Sunday, November 16, 2014

Coming Back Down

Before we left for Chile, I thought that when we came home I'd have no problem sitting down and writing up an amazing blog post about our time.

I was so. so. wrong.

Even without the jet lag still raging and emotions clouding my mind, how does one take 9 days worth of life-altering information and package into neat little paragraphs and somehow manage to articulate every good and incredible thing the Lord is doing? It simply cannot be done.

I'm sure as I continue to process everything we've experienced and compartmentalize a little bit, I'll be able to begin putting words to the things that are necessary to share, and separate them from the things that need to be held back. What seems insurmountable today may feel perfectly feasible soon. I certainly hope so.

What I am able to articulate is this:

Chile is a wonderful country. Her people are warm and lovely and so very beautiful and kind.
Santiago is a crazy busy city so outside of my comfort zone, yet my heart is burning to return.
Chilean Spanish is other worldly.
Chilean food is my new favorite.
Our kids need to learn to play soccer. Rightnow.
IAM is facilitating and doing amazing things in Chile, and beyond. Each of their missionaries and pastors has a very clear and specific vision for what they are working to accomplish. Each one we met knows the physical and spiritual needs of their neighbors, neighborhood, town, city, country in a way that puts me to shame. I am challenged to be as knowledgable about the people around me as they are about the people surrounding them.
God answered our prayers above and beyond our expectations.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for and with us during this trip. I have been a little overwhelmed by the amount of people who have asked how the Lord answered specific prayers for us, and I'm humbled that we were able to see Him work in such tangible and perfect ways.

I intend to spend this next week sorting through our memories and photos to share, but in the meantime, here's a little highlight reel our team shared at church this morning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eleven Days of Prayer

I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around the fact that next week Mike and I will be boarding a plane bound for South America.
In one week.
Seven days.
68 hours.

The enormity of this trip and what it means for our family has been weighing heavily on my heart the last few days. While I am beyond excited to see what God may have in store for us, I have also been reminded that there is a cost to being on mission. This trip is going to be a blast, but it goes so much deeper than just heading to Santiago to hang out and see what kind of great food we can find (yes...that's usually first on our "to-do" list when we go somewhere new!).
This is the next step through what has felt like a very thick fog. Our pastor encouraged us a few months ago, that even though we couldn't see what was ahead, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Here we are, taking this next step into something that only God knows.

The next time Mike and I fly to Chile it will be with just a few belongings and our little tribe in tow.

The reality of what that means is sinking in and it is sobering!

We've had many friends and loved ones asking how they can be praying for us during "vision" trip, so we've come up with a list of things we'd love to have you pray about with us over the duration of our trip. I've listed out the dates we will be gone, and something specific you can pray for during that day.

You can also use THIS PRINTABLE if you'd like to have the shortened version to put somewhere noticeable in your home to help you remember what we'll be praying for each day.

Day 1: October 30 - Health and safety
While the journey to and from Santiago is going to be fairly draining (roughly 19 hours each way), we will also be doing a fair share of traveling while in Chile. As of right now, our itinerary has us traveling to Iloca, a coastal town, and Lautaro, about 600 km south of Santiago, as well as traveling to multiple areas of Santiago to see the various works that IAM has going on. There's going to be a lot of moving around and lots of opportunity for mishaps! Please pray for us to stay safe during all our travels, and for all of us to stay healthy. I suffer from migraines, Mike's ankle is still injured and while the other guys from the team haven't shared their own personal health concerns with us, I'm certain they have them.

Day 2: October 31 - Our Church's involvement with IAM
The reason Mike and I are going with a small team from our church is that they are looking for ways we, as a church, can be involved with IAM long term. This is exciting for Mike and me as we hope to be the bridge between Restoration and Damascus Road churches and IAM, but more than that, we are praying the elders and missions teams are given a clear vision for how our church can best partner with IAM and it's churches, not just in Chile, but all over the world.

Day 3: November 1 - Church Planters
One of the reasons Mike and I have been drawn to IAM is because they train and equip leaders from the local church, who then go out and plant more churches. Church planting is an essential part of our church's DNA, and it is thrilling to be able to partner with an organization a world away who shares a similar heart. Planting a church is difficult and tiring work. Church planters all over the world are working to fulfill the great comission, which is to "go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." (Matthew 28:18-20) Church planters are on the front lines, fighting unseen battles every day to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ over the world. Pray for them today!!

Day 4: November 2 - Church in Chile
The church in Chile is active and growing! We are excited to be able to be a witness to this fact, and to take part in what God is doing in South America. Please pray for the advancement of the gospel in all areas of Chile and for the boldness of the believers there.

Day 5: November 3 - Our Team Members
Our team consists of Mike and me, and four other men; Ken, Mark, Jason and Nate. These men have been tasked with gathering the necessary information to take home and share with the elder boards. What they see and share will have an impact on our church, and on IAM. These men are also leaving behind wives, children and many other obligations for the sake of working to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will need your prayers!

Day 6: November 4 - Direction and Vision for our Family
We would appreciate if you would spend today praying that a specific vision for our family and our time in Chile would be realized. Please pray that our hearts are ignited with passion for a certain aspect of IAM's ministry, a people group and/or a specific calling. When we return home, we will need to begin raising support for when we move our family next year. We are praying that we will have a clear vision to share with those that God will call to support us prayerfully and financially.

Day 7: November 5 - Families of the team members
Please pray for the families of each of our team members! I remember how, when Mike went to Honduras last year, it was painful for him to be gone so long. Oftentimes, the families left at home experience all manners of trials that, when Dad is around, are much more bearable than when he is away. Please pray for health, comfort, patience and support for each of the men's families. If you know these families, make sure to reach out to them during this time! Take them a meal, make a phone call, send a text, etc. Let them know they are loved!!

Day 8: November 6 - Our sweet kiddos
In recent days, each of our kids have shared with us certain concerns and fears they are facing as we begin this transition away from what we've always known. This is also the longest amount of time Mike and I will have been away from our kids - nearly two weeks is a really long time for them to go without Mom and Dad. Please pray for peace and comfort for their little hearts, that they would remember to put their trust in God who loves them more than we ever could, that they would be a blessing to their wonderful grandparents who will be caring for them, and that the Lord would be softening and preparing them for what He has in store for them, in Chile and for the rest of their lives.

Day 9: November 7 - Chilean pastors
Although we are unfamiliar with the specific cultural challenges Chilean pastors face, they are men responsible for teaching and sharing the love of Jesus in a loving and theologically sound way. Please pray for them as you would pray for your own church leaders!
I received this email from Scott, the gentleman planning our trip, with the names and specific prayer requests for a few Chilean pastors:

Pastor Tito is a missionary from Chile serving in Tacna  Peru.  He lost his wife last year to breast cancer and still grieves for her.  Pray that God would comfort and encourage him and that the Church would continue to grow.

Pastor Luis and his wife Andrea serve in Melipeuco Chile, a small rural town.  His church is growing and they are trying to raise enough support to build a bigger building to accommodate them.

Pastor Miguel and his wife Marta serve in Lautaro Chile.  They are raising support to build a school for the Mapuche (indigenous people of Chile) most of whom have no high school to go to.  Also, Miguel has had a brain tumor that has been shrinking under treatment.  We are praying that God would remove it completely and  permanently.

Day 10: November 8 - IAM's Leaders
In addition to needing wisdom and discernment as they run an international organization, IAM's leaders are on the ground along with their workers. As I write this, Jeff and Kathy Phillips (IAM founders) are in a mission outpost in Iraq (along with a Chilean named Chika) serving refugees from the ISIS situation over there. Pray for safety and for the ability to share the love of Christ.
Scott also shared that IAM has missionaries in Sierra Leon, which has one of the worst outbreaks of ebola right now. Thankfully, they are currently in the states, but many of the Africans they work with are in harm's way. Please pray for the safety of the workers and pastors there and that authorities would be able to get a handle on it.
There are many leaders in addition to Jeff and Kathy, many of whom Mike and I hope to meet in the next few weeks. Please be praying for them all.

Day 11: November 9 - Gospel expansion/Social Balance
Another thing that is so attractive to Mike and me about IAM is how they seem to have managed to strike such a beautiful balance between social justice and Gospel expansion. There are many organizations that build wells, homes or schools or provide orphan care, but do not preach Jesus. There are also many organizations who preach Jesus, but caring for oppressed and poor is a struggle. IAM works diligently to do both, showing their faith in Jesus by working for those God loves (hey...that's all of us!).  Please pray that they would continue to strike this balance; that they would not back away from sharing the pure Gospel of Jesus, and that they would unashamedly continue to love the world around them.

Thank you for committing to pray with and for us. Everything still feels so far away and so surreal, and at the same time, present and tangible. We are excited to see how God works in and through us, and in YOU, as you partner with us in prayer!

Friday, October 17, 2014

On my mind

Here we are, less than two weeks from our first trip to Chile. People have been asking how we're feeling, if we're excited or nervous,  can they pray for us, etc.
I find myself saying "yes" a lot.

Yes, I'm nervous. 
Yes, I'm excited. 
Yes, please please pray. If you feel like you should pray for something for us, just do it. Please.
Yes, I'm curious. 
Yes, I want to try the food.
Yes, I'll miss the kids.
Yes, we hope this trip will give us some clarity.
Yes, we are praying for direction.
Yes, yes, yes.

You know what's on my mind the most, though?

What in the world am I going to pack?

I'm not even kidding. As much as I try to pretend that I'm totally going to be fine cramming ten days worth of clothing, toiletries and accessories into a backpack, I'm not. I'm just not.  
(Yes...I said it. Accessories.)

This is what is currently open in my browser. Thank you Pinterest for giving me even more to agonize over. Did you know there is such a thing as travel underwear? Did you? 
Underwear made specifically for t r a v e l i n g. Which is what I'm doing. I'm sure this means, I need them.
My darling friends bought me an amazing gigantic travel case and stuffed it full with every single toiletry I could possibly need or want for this trip. It pretty much fits everything in there. It is so full, in fact, I can't close it. The mark of a perfectly packed bag, if you ask me.  
I'm left wondering, is there going to be room in my pack for a curling iron? Or a hair dryer? Are we going to be able to do laundry? How many pair of pants should I take? Leggings or jeans? Jeggings? How many cardigans are appropriate?
I was going to email the poor dear who has been organizing our trip, but Mike has banned me from asking him anymore questions.
"When he said you could ask him anything, this is not what he had in mind."

I beg to differ.

There you have it friends. See how spiritually minded I am? Yikes.

Truly, I cannot wait to get going on this trip.
I am excited to see what IAM is doing and how we will be able to participate. I am so so looking forward to having a little bit of direction.
Even if I don't end up with those fancy travel underwear. 

(But I probably will.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Chile and other Chilean sorts of things

Photo Credit

I have been working on writing a blog post for a long time now, and each time I am unable to finish the post. Many of the things that have been happening in our life have been at the heart level; a place that is raw and vulnerable and often needs to be protected from Internet Land.
Many of these things pertain to our internship with IAM, but again, they are part of the refining and sanctifying work that is happening as the Lord prepares us for His work and removes our expectations, fears and reliance on anything other than Himself. So, it's been painful and wonderful and I would be thrilled to sit down with you over coffee and lay it all out. Let me know when we can plan it! ;)

I'm thankful to have something that could be considered an "update". I feel like many people wonder why we aren't sharing more, but the reality is, we haven't had much I've felt was worth sharing. As I said, what God has been doing for us has been at a heart level, and most other things we've simply been waiting on. While this has proven to be frustrating for me, it has also caused me to grow in my faith (and maturity...ahem) quite a bit.

But, now, I'm sitting here at my computer fresh off a call with Scott from IAM and a bag of kettle corn in my lap, and I am finally ready to give you an update!

It seems cliche, but we so desperately need your prayers. There is so much we don't know, so much we have to learn, so much to figure out...just so so much. Prayer does not come easily for me - unfortunately, it is often one of my "last resort" options, but slowly God is changing this in me. I am becoming more bold as I realize that God uses prayer to change us, to protect us, to reveal Himself to us and to answer us. The more I pray, the more I want to pray. As we move forward in this adventure, we need people to be praying for us every step of the way.

IAM is currently attempting to put together a working budget for our family. This budget will help us to determine the amount of monthly and start-up support we must raise.
*Please pray that the Lord would move in the hearts of those He has already chosen to support us financially. Once a budget and costs are determined, IAM will set us up with the ability to receive support through their website/office.

We are one of the first families that have applied for IAM's internship program. Generally speaking, their interns are younger college aged folk, looking for some cross-cultural and ministry experience. They are placed in a home with a family who provides food and lodging for the duration of their internship. As a family of six, we will need our own place to live. This not only increases our costs, but will also require a 12 month lease. In order to sign a lease, you need more than a visitor's permit. Since, at this point, we plan to be in Chile less than two years, we won't be applying for anything above a visitor's permit, so you can see how this may cause some problems.
*Please pray that the Lord would provide proper housing for our family. I am unsure how to even begin to think of how this may look, but that's probably a good thing. I'm not sure how to pray for our specific needs, but please pray with us that God would work out all the leasing/location details and that we would trust Him as He guides those who are looking on our behalf.

We will need a car for our family while living in Chile. As with the housing, in order to purchase a vehicle we need something more than a visitor's permit. This is also an additional cost we hadn't really considered. Which, knowing how much I've worried about every other detail, may surprise you. We will need a vehicle that will fare well in mountain villages, as well as city streets.
We will also need to travel outside of Chile every three months in order to renew our visitor's permits. As well, we will most likely be traveling to other South American countries where IAM has works going on.
*Please pray that the Lord would be working all transportation and travel details out. We will be working to save the funds we need for a vehicle before we leave for our internship, but the cost for a vehicle isn't much less in Chile than it is here, and we need the Lord's help to really buckle down and save. And it goes without saying that we really covet your prayers for safe travels!!

Our upcoming trip
On October 30, Mike and I will be leaving with a small group from our church to head down to Santiago to see some of the works that IAM has going on in Chile. We are so. excited. for this trip! We anticipate that it will help us to prepare and equip us a little bit for our internship as well as expose us to the culture, sights and sounds of our future home.
*Please pray first and foremost that we would be humble and seeking the Lord. As we prepare for this trip, we know that the spiritual warfare will ramp up. We want, and we need, to keep our eyes on Jesus and the goal of sharing Him and His glory. I have a tendency to get weighed down with the details and to stress and fret over the things I have no control over. I am easily distracted from the things that matter most. Please pray for me to see the big picture and to trust that God is taking care of all the details.
We will be gone for ten days, which is the longest we've been apart from our children. They will be spending the time split between their grandparents and will be in good hands, but it will still be tough on all of us to be so far apart for so long. Please pray for our kids, that God would bring them peace and comfort while we are gone, and the same for us!

As excited as I am for this next chapter in our lives, I also find myself grieving. This last weekend I spent in La Conner with the ladies from church at our annual Ladies' Retreat. I had so much fun - there was conviction, hope, laughter, tears, great teaching, wonderful testimonies of God's power and relentless love and grace, amazing was incredible. As I drove away Sunday I found myself already grieving the fact that next year, we may be living a world away and I won't be there. I fear I won't have as close of friends as I have here, I fear worship will be unfamiliar and church community will be difficult. I fear my children won't make friends and that Mike and I won't have community around us to support us. While these fears could be realized, I recognize them as lies from the enemy to rob me of the joy we have as we work toward what God has put before us. Again I ask, please pray for us.

If you would like to know anything more specific, please don't hesitate to send us an email. Make sure to subscribe to the blog so you can stay up to date with us!!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Switching Gears...and Continents

This conversation: 

"Er...if we don't end up going to Cuba, we're going to look really stupid for that last blog post"
"Yes...oh gosh, yes we will. I shouldn't have posted it. Why did we post it? Oh it too late to delete it? Did anyone really read it?" 

This conversation has happened many times over the last eight months, and it began about twenty minutes after I hit publish on my last post. But I didn't delete it, and I didn't take it back because...

We just feel so confident of what God is calling us to do.

But also completely unsure.

So, as far as social media has been concerned, we've kept pretty tight lipped because our list of questions continued to grow longer than our list of what we knew. I would have been giving you months and months of We Still Have No Clue What The Heck Is Happening Or What In The World We Are Doing posts. Which would have been rad. 

"Oh, the Wheeler's? The ones who aaaaalways are talking and neeeeever doing?"

You guys! Would you say that?! 
Because quite honestly, that's what goes through my mind. I'm convinced it's what everyone says while they're falling asleep at night. Because you know...Mike and I carry such clout in your lives.
Good Lord.
Why are we so prideful? Why do I think it matters so much? 
We are certainly a work in progress.
And THIS, this whole thing...this missions thing, it's been quite a process as well.

By the end of last year we had been in contact with two separate missions organizations who are either already working in Cuba or who are trying to get into Cuba. With both organizations it seemed at first to be an open door but as we tried to move forward, nothing happened. There were some really clear and obvious "no's" and some "well...maybes?" but ultimately, each door was closed for us.
We were discouraged, but the whispering in our hearts would not be silenced so we continued to pray about how to move forward. We began wondering if Cuba was even the right direction?

Perhaps God just wanted our hearts to be willing ... so we waited.

I need to interject here that w a i t i n g is not something I'm good at. Fight it as I may, I am a product of our instant gratification culture.
I want a plan, and I want to execute that plan. Now. Like right now.

God is changing that in me (thankfully) but my gosh...I'm a difficult task and through showing His patience with me, He is granting me the patience I need. He's cool like that.

About six weeks ago, we had a meeting with a gentleman named Scott with Ibero American Ministries. We did not initiate this meeting; we were simply invited to attend as our church has been looking at different international organizations and ministries and how we could potentially partner with them. 
The day before the meeting I asked Mike, "What do you expect from tomorrow's meeting."
He replied, "Nothing. Not one single thing. Every meeting we've had has resulted in nothing. Every door we've felt was opening has closed. Honestly, I'm tired of meetings and I don't know why we've been invited to go tomorrow." (See? Discouraged.)
So, off we went to this meeting where we expected absolutely nothing to happen.
Looking back I wonder, maybe that's a really good place to be? That place where you're just "done" and are finished trying to do things your way, or the way you think they should be done; because when that's where you are, when you get out of the way, that's when God can get to doing His thing His way.
At that meeting Scott explained that IAM's mission is to raise up local leaders, who plant churches and provide humanitarian services to those around them; to be friends with their neighbors and to show them Christ's love in action on a daily basis. The ultimate goal is having genuine relationships that reveal God's glory and draw people to Him.
Oh...I love it!
When Scott found out we were at the meeting because we had a heart for missions, he excitedly told us about all the opportunities and then explained a bit about their internship program. IAM's internships serve many purposes, but one of the main ones, from the intern's perspective, is to help determine if missions is actually the direction you are meant to head in. The program is short term - from 3-12 months or so - and allows interns to get some experience, pray, and decide if international missions are what one is supposed to do with their life.

Scott said he'd send us the intern application and manual.
And then he did. That. very. afternoon.

To say we were surprised would be a complete understatement.  We were caught completely off guard. Mike kept saying, "Wait...what? What just happened?"
Having faced only closed doors to this point, a path to begin walking down was beginning to take shape and we couldn't believe it.
Not only did Scott take us seriously, but he took. us. seriously.

That following week we Skyped with Doug, a missionary with IAM living in Santiago, Chile, asking him all sorts of questions about what an IAM internship would look like for our family and what IAM does and what we could do for IAM. When we finished the call we were in total disbelief - could this be what we'd been waiting for? We spent a few days praying and seeking wisdom from those we trust most, and the next weekend Mike filled out our internship application and we purchased Rosetta Stone in faith that we were headed in the right direction.

Last night, at a potluck to meet Ricky and Tracie, some of IAM's missionaries living Santiago, Scott said, "Oh yeah, by the's official. You've been accepted into the internship."

And just like that, we're preparing to go to Chile.

The list of what we don't know is much longer than the list of what we do know; which I'm sort of realizing is God's way. 

But, for those of you who are curious, here is what we know. And I'm being serious...this is all that we know.

* God has opened the door through IAM and we are excited to step through it.
* Mike and I are planning to go to Chile with our church at the end of October for a vision trip. During this trip we will visit IAM's church plants in Santiago as well as in surrounding areas. The purpose of this trip is to help our church see what the needs are, how we can meet them, what kind of teams we can send out, and (this is probably only on my agenda) to help determine where Mike and I will fit in.

There are the graphic details for you.

I have ideas and assumptions about how the trip in October will affect our family, but again, I'm realizing I shouldn't think I've got it all figured out or put God into any box because He just doesn't seem to be confined by what I put together. 
At some point we'll have a definite time frame of when we will go with the kids, for how long, exactly what city we'll be living in, how much support we need to raise and what ministry we'll be assisting with. 
While not having any of those details rightthissecond is a little difficult for me, I also see the beauty in it. I'm being forced to follow Jesus, forced to let Him be the one who's calling the shots, forced to acknowledge I have no clue what's going on...
It's good for me. 
I need Jesus so so much. He has so much to give, and I'm so thankful to receive because I am simply empty and wasted without Him. 

Mike and I are thankful to have a direction to be moving in and a sketchy plan to follow, and ultimately, honored to be able to give Christ all the glory and credit. We would love it if you would pray with us over these next few months as we work on getting all the details squared away. We are confident that if this is what God has in mind for our family, everything will fall into place as it should, but walking in that place of faith requires a lot of...well, faith, and knowing that there are people praying for us helps us to stay grounded.

"And those who know your name put their trust in you, 
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you." 
Psalm 9:10