I asked for a floodlight, but God decided a flashlight was better

Being in Utah is different than I thought it would be in some ways. We aren’t storming Temple Square everyday or evangelizing in loud ways. (Though we do still go to Temple Square sometimes to try to get conversations going.) Still, we have more opportunities to reach the LDS community in quiet and personal ways than I thought we would.

From the girl that cuts my hair to the people Barry works with to the other Mom’s at the playground, we are surrounded daily by people that are following a false god. We have daily opportunities to share the truth of the Gospel and build relationships that will, hopefully, point to Jesus Christ. We don’t always take every chance we get and we struggle with that just like I assume a lot of you do.

The best and most concentrated way that we’ve had the privilege of being witnesses was by becoming a host family for Holding Out Help. (For more details see previous blog entries)

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Our house-guest is no longer with us. “Boy” joined a job training program and is planning to pursue his dreams of becoming a nurse. He has a long way to go, but I am proud of his courage to at least dream of a future that doesn’t involve the FLDS.

In the short amount of time we had with him, we were able to share the gospel on several occasions. Through explaining the difference between religion and relationship, Christian music in the car and him waiting for us during VBS, I know “Boy” heard the truth more than once. I’m not sure if he truly understood all we said or if he was really listening, but I will continue to pray that those seeds are watered along his journey and that they will grow into a true faith of his own.

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So…that brings us to today and what lies ahead. Personally, I am worried. I know I shouldn’t be. I am trying to remember to bring everything to the Father in prayer. It can be hard though when I can’t see a way to work everything out. The reminder that you’re not in control can be a tough pill to swallow.

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We are now back on the waiting list for another child. In all reality, we are waiting on a girl. It is best for our situation to host a girl so that is the plan. Holding Out Help will notify us as soon as they have a girl needing placement into a foster home.

In the meantime, we need to move. Our lease is up here at the end of August. We will be moving further south as we shared before to be close to all the resources that Holding Out Help has to offer the kids once they are placed in a home. We are thoroughly searching for a place with enough space for our foster child to retreat for quiet time alone but we also need to be able to afford the rent =) We have seen a few options and we are hopeful that once the time gets a little closer, God will guide us to the right place.

I’m just going to be honest with you, one of the biggest obstacles is money. Moving is expensive even when you cut as many corners as possible. We have lived on a very tight budget since moving here and added expenses just aren’t in the cards. We thought we were on a fixed budget in Florida. Since our move, we are literally living on 1/3 of what we made there. It’s certainly been an interesting year.

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This will also be our first attempt at moving without an army of helpers. Man, I am so grateful for everyone that has helped us in the past. We are loved and I know it. I’ll probably be even more grateful for all they did when I’m helping Barry carry heavy furniture up and down stairs.

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Barry is also still looking for work down south. He had an interview this week and should hear back about that position by Monday. Please be praying that God’s will be done in Barry’s employment situation! We REALLY want him to get this job but if it’s not the one God has for him, I pray that we will continue to be patient. (That patience thing is difficult!)

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Will you please be praying for us? We want to be doing what God has brought us here for. We are not yet sure all that might be asked of us in order to do that. I’m scared of the unknown. I’d prefer if God would show me the whole plan. Like maybe a floodlight view. Even if there are obstacles, I think I would be more comfortable just knowing it all up front. Unfortunately, for my taste, that is not the way it works. God’s chosen to only shine a flashlight on where we are standing right now. I’m not sure what the next step is. I’m not sure what I might be asked to let go of or asked to grab onto.

I do, however, know the One that CAN see the whole plan. Please be praying that we will lean on Him and wait for Him to move the light to the next step.

We appreciate you more than you know!

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Just wanted to give you a quick update…

In about 9 hours, we will be picking up “Boy” from the family that has had him since he left the FLDS compound. He will be staying with us for a while. The family received a work transfer and is moving out of state. “Boy” did not want to go with them. He has, instead, enrolled in a local education and career technical training program. However, the facility is not ready for him yet. So, he will be with us until they are. It may be a few days or a few weeks or longer. We don’t know. 

Here’s what we do know. This boy has lived his entire life, aside from the last few months, in a cult compound. He was raised under a false religion where he received very little love and affection. Whether God allows “Boy” to be with us for a day or a month, that will be precious time to show him Jesus. 

Please be praying that he will see Jesus in us. Pray that we will be able to have some real conversations with him about the God of grace and mercy. Pray that he will come to know Jesus! I know we will be praying for exactly that!

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Waiting for the ball to roll

I love to write blogs when we have new and exciting information to tell you guys about. I love to write when God’s fingerprints are so clear and visible in our life. I am not a big fan of writing when we are struggling, but such is the case right now. There are a couple of areas of frustration for us and we are writing to ask for your prayers.

#1 – We are still very isolated here. We have found a church that we KNOW God brought us to, South Mountain Community Church. (smccutah.org) The church is Biblically solid and has a huge heart to reach the LDS community. In fact, about a 1/3 of their members are converted Mormons. Praise Jesus for that! Each week we are blown away by the powerful worship and message we get to experience. We long to get more involved by joining a small group and serving with more regularity. The problem is that we currently live a little over an hour away from the church. We mentioned in previous blogs that we were looking to move further south. The church is located in the general area we are trying to move to. Our biggest obstacle has been finding employment in that area. Once Barry has a job, we can begin looking for a house to rent. Barry has been looking for work down there for around 3 months. Nothing has come through yet. Will you please be praying for the right job to open up? Will you pray for our patience as we wait on God’s timing? Will you pray for our loneliness until the wheel can get moving and we can get connected to SMCC in a real and personal way?

#2 – We have offered ourselves up to multiple ministries here in Utah. We’ve spoken with a variety of churches and have “pitched” several ideas. Nothing has panned out. It is so hard to have a heart that wants to help and then to not have that offer accepted. We’ve been in contact with various churches about coming to Utah on a short term mission trip and while there is interest at first, it just never seems to come to fruition. SMCC is the one place that really has desired our help and been surprised by our willingness. We know we could get plugged in, in a big way, as soon as we are closer. (See #1)

We are also still patiently praying and waiting for “girl” (the FLDS girl I spoke of in a previous blog) to be ready for a new home. Maybe we are in a holding pattern until we get the move completed. Maybe God is  sparing her from having to move twice. Maybe we are being taught patience. Maybe God has a completely different plan that we just can’t see yet. Will you please pray that our eyes will remain on Him only? Will you pray that “girl” will be safe in the meantime? Will you pray for God’s plan to be our only goal?

We are positive that God has us here for a reason. We KNOW that we are here for the LDS community. We believe that we are to be foster parents to FLDS children that are seeking security and refuge. We think that we can be put to great use at SMCC. It is just so difficult feeling stuck while you wait for the ball to begin to roll.

We love you all! Thank you is just never a big enough word.

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For those who have wondered about how to support us, here is the information:

You can write a check to First Baptist Church of Windermere and write “Utah Mission” in the memo line.

The check can be dropped in the offering plate or mailed to:

First Baptist Church Windermere

300 Main Street

Windermere, Florida 34787

You can also give through the church’s website www.fbcwindermere.com.

o   Click on “GIVE”

o   Click “Click here to Give”

o   Log In

o   Choose the amount and if you want a one time or recurring gift set up

o   Put the amount you specified in “General Fund” and when the option box comes up type in “Utah Mission”

o   Finish the online instructions

This means LOVE

As I was laying in bed last night, trying to sleep, my mind kept wandering. I thought about my family and friends in Florida. I thought about the changes we’ve experienced. I thought about all the changes still to come. Mostly, I thought about Easter.

I grew up in the church. My Mama was a Christian and she taught us from birth about the Bible. I grew up knowing about the sacrifice Christ made on my behalf. I knew the Easter story. I knew the truth. Frankly, as a child, there wasn’t anyone in my life that didn’t know the Gospel. Especially living in the South. (and yes, compared to Utah, FL is SO the South) That’s not to say that everyone I knew in my life were Christians, but most were. In my adult life, honestly, most of my friends/family/contacts are Christians.

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You can imagine then how shocking it was for me to move to place where the vast majority of people view the cross in such a negative way. Not even that they are indifferent. That I’d seen before. It’s that they are offended by it. Mormons are, in fact, insulted and even angered by the cross.

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We’ve had this discussion with multiple Mormons and they almost always say the same thing. The same exact thing. “If your brother was killed with a butcher knife, would you wear one around your neck?” I suppose this would be an effective argument if Jesus’ life was taken from Him but it wasn’t. He freely gave it. Jesus saidNo one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” (John 10:18) Not only did He freely give His life, He rejoiced to do so. Not that the physical pain was in any way pleasurable but His love for us was so great that He took joy in providing the way to salvation for us.

For ME!

For YOU!

Last Easter Sunday, I sat at the sunrise service on the lake in Windermere. I sat listening to music and a message of love and redemption. Behind my pastor, stood a large wooden cross. The view as the sun rose was beautiful and peaceful. Just beyond the cross and the lake, the Mormon Temple was also in view. For Barry & I, it was a visual reminder of what God was asking of us.

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A year has passed and it feels like we are on the other side of the lake. The Temple is now so visible and all encompassing. The cross is in the distant view. Yet again, God continues to remind us why we are here.

We are in Utah to share with the people around us what the cross really means. We are to share that Jesus is not our brother, but He is our savior. We are to share that His life could never have been taken from Him but it was His free choice to give it. We are to share that the sacrifice made on the cross, no where else, is the only way to forgiveness and salvation. We are to share that the cross means LOVE.

 

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We’re having a BOY…or maybe a GIRL…

I bet that got your attention!

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Several years ago, our Pastor asked the congregation to prayerfully consider becoming foster parents. Adoption and fostering holds a special place in his heart since his parents became fosters after he left for college. Once we left the service, I asked Barry if we should think about that. He looked at me like I had two heads. I guess that was a “No”. A couple years after that, the Pastor brought it up again. In the car on the way home, I asked Barry. Still, I appeared to be two headed. I guess nothing had changed since the first time. This happened several times over our marriage and each time the answer remained the same. That is until about a month ago.

We were contacted by an organization called Holding Out Help. (www.holdingouthelp.org) HOH is a group who’s focus is to help individuals who are exiting Polygamist communities. For most of you reading this, Polygamy is not something you think about very often. Most of you many not even realize that this multi-spouse culture still exists to the degree that it does in this country.

It is estimated that over 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly fundamentalist Mormons, practice polygamy secretly (and not-so-secretly). The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is estimated to consist of 6,000 – 8,000 members.  A large concentration of these members live in the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. (This area is referred to as “The Crick”) The average American FLDS polygamist man has 3-4 wives and each wife averages 8-9 children. The culture of abuse and corruption is so prevalent in this area that those who are brave enough to leave do so at great risk to themselves. They leave with nothing and no one to turn to. That is where Holding Out Help comes in! (…and maybe us!)

I cannot give you the children’s names in order to keep them protected. For now I will just say “Boy” or “Girl” but I want to give you as much information as I can about where things stand right now so that you can be praying.

Boy is 16 years old. He left The Crick a little while ago. His father is being punished and has been sent to “repent from afar” by the FLDS church. When that happens, the church reassigns the man’s wives and children to new men. It is an unthinkable practice, but it is happening. When Boy’s family was reassigned, he decided to leave. Boy has only a 4th grade education and is painfully shy. He is alone and in order to make it successfully into adulthood, he is going to need a lot of help and love. Generally speaking, HOH doesn’t place teenage boys into host homes that have small children. The reality is that 80-90% of the kids that live in The Crick are physically and/or sexually abused. The leadership with HOH have spoken to Boy multiple times and they do not believe that this particular child has been abused or that he poses a threat to the Littles. (I should mention that in the years since they have been doing this, HOH has never had an incident of abuse in a host home)

One benefit to coming to live with us would be that we homeschool. Boy does not want to go to public school because of his shyness. That may be the best since there is no way he can perform on a high school level academically or socially. If Boy does comes to live with us, we can assess his knowledge in each subject and just go from there. The idea that this 16 year old would be learning the same things that Conor (10 years old) is learning completely blows my mind!

There is another family that has stepped up and offered to take Boy into their home. They do not have any small children so that is a bonus. They also have a couple of older children that might be an added benefit. Plus, they live further south than we currently do. I’ll explain why that is good in a little bit.

Boy is meeting with the other family tomorrow. He may want to meet us next week. The decision is his to make about where he goes. We are OK with it either way. We are just praying for his well-being.

There is another child, Girl, that might be in need as well. Girl is still in The Crick. She has been in contact with HOH for a while now. She is just trying to get the courage to take that first step into freedom. It could be tonight…it could be next week…it could be never. We are praying that Girl will be kept safe until she decides what is best for her.

So for right now, we pray and wait for a call. Boy or Girl…or another child entirely. There are new placement needs all the time.

In the meantime, there are some changes we will need to start making. The main one being a move further south. Holding Out Help has a fantastic system of resources to help these people start their new life. Mentoring, tutoring, counseling, job-training, clothing, education, etc. It is amazing and all of it is south of Salt Lake City. We are just too far away to utilize all of the things they offer for whomever comes into our home and it wouldn’t be fair to this child not to give them EVERY opportunity to succeed. So, Barry is looking for work in that area and we are researching housing down there. I am NO fan of packing and moving, but I have to be honest, I am kind of excited abut the possibility of this move. We’ve been unable to really grow roots since we’ve been here and maybe this is the reason why. There are a lot of things to do and this will not happen over night, but we are ready to make the effort.

So many opportunities could come from a partnership with Holding Out Help. They are too many and too distant future to write about now but know that we are praying for God’s will in this every step of the way.

There are a couple of things I’d like to point you to if you are interested in learning more about HOH and the kids coming out of The Crick:

20/20 did a special featuring Holding Out Help last January. In fact, we sat on our couch in Florida and watched it. God broke my heart that night. I do not believe it is a coincidence that we watched that special over a year ago. Here is the link to the 20/20 episode:

Also, if you have Netflix, there is a documentary called “Sons of Perdition” that follows the story of several kids just like Boy and Girl. (Warning, there is a bit of bad language) This will give you a great insight into the lives of these poor kids. In fact, some of the guys in the documentary are now “graduates” of HOH and some have their own families and some are in college! If you do not have Netflix, you can download the movie using this link:

http://sonsofperditionthemovie.com/Sons_of_Perdition_Home.html

We have been so blessed to have a loving family and amazing friends in our lives. Our hearts are now burdened to give that same unconditional love to someone else. Someone who has never known that love.

1 John 3:16-18 ~ “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

PS – A church in Georgia has contacted us and are interested in joining us for a mission trip. The opportunities for them to serve here in UT are so numerous! We are very excited about this possibility and the future mission teams this could lead to. Just one more thing to pray about!!!!

photo by Dominik Gwarek

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Skiing, Serving, Singing & Ravi

We have had a pretty amazing January so far. Conor and Reagan each had a birthday – turning 10 and 8 years old. As their gift/party we took them to ski for their very first time. They both did so great and are eager to go back again. (Their blossoming love for skiing sure makes for one happy daddy!)

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Last week, we also started volunteering at a thrift store run by our church. The store sells clothes, shoes and accessories to the people in downtown Ogden. It is a low income neighborhood and predominately Hispanic. They sell everything in the store for $1 with few exceptions. They sell the items rather than give them away in order to give the customers a sense of pride and ownership. It is a way for them to shop for and purchase things with their own money to provide for themselves and their family. The church also offers free ESL classes and a kids club at the store each week. We are going to be working there every Friday and we are so blessed to be a part of it.

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In true God fashion, the Church’s thrift store is directly across the street from a Mormon Temple. This is the Ogden Temple and it is undergoing major reconstruction. In fact, when Barry & I came out to visit in February of last year, the entire building was lifted up on stilts as they were redoing the foundation. As we stand in the thrift store, it’s easy to see the Temple construction going on across the street. Every time I look out that window, I am reminded of why we are here.

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Barry also had the opportunity to meet with one of our church’s pastors to discuss some ministry ideas. The church is open to some of the things Barry brought up and we will be praying over what God has in store. It can be frustrating sometimes. We are here, we know God wants us to do something here specifically, but we just don’t know exactly what that something is. We believe that God brought us here for something LDS specific and until we know exactly what that is, we will continue to pray about it and visit Temple Square (LDS headquarters) to share the gospel. We do know, however that one of the reasons we are here is because in a place where Evangelical Christianity is such a minority, the workers are few. (Matthew 9:37-38) We know that God has us here to serve with our church and be His hands and feet in anyway we can. The thrift store is just one way we can do that.

On Saturday night, Barry & I were blessed to be able to hear Ravi Zacharias speak and Fernando Ortega sing at the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle. Ravi is the only Evangelical Apologist to ever be invited by the LDS to speak at this historical venue. This was his second invitation, the first being in 2004. I cannot begin to tell you the feeling I got standing in that building singing praises to my Savior. Awesome barely does it justice. “I will Sing of my Redeemer” & “Give me Jesus” have never sounded more precious. As about 1/2 of the building was filled with believers, I imagine that place had never been bathed in more prayer. Those prayers were answered and Ravi gave a very clear message of the importance of knowing the true and living Jesus and trusting the Bible alone. It was an amazing evening and the Holy Spirit flooded that building.

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If you would like to see the message given that night, you can watch it here:

As for now…Please pray!

  • Pray for this desperately lost area and for the thousands of people here who are following a false prophet.
  • Pray for us to stay focused on God’s will and to follow His direction without hesitation.
  • Pray for financial provision. Barry is still looking for more stable work.
  • Pray for the local Christian churches here who are fighting an uphill battle. Praise God – We know the Victor!

We are so grateful for all of you that pray over us and love on us. Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts.

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For those who have asked, here is a reminder on how you can give:

Make a check payable to FBCW and write “Utah Mission” on the memo line. Then mail it to:

First Baptist Church of Windermere

300 Main Street

Windermere, FL  347686

or you can give electronically through the church’s website:

http://www.fbcwindermere.com/AboutUs/Give.html

(If you have any trouble, the church finance office will be able to assist you – 407-876-2234)

Party of 5

Yesterday, I threw myself the biggest Pity Party I’ve ever indulged in. I’m talking a MASSIVE Pity Party with all the fixin’s; sobbing, pouting, going back to bed multiple times, crying while folding laundry, crying while unloading the dishwasher, eating way too many Oreos, zombie walking through Wal-Mart thinking mean things about the “happy” people around me, etc. I really wallowed in it. I mean how dare the other people at Wal-Mart to be laughing?!?! Didn’t they know that my children had just flown back to Florida!? Didn’t they know that my house was quiet once again after 2 weeks of laughter and togetherness had ended!? Don’t they even care that we are back to being just a party of 4!?

Then, just like God, He reminded me in several ways that we are not a party of 4. We are, at the very least, a party of 5! He is WITH us. He is with me. I will never be a party of 1. Praise Jesus!

One of the ways He spoke to me was through a very special friend. I go to her when I am at my ugliest because I know she will love me in spite of myself. She listened to my whining, she hurt with me and then she pointed me straight back to God’s word!

“O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.” ~ Psalm 38:21-22

What a comforting scripture that is. I mean, really, think about it. The God of all creation is NEAR to me. He is NEAR to you. No matter how dark your view is, there IS a light and His name is Jesus.

After a day that seemed to never end, the Littles were finally asleep and I went to bed. I lay there crying off and on and praying for God to allow my mind to rest. I prayed that He would show me tenderness and peace…He did. My husband came in. He laid down beside me and began to just quietly rub my hair. He didn’t tell me to get over it. He didn’t tell me it would be alright. He was comforting me just by being there. I didn’t tell Barry how much I needed that. I still haven’t. He knows. He knew then too.

Finally, God spoke to me after the stillness of the night had settled in. I woke up several times during the night. I often do. As I laid there, I expected to start tearing up again, but instead I started smiling. Memories of the 2 weeks with our family starting flooding into my mind. Instead of the sadness I had allowed the day to bring me, the night was filled with reminders of how good God has been to me. Here are a few pictures of some of the blessing during those 2 weeks:

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What a fool I had been! The enemy knows our weaknesses. I allowed him a foothold in my emotions. I allowed him to whisper lies in my ears all day. A day wasted.

When my feet hit the floor this morning, I promised myself and my Lord that I would not waste today. As I showered, I thanked Him for forgiving me yet again and for loving me. As I dressed and got ready, I praised Him for every minute that he gave me with my family and thanked Him that they were now back home, safe and sound.

I know that I will mess up again. I know that there is a good possibility that I may throw myself another pity party in the future. More importantly, I know that even if I do, He will be there with me. The only guest to such a dreadful event. He will be there reminding me to give all my worries to Him because He cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7)


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