Mission Update – April

Spring has sprung here in my little area of the Czech Republic! And just as the world is bursting forth in new life, so my new life in Valašské Meziříčí is just beginning. Here are some updates from my first three weeks on the mission field!

Moving Day!

I took the first plane of my trip from Kansas City to Chicago on March 22. It’s weird how long ago that seems now. Almost like another lifetime. Keifer took a separate plane an hour or two later, and we met up in Chicago for our international flight to Berlin, then Prague. At first they put us in seats across the aisle from each other, but we were able to ask for adjoining seats, and they kindly obliged. I can’t express how happy it made me to have him as a traveling companion. My face may not show it here, but I was pretty pumped.

Preparing for Travel

Because of the seven hour time difference, we arrived in Prague in the morning, had lunch with a friend in Pardubice, and then took the train to ValMez. I got to see Keifer’s apartment for the first time, and then we hauled my suitcase across town, where I was introduced to my own apartment. Zuzka and the Steels were there to meet us with a welcome banner on the door and food for dinner. My area of the apartment was quite a mess for several days while I settled, but I finally did settle and find space for everything.

Organized Chaos

I plan on sharing more photos of the house and photos of the area in my next blog post, so stay tuned!

Financial Situation

In my last mission update, I was in a financial bind. It was just a few weeks before my move, and I only had $835 of monthly support pledged out of the $2,100 I needed. I remember thinking how crazy it was for me to continue moving forward without full financial provision, while still trying to trust that somehow God would make a way. Well, as you can see from the chart below, He definitely did! Some very kind and dedicated supporters contacted me in those last few weeks, and what they pledged brought me to within $80 of my goal.

I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for all of my financial supporters. Because of you I can pay rent for this apartment, buy food every month, purchase the things my little home needs, and pay the extra fees and expenses associated with starting life in a new country. Thank you for your faithfulness and kindness in giving! The Lord is definitely using you here.

Ministry

I’ve only been in the Czech Republic three weeks today, but in that time I’ve managed to jump back into ministry with Youth for Christ at their Rock Solid events. The Rock Solid Cafe (below) is a special drop-in center on Mondays that gives kids a fun, safe place to hang out with their friends and with some of Youth for Christ’s leaders. Since I’ve been back, we’ve built connections over card games, video games, music jam sessions, and time spent outside playing catch and soccer.

Jungle Speed!

Friday evening is the Rock Solid Club, which, since our group has several young Christians now, has become more about discipling than ever. Because of the season, we’ve recently been able to share the gospel through an Easter presentation. I also got a special birthday surprise at club when Zuzka walked in with a mountain of pizzas and all the kids started to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. It was a very happy moment, not just because of pizza (though I do love pizza) but because of the love and friendship that went along with it.

Happy Birthday Pizzas

Echoooooo – Weekend Camp

On April 7-9, several of the Rock Solid Clubs throughout the Czech Republic got together for a special weekend camp. We stayed in an old church in Sobotin up in the hills, and over those three days we ate together, sang together, did early morning wake-up dances together (they were so funny!), shared testimonies and stories and prayed together, and played tons of games. The young people were split up into four different groups, and each group had to navigate through a bunch of challenges that tested their mental, visual, and auditory capabilities. I personally got to help with one of the challenges by standing at the top of a forest path while each group of kids stood blindfolded below. I had one of those musical instruments known as a triangle, and I rang it repeatedly as the blindfolded kids made their way up the steep hill toward the sound. Only a few of them strayed off the path and had to be guided back by leaders. It was a lot of fun!

Outdoor Games

Indoor Games

The kids weren’t the only ones who experienced “listening” challenges that week. I did, too. I hadn’t realized how overwhelming it would be for me to be around a group of people who were all speaking a language I couldn’t understand. My ears were overstraining themselves searching for words they could comprehend, and I was getting exhausted from the effort. The Lord reminded me how hard it is sometimes to listen for His voice, and how important it is to keep trying. He might seem unintelligible and confusing at first, but in time understanding will come.

Moving Forward

As I move forward there are a few things on my mind. First, I want to continue to be able to minister here in the Czech Republic with all my heart and soul. I’ve been experiencing some homesickness and uncertainty, so please pray for courage for me. Second, I’m in the process of preparing paperwork so that I can apply for a visa here. Pray for guidance and wisdom as I move forward. Third, I’m still adjusting to life in a new country, with all the lessons and challenges that brings. I’m learning to shop for myself, manage my time, and I’ve even started Czech language lessons once a week. Please pray for me as I continue to grow here. And let me also say, thank you for praying. I appreciate the many dedicated prayer supporters the Lord has sent my way. You guys are awesome, and a true encouragement.

Finally, I’d also like to take a moment to say…. Happy Easter, everyone! He is risen! 😀

Until Next Time

Harvest Time

Today is my twenty-ninth birthday, and I am sitting here in my new bed in my new home in the Czech Republic. This, my golden birthday, is the first birthday I’ve ever spent away from my family.

I’ve had a long season at home with my family. I love them a ton and miss them every day. They made me a birthday cake and gave me presents before I left. We even had a cookout for dinner. But still, not being with them on the actual day just feels strange, like I’m missing something incredibly important.

In the months before I moved to the Czech Republic, a lot of people specifically asked me what my mom thought about me going on the mission field. Moms and daughters often have a special bond. What did my mother think about me leaving, about me going so far?

A few weeks ago I asked my Mom to write an answer to that question. I’ve been waiting to release her reply, unsure about the right timing. Well, it was good for me to go back and read it today, so I’d like to let you all know what she had to say.

—————

The question comes to me, “How do you feel about Caity going to the Czech Republic?”

I feel like a groan is becoming a song.

Caity and I have shared a long season together – 28 years! Who ever said your child should not be your friend? She has been a friend in every way to me. If I had to count the ways, number one would be that she provokes me. She provoked me when she was little; she provoked me this morning.

My first memory of her provoking me happened when she was coming into her tweenhood. Dan and I were resting on the couch watching TV. Caity came out of her room to get something. We hit pause. She knew that routine, of course – a show just for adults. As she reached her room again, she turned around and asked, “Why should you be watching that if I can’t?” 

Boom.

And this morning – this morning I was able to share with her how God had called me to rewrite this guest blog post. Her words about my first draft had proved prophetic and scriptural. 

Boom. Starting again.

Through many years of praying for Caity, I have hoped for this day. She has been raring to go for some time, and yet not – not going. Hard. Waiting is just so, so hard! We don’t see why, we don’t see what God sees. 

God saw that she wasn’t going alone.

And now, after 28 years of running the race together, here comes the fork in the road! This is true joy. The loss only brings the joy, the song, to fullness. This is what my purpose is – to cast my children, to shoot my arrows, into the harvest field.

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

—————

I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for my family. They encouraged me on every step of my journey, and they never once tried to hold me back from following God’s plan for my life. Yes, we had tears at parting, but we parted knowing this isn’t the end. We still have our whole lives ahead of us, and eternity after. I feel so blessed to go out into the harvest field with so much support from back home.

I love you Mom, Dad, brother and many sisters. You guys are amazing. Thinking of you today!

Mission Update – March

Hey everyone! Time for another update. And boy, do I have news! Not only do I have less than two weeks before I move to the Czech Republic, but I’m now a licensed minister under Grace Covenant International, and … engaged to be married! If you like pictures and extra details, then keep reading. I’ve included enough and to spare.

Conference and Licensing 

On February 21, I threw my suitcase into the back of my newly repaired car and headed off to Kansas City. I made it to Keifer’s parents’ house without incident, where Keifer and I were reunited after five months apart. That evening, and for the next couple days, we attended Grace Covenant’s annual conference. Keifer and I were responsible for filming the sessions throughout the week. I’ve never enjoyed sitting in the back of a room during a conference. I prefer being up front, especially during worship sets. But sitting on my stool in the back by the door gave me a whole new perspective on conferences, and the people who tirelessly work behind the scenes to keep things running. It was an awesome experience.

My View from Next to the Camera Man (aka Keifer)

Thursday afternoon was the time set aside for missionaries to speak about their work. Keifer and I were given fifteen minutes for a presentation. At first we planned to split those fifteen minutes between the two of us, but then we decided to pull together and give the presentation as a team. Keifer created a few slides as visuals, and when it came time to speak we tag-teamed back and forth, each telling different pieces about our work and the kids that are so important to us.

That evening, after a time of worship, a few of us were called forward to be recognized. Tyler and Callie Franca and myself were officially licensed under Grace Covenant International, and Keifer was commissioned as a Grace Covenant missionary to the Czech Republic. The ministers and the congregation prayed over us, and the evening ended with an awesome message and more worship. I felt honored to be recognized as part of the Grace Covenant family, and excited about moving forward into the mission work that lies ahead.

Licensing – Tyler, Callie, Dallas, and Me

Funds and Fundraising — Two More Weeks!!!

Now, with less then two weeks until Keifer and I fly back to the Czech Republic, my mission work is getting closer and closer. I’ve sorted through my belongings, packed what I can’t carry with me into boxes for storage, and gathered together almost everything that I want to take with me to Europe. Next week will be spent trying to make it all fit into my suitcases.

As far as fundraising is concerned, February has turned out to be the quietest month of all. As you can see from the chart below, I’ve received $55 more in monthly support pledges between January and February, and I still have $1,265 left to raise before I can consider myself a fully-funded missionary.

Though I am well below my support goal, I will still be moving to the Czech Republic on March 22. God has a plan for me there, He knows what He’s doing, and I know that He can provide. My hope is to close the gap a little more before I leave, and raise at least half of my support. If you, or someone you know, is interested in partnering with me in my work in the Czech Republic, would you please let me know? You can find information about supporting me in the “Partnering with Caity” tab above, and I’m always available to answer any questions you might have or send you any other information you might need.

Visiting Supporters

After the conference, Keifer and I and his best friend Andrew made a special trip across country by car to North Carolina to visit as many of Keifer’s supporters as we could. We stayed in a different city and a different bed each night of the trip. We visited Huntingdon, IN, Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, and two different towns in North Carolina. Everyone welcomed us with kindness and hospitality, and I made so many new friends and enjoyed so many good conversations.

Traveling to North Carolina

The final stop on our supporter trip was my hometown in Iowa, where Keifer preached at my church on Sunday and I got to show him off to a few of my friends. I’d never had the chance to hear him preach before, and wondered what it would be like. Perhaps I’m biased, but I thought he did an excellent job. He preached from his heart and made things very clear. I’m glad I get to be teamed up with such a good speaker.

Keifer Preaching

Marching Forth Together

Just before heading to Iowa on March 4, Keifer proposed to me. We’d made a quick stop at my favorite place in Kansas City, the Mid-America Nazarene University campus where the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop is held each June. I thought we were making the trip for old times’ sake, and his proposal took me completely by surprise. I can’t begin to express how thankful I am to have him in my life, and how glad I am to be moving forward with him into all that lies ahead. He’s taught me so much over the years, not just about mission work, but about what it means to follow the Lord and how to be a friend. We haven’t set a date yet for our wedding, but we’ve got some ideas in mind. Please be praying for us as we discuss details and make preparations.

Engagement

The next time I post, I’ll be in the Czech Republic! Thanks for being part of our journey.

Until Next Time!

“Unrepairable”

img_3563

I was driving up a steep hill when I felt my engine give a cough and start to splutter. My vehicle bucked and kicked its way up the incline and kept running, but after a few more hills and more internal gyrations the dreaded “Service Engine Soon” light came on right on the outskirts of town, a red beacon of doom.

My Buick Park Avenue — which I affectionately named “Miranda” upon purchase — has the soul of an old Southern belle just ready for the nursing home. While still grand and beautiful on the outside, Miranda’s internal organs are weak and failing. This isn’t the first time in our relationship that she’s needed repairs. Nor is it the second or third. I cannot begin to tell you how often that car has broken down. She’s stranded me at a shopping mall, stranded me in Kansas City, leaked coolant all over the engine, and blown hot air out of one vent while the other blew cold. I’ve replaced her steering column, replaced her coolant elbows, and now, in order for her to properly accelerate up hills, I need to replace something called a “solenoid.” My knowledge of the internal workings of cars is slowly increasing over time.

But even though Miranda’s condition has been diagnosed, and I have a friendly mechanic ready to perform surgery on her, I still have two problems. The first is money. This repair is going to be costly, a labor-intensive operation, and as a missionary who just gave up her reliable job at the coffee shop to prepare to go overseas, this expense couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Which leads to my second problem — God. Ok, scratch that. My problem isn’t really God. Sure, I’d like to think it is, but in reality, my problem is my own response to what God wants me to do. 

The moment my “Service Engine Soon” light blinked on, my immediate reaction was a mixture of fear, anger, and confusion. “That’s it! I’ve had it. I am so done with this car. I’ve poured tons of money into her, I’ve fixed every issue she threw my way. It’s never enough! I don’t know why You gave her to me, God, but You obviously made a mistake. I can’t afford to keep her, so it’s time I got rid of her.”

Yet, when I prayed about it later, I felt the Lord telling me to once again repair my car. 

I’ll admit that I cried. I felt frustrated and afraid. But an unexpected phone call from my missionary boyfriend brought some encouragement. “Maybe God has a story to tell through this,” he said.

So I prayed again, this time asking for understanding.

That’s when the Lord began to work on my heart. He showed me that I like things that are easy to fix. I find pleasure in quickly resolving an issue and moving on to something else.

What I don’t like, however, are things that are beyond my ability to fix. When something is unrepairable, I don’t even try. I reject it. I can’t be bothered. The fact that I’d tried so hard with Miranda only to fail again and again irritated me. If Miranda was just a piece of junk, then she wasn’t worth any more of my time and effort.

But that isn’t the way the Lord views things. He’s used to brokenness. He’s used to seeing “unrepairable” people, “unrepairable” relationships, and “unrepairable” churches. And unlike me, the Lord never gives up. He’s willing to keep working until a situation is fixed. He doesn’t get angry or call something a waste of time and money. Instead, He gave His most important, most valued object, His only Son, Jesus, for the sake of an “unredeemable” world. God didn’t give in part. He gave it all. 

As a missionary in the Czech Republic, I’m going to be faced with a lot of situations that seem “unrepairable.” I’m going to meet a lot of people who’ve been dubbed “unrepairable” by their friends. I’m going to be called to greater lengths of service and sacrifice to help these people than I can now comprehend. I’m going to want to give up. But the Father’s Heart doesn’t give up.

So once again, Miranda is being repaired. I’m stepping out in faith, trusting for provision and for her speedy recovery. Early next week I travel down to a mission conference near Kansas City. If Miranda is able to be fixed in time, then she and I have a lot of hilly territory to climb.

But even if she isn’t ready, I’ve learned an important lesson. God never gives up on the “unrepairable,” and, with His help, I’m not going to either.

Mission Update – February

image-1-2

Hey everybody! As of this posting, I only have six more weeks until I arrive in the Czech Republic! Time is certainly going fast. Here’s a look at some of the exciting things that happened over this past month, as well as an update on my fundraising progress.

Answered Prayer

I asked a bunch of people to pray about this, so if you didn’t see my Facebook update, I just want to make sure you know that I did buy a ticket to the Czech Republic! I’ll be flying out from Chicago on March 22. This is a huge blessing right now. I no longer have to wait and wonder and feel unsure. The date is set in stone, and I can plan accordingly. A big thank you to everyone who prayed for wisdom for me. Please continue to be in prayer as I plan and pack and prepare for travel.

Another answered prayer request is that I did have opportunities to speak in two churches this past month. The first church I spoke to was my own home church. I gave an update on my plans and how fundraising was going, and had the chance to ask for their support. My second opportunity came when I spoke at a local church that many of my friends attend. I had that “newcomer’s nervousness” at first, but they welcomed me with open arms. I talked about my calling to the Czech Republic and showed pictures of the area, friends, and the mission work itself. I loved being able to share with a whole new audience, and was blessed by how many people came to talk to me afterwards. What an encouragement.

On a different note, just yesterday I spoke to a kid’s club in a church in a nearby town. There were eight kids, all different ages. I showed them my Czech money and Bibles and fun stuff, told stories about my adventures, and talked about how we can all live like missionaries no matter how old we are. We had a ton of fun playing some of the games I’d learned at the Rock Solid Club, and one of the girls even gave me this card.

fullsizerender-8 fullsizerender-7

I came away feeling very blessed and loved. Paul was right when he said to Timothy, Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV). The kids I met yesterday really inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing, and to keep going hard after God. 

Fundraising

Another month of fundraising has come and gone, and God has blessed me with several more financial partners. Together we’ve managed to reach $780 of pledged monthly support. Over a third of my goal! As you can see from the graph below, the progress over these last few months has been pretty steady, but there is still much to do if I’m to meet my goal in the next six weeks.

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-2-09-32-pm

Growth of Monthly Support Pledges

If you, or someone you know, is interested in supporting me monthly over the course of this year while I am on the mission field, would you please let me know? I need to have an idea of how much support I have before I head overseas. You will find an automatic withdrawal form and a link to the PayPal donation site under the “Partnering with Caity” tab above on my blog. And if you ever have any questions about how to donate, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I’d also like to say a really big “THANK YOU” to all of my financial partners, those who gave me one-time gifts, and those who took the time to make their pledges a reality over the past month. No matter how big or small, your donation made it possible for me to afford plane tickets now, when I needed them, and will make it possible for me to live and work and eat while I am in the Czech Republic. I couldn’t do this without you.

Prayer Requests

I left my job at the coffee shop at the end of January. It was hard to leave my awesome coworkers behind, and also hard to leave behind a reliable source of provision. But I know that God is calling me on, and I’m trusting Him to provide. Please be in prayer for me as I move forward. There is so much to do and prepare that some days I feel off balance, wondering what I’m forgetting or upset over what I didn’t get done. Please pray for peace, God’s wisdom and guidance, and that I would use my time well.

Please continue to pray that I would receive the monthly support I need for my mission work.

Please pray that I wouldn’t give in to stress. Some days life feels too big for me to handle, and I start to get anxious and bite peoples’ heads off. But that is NOT the kind of person I want to be right now. Please pray that I would choose joy over stress, and that I could view each day as an adventure instead of an inconvenience.

I’ll continue to keep you all updated as time goes by.

Until Next Time!

The Missing Piece

image-1

13620842_10204940042619778_5180455037307416049_n

Hi, my name is Karna Steel, and my husband and I, along with our five boys, have been overseas on the mission field for twenty years now. We just celebrated our 25th year with Youth for Christ (YFC). Eleven of those years were spent working with a military youth ministry in Italy, and over the past eight years we helped establish YFC in the Czech Republic. We are looking forward to having Caity join our team of missionaries in the Czech Republic.

In the past few years my heart has been drawn more and more to the absolute need women have, especially those on the mission field, for community. Over the years I’ve made a lot of moves for ministry, and every time it’s been hard to start over again and re-establish myself in each new area.

I think “community” can mean different things to different people. For me, it means connection, the things which place us on a common ground together, whether it’s a common vision, being married with children, speaking the same language, or simply just loving chocolate.

There’s a quote by Brene Brown that really speaks to this:

A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

That’s some pretty powerful truth! Studies show that women are hardwired for friendship. When life becomes challenging, women seek out friendship with other women as a means of regulating stress levels. Men don’t necessarily need that to the same degree in their lives as women do. When a woman gets stressed, her natural response is to “tend and befriend,” which means that women instinctively tend to nurture others around them and reach out to others.

Women need community. We need to tell our stories, to process our emotional experiences with others, and to receive their aid in moving forward. As one article cited, “We need to build and maintain these important bonds to protect our physical and emotional well-being.” (The Huffington Post, 2013)

After being in the military ministry for ten years, I told my husband I was done. I was done seeking out friendships with other women because people were always transitioning in and out of my life and I felt like my heart was just raw and couldn’t take another good-bye.

He asked me, as he always does, “Have you prayed about it? The Lord isn’t afraid to hear your heart’s cry.”

So I told the Lord that I just couldn’t do it anymore. If He wanted me to have a friend, He was going to have to bring her to me and plop her right in front of me because I wasn’t going looking for her — and He did! I met a family at chapel the next week and found out they’d been relocated to Aviano even though her husband was in the army. I offered to watch her children for her while she received her household shipment, even though we didn’t know each other at all.

The next week, while I was sitting in a parking lot on base, she came up to the side of my van and asked me, “Do you want to be my friend?”

I told her that I just didn’t have it in me at the time, but she responded that it was okay, and that she’d do all of the work. And she did! That was the start of our intense but very short friendship. Nine months later we felt called to move to the Czech Republic, and her husband got orders to move back to Germany to the army base there. I’ll never forget our conversation while we were packing up my house. She said, “I’ll never understand why the Army moved us down here and uprooted our family for only nine months.”

“It was for me!” I told her. “You were the answer to my heart’s cry!”

While there are always positive things wherever you live, there are also hardships as well. Living cross-culturally has its own set of difficulties. When you add separation from family and friends to that mix, I’ve seen a lot of missionaries who’ve left the field early because it was just too hard for them. If they can’t establish community where they live, they cannot sustain life there. It’s just that simple and that difficult. Brene Brown, in her book “Daring Greatly,” said it quite succinctly, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what give purpose and meaning to our lives.” Please pray that Caity will find her place of ministry here in the Czech Republic, and that she will be able to make connections and find her community.

Mission Update – January

img_3019

Hey everyone! Welcome to the first post of the new year! I’m excited to update you all on my fundraising progress, and what I’ve been up to this past month. It’s been a great holiday season, and I can’t wait for the many new adventures waiting just ahead.

Life

During a busy holiday season, it’s easy to neglect time with friends and family. But as I prepare to move to the Czech Republic, family time is more important than ever. I’m grateful for the chance I had to spend Christmas and New Years with my parents and siblings. We didn’t keep all of our holiday traditions. We usually spend more time traveling. But the chance to welcome in 2017 with my family in the comfort of our own home was very special. Thank you to those who were praying for me during the holidays.

Now that it’s January, it feels like the countdown has begun. I’ve been looking at my calendar and counting the weeks until March 22, and … there aren’t very many of them left! I keep writing down in my planner all the things I need to do before moving to the Czech Republic, and the list grows longer and longer. Please continue to pray for me as I make the necessary preparations to move overseas.

Before Christmas I was able to create and mail a bunch of Christmas cards to friends and supporters, along with the mission brochure I recently created. Making those cards reminded me how much I love scrapbooking, and also how much I care about all of you. Having so many friends to write to at Christmastime is very special. Writing each note reminded me just how far we’ve come together. Know that I’m very thankful for all of you, and that I’m so happy to get to make this journey along with you.

img_2576

Christmas Cards – Some Assembly Required

Fundraising

You might remember that the amount of monthly support I need to raise before moving to the Czech Republic is $2,100. Well, I’m pleased to report that over the past month my total amount of monthly support pledges has increased. It grew from $480 at the end of November, to $640 by the end of December. I’m just $60 short of being a third of the way to my support goal.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-12-29-38-pm

Growth of Monthly Support Pledges

Of course, these are still mostly pledges, but a few of you have started turning your pledges into actual donations starting this month, and I am very grateful. Because of your generous support I am able to continue to pay rent on the apartment in the Czech Republic I will soon be living in. My hope is to be receiving enough support by February to be able to pay for the plane tickets I will soon be needing, along with all the other travel and moving expenses that will occur before arriving in the Czech Republic. I may not seem like I need your support now while I am in the States, but I really do.

My hope is still to move to the Czech Republic in March 2017. The earliest date I would leave, March 22, is only ten short weeks away! If you know that you are interested in providing monthly support for my mission work, would you please contact me and let me know? Even if you aren’t quite able to give yet, or aren’t sure about an amount, I’d love to be able to connect with you. Your support is making my mission work possible.

Prayer Needs

I’m looking for opportunities to speak to churches about my mission work before March. If you or your church are interested in hearing from me, please let me know. I’m excited to be able to share pictures and stories of how God is working in the Czech Republic. Please also pray that the Lord would help me to make the connections He wants me to make, and that He would open the doors He wants to open. I am excited to see where He leads.

I have an opportunity this Friday to make some new connections as I continue to sell off my large collection of books. I can’t take them all overseas with me, and I’m hoping to find good homes for them. All the proceeds will go to my mission work. Please pray for wisdom as I prepare, that others would be blessed, and for some good conversations as well.

Thank you all for your prayers and support!

Until Next Time!

The Harder Option

img_2808

(A Guest Post, by Keifer Lucchi.)

Generally, we are taught that we have two choices when it comes to our fears. When our adrenaline kicks in, we have two decisions we can make — fight, or flight.

Our fears either drive us or paralyze us. They either become the force that pushes us on and on, or they are the reason we hide away and do nothing.

For me, fear is usually a driver. I fight with everything. I have to bring resolution to my fears and conquer them. I HATE loose ends. I hate it when there is something outside of my control that I can’t fix. If there is an area that I’m afraid of, I either fight to overcome that fear, or I remove it. I used to convince myself that this was the best choice, the brave choice, maybe. If my only two choices were to hide or fight, then fighting was the better one.

But there are some things that I can’t fight. No matter how hard I try and no matter what I do, there are things in this world that I simply can’t change. I’ve learned this more than ever since I moved to the Czech Republic. Suddenly, things that used to be simple were difficult. When I first got here, I found that activities like shopping for food and cooking were completely different. The “cheap and easy” meals that I knew how to make were suddenly not only expensive — some of them I couldn’t even find the ingredients for. I had to learn new ways to do things that had once been simple. I didn’t know what a good price was for something, or a bad price, or even what I could find. I had to learn to only buy what I could carry because I didn’t own a car. I had to learn how much I could NOT carry — sometimes through the process of dropping things on the ground several times in a row, feeling embarrassed as people walked by wondering why this weird American couldn’t take care of himself.

I learned that I had to ask people for help to do simple tasks, like starting a bank account, getting directions, and teaching a class. And because of the language difference, just talking to someone and trying to be a friend suddenly became extremely hard.

Even staying in the Czech Republic and being allowed to live here was hard. And you know what? I learned that no matter how hard I fought, and worked, and did all of the things I needed to do, there were still things that I didn’t know, didn’t expect, and couldn’t handle. And it KEPT happening. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t strong enough to fight all of the battles I needed to fight. Suddenly, more than anything else, I just wanted to hide. I wanted to disappear.

I mean, if fight or flight are the only options, then flight was my only other choice.

The Bible actually doesn’t agree with this.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

Wait, so which is better? Fight or flight? If you take verse 28 by itself, it sounds like Jesus is saying to give Him your trouble, and leave all the work to Him. But the very next verse talks about taking on His yoke. It also says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

That doesn’t sound like fight or flight to me. I think that, in reality, there is a third option, a harder option.

Rest.

Now, I’m sure we’re all thinking a little sleep sounds fantastic, especially after a long week, but that isn’t what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about a different kind of rest. “Rest for your soul.” This means having confidence in the fact that God will take care of us, even when we don’t know how He will do it. This kind of rest can only be found when we give our burdens to Jesus and trust Him to only give us the new burdens we can handle and carry. Every day we give Him our worries, our fears, and the impossible things in our lives, and every day He gives us what we need to carry for that day. He takes care of the rest.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

Wait. Stop. It sounds like Jesus is saying that we are going to have problems if we follow Him. But He wants us to have peace even when we experience those problems. We are supposed to know that He has already overcome the world.

Not exactly easy. I still have so many problems with this sort of attitude. And, it turns out, so did Jesus’ disciples.

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’” (Luke 8:22-25 ESV)

Let’s look at what happens in this story. Jesus tells the disciples where they are going, and that He is going with them. Often this is how He sets us on the journey as well.

As the journey goes on, Jesus falls asleep. He gets quiet. The disciples aren’t hearing his voice at the moment. Unless, of course, Jesus snored.

Then the storm comes, and the disciples start to think that maybe Jesus won’t save them after all. The waves get bigger, the wind gets louder, and soon they aren’t looking at Jesus at all. They’re looking at the waves. Jesus, on the other hand, is fully at peace in the storm.

When I first came to the Czech Republic, it was sort of like this. I heard Jesus’ voice telling me to “go across to the other side of the lake.” The lake was bigger, but we have airplanes now, so I wasn’t too worried. I came because I believed, and still believe, that there are people in the Czech Republic who need to know love like the love of Jesus. I believe that God loves each of you individually. I came knowing it would be hard, but that there are frightened people in the Czech Republic who God wants to know, and walk with, and bring peace to.

And, in the end, I’m the frightened one most of the time. I see the waves and hear the wind just like the disciples, and say, “Jesus! Save me! I’m going to drown!”

But Jesus has never let me drown once.

And He won’t let you drown either.


img_8024

Keifer is starting his second year as a missionary in the Czech Republic, and he couldn’t be more excited. His ministry to youth and his media ministry are expanding, and his grasp of the Czech language has only gotten stronger. Add in time with friends and ministry “family” and you get just a glimpse of how busy his week is. And yet he still finds opportunities to learn and grow and rest in the Lord. This blog post is adapted from a sermon he recently gave.

It’s Time – A Mission Update

Before my scouting trip in September, I announced that my future goal was to move to the Czech Republic as a missionary. And since I returned home from my scouting trip, this goal has been the driving force in my life. I’ve been praying for God’s timing and wisdom about how to move forward. I’ve been seeking training through mission classes as well as doing everything possible to win the battle against skin cancer. And with every step on this journey the Lord has continued to bring new clarity. His guidance has been fantastic.

So let me announce that, yes, I will be moving to the Czech Republic in the coming year. I have a fundraising goal, a possible timetable, and even … an apartment!

Fundraising Goal

Fundraising now looks slightly different than it did in the past. Where before I sought one-time gifts to fund three-week to two-month trips, this time, in order to remain in the Czech Republic for an extended period, I need to raise monthly support. This requires a new level of commitment from me, and from those interested in partnering with me. I’m committing to serve month-by-month in the Czech Republic without quitting, no matter how much I struggle or how homesick I become. Your commitment is to continue to pray, encourage, or donate month-by-month. Neither commitment is easy. It requires sacrifice. But it’s part of the journey, and part of walking together.

Before I can move to the Czech Republic, I need to raise $2,100 of monthly support. This money will pay for my apartment rent, food, visa expenses, insurance, travel expenses, start-up costs, training, ministry expenses, etc. It will also insure that I am able to carry out my ministry goals. My plan is to work with young people as much as possible, whether at the weekly Rock Solid Club, at weekend camps, or by inviting them into my own home for fellowship or Bible Study. Monthly support provides a home to share, food to place before my guests, funds for traveling to camps and activities, and the documents required to live and serve in the Czech Republic.

One of my partners had a special reminder for me about fundraising. She told me to remember that every donation, whether large or small, is equally important. And she was right! If you find yourself wanting to give to my ministry, but wondering whether your support will actually make a difference, then know that it does. Every monthly donation brings me one step closer to my goal.

My fundraising goal already looks like this:

Monthly Support

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-2-50-06-pm

Almost a quarter of my total goal has already been pledged! And just think how much that could grow before the end of the year. No monthly donation is too small, and every gift goes to advancing the work of Christ’s Kingdom.

If you’re interested in making a monthly support pledge to my ministry, or have any questions, you can contact me personally through the contact info on my blog, or on Facebook. I’d love to connect with you and give you whatever forms or advice you need to navigate through the donation process. My mission organization, Grace Covenant International, is continuing to collect and steward the money I raise. If you’d like to contact them personally, their address is: Grace Covenant International, PO Box 588, Platte City, MO 64079. You can also reach them by email at gc@gracov.com, or by phone — 816.431.6217

Timetable

As I’ve sought the Lord about my ministry, this possible timetable of events has presented itself. I’m sharing it with you so that you can see the goal I’m aiming towards.

I’ll spend December, January, and February preparing for my move to the Czech Republic. This will involve fundraising, work on my mission class, learning the Czech language, selling most of my possessions, and connecting with mission supporters. Grace Covenant International will host a ministry conference February 21-24, 2017. I’ll be commissioned as a missionary during this event. If possible, I’ll move to the Czech Republic on or around March 22, 2017, and remain there until December. I plan to return for a visit to America in time to spend Christmas 2017 with my family.

If I am unable to reach my support goal before the mission conference in February, my proposed moving date will need to be postponed until I have more funding. I’ll keep you updated about my progress as time goes on.

One important  development that makes the process of moving much easier? I recently rented my own apartment!!!!! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

My New Apartment!

During my scouting trip to the Czech Republic in September, I took this picture of the river that runs through ValMez while I was prayer walking. On my return to America I showed it to a friend, and he said, “I love that bright red house! That one is definitely my favorite.”

14360255_569285819921848_1252180436_o-2

Little did I know at the time that I would someday be renting an apartment in that same bright red house. But that’s exactly what happened! My friend Zuzka is living there now, and we’ll become roommates once I move. The story of how Keifer, Zuzka, and I found the apartment is a real testimony to God’s goodness, and I’ll be writing about it in my next blog post. But for now, take a look!

15064898_598927736957656_1205856036_o 15215931_603066056543824_22500486_o

15216222_603066059877157_127761234_o 15102168_598927773624319_1325710257_o

In the top left picture, our window is the one jutting out of the roof. The top right picture is of our bedroom space, and the bottom left picture is of our living room. The bottom right picture shows our tiny kitchen.

Oh, and this next picture? This is the view from our bedroom window. 🙂

15133692_598927783624318_1585548888_o

I am very excited about moving to the Czech Republic, about living in my new apartment, and about seeing my friends there and beginning the ministry work God has for me. Please continue to pray for His guidance as I raise funds and seek Him for my next steps. I want to follow Him on this journey however He leads.

Until Next Time!

 

Promptings

img_1985

A few months ago, I got into a heated discussion with a friend over the best way to follow God’s direction. Personally, I like the idea of waiting and praying until God speaks, and then obeying His words. My friend, on the other hand, prefers action and moving forward, all the time adjusting course as God speaks during the journey.

As I thought more about the subject, I was reminded of a story from the book of Acts:

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch…” (Acts 8:26-27 NIV).

We don’t know what Philip was doing at the moment he received this instruction from the Lord. Was he in prayer? Working? Ministering? Just living his normal life? All we know is what Philip did in response to God’s voice. He obeyed and went. He didn’t complain about the vagueness of the command. He didn’t demand to know the outcome of his obedience. He simply went. And what he found was an Ethiopian official riding home with his entourage from Jerusalem. Little did Philip know that this official in his chariot was actually reading a portion of the Scriptures at that very moment. (8:27-28 NIV).

But the Holy Spirit knew. 🙂

“The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to the chariot and stay near it'” (Acts 8:29 NIV).

Philip’s obedience led to a discussion with the Ethiopian official about Jesus that ultimately resulted in the man’s salvation and baptism.

So let’s apply this to today. A few weeks ago I went for a walk on a gorgeous fall day that felt more like summer than autumn. At the end of my walk, as I turned back into my driveway, I noticed my neighbor heading out to her car with an armload of clothes.

Now, this neighbor had been a former coworker of mine when I was a teenager. She’d moved into my neighborhood a few houses down from me, but what with work and travel we hardly ever saw each other. Recently, I’d noticed a “For Sale” sign in her front yard. It had quickly turned into a “Sold” sign, and then had disappeared altogether. As I saw her coming out to her car, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me, “Go talk to her.”

My response? “No, Lord. I have other things to do right now.”

I climbed the front steps and opened the door. Again I felt His nudge, “Go talk to her.”

“Lord, she’s busy. I feel awkward. I don’t want to do it.”

I stepped inside and closed the door behind me.

And there’s just something about shutting a door in God’s face that makes you stop and realize the gravity of your situation.

I immediately reopened the door and hurried outside, crossing the lawn and street and arriving at her house at a jogging pace.

When she saw me standing outside her door, my neighbor’s face broke into a wide grin. She came outside and we sat in two chairs on her front walk and we talked and talked and talked. She told me all about selling her house, how the house she’d been going to buy had fallen through, and how the Lord had very quickly provided another place for her to live. I told her about my mission work, how I needed to find a place to live in the Czech Republic, how the housing economy in ValMez is so bad, and how I was praying for God to provide a home for me. Her story of God’s housing provision encouraged me, and she offered to pray that the Lord would lead me to the right place as well. I went home as the sun began to set, so grateful to have spent time with a friend.

In Galatians, Paul writes, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25 NIV).

It’s easy to ignore the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to pretend like we didn’t hear Him, to refuse Him, to go our own way. I know. I do it often enough. But the Lord wants to walk with us. He wants to be in a relationship with us that is so close that we can hear His voice and obey. There are times when we need to sit and wait and pray, and there are times we need to change course along the journey. But when He does speak, whether in the stillness or on the journey, whether through the Bible, a trusted friend, or the quiet nudging of our hearts, we need to be able to listen — and obey. It feels awkward at first, and it totally messes with the confines of my comfort zone. But I find that, the more I persevere, the more I grow. And the more I grow, the more receptive I become to His promptings.