it. ;)

Side note:
Sometimes I wonder if this is how Jesus felt to an extent though. I'm sure there were plenty of moments when He stuck out in a community.

We love what we do in D.C., but the switching back and forth between two very different cultures every 3-4 days can wear on us. We love both places for different reasons and we feel at home and safe in both places. I thank God for that, because I really think he's uniquely built Zac and I to be flexible people who can operate well in both cultures. Therefore, I guess that is how you can pray for us in this season. Pray that our hearts remain encouraged and persevere and we operate in both spaces. In one we grow and build a community of friends that we love, and in another ministry that we love continues to press on.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

We stand in amazement...

I deeply apologize for my lack of writing. The last month has been a whirlwind that has left our heads and hearts spinning. The Lord has done SO much and allowed us to be a part of something that is so much larger than Zac and I. We are constantly reminded of that. Therefore, I wanted to share with you what has happened in the last month.

Over the last two months, we have been able to locate about a 1000 international business, apartment complexes, schools, markets, and worship centers. That number sounds like a lot to me even as I type it because it is a big number. However, once all that information was gathered and organized, we were able to identify what parts of the city have deeper needs for the gospel and able to see where the different nationalities were grouping together.

Hundreds of thousands of people who don't know Jesus.

It was, at times, a tedious and draining task to do. We literally woke up every morning and explored a part of the city that we hadn't yet. We talked to SO many international people and found out their story. They shared with us where they were from and sometimes we got the great joy of sharing the hope we have in Christ with them.

For me, the more neighborhoods we saw and the more eyes we looked into, the more I realized that this city needs Jesus. SO many Muslims, Buddhists, and people who have lost faith in the Lord. The need is so large that it requires the Lord to do something huge and it humbles me that He would even include us in a piece of that plan.

A few weeks ago, our team met together and realized that all our research had brought us to a point where we were able to present our findings and vision to the local churches. An invitation was sent out to 20ish churches in the DC/ Northern Virginia area. We invited their churches to just come and sit and listen and dream with us about how we could reach the THOUSANDS of internationals who don't know Jesus.

Therefore, this past Thursday (2 days ago), we had just short of 10 churches send their pastors. We had missions pastors, head pastors, and church leaders arrive. I can't express the nerves and hopes we had going into that meeting. Zac, Keelan, Jandi, and I were all very aware of the fact that if the local church did not jump on board, then it would be a long time before DC would be reached. We felt the stakes being so high.... because they were. To be honest, I fought some cynicism against the local church but God continually assured me that He was in control.

We showed them our data.

We expressed the need... for their support... their man power... their funds.. their prayers... etc.

We allowed them to hear from one of our partners from Iran who wants to plant a church and reach Iranians but just needs the support.

We spent time in prayer with them.

Then we asked them to consider their church adopting a people group of unreached people that would less than 2 hours from their church.

Praise be to our God! They responded. Several in the group voiced that their church would be interested in jumping on board.


Therefore, now we are about to enter a phase of this job where we will be helping these church pick their groups and helping them engage them. It might require us to do some training and leading of the teams into some neighborhoods that they have never been to and are uncomfortable in, but I think it's the start of a beautiful action of the local churches in the area.

The hope is that these churches can engage a people group, start a bible study... and grow it into a church.

Let it be so, Lord. Until then, we stand in amazement at what you've done and continue to pray and fight on.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Prayer Network

Recently, our team has been in conversation about the importance of prayer in our mission. We are constantly reminded by the Lord and others that what we do will only come together if there is some major prayer behind what we do.

Wanna help with that? :)

If you are interested in committing to pray for us, please email me, Facebook message me, text me, or comment on this post with your email address and we will get you added to the network. We would love to partner with you!!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day in D.C.

I've heard Christians described a lot of ways. Honestly, a lot of times, they are not described favorably. The world loves to twist and turn the vision of what God has us doing on Earth.

 Unfortunately, Christians don't really help. We give them plenty of material to make fun of and talk about. This has become overwhelmingly obvious to me as I live in DC after the Prop 8 Supreme Court ruling. You think people are talking about it in your city? Try living in a place where the LGBT flag is hung in lots of businesses already and gay marriage is already very much legalized and pretty much accepted and welcomed. The day the ruling happened, Zac and I couldn't set one foot on a metro without hearing SOMEONE talking about it.... and reacting to those crazy Christians out there yelling that God hates gay people. Can't say I blame them...if I wasn't a believer, I'd talk about it too.

My point is, and it's not a new point, that we seem to be known for the wrong reasons.

Around the same time as the ruling, Zac and I had a wonderful conversation with a man from Somalia. Christian missionaries are killed in Somalia and the country is kind of known for its turmoil in Africa. Somalians tend to be "extreme" Muslims.

We ended up in this conversation because this man actually started it! We had wandered into his restaurant that was filled with African men. He found out that Zac and I had a background from his continent so he offered us tea and asked us to sit down. Next thing out of his mouth is, "SO... the biggest difference between Islam and Christianity is...."

We sat for the next 30-40 minutes and listened to this man explain all the ins and outs of the Islamic faith and why its so important and how holy Allah is. As he spoke, Zac and I just sat, listened, and waited for that opportunity to share.

 The man finally got to Judgement Day, which is a big deal in the Muslim and Christian worlds. He started telling us that on Judgement Day, it was going to be a great day because Allah would come to Earth and judge the people on it based on their works on a scale. The scale would literally weigh the individuals good deeds vs their bad deeds while they were on earth. If their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds then they get to go to paradise.

I finally spoke up.

"I have a question. What if the scales are close?" I used my hands as a visual.
"What if they are almost even with a little bit more good.... will I still get into paradise according to Allah?"

The man looked at me.... then looked down... and said, "Allah is a good judge so he will decide what is right in that situation."

"So there's no way to be sure that I'm in?" I asked.


My heart broke. I knew this fact about Islam, and everytime I've asked this question, heard the answer, it breaks my heart.

We went on to tell him that THAT was the biggest difference between Islam and Christianity. We told him "JESUS GOT RID OF THE SCALES!!! Because of what Jesus did while he was on earth, he secured that we would get to be in heaven FOR SURE."

The man looked up at us, saw our smiling faces, looked me in the eyes with confusion and then dropped his head in discouragement and whispered, "if only that were true...."

First off, pray for his man.We are going to be continuing our relationship with him and continuing to try and share hope with him. Secondly, I have to ask the question.... why doesn't the World think of Christianity as the religion of HOPE?

Perhaps it's because Christ's followers in America don't reflect Hope and Freedom. Maybe in the noise, the obligation, the business, the checklists, the rules, the tradition, etc. we have forgotten that we are FREE. I believe that Satan loves to do this to the American church. If we lived as though we were free, I can't imagine us being unattractive as a group in a world that is so entangled in the enemy's tricks.

So that's my challenge for this Independence Day. I realize that we are supposed to be celebrating our country today, but let us not forget the real freedom that we have in Christ.

 Freedom from sin.

Freedom from bondage.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Hey Everyone!
        It's been a busy last week so I'm finally getting a moment to sit down and update this site. I think we can finally say with some confidence that we are "settled" into D.C. Zac and I are finally not making many mistakes on the metro and know our way around D.C. enough that we blend in pretty well. THANK GOD!
     To be honest, I had no idea that moving here would have so many random challenges. Feeling like we have a grip on these things really helps us feel more at home. Thank you for your prayers about this.

     Last week, we had our first team from Alabama. They were a team of high school teenagers with a few volunteers. Because it was our first team, I was a little nervous. What if I led these kids somewhere wrong? What if I lost one?! What if they totally missed the point and didn't help us much? What if they hated it and didn't get anything out of their mission trip? Luckily, NONE of those fears came true and they did GREAT. Almost all of the students shared the gospel at least once with an International person and one students led a man from El Salvador to Christ. PRAISE GOD! These students came into our world with little knowledge about D.C. or what our ministry did, and still rocked it. They were living proof to me last week that with a heart open to obedience and hands open to serve, our God is faithful to use us. After two days of working with them, I was just so proud of them!

Obedience is something that the Lord has been teaching me lately.

 I can't speak for Zac, but I imagine that he has been learning it too. Working this job can come with some odd pressures. For me at least, there's this feeling that there are lots of people counting on us to produce results. These results could be gaining research data, leading a team phenomenally, leading a certain number of people to Christ, etc. etc. Not to say that goals are bad, because I am a very goal oriented person and I think it's healthy to have a certain amount of goals. I'd be lost without goals!  However, the students last week reminded me of something different.

When Christ left the Earth, he didn't give his disciples a number to obtain or region to be reached or even a certain number of verses to memorize. His last command simply asked them to be obedient to tell others about Him. We hear the Great Commission so often, but as a church, sometimes we forget the importance of it. We think it's something that missionaries do in foreign lands. We think it's something that pastors do. We think that God wouldn't ask us to do something that uncomfortable so we "live out our faith in actions" by just being a super nice and serving person but never speak the name of  "Jesus." 

Last week, the Lord just kept bringing to mind that I am not responsible for someone's response to the Gospel. I'm only responsible for telling it. When we don't, we are disobeying Him.

So much easier typed than done. Let me promise you that. However, I'm working on it and praying that the Lord would grow me in my boldness and faith. Join me? 

Just wanted to share what I'm learning! :)

We have smaller groups coming in the next couple weeks, but the week of July 4th we have a really big group coming. I'm particularly excited about this one because its a group that includes my sisters. :) My heart is ready to see them and serve alongside them.

Please pray that God continues to help us make connections so that we can have Gospel conversations with the people we encounter.

Please pray that He continues to strengthen and guide us as we make decisions each day on what neighborhoods to work in.

Finally, pray for the teams that come to our home. Pray God would use them to lead people to Christ in a city that desperately needs it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

God is Working Already

As an update, we arrived in D.C. on the evening of the 5th around 11pm. Due to the density of the city, there is absolutely no way to park the car near our row house which is only about three city blocks from the National Mall so we had to drive it out to the edge of the city and ride the metro back in after we had unloaded everything at the house. Yesterday (Thursday) was spent unpacking, settling in to the house, grocery shopping, and informational meetings with Keelan and Larry Black. Officially, Keelan is our supervisor. His boss' name is Larry Black. Larry works for the Baptist Convention of Virginia and is in charge of all international people groups in the Richmond, Hampton Hills, and D.C. area, affectionately called the 'Golden 'L'".
The informational meetings were super useful. Larry's heart is so closely nit with the urgency of the gospel message and a mindset for the kingdom, I was overwhelmed. It was refreshing for Amanda and I to see that our leaders have the same heart for lost international peoples that God has given us. We actually met at a West African restaurant. The owners were Susu from Guinea and Keelan was able to speak to them in their native tongue. When he found out that I had also lived in BF, the owner quickly left the room bringing back a Burkinabe woman who owned a braiding salon upstairs. We had a short conversation in french before she left with the invitation for Amanda to come and spend some time with her so that she could teach her how to make bi-sap. It is obvious that the Lord is already working to open doors and its only the first day! Praise his name!
During the informational meeting with Keelan that evening we were able to get a better picture of what it is exactly we will be doing. The strategy we are employing is three tier.
Tier 1: This has already been done with the top 100 metropolitan areas in the U.S. by Keelan Cook, Dr. Mike Dodson at South Eastern and ten other Southeastern students. Tier 1 consists of going through census data and compiling it in such a way that we can then see how many different people groups there are in each metropolitan area. The first step is done from a central location and does not involve boots on the ground anywhere, but only offers us knowledge of the nationality of those international communities, nothing more. 
Tier 2: Is where we come in. It is a fusion of three missions: further research on the ground which will help us to identify-affinity, people group cluster, people group, world view, religion; engagement of those international people groups as they present themselves in search of persons of peace; and developing partnerships with churches in the area who would be willing to make long-term commitments to engage and church plant within given people groups in the city. Due to the research that Keelan has already been able to do, the 5 regions/countries Amanda and I will be focusing on for the next 6 months are as follows: Russians, West Africans, Ethiopians, Arabs, & Afghan/Pakistan.    
Tier 3: Is the engagement and church planting by those churches.
For the most part, Keelan will be working on the third facet of tier 2 by developing those partnerships with local churches who will become the driving force of this project in tier 3. Amanda and I are being charged with the first two facets of tier 2. Between us, Larry, and Keelan, we have developed two obtainable goals by the end of this six month commitment (November of this year). (1) To have 5 Churches who have made a long term commitment to see a church planted within a given people group located in the D.C. area. (2) To have 5 international partners who are willing to work with those (predominantly Anglo) churches mentioned in the first goal to accomplish the goal of a church plant in those given people groups. This could be in the form of an international church, a international believer, international church leader, person of peace, or new convert.   
*Pray for us as we figure out what this looks like in a practical way.
*Pray for boldness, wisdom, cultural understanding, and endurance. 
*Pray for patience when teams come in and are living on top of us throughout the summer.
*Most of all pray that God would pour his spirit out on us as we do his work and on this city. Pray that he would work in the lives of those we meet at prepare their hearts for the gospel.
We love you all!

Well, here we are!

Hey Everyone!!!

       We are officially living in Washington D.C. The boxes have been unpacked. (FINALLY!) The groceries have been purchased and physically carried to the house (in the rain... hahah!). The car has been parked in a garage outside the city (because parking in the city is too expensive). There have been several times that we have looked at each other and said, "Um... so... WE LIVE HERE!!!!" It's crazy to think that so many months of planning and praying are finally playing out before us.

       God has a funny way of reminding you that He is in control. We met with a small group of people on Tuesday night in Wake Forrest, NC that really blessed our hearts. We had stopped in Wake Forrest to unload our furniture into a storage facility on our way to DC and Keelan (our supervisor) leads a bible study there. We said we wanted to go so that we could meet some people and have something to do. I think if I was really honest, I'd have to admit that I wanted to go to this bible study so that I didn't have the down time to sit and think about all the people and family and familiar that I had just left in Nashville.

      When we got there, Keelan led the group in something called " Evidence of God's Grace."  Every member of the group had to go around and share a point in time that past week when God had sustained, been faithful, or moved in their life. When it came time for Zac and I share, we looked at each other and could only say, "Where to begin!?" The thought of it actually moved me to tears... (which really messed up my plans of an emotionless bible study evening... )

      God's grace has been more than evident in our lives over the last few days. Every meeting has been a blessing and encouragement. Do I miss home? Of course I do! Do I miss familiar faces and places? More than I could ever say. However, there have been more than enough moments where I have looked at my husband and seen that shiny look on his face and known that we are doing exactly what God has designed us  for in this season of life. 

       Every day, we will be working to engage the people around us. Washington D.C. has 190 people groups in it and 96-97% of the D.C. area is considered "unreached." That can be a very overwhelming statistic and sounds like a number used to describe a foreign country, not our nation's capital. Therefore, we have picked 4-5 of the key people groups in the area that we have some expertise on to build relationships with first. Starting next week, we have a team coming pretty much every week to help us with our work. Basically, those teams will help us go around the city and build relationships with international people in hopes of sharing the gospel with them. Ultimately, we want to see at least 4 churches commit to this project long term so that we can pair them with a people group in need of ministry. Please pray that we are able to serve those teams well and lead them effectively. There may be some training involved for these teams to learn the right and wrong way to engage another culture in the context of D.C. most effectively. The first team to come will be a large group of teenagers. (I'm so excited!) After that, most of the teams will be older.

That's the short answer. I will post Zac's long explanation later so that you can read it in more detail if you'd like. :) He's a better writer on those things than I am. :)

Please pray for us.
1) Pray that God uses us to build relationships with someone from each people group that we are looking to engage. He alone can make those connections and help us build that trust.
2) Pray that God gives us the wisdom, discernment, and leadership abilities that are necessary to leading each team.
3) Pray for our marriage. Pray that God continues to keep us joint together in Christ. We know that part of our ministry here is showing the people we encounter the beauty of a God centered marriage. We long to do that.  
4) Pray for our hearts as they settle in a new place. Pray that all the emotions associated with that get processed properly. :) That can so easily become a distraction for us.