Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Road trippin!!!

We made a road trip down to Portland, Oregon to visit some great friends and relatives. We all converged on the Knifong house where we ate, jumped on the trampoline and caught up! As you can see there were a lot of little kids - 16 kids under the age of 12... Great fun!!!
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Only 39 days left...

As we head to Africa, we are reminded of so much ministry and need here in America and how you can make a difference both in the here and now and for eternity...

Check out this article... Great thoughts...

Orphans vs. American Dream
Author: Anthony Bradley
POSTED ON: 06.05.07
Why Does America Have Orphans If It Has Christian Churches?
America has nearly 115,000 orphaned kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. Some wonder how this is possible in a country with Christian families. Surely, there are 115,000 missional families in America, right? Missional families, for example, embrace the redemptive mission of God and practice "true religion" in their local communities (James 1:27). Missional Christians in America could eliminate the foster care system tomorrow if we would stop "shootin' up" with the American Dream (heroine) in order to get high on a lame life lived for the sake of comfort and ease.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world," writes James (1:27). As a matter of fact, the Bible has over 40 verses mandating God's people to look after orphans and the fatherless for various reasons.
According to the American Religious Identity Survey, conducted by the City University of New York, there are over 224 million Christians in the United States. So, why are there 115,000 orphans in a country that has over 224 million Christians?
Since God's people have always been called to live missionally we are not surprised to see that James is not saying anything new. "When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow" (Deuteronomy 24:21).
Let's break this down further. The Washington Times reports that there are about 65 million evangelicals in America. So, again, why are there 115,000 orphans in America's foster care system? Does this mean that there are 65 million people missing huge sections of their Bibles? Would someone please alert Crossway and Zondervan!
Historically, the early church was known for taking in their culture's orphans and the needy. This is such an ancient tradition of the church (except for post-1960s American evangelicals) that Pope Benedict XVI even talked about it in his first encyclical "God is Love." He writes, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word. . . Justin Martyr in speaking of the Christians' celebration of Sunday also mentions their charitable activity, linked with the Eucharist as such. Those who are able make offerings in accordance with their means, each as he or she wishes; the Bishop in turn makes use of these to support orphans, widows, the sick and those who for other reasons find themselves in need, such as prisoners and foreigners. The great Christian writer Tertullian relates how the pagans were struck by the Christians' concern for the needy of every sort."
Sadly, some of you are now more concerned about the fact that I quoted a Pope than you are about his actual point. Here's the deal: pagans were introduced to Jesus because Christians were taking care of the needy in obedience to Scripture. Taking care of the needy is not done only for the sake of evangelism. Practicing "true religion" is an extension of the kinds of Kingdom-oriented, salt and light, truth-bearing, grace-filled, Jesus-loving people who live to treat other people the same way God treats them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
We were all orphans and God adopted us in his family, remember? "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Rom 8:14-16). As such, the best possible home for an orphan is in a home where a family is following Jesus together as former orphans themselves.
If your church is not cultivating an ethos that practices "true religion" it may not be missional at all. It may be dying or sinking into a consumeristic, entertainment quicksand where people come to have their "felt needs" stroked. Your pastor might wear "cool" clothes, have a "cool" blog, or be in the process of trying to make God and Jesus androgynous but God seems to care that his people are being led by capable men who lead the rest of God's people in bringing the Kingdom to their local neighborhood in all its forms.
While not all Christians are gifted or equipped for taking in orphans it's pretty convicting that 65 million American evangelicals can't rescue 115,000 kids from an unstable hell. If the pagans in our neighborhoods aren't struck by how our churches are applying the Word of God to the needy it's possible that we aren't the real deal yet. May we all pray that our churches are soon as mature as James commends. The revolution continues. . .
Anthony recommends: Bethany Christian Services (a Christian adoption agency operating in the US and abroad; http://www.bethany.org/) and Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children by Dr. Robert A. Peterson.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Action friends

We were excited to spend some time at our reception with Action International Founder Doug Nichols and his wife Margie as well as current Action Director, Nelson Reed and his wife Linda. It is truly an honor to spend time with such godly, fun couples and to be a part of an organization with these amazing people. If you haven't yet heard Doug speak, you need to go to this link! He spoke at Northlake a few months ago!
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A good weekend!

Stephanie lit it up singing at Crossroads Bible Church today! We had a chance to share about our ministry with the church and got a lot of new prayer partners. I taught in the college group today (a majority of them were former high school students) which made for a really fun morning! We had a great reception at the Rehfelds this afternoon as well. Last night we shared our video and were commissioned at the Saturday night service. A great week back in Bellevue. Thanks to all who encouraged us this week!
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Friday, July 20, 2007

My next wedding: Africa?

I got home tonight after doing the wedding for Aaron and Megan Gibbs, wondering when I may have the priviledge of doing another wedding. I can't imagine doing one in Africa, but hey, bring it on! The wedding went well. Thanks to you who prayed.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reuniting...

We had a reunion at the Gilluly's yesterday where a bunch of former students came and hung out. So great to see many students from over the years back at the same place. Awesome evening!!!
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Speaking at Sunday Night Alive

The Canon photostitch thing works like a charm! We stitched 3 pictures together to show you the Sunday Night Alive crowd we shared our story with last night at Northlake. We enjoyed a great time of prayer afterwards with these faithful saints. We also enjoyed a time of hymn singing before we spoke, and they picked some great hymns to send us off to Africa. It was really a great time last night and we came home really encouraged... (In the back you can see the southern continent of Africa that was left uneaten from the morning. Click this for the picture for perspective. We finished off Zambia, gave Zimbabwe to our neighbors and wondering how on earth our family is going to finish off South Africa.) Thanks for your prayers!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Africa is now edible...

Our friends Randy and Brita Isselin made us a going away cake for our Northlake Farewell reception. As you can see, it was amazing. Randy traced and cut out of plywood the shape of Africa and then made the cake from there. Each country was to scale, and had the the name of the country written in frosting. To the right there is a gluten-free cake as well. How do you say thank you for such a momentous, time-sacrifice as this was? Thank you, thank you and thank you! If you want to check out more of Randy's cakes, check by on his newly created blog - isselincakes.blogspot.com ! Thank you Northlake for the great send off and encouraging day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Yee-haw!!!

Blake Kent (the new youth pastor at Northlake) and myself are emceeing for the Vacation Bible Camp at Northlake this week. We are having a rip roarin' good time!!! Just wanted to share a picture of our ministry this week. It is rough but someone has to do it!
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Encouragement from Wal-Mart

Today I (Steph) was at Wal-Mart buying some big plastic bins for storing things in. An older gentleman was helping me and he said, "You must be doing some packing." I said, "Yes, we are moving." He said that he had just moved from the East Coast and I told him that we were moving to Africa. He said, "Are you doing missionary work?" I told him that we were. He said, "Oh, that's great!" I thought our conversation was over and as I was putting my wallet away he said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come....Matthew 24:14." I smiled at him and gave him a big "AMEN", and I thanked him for his encouragement.
I left praising the Lord for using this brother to encourage me as I press on in this journey.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Church sharing...

I had a chance to share this morning about our going to Africa at a great church in Bellingham called Oikos Fellowship. We met the coolest people and I look forward to going back on August 19 to preach. The pastor, Pete Williamson, planted the church as part of the Acts 29 network about 2 years ago. Next Sunday on July 15, we will have a commissioning service at Northlake Community Church and also share in the evening with Sunday Night Alive. The following Sunday, July 22, we will be at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue to share a little bit in the Saturday night and Sunday morning services. We look forward to these great times of fellowship! Thank you for your prayers!!!!
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Sharing at Oikos Fellowship

This morning I had a chance to share a bit about our ministry at a neat church in Bellingham called Oikos Fellowship. A part of the Acts 29 network, this church was planted in Bellingham about 2 years ago. The pastor, Pete Williamson, is an amazing guy and I have enjoyed getting to know him. We had a chance to enjoy meeting some people at this church and I look forward to going back on August 19 to preach. Next week on July 15 we will have a commissioning service at Northlake Community Church along with an evening meeting where we will share about the ministry. On July 22 we will have an interview and sharing time at Crossroads Bible Church Thanks for your prayers!

(Nice blur on the hands, huh? I wasn't even preaching and I was moving:)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A little perspective...

So, I (Steve) have been thinking a lot lately, reading some and spending fun time with my kids. All three converged last weekend for a memorable experience. It is best illustrated like this random picture. It is two pictures with a contrasting focus, so when the focus is on the background, the foreground is blurry and when the focus is on the foreground, the background is blurry. The clarity of a picture depends on the focus of the camera. So, I am at Birch Bay State Park with my kids and two other children as well. I am watching them have the time of their lives, playing, exploring and discovering the beach, sea-life and sand, lots of sand. That is my background and it is clear as the day. In their contentedness, I decided to steal a few minutes reading. So my focus changes and in the foreground I am reading a book called, "A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Child Soldier." In the background, I am watching children lost in their ultimate element of play and in the foreground I am reading about child soldiers found in the ultimate element of pain. I am reading this book about 8-12 year old becoming soldiers, killing, and capturing, enslaving and becoming slaves in the foreground and peering over my book at a 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10 year old playing and having the time of their life in the background. Back and forth for about an hour my world and focus kept changing. I was hearing laughter and watching running back and forth and then I was reading about crying and people running for their lives. And it gave me some perspective that day. It was sobering and significant. It wasn't just any normal day at the beach, but it was transformed into this amazing, beautiful, spiritual day with my children at Birch Bay and a sobering, saddening, with some other children a world away.






It happened again a couple of days later. I was at Les Schwab getting my car looked at. I was reading a book called, "Serving with your Eyes Wide Open." This was a book about short term and long term missions and how we as American's fail to see the world with open eyes especially in regards to missions. As I was reading this book in the foreground, Oprah was on the TV in the background. So, in the foreground I am reading how we as americans make up only 5% of the world and yet we consume 50% of all the resources of the world. And in the background was Oprah doing a show about weight loss, bringing in 5 people to do a year long weightloss program called "My best life." They are going to film these people and document their efforts during the year. In foreground I am reading about how 40% of the world live on less than two dollars a day and in the background I am watching the results of inequality with a nation like ours that lives on more than $70 a day. in the foreground I am reading about the 29,000 people who are dying each day due to hunger and preventable diseases and in the background I am watching people share about the struggles with weightloss and In the foreground I am reading about the struggle of not having enough and in the background I am reading about the struggle of having too much.




The irony was more than I could ignore. How do we live here and not forget there? How do we shift our focus from here to there so that how we live, what we think, what we do and what we buy keeps at the very least the background clear. This has been a growing year as I have made my daily life impacted by those in the background. I have become increasingly thankful for clean water, clean air, food in the refrierator, a bed, a pillow, a car that runs, and a shelter. Having a focus on the background has improved the quality and contentedness of our foreground in all that we do and buy and think about. Which brings me to my point that we are mere weeks from making the background our foreground and making our foreground our background. Obviously, we won't forget about you, and we ask you to not forget about us!


Just so you can be more aware of what is going on:

August 25 - Our last open house at the Collin's.

August 26 - Our last service at Northlake

August 28-29 - Logos training

August 30 - We move out of our house

September 2 - We leave for Zambia