Thursday, August 18, 2011
Getting outside ourselves and our routine and realizing there's a world much bigger than us out there. Just one of the many reasons why we're committed as a family to serve elsewhere as often as we can.
A year ago, a dear friend of ours asked us if we'd consider going down to Ensenada Mexico with their church in Idaho who partnered with the missions organization YUGO for a mission trip. The trip was financially taken care of for our family, and the only condition was that we pray about whether God was asking us to bring our church here in Spokane down in the future. Kind of a no brainer, right?!? Abby was thrilled to once again be able to travel to another country and get to experience with her boys (all three of them) a rich culture that is different than our own. James was thrilled to get to go to a new country and be able to be a participant in a trip rather than lead. Sam was excited to be playing soccer with the kids. JJ was excited to get to ride in an airplane again and work a hammer. We all were excited to serve a family who desperately needed a home and kids who desperately needed a smile. It was an incredible trip, but it was a life-changing experience for our family. We were so convicted that THIS is a large part of how God has called us, as the Lemans, to live our life . . . serving on mission . . . as a family. Needless to say, we knew God was calling us back to Mexico, and we decided we'd love to include our church in the opportunity. 13 others said yes!
So, on October 30, 2011, a group of 15 of us will be flying down to San Diego where we'll pick up our rental vans and make our way across the border for a week. We'll be building a house for a new family, and partnering with the same church that we went with last year from Idaho to put on a VBS. We know missions. We both grew up as missionary kids. This kinda sounds like a "canned" mission trip. But canned or not, it's effective. We're called to serve the poor. We're building a house for people who live in boxes on land they finally are able to own. We're called to preach the Gospel. The Gospel is preached to those we serve, with the help of translators. We're called to care for the orphans and widows. Most of the kids we do VBS with are left to themselves with maybe one adult to "supervise" for 18 hour days while their parents are in the fields working, earning less than $10/week. We are called to build up and encourage. We play pictionary in the dirt because it's funny and it's the most effective way we can communicate because sadly we never bothered to learn their language, and buy birthday cakes for someone who's never had one, and share testimony and worship in a church with other brothers and sisters who we'll spend eternity with. We're called to go and make disciples of all nations. We're not just going to another nation to make disciples of their people, we're bringing our people with us to another nation to make disciples of our own! This trip will be life-changing for many people, both in Mexico and here in Spokane. And we wonder, will it be life-changing for you?
So many people read things like this and think, "they just want money". Yep, it's true, We're gonna ask you for money, but, we're gonna challenge you too. Most people will read this and think, "must be nice. Wish I could go do something like that! Being a pastor (or his wife) has its perks!" First off, being pastor (or his wife) is really hard, and if you want to trade, well sorry . . . we're blessed with this burden! But we have not just Mr. Pastor and his family going. We'd go anyway even if he wasn't in this job. We have a nurse named Kim, an 8 year old named Sam, a high school student named Ken, a college student named Kourtney, two seminary students named Riley and James, two hairstylists named Kim and Corissa, a baby named Emilee, a techie named Scott, a manager named Jeff, two guys who test oil named Justin and Robert, a 5 year old named JJ, and a mom who homeschools named Abby. God can use ANYONE!
Second, if you even have an inkling of excitement reading this, what's stopping you from going on a mission trip of your own? Believe me, you'll always have a thousand excuses! There will never be the perfect time or have all the money just sitting there. It's always hard to ask for time off. It will always be inconvenient, and there will always be scary, bad, and violent people lurking in foreign countries. But for everyone one of them, there's thousands of really incredible people with stories to be heard and shared. And guess what, God gave you a story too. And there might be someone in Mexico, or Romania, or Haiti, or Africa, or inner-city Denver, or somewhere that needs to hear your story. So get out there where it's uncomfortable and scary and really freakin' amazing! Because I promise you, you'll come back a different person!
So, we have to raise a bunch of money for this thing. Our whole team does. It's just over $1000 for each person to go. So our family needs to raise just over $4000. The team has 15 people going (but one is free b/c she's an infant)! So that's a lot of money. We're doing the fundraiser stuff- we did the garage sale, the car wash, the bake sale, and we're doing a dessert night, haircuts, and a Mexican Fiesta. And we're selling prime real estate for Mexico. We're selling square feet of the house we'll be building for $10 a square foot. If you would like to help us get down there, let us know! We'll send you info of where to send a check. When you decide to go yourself, let us know so we can send you a check!
Above is a picture of our team. We took it last night at our team meeting. We're just normal people who are in all different walks of life who decided God said it was time to go (or go again) to Mexico so we can see what He's doing there and see how we can join in. Hopefully you'll partner with us, because that would be a little step towards going yourself! Pray for us! Pray for our team! We have old and new Christians, and some that are trying to figure out what that even means! If you want some real Mexican vanilla, let us know and we'll bring some back for you! We'll update this as we get closer and tell you about the family we're going to build for! We can't wait to meet them! Until then, know you're loved!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Monday, January 11, 2010
Bruce- in the warmer months he lives under an evergreen tree at the park. It's one that is overgrown, thanks to the city, and the long boughs keep him sheltered from the wind and rain. In the winter, he usually finds a shelter to stay in. We've talked to Bruce off and on over the last 4 years. He jokingly says he's employed by Waste Management, meaning he goes through people's trash looking for cans to recycle or food to eat. Bruce began drinking when he was a young boy. His mom provided the alcohol. Bruce still has dreams. He has a family that wants to have a relationship with him, but he doesn't want to shame them, so he stays away. Unfortunately, the local Dairy Mart right across from the park recently got their alcohol license, so now he doesn't have to walk so far to get his mind-numbing poison.
Bruce's friend- I don't remember his name, but he and Bruce are often found together. They protect each other, give each other someone to talk to, and share the few possesions they have, one of which is a radio where I can regularly count on them listening to NPR or talk-radio and catching up on current events. I ran into them outside of Albertsons a few weeks ago. Being as it's winter, I haven't recently seen them at the park. I was getting out of my warm car to stop and pick up a DVD from the Red Box so James and I could have an entertaining evening. He was coming out of the store, and a flicker of recognition crossed his eyes as he saw me. I greeted him, and he asked if I had .34 cents. I asked what for, and he said for a beer. I told him no, but if he wanted food I'd buy him something. He said, "no thanks, we have food stamps, but they don't pay for beer". He didn't try to lie or scam me into getting what he wanted. He kindly said thanks anyway and walked away.
Backpack Girl- I don't know her name, and have actually never talked to her. But I see her walk by my house several times a week, presumably on her way to the community center, the bus stop, or the Native American Community Center nearby. She walks with purpose, but has the stance of someone with the weight of the world on her. Rarely do I see a smile or even see her face looking up. This morning though, as she was walking by, she stopped and started running the other direction toward my house. I got up to see what she was doing. My elderly neighbor two doors down was walking her dog, and had tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. Somehow Backpack Girl saw this, though her head was down, and ran to help Miss Bernice. I hate to admit that my neighborly hackles went up as I saw a stranger running toward my elderly neighbor, but what I saw was an arm to help, a pat on the back, a kind word, and a smile. A touch of human kindness, and an act of human decency from someone most blow off as discardable.
(to be continued . . .)
Mine was grape growers in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Hundreds of acres of vineyards to make raisins or concentrate for wine. The structured vine rows, the warm sand between your feet, the dust, the smell of the earth, the heat of the sun. Now they've included almond trees. Oatmeal cookies, carrot salad, nutritious snacks, dinner or dessert wine, almond paste, almond butter, raw almonds, the list is endless really as to the uses of these crops. Planting, pruning, mending, fertilizing, watering, waiting and harvesting. Migrant workers to employ and manage, equipment to maintain and rent, schedules to follow, weather to watch, market prices to pray over. Will the rain destroy the crop, will the fertilizer burn the fruit, will the new vines take root?
James' was commercial salmon fishermen in the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. Work came for about 6 months out of the year. Nets to be mended, boats to tend to, crews to set up and manage, trucks to maintain, clams to dig, agates to find, fishing traps to take care of. Silvers, sockeyes, pinks, clams, and the prize-- a King. Fillets, chowders, pies, canned. Small fishing village out of the way of nearly everything but sheer beauty. Salty fishermen, the clock dictates the catch. To the tenders to be weighed, to the canneries to be processed. Will the fish come this year, as it's all we have for the rest of the year. Paid annually after the season was over. How much can we scrimp and save and stretch?
These are the roots from which our families come, and our roots sink deep. But are they partially severed? Both have grandparents who made their entire livelihood from these trades. Both now have uncles who keep them going, but find work elsewhere too. America has been blessed with land that has fertile soil and can produce generous fruits, and vibrant waters that yield life-giving fish. Yet because of money and politics, those hard-working tradesman are losing their livelihood because corporations buy outside our country and the government regulates everything. But what of the next generation? Will my kids know the importance of these trades that helped raise them? Will the family farm and fishing sites last? Will our children ever understand the quite literally back-breaking hard work and sacrifice required to earn a living and provide for their families? Will they ever know the simple and slower pace of life that comes with working with your hands? Or, will they choose jobs that pay more, require less, aren't as inconvenient? Will they succumb to the society in which they're raised with an entitlement mentality and me first attitude? Please Lord no!! May the rich tradition of our families, not just in faith, but also in work-ethic and sacrifice be passed down to us and our children so that our roots will never be forgotten or wither off and die!!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
They've been together for almost 70 years. High School sweethearts- him shy and studious, she outgoing and playful. "I thought he was the cutest thing I'd ever seen!" was the answer she gave of the first time she saw him. She had to ask a teacher to borrow a classroom so he'd have a chance to ask her out because he was too shy to do it anywhere else. He, the high school quarterback and 4-H champion, she, the social butterfly who could care less about school. Marriage (he had to get parental permission to marry her because they weren't old enough), pregnancy, and then drafted for War. She had her dad drive her down to say goodbye. He snuck out to have one last night with his girl. Boot camp then the Philippines. She and their baby boy lived in a one room tank house on her parent's property. A year and a half later, he came home and met his son, my dad. He bought land, and they began to settle down. Grapes was what he grew. Raisins is how he earned a living. More babies came; another son, a daughter, and a daughter. Tragedy struck- a trash fire and a twirling can. One daughter and sister who will never be forgotten. One year later to the day, a gift of another son. The family is complete. Farming and child-rearing is how they spent their days. Church, family gatherings, and trips to the coast and the cabin became great memories. Being together was prioritized. So was working hard. So was loving other people. So was loving Jesus.
The kids grew and made lives for themselves. One became a teacher and a missionary. One a pharmacist and farmer. One a coach and lover of life. And one a farmer and family historian. All loved Jesus passionately. The two became grandparents, and they were loved dearly by their grandchildren. 7 they had total, 3 boys and 4 girls. Summers swimming, grand occasions celebrated, family meals cherished, and fun always had by all. They could always be counted on to love you! Tragedy struck again- this time with cancer. It was a long battle with many ups and downs, but daughter number 2 taught all of us the meaning of living life to the fullest, and in the end, dying with the dignity and beauty that fully encompassed her. Drawn together again, they grieved and celebrated a life with those still living. There were hard days, but together they saw them through. Imagining how parents bury two of their children is beyond my comprehension, and yet, they did, and are more refined because of it. Very slowly, age began to creep in. Her knees, his eyes. Her mind, his tolerance. But still they lived and loved. Traveling to visit family, hosting friends, playing games - dice was their favorite, taking moments with their children and grandchildren to show their love. She, always ready with a joke, funny saying, or a hug. He, always willing to listen, wrestle, or teach. Both, uniquely different, yet I can't imagine one without the other. 65 years they've been married. They are the embodiment of how God designed marriage, as they've truly become one.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
We sang, we reflected, we communed, we listened to God's heart, and we sang again . . . all the while, we worshipped. Pastor's were thanked, gifts were given, applause was heard. And joyfully, the Call was made. The Call to serve. The Call to love. The Call to lead God's people. The old church: full of mature saints and tattooed babes; bursting with life under the age of 35 and over the age of 60; ministering to those seasoned in the denominational dogma of the Free Methodists and those who identify more as spiritual mutts; drawing in those desperate to be known and authentic and not lost in a crowd; now has a 30-year-old man who longs for God's heart as their pastor. Support, affirmation, encouragement. Prayers raised, tears shed, weight felt. Humbled, honored, ready, joyful.
On Sunday, November 1, 2009, James was officially appointed as Senior Pastor of our church, First Free Methodist. I still am amazed at how God brought us to this place, and James to this position. I remember while we were dating, when James finally allowed God full control over his life, that God began planting in James the desire to pastor. Perhaps it began even earlier as a young child listening to his grandpa preach, believing every word was spoken just for him. Though that desire has waxed and waned over the last 12 years, often more because of me or our culture than because of James, it has been clearly evident that James received his vocational calling long ago. What a joy to be in God's will and see it carried out to completion. There is much work to be done in us still, but it is rewarding to live in obedience to the One who is doing the work. May we carry this mantle well, relying solely on our God who has Called us.
Monday, September 21, 2009
. . . is busy these days-- not really earth-shattering news to anyone as they are all busy too! But here's a little recap of what God has in store for the Leman household this fall, and what He's been doing this year.
James began seminary at George Fox University full-time this fall. It's mostly an online/cohort modeled program, but he does have to take an occasional trip out to Portland for it. He continues to love his work at our church. He is still the Associate Pastor but is continually taking on more and more responsibilities. He is excited to help the church enter a new phase in its life. We count it a true joy to be able to be involved in people's lives during joys and crisis' that arise, and being able to share Christ continually through those experiences! James still bikes regularly, and is really excited about some new shoes he recently got. (This is a big to-do b/c he never buys things for himself unless it's outdoor gear). He was thrilled to be able to finally share with me part of his heritage earlier this summer by going up to Alaska for his cousin's wedding!
Sam began Kindergarten at home this fall. He absolutely loves it, but his favorite subjects are Science and Math. He sees 2 of his best friends almost every other day as they're in the same homeschool PE class together and they're also in the same Co-op. He is enjoying soccer again this fall and is one of the oldest on his team, so he's enjoying his role of being the big kid and encouraging the younger ones. About 2 months ago, he told us he had a dream to buy Bibles for people who don't have them, especially kids, so we told him we'd pray with him for a special gift to come to our family so he could start doing this. God answered that prayer and now we're helping him figure out what this ministry could look like. What an encouragement to see child-like faith! We're excited to see that be nurtured through AWANA this year! He turns 6 in 3 days!
JJ continues to enjoy being a JJ. He is talking so much more now and often has very funny expressions to share with anyone who will hear him. It's a joy seeing his personality emerge especially since it's a stark contrast in many ways from his brothers. JJ too is enjoying Co-op and getting to be with the big kids. He tells almost everyone he says goodbye to that he'll miss them. We pray we won't squelch that tender heart! He too loves soccer, and though he isn't officially playing this year, he is a very devout team mascot that enthusiastically participates in all the drills. It's been fun watching him learn to swim as well. The boy has no fear of water, so we figured we'd better teach him how to navigate well once he's in it! JJ's our little dancer and loves almost any kind of music! Though his intake has slowed down, food is still a top priority for JJ! He also has deemed himself the family meal pray-er! He turns 3 in about 3 weeks!
Abby is on the go a lot lately it seems! I am thoroughly enjoying homeschooling, even more than I thought I would! I am so grateful for the Co-op that we were asked to join! It's an answer to prayer for me to have a group like that to both take and receive from! I have very much enjoyed quality time with my best friend since college over this last year in many different ways, including getting to homeschool our kids together! She and I and another college friend decided to meet regularly as women/moms/wives/friends/daughters/christians about a year ago, and the time has been so precious to me! In all honesty, my soul was quite lonely for some time before that, and to have their friendship and authenticity has been huge!! I'm still involved in church but am trying to get the leadership roles off my plate! Due to James' job, it works better for us to have me as a volunteer, which is perfectly fine by me!! I really want to get a Boxer puppy but the timing isn't quite right yet. We had a fantastic family vacation with my best friend and her family on the Oregon Coast a few weeks ago! Seeing that part of God's creation does wonders for my soul!
Well, my part was longer than the boys, but since I'm writing it, that's my prerogative right? Though we're busy, we're at peace, and not just a circumstantial peace, but a peace that comes from deep faith and great trust in the One who has control over it all! And we're never too busy to hear from or have visits from friends!
Friday, September 11, 2009
So I recently came to the conclusion that I am in love with love. I love everything about it! The tingly way you feel when you're discovering it, the heart pounding joy you experience when you've found it, the disappointment and heartache when it's gone, and the complete security and freedom you treasure when you give yourself fully to it. Love really is a beautiful thing.
You know the little kids who can't get enough of their best friend and want to spend every second with them? Love. How about those teenagers who truly believe they can't go on if separated from their companion? Love. Or the couple who looks in each others eyes as they promise forever in front of everyone they know? Love. The look parents give to each other after gazing at the beautiful life they helped create? Love. The shed tears because the one person who has complete power of you was momentarily thoughtless. Love. The mom holding her daughter's hand while she gets her chemo treatment. Love. The couple who struggles through counseling because they are committed to each other and making their marriage work even though they're scared to death. Love. The letter that's wrinkled and damaged at the edges so that one could have a link with another again and again and again. Love. Or the dad who takes his son on a solo camping trip just because. Love. The couple who cries alone because their dream of holding their child has yet to be realized. Love. The couple who grieves for their aging dog because he's only ever given them joy. Love. The aged couple who still holds hands and are comfortable in each other's silence. Love. The man who visits his wife's grave and still brings her flowers even after she's gone. Love.
Two of my absolute favorite places to go are airports and hospitals. I seriously get excited every time I go to either of these locations because they are places where people run a huge gamut of uncensored emotions, many of which stem from love in some shape or form. I truly count it a privilege every time I witness a display of love. Even if those displaying it are imperfect or not healthy, I find that when I see it, I am catching a glimpse of my Maker and what He intended to be a good thing.
Does that mean it's always easy. No. I think those people we love the most are often the most difficult to love, because in order to truly love them, we have to give up ourselves, which isn't easy or popular. Often the things that really hurt us are because we love deeply. It's inconvenient when the neighboring car cuts you off, but when you get cut off by your spouse, it's much more than inconvenient- it's painful. When I discipline my boys, I don't do it because they disobeyed me and my pride's been pricked; I do it because I deeply love them and want the best for them which often means pointing out and correcting when they've done wrong as much as it hurts both them and me.
I know that not every love works out for one reason or another. I do wonder though how often love is given up on because of a feeling involved rather than a choice to be made. People will always disappoint each other, but Love never will. Maybe that's why so many give up on love because they've never let the Author of it into their relationship in the first place. It's hard to navigate something in which you know nothing about. I am grateful that when all is said and done, we haven't been left alone to come up with the rules of engagement, but have been gifted with the play book, and even more importantly been gifted with the gift of love!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sam and James bought Nemo when JJ and I went to North Carolina to visit our good friend Beth while her hubby was on his first deployment to Afganistan. 2 1/2 years later, it was time to say bye, and at the end Sam's doing all he can not to cry. They wanted to bury Nemo under our new Quaking Aspen tree so he could help it grow!