Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Blessed Are All Those Who Wait

It's amazing what the Lord can do in 3 months. When last I wrote a blog post, I believe I was at 18% of my needed budget. I am now at 29%! Praise the Lord! However, this past January, I was talking to my team in Chiba, and we discovered – through some confusion – that my original budget was set far too high. (It's always nice to hear that!) The team has been adjusting my budget since then, and I am waiting to hear the final number.

It has not been easy to wait through this process. I have felt discouragement, impatience, and anxiety. For a long while, I wouldn't admit to myself that I was feeling that way, and it really started to take an affect on me. The main reason that I have been antsy about this falls on going to Belgium. I have said this before, but as a reminder, I need to be at 50% of my budget by April 15th, or I will not be able to go to training in Belgium come July. This means that I would need to wait until January for the next training session. That would hold me back from going to Japan until after January, but the team is very much hoping to have me in Japan by September 1st. Based on conversations I have had with the team, it sounds as though I may already be at 50% (or more) with my adjusted budget. I still need to wait for it to be sent in and approved by MTW, though.

I am not by nature an anxious person, so when I start having foreign emotions, it really messes with me. I couldn't process how I was feeling, all the while not admitting that I was nervous in waiting to hear from the team. Earlier this week, I finally realized that something was wrong, and cried out to the Lord. I have been reading through Isaiah in my morning devotions, and yesterday I was reading through chapter 30. As I was about to read verse 18, there was something about it that seemed to stand out to me on the page. I felt like that Lord was saying, “This is for you, Melanie. Listen.” So I listened:

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” - Isaiah 30:18

I read this verse over and over, and felt God's peace pouring into me, quieting my emotions and making me be still in His presence. I realized that I am not okay, and that I have been trying to shoulder everything on my own. So I am casting all my anxieties on Him, because He cares for me.

You know when Jesus is trying to teach you something and that theme recurs throughout your daily life in strange ways? Well, another lesson He has put on my heart is the power and necessity of prayer. I am not a gifted prayer warrior, but I've been struggling a bit more than usual recently. I am so thankful that I have been reminded of the most important weapon in my arsenal. I was listening to a sermon on the theme of prayer by John Piper this morning. Here are a couple of quotes that stood out to me:

“Prayer moves God to change people's wills.... Do not neglect the world-shaping influence that you have through prayer.”

That is my prayer right now – that I would not neglect the influence I have through prayer. I would like to ask you to join me in crying out to the Lord. Please pray that my budget would be finalized quickly, and that I would be able to make it to Belgium this summer! Thank you, brothers and sisters. You are a constant blessing to me, and I am thanking the Lord for you!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New Creation

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fall for Japan

A few weekends ago, I had the absolute pleasure of attending an event called Fall for Japan. It was put on by the MTW Japan Partnership, which I didn't know existed prior to the event! Apparently this was the first event to be put on by them, and due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback received, they are hoping to do more in the future.

To sum up the event in one sentence, it was a chance for people to meet missionaries to Japan and to learn about the ministries and need there. I was incredibly encouraged by the time I was able to spend meeting other missionaries to Japan, reconnecting with friends, connecting with those I'd only ever heard about from my friends in Japan, and sharing with others about what I will be doing in Chiba. I had some wonderful conversations as I met prayer warriors and supporters of the work being done. (I'm beginning to realize that attending events like this will mean meeting many friends-of-friends, as so often I was asked, “Oh, do you know so-and-so?!”)

I can't begin to explain the joy I had in that room, surrounded by brothers and sisters, each with a desire to talk about the needy land that makes my heart sing and break at the same moment. I was blessed and moved to tears by the prayers said for those of us there who were in the process of support raising. I laughed as we swapped stories about Japan, funny foreigner moments and general Japanese oddities. It was refreshing to talk to those support raising, as we are sharing in the same struggles and lessons learned, but also to encourage one another.

Overall, the event left me feeling blessed and encouraged beyond measure. As I drove home, I reflected on all I had heard and learned, and was eager to continue support raising with new excitement. Please join me in praying that I would remain with this attitude!

Now, on to support raising updates: 
  • I recently got over a nasty sickness that knocked my energy out for 4 weeks, so I am praising God for my current health and ability to get back in the swing of support raising!
  • Praise the Lord for providing 3 new supporters just within the past few days!! (I just hit 16% of my needed monthly support!)
  • Some of you may know that there is a month of training I will need to complete in Belgium some time next year. The training is offered twice a year, in January and July. Unfortunately I will not be able to make it in January, but I can see many positive reasons for going in July. Please pray that I will be able to make it in July!
As always, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I've received! The Lord has blessed me greatly. 
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”- Philippians 4:19-20

Friday, August 14, 2015

Suffer for the Name

“And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” - Acts 5:40-42

I'm pretty sure we're all familiar with the image of a team of athletes after winning an important game, running into a huddle, jumping on top of one another, slapping each other's backs and chest bumping, cheering and whooping, dumping a tub of Gatorade on the coach, celebrating their victory. As I read this passage in Acts today, I had this mental image of the disciples acting similarly, only by society's standards, they hadn't experienced a great victory. They had each been lashed close to forty times, were threatened, and sent on their way. Where was the victory? Here is a group of men, not jumping on one another but probably leaning on each other for support, lacking the strength to run, bleeding together, groaning through the pain, tending one another's wounds – and they're rejoicing?

Yes. They're rejoicing. Jesus told them this was to come, that they would be hated, that they would be beaten, that they would be cast out. But He also told them how precious each of them were, how valuable they were, that by acknowledging Him before men, He would acknowledge them before His Father in Heaven! Think of that!! Immediately after being told not to speak the name of Jesus, this is the first thing they do! Covered in blood, bruises, and forming scars, they go from door to door saying, “Look at our Jesus! Hallelujah, what a Savior!” and Jesus comes before the Father saying, “Look at Your disciples, your faithful servants. How beautiful.”

How beautiful. I think of the disciples as they stumble away from the council, in such great pain. But then they look into each other's eyes, and they smile together, tears mixing with sweat, knowing they were fulfilling God's calling in their lives. How beautiful! I think of them exiting the presence of the council, standing together looking over the city, taking a deep breath and saying, “Now, where were we?” They grasp the fists of their brothers, ready to go, and they pick up where they left off.

The Lord has given each of us a call. It's difficult, it's challenging, it requires stepping out of one's self and following where He leads. He has called me to Japan. It can be so easy for me to get discouraged, to beat myself up for not doing well, to groan inwardly as I struggle to support raise. But what a reminder that I have been given a Call, that I am to power my way through difficulty, through adversity, that it is not by my strength that the money will come in, that He will provide in His timing, and I am to carry on! I want to wake up each morning and say, “Now, where was I?” I want to continue to follow His leading and rejoice through this process! Praise the Lord for His promises! Praise the Lord for His perfect plan!

Please pray for:
  • Boldness in support raising (currently at 12% of needed monthly pledges)
  • Encouragement
  • Patience as I wait to hear back from potential supporters and churches
  • My ability to balance between work, support raising, and ministry here in the States

 "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Whatcha Gonna Do?

"A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?" - Proverbs 20:24

Last weekend I was able to spend time catching up with Dan and Carol Iverson, missionaries to Japan and my host family both times I served in Japan. I was so thankful for the time we had together, and to hear of all the exciting things happening in Japan and how God is at work.

I also had time to sit down with the two of them to brainstorm how my time in Japan will be spent. Of course all plans are liable to change at some point in time or another - such is missionary life - but it was so encouraging to get on the same page and join our thoughts together to map out a basic idea of what I will be doing.

My main ministry will be serving at Covenant Community School International, the school where I have worked twice before. (Elementary - high school.) The school is supported heavily by interns coming to Japan to teach for a school year at a time. (I was an intern my two previous trips to Japan.) These interns are a tremendous blessing, but one of the issues in having this constant flow of teachers coming and going is how it weighs on the students, especially the younger ones, as they transition to a new teacher each year, and the lack of consistency and unpredictability in teaching styles. Each intern that comes through is blessed with wonderful gifts, but each gift is different, so there is a constant game of Jenga as the school tries to find the fit for each teacher.

Because I will be in Japan for 3 years, this commitment will allow me to keep up with my students and track their progress over these three years. My focus within the school will be with the Japanese ESL students, most of whom are elementary age. I am so excited to be working with the ESL students! It is something familiar for me, and I am excited that the younger students will have the same teacher for a few years at least. I'm sure there will be other classes I will teach within the school, and I will also help with church ministries and may end up teaching some additional ESL classes outside of the school.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, "where will you live?" I am very excited to say that I have been invited to live with the Iverson's yet again! This will make transitioning back to living in Japan that much easier as I am already accustomed to this family, house, and city. 

I am so excited that the vision of my time in Japan is becoming a bit clearer with each bit of new information. I'm still unaware of when I will be able to leave, since my leave date relies on my monthly financial support being raised 100%.

Please pray that:
  • My support would come in quickly, Lord willing (I'm at about 8%)
  • I would be patient in this waiting process
  • I would balance my time wisely between work and support raising
  • I would not be discouraged in this slow process 

Dan, Carol, Melanie, Andrew, Megan - Iverson's with the interns from GPC

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Living In Grace

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep." (‭Psalm‬ ‭127‬:‭1-2‬)

What if I don't raise my support quickly? What if I'm ill-equipped for the mission field? What if I "mess up" in sharing the gospel? What if I'm not as helpful as I wish to be? What if, what if, what if! It can be so easy for me to ask these questions of myself. It can be easy for me to ask these questions of God. "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere." (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭2‬:‭14‬) Yes!! Thanks be to Him! It is only because of Him that I am able to do anything! Without Him, I am laboring in vain! It is only because He is leading me "in triumphal procession"! He is leading the way, not me! Oh, thank the Lord I'm not leading the way! Be still my anxious heart. The Sovereign Creator is guiding me, using me as His instrument.

Last week I was yet again blessed to meet and befriend those going into all the world to spread the good news. My heart was so full of joy as we talked, prayed, cried, and shared together. Christ was so evident to me in those people. "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬)  God has certainly begun a good work in the people I met this week, and I am so excited to hear how He continues to use these people to further His kingdom in the coming years.

Some of the highlights of my week included: getting to know and spending time with my small group for the week, many rounds played of Settlers of Catan, hiking to a waterfall in the rain, the abundance of adorable babies, praying together, being able to speak with someone in Japanese, thought-provoking lectures, and enjoying the beautiful scenery all around us. 

My small group at Living in Grace

Thank you so much to those of you who were praying for me and the specific prayer requests I had in my last blog! My car and I both came out in one piece after the drive to and from North Carolina, and God was definitely showing himself to me in new ways throughout the week!

As for support raising, I am excited to say that I am at 4% of my needed $4,500 a month for the three years I will be serving in Japan! (For those who are unaware, I need to have 100% of my budget pledged before I can buy my ticket to Japan.) Now that I have finished all the busy activities of the month of May, I'm excited to be able to focus on support raising! I would greatly appreciate your prayers, especially as I balance between support raising and work. May He be glorified!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Busy Month of May

May has been quite the month! Since last I wrote, I have attended my church's annual retreat, written and sent out support letters galore, visited friends giving a presentation to their church on the missions work they will be doing in the Czech Republic, visited and caught up with many more friends, was invited to be involved in a photography/videography project for a retreat center our church youth and young adults visit each year, co-planned/led a high school girls' weekend retreat to that same center in the mountains of Pennsylvania, then two weeks later was again at this retreat center for our church's Young Adult's Retreat.

In short, there was a lot of driving involved in May! And I'm not done just yet. This coming Sunday, I will be driving down to Ridge Haven - a camp in Brevard, North Carolina - for an MTW* seminar on "Living in Grace." While this will be quite an exhausting drive (7+ hours), I am very much looking forward to this trip. If it is anything similar to Launch, the training I attended in Atlanta back in March, I will be meeting many more people with hearts for global missions. My favorite part of Launch was hearing from new friends about the needs in the countries where they were preparing to serve. I came away from that week blessed with a vision for how God is using His body all around the world. I look forward to the people I will meet, the talks and exercises planned for the week, and whatever God has in store for me.

As for support raising, I am so thankful for the people God is already raising up in joining my financial support team! What a blessing! There is still quite a long way to go, though. To get to Japan, I will need to have $4,500 pledged each month for the 3 years I will be serving there. So far, a total of $150 has been pledged a month. (PRAISE THE LORD!!)

The needed pledges remaining would look something like this:
24 giving $100 a month
27 giving $50 a month
24 giving $25 a month

Would you please pray that God would give me boldness in reaching out and inviting people to join my support team, and prayerfully consider if He may be calling you to join the ministry in Japan in this way? (Click HERE for information on how to donate online.)

Again, I want to thank the many who have been praying for me and encouraging me. God has done some pretty awesome things this past month, and has shown Himself to me in so many unexpected ways!

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another." - John 15:16-17

Prayer summary:
  • Safe travels to and from NC, that my car would handle the trip well
  • That God would continue to show me His power and grace during the LIG** seminar
  • Peace and patience through support raising
 *Mission To the World
**Living In Grace