Lessons from being tested by ambiguity: beginning to reflect

I'm tired.  I've been sitting here thinking about how to begin this email update, trying to think about how to communicate how we're thinking and feeling after really starting to get settled now that we have a house. The more we get settled, the more we realize how unsettled we have been feeling the last few months/ couple years. There are times that I begin to reflect upon our experiences of the last couple of years and the lessons that God wants us to learn from, but I get tired just thinking about it. It's still too early to really dig into our experiences and fully debrief and learn from them I guess. I assume that we'll be able to share these lessons with you in the months to come. For now, we can say that God has been good to us.

We've learned more about how willing God is to allow his people to go through testing and pain. Yes, he does it for His glory, their character development, encouraging others, etc. The question is: when you and I experience prolonged experiences of pain and/or ambiguity, will we continue to believe in God and His promises?

God wants us to believe.  Period. The events of our lives are arbitrary in comparison to God's goal of moving us towards greater degrees of faith. The details of our lives matter to God, I'm not suggesting otherwise. My point is that sometimes the events of our lives don't make sense and sometimes we stress about decisions too much thinking that there is one "right" decision when there are several "right" decisions in reality. Sometimes God allows us to choose among more than one good option, sometimes he wants us to choose one particular option. He wants us to believe. Sometimes he lets us experience physical, mental, and emotional blessing and comfort in life. Sometimes he lets his people be persecuted and literally slaughtered. God allows it.

Wait. God exists, is good, is all powerful, and yet allows his people to be slaughtered? Or die of cancer? Or have their child be mamed or kidnapped? Yes. That's kind of a cruel picture of God. Not my picture.  It's how it is. It's what's written in the Bible and what God's people have experienced and continue to experience. Life in this world has its beautiful moments. It also has its moments when you'd prefer to have never been born or to not be alive any longer (not in the suicidal sense). Frankly, it doesn't matter whether you're sipping a century old fresh white wine at a terrace cafe in the Alps with a breathtaking view or dragging yourself home after being lashed for persisting in your allegiance to Jesus Christ, what God wants is your faith. In Him. What He's done, who He is, what He says.

God led his people through a desert for a generation to test their faith. Then had them commit genocide through war with those who occupied the promised land. He was testing their faith. Christ was slaughtered because our faith mattered so much to God. Jesus promised that his people would experience trouble and hardship and that some would be slaughtered in much the same way as he was. Following Jesus is bloody. Get used to it. Stop wasting time on stupid stuff. Stop whining about things that don't matter. Believe in God. Believe in God. Believe in God. Believe in Jesus Christ. Believe in His Word. He spoke and had His words written. He came to this earth in the form of a man. He shows Himself through the preached Word of God. Believe. He wants your faith whether you're in the midst of good times or bad.

How are the kids adjusting to school in the Netherlands?

Please pray for perseverance for all of us, especially Max and Alana, about learning Dutch and getting the kids integrated into the Dutch system. Max and Alana are in the most challenging adjustment period in which the exciting "newness" of attending a Dutch school has worn off and they're faced with the realization that learning Dutch and in turn developing deeper friendships will take some time. Max is a bit ahead of the Dutch system in his reading ability, but that's reading in English, not Dutch. The Dutch system progresses in a math a bit quicker than the US system so Max is having to catch up a bit in that area. Almost all of Max' class is in Dutch and about 80% of Alana's class is in Dutch and the rest in English. They both also meet with a tutor a couple times a week for half an hour in order to get one-on-one Dutch lessons and to keep up academically with their class while they learn the language. The kids seem to get along well with their classmates and Alana has had a couple of classmates ask her to play outside of school. Max has yet to be asked and we presume it's because the kids are older and therefore not being able to communicate in the same language yet makes it harder to relate than at Alana's age, not to mention that Alana's class is learning a bit of English. The kids sometimes express how they enjoy school, sometimes tearfully say they don't want to go, and sometimes talk about how much they miss their friends in the US and the Philippines, their old schools and using English in school. Max has said that he wants to go to a Christian school instead because he is allowed to talk about his faith more openly.

We were a little surprised when Max walked down the stairs with his backpack in one hand and Bible in the other.

"Can you help me find some verses?" he asked Susanna and I.

"Sure, but why do you need help looking for verses?"

"Well, last Friday I asked my teacher if I could read some verses from my Bible to my class and she said that I need to wait and maybe soon I'll be able to.  I want to bring my Bible in case my teacher lets me read"

"What kind of verses do you want to read?"

"Well, I want to share the Gospel, so what verses should I read?"

Susanna and I smiled at one another, prayed to ourselves and proceeded to recommend five verses to Max.  We wrote one reference on each of five post it notes and then had Max place them on the appropriate page in his Bible to mark the correct page.  We prayed with him and then brought he and Alana to school.  They attend a public school without any religious affiliation.  The Dutch public school system has schools that are explicitly Protestant, Catholic, Muslim (very few), or nonreligious/secular oriented.  Apparently it makes no difference to Max, he'll share the Gospel with anyone and everyone regardless of the affiliation of his school since, "They need to know about Jesus saving them from their sins."

After Max came home from school that day, he shared with us that his teacher allowed him to read his Bible in front of his class and briefly explain the Gospel while his teacher translated.  When he was finished, his class clapped for him probably for being able to read in front of his class and also being able to read in English.  Max was glad to have been able to read the Bible and explain the Gospel to all his classmates, and we suspect that having his class clap for him was a helpful means of encouragement and acceptance as well.

Even though Max was allowed to do this one time, his teacher has asked him to not be so vocal about his faith and has told him "No" when he's asked again to read verses to his class. We learned from a school administrator who is responsible to integrate new families into the school that Max' teacher has mentioned his commitment to sharing his faith and asked the administrator about whether she should allow Max to read his Bible to his class as he asked. The administrator learned through Max that we are missionaries and so she reached out to us to say that she is a committed believer and is part of a church plant in a city about 30 minutes away.  We're thankful that God has placed this woman in a key position in the school, that she is the primary contact at the school to help us get our kids integrated into the Dutch system and into that school in particular, and that she shares our commitment to Jesus and sharing him with those around us. We're not sure exactly what she said to Max' teacher so that Max' teacher allowed him to share his faith so explicitly and publicly with his class, but we're thankful for it and for her.

We're thankful to see our kids grow in their faith and join Susanna and I in our commitment to share God's love with our Dutch friends and neighbors and for God opening doors for them to do so!

Wrestling and letting go

Just after we sent out our May email update, a few things began to sink in and in turn we had an internal wrestling match.  At that time we were still planning to depart in early July for Europe.  While God was bringing new partners and new donors for whom we are so thankful, we were not reaching our recurring support goal as quickly as we had expected.  We had travel plans for May and June that would limit our ability to continue support raising and in turn reach our support goal in time to depart in July.  At that time, the Dutch government indicated to us that they would take longer than expected to get back to us about just the first of three steps in the visa application process.  We began to think about having to say, "Goodbye," to friends and family in the US and began to grieve.  Moreover, we were concerned that any further delay (we've already been delayed twice) in our departure could cause problems for those involved with temporarily overseeing Pioneers Europe until we can move to Europe and rebuild the organization.  Not to mention the effects of any departure date change upon my family.

In addition, we recognized the many other potential ministry opportunities for our family here in the US near extended family and friends where we wouldn't have to experience the challenges of ministering cross-culturally (learning a new language and culture, being away from family and long-time friends, etc.).

I didn't question God's character, including His ability to bring together the details for us to be able to move to and minister in Europe.  There was not a question about our willingness or ability (God-given) to persevere through whatever challenges we were facing and will face in the future.  I was considering the questions of how God wanted us to move forward: Were these bumps in the road God redirecting us to get involved in another ministry or at least another ministry role?  And regarding support raising: should I work harder than ever on it until we leave in July (as expected at that time) and probably become burnt out in the process?  When we were preparing to return from the Philippines to the US last year, we felt that God wanted us to become much better at our human part of the partnership development (prayer and financial support raising) process while continuing to ultimately depend on God to bring in the necessary support.  Many of you have mentioned in the last few months that you have noticed improvement in how we develop support relationships and how we tell the stories about what God has done through our family's ministry.  For various reasons, such as unexpected Pioneers Europe work, not because of laziness or ineffective methods, we haven't reached our support goal quite as quickly as we expected.  We've been planning to be at our support goal by end of April at the latest and then spend May and early June on Pioneers Europe prep work, and then June until we left in early July on visiting family around the country, recovering from a busy ministry season of support raising and Pioneers Europe prep, and then packing and making the many final arrangements to move to Europe.

In summary, at the beginning of May, we wrestled with making sure of God's leading in regards to a particular ministry and with resolve and motivation to continue on that path.  Was and is God able?  No doubt.  Are we willing to endure whatever he brings our way?  Yes.  Crush us if you will God, but please make it count for your glory.

During the second week of May God seemed to be nudging Susanna and I through what we read in Scripture and through prayer that I should stop approaching new potential partners and focus on the other things that I we had planned for May-early July when we were scheduled to leave.  We have a handful of churches and individuals who are considering supporting us who plan to decide in June about whether they will support us financially and they could help us meet our support goal by the end of the month, but maybe not, we'll have to see how God leads them.  That same week I met with the father of a close friend of mine in order to share about our family's ministry and invite he and his wife to partner with us.  I had found my conversations with him over the years very encouraging and wondered if this conversation might prove to be the same.  This man is a retired and very wise and experienced Christian counselor.  I expected to spend one hour with him, but instead ended up talking for five.  He began the conversation by saying something like, "As I prayed last night about our conversation today, I sensed God might want us to deal with other issues besides just discussing your family's ministry."  It was essentially a therapy session that God used to release me from several unnecessary burdens, to "Let go" of all our concerns, including about pursuing new partners for the time being.  He summarized our support situation by saying, "I believe you that you've been diligent and faithful, like you say you've been, to do your part to reach your support goal.  New/increased support has been coming in during the last couple of weeks but not at the rate that you expected that it would.  You have other things that you need to spend your time and effort on besides developing new partners and the thought of continuing to put as much effort into partnership development as you have been, in addition to making all the necessary arrangements to move to and minister in Europe, does not give you peace.  And, actually pursuing that course of action would burn you out before you even move to Europe.  Therefore, it seems that God is actually withholding the support and the visa in order to teach you some things, including that he wants you to let go of some things.  So, let go!"

Wow, I was deeply moved by these words and they seemed to me to be from God and a confirmation from him that I should stop pursuing new partners for now, and just focus on following up those who we have already invited and all of the other things that I need to during May and June.  Some other lessons that were summarized and confirmed during that conversation:

  1. Related to support:
    • Before returning to US and while in the US the previous few months: work hard and effectively to raise support, all the while prayerfully trusting God to move in people's hearts to partner with our family's ministry.
    • How God wanted us to work on support starting early May: while God normally brings fruit through our hard, faithful, and effective work, sometimes he wants to bring fruit through our rest and letting go.
  2. I need to let go of the sense that I am responsible for the challenges associated with the missionary life that my family experiences.  God wants each of us in our family to experience these challenges and wrestle through them.
  3. Remember often what God has done and be encouraged accordingly.  God has worked in the Philippines, he's always been faithful to our family, and he has already brought in a majority of our support goal for ministry in Europe!

I walked away from that conversation with a great burden lifted from my shoulders.  I had to fight over the next few days to "let go" of the things that I sensed God wanting me to, but God refreshed us after the previous weeks of wrestling that He wanted us to experience.  In addition, Susanna and I sensed in our hearts that God gently and quietly said, "First, I quietly led you to commit to leading Pioneers Europe and I haven't slammed that door closed yet, so keep moving in that direction.  Second, your motivation to continue to pursue this ministry opportunity is my glory and the desire to complete the specific ministry to which I have assigned you."

If there were any unhelpful motivations in our hearts up to that point of time, God pruned those off.  The high quality of life in Europe, the higher profile and greater influence of this new ministry role, the potential to disciple churches and individuals into missions involvement, even the desire to reach the unreached is not motivating enough for us to continue pursuing this ministry.  And they shouldn't ultimately be what motivates anyone.  It's not wrong for them to be minor motivations, but aren't ultimate motivations.  We've experienced too many challenges, including delays and the many effects that these delays have on our family, and raising a significant amount more support.  The pull to live and minister near our family and long-time friends is too great for any earthly motivation to cause us to continue to pursue this ministry role.  So what is motivating us to continue to pursue this ministry?  First, we want God's glory.  Second, we believe God wants us to glorify him by obeying him, and during this chapter of our lives he is quietly and gently leading us to obey him by serving as leader of Pioneers Europe, regardless of the challenges that we will face in the process.  Regardless of all of the other good opportunities that we could pursue, but that God doesn't want us to pursue.  He wants us to raise support, in spite of or because of the many significant challenges associated with it, and we see it as a privilege to minister to others in this way.  We are able to share about what God is doing in the world and through our family's ministry, and invite people to have a serious conversation with God about their budget and whether God wants them to include our ministry in their budget.

This has not been an easy 18 months of our lives.  But, God has been very near during the challenges and has been growing and pruning us in very significant ways.

For God's glory, and His glory alone.

Shared the gospel with a Dutch guy a couple of weeks ago

View of the old church at the center of Utrecht from a cafe where a Dutch guy and I discussed, "Who is Jesus and what is the Gospel to you?"

View of the old church at the center of Utrecht from a cafe where a Dutch guy and I discussed, "Who is Jesus and what is the Gospel to you?"

I found myself walking along the canal in Utrecht, Netherlands for a couple of hours on May 21st.  I asked a Dutch guy who happened to be a banker for cafe suggestions and we ended up spending the next couple of hours together walking along the canal and eating lunch while he acted as an informal tour guide.  We then began to discuss Christian history and how this town fit into that history.  This then led us to discuss our personal beliefs.  I was surprised that this man very openly claimed to be a Christian but had some quite eccentric beliefs.  I eventually asked him during lunch at a canal side cafe, "Who is Jesus and what is the Gospel to you?"  It seemed like he understood the gospel but he had an unusual way of expressing it.  I then asked him about evangelism and outreach and he didn't seem to have any interest in that.  We eventually had to part ways, but he gave me his address before we parted and said to contact him after we finally moved to the Netherlands.

I spent three days in the Netherlands to narrow the search down for a house and schools for my family and to meet with my board and then five days in Poland for a conference with 600 European Christian leaders from all types of ministries and businesses to learn about what God is doing in Europe, how Pioneers Europe can best serve around the continent, and network.

A couple of days after I arrived in the US, I went to a gym and talked with a guy there that I've been getting to know a bit the last couple of months.  During my workout I asked God for an opportunity to at least begin to talk with this guy about Jesus.  Thankfully the opportunity came when I explained that I had been traveling in Europe during the previous couple of weeks for ministry.  He said that he is an atheist, but grew up in an evangelical church and even went on short term missions trips while growing up.  I was able to share about a (very) brief time in my life in which I questioned the existence of God but then eventually came around to continue believing that God exists, and that he is who he says that he is in his Word.

My family and I look forward to many more conversations in Europe like the one I had with the Dutch guy.  The conversation with my friend at the gym is a confirmation that God wants to use us in people's lives wherever we are during this transition process.

I'm Interim Managing Director of Pioneers Philippines

New Pioneers Philippines staff members that I (Mike) appointed a couple of weeks ago.

New Pioneers Philippines staff members that I (Mike) appointed a couple of weeks ago.

I'm filling in for Buddy, the Executive Director of Pioneers Philippines as he takes bereavement leave until end of July.  I will also continue as the Chairman of Pioneers Philippines for the next couple of years, even after I leave the Philippines.

I am thankful for the opportunity to orient the new staff, pray and plan together, create all of our processes and documents, develop new donor and church partnerships and begin to meet with applicants who want to serve longterm through Pioneers Philippines in places like Indonesia, Japan, and Central Asia.  I hope to have the organization in good shape by the time Buddy returns at the end of July.

I did not expect to have this role just before I leave the Philippines, but God sometimes surprises us.  I've actually never officially served in this position, but am thankful to get some experience before I head to Europe since I will fill the executive director role for Pioneers Europe.

Do You Want to Advocate for Us?

Can you also please consider advocating for us?

**The following facts will greatly encourage and motivate you!**
-Our monthly e-newsletter is sent to about 300 people and about 50% of the recipients open our emails.
-Moreover, research shows that 60% of people who are asked individual-to-individual to support a missionary family or ministry will join the support team.
-So, if each of you who are reading this at this moment share about our ministry with 4 friends and ask them to get our updates, pray for us, and donate $10 per month, at least 2 will commit to doing so.  
-If each of you are able to get 2 friends to pray and donate $10 per month to our ministry, then we’ll have $3000 more per month in donations and 300 new prayer partners!

So, maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t want to beg my friends for money, that’s weird.”  Well, we used to think that way as well.  When we raised support before left for the Philippines six years ago our thinking changed and it has changed further over these last six years.  So, why do I have the audacity to ask you to advocate and get your friends to pray and give to our ministry?  There are two simple reasons:


1.  As I have researched marketing and fund development for my executive roles in Pioneers, my thinking has changed even further about my own partnership development and we’ve become more humble and courageous about it.  After all, people can raise millions of dollars to save three-legged cats and dogs, so surely we can raise enough money for our personal and ministry expenses in order to send missionaries to save hundreds or thousands of human souls.  I believe that this is the best way that my family and I could spend our lives at this time.  God called us to this, and I humbly (truly) believe that investing in our ministry is one of the best investments that a person could make.  I’m not comparing with other ministries, there are a lot of great things that God’s people are doing around the globe, my point is simply that we believe in our ministry and think that it is worth your and your friends’ investment.  How often do we encourage our friends to go spend money on a new Starbucks drink, or a great new movie, or the latest smart phone?  How often do we encourage our friends to invest in God’s kingdom by praying and donating in a trusted friend’s ministry?


2.  God designed His kingdom so that certain people would be set apart for full-time vocational ministry (Levitical priests, certain local church elders - aka pastors, and missionaries) and most of them would depend on God’s family to provide the necessary financial (and other) resources.  Why?  The full answer is too large to include here.  But, the main reason is that God wants to force dependence among his people and force his people to together depend on God.  The following diagram illustrates what I’m getting at:


God calls the church to set apart certain people for full-time vocational ministry.  Those ministers then pray and ask God who to share the need with and how to share.  Then the minister has the privilege of sharing about his/her ministry with potential partners and challenges the potential partners to ask God if and how they might support the ministry.  The potential partners are challenged and encouraged in their faith as they learn more about God’s work in the world and ask God if and how they can be involved.  What a privilege to share about God and his specific work through our ministry with others and to encourage others to talk to God about making an offering of prayer and financial generosity to God’s work through vocational ministers!  So, we’d like to extend the privilege to you to bring your friends before God and pray for them and with them, and encourage and challenge them to pray and give to our ministry.  The diagram below shows what we have in mind:

Process:
1.  Pray about and decide which four (or more) friends that you will share with about our ministry and challenge to seriously consider praying for and donating to our ministry.
2.  Either arrange a meeting with each of your four (or more) friends or introduce us to your friend by email, Skype, Facebook, or another method that you prefer.
3.  Share about our ministry with your friend.  Either check out our website, or contact us for more info about our ministry if you don’t feel like you can competently share about our ministry.
4.  Specifically ask your friend to sign up for our updates, to pray, and to donate $10 per month.  When you ask, also set a date that you will follow up with them about it (a couple days is usually best).  Of course give instructions for how they can sign up, keep updated, and donate.

When Will We Move to Europe?

Read below to get an update about our transition from the Philippines to Europe.

Read below to get an update about our transition from the Philippines to Europe.

“What’s the deal with your planned move to Europe?” you might be wondering.  Maybe you’re not wondering that, but we’re wondering that for ourselves at least.  Well, the best news is that God knows.  He’s the only one who knows at this point, but at least He knows.

A little background muna (look that word up at translate.google.com): last September the International Director of Pioneers Philippines asked us to prayerfully consider moving to Europe to lead Pioneers Europe in order to recruit, prepare, and send continental Europeans.  This could include first leading "a certain Pioneers office in Europe", then merge Pioneers Europe (which is a separate entity from "a certain Pioneers office in Europe") into "a certain Pioneers office in Europe", and maybe eventually set up local Pioneers sending offices across the continent.  Got the background?

Okay, so then we prayed about it and asked lots of people at Pioneers Philippines, Pioneers in general, and you all.  I even took a spiritual retreat to the place in the Philippines where God first called me to long-term work in the Philippines.  The conclusion?  We could move to Europe in July 2015 and God would enable Pioneers Philippines to address its major challenges before we left in July.  It was very reasonable and prayerful.  So, in November I told the International Director that we were game.  We met with the board of "a certain Pioneers office in Europe" in January.  They said they were game also, but they said that I first need to submit a business plan that they will review and use as a basis for their final decision about how to move forward.  I told the International Director of Pioneers in November and the "a certain Pioneers office in Europe" board in January that I would be ready to move in July, unless by March or April there was a major problem with Pioneers Philippines, “like a death or something,” I said to them…  In November, Lani, the wife of the Exec Dir of PiPH started to experience back pain.  By the end of December she could barely walk.  By the second week of January she was in a wheel chair…

With me so far?  So, after the January meeting in "a certain city in Europe" I put lots of prayer and thought into making a plan for "a certain Pioneers office in Europe" and Pioneers Europe.  I submitted the plan at the end of February, around the time that Lani was tentatively diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  By mid-March the diagnosis was confirmed and the Exec Dir was not able to fulfill his PiPH responsibilities as he cared for his wife and kids.  And so Susanna and I waited.  We waited to hear the full diagnosis and treatment plan for Lani, but doctors kept saying, “I think it’s this,” or “it seems like…”.  They had a good idea about what was going on and the best way to treat Lani, but in retrospect it seems that Lani’s cancer and its effects were growing and spreading so rapidly that doctors had a hard time pinning it down.  Meanwhile, we also waited to hear back from the "a certain country in Europe" about whether I got the “job” there.  Pioneers Philippines had a board meeting in March in which the board decided that either we would shut PiPH down until our Exec Dir was able to return to his role, or I needed to postpone my move to Europe and step in as Interim Managing Director of Pioneers Philippines until Buddy returned or I moved to Europe in December 2015.  We considered many other people to fill in for Buddy, but the board decided that because of this critical early development stage of PiPH, they only trusted Buddy or me to lead PiPH during this stage.  So, I wrote "a certain board in Europe" and asked for an update and shared with them that it would be best for PiPH if I stayed in Manila until at least December 2015.  We exchanged a couple of emails until they gave an official update on April 13th in which they wrote that they haven’t had adequate time and opportunity to make a decision and so it would also be best for them if I were to stay in Manila until at least December.  It actually seemed to me that they were maybe no longer interested to appoint me as Exec Dir.  Lani had already been in the hospital for a few days by that time and her health was quickly deteriorating, so it was an emotional time for our team.  The news from "a certain country in Europe" was good in that I could stay in Manila for a few more months without being pulled to Europe, but still there was not a decision.

But, would our newly proposed departure date be enough time for Buddy to return?  What if Lani was in very bad health for many months and then she passed?  What if…?  Well, she went to be with Jesus on April 18th, so we now have a much better idea of when Buddy and PiPH will be ready for us to move.  We can’t predict Buddy’s grief process, but based on how he has dealt with this and other difficult experiences these last 2-3 years, I have reason to believe that it will be months rather than years before he’ll be ready to return to his Exec Dir role with PiPH.  We’re currently

Then I was finally able to follow up a couple weeks ago with the "certain board in Europe", writing to them that it seemed like they might not want to move forward as we discussed last January.  I immediately got an email response from the chairman and then another board member asked to Skype.  That was a very helpful conversation.  They said, “We have no concern about you.  We just haven’t had time to meet together enough to finally decide if and create a plan about how we will manage the transition.”

SO, we are discussing with the Exec Dir. of Pioneers Philippines about him returning to his responsibilities at the end of July or early August.  Then my family and I might head to the US from August to December to update our friends and family, and also to grow our support base before we head to Europe in early-mid December.  Please pray for a clear and unified sense of God’s leading for everyone involved with this transition, both on the Pioneers Philippines and Pioneers Europe sides.

Lani is With Jesus

Wednesday April 15th I received a text from Buddy, the Executive Director of Pioneers Philippines, that I was hoping I wouldn’t receive.  By that time his wife, Lani, had been in the hospital for a week as the cancer ravaged her body.  He wrote, “Can you come to the hospital, I want to discuss something with you?”

During the hour drive to the hospital I could only pray that I would comfort him well and respond well to whatever it was that he would say.  I figured that Buddy wanted to share an update from the doctors that Lani’s case was terminal and her time on earth very limited.

We ordered a classic Filipino breakfast and sat down at the little cafe next to the main hospital building.  We gave our greetings and joked a bit before his face became very serious.  He looked exhausted from the 24 hour care that he had given his wife since she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in February.  The previous seven days had been especially stressful since his beloved wife’s health had rapidly deteriorated.  He then said, “The doctor checked Lani yesterday afternoon.  I could tell by the doctor’s subtle non-verbals that she was surprised about something.  So, I followed her out of the room and asked her to give me the details, even if they’re not good.  The doctor said that she was surprised by how rapid Lani’s health has deteriorated.  When Lani was diagnosed in February, the doctor said that she had six months to live if the treatment didn’t work.  Well, the treatment didn’t work.  So, the doctor told me that Lani will pass away within a month.”

He then began to cry a bit.

After a couple minutes he regained composure and said, “I told my kids last night (18 year old son and 13 year old daughter) and we cried together next to Lani’s bed as she slept, but tried not to wake her.  I think that Lani was most sad for us, especially the kids.  Lani grew up without a mom because she died young from cancer, so Lani knows what it will be like for our kids to grow up without their mom.”

He cried some more.  I was emotionally exhausted, nothing like what Buddy and his family were dealing with, but I was emotionally drained.  Our Pioneers Philippines team is quite close, so this experience was emotional for all of us.  Moreover, I had to make an emotional adjustment during the same period of time regarding our decision/God’s leading that we would change the dates of our move to Europe from July 2015 to some time in the indefinite future and that I would serve as Interim Managing Director of Pioneers Philippines until Buddy is ready to return or we leave the Philippines.  But, when Buddy shared about his kids growing up without their mom, tears started rolling down my cheeks.  I actually almost lost it and could feel heaving and weeping coming on.  I stopped eating and just cried together with Buddy at Tapa King.  Knowing and believing that God is good and sovereign, but feeling deeply sad about this family’s imminent loss.  Maybe I should have just let myself blubber and turn into a puddle of tears, but Buddy wasn’t quite that emotional and I didn’t want him to have to comfort me in that sort of situation.

After several minutes, Buddy gave his thanks for how Susanna and I and the Pioneers Philippines team have come around the family during this time.  We spent hours with them at their house and in the hospital.  We donated blood.  We created the website www.bartidos.com, Twitter and Facebook page and asked Pioneers offices in a couple of countries to receive funds for the family.  We didn’t think twice about supporting our friends and coworkers in these ways.

Lani died April 18th, much shorter than the “within a month” that the doctor predicted on the 15th.  Her wake was the following week and we attended the final memorial service on the evening of the 24th.  It was amazing to see the number of people and hear the many stories about Lani.  I think it is rare that a person would be thought of that highly by that large a number of people.  She loved Jesus and genuinely loved and sacrificed for so many others.  Even while she experienced difficulties, she would tell you about them with a smile and laughing and then share how God was getting her through.

I have been challenged and encouraged by Buddy and Lani’s faith through this challenging experience.  They continued to worship and hold fast in faith throughout.  The prayer and fundraising campaign for Lani was named #Fightlikelani.  Not only did Lani fight cancer, but she held on in faith and worship to her God, being concerned about others until the very end.  Hers is a faith to emulate.  Check out bartidos.com for more info.  The family will post stories and lessons from Lani’s experience on the website in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you to each of you who have prayed and donated directly for and to the Bartido family.  Thank you also for your prayers and finances that enable us to serve and serve alongside the Bartidos and the rest of the Pioneers Philippines team!  God is changing lives through the ministry that you helped start.

Thanks.  #Fightlikelani my friends.

A quick update: About my Europe trip, Requesting your feedback, and a Serious concern

Hello,

This is a new email format and is a blog page from our new website.  The site is not quite finished, but we're too excited to wait until it is finished to share it with you.  We hope you don't mind us experimenting with our email and website communication during the next few months.

 

Europe Update

I (Mike) traveled to Europe a month ago in order to prepare to move there in July. I'll meet with a few Pioneers folks in Europe to discern how God might want to use Pioneers to send Europeans to reach the unreached around the globe as well as to determine specifics about my role in the effort.

I can't give specifics at the moment because there are still sensitive discussions ongoing.  However, I can say that I will submit a draft plan at the end of this week for how I think God wants to continue to use Pioneers to send Europeans.  There will be an important meeting on March 2nd during which a board will review my plan and finally decide whether I have the position.  I will hear back from them a week or two after that meeting.

We can't wait to share more details in a couple of weeks!


Can you give feedback about something...?

We continue to have a $3000/month support need.  We will know the exact amount of our additional monthly need for Europe in a couple of weeks.  In order to meet part or all of that need, we are considering raising funds for and then making a real estate investment.

A good friend of ours is a successful realtor in a large US city and very supportive of our ministry.  He has volunteered to help us consider and make a real estate investment by managing the purchase and maintenance of the property(ies).  He said that for $150,000, we could purchase two condo units with cash, and the average monthly profit would be around $2500/month, which almost matches our current additional monthly need.

There are two major reasons that we are considering an investment like this.  First, I am interested to explore, on a practical personal level, different funding models for missionaries since funding missions movements in developing countries requires a bit of creativity to find sustainable funding.  Second, the donations given for this investment would have a financial and spiritual "return" since the profits from the rental properties would fund our family's ministry.  We're not looking to get wealthy, just looking for some new (for us) low maintenance ways to fund our family's ministry, especially as we prepare to move to Europe where things are more expensive.

So, what do you think?  We would appreciate your feedback about this.  Does it seem right to you, or no?  Why or why not?


Cancer

Lani, the wife of Buddy, the Executive Director of Pioneers Philippines, found out last Friday that she has malignant cancer that has spread to her kidney, liver, and lung(s).  After further testing since then, the doctors found that she also has cancer in her uterus and they suspect that the pain that she has been experiencing in her spine and hip are from cancer on those bones.  It is really not looking good for her.  We expect the doctors to give the final diagnosis within the next few days or week.

Buddy and Lani have two teenage children and you can imagine how difficult it is for this close -knit family to process this news.  In addition, if you've been following our updates during the last few months, you also know that they don't have a lot of resources to pay for large medical bills.

We expect this will significantly affect Buddy's ability to lead Pioneers Philippines for some time, so Mike may need to step in for him for a couple of months while Buddy cares for his family.  After we find out the diagnosis from the doctors in the next few days, we'll also be able to determine the implications for Buddy's involvement with Pioneers Philippines for the next few weeks or months, and then plan accordingly.


Please Pray...

  • The March 2nd meeting as the board in Europe decides about my plan and involvement there.
  • For God's people to provide for our continuing monthly need and for direction for us as we do our human part to raise more support, perhaps through a real estate investment, perhaps in other ways that we're preparing for.
  • Lani and the Bartido family!  Pray for supernatural healing for Lani and special grace as the family processes the news and makes many big decisions.