Like the Rainbow Before the Storm

 

Fred the Grass cutter.jpeg

Fred cuts our grass during rainy season.  His “weed wacker” is not as scary as it looks.  It is not an unguarded skills blade.  Rather what looks like a blade is just a sprocket with two razor blades on hinges on the outside. 

Rainy season means the grass and crops grow, that roads (usually congested with motorcycle taxis) are a bit easier to navigate, and we exchange dust for mold as the seasonal allergen.

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Every covered parking lot, bus stop, gas station and awning fills up with these poor motorcycle taxi drivers when the rain starts.

But it was amazing to be reminded recently of God’s grace with a rainbow before it started raining.

Now on a day with rain, put your back to the sun and look for the rainbow ahead of you.  Is there a logical reason that you MUST see the rainbow AFTER the storm and not before? It’s about weather patterns and prevailing winds.  And sometimes it is about expectations and observation.

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In Rwanda, because of experience and expectation, there is an idiom, “like the rainbow before the storm.”

In the story of Noah, there had not been a rainbow before.  When the rain fell for 40 days, still no mention of a rainbow.  Then toward the end of the story, the first rainbow is finally mentioned:

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  (Genesis 9:12-16)

A sign in the clouds as a reminder that God will not destroy all life.

As a boy, I imagined the horror of the first rainstorm after the flood.  I wonder if rain brought PTSD.  What did they think?  “Will God remember his promise?” Perhaps, though, the rainbow came before the storm, to give confidence before the triggers.  Instead of a reminder after a trial that God keeps his promises, perhaps it came as a reminder before the trial, to trust God with what is ahead and to watch what God will do.

Even as we read the prophets, God says, watch and see what I will do.

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In my life, too, we faced what seemed impossible obstacles: raising money to come to Rwanda, every year having a budget shortfall at NCM, lacking teachers and administrators for CLIR, needing expert help.  And through prayer, God has given us opportunity to hear the promise of his faithfulness before we see the fruit of his faithfulness.  The promise, the rainbow, comes before the storm.  And you will see it, if you look for it.

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In your journey, have you more often seen God’s rainbow before or after the storm?

Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted

This meme has produced some funny variations.

This meme has produced some funny variations.

Iceberg Challenge Accepted

Iceberg Challenge Accepted

I love that this meme encourages taking on the impossible.

Is it possible to get to Rwanda by July? Challenge Accepted!

Why July? It is possible financially. Based on average rates of giving, all we need is five or six new families or churches each month between now and July to commit to giving.

However, we know that it will be a stretch. First of all, life will only get busier as we do this final countdown. We are going to a four-week training in Colorado at the end of this month, and a week-long family reunion in Oregon in July. Also, many of the folks we haven’t presented to yet have busy schedules that are hard to get time with. Others live far enough away that it takes a great deal of effort to get together. We are praying that God, who has kept these doors shut until now will now begin opening them.

Jesus Challenge Accepted

Jesus Challenge Accepted

On our own, we would never succeed. God has called us to Rwanda, and we need to get there soon! Pray with us for open doors!

Pirolo Shaped Hole

We love the Renewal Conference! While we were in Colorado for two weeks, we had time to pray with some prayer warriors. We worshipped and studied and celebrated with 40-year veteran missionaries and newbies like us. We also got to see many of our Denver friends, and preach a few sermons.

Gary, Megan, Barbara, and Melissa Bennett, our Rwandan Colleagues

Gary, Megan, Barbara, and Melissa Bennett, our Rwandan Colleagues

One of the highlights was having dinner with some of our Rwanda colleagues (on home assignment), the Bennetts. They were so excited to hear “July.” “We have been praying for you every Thursday [at our team meeting]. It is like our team has a hole where you are supposed to be. We are so excited that you are almost there.”

Your Prayers

By emails and addresses, over 400 people have partnered with us in one way or another. Our prayer is that God would make it real to you that you are having an impact on the work being done in Rwanda. Truly, God uses your prayers to help us as we work toward Rwanda. Listen to Paul from 1 Corinthians 1:8-11:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

This past few years as appointees to Rwanda doing partnership development has been taxing. Like many other missionaries before us, we feel called and cannot wait to get to Rwanda and do the things that we feel gifted in and called to do. It has been hard living in this time between what we used to do and what we know God has called us to do. We have had months where we have shared with numerous people and had little response but then we have also had months where we have met with few and had great response.

We feel like we have gone through a crucible in trying to get to Rwanda. While we are so eager to get there, once we get there the struggle doesn’t end. For us this ordeal of partnership development and personal development for Rwanda has been long and trying but in it we have been confirmed in our calling and strengthened in our faith. Thank you for your prayers that God is answering.

Big Meetings

First Baptist Church of Port Townsend

First Baptist Church of Port Townsend

This Sunday, March 15, we will speak to First Baptist in Port Townsend. They have given us the whole service to share about our call and our future ministry in Rwanda. As a church, and as individuals, they are considering partnering with us. We feel blessed by God every time we share our story. Our hope is that First Baptist would see how their church could make a big impact in Rwanda. Pray for us as we prepare for this time.

Pray for us also as we call, set appointments, present and connect with others. We hope to present to ten other families by the end of this month.

Check out our Scum of the Earth Sermon

Fruit of a Foundation

Thank you to all who prayed for us in Denver.

God’s Great Love and Patience

Grace and God’s Love

Through my daughter, Grace, God teaches me about his steadfast love and patience for me, and my own immaturity. Recently, I cut a slice of peach for Grace. When I noticed she was eating around the skin, I cut the skin off of the next two pieces she got. I tried to take the first piece to skin it, but she got defensive. “NO! It mine!” She squeezed the peach slice tight in her little fist.  I had over half the peach left, but she didn’t see that. She saw that I was taking the peach out of her hand.

We read in Romans 8:28 and 32, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Grace at 23 months

Grace at 23 months

Yet we do not trust him enough to offer him our peach when he asks. Do we not know that it will come back better, or if not that he has something better in store for us? He does not need our peach, per se, but wants us to give it up before we can receive a blessing.

What We Teach

As we’ve met with many of you, I’ve shared that my work will be giving these pastors “vocational training”: New Testament, Old Testament, Church History, and Theology. But there is more. In the next few months, we’ll have classes on spiritual warfare, false teaching, and Sunday school, but also raising children (especially important considering the number of Rwandan parents who were themselves genocide orphans). Check out the school calendar here.

The challenge we face is to teach the truth of the Bible applied to the context of Rwandan life. We aren’t teaching American Christianity, or American culture. But we let the truth of the Word challenge Rwandan cultural understanding and practice. Our purpose in being in Rwanda is to help the Church there function as the Body of Christ.

Latest from Rwanda

We have mentioned before that our group is building more classrooms to make room for our new Bachelor’s degree program. My friends recently posted about the progress.

“At this point, it looks like we have enough funding to finish the plumbing, electric, septic, walls, and roof. This is huge progress! What remains? We need to finish off the rooms by plastering walls, installing electrical fixtures, coating the floors, putting glass in the windows, and building a ramp for second-story wheelchair access.”

Construction site mid-April.

Construction site mid-April.  Work has continued.

If you’re interested in contributing, go to www.worldventure.com, and donate to account 6402905, Pastoral Training Center Construction.

How to help: Lots of Ways!

God continues to amaze and humble us by the specific ways he calls people to partner with us in ministry. When we meet with people, we specifically ask them to pray about being a partner through:

  1. Prayer
  2. Finances (Occasional or Monthly gifts)
  3. Referring us to others (friends, family, coworkers, pastors) who might want to hear about this ministry
  4. Hosting a dessert for a group of friends
  5. General help and encouragement.

Take a moment.  Pray over this list.  Is God leading you to partner with us in one of these areas?  If so, let us know.

Over 250 of you receive our emails.  We are blessed that this ministry that God has placed on our hearts, He has also placed on your hearts. We are blessed to have each of you.  Our prayer is that God will bless Rwanda through our work, yours and ours.

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Blessings,

Nick and Krystal

PS. I will preach at Oak Bay Baptist Church in two weeks.  Pray for me as I prepare a message, and join me there on June 22, at 10:45.  Here’s the address:

1314 Oak Bay Road
Port Hadlock, WA 98339

Rwanda Impact and Jan Plan

Rwanda Ministry Impact

Training Leaders in Rwanda

Training Leaders in Rwanda

I wanted to begin this post with some amazing statistics from Rwanda, specifically about the current class of pastors at New Creation Ministries, where I will be working in two years.

Currently 53 pastors are being trained (1st and 3rd year students in the 4 year Pastoral Training School).

Fifty of them responded to a survey yielding the following statistics:

  • 8099 members in their churches (average = 162 per student)
  • 677 baptisms (average = 14 per student)
  • 17 churches being planted (average = 1 church plant for every 3 students)
  • They are passing on their training to 560 other leaders (average = 11 leaders being discipled by 
each student)
  • 251 small groups with 3056 people in those groups (average = 12 people per group)

It is amazing to see how much of an impact each pastor has!

Reflections on a New Year

In some ways, January 1 is an arbitrary date, but it is as good as any to reflect on the events of the past year and plan for the future.  Over the last twelve months, I lost a father, gained a daughter, walked in graduation, celebrated five years with my bride, took up a new ministry position, and resigned from another.  Additionally, Krystal worked a ton, built a baby, and finished her final project for her masters.  There it is: 2012 summarized in about 40 words.

Looking ahead, 2013 promises to be eventful, chaotic, amazing,…  Krystal has one more class before graduation in May: church history.  Because it is an online course, she has 1800+ pages of reading.  She will continue working at Littleton Hospital, but now will only work two nights each week.  Thankfully, she will keep her benefits.  (Thanks to all who prayed for this!)  I will continue to work at Starbucks part time for the foreseeable future.  Unless God moves us otherwise, we will leave Colorado for Port Townsend, Washington in May.

We also plan to lose our “baby weight” by starting a “couch to 5K.”  We hope to run a 10K some time in the Fall.

Possibly the most consuming aspect of 2013 will be our preparation for Rwanda.  Krystal and I have been using January to begin, in earnest, “partnership development.”  We are contacting our friends in Denver to talk about Rwanda face-to-face.  On one hand, our goal is to give everyone we know an opportunity to participate in the work that God is doing in Rwanda, and to challenge everyone to invest their time, talent, and treasure in the eternal.  Randy Alcorn said, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead of you.”

First Baptist Church, Rawlins, WY

First Baptist Church, Rawlins, WY

On the other hand, our goal is to reach 25% of our monthly support by May.  To achieve that goal, my mentors estimate that I will have to make 80 phone calls, to get 20 appointments, and to partner with 9 families, EVERY MONTH!  Not to mention meeting with churches.  Pray for us that we stay connected to God and trust him for our motivation, joy and courage to boldly present the work He has called us to.

In addition to meeting with potential partners in ministry, we have homework and spiritual growth assignments, too:  Think Before You Look, by Daniel Henderson; Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster; From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth Tucker; Creating Understanding, by Donald Smith; and The Art of Crossing Cultures, by Craig Storti.  These will be due over the next 12 months.  Good reading, but with a cute baby to play with, it will take a lot of self-discipline.  Pray for us.

Finally, please be in prayer for our colleagues, Gary and Laurie Scheer.  (Gary is the missionary I met with that first invited us to Rwanda.)  They are back in the US on home assignment.  They have a busy schedule for next month connecting with people and churches.  Pray for fruitful times of ministry, and also restful down times.  Pray for their health in this hectic time.

Thanks for your partnership!

Moses Choi with Grace at KCND

Moses Choi with Grace at KCND

Last Sunday, we had a chance to speak at the annual mission Sunday for the Korean Church of North Denver.  I gave a short sermon on the sending of Saul and Barnabas as missionaries (Acts 13:1-3).  Here is the link, if you are interested:  http://www.kcnd.com/xe/KCND_Board_sermons/8451

Our First Steps Toward Rwanda

Appointee Orientation

Since our last blog, WorldVenture asked us to attend the Appointee Orientation (APO) in November, where we learned a significant amount about the business of being a missionary: record keeping, study, policies, etc.  Not really the tools we need to teach in Rwanda, but the tools to get to and thrive in Rwanda.

Our list of tasks to accomplish before May.

A highlight was meeting the “appointee class of 2012.”  One of the factors that drew us to WorldVenture was the longevity of their missionaries in the field.  At their renewal conference, we got to see how many missionaries reconnected with their appointee classmates after 15, 20, or 30 years.  For us, it is exciting to know that that will be us some day.

Getting to know each other

They also had a commissioning service where each missionary group got to share a three-minute version of our story: who we are, where we are going, and why.   While the whole service was closer to 75 minutes, below is a shortened version, mostly of the testimonies.  (Ours begins at minute 23:18.)

Church Presentations

Krystal and I feel extremely blessed to have such great connections with several churches.  In the last few months, we spoke with some of them. The Korean Church of North Denver where I was a youth pastor offered to support us before we even asked.  We have been invited to speak at their annual missions conference in January.

We spoke to the leadership team at Scum of the Earth Church, our Denver home church where we attend on Sunday nights.  While they cannot commit to support us financially, we are all excited to help get the congregation excited about missions.

First Baptist Church of Rawlins, WY, was the first church to whom we gave our full presentation.  Pastor Bryan Roberts, a close friend from seminary, invited us to speak at the Wednesday evening service of their first annual missions conference.  Krystal, Grace and I enjoyed meeting the lovely people there, and we cannot wait for our next visit.

Finally, just after Thanksgiving with the Pirolo family, we visited Gateway Community Church in Washougal, WA, where my Mom has attended for five years.  We knew going in that the church is generous to quite a few missionaries, but does not have funds to take on a new missionaries, right now.  We appreciated the time we shared with the director of the missions committee and to hear a bit about their other missionaries.

As missionaries, some funds will come through churches, and we are grateful for them.  However, individuals and families will make the bulk of our supporters, and that is a good thing because, while we can’t go until we have the finances, we need as many people as possible lifting us up in prayer.  We know in all situations, our God will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).

Grace

When last we posted, Grace was still in utero.  Now she has passed her 5 month birthday.  Her birth story was beautiful story of grace, and if you are interested, we can tell you the 2 hour version.  Briefly, God worked miraculously, and he used our doula and our midwife to make for an amazing delivery at Littleton Hospital.  We would recommend all three.

We love telling people how we got her name.  Both Krystal and I have loved the name “Grace” for a girl since before we were married.  My mom’s mom’s name is Grace.  And we love this song covered by Nichole Nordeman titled Grace.

Krystal’s sister’s middle name is Liberty.  (She was born on July 4.)  When it was possible for Grace to be born on July 4, we started thinking about that for a middle name.  The more we thought about what Liberty means as children of God, the more we loved it as a middle name anyway.  To quote the Bible, “It is for the sake of liberty (freedom) that Christ set us free.  We have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:1, 13).  Christ set us free from sin and death that we might truly live, that we may be restored into the image of our creator.

Here is a slideshow of Grace for those interested. 

What is Next

While our plan was to be home (in Port Townsend, WA) for Christmas, plans changed, then changed again.  Although it pains us to delay that time with family, we can’t leave Colorado before we have a chance to share personally with our friends here.  We have a few tough choices coming up involving how much “normal” work we can afford to do and still do “partner development.”  On the flip side, we need to maintain health insurance and pay the rent.  Pray with us that we will be able to do both.

We appreciate all the encouragement we have received from so many of you.  Every time we tell our story, God reaffirms our call to Rwanda and to this ministry.  We know our time here is short and we want to make the most of it.  We leave for Rwanda in November 2014, or sooner.  Pray for us as we find partners in ministry who will hear how God is calling them and who will come beside us in our work.

Next time, I’ll give an update on the work currently happening in Rwanda through New Creation Ministries, and introduce you to the team with whom I’ll be working.

Blessings,

Nick, Krystal and Grace