Monday, December 30, 2013

OUR NEW HOME!


In August 2013, Michelle and I made the decision to join Youth With A Mission, Mobay! We are moving our family to live on the YWAM campus in Reading, a community just outside Montego Bay (about 25 min. from airport). While we are trusting in the Lord to determine the amount of time spent there, we are anticipating 3 to 5 years.

Here is a brief rundown of what we hope to do there: work with the Homes of Hope program building houses for the needy/homeless, help students at the Tower Hill Primary School, and begin a skills training center to teach young Jamaicans woodworking. There is much opportunity for ministry there, and we are anxious to develop relationships, and see what God has in store.

We are currently in a season of fundraising, speaking at churches and small-groups to share our vision, as well as trying to eliminate a lot of our unneeded "stuff." The house we will be moving into is available in March, so we hope to be purchasing our one-way tickets soon!

As you can see in the picture, we are not far from the coast; in fact, we have a great view of ships coming in from our new front yard! It is a three-bedroom house, with a nice kitchen and living room. We are hopeful to have many visitors... so we plan to get a big van!

God is our provider, and we will be sharing more stories of how He continues to amaze us!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Building Expectations



While in Jamaica, I have been focusing a good chunk of my time on building, primarily building homes for the homeless. But when the staff at Youth with a Mission Jamaica found out that I was also a cabinetmaker, they had told me about a home for a family serving here in need of kitchen cabinets. The question they asked: "can I build them cabinets?" I said yes, "if there are the proper tools."

Before we left the U.S. I had a list of the tools they had, and made my own checklist of tools that I would be needing to bring. When I asked about a table saw and they said "yes we have one," I was relieved. However, shortly after I arrived and surveyed the tool situation, I realized this was going to be hard. Not only had the tools seen better days, but the table saw was a tiny trim saw.

"What am I going to do?" This would take forever with the tools available here... So we started searching the island for better tools. It is not like the U.S. where you can run to Home Depot or Menards and pick up whatever you need. If you do find the tools you need, you can expect it to cost you about double. Yet we needed to search. We searched and searched. We were able to find some saws, but they were missing parts and weren't going to work for us.

"Okay, no table saw. Now what?" Well, I did the only thing I could do at this point: pray. I told God that if I was going to do this kitchen in the little time we have, I would need a decent table saw, and since we couldn't find one, I needed help. If this was His will for me to do, He would need to provide somehow. I prayed for two days. And I should add one more thing: before I started praying for the table saw, I felt like God was saying "expect me to move when you pray. Pray with expectation that I 'God' will answer."

So after two days of just short prayers for God to please provide, the 'answer' showed up. Duane, a Jamaican, is a fellow wood worker who loves the Lord. He 'felt' like he should come to YWAM to see about starting a woodworking shop at the base here. The base director pointed him to me and another guy. When he brought it up, I almost immediately asked if he happened to have a table saw. He replied, "yes, do you need one?"

"This is too good to be true. Stay calm. Hold on," I told myself.

Duane went on to tell me that it was in storage and he wouldn't be needing it for a couple months, so we could go ahead and just use it for the kitchen job if we would like. So that very day we went and picked it up. He also had a 20" planer, an 8" jointer, a large air compressor, chop saw, and sander he said we could also use. Wow! A man I just met, who actually just showed up out of the blue, is going to lend all of his woodworking equipment to a stranger. For nothing. Praise the Lord! He did it, HE provided the table saw I was praying for, and more, in just two short days.

We have since set up our 'shop' on the base in the maintanance barn. We have built the work benchs, run the wire for the equipment, found some great local wood and plywood, and we are now ready to make some sawdust!

I am sharing this to encourage others to pray. PRAY. And PRAY EXPECTANTLY. God hears our prayers and he will answer. He is concerned with our situations, whether big or small. He cares. Pray and Expect God to Move.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Creepy Crawly Blessing

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This is the creepy crawly critter that welcomed us to our Jamaican home. We walked through the front door, and right above the dining table was about a 3 foot web with this spiny spider. I did a quick 'heeby jeeby' dance, and then, since my brave hubby was still unloading the vehicle, I mustered the courage to take two shoes and clap them together, sandwiching the threat with a crushing force. Mission accomplished. I found a broom and swept the dangling threads, as I faced the questions inside my head: "What in the world is this thing?" and "What in the world am I going to do with them in my house?"

I am not a fan of insects. Or frogs, lizards, snakes, or any of the like. I don't like the idea of anything crawling on my things, or me or my kids, but especially if it could be dangerous. Right? Obviously.

So, to my disappointment, upon my first visit to the clothesline to hang our laundry, I discovered it to be a popular spot for these things. About 8 or 9 of them, on several 2-3 foot webs. They were dominating much of my needed line. Again, I dance. Deep breath. "Lord help me." I do not take any shoes. I submit to their kingship over the clothesline and use the remaining unconquered territory of line. I feel defeated by creatures the size of my fingernail. I do another version of 'the dance' as I zip back to the house, only to run right through a web! "You've got to be kidding me!"

Dance, dance, dance with full use of facial expressions, and run faster to the house.

I warn the children to stay away from the critters, as they could be dangerous. I don't want to instill unnecessary fear, but I also have enough sense to know that even if not poisonous, a spider bite is not pleasant. I am cautious now to check the bedrooms at night, and thankfully I find no more in the house.

Over the course of the next few days, we are meeting the other missionary families, and our kids are happy to have some playmates. There is now a mini-gang of 4 year-olds who like to congregate in the yard in front of our house. Jamordan is a 4 year-old boy. He is a polite, friendly little guy, and quickly my kids have accepted him as their friend. Judah, also 4, is boisterous and full of energy; the expression 'all boy' fits him well, as it does our own little Liam. Then there is Jaden, an adorable little girl, quite a bit smaller than Violet, and who hardly says a peep. She studies us with her beautiful dark eyes and a serious face, but must be entertained enough to tag along. This day we are raking the big leaves that have fallen from the almond and palm trees, and they all want to help me gather the piles and squish them into buckets (they find their bottoms work well for this, to sit right in the buckets). Then we carry them to the compost pile at the back of the property. We are a happy group, proud of our hard work and teamwork.

On our way back, we approach the clothesline, and before I know it, Judah has got a spider in his hand! "Stay calm Michelle." I resist the dance.

This brave young boy, in a manner to prove his manhood, declares he will squash this spider. But, instantly, Jamordan comes to the defense of the spider and pleads with Judah, "Don't squash him! That would make Jesus very sad. He is God's creation, and he is a nice little pet." Jamordan takes the spider from Judah and cups him in the protection of his hand. Judah doesn't pay it much mind, and simply takes another one. He seems content with the idea to pardon the spiders and allow life for today, and he watches his creepy crawly friend explore up and down his arm. Now I've watched Charlottes's Web, and I've cried with my daughters over it, but the real-life version still just doesn't make me want to be friends.

I ask "Is it okay to touch these spiders? They could bite kids."

Surprisingly, little quiet Jaden blurts out in her matter-of -factness, "These spiders don't bite. I read it in a book, so I know."

"Are you sure?" I can't help but challenge her, even in her adorable seriousness.

Then, all the Jamaican kids look at me like I'm crazy. "These are like pets." I watch as they all look at these hideous thorny crab-looking insects. And they are adoring them in awe and delight as they crawl from finger to finger, up the arm, across a shirt. White and black, yellow and black, red ones too. And I feel so foolish. I step in closer to take in this almost laughable wonder. What I was afraid of is not only apparently harmless, but it is like a little treasure today for these kids. (Well most of them... my kids are watching at a 'safe distance'.)

Later, I look it up on the internet. Spiny-backed Orb Weaver. They are indeed harmless, just as my expert friend Jaden had correctly told me. They not only catch mosquitos and bees, but they are also amazing little artists, diligently working to make the beautiful orb-webs. I watch a you-tube video of one such masterpiece in progress (link below). As I watch what is crafted by what has been crafted by the ultimate Creator, something happens to my soul. It is JOY, DELIGHT, BLESSING. From a spider?

My heart swells with revelation from the Lord. "What other wonders are you missing out on because of the lenz with which you have chosen to look at the world? You fear the unknown, and so you will not know the fullness of blessings I have for you." I realize this includes friendships, and life experiences. And I humbly, and thankfully plead with my Father to give me eyes to see.

I will confess, the kids have gotten brave, but I have yet to hold one of them! Baby steps. Enjoy the pictures below. Copy and paste to watch the you-tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn83aC7NjSc

Monday, March 18, 2013

True Believer




by Paul Barton

Could geography and culture play a role in what it means to be a Christian?
While building a Home of Hope in Jamaica, I got to talking with Beres (pictured above). He is a 72 year old Jamaican National. I asked him if he was a Christian. He said, "no, I am a true believer." I asked what he meant by that. Beres said that he truly believes in and strives to follow Christ. "Isn't that what a Christian is," I thought. Beres went on to tell me that Christians act one way at church and act another way outside of church. This is why he chooses to call himself a true believer. We also talked about being able to hear from God, and he said he does hear from God. But then he said he didn't need the bible because he hears directly from God. I then asked how he knew he was hearing from God? I said God speaks to us I know, but so does the enemy (the father of lies). The bible helps us know if we are hearing from God or the enemy. As we talked more I started to get the impression he may not be able to read. I then wondered if God speaks differently to those who can't read, if we can't read his word, but believe in His Word. Is it possible that Beres hears more clearly?

We then started talking about sins. He said you need to be cleansed of your sins to get to heaven. We talked more about the cleansing blood of Jesus and what He did on the Cross. So I then asked him if he were to die tonight would he go to heaven or hell? He said heaven because he believed; he was a "true believer." I then asked him if he sinned and didn't have time to ask for forgiveness from God or the person he sinned against and suddenly died, would he go to heaven or hell? He looked at me and didn't know what to say. He didn't know. I then explained we can know for sure if we believe in Jesus. He paid our penalty once and for all for our sins. Once we believe and turn from our sin, we are Justified and have a place in heaven. He thanked me and I was able to pray with him. I believe Beres is a True believing Christian.

I also had a chance to talk with Beverly (the Home of Hope recipient). She told us on the first day that she was not yet a Christian, but thought someday she would be one. We had been exchanging small talk and she told me she went to church on a regular basis. I said "I thought you weren't a Christian?" We talked more and she said she did believe in Jesus and the Gospel. I was baffled. Is Beverly an unbelieving believer? What is holding her back if she says she believes? Is it legalism? So then I shared about the Grace of God and how we can't do it on our own. I was then reminded of the parable of the sower of seeds in Mark 4, where the soil was the condition of our heart and the seed is the word of God. What was the condition of Beverly's soil(heart)? Only God and Beverly know for sure. I prayed with Beverly for her to know and understand the Love of Jesus, to be a Believer or like Beres said, a True Believer. That she could receive grace, and allow Jesus to meet her where she is at now. It was a great honor and privilege to help provide shelter for her and her family. I know they were grateful. I just hope she sees this as God pursuing her. Watch a clip of her daughter, who has a rainbow shine upon her as she sings.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Poured Out

by Michelle Barton

There is a story in the Bible (Mark 14) that I just love about Mary, the sister to Lazarus and Martha, and her worship of Jesus. She breaks a bottle of perfume/oil, completely pours it out to anoint Jesus, just leading up to his crucifixion. While others in the room are critical of this act, Jesus says, " She has done a beautiful thing to me," and "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her." I love the imagery of this: Mary breaking the bottle and pouring all she has out for Jesus, because he is worth it. But I also love that Jesus is touched by it. He defends her and calls this beautiful. And I wonder what it was that was most beautiful, her generosity in the value of the gift? Her vulnerability, and willingness to look foolish in front of the others? Her desire to care for and nurture Jesus because of love? Her apparent understanding of Jesus' purpose on Earth? I'm certain it's all of it... its everything. Its the complete picture of being poured out, used completely and whole-heartedly, without reservation, in honor of and in love with the Lord. This story is often used to illustrate both worship and generosity. I love the picture. But what I love most is the closeness she has to Jesus, and I can't help but wonder how I could possibly give myself to Jesus in that way. It is so relational, so selfless, and so trusting. So when I pray for God to help me pour myself out in that way, I am focusing on those qualities... Lord, please help me trust in you, motivate me by love and in love, to give my life and who I am for your will, because you are worth it.

I had an interesting revelation today concerning this very thing. Well, maybe not this very thing, but somehow in my head, this is what connected. While in final preparation (one-week countdown) to go to Jamaica for 3 months, I am starting to feel burnt-out. We have been packing so many things into our final month, including dance performances, birthday parties, small-group and send-off gatherings, Paul's cabinet installations out of town, and of course the packing, making lists, wanting to organize the house and eliminate some of the unnecssary clutter that has accumulated, and the result is that my house looks like it has been poured out. (My 4 kids are very helpful in that area as well) I have been feeling overwhelmed because I want to look a certain way(organized)and feel a certain way (rested) as we see the people we love. I want my house to be clean and tidy and cozy as we visit. Not that that is a bad thing, but it just isn't the reality right now. And I've started beating myself up about it in my head, because I am more aware of my short-comings and concentrating on the un-checked check-lists. And I feel like I will always be that girl, who at age 16 still needed help from her mother to get her room clean, who at all times has baskets of laundry unfolded, and dustbunnies reproducing madly in every corner, and fingerprints and nose prints and yes, even tongue prints on my windows... The past couple days, I have just been dragging because I feel tired, and slightly overwhelmed by not having as much done as I thought I would. And we have been having people over, and we are wanting to see more people, but we have packing to do... and it startled me that what I was starting to look at as something to "get through" is such a huge blessing, I wouldn't want to miss this. This moment in time is irreplaceable and awesome. And its a reminder of what I want my life to look like. While the pace is a bit intense right now, it is so cool to have the showering of love by all our family and circles of friends at church and even at dance class. All the final interactions before we go tug a little (maybe a lot) at our hearts. Goodbyes can be difficult, but having those feelings is such a great reminder of why we are here! God is so relational! We don't want to miss this part because we are distracted by the lists. So, anyway, my thought actually brought me to the other Mary and Martha story, and reminded me to cherish my time in relationship, and be willing to let people see what it looks like to have a messy house. And be willing to put off a lot of the organization projects. And be willing to let people see my 2 year-old wearing three layered shirts with his funny pleated dress pants, and my baby in her pajamas at noon, and me with no make-up, because it really isn't worth losing time over. The packing will get done, and even if something is overlooked, does it have to be a big deal? As in Jesus' case with Mary, his time was short. Isn't that the truth for all of us? When my life is over, I want to be poured out. I don't need to have a clean house, or a house with all the right stuff before I leave this earth, but I do hope to have cherished many people.

So, I do not feel that being "poured out" means exhausting ourselves, but what I wonder is if we maybe do it best when we are exhausted, because then we can't pretend. Perhaps it includes being transparent enough to give our "imperfect" selves to the world around us, trusting that we still have something to offer in our weakness, faults, etc. and know the Lord will bless the offering of our true self. And that is when we see the blessings.... Isn't that the point of relationship... to be real? SO maybe what we see in ourselves as nothing is actually something: like negative space in art, or stillness in a dance. When we feel not enough, we still have hearts to give. And at the points we feel empty, we can draw from the Lord, who provides and replenishes all we need. It isn't about what we do, but that we do love. And love is a resource that never runs out. Because the Lord first loves us. Doesn't that make it easy to worship the Lord? So maybe what I love best about the picture of Mary, is that she places herself at Jesus' feet, knowing that as she offers all she has, what she needs is more of Him. And so the offering is the acknowledgement of her neediness. And Jesus calls it beautiful.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mission Jamaica

Our family has been invited to Montego Bay, Jamaica. We will be working with Youth With A Mission to build "Homes of Hope," do prayer ministry, marriage/family education as well as offer worship arts classes for street-kid and orphan ministries. With nearly 75% of children born out of wedlock, and much poverty, we are eager to help in this area. We will spend 3 months there, and are hopeful this will aid in the decision for a longer-term commitment in the future. Our heart is for discipling individuals, restoring families, and developing communitites, starting within our own home, and reaching out to the world around us. We wish to show the love of Jesus by equipping impoverished and marginalized people to meet their practical needs. And as we come alongside them, we can encourage and empower them with the hope and peace that can be found in Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer! If you would like to Donate online, or Read more about Homes of Hope we have set up a link below: http://youtu.be/giY-usuwnCc