Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cambodia

The team, along with some of children from the village
The CSM staff take their students and their families on a mission trip annually. This past December, Matthew and I joined them to see if families from our ministry could join in future trips. Although this was our main goal in going on the trip, God had much more in store for us than simply figuring out if family mission trips would work well for us in Cambodia.
Matthew playing freeze tag.

While in Cambodia, we ran a VBS with almost 100 kids in attendance. I, along with a middle schooler, lead one of four groups of children around to each of their stations: crafts, teaching, games and English. Matthew helped run the game station with some of the students from youth group. At the end of each day and after feeding them lunch, we played hand games, painted nails, braided hair, had photo shoots, swung kids in the air and just loved on them.

Some of Sarah's group.
Day two is when I realized these children just wanted to give love and receive love from us. My van was a little late on this day because we had to stop for ice for our water coolers on the way to the village. Once we pulled up, I saw the large crowd of children hanging all over our team, some were playing hand games and some were just squeezing tightly to their new found friends. As I made my way to crowd, one of the little ladies (She is in the middle of the top row in the picture to the right) from my group grabbed my hand and pulled me away from everyone. I was not expecting her to take off her gold bracelet and gift it to me. I was speechless, delighted, amazed, shocked… completely humbled. She lives in a one walled, grass hut, with next to nothing and she is giving me one of her very own treasures. At first, I struggled taking her bracelet. I couldn’t help but think she could get in trouble for giving it to me. Then I realized it’s not just about giving to these people, but allowing them to give love back to us--however they wanted to show it.



I also enjoyed their love for nature. Each day, the kids would make flower bouquets for us ladies, (tied together with whatever plastic string they could find), put flowers in our hair and some even made flower headbands. Again, they just wanted to give their love. And that’s exactly what I felt.

Playing games after lunch.


As Sarah has mentioned above, this trip definitely had something more in store for us!  While on the trip, the Lord brought to my attention of how short of time we have with people.  We spent 4 days in the new village.  4 days.  We had to pour as much as we could into each moment.  This made me realize how little I do that in my day to day life. Sure, I do it well when I have to, but I don’t pour myself out like I should; I’m actually quite reserved in that regard.  It has made me realize how complacent I have become.  With that realization, I have picked a word to define my new year.  Intentionality.  I want to be more intentional with my time in everything I do.  So feel free to ask me about it any time you think of us!  I’m always only a Facebook or email away from anyone.

      
We are planning to return to this village in June and are inviting some of our families from ministry to join us. We will be gone for 10 days this time around and are looking forward to seeing the kids again, as well as, leading families on a mission trip together. We are confident this mission trip will bring families closer to each other as they pursue Christ together and serve together. It’s going to be an exciting time for them and for us.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Next Stop, America

Back in November, we spent some time away getting to know
our fellow CSM missionaries from Camp Foster. It was
a great taste of what this summer will bring.
We’re coming home, coming home. Tell the world we’re coming…” You read that right, Matthew and I are headed back to the states this month!! All Cadence Missionaries from the Untied States, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Germany, Spain and Italy will be gathering together for a week-long conference! The conference is hosted every 5 years and it just so happened to fall on our first summer in the mission field. This will be a week of gathering together as a Cadence family to refresh and encourage each missionary. From what we have been told, there will be plenty to offer: workshops, seminars, prayer, worship, honoring staff members, a talent night, games, sharing and free time for fellowship.

Currently, Matthew and I are feeling a wide range of emotions. We are extremely excited to meet our Cadence family that is serving all over the world, as well as, reunite with those we have had the privilege to meet. We are greatly looking forward to time for rest and to be poured in to. We are also thrilled to visit the East Coast. We have greatly missed our friends and family, tears of joy will most likely be stained on my face. Not to mention, we will have the joy in welcoming a new member into the family, my brother and sister in love are having a sweet little boy!! (Ekk! It could not have worked out any better)! Oh, and let’s not forget one of my favorite days of the year: Cow Appreciation Day! I am very much looking forward to biting into a chick-fil-a sandwich! ;) There is no doubt, we are glad to be visiting for a brief time. It will be fulfilling and well worth the trek across the world.

BLUE SEAL! One of our favorite places to build community.
In choosing to become missionaries, we chose a life of sacrifice. We gave up living close to our friends and family; missing holidays, birthdays and celebrating in all that life brings our way. (Yes, social media and the internet is a great way to stay connected and we love being able to easily do so with those in the states, but that will never take the place of being fully present). We also gave up the gift of having our heart in one place. As long as we continue in our lifestyle, we will have a heart divided between our home in Japan and our home within our friends and family back in the states. (This is something other missionaries, military families and anyone who lives a long distance from their relatives/close friends can relate to). This is where our wide range of emotions come in. We are absolutely thrilled to visit the states but at the same time, we do not want to leave Okinawa, even if it is for a short 4 weeks. In the last eight months, we have poured all that we have into starting new ministries, getting to know families and we have established a solid community. We have a strong sense of it being too soon before we return to the states. The main reason for that is because our summer is extremely packed, with the Cadence Conference smack dab between our two VBS’s. (If you know anything about VBS, you know there is a lot of work put into them, now times that by two—wowza). We are also planning to launch a new program in the fall, which is extremely exciting but needs a lot of planning and prep time. I would like to think that amidst our crazy summer, God is taking our relationship with Him to a deeper level. I believe He will be growing our understanding of what it means to have peace. The peace that knows God will work everything out for our good. The peace that allows us to enjoy each moment we are in, instead of worrying about the work waiting for us when we return and the peace that surpasses all understanding. It will be a summer of growing and stretching, not always fun but the end result will be incomparable.

One of the families we have grown close with! 
You may be wondering what are plans will be while we are state side. Well, wait no longer! :) We will fly to Chicago on June 21st and stay until the 25th. Because of VBS and our normal ministry days, Matthew and I will have had 10 consecutive days of ministry, ending with our flight back to America. We plan on using our time in Chicago to recover from jet lag and get some well needed rest. (Please know that it is extremely rare for us to work 10 days in a row. We make it a priority to guard our rest days). On the 25th, we will make our way to Wisconsin, where our conference will be held. From the 25th until the 28th, there will be a pre-conference for Cadence Student Ministries (CSM). (Matthew and I are the first Cadence Children’s Ministry (CCM) missionaries—making it the first ever CSM/CCM Cadence wide staff conference. Whoot whoo)! On June 28th, the rest of the Cadence missionaries will come, officially kicking off the conference. On July 5th, we will fly to the East Coast and fly back to Okinawa on July 14th. It is a short window, but we hope to see as many people as we can!

We would love nothing more than for you to lean in with us as we grow in a deeper understanding of our Creator. Pray for our hearts and minds as we enter into this crazy summer season. Joining us in prayer for both VBS’s, conference, traveling, volunteers who will run the ministry while we are gone, and that we find time to rest. I would also ask that you would pray for our marriage. Busy times can become very stressful times and we desire to love each other well in the midst of it all. Thank you so much for partnering alongside us, encouraging us and believing in us. We are extremely grateful to have such a strong support system!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Strengths and Weaknesses

Okinawa CSM/CCM staff
At the beginning of a new year; making resolutions, plans to improve, to be a better person, to function well as a team is exactly what our Cadence team did at our first ever Cadence Student Ministry/ Cadence Children's Ministry, CSM/CCM, conference. (Sarah and I are the first CCM missionaries). It was a time of looking to the future, seeing where we want to go and asking the Lord if He would direct us there.  It was also a time for us to get to know each other better because over half of the Asia team arrived on the field 3-6 months ago,  To help us understand each other better we all completed a ProScan Trait Survey. It is like a personality test that identifies an individual’s four basic personality traits and a whole lot more; strengths and weaknesses, sources of motivation, energy level, current satisfaction level, and sources of stress.

Sarah and I were both hesitant about going away for a whole week to do a conference. Our thoughts were, “it’s the new year! We have so much to do! We have so much planning and so much work to do, so we shouldn't be going to a conference! We just got on the field!!”  It was a rookie outlook on what conferences can do for a team and for our own renewal. Needless to say, we followed the guidance and wisdom of the leaders set before us and made the journey to the first ever CSM/CCM conference.

During our free time one afternoon, a few of us
explored a waterfall.
We had our conference at Okuma, which is a resort on the Northern part of Okinawa that is for U.S. Military.  Our leadership brought in guest speakers, Darrell and Cheryl Hammond from Higher Ground Consulting, for the week to help us understand the ProScan test. They are experts on building teams and improving communication between people.  While we talked about a lot of information over the week, my big takeaways were the motivators and demotivators for the team (especially when it comes to Sarah).  The motivators are something that truly drive you to take action. We all took time to look at a list of motivators that were specific to our ProScan results and defined 4 of them.  After that we all shared with each other our motivators.  I shared that cooperation, friends, happiness, and outside activities were the things that get me to take action.  If I have one of those things in my life, I love to take action and get things done quicker!  Happiness is my number one motivator.  If I’m not happy, I’m not effective. Period.  Sarah’s motivators are stability, structure, time to adjust to change, and strong leadership.  Knowing these will help me motivate her to do her best!  We had a chance to talk to Darrell and Cheryl one on one about these different motivators. They told me to encourage Sarah to take time out of her day to reflect and have moments of peace.  This will help her feel less stressed and be more motivated to do things, not just in work but in life.  While most of her motivators are going to take time to establish, we have started working on them.  It was great insight for me as a husband to understand that these things are important to my wife!  It is making me a better husband and person! The demotivators also helped me better understand how and why Sarah communicates the way she does.  While the demotivators weren't unfamiliar to me, I just didn't have a name or description to put with them.  Putting a name to something always helps me better understand.  All of this information is also going to help me with my new teammates as we begin to work more together.  I’ll be able to know how I can be most effective when working with them or just hanging out. It was such blessing to go to the conference!  We came back refreshed, ready to hit the road hard!!

Our leadership team encouraged all of us to get to know 
each other better. Sarah and I did that by sharing 
meals with those on our team.
Sarah and I have come to a clearer realization that rest is important!  Whether you are in ministry or not, taking time to rest and reflect on life is important.  Cadence International is helping us realize this. This past conference, we learned a lot, on top of  getting refreshed! After making an international move and starting two overseas children’s ministries, it was needed and will continue to be needed!  Looking to the summer, we have our all staff conference. This is a conference for every missionary within Cadence to attend and it is hosted every 5 years.  While we still have a little bit of the “we just got here” bug; we are totally on board with being refresh and renewed by all the stories of ministry happening on U.S. military bases around the world. We will be sharing the details of our summer conference in the weeks to come, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

THREE Months in...

     We are entering into our third month on the island.. WHAT?! So crazy to think about, time is moving so quickly for us and we feel like we have so much to share with you!! From personal updates to ministry updates, it seems like we have a lot going on! So here it goes…
     
Matthew at the start of his desk
     We have a second car, whoot whoo! It’s called a fun cargo and we love it! It is fairly spacious for the size and has AC, which is a must on the island. Our apartment is still coming together. Matthew has been taking one of our days off to focus on building things for our apartment. He has made a shelving unit that fits in our closet for the clothes that aren't hung and he's made a desk for the each of us. It is so relieving to have all of my clothes out of suitcases/off the floor and in a home! Our office is starting to feel and look more like an office now that we have desks, but it is far from finished! Next, Matthew will be working on an entry table and more counter space for the kitchen, I will do all the painting and detailing when he is finished.  We are also on a hunt for a guest bed. We will be having our first guest this week and it would be nice if he had a place to sleep! ;)
                
Enjoying a visit to the seawall
We have become more intentional about setting aside one day a week where we rest and enjoy our new life in Okinawa. It has been very easy for me to justify not resting because we still have so much to do in our apartment and because there is a lot of ministry planning to accomplish. But the truth is that no matter how much we get done in a day, there will still be more to accomplish on the following day. There is always work to be done and I don’t think that will change. Remembering that, as well as, remembering that we need time to rest so that we don’t burn out has helped encourage the time away from all that needs to be done.
                
     We have some exciting news to share regarding Camp Foster… We now have 4 children coming on Saturday evenings! Whoot Whoooo! We have grown from 1 to 4 and we know we will continue to grow! For the month of December, we taught on what and what not to get wrapped up in during the Christmas season and how that can carry throughout the entire year. Each week, we spent the first few moments together wrapping the kids in various Christmas themed d├ęcor, it was pretty great! This month we will be teaching on Commitment-making a plan and putting it into practice! I am excited for this month's Life Application because we will be giving the kids practical ways to live out their lives for Christ!
                
     We will also be kicking off the New Year with Commitment on Camp Kinser! We are excited to have the same program on both bases because it will lessen our work load a bit. By the end of the month, we are planning to have our weekly bible studies up and running on both bases, which we are hoping to stream line as well.

Some of the picture frames the kids made. 
     We also had a lot of fun directing the Christmas Play for the kids on Camp Kinser. They performed it on the Sunday before Christmas and they did an excellent job! This past Sunday, we had a Christmas party. There were three stations for the kids to rotate between; snack, games and crafts. Matthew led the kids in some games and from what I hear it was pretty great! The kids had a donut eating contest… where they weren't allowed to use their hands and the donuts were swinging on a string! I led the kids in a little picture frame craft. Of course, I enjoy anything crafty so it was a lot of fun! We used our finger prints to make a string of Christmas lights and wrote the beginning of Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine..." We had a total of 34 kids cycle through, it was a great turn out!


     As always, we are so incredibly thankful for each one of you!! God is using your prayers and support to impact His kingdom!! Thank you, thank you for choosing to walk alongside this journey with us!

*We did not add any photos of the kids because we haven't asked permission from their parents.. But don't you worry, we will post ministry in action once we get the O.K.! =)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Adjusting and Adapting

Our apartment building!!
   Matthew and I have been living on the island for a little over one month!! Whoot whoo!! We now have our own apartment, it’s awesome! We were able to purchase and have our refrigerator, washer and dryer the day we moved in!! The furniture store was out of ovens, so we had a lot of crock meals.  We did, however, get an oven this week!! We had internet installed and picked up a router, so we now have Wifi! As far as furniture, we have the three main things: a bed, couch and dining room table! We are planning on making everything else in due time. For now, we are glad to have a place we call home!
   We have enjoyed walking the streets where we live and checking everything out. The sea wall is very close to our apartment, so we like to go down and watch the sunset while looking for seashells.
Our FREE car
The first Sunday we visited the Kinser Chapel, a family GAVE us a car!! It was super encouraging for us. We didn’t know the family which makes it even cooler. I don’t really believe there is any other reason for someone giving us a car other than God providing for us. We are still adjusting to driving on the opposite side of the road and car. It feels like we are teaching ourselves how to drive all over again! There are some very tiny streets in Japan, so that always makes driving more fun. The roads that look like one ways really aren’t… they are just super small.
Driving on the left side!!
Ministry wise, Matthew and I will be focusing on two Marine Bases for the next few months, Camp Foster and Camp Kinser. Early next year, another Cadence missionary will join us on the field and take over children’s ministry on Camp Kinser, allowing Matthew and I to focus solely on Camper Foster.
   As of right now, the Chapel on Camp Foster has one kindergartener. Yup, only one kid attending. There is clearly A LOT of potential for ministry and we are excited for this challenge! We have started strategizing how to bring more families to the chapel, we have decided hosting Back Yard Bible Clubs is a great way to interact with kids. There are some logistical things we need to work out with the military, but we are super excited to get things rolling!!
   Camp Kinser has been extremely blessed to have a CRE (Coordinator of Religious Education) who has structured a children’s ministry for the Chapel. There are a handful of kids attending Sunday School on a weekly basis and we have enjoyed getting to know them the last couple weeks. Matthew and I have starting working on a Christmas Play with them, which has been lots of fun. We are excited for this opportunity because it has given us an extra day in our week to get to know the kids more.
Our Cadence Team and volunteers!
We also had an awesome Thanksgiving yesterday!! We were able to serve Marines and Sailors on Kinser and Foster. Over 400 servicemen and women came for a home cooked meal! It was awesome getting to talk with some of them, play games and EAT! My heart was overjoyed. We ended our evening sharing a meal with our fellow Cadence team members and youth volunteers. It was good to be together with our Cadence family and build stronger relationships!
  We are incredibly thankful for each and every one of you that has followed us on this journey so far! We could not be here without you, so thank you for sacrificing your time and money to support us!! =) We love you all and have so many reasons to be thankful!! =D

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Okinawa Life!!!

Our first beach day!
It’s official, we made it to Okinawa!!! We have been on island for three days and are still adjusting to jet lag and a new culture, but it has been very exciting for the both of us! Our main goal for the next couple of weeks is to adjust to the initial move while waiting for the logistical things to work out. We are pretty much stuck until our military IDs come through, but I am considering the waiting period a blessing! It gives us time to acclimate, explore the island and set up our apartment. Until we have our own apartment, we will be staying with our field leader and his family.

We went on an aerial tour of the island!
After receiving our military IDs, we will be able to get our driver’s license, purchase a car, rent an apartment and have access to the base without needing an escort! This coming week, we will finish up the paperwork for our IDs and pray it is processed quickly! Monday, we are going to begin our apartment search, which is super exciting! Although we won’t be able to rent anything until our IDs come, we will be able to narrow down our search! We have also been keeping a look out on cars, so we will have a better idea on the kind we want when it’s time to buy one!

Our office!!!!
Yesterday, Matthew and I were able to order our phones!! Whooot whooo! My phone will hopefully be in by the beginning of next week and Matthew’s will come in within the next two weeks. We were also given a tour of the youth building, where the Cadence Youth Missionaries lead ministry. We will be able to use the space AND we have our very own office!! All of our boxes have arrived, praise the Lord!! They will stay in the youth building until we have our own apartment.

We are so grateful that you are following our lives and praying us through our most recent transition! Thank you for being a constant reminder that God has called us to Okinawa! We love you and know we have the best support team out there!! =)