Moving to Seattle!

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As God led us back to America [from China] four years ago, we knew that He was in control and we continued seeking His direction for our future.  We were unsure of why He was bringing us back at the time, but but since then we have gained greater clarity to His purposes. Our experience in China changed much about who we are, how we see the world, and oftentimes the way we minister to others.  Trying to “pick-up where I left off” when returning to America was a very challenging experience.  Over the past four years, God has allowed me to gain much experience serving in different executive pastor roles. During that time, I felt that those roles were preparing me for something much different than what I was doing, but continued to serve faithfully.  Through our network of friends, supporters, and much prayer, God opened our eyes to the multitudes of Chinese people living in the Seattle area.  This initially peaked our interest as did the city itself.

We have been attracted to the city since we first visited 9 years ago, but mostly for our own desires and purposes. But the more we prayed and spent time in the city, the more we felt a great love for the people and a sense that God was leading us there.  He gave us a vision to see a gospel-centered, disciple-making community that loves and serves Seattle in God’s power, for God’s glory.

Over time, we have increasingly come under the conviction that what the city of Seattle needs is more gospel-centered churches planted in it’s midst. I felt the Lord leading our family to declare the gospel and make disciples in Seattle, but I knew that we needed help.

We left our church in San Antonio and began meeting with church planters and other experienced individuals that could help better equip us for what God was calling us to do.  Since we will be new to the Seattle area, we feel led to parter with other local church planters for the first 6-12 months to better position us to launch successfully with a solid Core Team and a better understanding of the culture. In addition, the North American Mission Board will help to provide us with one of the most extensive support systems anywhere, including prayer support, assessment, training, focus community exegesis, partnership development, coaching, advocates, planter networks, spouse networks, family gatherings, online giving, an administrative hub, block party trailers, portable baptistries, and more.

We believe God is moving in the city of Seattle and stirring his people for a movement of making and growing disciples by God’s grace, for God’s glory.  We feel compelled to join him in what he’s doing.

To read more about our vision, ministry plan, and needs, please download our prospectus.

For more information how you can get involved, please complete this form.

China 2016

It’s difficult to encapsulate the outpouring of God’s Spirit that we experienced in China this year.  But here is my 2 minute attempt. Thank you for your prayer support along this journey.  God alone continues to glorified.

愿天欢喜,愿地快乐;愿他们向列国宣告,‘耶和华是王!’
“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” 

1 Chronicles 16:31

China Update 5 – We Must Decrease so He Can Increase

During John the Baptist’s ministry, he was in the middle of an incredible work.  It was so powerful and evident.  The movement of God was being felt across the nation as people were curiously seeking after God for the first time in a long time.  It was then that Jesus came with his love and power.  John’s disciples came to him and basically asked…”Everyone is following after Jesus.  Is that ok?”  John replied with a profound statement…”He must increase and we must decrease.”  John’s final acts of ministry were so powerful and impacting, we still read about them today.  We closed out our camp week today.  Just as John’s ministry culminated in an amazing testimony of Jesus so was the work of God with our team.


Our final day came together with incredible acts of God’s power and love.  Kevin and I finished our time with the pastors and church leaders.  The presence of God filled the room as we prayed together.  He confirmed in our spirits that we are not alone in the work He has called us to.  His presence was so powerful that many began to weep for the people of China.  It was as if God let us feel what He feels for the nations.  Our work with these warriors was over, yet the work of Jesus continues inside of them.

Melissa met with everyone else and unpacked the full Gospel for them.  Each daily theme had been building, one on top of the other all week.  She had them write down a summary thought of this week.  They all wrote down a verse from Isaiah.  “Your thoughts are not my thoughts and my ways are not your ways.”  Afterwards, we all went caving and had a BLAST!  We cut up and laughed with our friends for one of the last times.  We finished the day with with a Chinese BBQ and camp fire.  Kevin shared a message from Psalms 23 which tied into the theme of the camp.  He shared about how Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd who wants to meet all the needs of their lives.  Susan, who we have been praying for all week, worked as his translator!  She was translating the message of the Gospel she is looking for!  After some singing, Susan shared where she was in her search for Jesus and how she has come to understand God is the source of love.  She is on a journey and still searching and we continue to pray for her. I closed the evening with prayer and a clear explanation of the Gospel.  It was a holy time…God was there.  We did this service in the open air next to the YuLong river with many bystanders around us, not afraid of the legal consequences.

After the service we went back to Kavanah to spend our last moments with our new family.  We all signed each others camp shirts and exchanged small gifts.  Kevin spoke with Susan afterwards and gave her some discipleship material and challenged her to continue seeking God.  She agreed and affirmed that Jesus was knocking on the door of her heart.

What a glorious time this has been! Our team’s work is completed, yet God has just begun!  We must decrease so He can increase and do the work that only he can do.

China Update 4 – The Enemy Attacks, God Prevails!

In my experience, whenever God is on the move, the enemy seeks to stop that movement.  The enemy knows when our powerful God moves, He is unstoppable.  At the very beginning of a true movement of God, our enemy throws everything he can at it.  Today the enemy sought to halt the work of God…yet His mighty hand prevailed.  We are victorious in Him!  Kevin and I spent 8 hours walking pastors and church leaders through the book of Ephesians.  The rest of the team broke off to prepare a block party for the village kids.  God was on the MOVE!  It felt like the warrior King sending his spiritual warriors into battle to further establish his Kingdom agenda in the nation of China.  Things were off to a great start!  Teams went out to complete different tasks to get everything ready.  How amazing it was to see our two separate groups unite into one!  They worked hard all day in preparation.


During the pastors conference, The Spirit of God was there as we took them through the book of Ephesians in great depth.  Equipping these great warrior pastors and leaders who put their very lives on the line for the Gospel…We did not feel worthy to even be at the table with these men and women who give so much at such a great cost.  It was amazing!

30 minutes before the children’s party the enemy came in like a FLOOD!  Literally…it began to rain.  We had to shift the location to a covered pavilion in a public park.  As we began setting up the party, the police showed up to shut us down!  Melissa was making calls trying to leverage her relationships with the authorities in the village.   In the middle of this their son Jamin’s blood test results came back on his liver. (Jamin had been in the hospital previously for liver problems.)  The numbers were the highest they had ever been!  He had come close to death before and now you can imagine the fear that overcame the family.  They immediately began making arrangements to get back to the hospital in Shanghai.

The authorities approved the use of the pavilion for the party and the teams did a fantastic job!  Families from around the village came and we had a blast loving on them. God used balloons, face painting, games, and songs as a beacon of love in this village. In the mean time, Kevin and I went to support Chis and Melissa and help them make arrangements to depart.

God’s word shows us countless examples of the enemy attacking and the Lord rising up against him.  So while the enemy attempted to thwart Gods plans, Gods power prevailed.  After the party, Melissa shared with the entire group what was going on. In the middle of these shaky circumstances, she trusts that God has not abandoned them.  The Chinese young adults (some that don’t even know Jesus) said, “Yes!! We know God has not abandoned you!”  We all circled up and laid hands on Melissa and Chris…and just prayed.  I opened my mouth and truly felt the Holy Spirit speaking though me.  The very presence of God was in that room.  After the prayer, we all began to sing our theme song Psalm 81:10….”I am the Lord your God. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it!”  The presence of the Spirit seemed to permeate the room.  This was a powerful testimony to everyone in the room, believers and non-believers alike. Whatever circumstances you face in the hands of the the enemy, don’t despair… our God is greater!

Please join us in praying for this pivotal last full day of camp. We see many students and translators being drawn by the Holy Spirit. What a privilege it is to be used by God.  Also lift up Jamin. He is in a stable place right now but we pray for healing.  Most of all, we pray for the glory of God to be clearly seen in all we do.

China Update 3 – Explosion of The Spirit

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During the the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testament it seemed as if God was quiet as if his activity had slowed compared to that of the Old Testament.  However, It was during this time that God was moving on a Global level to prepare the nations for his son, Jesus.  Then at the fullness of time there was this explosion of obvious supernatural activity.  The five months of preparation for our trip and these first two days of spiritual and emotional building seemed like the 400 years of silence.  Yet God was moving and getting everything ready for Tuesday! On Tuesday we experienced the EXPLOSION of his activity!  WOW! There is so much that happened it will be difficult to communicate it within this short blog post.  It began like any other day, but little did we know, we would experience the Person and Power of God in a very real way.  We got up and divided into groups; The Castle Hills group met to go over the day’s theme, activities, and to make sure we stayed focused on relationships.  The Chinese group met to discuss our camp verse.  “I am the Lord your God…open your mouth wide and I will fill it” Ps. 81:10.  They met to discuss how they viewed God and who God was based on this verse.  After they finished, we came downstairs and the students surprised us with a song they had written.  It was Ps 81:10!! They were singing it in Chinese and English! To hear the name of God on their lips…it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard!  What a moment!

Our planned boat ride down the YuLong river took significantly longer than expected due to strong currents, yet the God who knows all and created the currents knew what he was doing.  There was incredible relationship building and amazing conversations taking place between the Chinese and the Americans. God seemed to slow our time down to establish relationships for what he was getting ready to do.

During the planned afternoon rest time, a few of the members of our group sat down with our translator and had coffee.  Susan, one of the translators is not a believer but has been observing our actions and hearing our words and was very curious about our purpose. Over our two and half hour conversation, we were able to share the Gospel and personal stories of God’s love and provision within our own lives. Moved to tears, Susan said she was amazed at the love of Christians and it was something she was looking for.  She said God’s love seems so amazing and too good to be true. Please continue to pray for her!

In the evening, we went to a nursing home to love on the abandoned elderly people of the village.  We were all very uncertain and had no idea idea how this would go. Some were thinking…this is probably a waste of time.  The Chinese group did great at trying to visit but honestly many of us westerners weren’t sure what to do.  One of the people there explained to us that their families are busy and can not take care of them.  Very seldom do they have visitors.  It was obvious it was a place of loneliness for many of them.  After a short time, we made our way down to the courtyard outside of the building and in the distance I could hear the Chinese and Americans singing our camp verse song.  The Chinese were teaching the Americans how to sing it!  This nursing home was about six stories high and people were looking down over their balconies in curiosity.  It was one of those moments when you just know God is leading.  So through the translator we told these people that we came from America to meet them and sing them a song.   These people who are so lonely and feel abandoned heard these words being sung to them!  “I am the Lord your God…open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”  It was a Holy moment in which you could feel and sense the Spirit of God.  After the song we thanked them, wished God’s blessing on them, and that God would show them His Love.  We got together for a group picture and one by one Chinese people began to come down to join our picture!  They asked if someone could bring them a copy so they could have remember this moment.  We said..YES! Another opening of a new ministry opportunity here!

At dinner we divided into groups and the Chinese shared about who they believe God is.  They were very open in sharing about their desire to know God better. Some had been exposed to God and expressed a desire to know more.  Susan was in my group (the translator who we spoke with about Jesus).  Jasmine, one of the Chinese girls, quietly said she would like to share first.  Then spoke for over twenty minutes describing how she became a follower of Jesus and how the love of God drew her to Him.  Jasmine said at first, the love of God seemed “too good to be true,” but quickly came to know Him and experienced His changing her on the inside.  Susan’s eyes filled with tears as she translated Jasmine’s story!  Then ZoeYi, one of the Chinese boys, shared that he was also a believer and gave his testimony.  By this time Susan was just looking at me with understanding eyes!  WOW!  They both spoke of how difficult it was to be a Christian when none of their friends were.  It opened into a wonderful time of sharing…GOD IS ON THE MOVE here in China…but remember He is on the move in America too.  Look for His activity and be a part of His work wherever you are!

 

China Update 2 – The Sacredness of Time

God created time he created it in 24 hour increments.  The average person consumes time with very little thought to how much is left until it gone.  Time is something that we either want to speed up to accomplish tasks with more time or slow down to enjoy the moments.  On a mission trip time is measured differently.  Time is not measured by events, but by meaningful interactions with others.  The perpetual thought that should be on the minds of mission teams is; How can I have the most impactful interactions as possible that are sincere and filled with His love?  Every interaction…every connection is vital to establishing a trusting relationship.  The sooner trust is earned the greater the opportunity is for the Gospel to be shared in a meaningful way.  Today was all about those connections and trying to establish them.FullSizeRender-1

This day was so packed with incredible activity that one must be careful to understand that the activity is designed to bring about interaction and connection.  What an amazing day of connection and possibility!  Today was the first day with our Young Adult Chinese group.  It began with breakfast where our daily theme was introduced; How we see other people. The challenge involved each team going to 3 different locations and take pictures of people with the plan to present the best pictures with observations about the people. Our theme verse for the day was Psalms 80:10.  “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, If you will open wide your mouth I will fill it.”  So our challenge while we were going around town was for our Chinese friends to teach us the verse in Chinese and for us to teach it to them in English.  It was a completion between the girls and the guys.  So while we were seeing the incredible scenery of China…we were learning bible verses.  We spent four hours as we are walking, talking, and laughing for them to go over these versus with us!  While the incredible scenery was a beautiful…even more beautiful was hearing these people who do not know Jesus say His Words over and over.  Knowing that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  The seeds of faith are being planted and we were having a blast doing it.

The second lesson on the mission trip had to deal with our devotional we had first thing that morning.  We must often endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  The lack of some of the common conveniences, air conditioning, western toilets, different kinds of foods, uncertainty of cultural norms.  These can become distractions that often can create a discontent spirit.  A warriors greatest strength is not his physical strength but his toughness of mind and determination to accomplish the mission under any circumstances.  So we experienced all these things today as we sat down for lunch and ate different kinds of food, had conversation in which we were not always sure what to say.  As followers of our great commander Jesus Christ, these were great opportunities to practice our determination to accomplish His mission.

Lesson number three…don’t forget lesson number one!  It’s about the people.  The evening culminated in eating at an amazing restaurant and seeing an incredible Chinese performance with 500+ performers. The show was produced by the man who did the opening ceremony at the 2008 olympics. The show was spectacular.  However, the real show unfolding in front of us throughout the whole day was not one produced by the Chinese, but by the God of heaven. We are playing our part as we participate in His production with these amazing young people.

Please continue to pray for the focus of the team and the connections we are making.  The long-term goal of the week is to establish relational connections between the students (who are orphans in there 20’s) and Kavanah, as they open their arms with the love of Jesus.

China Update: The Making of a Team

This journey began over 5 months ago when 10 people were led by the Holy Spirit to go beyond the ordinary on an extraordinary adventure.  These people did not know each other but knew God was bringing them together.  This finally came to culmination on Friday, June 10, at 2:00 A.M at Castle Hills church.  We all met and departed to catch our first flight in Austin that would eventually get us to China.  These are the aspects of mission trips that no one talks about but are often the most important.  It is in these times of travel and transition that God who has physically assembled the team begins to emotionally and spiritually assemble the team as well.  The drive to Austin, the connecting flights, the 13 hour flight from Canada to China…yes lots of time to talk and begin to see why God assembled this team the way he did.  

Our first touch down in Guangzhou, China was amazing after months of praying for these people.  Getting off the plane and seeing thousands of Chinese people everywhere helps one understand what it means when Jesus looked upon the multitudes and was moved with compassion.  We stayed at a hotel at the airport before our last flight the following day.  Ten of us huddled around a table eating food we were unaccustomed to eating some of it delicious and some of it….interesting.   
The next day was one full of anticipation and excitement as we headed for the airport.  Our flight was delayed by two hours because of bad weather. However, believing in a sovereign God makes us evaluate things that seem like accidents and wonder how it fits into his amazing plan.  During that two hours of waiting, you could see the relationships on the team continuing to grow.  The unity of this travel experience has been critical for the work that God is going to do.  If we can’t be unified then how can we give a unified message of the love of Jesus.  We touched down at our final destination and were greeted by Chris and Rayna (Chris & Melissa’s daughter).  We traveled to a small village nestled in the middle of the mountains along the YuLong river to Kavanah House Ministries (which means intentional prayer).
Kavanah House Ministries is comprised of a house of prayer and retreat lodge for weary ministers of His heart in Asia. Kavanah has 10 guest rooms used for orphan ministries, university outreach to the local students in these mountains, conferences for local pastors, and training for tentmakers and missionaries all over Asia. Chris and Melissa, along with their two children, Rayna (3) and Jamin (2), have been serving as tentmakers in China for more than a decade and have just recently transitioned into full time missions to open Kavanah.There are endless ministry opportunities in this unique tourist attraction because of the breathtaking scenery and opportunity to experience the preserved charm of ancient China here that is next to impossible to find in most places in China today
Please pray that God will do something so amazing that it can only be explained as His work.  Please pray for tender hearts of those we are working with and that their hearts will be moved by God’s Spirit. Lastly, pray for boldness and wisdom to do the work He has set aside for us to do, in His name.