Archive for September, 2013

Sobering thoughts as we go “may the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering”

As we set out for Narnia, I am reflecting on the following account of two men who have gone before us. The task at hand demands the fullness of Jesus and an attitude that remembers we’re only servants. “May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”

In a day where mission has become a contested idea and most thoughts centering around the country we will work are all about tourism, the outdoors, and so on, this story is a humbling reminder. Going to Narnia isn’t a sexy idea we created in our heads. . may we be so rattled by the fear of God that we serve Him with wreckless abandon.

Two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2000 to 3000 slaves. And the owner had said, ‘No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he’s ship wrecked we’ll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he’s never going to talk to any of us about God. I’m through with all that nonsense.’

Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic, there to live and die without hearing of Christ.
Two young Moravians heard about it. They sold themselves to the British planter and used the money they received from their sale, for he paid no more than he would for any slave, to pay their passage out to his island for he wouldn’t even transport them.
As the ship left its pier in the river at Hamburg and was going out into the North Sea carried with the tide, the Moravians had come from Herrenhut to see these two lads, in their early twenties, off. Never to return again, for this wasn’t a four year term, they sold themselves into lifetime slavery.

The families were there weeping, for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. As the gap widened and the housings had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier, and the young boys saw the widening gap, one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them, they were these,
‘MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING!’”
The world was not worthy of them and neither is the church
John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are names you may not readily recognize. John was a potter and David a carpenter. Ordinary occupations. Extraordinary men. They are men who left the security of their jobs and families in Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries in 1732.John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are unsung heroes.

These men were not going on a nice short term mission to the Caribbean, or even Africa or China but they sold themselves into slavery to answer the call ‘come and minister the gospel to us’. It gives new meaning to the phrase “sold out for Christ”.
They became slaves in order to have the opportunity to reach the slaves of the West Indies for their Lord. Their life’s purpose was to follow the Lamb who had given His life for them and for all the souls of the world. Their mission statement was “Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.”

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Wanna Read the Bible Thru in 3 Months with Me?

On Saturday I was able to chat with a friend I met my freshman year of Bible college. We spent several evenings in those early days seeking the Lord and getting to know one another. We were just kids. I think we were both 18 at the time. We had lost touch and Saturday we spent over 2 hours on the phone giving the fast forward version of our lives since college. Fun times.

One thing that my friend Ryan brought up was a pivotal time in his life several years ago when he decided to read the Bible through in 3 months. Interestingly I had committed to the same thing right after we took our trip out to Narnia to see if we’d live there long-term. It is a pretty cool plan because you go full throttle for 3 months and gain a bird’s eye view of Scripture. I completed this earlier in the year and felt less intimidated (in a good, Godward way) about Scripture. After our conversation I decided to go at it again over the next few months as we enter this new transition. If you are a fast reader you can probably cover the 12 or so chapters a day in 40 to 45 minutes. If you are a slower reader it would probably take closer to 1 1/2-2 hours. It is a real commitment, but the rewards are great. There is an app called YouVersion that many of you likely use. Under the plans section of the app you can set this up and start reading. It isn’t for everyone, but the Bible is. See if you can commit to reading the Bible through in 3 months. Tell me what you think.

We are entering into a pretty big transition with our lives and in about a week now we will land in Narnia. The tendency for me, and for most, is to live off the adrenaline of the crowd. Live off the fumes of the capital city and the glitz and glow of the lights. That is fun for a while, but certainly not enough to stay the course of being full of Jesus, engaging the unreached with the story of Christ. For me, what better time is a renewed commitment to God’s Word than in the midst of chaos? It really is the chaotic times of life that I’ve seen Christ most vividly and been some of the darkest and devastating. It normally has quite a bit to do with my relationship with Jesus in the midst of all this.

This isn’t a formula. Sick. Disgusting actually. My heart is to stay spiritually alert. There are a band of people praying, fasting, and giving money so Jesus can be treasured in Narnia. Janessa and I just want to do our part. So much of mission work is about being there and staying alive in Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times that just by showing up God has worked powerfully. I just popped in at an apartment. . . sipped some tea and been connected with Christ. Priceless moments.

And we all know the opposite of all this. Those times when we try to force things. Force spiritual conversations. Force ourselves to be godly. We end up pretending because we’re not full of Jesus. And those are the roughest times in our lives. In those moments m marriages end. Porn becomes more appealing. Greed and jealousy set in. We’re crazy. Everyone is wrong except for us. Oh, I’ve never experienced this, but someone told me about it once. Yeah right. I’ve lived days and weeks in this darkness and it isn’t fun.

So here we go again with a renewed commitment to the Word and to prayer. I’d love if you joined with me in the 3 month Bible reading thing and trade stories. That’s all I’ve got today.

Language Learning Plan

It is crazy to think that in just a few weeks we’ll be set up in an apartment in the capital city of Narnia studying language several hours a day. When we took our trip to Narnia last year we met a couple teachers that seemed to work well with us and will likely stick with them as we go. Janessa and I will have separate teachers since our learning styles are quite different and are at different levels with our Narnianese. Janessa prefers a very structured environment, doing lots of drills with lots of repetition and writing. I just assume to freestyle – drop me down in the middle of a conversation and see if I can survive. Together in learning with such different personalities and styles would only frustrate us. So yeah – the segregation of the sexes is sometimes a good thing.

I have learned lots of new technology that makes my life easier now that I’ve lost most of my eyesight. I use a talking computer, talking phone, and use braille or audio software to read books. I also have this special camera that takes a picture of any printed document and reads it back to me. Perhaps the coolest machine I have is a refreshable braille display. I hook it up to my laptop or connect it via bluetooth to my phone and it takes the printed text and puts it in braille with a display about the size of and Ipad. It raises small pins to reflect paper braille. It is super compact and will refresh as I near the end of each line and proceed to the next. Wikipedia refreshable braille displays. You’d be amazed. I was. All that to say, I have a lot of gadgets to assist in the language learning process.

That being said, there isn’t a great deal of literature available in braille Narnianese nor will it be very advantageous to use it on a daily basis. So, I will have to focus exclusively on oral communication. I can get my computer and phone to read Narnianese with its audio settings, but no actual braille. Janessa however, will definitely be focusing much more on literacy and hopefully develop a level of proficiency.

My dad asked the other day what our days may look like in this process. We both hope to set up our schedules where we’re actually doing our lessons and classes at roughly the same time. We’ll have 3 hour classes followed by studying our notes as well as interacting in the community. This will be our life for the first 3 to 6 months in the country. Since we have developed conversational Narnianese we are hopeful this goal isn’t to expedient. If it is, we’ll stay in the capital city longer before moving out to the farm. For us, this process isn’t a hurdle to jump over but simply life in Narnia. It is this process of learning to talk easier and bonding with those we are serving that will deepen our understanding for years to come in the country. I think we are both quite eager to jump in and get going.

We understand from our Narnian friends in the US that making friends and hanging out is not difficult. Obviously, the city context will present a different challenge as most of our friends who are Narnianese speakers who live in the US grew up far from the capital. Anytime you are in an urban context anywhere in the world people like to try out their English on foreigners. That will be no different for us. We just have to stay disciplined and focused, engaging in as much conversation as we can.

I still remember the moment I had three or four years ago sitting on the couch at a Narnianaese family’s house in our former city in the US. I was sitting with dear friends, all of whom worshipped a different god than me, and most of whom I couldn’t communicate with. I had the thought, “If I don’t learn the language, my friends may never know the story of Jesus. Ever.” That jolted Janessa and I into setting up classes with a tutor in our area and getting to this point. That feeling I had sitting on the couch that day is still as fresh today – that is the motivation. We want to be the best friends and neighbors to our new community that we can possibly be. That can’t happen without understanding each other.

So there it is for tonight. Feeling a bit anxious and excited as we know we’ll be blasted into a setting quite different very soon. Pray our Narnianese tongues will loosen up and we’ll understand the sounds of friends w’eve been hearing for the last 5 years in the US. Inching closer.

Living the good life?

I have been in vacation spot central with my parents and relatives for the last couple months. Many in the US come to this area to retire, sit on the beach, and live the good life. Surrounded by fantasy lands, majic, and palm trees are enough to make most hearts skip a beat. I will confess that this place is super-cool. Who wouldn’t want to be here for awhile? But nearing the end of our 2 months reminds us that it is time to get out of here. A friend of mine in college, borrowing from a Christian song that came out several years ago would say: “It is time to put on our God shoes, raise the flag again, do what we’re here for.” I can feel that. . . and I almost hear my friend singing that to me again.

Being with our relatives here has been so wonderful and we will have few moments like this again in our lives. We have been able to spend long periods of time listening, talking, eating hamburgers and pizza. . . normal family stuff. Pain, triumphs, and all in between have been shared with each other. With every bite of pizza, Janessa and I are conscious that our little village in Narnia doesn’t exactly have a local Pizza Hut.

Family has been something we learned from our Narnian refugee friends when we lived up north. I’m not sure we ever really understood hospitality and being there for one another until we met them (and for the record, I use the term “refugees” only to describe their newness to my own culture. . .this is not who our friends are nor is it how they want to be view. . they are simply friends) I feel like my own case study bringing that life into my relatives crib. So many reflections and worldview differences between the Narnians and my own blood relatives. Even worldview differences between Janessa and I and our extended family. Culture changes you over the years. Yet, I’m thankful that we’re all different and continue to learn how to live the good life. I guess at the end of the day the good life is about being a Jesus-centered family wherever you are and to whomever God takes you.

So living the good life in Narnia will be a bit different from this 2 month siesta we’ve been honored to have. We’ll be guzzling down tea, eating the same simple foods all the time, and speaking a language unheard on the beach I went to last weekend. The gifts and talents that stand out in us right now will again need to be laid down on the ground before Jesus. Our conversational Narnianese skills will be put to the test. But man we’re looking forward to putting the petal to the metal and driving this thing.

For us, Narnia is the good life. Not the beach. Not a golf cart and a martini. . . just hanging with new friends, learning to live life with them, and announcing and demonstrating as much as we possibly can that Jesus is King. One conversation at a time. One moment at a time. It’s time to live the good life. . . put on our God shoes and do what we’re here for.

Welcome to Our New Blog!

Many of you know that I have kept a blog for the last 8 years or so, but due to the sensitivity of our work, we have created this new space. We hope this can continue to be a good place to reflect upon our adjustments, language mishaps, and new friendships as we go. I will continue to try to be transparent, shaving off all the fluff and glory stories that typically surround mission work. I’m just an ordinary guy trying to live this out and welcome you to trek along.

Please bear in mind that we are using pseudo names, so most specifics will be camouflaged. Realize who you are talking to: I am Ty and am married to the beautiful Janessa. Please refer to us by those names in any comments that you make and do not post specific names of places where we serve. With that in mind, we can all remain free to talk about life, Jesus, and His mission.

Stay tuned for more as we head out in two weeks.