earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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2015 Furlough Wrap-up

Before beginning this furlough a Tanzanian neighbor asked if we were planning to drive back to the States. As it turns out, we accumulated more than enough miles driving between churches in the States to make it from Mwanza to Detroit and almost halfway back!

We would like to acknowledge God’s graces over the many miles we have accumulated this year. Despite the difficulty of continuous moving with two small children, we found our visits to partnering churches to be very encouraging. We have been reminded of the many people praying for us with an understanding of our work and non-work needs–even praying for us in ways that we have not explicitly asked. Moreover, you have all been such gracious hosts, accomodating us in many ways. It seems that you are all reading the same good book on best practices for missionaries on furlough.

In 5 months’ time we were able to meet with 21 churches for ministry reports and various other ministries. We enjoyed many of your cheeseburgers along the way. Thank you for working with us and encouraging us in the Lord. We have just now clocked one week back in Tanzania, settling back in and gearing up for some big projects ahead.

The following pictures are a sampling of our family and ministry experiences since we began this furlough in February. (You may need to follow the link to the website in order to view all of them.)

July 26, 2015   2 Comments

June and July 2015 Ministry Update

Our move to Tanzania has brought us closer to bartering, sowing, harvesting, and shepherding than we have been in the States. References to these things in the Bible have since become more meaningful to us. (Sheep really do get lost easily!)

Though life in America is even further removed from life in biblical times, our furlough experience has stretched us in new ways which have, in turn, brought new insights into Scripture. Now that we have begun saying our goodbyes to friends and family this past month, my attention has turned a few times to Paul’s farewell to the elders in Ephesus (Acts 20:13–38).

The link between our experience and Paul’s is mainly that, knowing our time with loved ones is limited, there is a similar urgency in our conversations. I wonder if Paul came into Ephesus with a short agenda that turned into the address we have recorded in this passage. I have never been as eloquent as Paul, but I have run through a mental checklist before saying, “see you in a few years.” I have found myself less hesitant to share the Truth with others and more eager to pray before parting ways.

We have had to think deliberately about “last-chance” meetings with people. Knowing what was coming at his destination, I wonder if Paul had to think about whom he could and could not see and where those meetings would take place to ensure the most constructive convesations. (It seems he did; Acts 20:16, 17) We’ve taken detours to fit people into our schedule, but we still haven’t been able to see everyone. I’ve set a 1-hour timer to make sure I leave one place in order to make it to the next “last-chance” conversation.

This is the Point

I would count this sense of urgency as a privilege of our situation rather than a burden. Not only do these encounters make a reading of Acts 20 more rich, we find ourselves identifying more with the life and burdens of other missionaries. We also do not regret that God has used these mental checklists to bless us with great fellowship.

While we would rather not have to say goodbye at all, we would also like to remind everyone (ourselves included) that life in ministry is rich in surprising ways. God is good. And, He often opens that goodness up to us in the midst of difficulty–not apart from it.

Prayer Update

  1. I had the privilege of serving my sending church by speaking for our teen camp in June. God blessed us with great meetings and fun times (and only minor injuries ;-).
  2. We have only one more church meeting to go. So we are now turning our attention to figuring out how to “bring as much of America back with us” as we can cram into our luggage. Please pray with us that God will help us wisely use our remaining weeks in the States to enjoy our families and prepare for readjustment.
  3. We fly out of the US on July 14 and finally return to Mwanza, Tanzania, on July 18. We already know that our Swahili muscles have atrophied and that we will need to work hard to catch up on all that has happened since February. Please pray that we will be enabled to readjust well.

June 27, 2015   1 Comment

April 2015 Prayer Update

3,000 miles on the road. 9 churches. 19 cheeseburgers. And counting.

Since returning to the States in early February we have already finished reporting in all our partnering churches in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We’ve begun shifting east, currently visiting churches in southwest Ohio. Seven days from now we’ll have met with two more churches, and begun our first trip back to Michigan in over 30 months (after some downtime with Laura’s family).

Approach to Furlough Meetings

As I’ve shared with our partnering churches, our aim and prayer for our meetings together is basically twofold:

  • First, as we consider what has been accomplished in Tanzania for the sake of His name, we plan to rejoice together in what God has done (2 Cor 1:11; 4:15).
  • Second, Like Paul, we consider our relationship with our churches as a partnership in the gospel (Phil 1:5). These partnerships are effective to the degree that we likeminded in the work of the gospel (Phil 1:27). To that end, I intend to explain our objectives and challenges so that we may truly labor together.

Prayer Update

God has indeed granted us blessed meetings with our partnering churches. We believe our objectives are being reached in the churches while the churches have successfully encouraged us. The crazy travel schedule is unavoidable, but our hosts have gone a long way to make the challenges more enjoyable.

We are also excited to have the opportunity to be a part of our friends’ and family’s lives in ways we can’t while residing in Africa. While en route to Ohio, we were able to stop in central Illinois for Laura’s grandmother’s 97th birthday. Grandma Amy has been one of our most regular correspondents during our first term!

Happy Birthday Grandma Amy

God is good! Here are some ways that you can pray with us:

  1. Our constant traveling is hardest on Laura and the kids. Please pray for safety in travel and strength to adjust. We pray for wisdom to encourage one another while everything and everyone around us constantly changes.
  2. Please continue praying for wisdom to help Tanzanian churches resolve leadership and economic challenges. The effort in this regard is a cross-cultural team effort in which we are eager to maintain unity and obedience to God’s word.
  3. The doctors have tentatively cleared Beth Roark to return to Tanzania after health concerns have kept her back in the States for observation. Please pray for the health of our orphanage workers and the strength they need to continue serving short-handed.

April 6, 2015   No Comments

February—March 2015 Ministry Update

Greetings from the USA!

After running errands in Nairobi and visiting friends in Istanbul, the four of us safely landed in Chicago on February 9. This month we have been able to visit immediate family on both sides and begin our church meetings with a great visit to Holmen Baptist Church in SW Wisconsin. We hit the road again this weekend, so I am watching the weather closely. At first, the cool weather was refreshing and the snow was beautiful, but now we’re all ready for warmer temperatures and dry roads!
Ian's 5-min Snow Trek

Prayer Update

In the process of giving our first ministry report, I was impressed with the desire to be in more than one place at the same time. Speaking about our Tanzanian friends reminded us that serving where we do is an incredible privilige. Being away from them at such critical times is challenging. At the same time, we are excited for the opportunity to share our joys and burdens with our partners in the gospel. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we enter this new season:

  1. Praise God for a safe transition to Stateside ministry. God has already provided a vehicle for our travels and the joy of sharing time with family. Let’s continue praying that these months before returning to Tanzania would be blessed with health, safety, and the strength to endure the adjustment and many miles of travel.
  2. Please ask God to bless our church meetings so that we may all rejoice in what God has done and renew our commitments to serving Him together.
  3. The churches of Sweya, Nyakaliro, and Luselelo are in various stages in the process of choosing a pastor. Please pray for wisdom and unity in this process so that these churches may grow through the faithful proclamation of God’s word.
  4. The city of Mwanza has made some concessions which should mean less property taxes for us, but the rest of our neighbors in the area have refused the terms they have been offered. Please pray that negotiations between the city of Mwanza, us and the rest of the residents of Shadi would result in a peaceful and reasonable arrangement.

February 26, 2015   1 Comment