Happy Friday! It has been a long time since we were able to update the blog. Please know that is isn’t because we don’t want to or that nothing is really happening here. Blame it on my head and not my heart as my childhood pastor used to say.
This year has been AMAZING! Words just won’t do justice to describe to love we have felt but a picture says a 1,000 words so…
January – We had friends and family here.
February – The Brains moved to Utah to join us in ministry and my childhood best friend brought her family to visit.
March – The first ever Brain/Smith ski day, Lori’s parents come to Utah & our Easter lunch with our Bible Study group.
April – A weekend trip to Zion, a terribly broken foot and the most amazing prayer team ever.
May – Some of our favorites come to visit and Christian music in the park.
June – Aquarium fun, Bobby come to Utah, diaper pantry stock up, Pony Express Days & VBS #1.
July – Barry’s parents in Utah, kayaking, a night at Snowbird, VBS #2, the most amazing mission team & camping in Yellowstone.
August – Lance & Lauren come to Utah, hiking and the Littles first year back in traditional school.
September – Enormous pumpkins and the fall guitar concert.
October – Fall is officially here, cupcake party, Halloween in Utah & adenoid/tonsillectomy.
November – Surprise visit from Thea, hiking and the first snow of the season.
December – Elf the Musical, the beginning of a new work at home job for Jen & so much more to come!
While 2016 has been amazing, we can’t wait for 2017! We will be heading back to Florida 02/15 – 02/21 to share about all God is doing in Utah and the exciting things we have coming in 2017. We would love to come to your church or small group and let you know what’s happening and how you can be a part of it. If you are interested in having us come speak, please let us know. (firstname.lastname@example.org) We’d love to add you to our calendar! We will also have a couple coming with us that are ex-LDS and they have a great story to tell.
We love y’all and we are so grateful for the prayer and support you continue to shower us with. May God be glorified in 2017 like never before!
I’ve been thinking over and over about something Barry had read and relayed to our Bible Study group on Sunday night. He was using the analogy of a football game to our churches.
If you bring a friend to a football game and they have very limited knowledge of football, you don’t ask everyone to change the game, the environment, the verbiage because your friend is there. Instead, you make sure your friend knows the basics (touchdown, which team is which, point values, etc) and you enjoy watching the game with them. Usually, the passion and excitement of the people in the stands will be so contagious that your friend will be engaged in learning the game and often will decide that your team is now their team too.
Imagine if as Bible believing Christians we had as much passion about the Gospel as we do about things like football, politics, our families, music, vacations, etc. None of those things are bad. In fact, some of them are great things to have in our lives but the greatest aspect of our lives as believers is Jesus!
Do you know that the majority of church goers do not share their faith with others? That is heartbreaking truth. We are not a country club. We are THE CHURCH! Jesus did not give us the suggestion of going out and making disciples; he gave us a command to do it.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20
The United States is part of that great commission. You don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary. You can go across the street or to the next cubicle over.
Maybe if we start to be as openly excited and joy filled about our eternal life with Christ as we are when our team wins a championship then we would see that passion become contagious and we might see a revival of lost people who decide that they want to be a part of God’s team too.
Well, the Littles are on their 5th day of school so that means that we officially made it through Summer 2016.
Trust me, it was touch and go there for a while. We crammed a TON into those 12 weeks. The kids sailed through it but for an old lady like me, it took some effort.
We started the summer by working some local events to get Pioneer Community Ministry‘s name out there. We passed out bottled water and swim diapers along with information about the diaper and formula pantry service and our upcoming VBS. It was such a wonderful insight into the needs of the community. We met a lot of people and were able to make some connections with other local community groups. We heard positive comments from several people about having diversity here in Eagle Mountain. As a Christian, white, stay at home mom I never would have thought that my presence would add diversity but when you’re in Utah it certainly does. (The Christian part – nothing else)
We were fortunate to be able to have Bobby Vanderzalm with us for the majority of the summer as a ministry intern. Bobby is funny, incredibly smart & has a huge heart for Jesus. He has the ability to talk to anyone and that is such a gift in ministry work. Bobby helped out with all of our events, lead games for our VBS, delivered diapers and formula, led devotionals and witnessed to those who would listen. He spent time at Temple Square and met with various local pastors. He was an incredible help to us during a very busy time and we will forever be Team Bobby!
Lori and I also led another VBS during the summer. We were the directors for SMCC‘s VBS too. Somewhere in a moment of delusion we thought “Hmmm, leading two vacation bible schools in one summer, 2 weeks apart with completely different curriculums??? Sure, no problem!” Unfortunately, Lori seems as crazy as I am sometimes so we are going to need to schedule out moments of clarity between us. Honestly, both weeks of VBS turned out amazing. Far better than we could’ve expected. The SMCC VBS allowed us to get to know many people in the church that we wouldn’t have met otherwise. Plus, our 4 kids were able to experience serving in the church in a major way.
The PCM VBS blew us away! In a place like Utah County, we were unsure if anyone would actually show up. On day one I was in tears as I saw real live kids signing in. My heart was so happy and grateful. Can you imagine the mess I was when we showed up for Day 2 and there were MORE kids there than Day 1? Out of all the kids that attended our VBS, only one child was not LDS. For us, that was overwhelming in such a good way. Those kids were hearing the truth of the gospel day in and day out for an entire week. They had questions about doctrinal differences and we were able to share with them what the Bible says about who Jesus really is. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
We also held a VBS family night on the last day of that week. Barry was able to preach a short message that night and I may be slightly biased but he was incredible. Not only were we there with the families from the VBS week, but there were so many other families at the park that evening and they heard the word of God being spoken and sang that night. Praise God for His hand constantly at work.
We had an incredible mission team that came from FBCW plus Lori’s niece and her boyfriend to help us run our VBS. These eight people will forever have a special place in my heart. They really immersed themselves in the culture here in Utah, learning about Mormonism and sharing their faith with those they met. They were exactly the eight we needed and God knew just who to send. We love y’all!
We also crammed in a little family fun time this summer too. We spent the day at the aquarium with the Brains and Lori’s parents, Mike & Barbara.
We went camping in Yellowstone & visited The Grand Tetons with our PCM Bible study group.
We had family come to visit, played cards, went kayaking, went hiking, spent the night at Snowbird Lodge & enjoyed hanging out and watching the Olympics with our Bible Study peeps.
God is working in Utah County. Is it an uphill climb? Yep. Is the enemy pushing back against us? Yep. Do we get tired and discouraged sometimes? Yep. Still, my God is the one who created the universe and holds it in His hand. He is the God who has always been and will always be. God is constant. He is truth. He is love. He LOVES the people here in Utah. He loves them in spite of the fact that they are following a false gospel. He is the champion of heaven and He will reign forever. What a privilege it is to be a foot solider in the army of the King!
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.
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 –
1 Thessalonians 1:4-8New International Version (NIV)
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 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. 6 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. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 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.
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 .
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.
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!