Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Simpler Way

On our journey we've been looking for a simpler way to live and on our trip to Philly we were invited to go to The Simple Way in the neighborhood of Kensington. We were there for their Labor Day block party and back to school giveaway.

Here is the link to a short video. If you look closely you will see a glimpse of Jennifer in her green tank top.

It will be our favorite Labor Day for years to come we are quite sure.

Simple Way video

Monday, September 20, 2010

It Takes a Little Time Sometimes

During our time here in the States we've slowed down and realized that we needed some rest and rejuvenation so that we can be ready to serve with full hearts. We did not realize what a toll the past two years took on us. Filled with joys and sorrows, and many learning experiences, we found ourselves back in the U.S. tired, weary, and ready to follow God where ever he leads. That is what we have been doing over the past few months. We've put some of the traveling we planned on doing on hold for a while in order to rest, renew, and take advantage of some opportunities that came before us.

One of those amazing opportunities transpired when we were sharing at Hollow Rock Camp meeting. On missionary day an older gentleman approached us after we shared and started asking us various questions. Right away we clicked with him because he understood our desire to reach the lost through planting house churches. We knew it was a God thing, for lack of a better cliche, because we spent the whole afternoon talking and talking with our new friend, Jim DiRaddo. Jim said that he'd like to invite us to Philly, where he lives, to make some connections with others that are planting churches among the inner city poor, and with others involved in missions.

That initial conversation took place back in July and we kept in touch with Jim during August. Last Tuesday we returned from our 10 days in PA. God worked out many divine appointments while we were in the Philly area. We were able to meet with some people who are involved in training missionaries how to do house church, we met the president of Herr's Food who is starting a different type of church in his community focused on serving the poor. We had the chance to go to the Simple Way where Shane Claiborne and others started an intentional community in a very run down part of Philly with the hopes of reaching their neighbors with Christ's love. We visited the Circle of Hope and met with it's founder Rod White. Rod's desire is to reach the unreached generation with a circle of hope. We had many deep conversations with many people who are discovering what it means to live simply, serve the poor, and be the church in a hurting world. We were encouraged by the diversity of ministries and people that God is using in the Philly area. One Sunday we went to Lancaster, PA to attend a house church meeting that reminded us a lot of what we were doing in Mexico this past year.

God used our time in PA to break our hearts once again for the urban poor. We did not realize how much poverty and diversity existed in Philly. Also, our time confirmed our calling to church planting among the urban poor and Latin American communities, and it brought us new friends for the journey. Many of us are experimenting with new ways of doing church that don't include a building, overhead, or the like, but rather concentrate on relationships, radical discipleship and service. We are seeing a movement rise up around the world to reach the lost. Much of this is happening in home church settings. While the home church model is not the most popular, it is growing, and we too are growing as we learn more and more about it.

Thank you for supporting us in our calling to make disciples and radically follow God's call on our lives. We appreciate you.

More to come...
Josh with our gracious host, Jim.
Jennifer with our new friend and hero, Liz.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Coming Back to a Land That Is No Longer Your Home

We have been through much since we arrived, and God has made our next steps more clear to us than ever. More on that later...

The most common questions we have received after being back have been things like "How was Mexico?" Or "How are you? Isn't it great to be home?" While these questions are innocent in themselves they stir up all kinds of emotions in one that he could only truly begin to understand if he has lived in another country for at least a year. We've been gone for two years.

So since you've been asking when we mention the pains of reverse culture shock "What is reverse culture shock?". We thought we'd dive into the topic. Why not?

When you move to a forgein land you expect culture shock. You expect learning life's ins and outs and starting from scratch. In essence you are a child in your new country--Learning everything from how to get your groceries, to how to communicate, to how to pay your bills. Eventually you adjust and you find a rhythm in your new country, it now becomes your new "home." It feels like home, tastes like home, and smells like home. Sure you miss your family and friends from time to time, but you have new friends now and at least your immediate family comes to visit you.

Now imagine that the time has arrived after two years to leave your new "home" to go back "home." Mmm...Wait a minute... This hasn't been a vacation or short-term mission trip. And we aren't going to visit the States for a brief period of time either. We are going to be back in our "home" for a while. No one prepared us for this coming "home." No one prepared us for the tough but good thing called "reverse culture shock."

You see reverse culture shock is worse and hits you harder than regular culture shock in another country. Why? Because coming back to a place where you grew up and once called "home" no longer can be "home." In just two years your country, i.e. the U.S. has changed and you haven't been there. All of the sudden the majority of people have an iphone and some even have an ipad. Technology has advanced, but in Mexico those things are only for the extremely wealthy. Politics are different and you haven't been around to experience these changes. The home you left is now somewhat of a foreign land to you.

Also, during those two years your friends have changed, culture has changed, and so have you. WE have grown and learned, but in a completely different environment and cultural setting. The States no longer feel like "home," and we have become foreigners in our own land.

We cannot summarize two years of living in Mexico in five minutes. Remember, we weren't vacationing and it wasn't a "mission trip." The question "How does it feel to be home?" is a complex one. While we are enthusiastic about seeing friends and family at the same time we know this is no longer our "home." Neither is Mexico. Instead, we are world Christians who don't truly belong anywhere except in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Another popular question, and a good one at that, is "What is the biggest contrast you notice between Mexico and the U.S.?"

Some answers:

1. The excess of material possesions and the unlimited choices that exist for what you can buy, eat, and consume. Whatever you like is practically available. This contrast has been the most difficult to deal with because we have friends in Mexico who are struggling to survive and have very few options in their lives.

2. The individualistic culture vs. highly relational culture and the rush to always get to the next appointment, meeting, or patient. We get the feeling sometimes that everyone is in a hurry and no one has extra time to spare. This is a huge contrast to Latin American culture in general, but especially in Mexico.

So, while we are here, we may seem a little strange to you and we are because we no longer have a "home." Jesus didn't either!

Pictured with some of our favorite missionary counselors from Mission Training International at our debriefing and renewal program.