Sabbatical year

Calling versus passion

Hi friends – we’re sorry to have taken so long between updates. Once October hit, things got much busier. The new Algete church has had its first gatherings, kids have begun twice-a-day school (9:30-1, home for lunch, then 3-4:30), and we have begun meeting with several more people for English lessons, Spanish-English exchanges and just to develop relationships.

We have our first young adults’ group meeting on Friday night, a small gathering of youth on Saturday night to call others and invite them to the grupo de jóvenes (youth group), and then our first real children’s group and grupo de jóvenes on Sunday night. Our initial Algete church gathering was excellent. We had 38 people in attendance and a great spirit in the room.

We’ll hope to have much more to share in the coming weeks. For now, a great reflection from Emily about passion and calling…


The other day I had a thought — “What if God calls you to something that you aren’t passionate about?”

In my limited theological experience, I had always equated passion and calling. God would call you to something that you felt a passion to do. Or God would at least call you to do something you were good at doing.

When we came to Spain, we knew that we would need to do things that went outside of our natural talents and areas of comfort. But we also wanted to think about where we “fit and flourish.” We heard that phrase a lot in our training. “In what situations are you using your gifts and personality traits to their best potential — in a way that you fit and flourish?” I believe it’s important to ask that question. But I’m realizing it may not be the only question.

So what happens when you feel God calling you to an area where you don’t have a passion? Where you’re not sure you fit best? Is it still a call? Is it just a need that you must fill?

Here in Algete we’re helping to start a new worshipping community. We needed someone to lead the children’s ministry and hadn’t found anyone. Sylvia, who is definitely gifted with children, will be out of the country for half of the year and so couldn’t do it. Teddy, Paul and Alison were teaming up to work with adults and youth. That left me.

I resisted at first. “This isn’t where I fit and flourish.” “This isn’t my passion” (which in my mind also meant it wasn’t my calling). I love kids, but I’m not a children’s minister.

Then I conceded. “Well, I guess I better do it because no one else can.” I was starting to psych myself out before I even got started.

Then God turned my heart to see things differently. What if he was making this my calling here? My kids make up a good portion of the children coming, so I knew I needed to at least give some help to this. I believe the church needs to make a genuine investment in the lives of children. All children should know that an adult loves them and cares about their salvation. So why didn’t I feel that this was where I was called?

God calls us to do things that seem to flow naturally from us — things we are gifted to do. But He also calls us to things that are hard and unnatural. He calls us to forgive. Everyone. All the time. He calls us to live through difficult situations, to be generous when we would rather be stingy, to sacrifice our will and our desires to help others.

He shines in our weakness. (I sure hope he can shine through horrible-Spanish-speaking Americans.) I become lesser so that he may become greater. I can’t get any “lesser” than in a position of organizing children’s ministry. But alas I find myself with a new calling. Different than anything I would have chosen for myself. But really, it’s the same calling as always—to show His love to those I meet and interact with. Right now, that’s particularly to children, even if that’s not where I would have put myself.

He will be glorified in spite of me.

Sabbatical year

Fervent Prayer

One of the things we have appreciated most about the ministry here is that it’s centered in prayer. A lot of Christian missions and ministries say that prayer is one of their top priorities, but I’ve never seen that value lived out the way that we’ve seen it here.

We reserve a big chunk of each Friday for prayer. The preparing Algete church has House of Prayer at Paul & Sylvia’s every Friday from 12-2 pm and again from 7-9 pm (to allow people to come when it’s more convenient). In between, several OMS missionaries who work in Spain gather for OMS prayer meeting from 2:30-4:30.

That’s six hours each Friday that are devoted to prayer. In reality, we spend about half the time in discussion about things people would like prayer for. But that still means we’re spending a full three hours in prayer. To my shame, that’s more cumulative time spent in prayer each Friday than I’ve spent with some ministry teams over a year’s time.

A lot of this has been inspired by a ministry in Wales that Paul & Sylvia came across a few years ago. I recommend the book about that ministry: The Grace Outpouring.

I suppose you can never know what would have happened anyway and what happened as a direct result of prayer. I can say, though, that this group has prayed for some specific and unlikely things and then seen them happen. Most of those are personal for someone or confidential, so I can’t share them. In an earlier post, Emily shared about how we had prayed both for space and for a way to connect with some teenagers and young adults in the community, and then the next week the city asked if we could teach English classes to youth and young adults in exchange for free space usage.

Do we really believe in the power of prayer? We all say that we do, but I think we rarely live that way. My tendency has been to say a quick prayer, then get about the real work of making decisions and getting things done. Our focus on prayer here isn’t to the exclusion of doing things, but it’s taking a much bigger role than it has in anything I’ve done before, and that has been a great blessing.

Based on our increased focus on prayer here, I wrote a piece over on my personal blog inviting people to pray for one person (or two) in a specific way this week. Click on that if you’re interested. I’d love for you to join me.

And finally, since I’m sharing about prayer, we would appreciate your prayers especially for these things:

  • The first gathering for the Algete church is this Saturday night! This will be a gathering of those who have already shown interest. A meal and some time in worship and prayer at Paul & Sylvia’s house. Please pray for a good fellowship and a good start for what’s to come.
  • We haven’t gotten the exact location or dates for the space that the city will be letting us use. That has made it harder to make decisions about future worship meetings. We’re praying to get some specifics soon and not to allow space details to prevent us from moving forward.
  • Emily and I begin teaching English classes in two weeks. Pray that we get good enrollment for those classes and that we can lead them well. (We’re using some of the free time until then to do extra language work. We could continue to use prayer for language learning!)
  • Finally, the kids have done really well in their first month of school. Abigail has started to have some real separation anxiety from Ella when we drop them off each morning. We’re told she does fine throughout most of the day, but it’s still hard to see her in tears in the morning. We’d appreciate some extra prayers for her.
Sabbatical year

On not having an agenda … and having an agenda

We’ve met more new people in the past seven weeks than we had met in the past several years. I’m sure that’s usually true for anyone who moves to a new place. And the people have been wonderful. Kind, quick to welcome, quick to offer help.

A construction crew accidentally hit a gas line next to our house yesterday, and they made us leave the house for several hours while they took care of it. Several nearby neighbors offered to have us come in and stay with them, fix us food and drinks, etc., until we could get back into our house.

And of course, as we’ve mentioned in earlier updates, the Cummings, the other missionaries nearby, and the “charter members” of the new Algete church have been wonderful.

On not having an agenda

When it comes to sharing faith and meeting people, there’s a lot of talk in church and missionary circles about not having an agenda. You don’t develop a relationship just so you can “sell” somebody on something. It’s phony, and it devalues the person. The door-to-door salesperson is just off-putting when he acts like he wants to become my friend then tries to sell me a magazine.

I can honestly say that we don’t have that kind of agenda with people. If we never expected to share our faith with the people we met, and if we never expected any of them to follow Christ, we would still be forming the relationships that we are.

We would do that selfishly — because these are great, kind, hospitable people who have been a joy to meet. And they have been a blessing to us when we’ve needed help, while we may not yet have done more than provide some comedy for them.

We would do that altruistically, too, I hope — because these are people created in the image of God and loved by God. And so even if they weren’t great and kind and hospitable, I hope that we’d still be showing an interest in them and trying to develop relationships with them. That hasn’t been tested yet, as we’ve hardly met an unpleasant person.

Our number one agenda is to meet and know and enjoy and bless the people God puts in our path during our short stay here. No relationship hinges on anything more than that.

On having an agenda

And yet I’d be lying if I said there were no further agenda — perhaps hope would be the better word — in these relationships.

Okay, I’m going to get theological here for a bit. You’ve been warned…

Nothing has changed and enriched my life more than knowing God’s love, following Christ, and receiving the Holy Spirit. Neither marriage nor kids nor accomplishments nor other relationships has been as important – great as those all have been.

And so if I’ve truly found such treasure in this faith — and if I believe that treasure is available to everyone — wouldn’t it be uncaring for me to say that I don’t care if others ever receive it?

Moreover, to be candid, I believe a final judgment awaits, and then a new heaven and a new earth. I don’t presume to know exactly who is “in,” or who is “out.” I think those things are a part of the judgment we’re to leave to Christ. But this I know: we can have assurance of God’s love and our redemption through Christ. Would it be anything less than cruel not to offer these to people?

So in that respect, we do have an agenda for those we meet. We want them to know Christ.

Would we be developing and nurturing these new relationships if we didn’t have that agenda? Absolutely! But we certainly hope and pray that the latter comes, too.

People in missions have called Spain a “missionary graveyard.” People have come with huge aspirations, then felt like failures when they had few, if any, conversions to report. In several parts of the globe, they measure numbers of people coming to Christ and numbers of new church plants by the week, the day, or even the hour. In Spain, these are more commonly measured in years and decades. This is why we’ve said before that they call Spain a “hard-soil” area. That’s actually one of the reasons we wanted to be here, though.

Could a revival break out in Spain? We certainly hope and pray so. And if there’s a part for us to play in that, we want to play it. But we’re not concerned to measure our “success” by any of these numbers. We have nothing to prove.

So we hope to share our faith and/or an invitation into the Church with many people here. We’ll do that out of a sense of gratitude, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of concern. The rest we’ll leave to God. And regardless of the rest, we’ll enjoy and hope to bless these beautiful people.

And a final note — This is no different in Spain than it should have been for us in the U.S. You may have had some of the same feelings wherever you are. These reflections are just highlighted because of all the new relationships we’re developing and the fact that we’re helping to start a new church here. I hope our attitude toward these things will always be the same: developing relationships out of our own desire to know and enjoy and bless people, but also sharing our faith out of a sincere hope that people might know God.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for us especially this weekend. It’s our big “English Weekend.” The theme is “Oregon Trail” — pioneers, wagons, oxen, and cholera… It’s a great opportunity to meet new people. Emily will be leading the children’s sessions, and Teddy will be helping lead the youth sessions. We’ve been planning and looking forward to this weekend for a while.

Sabbatical year

School, English Classes, and Emergency Rooms in Spain

Sorry for the delay in posting. Our plan was to post something Friday night, but instead we were introduced to the Spanish medical system…

Our first hospital visit

All four kids wanted to sleep together in the loft, and we let them since school would be starting next week. It wasn’t long before we heard Abby start screaming. Parents – you all know the difference between an offended cry and an injured cry. This was a major injury cry. We rushed upstairs and found Abigail with blood rushing down her forehead. There had been a game of “monster,” Hunter had pushed Hannah, who fell open-mouthed toward Abby, giving her a gash across her eyebrow.

Paul Cummings came to our rescue and drove Abby and I (Emily) to the UTC here in Algete where they promptly referred us to the hospital since the cut was on her face and she was so young. Off we went, Abby pleading that she didn’t want to go because she was scared of getting stitches. Luckily, they were able to use medical glue instead of stitches, and the doctors and nurses were very kind and comforting. All is well now, but we have to remind Abby that if she is wild and bumps her eyebrow, she will have to go back to the hospital and get stitches this time.

We had made it six years without an ER run with the kids, but it only took us six weeks here! We’re again counting our blessings for having veterans here who have been so good and helpful to us in those kinds of difficult times.

Everybody ready on the first day of school.
Everybody ready on the first day of school.


On to other news… the kids began school today! We registered and dropped off Ella, Abigail, and Hunter this morning. It’s hard in moments like this to put away the American mentality of goals, planning ahead, etc. We found out which school the kids would be attending on Friday, and we received their registration papers as we dropped them off. Completing their paperwork took us all the way until time to pick them up. Note: if you ever plan to live in Spain, plan on LOTS of paperwork!

The kids all seemed to have a great first day of school. The English teacher for the primary school spent some one-on-one time helping Ella, and all three kids already have started making friends.

Our prayers are for easy transitions for the kids. We know they’ll have hard times and going to school in a different language will be difficult. They may get picked on for being different and we’re preparing for that, as well. We have had immense blessings prayed over them by our missionary family: that they would find favor in the eyes of the teachers, that they would find friends, and that they would learn quickly and confidently and be kept safe in an environment that is so different from home. We know so many of you have prayed especially for the kids. Thank you! We will keep you posted.

Doing paperwork for the first day of school! Sylvia tells us this will be a picture enjoyed by missionaries around the world.
Doing paperwork for the first day of school! Sylvia tells us this will be a picture enjoyed by missionaries around the world.

English classes

In our early conversations with the Cummings about the ministry here, we’ve talked a lot about two things, in particular: finding ways to have more contact with youth and young adults, and worship services for the new church being planted here, though there isn’t yet a space available. Then two weeks ago, Algete’s Director of Education called the Cummings and asked to meet. When they met, she asked if Paul and Sylvia would coordinate English classes for youth and young adults. (There’s a huge desire to learn English here.) She offered to provide supplies and space and, to top it all off, in lieu of payment they could have space owned by the town hall for church services. What an answer to prayer!

Sylvia likened this to the story of Moses, when the princess pulled Moses from the river and Miriam offered to bring a woman to nurse and care for the baby for the princess. They were asking the Cummings to do what they had already wanted to be doing here in Algete. This is also giving more definition to what Teddy and I will be doing while we’re here. Teddy will be teaching youth English classes every Wednesday, and we’ll both be teaching young adults’ classes on Friday. We’re hoping this will be a great additional way to meet some youth and young adults in the area.

We thank the Lord for preparing in advance what he wanted to be done here. We ask for prayers for those who come to the classes, for proper preparation and for God to guide our conversations.


Sabbatical year

Notes on living in a foreign country

Some quick observations on living in a foreign country – and on Madrid

  • Have you heard suggestions about doing things to engage your mind in typically mindless activities (e.g. brush your teeth with the other hand)? That’s how everything initially is in a new country. Simple things like going to the grocery or driving are a constant mental challenge and sensory stimulation.
  • What’s the climate like in Madrid? Someone described it yesterday as similar to West Texas or New Mexico. Did you know Madrid’s latitude is actually just about the same as Pittsburgh’s? But being so close to the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert (dust outbreaks all the way from the Sahara are common in Madrid), the climate is semi-arid. We have yet to see rain. The rain in Spain most certainly does not stay mainly in the plain.
  • We’re spoiled. I remember when our air conditioning stopped working for a couple days last summer and I thought the sky was falling. There’s not much air conditioning in Spain, despite temperatures in the high 90s and up into the 100s. We use wind. And it’s really not that bad. Then again, it’s a “dry heat,” so that might help.
  • It’s good to start slow. We’ve appreciated Paul & Sylvia’s wisdom in not over-scheduling us for this first month. I honestly hadn’t expected it to be so taxing early on just to adapt to living in a new place.
  • It’s great to have people who know the culture as guides. I know some people move into a new country entirely on their own. I’m sure they find a way to make it, but it’s hard for me to imagine. The help we’ve received from Paul & Sylvia, some other missionaries here, and those in their community has been invaluable. I’m not quite sure how we would have made it through all the initial needs (finding and securing a place to stay, figuring out legal stuff, etc.) without them.

Some important skills if you might ever live in a foreign country, or even do much travel (actually, these could be pretty helpful right where you are)

Yes, we’ve now lived in a foreign country for three weeks, and I’m giving advice. Take it as advice from someone who has lived in a foreign country for three weeks. Just the things we’re finding. I’m sure a bigger and better-informed list will come with more experience. So you can just disregard these and wait until the post at the end of our time here.

  • Learn to drive a stick shift. You never know when you might need to.
  • Learn another language. It’s the road map of a culture. And it’s key to getting around in a culture. If you know where you might be, which language to learn is obvious. If you don’t know, I would choose Spanish or Standard Chinese (assuming, of course, that you know English). After those, I’d choose French. Then Russian or Arabic. All you have to do is learn all of those, and you can go nearly anywhere in the world and get by.
  • Red = countries that don't use the metric system, via
    Red = countries that don’t use the metric system, via

    Get comfortable using the metric system (see the graphic).

  • Learn the art of people-watching and cultivate curiosity. Pay attention to people’s practices, the stories they tell, and their most commonly used images.
  • Read. Read things from and about other cultures.
    • Want an enjoyable, quick read that will give you some categories for understanding cultural differences? Check out Sarah Lanier’s Foreign to Familiar (link to Kindle edition). If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised at some of these differences and develop a better appreciation for them.
    • Read world news.
    • Learn about religions of the world. Understand a person’s/culture’s religion better and you’ll understand much more about their stories and how they perceive the world. Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

That’s all for now. Just some bits and pieces from what we’re learning and experiencing. School starts in just over two weeks. Next weekend we have a leaders’ retreat with several others who are planning to start the Algete church, and things will start happening pretty quickly after that.

Sabbatical year

The most humbling thing I’ve ever done…


I’m pretty sure the most humbling thing I’ve ever done is to try to learn a new language.

As Emily mentioned last week, intensive work on language learning is our primary focus in August. The process of learning a language is bound to have its awkward moments. Before you can have big, elaborate conversations in Spanish, you have to be able to speak like a child. And it can be pretty humbling, as a grown man, to speak to someone like a child.

A story may illustrate best:

We needed a flyswatter. Since we didn’t know the word for flyswatter (not one of the first 4,000 words you typically learn in a new language), we asked the attendant at our neighborhood pool. He gave us the word: “matamoscas.” I promptly forgot it.

So I went to the corner store looking for a flyswatter, hoping I could find it on my own. No luck. I tried to remember that word… Was it metatosas? Macachosas?

The tendency is to think that if you just say something “close,” people will surely get it. A little bit of mispronunciation can’t be that big of a deal. That’s not a great assumption. To illustrate: a Spanish-speaking friend recently tried to tell us her favorite foods in English. She told us they were jump and soap. Any guesses? I’ll give you time to think and give the answer below… Would you call those “minor mispronunciations” small or large hindrances to understanding?

Back to the flyswatter. I decided I’d just need to swallow my pride, grin foolishly charmingly, and try to explain what I needed to the clerk. I think I said something to the effect of, “I’m going to need something to hit things.” I did the universal “fly-swat” motion and sound effect as a complement.

He looked at me strangely, then a light bulb seemed to go off and he led me down an aisle where he proudly held up a hammer. “¿Sí?” “Hmmm… no.”

I had tried to say “los insectos,” but that didn’t seem to be working out. So then, in a great crowning moment, I — a grown man in a store — looked at this grown man working in a store, lifted my hands up beside my shoulders, fluttered them, and went, “Bzzzzzz.”

I don’t think the gravity of that moment — all of the pride swallowed and dignity trampled — hit me until later.

But it worked! The man had a look of instant understanding and rushed me to another aisle where he pulled out a…

… butterfly net.

Well darn. I told him we were closer, but not quite there yet. Then I said, “mortir!” and did the universal flyswat motion and sound effect again. I said “mortir” because I don’t know the word for “to kill,” so I figured “to die” would do. Sadly, I missed that one, too. It’s just “morir.” Give me a written test on these things, and I can do okay. In the heat of the moment, though, you never know what (non)-word might come out, which syllable you might put the accent on, or which verb tense you might use.

Thankfully, the kind store clerk again seemed to have a flash of understanding and rushed me to the flyswatters. I thanked him profusely and asked what it was called. He told me. I forgot again. I had to look it up to write this. Matamoscas…

We asked you earlier to pray for our language learning. Again, please do that. We know it’s critically important to have conversations that lead to quicker understanding than the one above.

The Holy Spirit came on people at Pentecost in such a way that they heard languages they didn’t know and yet understood them. They spoke to others who didn’t know their language, and yet they were heard and understood. We’re praying that God will give us the grace to hear and speak the Spanish language in such a way that we will understand and be understood. And we’re praying that especially in any opportunities to hear others’ stories and witness to the love of God, we might have a special measure of grace — a supernatural ability to hear and speak the language that we know goes further than our natural understanding.

Oh … our friend’s two favorite foods: jump and soap… those were ham (jamón in Spanish) and soup. See how a small difference in pronunciation can be a pretty big barrier to effective communication? And those came from someone much further along in her English than we are in our Spanish.

The kids doing their best "fly" look
The kids doing their best “fly” look
Sabbatical year

We have arrived!

Our living/dining room.
Our living/dining room.

As many of you know (and the rest of you at least hoped) we are in Spain. Paul and Sylvia Cummings had a wonderful welcome committee to meet us at the airport, had cleaned our place and had scheduled several nights’ meals to prepare for our arrival. We arrived in the afternoon last Monday and spent the first week getting settled (with great thanks to Peggy Ray), figuring out our surroundings, having lots of conversations in Spanish, and going to the pool to cool down. Our chalet (i.e. a townhouse) is a good size and has worked well for us. We are on the top of a lovely hill which affords an extensive view of the surrounding area, although it also means a pretty good hike to get home from the center of town. (We’re going to take pictures of all of our calves and compare again next year!)

It’s hot and dry here in August. Really dry. I find I can’t be more than 2 meters from a tube of chap stick. There’s a nice breeze that comes from living on top of a hill which keeps us comfortable during the day. We all have fans in our rooms which helps to keep us comfortable at night, but I must admit that this is when I miss air conditioning the most.

The front of our chalet
The front of our chalet

Like most Spaniards in August (who aren’t gone for vacation), we spend daily time at the neighborhood pool. It has been a great early way to meet neighbors. We’ve already met one little boy who came over to play with Hunter while his dad (a local English teacher!) helped us with Internet problems.

Already we have had a wonderful welcome party at the Cummings’ house to meet some of the missionary family, and they took us to nearby Segovia to see the huge, ancient Roman aqueduct there and a Spanish castle. We have also been to out to eat twice (both way too early—meaning that we tried to eat dinner at 8pm) and tipped the waitresses way too much! Oh well, they got paid extra for the inconvenience of patrons who had no idea what they were saying.

On Friday we attended our first prayer meeting for the budding church here in Algete, and on Sunday we attended a worship service in a neighboring town and met a number of beautiful people. For its 21,000-person population, Algete has only one Catholic parish and one small Baptist church. Combined, they may have 150 people in worship each week. We’re excited and hopeful for the many new families that a new community of believers may reach.

I’m really glad that we’re here during Spain’s vacation month. It has been nice that our primary job right now is to learn to speak Spanish better. For the next two weeks, Teddy is away at formal language school from 8-3, the kids get tutored daily for 1-2 hours, and I have a tutor a couple of times a week. Teddy and I will switch roles after two weeks. Everyone we have talked to has been very kind and tried to work with us through our broken Spanish. Language learning is a humbling experience.

I know this post is somewhat random but it wouldn’t be fitting to end this post without a couple of funny stories or interesting things about Spain:

  • In the grocery store I almost dumped a skinned rabbit (head, eyes, nose, and all) out of its bag.
  • On the plane on the way over Ella said, “How much fun is this?!?” and Hunter exclaimed, “The clouds look like cotton candy!”
  • When taking his placement test for Spanish, Teddy said he had brought his husband with him to Spain.

We have a few pictures here. Look for more on Facebook.

Sabbatical year

Who knew we would need a RAFT to get to Spain?

mk puppets
The mission kids (MKs) after their puppet show at Cross Training.

So we are nearly through with our Cross Training (I always have to think about this so I don’t say Cross Fit) at the headquarters of the One Mission Society in Greenwood, IN. The training has been wonderful and covered a wide range of topics. We have worked through personality types, what behaviors we use when we are stressed, our interpersonal skills, our team styles, physical health, mental health, spiritual warfare, theology, evangelism, church planting practices, and others… phew. And we still have three days to go.

All of the information has been good and helpful in preparing us before going into other cultures and working with missionary teams. One topic that stuck out the most, however, was the concept of “leaving well.” In order to really leave well, we needed to build a RAFT (a great tool from Interaction International). This gave us some helpful things to focus on, and I think it would be helpful to anyone preparing for any form of leaving (a job, a country, even loved ones near death).

Reconciliation — Making sure to take time to extend the hand of peace to anyone that you felt a rift with. This applies to those with whom the rift began several years ago or recently. Even though you may be physically leaving this place, the wounds carried with unreconciled relationships will be a drain and a distraction from afar. Cracks in the heart will become canyons in a new place and environment. Even more important is that forgiveness — true forgiveness — is not optional in the Christian life. Christ forgives us as we forgive others.

Affirmation — Take time to affirm those who have meant something to you. Write a note, make a call, give a hug. Don’t leave without those people knowing that they have been a blessing to you. The encouragement that was poured into you can be returned so that it may be given to others in turn. Another side of affirmation is to notice and encourage gifts that others may either not recognize or have no confidence in. These may be gifts of encouragement, leadership, or potential, which need only to be spotlighted in order to shine.

Farewell — It’s important to have proper time allocated to farewells. Time needs to be taken to allow for closure. It is sometimes awkward but very necessary to give proper farewells. Don’t limit it to people. Places, pets, and things are also things that need to be given a proper farewell. Take pictures, take a moment, make a blessing over it.

Think Destination — In order to really leave well, you have to be preparing for the situation you will be entering with whatever knowledge you have. What are the expectations for the people, culture, or daily life in this new place? Are there hidden expectations? What will happen if those expectations aren’t met?

We took a final trip back to Lexington for the kids (with cousins) to play a big role in Ashley & Elijah's wedding.
We took a final trip back to Lexington for the kids (with cousins) to play a big role in Ashley & Elijah’s wedding.

I’m not a person who loves acronyms. I think it’s maybe that my work uses them ad nauseam. Despite my jaded past, I like this acronym. I think I like it because it is freeing. It’s a first step in freedom from past hurts. It allows for leaving the past location with encouragement to be the best people or group that they/it can be. There’s intentional space for adequate goodbyes. And it encourages you to process the future. I think it’s a tangible guide to making any transition better, whether leaving for missionary work, moving homes, changing jobs, or even for preparing for the end of our earthly lives.

Before we even heard about this concept of ‘leaving well,’ we felt we had done well with the farewells to people and the affirmations. The other concepts we wanted to make sure we considered before we left. The area we lacked the most was encouraging our kids to go through these steps. We had been so excited that they were excited that we didn’t want to draw their attention to things they may find sad or make them focus on the things they were going to miss. How wrong we were! Children have the need to go through the process just like adults. Luckily, we were going to be in Lexington one last time for a family wedding before our flight to Spain. We asked the kids about people or places or things that they felt they needed to say goodbye to before we left. We drove by our house and said a blessing. We played one last time at “the blue park” with one of Ella’s friends from kindergarten. We blessed Ella’s school, the twins’ school, the church, their grandparents’ house, and the Chick-fil-A on Nicholasville Rd. It felt good. The kids were better involved in the process of our family being able to leave Lexington well so that we could fully be free for the service to which God has called our family in Spain.

We’ll be saying our final farewells this weekend in Louisville, and then we’ll be on a plane Sunday night. Please keep us in your prayers for the journey and for those last steps in leaving well.

Sabbatical year

Visas are in!

Hi friends,

Just a quick note to let you know that our visas came back this week from the Spanish Consulate. This was our biggest point of stress and concern for the past few months.

To the many of you who told us you were praying for these, thank you!

We’re about to begin a final week of CROSS Training in Indianapolis, and then on a plane next Sunday. We appreciate your continued prayers.

Sabbatical year

Better than sex

“Giving is better than sex!!”

So exclaimed a (rather wild-eyed) United Methodist pastor from stage at this year’s Kentucky Annual Conference. Several others following him on stage commended his enthusiasm but said they weren’t sure if they could go so far.

The outpouring of generosity that we have received in the past few months has been incredible.

There have been the gifts of service — people like Megan and Jamie who have shown up to watch and play with kids when we had other demands; or Emily’s mom, who came for our final week in the house to help clean and pack; or Teri Schmelzel who hosted us after our trying trip to Chicago.

There have been the gifts of prayer. A high school friend of Emily’s sent her a note to tell her that their family of six had each taken one member of our family and committed to praying for us for the next year. The Offerings Community held a prayer send-off for us at Steve and Anna Dominick’s, capped by Jason Jackson’s heartfelt prayer over us that Sunday morning.

There have been the gifts of special words — countless cards and e-mails and calls to give encouragement and affirmations.

There have been financial gifts. Several people have given us special gifts or made monthly commitments for the full year. I had expected to be grateful when people gave us financial support. What I hadn’t expected was just how personal this has ended up being. Knowing that people are willing to support us out of their own pockets has been one of the most personally affirming things I have ever experienced.

And there have been the simple gifts of time. I’ve laughed at how people I may not have seen for the next year have still felt an urgency to get together before we leave. But it’s a real gift simply to sit with someone, knowing that you soon won’t be able to — whether you would have or not. I stopped at the donut shop just before we left town and ended up just sitting at the entrance with Joe and Heidi. We talked some about what had come and what the next year held, but I have a sense that it’s just that time sitting there silently that I’ll remember.

So thank you. So many of you have been so generous to us in so many ways, and it has touched us deeply. I’ve named a handful of names here and could have named hundreds more. Your generosity toward us has urged us to give more freely of ourselves to others — with our service, with our prayers, with our words, with our money, and with our time.

God gave his Son freely that we might have life. Perhaps we best reflect the nature of God when we so freely give of ourselves in love. And maybe that does make it better than sex…