Thursday, April 30, 2015

Two Two Year Olds!

Today is Liberty and Nehemiah’s second birthday.  Who would have thought that two years with twins could go so fast?  This day two years ago is easy to recall…when my water broke at 4 am and we headed to the hospital in anticipation.  As soon as I was admitted and prepped we headed to the OR and Liberty was born at 8:30 a.m.  Nehemiah was a little more comfortable inside, so it took him an additional 35 minutes to make his arrival!

Both twins love to swing!

Now that we’ve been through several stages with twins, I would say in a heartbeat that two newborns was a piece of cake!  Once they became mobile, life changed.  Did you know that it’s possible to lose two toddlers in 800 square feet?  It happens regularly!  The approach to age two has been more challenging, but more rewarding at the same time.  Strong wills and sinful attitudes are rampant, and harder to deal with when they come in doubles!  But watching them interact as a team, start to speak words, and discover their world has been exciting.

Little movie bugs!

Liberty.  She is a bundle of mother-ness to Nehemiah!  She tattles when he is messy, in trouble, or doing something she doesn’t like.  “See!  Mommy!  See!” tells me that she thinks he is doing something wrong, and she wants me to know it!  But at the same time, she joins Nehemiah when what he is doing looks fun or exciting.  She says, “No!” and “’top” (stop) to him regularly. 

She has quite the entourage behind her – and they all have to be in just the right spot for her to go to sleep!

Liberty loves baby dolls.  She is always toting one around, especially when she is moody.  She speaks well in sentences and phrases.  “Let me go” is a phrase we hear a lot – usually because she is supposed to be holding our hand, but doesn’t want to.  Everything usually starts with “I” instead “me” or “my”.  “I juice” means she wants her juice – and she does know which color cup belongs to her!  Another phrase we hear a lot is “bite me!” – yes, Nehemiah is a biter, and Libs gets the brunt of it.

IMG_7989 (2)
She hates to have anything in her hair.

She is more pouty than her twin, but also very cuddly.  When she wakes up in the morning, she wants hugs and snuggles.  She seems to prefer Grandpas over Grandmas, but she snubs Ben in favor of me.  She is a comfort eater, and her “fat little belly” shows it!

2015-3-27 Cake for Supper! (9)

Nehemiah is a total boy.  He loves balls, cars, and especially trains.  Any truck, bus, or heavy equipment that we see on the road is stared at until out of sight.  Everything is a sound, and we regularly hear “Neigh! Moo!  Choo-choo!” and other announcements from the back seat.  He is starting to put words together very clearly.  Yesterday it wasn’t enough to say that he had juice to drink, it was apple juice

img_8065He’s all about hats right now!

He is very attached to balls, and especially loves to kick them.  I think he might be a soccer player!  Nehemiah takes after Grandma in that he is left-handed, and Mommy in that he is a klutz.  His forehead usually has at least one bruise on it!  Falls and bumps hardly phase him anymore, and are usually greeted with “a bump!” and fixed with a kiss.  He doesn’t like messy fingers or grass between his toes.

Learning to play billiards!

Everything liquid has been “juice” for quite a while, but last week Nehemiah told us emphatically he wanted “milk”.  He likes just about anything that has to do with food, especially if it starts with cookie or ice cream.  Amazing how it doesn’t take them long to learn those words!  Another new word is “nack” – snack!


Nehemiah loves to sing the B-I-B-L-E too!  To him it goes, “B-I-B Bible!” announced in a deep voice.  His favorite books are Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Go Dog, Go!

Perhaps the cutest thing Nehemiah does right now is call his sister by name.  To him she is “Dobadee.”  This has given him the nickname “Dobadoo” from Daddy.  He is known for bopping her on the head with a toy when they are squabbling over something, but he regularly crawls into Liberty’s bed to sleep with her.

Liberty LOVES the water but Nehemiah hates it!  It took a lot of coaxing to get him to go in the water slide at the hotel in MI.  But he did go in for a closer look!


This is how Nehemiah passed most of the evening at the water slide!

I often get overwhelmed with all of the requests that come my way, at the same time.  But I also often just sit and watch these two play, interact, and live while I smile and take it all in.  They are so busy, so curious, so much fun.

We haven’t taken two year pictures yet, but hope to do that this week!


It’s A…

Baby #5 Gender Announce jpg


Only 16 weeks left to go.  Baby Boy is healthy, and breech!  Today is Liberty and Nehemiah’s 2nd birthday.  They loved their balloons, but they’re a little clueless about the reason they received them!  {Birthday celebration coming next week…Daddy is out of town today!}

I had this idea to reveal the gender to the kids with balloons, and to take a picture in order to announce it to our friends at the same time.  However, I learned that balloons and kids don’t mix with un-blurry pictures!  We had fun!




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is Deputation? Part 5: Living on the Road

One of the hardest parts of deputation for me is living in the van.  Everything we need has to fit in there (glad we have a big one!), and stay organized.  I would add that my preference is for it to stay clean as well, but traveling in the snowy months, having four little kids, and all of the stuff in the van makes it difficult to clean out often.
It was hard to decide what we would need for three months, and what we could do without.  These are a few things we did to make our life on the road a little easier.
I packed four play outfits for the kids, and two church outfits.  Some weeks this is too much clothing; other weeks it is not enough.  We have two kids who still wet the bed sometimes, and two toddlers who are messy eaters.  This often makes for a lot of laundry!  But thankfully, we have only had to utilize a laundry mat a couple of times.  Most of the time our host family has a washing machine they allow us to use.  (This definitely makes me pray harder for a washing machine in the Bronx!)

A friend told me to put a set of plastic drawers in the back of the van, like a dresser.  We have three duffle bags we pack with our overnight necessities.  This keeps us from carrying everything inside at each stop.  (But I still feel like we bring in a lot of stuff!)  I just refill the bag each day.  We also have a clothes bar which helps a lot, especially with dress clothes!
I keep a small box of “extras” in the van – toiletries, razors, laundry soap, travel iron, stain remover, dish soap, tissues, etc.  I’ve been grateful for this box many times!  We use travel size bottles to take into the house (less weight), but I refill them from the box when the bottles run low.  I have one bag of puzzles and toys and books that we take inside if the host family doesn’t have any toys.  The kids each have a small backpack in which they got to bring a few small toys, favorite book, and “best friend” to sleep with.  Most of the time the backpacks and toys stay in the car, and my kids enjoy a new set of toys at each stop!

One thing we bring along which isn’t really a necessity is the kids’ blankets.  They each have a favorite fleece blanket.  It is something that helps keep the bedtime routine consistent, even when the layout of the house and the bed is different at each stop.  We also pack our own nightlights in case the host home doesn’t have any.
I am looking forward to summer travel when I can leave behind the winter coats, snow boots, and snow suits.  They take up a lot of room!
We are very grateful for the DVD player my parents had installed in the van.  It is especially helpful when we run into traffic and the kids get antsy because we aren’t moving very fast.  It gives them something to do in the car, too.  (And it means less crayons, stickers, and toys that mom is picking up off the floor!)
It isn’t easy to live on the road constantly.  I am more and more excited as we closer to settling down in the Bronx.  But living on the road has helped me to realize how little it really takes to survive.  We are so blessed to have so many nice things, but they aren’t necessary to still enjoy life!
So that’s it…Deputation “in a nutshell” (otherwise known as five parts!)

Monday, April 13, 2015

What is Deputation? Part 4: Traveling and Presenting Our Ministry

When Ben is booking meetings, he tries to schedule churches in a reasonable proximity to each other to minimize travel.  At the beginning we stayed in New England so we could travel there on the weekends and Ben could still work his job during the week.  Since February we have been in the Midwest, west, and Great Lakes states. 
When it comes to lodging, many churches have a “Prophet’s Chamber” or guest house/apartment in their church.  This is helpful to us with small children because it leaves us free to set our own schedule and routine.  Other times a family in the church hosts us for the night(s) and provides our meals and lodging.  We usually have very good times of fellowship with our host families, and it allows us to get to know the church people much better.  However, it does limit our options with schedule and meals which can be more challenging with the kids.  Sometimes a church puts us in a hotel.  This is probably my least favorite option, because we are usually all in one room, and there are lots of expensive things for the kids to mess up or break. 
We have stayed in all kinds of places!  We don’t have anything to complain about, but some stops have been better than others.  Sometimes we are all in the same room.  This is challenging to put the kids to bed and not disturb them when we go to bed.  It’s also hard to get up before the kids and have devotional time.  Sometimes a family gives us the entire basement or another section of their home.  This allows us to spread out a bit and settle in.  We have stayed in church basements with lots of spiders, and very nice apartments.  I have learned a few things about what makes a good guest room, and I hope to write on that sometime soon.

Our display table - minus the banner

Once we get to a church (or sometimes the week ahead), we ask the pastor what he would like us to do and what order of service to follow.  This means we have to be flexible – because again, every church handles their services differently!  Usually, Ben begins by showing our 8.5 minute DVD.  He follows it up with a short time of Q&A.  Some churches use the whole time period with questions, others hardly make a peep during this time!  I usually give a short testimony as well.
Ben usually preaches at least once at each church, but sometimes it is more of a devotional thought depending on how much time he has left in the service.  Some churches have him teach Sunday School and preach the AM and PM services, other churches only have us participate in one service period.

We fill in other gaps as needed – I can play the piano or do a special music/offertory number.  I teach Children’s Church if the pastor wants us to.  If the church has a Christian School, Ben is usually asked to speak in a chapel period.
The church wants to get to know us as well as possible if they are considering partnering with us in the ministry.  If we are at a church during a mission’s conference, we often eat with several different families, speak to several different classes or group within the church, and spend as much time with the church people as possible.  This is the best part about deputation – getting to know other people, and make valuable friendships around the country.  It helps us because we know they will be praying for us, and it helps them to better know their missionaries in a personal way.
The point of all of this is to help other people get a feel for our field of service, and to catch a glimpse of our burden for New York City.  We ask people to take a prayer card and sign up for our quarterly update letters so they can stay connected with us and pray for our ministry.  Many times the Lord has led someone to donate specifically to a need we have.  The church usually gives us an honorarium for speaking, or takes up a special “love offering” to help meet our travel expenses.
When our travels take us farther away from a center base, we fill in the gaps on our own.  We stay in hotels or with friends.  We eat in a lot of restaurants, or pack a PBJ “picnic”.  Eating out used to be a treat – it is now closer to a drudgery.  I look forward to the home cooked meals loaded with vegetables!  The Lord has always been good to provide our needs, and we haven’t lacked anything!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mount Rushmore

Last week in between meetings, we took two days to "splurge" on a family "vacation."  We saw Mount Rushmore and knocked that off Ben's bucket list.  We also drove through the National Park and saw all kind of wildlife.  Elaine wanted to take a cave tour since we had just learned about them in school, so we went through Wind Cave National Park (the world's 6th longest cave!).  We also visited the Mammoth Site and let the kids see fossil excavation. 
We were concerned that our day at Mount Rushmore would be too windy to be enjoyable, but it ended up being perfect!  We enjoyed hiking the Presidential Trail, though half of it was closed for construction.  (That's what we get for coming in the off-season - everything was under construction!)  However, the half that was open ended up being 850 steps round trip!  We made it though, and Nehemiah did every step himself! A LOT of help from Mommy (and she sat a lot too).  So...I hiked for three!  It wasn't exactly the kind of hike that Elaine had in mind, since it was a lot of steps.  Her attitude perked up a lot when we stopped in for ice cream at the end of the trip.


She wanted to stand on the wall like Elaine did.  Nehemiah wanted NOTHING to do with pictures or the wall!

He made it to Mount Rushmore!


Up Close & Personal - they have very large nostrils!  This is Washington and Jefferson

Roosevelt and Lincoln

As we neared the end of our hike, we looked up to see a family of mountain goats crossing the trail in front of us.  They ran right over and jumped up on the rocks and watched us continue up the steps.  It's amazing to see them standing on the side of a steep rock without falling! 

Resurrection Sunday

Last week we spent Resurrection Sunday in Williston, ND.  It is on the tail end of an oil boom, but the signs everywhere still said "Welcome to Boomtown USA."
Ben presented our ministry in the Sunday School hour.  We enjoyed fellowshipping with the church family throughout the rest of the day. 
Elaine was excited to have made a special treat during Children's Church.  They rolled large marshmallows in a crescent roll and baked it.  When they bit into their dessert, they tasted the sweetness of the Resurrection, but the marshmallow was gone!  I have wanted to make Resurrection Cookies with the kids for a couple of years, but it requires making them on Saturday and eating them on Sunday.  I thought this was a creative illustration of the empty tomb that could be done in one sitting as a Children's Church object lesson!
The girls had matching dresses from Grandma, and the boys  looked as handsome as they do every week.  ( new clothes for the boys!).

This was in the hotel lobby...and there were a lot of people coming down the steps, so it was hard to hold their attention!

Last Easter we were in WI for our Mission Board orientation, so we were not with the kids.  This is the second year in a row we have not been in our home church for Easter, but I was happy to at least be together as a family this year!

Blue and yellow it was this year!

Friday, April 10, 2015

What is Deputation? Part 3: The Phone Calls

This is how we go about scheduling meetings…
We start with a list of churches.  We currently have over 700 possibilities in our database (not including the ones who have already told us “no”).  We began with churches that we know personally, or have a personal connection to.  Having graduated from Bible College, we know friends serving the Lord all over the world.
Next we take the list of churches (sorted by state) from our Mission Board and begin to sift through them.  This list gets outdated very quickly as churches grow, merge, change pastors, move locations, etc.  So we look up each church on the internet to verify the information.  If they don’t have a website, we usually eliminate the church.  From the website we look at the church, the Pastor, where the Pastor graduated from, what kind of programs the church has, read the doctrinal statement, listen to the pastor’s sermon (if needed), and check out their list of missionaries.  Since Independent Baptist Churches are, well, independent (autonomous), each one has a slightly different view on certain issues of doctrine and separation.  We want to make sure the churches we are calling and visiting are in line with our position on these issues.
Once the list is whittled down, Ben begins to make phone calls.  Sometimes he calls close to 100 churches in a day!  Most of the time he gets an answering machine or leaves a message with a secretary.  If it is a good calling day he gets to speak to a lot of pastors directly.  After we call, we send a digital information packet about our family and ministry in NYC.  Then Ben follows up with several more phone calls until he gets an answer – “yes” or “maybe” we can have you visit, or “no” we aren’t taking on any new missionaries.
Ben told me the stats are that for every 10 calls you make you might get to speak to one pastor.  For every 10 pastors you talk to, you can probably book one meeting.  We have been in a different church just about every Sunday and Wednesday for a year.  We are at 40% of our support, but several of our supporters are individuals.  We have five supporting churches.
Each church supports their missionary at different amounts, so it is hard to predict how long deputation will take or how many supporting churches we will need.  We were told the average for graduates from Ambassador Baptist College is 18 months to two years.  The average for our mission board is about 3-3.5 years.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What is Deputation? Part 2: The Mission Board

Many missionaries choose to use a Mission Board or a Mission Agency to assist them with their pre-field and on-field ministry.  There are many independent Baptist mission boards.  Some missionaries are simply sent by their local church.  Many “home missionaries” (those who are staying in the US) do not use a mission agency.
We chose to use Baptist World Mission as our sending agency.  They currently serve about 170 families (or 320 adult missionaries) around the world.  They assist our sending church and help us make decisions regarding our deputation and field of service, with the approval and guidance of our pastor. 
There are several reasons to utilize the aid of a mission board. 
1.  They help with paperwork and finances.  Our mission board handles our finances and files our social security taxes.  We send an expense report and they help us maximize our tax deductions.  They know the current laws and regulations.  The home office also takes care of receiving our support money from churches, and then dispensing it to us at the right time.  This also provides financial accountability and gives the donors a tax-deductible receipt. We do pay them a small monthly fee to help the home office stay up and running, but the services they provide us are worth far more than we pay! 
2.  If we were going overseas, a mission board would help with medical insurance, and securing visas and residency permits.  They also have plans in place for emergency evacuations and assistance. 
3.  The mission board provides name recognition and vetting.  We had to go through an extensive application and approval process.  The mission board examined our doctrinal positions and made sure we were physically fit for service.  Since most of the churches we contact don’t know us from Adam, it helps when we can say that Baptist World Mission has approved us as missionaries.  Then the church can know more clearly if we would be a good fit for their ministry.  The mission agency takes a clear stand on many issues, and if the churches know where the mission board stands, then they can know where their missionaries stand. 
4.  The mission board provides advice and guidance from experienced missionaries.  We have field representatives who oversee the missionaries in different locations around the world.  These men (and their wives) have served as missionaries and can draw wisdom from their experiences.  This is valuable to us as new missionaries! 
5.  The mission board keeps us accountable.  They help to oversee and administrate things like our quarterly prayer letter.  They make sure we are staying in communication with all of our supporting churches.  They also require ministry reports to make sure we are doing our job on the field and that the ministry is progressing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What is Deputation? Part 1: A Definition

I have been posting a lot about our deputation travels and progress.  It recently occurred to me that I probably have quite a few followers who don’t really know what I’m talking about.  So I wanted to write a good, detailed explanation.  It will probably take several posts to give you a realistic idea about what deputation involves.
Deputation: noun – a group of people appointed to undertake a mission or take part in a formal process on behalf of a larger group.
That’s the dictionary definition.  We are essentially being “deputized” by our mission board and churches around the country to represent them in a particular field of service.  This phase of deputation comes prior to field ministry, and could also be called “pre-field” ministry.
We are independent Baptists by denomination.  However, as independent Baptists we believe that each church is autonomous, {you know - independent}.  Therefore we do not have a convention, board of directors, or hierarchy appointing missionaries and making these decisions for us.  
During deputation, we seek out churches of like faith and practice (other independent Baptist churches), and we ask them to partner with us, both in prayer and financially, to help us get to (and serve on) our field of service.  That sounds pretty easy, but it is actually an involved process. 
It involves many phone calls, detailed scheduling, and personally presenting our ministry and burden for NYC in other churches around the country.  We ask them to pray for us.  We ask them to consider financially supporting our ministry (thus investing more of themselves in reaching our particular field for Christ).  This process of deputation takes a while - 2-4 years for most missionaries that I know. That's a long time to be on the road - especially with children!
But, because all of the churches in our denomination are autonomous, they each have their own set of practices and procedures for things like appointing and supporting missionaries.  The pastor and the congregation choose the manner in which their church will operate.  So for each church we contact, we go through a different (yet very similar) procedure in order to be approved, to be invited to present our ministry, and {hopefully} to be supported by that church. 
Some churches have a questionnaire they want us to fill out.  Some churches only accept missionaries from certain colleges or mission board (in order to aid in vetting a candidate which is otherwise unknown to them).  Some churches only invite missionaries in for an annual mission’s conference.  Some churches have one missionary per month/quarter.  Some churches vote in the service whether or not to take you on for support; some churches only vote on missionaries with their annual budget.  And then of course, each church has their own policy for how much monthly support they commit to each missionary.  This makes a lot of variables that we are working with!
Next time I will take you through the process of scheduling churches.

Wordless Wednesday

Some highlights from our trip (vacation from deputation) to South Dakota...

Little Man kept busy in the car by sticking ladybugs all over his face...

Nolan & wild, wild west guys

Liberty wasn't happy with all of the steps at Mount Rushmore.  She threw quite the fit.

A real buffalo, up close and personal, in Wind Cave National Park

This old caboose was near our hotel in Hot Springs, SD.  Totally made Nehemiah's day when we let them climb aboard!

The "boxwork" is unique to the Wind Cave (world's 6th largest cave).  No stalactites and stalagmites, though!

North Dakota (or South Dakota?)  It all looked the same.  Deserted and flat.  We ate lunch by the side of the road - no rest areas or bathrooms or gas stations for miles!