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Would they be welcome?

Last Sunday, I made a statement during the course of my message that could have made our church family a little uncomfortable. However, when I said it, not a single eyebrow was raised. It was as if what they heard was expected, or commonplace, or already understood. For that, I am profoundly grateful for the church family I have the privilege of serving, North River Community Church. I pray God allows them to see fruit from the ease with which they readily embraced this.

I shared with them a question I was asked a few weeks earlier during our Tuesday morning men’s Bible study. We are a small bunch, and while there is a structure to what we do, it is not particularly rigid, allowing for discussion, debate, encouragement, and questions, sometimes (ok, often) tangentially related to the text we are studying. That was the case when a brief discussion about a hot topic came up, leading to the question – “If a homosexual couple came to this church, would they be welcome?”

I answered that question for our church family on Sunday, and am expanding it a little here: Continue reading


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Unremembered places connecting with unreached people

What does a rural, rainy, timber community have in common with a dry, sandy, tree-less one?

Based on external criteria, nothing. Other than the fact that both the North River valley in Washington and the Republic of Niger occupy space on earth, there would seem to be little to connect the two. Yet in my mind, and now in our church family’s mind, that connection has been made.

When we began our journey with Village Missions, I wrote here about how a trip to Niger was one of the things God  used to nudge us toward pursuing Village Missions. Village Missions serves rural churches and rural communities that are unremembered. We are grateful to be serving with Village Missions and the people of the North River Community Church family, and the people that make up the North River valley. But, as a church family, we know that we are called to look and pray beyond just our community. Our family’s relationship with our sending church also means that we are in some measure of relationship with other missionaries that have been sent out from that church.

Our sending church has adopted an unreached people group in Niger, and they support a couple of missionaries and organizations that are serving there. Their newest missionary to Niger is a family that North River Community Church (our Village Missions church family) has decided to support. They are currently in language school in France in preparation for moving to Niger. The Durigas will be serving university students in Niamey (the capital) with SIM- for more on them, be sure to visit durigas2niger.wordpress.com

With this partnership, an unremembered place gets to watch as God works among unreached people. Our church family now knows where Niger is, and is regularly reminded that not only does God work here in our remote valley, but He is working around the world. Our partnership with SIM gives us windows to look through to see God’s handiwork, and particularly in Niger. There are lots of words I could type to show you the needs in Niger, but instead I’ll let a short video do that work (big thanks goes to the Durigas for posting this on their blog!) Please take the 3.5 minutes of your time to watch this, and join us in praying for God’s grace and power to be shown in extravagant ways.

 


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Will you pray with us?

I want you to look at that question again. I’m not asking you if you will pray for us. There is a presumption on my end that you are either: a. already praying for us, or b. would gladly pray for us if we asked. We treasure those prayers, and we thank you for them.

What I am asking you to do is to pray with us. On Wednesday night, March 20, the North River Community Church family will gather for our mid-week prayer service. I have made the somewhat bold statement to our church family that this prayer service may be the most important one we do all year. As we prepare ourselves for the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, we see it as an opportunity to reach, serve, and bless our community. Continue reading


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How Firm a Foundation

When we arrived here at North River Community Church in February, we noticed the church sign facing the road indicated that there was a Wednesday evening prayer/study service. It had been suspended for a period of time, and we prayerfully planned to restart it in the fall. Fall came, and on September 19th, we began meeting on Wednesdays to do just what the sign says – we pray together, and we study God’s Word together. What a joy to see the lights on at the church building at night!

For our study, we are working our way through the 2nd London Baptist Confession.     (Chapel Library is one of the many places you can find a PDF version of the confession.) Adopted in 1689, it is a thorough and succinct summary of doctrine. We’re using this as a basis to anchor ourselves well in orthodox doctrine. We spent a couple of weeks going through the first chapter “Of the Holy Scriptures” and just this past Wednesday we completed the first week of the second chapter “Of God and the Holy Trinity.”

One of the secondary goals of our prayer and study (the primary being, well, prayer and study) is to worship together through singing.We have begun practicing a “hymn of the month” approach. All that means is that every Wednesday night of the month, though some songs will be different each week, there will be one song that is the same every week. I swiped this idea from others (and I really do wish I could remember who it was I swiped it from first so I can give proper credit). For the month of October, that song has been “How Firm a Foundation.” I  have no intention of going through the history of that song  here – that’s why there is Google, so you can do it yourself. Rather, I’ll share the application of that song in our context, for which there are two:

1. We began by studying the Holy Scriptures and God. There are many songs that capture those two weighty matters, but this one jumped out at us most. This song reminds us that our foundation is indeed rooted in the Scriptures and in God’s revelation of Himself to us through His Word and through His Son. This song made for a natural transition from one topic to the next, while keeping the same train of thought.

2. I need the reminder this song promotes. I tweeted something snarky about the election not too long ago (about 3 hours ago at the time of this writing), and nearly immediately, “How Firm a Foundation” began playing in the soundtrack of my mind. It prompted me to consider Who my foundation is, where my foundation is, Who will carry me through trials, where my focus should be, Who is the subject of my attention, where is my confidence found.

At North River Community Church, we have been blessed to hear this song in a few different ways: with piano only, with 2 ukeleles, and with one guitar and one ukelele. Each time it is a delight. The voices singing this song out loud is as one resounding proclamation that our foundation and security is found in God and His Word. It is an even greater blessing to hear an informal choir of young children belting out this song as they learn to rest on God’s promises.

I found the album “How Sweet the Sound: Remembering Great Hymns of the Faith” on Covenant Life Church’s website, and was elated that there was a free download of the album (though donations are suggested and welcome). I enjoyed their version of this great hymn – this version sounds very North River-y to me. To get the album, go here.


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What we have learned

This time a year ago, we were in the midst of Village Missions’ candidate school, unaware of whether we would be accepted, and surely unaware of where we would be placed. This time a year ago, we hoped and prayed we would be placed here at North River, but we had no guarantees, not even the possibility was mentioned.

Fast forward to today, and we are in fact here at North River. We’ve lived in our new community a little over half a year now. At this point, the information that we have about living and serving here is exponentially greater than it was this time a year ago. We’ve learned that we can expect to be considered outsiders for a long time. A very long time. There are families that have lived here for 30 years, and they still feel like outsiders. We’ve learned that firewood is a big deal. We’ve learned every turn, every bump, every narrow shoulder (or absence of shoulder, as I discovered when a log truck was over the center line and my efforts to ease a former transit bus converted into a charter bus onto the shoulder were foiled because THERE WAS NO SHOULDER!) that exists on the 18 miles of paved road we live on. We’ve learned how to slaughter chickens. We’ve learned that the North River and its tributaries never actually get warm despite shallow depths and hot temperatures. We’ve learned how to pick apples, load hay, sort cows, band cows, and how to dodge cows when they charge you. We’ve learned chickens rarely actually cross the road. We’ve learned that deer and elk do.

Yep, I did this. Had some help from a log truck coming the opposite direction, not aware he was over the center line. And yep, that rear tire is completely elevated off the roadway.

We’ve learned to be careful with water during the dry months for fear of the emptying the well. We’ve learned that it is worth the extra effort to compute whether the need for a particular item is greater than the cost and time to drive the 30 minutes into town to get it. We’ve learned that if we’re out of something, usually a neighbor will have it. We’ve learned that here, “neighbors” are still considered “neighbors” even if they are 9 miles down the road. We were surprised to learn that raccoons have an affinity for dried garbanzo beans stored in the garage.

We have learned that this church has a rich history in the valley. We’ve learned and experienced the love of the church family here at North River. We’ve learned that there are many here who are excited about the gospel and the growth of the church. We’ve learned there are even more in the community who do not share that enthusiasm. We learned very quickly what it means to mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. We’ve learned the responsibility and urgency of being a missionary to the community, but also the accompanying joy that comes with being used of God to accomplish His purposes. Accordingly, we are still learning the high priority prayer assumes in being equipped for such a venture. We’ve learned the sacrifice of others who faithfully pray and give to support us being here full time, for which we are tremendously honored and thankful (and the people of our church share in that thankfulness).

We’ve learned firsthand the value of Village Missions’ philosophy of ministry – to preach the Word and love the people. We’ve learned that is not always easy, but it is always necessary, and at a minimum, always exciting (depending on how you define “exciting”). We’ve learned that there is still much for us to learn. We will endeavor in the weeks and months to come to share more of what we are learning and how God is working here in the North River valley.


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Thank you Lake City

As the clock ticks, we move even closer to making our move with Village Missions to Vesta, WA. There is a myriad of details to still work through – boxing up the rest of our belongings, loading the truck, getting the crew here to load the truck, finding the missing partner to the socks I keep finding, and so on.

We have been extraordinarily blessed on this journey by the care, support, and encouragement we have received from Lake City Community Church. We have attended Lake City for a little over 6 years, and served on staff there for 4 and a half of those years. We have benefited tremendously from the investment they have made into us, we have developed friendships that will last (hopefully!) a lifetime, and we have long considered them a part of our extended family.

As we near our departure date, Lake City people recently have blessed us tremendously. We had an army of women from Lake City come box up our belongings (with another episode apparently scheduled for Monday). The Miller’s very graciously opened their home and hosted a open house/going away party for us. Last weekend, the church commissioned us to send us out.

We really want to highlight the fact that Lake City is sending us out. If you are at North River, or if you are one of our very generous supporters, we want you to know that our ability to move to Vesta is in part (and not an insignificant part) the result of Lake City sending us out. They have been far more supportive than we would have dreamed of, both in terms of finances and prayer support. We have had the chance to share our journey with small groups from Lake City, and we have been stunned, overwhelmed, and delighted with their willingness to pray for us and support us.

We were given yet another chance to share our story at a Concert of Prayer Sunday night. We are honored to be a part of the largest group of missionaries being sent out in 30 years from Lake City – to the Grays, Bankes, Ayers, and Durigas, we consider it a privilege to be linked to you this way. Much prayer attention was given to us (as well as the Ayers, Bankes, and Grays), and in what is our last event as Lake City members, we came away encouraged, blessed, humbled, and honored.

So, Lake City family, thank you. Without you, I’m not convinced we would be doing what we are doing, and if we were, I’m sure we would not be doing so with the confidence that we are. Thank you for your love, encouragement, and investment into us. We look forward to the possibilities for future, strategic partnerships with you. As we have said over and over again, we’re within easy striking distance of you, so please do come and visit, but if you are not able, and are willing to pray for us, we will consider ourselves to be extraordinarily blessed (again!) by you.

We love you Lake City family, and we thank you for loving us back.


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At last, we can tell you

Thank you all for being so patient with us as we have hidden information about where we are moving to with Village Missions. At first, we knew where they were thinking about sending us, then that “thinking about” was upgraded to “would you be willing to serve here.” If you have followed us on this blog, my beautiful bride’s blog, or in person, thank you for not hounding us too much about where we are going. At long last we can tell you that we are moving to Vesta.

Photo courtesy of NASA at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/pia14313.html

Wait, let me get more specific. We will not be moving to the above asteroid Vesta, but rather to Vesta, WA. I tried to find pictures of Vesta, WA, but could not find any as easily as I could find pictures of an asteroid 121 million miles from Earth – do with that what you would like. Vesta (the town) sits just a couple miles south of Cosmopolis. If your western Washington geography is not honed, Cosmopolis sits roughly in between Olympia and the Pacific Ocean.

We will be serving at North River Community Church, which as you may have guessed, sits right near the North River (100 yards from the church property).

Preaching of the Word, with lunch and fellowship right after? I'm in!

We are beginning to learn about the community we will be living in – Vesta has about 400 people, with the towns of Brooklyn and Artic being smaller but close-by. The church is the only church in an 18 mile long valley (where the 3 towns mentioned above are also located). At this point, we don’t have much in the way of history of the church. We did learn that they have been without a pastor for close to 6 years, and currently the church attendance is 35+, though we have heard at one point that number was 12.

I’ve already had a couple of conversations with one of the individuals of the church, and if he is anything like the rest of the church (or rest of the church like him) we are going to really enjoy serving there. They are a tight-knit church family, eager to serve and bless each other, wanting very much to share the gospel with those in the community, and above all, proudly proclaim the name of Christ.

We are of course ecstatic. There is a much longer story, but the short version is that when I first pursued Village Missions, and when I learned of this church, I began praying and asking the Lord if He would consider sending us there. That was 6 months ago, and though we have to wait one more month, we are humbled and honored that we have the chance to serve there. Our first Sunday is February 26, so there is much to do between now and then. We’d be very grateful for your continued prayers for us. Even though we know where and when we are going, we are also trusting the Lord to bring in the rest of our support. We are very close now, say less than $300/month close. If you would consider partnering with us prayerfully and financially, it would be our privilege to have you on our team. Whether you can afford $5 a month $50 a month, every little bit helps. Hopefully now that you can see where we are going (and that it is a real place) you will be even more inspired to join us.

You can expect updates as we take further steps, either here or at rurbanfamily.wordpress.com, so stay tuned!