Tag Archives: answers to prayers

Busting through the Brick Wall

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Part 4 of how we became missionaries.  If you missed the last 3 days, you might want to go back and read them too.  I hope this is an encouragement to someone.

We came home from our life changing trip to Mexico and took a few weeks to pray before we talked to anyone about becoming missionaries.  We knew that this could be just a “high” from being on the missions trip, so we wanted to let our emotions cool a bit.  When the idea just wouldn’t go away, we started the application process to become missionaries with our denomination.  We knew this process could take months, so we didn’t plan to tell anyone until we were well on our way.  But the story leaked out.  Our family was shocked and not at all happy.

We finished out another year of youth ministry before we were “officially” accepted as missionaries.  Then the fund-raising began.  We spent 21 months raising our funds for a 3 year term in Mexico.  At the 18 month mark we were stalled out.  Josh was working the phones for 12 hours a day, we were traveling every weekend to preach at different churches and ask for support, but nothing was working.  We were discouraged.  To top it all off, we had been trying to sell our house for the last 3 months.  It had been shown many times, but no offers yet.

Then one day we got a phone call that felt like a kick in the stomach.  It was July 1, a Thursday.  Our Head Quarters called us and said if we don’t make a significant improvement this month, we’re done.  I raged.  I cried.  I panicked.  I punched pillows.  How could they fire us?  We’d worked so hard for so long, it wasn’t our fault that churches weren’t picking us up.  What more did they want us to do?  But the day needed to continue, so Josh and I agreed to go about our day like normal and pray about it while we worked.

That day while I prayed I thought about Gideon who asked God for a sign.  He spread a fleece on the ground and asked that the ground be wet in the morning but the fleece be dry as a sign that God was really asking him to do a risky, crazy thing like tear down the household idol.  God made it happen.  So Gideon reversed the test the next day, just to be sure.  And the next morning the fleece was wet with dew but the ground was dry.  So there he had a clear answer- God wanted him to do the crazy, risky job.

When we came back together that evening, I shared my thoughts with Josh.  I said, “I think we need a sign that we are still on the right path.  I feel like there is a brick wall in our path and I don’t know if it means this is the end of the road.  I feel like the road continues beyond the wall, but I don’t know how to bust through the brick.”  So we decided to ask God for a miracle to show us that we are still supposed to go into missions.  We asked that our house would sell… that weekend… on 4th of July weekend.  Even though no one had looked at the house all week and it was a holiday weekend.  It was crazy, no one buys a house on 4th of July weekend!  We prayed.

The next morning we got a call from a real estate agent.  Someone wanted to see our house!  This was it!  I just knew it!  This was going to be the sign.  By the end of the night we had accepted their offer.  We sold our house.  We were still supposed to go into missions.  Somehow God was planning on punching through that brick wall.  Now we knew we were still supposed to walk this road.

All excited about the miracle, emboldened, we asked for another miracle.  Our missions agency wanted us to raise $500 in pledges by the end of the month.  We asked God for $500 in the next week.  But the goofy thing was that we were going to be spending a week up at a District Family Camp and we wouldn’t be making any phone calls all week.  Without making a single phone call, by the end of the week, we had $500 in new pledges!  God did it!

Again we asked for another $500 for the next week!  That week we were scheduled to be touring churches in Iowa and we would not be making phone calls that week either.  We prayed, and BAM!  God did it again!  Another $500 in monthly support came in.

The last two weeks were ear marked for packing and garage sales since we had to be out of our house by the end of the month.  No phone calling for those weeks either.  Yet we prayed again and each of those weeks we ended with $500 more in pledges.  Our deficit was filled.  Then one day I was standing in the garage selling junk and opening the mail at the same time.  There was a card from a little old lady that I had met at a church over a year ago.  My mouth dropped open.  Inside the card was a check for $10,000.  Our cash budget was blessed also.  God thought of everything!

We spent the last 6 months jam-packed into my parents’ basement again- homeless- as we awaited our December departure date.  We were on our way to Mexico to be missionaries.  Not only had God punched through that financial brick wall for us, but He had boosted our faith beyond measure.

Many times since then, we have gone back to that point in our history and remembered how God came to the rescue and was faithful to finish what He started in us.  Since then we have never doubted that God was leading us.  It was just too clear that His mighty arm was leading and sustaining us.  He doesn’t work the same way twice, but we’ve never been in such desperate financial need either.  Lesson learned:  Trust God, He can handle it.

Great is Thy Faithfulness!  Great is Thy Faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided-

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

When my kids are fighting I remind them of this…

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I know for a fact that children hear more clearly from God than adults do.  We had been trying to have a second child for around 3 years with no luck.  Taylor, our 4 year-old son, knew that we were praying for a baby.  He had his heart set on having a baby sister, and he wanted her to be named “Emmie”.  He wanted a baby sister so badly that he played with an imaginary sister named Emmie… though sometimes Emmie was also an imaginary cat.  But he was so certain that he would have a sister named Emmie that I would have to forewarn all his new Sunday School teachers that I was not pregnant, no matter how much Taylor insisted that his baby sister was going to use his old crib or car seat.

One day my sister and I were taking Taylor to the zoo.  Suddenly from the back seat of the car we heard Taylor’s little voice pipe up with excitement, “Oh NOW I know what Jesus wants!”  He announced.  We looked at each other and asked Taylor what does Jesus want.  “Jesus wants us to pray for my baby sister NOW!”  Fully believing him, we pulled the car over to the side of the road and right there in Como Park on Lexington Avenue we prayed for Taylor’s baby sister Emmie to come.  When we were done praying he announced confidently, “She’ll be her by my birthday.”  When his next birthday rolled around I was about to pop being nearly 9 months pregnant with our little girl.  Of course we named her Emma.

We remind our children that we prayed for them and that God heard our prayers.  We remind them of this story when they are fighting (haha)!  And we remind them when we are trying to make them feel special and loved.  God knew the desires of our hearts, in fact, God GAVE us those desires in the first place and then he delighted to fulfill them using the prayers and faith of our 4 year-old.

My Three Little Monkeys

Dear God, What did I get myself into?

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This is the tale of a wanna-be missionary and a sudden case of cold feet… or actually hot feet, in this story.  Back in 2004 we took our first family missions trip to Mexico.  It was awful.  We had just resigned our position as youth pastors to become missionaries, and we were preparing to travel to Springfield, Missouri for 5 weeks of School of Missions where we would be living in college dorms with our 2 children.

As if a 5 week stay in college dorms with a family of 4 wasn’t enough of a packing challenge, we decided to tack on a week in Mexico for a family missions trip, sort of as an introduction to missions for our children.  This was the dumbest idea we’ve ever had.  

First of all, it was about as hot as Hades that summer and we drove the whole way from Minnesota to Mexico.  Of course the air conditioning broke on the way down.  Then my 2-year old daughter cried day and night for a week solid because she was so hot.  I thanked God for not calling us to the Philippines.

Second of all, the dynamics of the trip were really off kilter for us. We were used to being in charge.  But this was a group trip organized by someone else in our church.  No one was very clear about our role on that trip- least of all us.

Thirdly, we didn’t know the independent missionary that we were working with.  When it was all said and done we were less than impressed with this wacko.  The whole orphanage/ministry compound had a Branch Davidian sort of feel.  The kids were strangely aggressive and conditioned to leech off of teams that came to work there every summer.  I felt used.

They used the teams to improve their property and boost their income, but they didn’t take very good care of their teams.  Part of the compound included housing for teams, two cinder block bunk houses.  These houses were incomplete. There were no doors, no screens nor glass in the windows, just cinderblock walls and a tin roof.  I felt really exposed- especially since I could see that there was no closing gate at the front of the compound.  Anyone could just walk right in off the street!  My husband and son were sleeping in the boys’ bunk house and my 2-year-old daughter and I were sleeping in the girls’ bunk house.  I thought, “what did we get ourselves into?”  I felt unprotected and nervous.  I learned to sleep with one eye opened.

But what really pushed me to my breaking point were the bugs.  I had never seen cockroaches that big before.  They were everywhere.  I… HATE… COCKROACHES.  There was no way I was going to be able to sleep without fearing that cockroaches would crawl on me in the night.  I pushed our two bunk beds away from the walls in case a cockroach came up the wall.  Every night I laid on top of my sleeping bag (it was about a million degrees inside the bunk house) and I would pray, “God, please put your angels around us while we sleep so no one comes in the front gate to kidnap anyone.  And while the angels are standing guard, please have them kill any cockroaches they see so they don’t get on me.”  And I kid you not, EVERY morning I would wake up to see a ring of dead cockroaches around my bed!!  I would sweep up a pile of them every morning.  Then I would pray again the next night.

I think God understood that if I had a bad cockroach experience this early on in the game that I might throw in the towel and move back home to Minnesota where the bugs are smaller and stay mostly outside.  I also took the dead roaches as a sign that God was listening to ALL of my prayers.  I couldn’t physically see how he kept us safe from bad guys at the gate, but I could see the evidence of his protection around me while I slept.  So I knew that God was listening to my prayers.  My level of trust in God’s care for me was hugely boosted on that miserable missions trip.

When God Moved our Mountain

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We saw God move a mountain.  We used to be missionaries in Mexico City.  There we had complicated and ever changing laws that restrict driving for everyone, but especially cars with foreign plates.  When this story took place, new laws were about to go into effect.  Basically we would not be able to leave the house until 11 am every day.  We would have two days a week when we couldn’t drive at all and one extra Saturday per month of no driving.  Each of our 2 cars were restricted on different days.  I feel like I need to lay down now just thinking about all the rules!

Imagine how difficult it would be when we host teams to find vehicles that would be able to drive on each day that we needed them.  How would we get our kids to school or conduct any business before 11 am?  We had been told that vehicles that were newer than 5 years would be able to receive a special verification that would nullify all but the special Saturday restriction.  Unfortunately our second car was 6 years old, we tried to get it verified, but it was never allowed.  Even more frustrating, when Josh tried to renew our verification on our newer vehicle he was told that the government wouldn’t have the stickers ready for another 10 days.  The entire city was basically homebound for 10 days.

With these concerns on my mind and a team coming in 2 weeks I felt stressed, to put in mildly.  In the meantime, I had a Spanish song running through my head that says, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed,  you can say to this mountain ‘move yourself’ and it will move.”  So I took the matter to the Lord.  I said, “Lord, for us this is a big mountain.   We can’t change the law that doesn’t allow us to drive, and without our vehicles we can’t live here!  Please move this mountain.”

Immediately I felt the Lord say to me, “In 10 days take both vehicles to the verification station and don’t say anything about the one being too old.  Go first thing in the morning.”  Now believe me, I have prayed many, many times and not heard God respond this clearly or this quickly.  I was surprised, but I told this to Josh and that is exactly what we did.

Ten days later, on the day when the verification stickers were finally supposed to be available, we prayed and set out with both vehicles to the verification station.  We arrived at 8am.  There was a long line at the station already and the workers were stressed because their computers weren’t up yet.  We waited for about 45 minutes.  The other drivers were getting impatient.  The workers were getting more and more agitated.  We waited patiently, praying.

Suddenly the computer system came on line!  The workers started rushing the cars through the paperwork and examination process.  Our turn.  We saw right on their computer screen that our old car was not going to be allowed a permit because some Mexican car already had our same license plate number, plus it was too old.  But it was like the workers didn’t even see the screen!  They walked out to our car and slapped a sticker on the back window without even flinching!  Josh opened up the back of the vehicle and passed out bottles of water to all the workers as a celebratory “thank you”.  We drove home praising the Lord for moving that mountain for us!!

Blue Bear

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In our missions agency, we are required to itinerate to raise our funds.  What that means is that we travel around preaching and telling churches about our dreams and goals.  Then we pray that God would provide funds for the churches to support us on a monthly basis.  It is, perhaps, the most inefficient and exhausting procedure on the planet.  But it has its benefits too.  We pray for the churches and they pray for us in turn.  It creates a symbiotic relationship between missionary and church.  This is a story of a prayer answered during our first itineration season.

When our daughter Emma was just 2 she received a special present.  Being so cute, she was able to convince her uncle to buy her a blue teddy bear that she spotted on a trip to the mall.  With typical 2 year old logic, she named it Blue Bear.  And she loved Blue Bear.

Blue Bear accompanied us on our travels during that season of life.  Every Sunday and Wednesday were were at a different church, sharing and preaching and meeting the people.  Much of my time as a mom was spent in the church nursery entertaining and taking care of our children while Daddy preached and talked about missions to the “big people”.  One night we made it all the way home before we realized that Emma had lost Blue Bear somewhere during the day.  The church where we spent our evening was already closed.  Monday would be the pastor’s day off, so we decided to call on Tuesday and ask him to check the church nursery for Blue Bear.

Emma cried that night and had a hard time going to sleep without Blue Bear.  As I was turning out the light I heard her pray, “Jesus help Blue Bear come home.”  My heart broke.

The pastor could not find Blue Bear anywhere.  He was lost.  Night after night, Emma would pray for Blue Bear and cry herself to sleep.  Weeks passed and we continued traveling.

One day we decided to stop at our favorite little roadside junk store, I mean souvenir store, called “Treasure City”.  Now we like to stop here for a potty break when we travel through this part of Minnesota.  It’s a good place to stretch the legs, buy some flavored candy canes, and look at all the amusing junk that people can buy.  You wouldn’t believe all the crap that people glue googley eyes on and try to sell to children!  But it’s fun for the kids to poke at the dried frogs in Mariachi costumes glued to shot glasses and the crocodile heads mounted on plaques.

So while standing in an aisle surrounded by painted sea shells and clocks with sand dollars on them, I looked up into a fishing net hanging from the ceiling.  The net held stuffed animals of all kinds and… lo and behold… there was Blue Bear!  OK, it wasn’t the original, but the 2 year old didn’t know that.  For Emma, a miracle had occurred!  She screamed and danced all around the store with her beloved lost bear.  Blue Bear had come home.  That night in her prayers, Emma thanked God for helping Blue Bear to find his way home.  And I do believe that God heard the prayers of my 2 year old and gave her a new teddy bear because God cares about the things that are a big deal to us.