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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An email from “B”

Happy Thursday, everybody! We wanted to take a minute and share an email with you.

A little background on this…We are having the guys from Adam’s Road come to our house on Monday along with Lynn Wilder, author of Unveiling Grace. The dinner and dessert is designed to allow some of our previous Transitions class attendees to have an opportunity to meet them personally and ask questions. One of the previous Transitioners sent us back this email. Unfortunately, he will not be able to join us on Monday. Still, his email made our day!

This is why we are in Utah. This is why God has called us here. This is how God is moving.

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“Barry and Jennifer,

I really appreciate you including me on the invite to come and meet the Wilder’s. Unfortunately I am flying to San Jose that afternoon on a business trip and will not be able to make it.

I give all glory to God, but I know with all of my heart that in the beginning of my transition it was the Wilder family that His message of hope broke through my ugly sin and pride. I was so blind and deaf to truth.

I sit here writing this and weep. I weep because as an ex-LDS member I couldn’t relate to my Lord; He who died for me. I walked away from his grace. I was trying so hard to earn His love, to be good enough, to overcome my own sin, to save myself…. I always felt shame and never could seem to find my way out of the deep dark place of bondage I had found myself in.

I found the Wilder’s story. I listened to brave Micah tell how he found Jesus on his LDS mission. I listened to his mother and father, his brothers, and sister, and somehow I also felt brave.

I am not even sure that I believed then, but I went and read from the bible, I attended church at SMCC. I won’t lie, I was scared. It all seemed so scandalous. How could I be forgiven? I don’t deserve this. I deserve my shame, my guilt, and most definitely punishment. I am a sinner and I will not hide that. Even with that said, I began to feel a love, a forgiveness, an acceptance. I accepted Jesus. I cannot save myself. I lean on Jesus for my salvation alone. I surely don’t have all the answers now (nor do I know if I ever will), but I am trying to do the will of the Father.

I will forever be grateful to the Wilder family for their brave and honest testimony. I don’t personally know them, but they feel like friends to me. A church family in Christ. I look at them and see the beautiful work that God is performing in their lives and in the lives of others, and I pray that God blesses them. Thank you again for the invitation. My apologies for the story, just felt the need to share. 

B….”

We have a brain…actually, 4 of them!

Remember the first day of school? Remember the stress and anxiety that came along with not knowing who would be in your classes or if you would have any friends to eat lunch with? What if you changed schools, like I did fairly often? The reality was that you would not know anyone in any class and the thought of the lunch table…well, that was enough to bring on real stress. The kind that after school specials were written about.

For the past two years, Barry & I have been in a “new school”. What has made that adjustment even harder is that we seem to be getting a new class schedule over and over again. Still, above all, we fully believe that God has been in control and that all of the changes have been directing us to the place we are in right now and the direction we are headed.

As we are about to start our Junior year in this new school, we see some familiar faces at the lunch table. Hank and Lori Brain, some of our most favorite people in all the world, are moving to Utah to jump into this ministry adventure with us! (Cue the tears) We are excited to watch as God has been so clear to them abut His desire to have them in Utah. He is opening doors faster than any of us had planned, still we feel very confident in His timing over our own.

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The details of what we are embarking on are still being prayed over and organized but the main idea is that we are planing to reach people that no one is reaching by going where no one is going. 

After two years in Utah, I truly believe that we are just about to be a part of why we were called here in the first place. God has BIG plans ahead. I’m sure of it.

The majority of the people in this state believe that they already know Him but the truth is that they are following a false god created by man. When I read these verses in Matthew, my heart just breaks.

Matthew 7:21-23 ~  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’  Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”

I am surrounded, every day, by so many LDS people for whom this verse is going to be a reality. “I never knew you!”  How can those words not break my heart? How could I sit here and not shed tears? So, Barry & I say “Lord, use us! Use us to stop even one person from following the false Mormon god. Use us to show them the ONLY way to be KNOWN by You”

Praise God, the Brain family are saying “Use us” too!

To those of you who have supported us through prayer and also financially – thank you! We literally could not be in this place without you. We could not have given a home to Ally, we could not have helped lead Transitions, we could not have reached out to our LDS neighbors…we could not have done any of this without you. Thank you for being as big a part of this mission as we are.

photo by Dominik Gwarek

We ask that you would continue to give finanically as the Lord directs you and to pray above all else! Pray that God would go before us in every step and in every decision in these next months of planning. Pray for the Brains and the transition that is ahead. Pray for all of our hearts to stay focused on His will.

The lunch table is filling up and the ride is getting exciting! Buckle up.

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