All Missions are Local

During this time of national election season I remember a phrase former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill would use, “All politics is local”. That is such a funny phrase considering we have city, county, state and national elections. Now you would think on the surface that at the very least national elections would not be local politics. They would be grander and more issue driven. But as we have seen over and over again in this primary season, to win the national nomination you have to win at the local level by securing your delegates and sometimes that has very little to do with the big picture or so we would believe.

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Now what does that story have to do with missions? I believe that no matter where you are in the world or how you are serving in the mission field that all missions ARE local. I can hear some of you objecting right now from your homes in Florida, Georgia or Panama but let me explain.

In I Thessalonians 1:4-8 Paul writes to the local church in Thessalonica –

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For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it.

We all know who Paul, Peter, Barnabas and Timothy were but do any of us know by name members of that local church in Thessalonica? Why not? Paul says about them they “became a model” throughout all of Macedonia and Achaia. This is a huge area of the known world at that time. This is an area that included Athens one of if not the most influential city of this time! This didn’t just happen because Paul and Timothy planted it and so it flourished, no it happened because the local believers became imitators of the Lord and endured suffering with joy given by the Holy Spirit!

The Church at Thessalonica was modeling what it looked like to be a Christian in first century Greece. Because of their commitment to Christ and his church we know who Paul and Timothy are. I am sure there were plenty of church members walking around Greece saying

“Let me tell you about Paul, can you read? I have a copy of this letter he wrote to us and Paul is just so great going around sharing the Gospel…”

You don’t know what the Gospel is? Let me share this good news with you”

You see it was early church planters from Jerusalem who started local churches in these far off cities and lands who spread the word of who Jesus is and ultimately of whom Paul and the other apostles were. These local missionaries were the life blood of the early church. They took ownership of a city or a whole area like Macedonia and became permanent fixtures in those cities, in a good way. Without the locals the Gospel becomes like that seed planted in shallow soil. It’s great to have a visiting pastor, teacher or mission team to refresh the spirit but ultimately it takes local believers that have THE HOLY SPIRIT to grow disciples in any community. You have to BE THE CHURCH in your shared culture not just bring a church to a foreign culture. We see every day what it looks like to have Christians who have been in in Utah nine, thirteen and even seventeen years teaching the gospel with intentional words, phrases and actions that the local culture will respond to and have responded to. We have also seen what it looks like to bring a service straight out of a typical Southern Baptist Church in the South from the 1980’s and how, because they are not trying to integrate the local culture, they are just being ignored by the locals. We need to think local and teach local!

This is not to sound like some “Locals Only” surf culture we see an example of being sued in Federal Court. You know the guys that are soooo protective of their break that they chase off any non-locals. Because they invented surfing and have never had an outsider surf their waves before. Except you know Hawaiians had to show the white guys from California how to surf, and all the surfers not related to this “crew” that surfed Lunada Bay in the 1960’s. I am not trying to say to non-local Christians, “Get off my wave!” On the contrary, I think all Christians should treat even those short term mission trips as local missions. We have to pay attention to those Christians who were there before, see what is working, see what isn’t, and especially pay close attention to those Christians who were born and raised in that particular area or culture.

As Tip O’Neill showed time and time again, if you don’t win the hearts and minds of the local delegates you are never going to make it. So shape your message to those you are talking to. If you are talking to a union hall filled with electricians you don’t tell them about the need for a local hospital but you do tell them you are bringing a large construction project to build a hospital that will require lots of electrical work.

Paul said in I Corinthian 9:22…“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Paul knew and modeled how to contextualize the Gospel. Jesus of course was the master of this. He used scriptures Jews would know to show them he was the Christ. When speaking with the woman at the well he breaks all convention and asks her for drink, putting her at ease so she could understand the Gospel of Grace. Learning how to put the Gospel into a context that “locals” can understand IS becoming all things to all people. So no matter if you are at work talking to an engineer and explaining how the order of the galaxy screams “LOOK AT THE CREATOR WHO SET THE STARS IN THEIR PLACE” or are delivering diapers to a young single mom showing that God is the Father to the fatherless, you are doing local missions.

So when thinking about your next mission trip to Kenya, Nicaragua, or Utah or when talking to the lady in the next cubicle over remember All Missions Are Local and treat your preparation as such.

Who’s On Your List?

At the end of “Schindler’s List” Oskar Schindler breaks down and cries and says “I could have done more… If I hadn’t spent so much money how many more could I have saved?”. That scene was so striking to me as I watched it again this week. We are studying Galatians in our small group and how living outside of grace is really living in slavery to sin and the law. This scene in the movie just brought another perspective on the freedom we have in Christ .

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For those of you who are not familiar with the movie (and if you are not, go watch it after reading this), Oskar Schindler was a German business man who belonged to the Nazi party during WWII. At the beginning of the war he was just concerned about making pots and pans, and LOTS of money. He eventually saw the horrors going on around him and wanted to try and help as many people escape those horrors as he could. During the last few years of the war Schindler spent all his money trying to buy the freedom of thousands of Jews. The cost was very dear to him but in the end all he thought about was how many more he could have helped.

 
As a Christian I have taken advantage of the freedom I have in Christ.

 
Galatians 5:1 – “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” 

 
I remind myself that I have liberty not to be bogged down by “religion”. I often remind myself that because of the area we are in, I should live that freedom and others will see it and be drawn from Religion to Christ. This is true to an extent but I don’t think Paul said in Galatians that we were set free just to give me license to wash my car on Sunday, wear jeans to church or have a glass of wine with dinner. Being a slave to the law, having to earn our salvation, is not a little inconvenience. He did not say the law was only our boss from nine to five. Keeping the law isn’t a part time job. We are slaves to it and with that every image that example brings to mind. Slaves have no real freedom; their choices are made for them. Everyday their job is whatever their master/owner tells them to do.

 
If you are a Christian than that IS the life Christ rescued you out of. If this is a life you escaped, then why wouldn’t you want to help as many of your friends, family and neighbors out of it? We should be making our own list of who we are going to ask God to bring out and how can we be used to do that? What can we sacrifice today so that on judgment day we won’t say, “I could have given of my time, I could have opened up my house, I could have been more loving to my neighbor…”. This is not something we do to follow the rules but what we should feel compelled to do. Having the freedom to decide how we are going to help others escape should get you excited every day! Whether it is being on a prayer team to faithfully pray for a certain area, ministry or person, going on a short term mission trip, or funding someone else’s trip or ministry like Oskar Schindler did. We should all be working on our list.

Right now the list I want to bring out of slavery is long and the list of those who have escaped by God working through me is short. I waited a long time to really start helping others escape and I made a lot of mistakes trying to figure out escape routes. The thing is God already has the escape route.

 

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He will let us be the torch holders on that route.

Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

This is one of the amazing things of the Christian life, God uses us! He doesn’t need us but he allows us to work on that railroad he is the conductor of.

 
Just as I think that most of us would be excited to help one person out of slavery, the passion to help others out too would be overwhelming. That is how we should feel about leading someone to Christ. We rejoice every time ONE is added to the Body of Christ but we should ache to add more. One is never too little and however many we can help rescue out is never enough! If you are interested in working in the resistance and adding to your list please come to, pray for or give to a ministry in Utah or another area that is bondage, like New York City, Portland, Seattle or Las Vegas. These cities are all areas in our own country with a very small Christian presence.

 
And for all of you who are already doing this, Thank You!

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2015 in Review

This has been some year! We’ve been tested, blessed, surprised and humbled. From Reagan being hospitalized, Conor being severely sick multiple times, Barry cracking his ribs and me having two surgeries- we’ve had a year with one too many doctor visits. (We thank God for modern medicine and pain killers!) Still, we have had one of the best years ever! We bought a house in Utah, have started a Bible study in our home, started a diaper and formula pantry, were able to spend time with family and friends in Florida and have an exciting 2016 to look forward to. Instead of spending anymore time on the bad days of 2015, I just want to update you on all the amazing things God has done this past year and what we have planned so far for 2016.

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We didn’t expect to move again in 2015 but God had other plans. What started out as a stressful and scary situation turned into one of the biggest gifts we’ve ever received. We were able to buy a house in Eagle Mountain, Utah! The house far exceeds our needs and God pulled a major deal out of His hat for this one. There is no reasonable way we should have been able to get this house for the price we did. God opened all the right doors and just blew our minds again with how much He loves us and how clearly He provides.

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We started a Bible study in our new home a few weeks after we moved in. We literally just posted details about it on Facebook and people showed up! How God is that?!? Especially in a place like Utah. The group has fluctuated in size over the past several months and we continue to get new interest in joining all the time. The majority of the group are former Mormons that are searching for the truth. Please be praying for those that already attend and those that will come in the future. May God be glorified through it all and may His kingdom grow.

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In October, we were able to travel back to Florida and spend some much needed time with family and friends. The purpose of the trip was to formally announce our partnership with First Baptist Church of Windermere as they seek to make Utah their Samaria. (Acts 1:8) We were humbled by the sheer love we received from our home church. Many there were interested in our ministry and eager to know how they could have a part in it. To that end, we have multiple mission trips planned for 2016 and we are so excited to have people here being the hands and feet of Christ. We will be working community events, hosting a Vacation Bible School and doing prayer walks over this area. Remember that in the area we live in there is one Evangelical church of 40 people to cover a population of more than 50,000. We plan to bathe these streets in prayer and hope to watch the seeds God plants grow and bloom.

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At the beginning of November, we started a diaper and formula pantry. We exist to reach out to those in need and through that need, tell them about Jesus and how they can join our Bible study. So far, over the last month, we’ve given away nearly $500.00 worth of diapers and formula. The truth is, once we get all the details worked out and supplies purchased, I believe we could be giving away twice that much in the coming months. We are so thankful to watch the Lord provide for the needs of the people contacting us and we ask you to pray that we will be good stewards of what He’s given to us. If you would like to donate to this ministry, you can order any brand or size of diapers and preferably Similac Advance formula (most requested) and have them shipped directly to our house: 7853 N Oakwood Drive, Eagle Mountain, UT  84005. Or you can give to the First Baptist Church of Windermere and just indicate Utah Mission on the check.

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Finally, we are SO unbelievably thankful that God has called the Brain family to join us on His mission here in Utah. It’s hard to admit that we are tired and that we so desperately crave help and friendship. Praise God, He already knows our needs before we bring them to Him. Hank, Lori, Jason and Ella provide us with the things we’ve been missing and so much more. We are glad to say that they have bought a home in our neighborhood (WOO HOO!) and they will be Utah bound on January 30th. (52 days! but who’s counting???) Please be praying for safe travels as they cross the country and that God would use the eight of us in a mighty way.

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So, 2015 was a mixed bag for sure! When you know who created it all though, it’s easier to trust that all the pieces will fit together for our good and His glory.

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May God be glorified in me in 2016!

~ Jennifer

Thankfulness

November is the month where we are more purposeful about our thankfulness. It is good to have a holiday that reminds us to focus on all that we have but gratitude is something we should express all year-round. Right now, as I sit on my bed typing this, I am overcome by how much I really have to be thankful for. This house, the bed I sit on, the computer I am using, my health and ability to do this, the gorgeous cold weather outside, the warm clothes I’m wearing and on and on and on. In reality, if I spent the time to genuinely give thanks to God for all that he’s done for me, it could go on non-stop. I promise not to have this blog become never ending, but I would like to tell you about some specific things we are thankful for concerning our ministry in Utah.

Our home bible study. We are so incredibly grateful for the group of men, women and children that meet in our home every week to learn God’s word. The truth is that most of them are not believers. They are just people searching for the truth in an area where truth is hard to find.

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Our church in Florida. First Baptist Church of Windermere has not only decided to make Utah their Samaria, but they have done so with love and excitement. We went back to Florida to meet with small groups and discuss what the future holds for the FBCW/Utah partnership last month. We were so touched by how many people really seemed to have a passion to learn more about Mormonism and to know how they can join in the work here.

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Mission Trips. In line with joining the work here, we already have a few mission trips being planned. We cannot fully express how much it means to us that real people are willing to come and help us reach an area that means so much to us. We have trips that are coming to pray, work a community fair and help us lead a Vacation Bible School. There will be even more to do in the future and we are so excited about the possibiities.

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Diaper and Formula Pantry. The city we live in is one of the youngest areas per capita in the United States. That means lots and lots of babies. If you are an LDS family that is struggling financially, you don’t ask for help. Not from your family or friends or ward members. No one. It brings too much shame and consequences. We decided to start a diaper and formula pantry for people in need. No questions asked. We will be giving out free diapers and formula to anyone who contacts us. We’ve set up a FB page and contacted other pregnancy centers and food pantries. We will be putting labels on everything we pass out with information about our Bible study group!

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God is working in Utah! He is always working. It’s usually just a matter of us paying attention to see it or not. Lately here, it’s been hard to miss.

The people in our home Bible study group have been really asking lots of questions are growing in their faith. God has moved major mountains for some of them and it’s really teaching them the power of prayer.

The reception at FBCW was beyond our expectations.

The number of people interested in coming on mission trips is so exciting!

The diaper and formula pantry page was only up for one day when we got requests for diapers and were contacted by a local pregnancy center to partner with them.

We had a wonderful trip back to Florida and it definitely renewed our energy.

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How can you help? Great question!!! I’m so glad you asked.

Pray, pray, pray! The enemy is a real and formidable opponent. Satan is not going to let go of Utah without a fight. Pray for us, the people coming to help us and especially for those looking for salvation through the true God of the Bible.

Give! Do you want to help give to the diaper and formula pantry? We would like to have all diaper sizes on hand and many types of formula ready to give out immediately upon request. We’d also like to have cash reserved in case there is a special need that arrises like a sensitive skin diaper issue or a specialty formula request. There are two ways you can help with that: One – Buy diapers or formula though Amazon, Target, Walmart, where ever and have it shipped directly to us. (Barry & Jennifer Smith, 7853 N Oakwood Drive, Eagle Mountain, UT 84005) or give financially through FBCW just marking the gift as “Utah Mission”.

Go! Are you interested in joining us for a mission trip? We will have several different kind of trips for you to participate in. Not everyone needs to be a doctor, construction worker or evangelist to go on a mission trip. We just need people that love Jesus and want to reach people for His kingdom. Maybe that is you! You don’t attend FBCW? That’s ok! It’s not a prerequisite. =) If you are interested, just email us and we can get you started.

We are thankful for all that God is doing here in Utah. We are thankful for all He is doing in the hearts of the people in Florida too. We are thankful for all of you who pray for us and seek the Father’s will on our behalf. We are thankful for YOU!

photo by Dominik Gwarek

Big News!

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Big News, Big News, Big News! Jennifer and I have been asked to partner with First Baptist Church of Windermere to make Utah their Samaria! Acts 1:8 ~ “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” FBCW is our home church in Florida and we are beyond excited that they would pick Utah and more specifically the Eagle Mountain/Saratoga Springs area (our hometown) as the place that they will be concentrating on as their national target area.

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What does this mean? First, it means that we will have a great church dedicated to the idea of reaching the lost in Utah County. That will include groups of believers praying specifically for us and the Brains, our ministry partners (see previous blog). It also means dedicated short term missions teams to help with community events, Vacation Bible Schools, and working with local churches and Southern Baptists organizations in our area. Most importantly it means an interest in our mission field that we have never had before!

Today, Pastor Chuck Carter will be announcing this new partnership and the focus on Utah in four services at FBCW and he has already announced it at one service last night. Jennifer and I met with Pastor Chuck earlier this week to record a video for the announcement and we will be back in Florida next week to speak to different small groups and have a Q & A session Sunday evening. We are so excited to be coming back to Florida but are more excited to help share and recruit for what God is doing in Utah. We hope that everyone who is able to will come to our Sunday night event. We would love to see everyone and answer any questions you might have.

Sunday, 10/18/15, 5:00 pm

First Baptist Church of Windermere Chapel

436 Oakdale St, Windermere, FL 34786

I will try to answer some of your questions here. I am sure you are wondering exactly how this will work and truthfully so are we a little, but we do have a plan written in pencil and God willing it will be a great adventure for anyone who wants to be a part of it. One question you are probably asking is what will our roles be? Right now we have started the first of what we hope will be many Home Bible Studies in the Eagle Mountain/Saratoga Springs area. Windermere already provided the curriculum and even Bibles for that class. We also hope that this class in the future will be large enough to split and at that point have the Brains take the new class. We will also be discipling others to make disciples in the hopes that this model will be repeated throughout Utah County. A second opportunity we will have is hosting mission teams in our home. The teams can use our house as a base while they are working for other churches or organizations or as I mentioned earlier we are hoping to put (YOU) these mission teams (YOU)  to work reaching our community. There are several events in our area we could be a part of that would give us opportunities to share the Gospel and that is what it is all about! The true Gospel of Grace that the Bible tells us about. Not some perverted message that we will never be able to measure up to but that Jesus is Lord and as Lord he came to earth and died on the cross taking the punishment that we deserved, rose from the grave, giving us the opportunity to live with him and FOR HIM FOREVER if we would just make him our Lord and Savior.

The Bible says in Romans 10:14-15 ~ “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’.”

View More: http://oldpinepictorial.pass.us/smithfamily

Now, with FBCW, we have a sending church…we just need those beautiful feet to bring the good news!

Please pray for us that we will have discernment with all the planning and recruiting we will be doing. Also, please pray about coming to Utah and seeing for yourself this harvest just waiting for the workers. We pray that this ministry will grow to the point that it will be a full time job and to that end I will be taking online classes to prepare me to be able to handle the responsibilities for full time ministry work. Whether that is in the near or distant future will depend on God but it will also depend on whether Christians are willing to come and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

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One last thing, you do not have to be a member of FBCW or even Southern Baptist to work with us in Utah. So, please come Sunday night to the Q & A or email us any questions you have. We can’t wait to see everyone in Florida and please remember us and especially the lost here in Utah in your prayers.

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God Wins!

It’s been 2 months since our last blog update. Those have certainly been a roller coaster 60 days to say the least. It seems the closer and closer we’ve gotten to kicking off the ministry that God has called us here for, the more and more things seem to fall apart. Still, if Satan isn’t pushing against your ministry then maybe your ministry isn’t worth pushing. We’ve had financial “surprises” (Can you say IRS?), health concerns, our plans changing beyond our control, Barry’s work shifting him to nights, concerns for our Bigs in Florida, health issues with our family in Florida, etc…Satan sure gets an A for effort but Praise God, he has failed again.

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We started a Bible study in our home last week. We knew God was leading us in that direction but who were we going to ask and how could we invite people we don’t even know? We posted the details on a few Facebook pages and prayed that God would bring it to the attention of those He intended to be there. He absolutely did not disappoint!

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We had 6 of us in attendance this past Sunday and another 5 more that may be coming this week. There were also 6 children there and we could grow by another 6 if those others come and bring their kids. Of the 6 adults, 2 are searching for truth and come from a background of Mormonism, 1 is also formerly LDS but she is now a believer and 1 is a former Catholic and is now a follower of Christ. The girl that is babysitting for us during the class also is a Christian now that was raised LDS so she is the prefect one for the kids that are struggling through these major changes in their families. Keep in mind that by leaving the LDS church, they also lose friends, families, jobs, etc. One of the woman in the class told us that she and her husband have NO ONE left in their lives that were there before they left the church 18 months ago. Can you even imagine that?

We are so blown away by the response that we’ve gotten to the class. We are thrilled with the turn out and we pray that even more will hear and come. Also, remember that NONE of these people had EVER met us before they showed up at our home on Sunday night for Bible study. That alone is huge! Would you go to anything at someone’s house you’d never laid eyes on before? Never met? Had no connections with? No mutual friends even? I wouldn’t. Sorry, but I wouldn’t. I am so thankful that God orchestrated everything to get those He wanted here. Beyond just showing up, they shared! They were open and honest and comfortable. That just doesn’t happen without God. They were all so thankful that something like this exists now in Eagle Mountain. We are so thankful that God has allowed us to be a part of it.

There is so much more coming and I can’t wait to tell you ALL about it! Until then, please be praying for the people attending this Bible study. It seems so normal to you and to me, but in Utah County it is anything but. Just by attending, they are the odd man out in this area. Pray that they will continue coming regardless of what Satan throws in their way. He has had a pretty good run here in Utah convincing the vast majority of the population that they know God and that they have the “fullness of the gospel”. It sickens me how he uses twisted scripture to lead so many away from the one true Jesus. He can’t possibly like what God has planned. He’s not enjoying what is happening in our living room and I can assure you he will hate the future plans we are making. However, my God is not hindered at all by Satan’s attempts to get in the way. God is in control and I’ve read the end of the story…He wins!

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730 days and counting

Yesterday marked the 2 year anniversary of our arrival in Utah. In some ways, it’s hard to believe that we’ve been here that long. In other ways, 2 years seems like not enough time to see so much change. We came here with our plans laid out before us and a clear idea of what we were getting into. 2 years later, we can look back and say that we were clueless!

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We’ve lived in 4 different homes in 3 different counties since our move to Utah. The 4th (and FINAL – we pray) move took place just 2 weeks ago. We were blessed to be able to buy a home in Eagle Mountain, UT. God organized the details so clearly that we knew beyond a doubt that this was the place for us. Being able to start planting roots is a huge gift that we are not taking lightly. We look at this house and see home groups meeting here, Bible studies in the living room and neighborhood outreach from our kitchen. We pray that God will use this house for His glory.

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We moved to Utah as a family of 4, became a family of 5 and have now gone back down to 4 again. We were so fortunate to have Ally live with us for 8 months and become another daughter to us. We love her dearly and she will forever be a part of our family. We moved her to Idaho 4 weeks ago so that she can pursue some new opportunities. She is doing so well! She’s found a job working at one of our favorite restaurants out here, Wingers, and she starts her Sophomore year of college in just 3 weeks. She’ll be back in town for just 1 day this week and we will have the chance to see her face and love on her. Looking forward to that!

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We headed out here with ministry in our hearts but no job providing food for our stomachs. Tomorrow marks the 1 year anniversary of Barry being employed by SSA Marine. Again, God orchestrated that opportunity in such a way that we were left in awe of his timing and provision. Barry has done really well in his position and has actually become the trainer for any new hires into his department.

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The ministry we headed across the country to work with ended up not being where God wanted us. That lesson has been perhaps that hardest one to learn over these past 2 years – Keep your plans written in pencil because God may have something else in mind. It can be so tempting to just grab the reigns in an effort to get the show on the road only to be humbled when you realize you have no idea where you are going.

That being said, we are thankful that God has directed us to this next phase of our journey. We are finalizing some of the paperwork and details through the North American Mission Board and we are anxious to be able to share with y’all just what God is doing here in Utah and in our family. What I can say is that Utah County is the most religious part of the country and yet the population is less than 1% Evangelical Christian. That should blow you mind! It blows ours for sure. Please be praying for us as we being a ministry to try to reach this desperately lost and lied to area for Jesus Christ.

 

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One thing that has never changed in the past two years is our confidence that God has called us here and that He has never left us. In the darkest of days, we know our God is able. We praise Him for ALL that has happened in the past 730 days and trust him with the next.

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