Saturday, August 4, 2018

Another Door Opens

So, most people have heard a saying that goes, "when one door closes, another door opens." It sounds so cliche, and almost rude if someone were to say it to your face while in the midst of what feels like a door being closed. BUT, my heart is so full of gratitude and touched by the sweetness of the truth I see in that simple statement when I, after asking questions and struggling with the unknowns of life,  am able to walk through that open door and trust that God is always steps ahead of us, providing a way.

In January, our family was in MN visiting family and supporters, and making plans to begin a big project for our ministry. We were hoping to create an apartment in the upstairs of the new ministry building, in order to move out of our apartment across town, and move on-site... and prepare to take on new students, and open up the store shortly after... it was a big deal. We were already working from the building, as the students were doing some custom work for the owner, and he was pretty relaxed with just a verbal agreement as we were trying to raise funds etc. After some successful fundraising, we were hopeful we would be able to begin the project, starting with a bathroom and kitchen. When we arrived back to Mobay, Paul had a few other commitments already set, so we knew it wouldn't happen immediately.  However, upon reconnecting with the organization that had expressed a desire to partner with us and help with the fundraising for the program, specifically what would make renting the building possible, we learned they would not be able to partner with us after all... SO, this was a game-changer, we thought. We were not going to be able to move forward with a lease for the building without a big source of funding. We were at square 1. We informed the owner of the building. He was super nice, saying we could have some time to do more fundraising, but it felt pretty unrealistic. Not much later, he shared that there was another interested party offering him about 3 times more than we would be paying. He said he was still willing to honor our verbal agreement though, and not to worry about it. But we did worry. We didn't have the financial support at all, and he was being offered a lot of money. We didn't want to be in the way of him making a profitable deal if we wouldn't be able to get it to come together anyways. So we prayed about it and surrendered the whole vision to God. We told the owner to take the deal and we would move on.

So that brought us to a point of evaluation. We knew we felt called to be here. So we wanted to be able to let go of the "big plan" for the program and be content with a downsized vision, slower timeline to allow for growth etc. and really think about how our family could feel more settled in this country living as missionaries.

I felt the urge to just look online for rental properties that might give our family a little more space, and hopefully the option of having a dog, as the kids have so wanted a pet. Anyways, we came across a house that was listed for sale... and it looked so lovely, out in the country, but not too far away (actually in an area where we have built several homes and know many people in the community.) We decided to go look at it, thought it would be really great, and asked if they would be open to renting it to us. They said yes, and even offered us their 2 watchdogs as our foster pets. It was a big relief, and something we could feel excited about!

After we decided to go for the house and let our family try to feel more settled and content, the owner of the ministry building came back to us.  The other party was no longer interested after all, and we could have more time to campaign for program funding.

So that is where we are now, still wanting to do what we can in our power, but also surrendering it all to God, fully trusting that he has it all in his hands. We moved into the house 2 weeks ago. And it is so peaceful and refreshing. Paul and the students are actually still working from the building for now. And we will continue to pray for partners, for wisdom, and ultimately for God's will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We can feel disappointed, frustrated or confused at the way things move slowly or get messed up on earth. Sometimes, we can be pleasantly surprised. We can be completely unsure of how things might go in this life,  but we can also be confident that we have a father who cares for us and is in it with us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wave your Flag, God's Beauty Banner

Oh, sweet Jamaica, land of wood and water, you boast of your beauty: the palm trees, hills and the sea. One look at your landscape, and one cannot help but be love-struck. Yet I am perplexed by the paradox... Picturesque villas and resorts line prime beachfront property... People come for pampering, yet that postcard picture is just that: a snapshot of Beauty. Beauty lives as God's mark on the land, yet that picture doesn't tell the deep complexity that is Jamaica.  A history of people violated, systems failed or corrupted, and sadly the aftermath in which fatherlessness and poverty continue to hold people in bondage.


2.7 million people on a small island, smaller than Minnesota. 1 million are living at or below the poverty line. 1 million of anything is a big number in my mind. This is one million people. People who get hungry just like everyone else. People who get tired just like everyone else.  So, what does that look like?
Where in MN, the minimum wage is over $9 per hour, the Jamaican minimum wage is about $1.25 USD per hour. That is less than $4,000 USD per year for full-time work. And everything is more costly on the island than in the states. A regular gallon of milk costs $10. At nearly a day's wage, a gallon of milk is a luxury. A gallon of gas is $5, so transportation is a hurdle. For some, having to drive or get a cab from any distance to go to work will leave them with maybe just enough for an evening meal.

Where "private poverty" is defined as not having the means to live above a minimum standard, "public poverty" refers to whole communities lacking basic amenities and infrastructure like piped water, toilets, electricity, roads and sanitation. Everyday life filled with more work.  HARD work of getting water and fuel for cooking, solving the problems of eliminating waste, having to trek through the bush to get to the nearest road... to wherever you need that road to take you.

Dr. Alonzo Smith, of the American Counseling Association, recently shared at a Psychology conference at the Northern Caribbean University. He talked about "intergenerational poverty," which stems from a breakdown in family structure and lack of consistent education.    

It is estimated that 80% of children on the island are born out of wedlock. Most live in single female-headed homes without the presence of a father figure. Without the strong Dad hugs, the deep-voiced "I love yous" or whiskery kisses. Without the means Dad would have provided.  Without a partner for Mom, to share her work-load. 60% of kids between ages 9 – 17, have experienced a family member killed. Murder comes as the thief, stealing family members, breaking families, and sometimes snuffing one's will to keep going. So, it isn't a surprise that families find themselves unemployed and homeless. Children find themselves being raised by staff at children's homes.

Staring at my computer screen, numbers invade.
40-50% of kids from children's homes and foster care never graduate. 
66% of those who age out of the system are homeless, in prison or dead 1 year later. Can this be? My eyes are straining from reading. 
I close my eyes.
I don't need to see more numbers, or search out more statistics,  to believe in this phenomena; there is a multiplication of lack, a reproduction of empty and broken. Cycles spin, and the dizzy can't get off this ride. It holds hostage, until dizzy is normal. My heart tells me "open your eyes to see more than yourself."
All those numbers have names. Every name has a story. A real-life, heart-aching and trying-to-survive, trying-to-just-breathe story...  and maybe it's a "What-about-me-God?" story, until they stop talking to God altogether.

"O," who is now an apprentice in our New Life program, remembers he was a child when he heard the news of his dad getting killed. He was sent to live with his grandparents, as his mother grieved and struggled to get work and make money. He did eventually return to live with his mom and younger siblings in her little shack, but the house became completely infested with bugs. While he and his mother both tried to get work, he was limited by his lack of education or training.

Shortly after moving to Mobay, we met a young lady, "S,"  at church. We started inviting her to dinner with our family on Sundays. And over time we heard more of her story. She remembers as a small girl being left on a curb with her brother... LEFT ON A CURB to be found and picked up by anyone who wished. She knows that her father had been murdered, and that her mother left with a man to go to England.  They ended up in a children's home. When she and her brother were about 8 & 9, they were split up; she went into a home for older girls, and he went into a home for boys. After running away, she found herself pregnant at age 15, with her brother already in jail. Neither graduated from high school.

Another young man we met upon first moving to Jamaica was "R." He grew up in a boys home, unable to be adopted as a child, but at age 21 was living with some fellow missionaries on our campus. He was helping Paul set up his woodshop, and wanted to be part of the skills training. As a new Christian himself, he wanted to share with his brother all about his new life. When he made the trip to Kingston to see him, he ended up being shot and killed.
The cycle spins. In four years, the numbers of names grows, the names of those with stories of spinning... The dizzy ones who desperately desire something, someone, to disrupt the multiplication.  Orphans reproducing orphans. Kids are literally aging out of children's homes,  living on the streets with no resources to find their way in life.

For those of us who have experienced the blessings of family and provision, I pray that we would all feel the burden of responsibility to use that privilege to advocate and fight for those who have not. For those of us with time, will we let the clock tick with the ones who wish to tell of losses, and grieve with the broken hearted?  Will we share our knowledge, will we use our skills ... will we spend resources God has given us to give gifts of opportunities? Can we spend our own lives planting seeds of hope? Oh Father, can we break the bondage, can we boldly live to bandage the wounded and weary, with our own broken loving?

Jamaica, land of wood and water, wave your flag, God's beauty banner. All you weary ones, you are not forsaken, not forgotten. We are brothers. It's time to bring the Kingdom.

Psalm 82:3 tells us to "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed."


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Breakfast with the Bartons

Breakfast with the Bartons

Fundraising Event:

Sat. Feb. 10th, 9:30-11:30 am

at the Outpost Center
6053 Hwy 212 E, Chaska

The Barton family responded to a call to serve.  God provided more than they could ask for or imagine.  Now you are invited to be part of this incredible mission.

Empowering the underprivileged youth in Jamaica - come hear what it is all about!

$20,000 Goal
Kids are Welcome
For more info email, or call 612-601-6431
We hope you can join us.  The Barton family heads back to Jamaica just a few days later.

If you can not attend, but would like to donate:
You may make out your tax deductible donations to :
Barton Missions:  19011 Towering Oaks Trail, Prior Lake, MN 55372
Or Youth with a Mission Minneapolis: P.O. Box 268, Rockford MN 55373
Donate online (click the donation tab above, or link below)
612-601-6431, JA 876-596-5421

The New Life Skills Centre was established to:
1) educate and train students in subjects and skills to give them a means to provide for themselves and their families, thus breaking the cycle of poverty, and
2) introduce them to the love of Jesus Christ so that they, by the power of the Holy Spirit, could walk in their God-given purposes with dignity, hope and redemption.   Matt. 28:19-20