american life

A Change of Plans

2017 has been a year whirlwind of the unexpected for us!

The first part of the year, we were kept busy visiting many doctors in Houston's medical center, getting Micah back on a healthy growth curve. We are so thankful for great medical care and the Lord's clear hand of healing over Micah - she's doing so well! (If you'd like to hear the full story of how God healed Micah Mae, drop us a line! We'd love to share it!)

In Januarywe discovered we are expecting another baby (a boy this time!), due October 1. Loren has experienced a very difficult pregnancy due to Hyperemesis Gravidarum. She has been quite sick and weak all year, and continues to be so.


In February, we began fundraising full-time. We are sent out by United World Mission, and they have encouraged us to develop and fundraise a more sustainable budget. We've been busy speaking at churches, with friends, and whomever will listen about the opportunity to join us in building up the church in South Africa. 

We imagined that by Summer, we would be back in Cape Town, stepping back into our EM ministry roles full-time.

We long to return!

We now find ourselves in late July, and still in the U.S. Fundraising has gone more slowly than we expected, but we are thankful to have 75% monthly commitments! We couldn't do this work without the unwavering support of our friends.

With a baby coming soon, we have realized that it is best for us to remain in the U.S. until the end of the year.

This has been a very difficult decision to make, because our hearts long to be back in Cape Town as soon as possible. We made this decision after a lot of prayer, conversations, wise counsel from trusted friends, and the direction of our East Mountain leadership team.

Here are some of our reasons for returning later, instead of earlier:

  • It doesn't look likely that we will be 100% funded (in terms of monthly commitments) by the time we need to book flights and get on the plane. Our leaders in South Africa and our sending agency stateside (United World Mission)  agree that we should not be return to the field until we are fully funded. Being fully funded means we have commitments for 100% our needs for the next 2-3 years. A lack of monthly commitments is holding us back.

  • Loren continues to be very ill this pregnancy - baby is healthy, but she is still nauseous and weak most of the time due to her Hyperemesis Gravidarium pregnancy condition. She doesn't have as much peace about delivering this baby in South Africa as she did with Micah. 

  • The Lord has been speaking deeply to us about the importance of healthy rhythms of work and rest for our family. We want to help our family transition well while maintaining healthy rhythms - and we are not confident we could do that if we returned to SA so soon. Jack recently shared some of his hearts on this during a recent sermon. We'll post the audio when it's uploaded.

So, how can you help?

Pray with us!

Here are some of our prayer needs:

  • Loren's health: please pray she will feel better more consistently.

  • A healthy delivery and baby boy, in God's timing! There is a slight risk that if baby arrives early, in September, Jack could be in South Africa coordinating Ph.D. Summit and miss the birth. We are aware of this risk but trusting God! (And thankful for such a strong network of friends and family in Houston, along with great medical care.)

  • Rest: pray that we would establish and maintain good rhythms of work and rest despite a lot of changes in our family. 

  • Logistics for the Ph.D. Summit in September in South Africa: Church leaders from across the Global South will be convening in Stellenbosch to pursue further theological education and spiritual enrichment, so that they can minister more effectively in their home countries. Please pray for the details to come together.

  • Jack's masters thesis: please pray for productivity, for clarity of thought, and for discipline in writing.

  • Monthly financial partners: please pray for 40 more families to give $50/month or more. Our ministry is primarily funded by faithful people giving small amounts regularly. Will you ask God to bring more people like that?

  • For good connection to our East Mountain community while we are away, and the ability to serve the ministry in meaningful ways from the U.S.

Help us get to 100% funding.

Get together with us!

It is so encouraging to meet with friends, hear how you are doing, and share what all God is doing through the East Mountain community. Don't hesitate to reach out!

Thank you for being part of this work with us. Your partnership means so much! 

Jack sharing at one of our partner churches in early July.

Jack sharing at one of our partner churches in early July.



Burdens and Band-Aids

When we lived overseas, I had lots of time to pray.


Riding in the back of a tuk-tuk, my legs dangling and collecting the dust of India.


Rocking a Kenyan baby to sleep, her breathing grow deeper and slower.


Sitting through yet another church service in a language I couldn’t understand.

Then I came back to America .... and at first, praying was easy. It was a habit, a muscle that had grown strong. When you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from (or you’re still sick from the last meal) ... when you’re given 5 minutes’ notice that it’s you preaching the Sunday Sermon ... ... when a bunch of angry African men are about to beat up your husband ... .... your praying muscles grow strong, and hearing the voice of God becomes startlingly clear.

These days, the voice of the Lord seems faint. It’s crowded out by my to do list, our schedule (that mysteriously fills up by itself), and the burdens of others.

I love that my days are filled with intense ministry, building relationships with the poor and those trying to rebuild their lives. I am thankful ... and yet, driving home through the ghettos of Houston, what I’m left with are their burdens; the complex burdens of economic struggle and no education; the struggle when there’s never enough food to go around. They search for relief, and I’m hard-pressed to help them find it.

Then there are my co-workers: independent, intelligent friends who don’t know Jesus. They are beautiful, fascinating people - and most of them, desperately lost. I hear it echoing in their fears, and I hear their searching, too ...

her father is dying slowly

his wife was just diagnosed with a mental illness

she wonders if her long-term boyfriend will ever marry her

he can’t take another day in this dead-end job

In all the hurt and struggle - when I don’t know what to say - these burdens stack up.

When I finally came before the Lord, I felt the burdens scatter before him like so many marbles.

My mind raced, and I implored him -- how do I help them, and what answer should I give? After a time, peace finally came.

I remembered a recent conversation with a Bhutanese refugee family. Their home has been ravaged by ethnic conflict since 1948. They have never been to school. They’ve fled two countries, been chased with fiery sticks for their faith in Jesus, and now that they are finally safe in America, most of their extensive farming skills are irrelevant. They consistently remind me that they have no education, no skills.

I ask them worriedly what they propose to do -- in their fifties, they are trying to learn a new language and culture and work their assembly-line jobs, all with the goal of being able to pay rent.


When they speak, I’m struck by their wisdom: “We will work hard. And we will trust the Lord, who is good. Has he not already solved our biggest problem?”

My “uneducated” refugee friends know the truth --

Without Jesus, the best we can do is apply band-aids. And band-aids don't help the hemorrhaging pain from our own sin, from the fallenness we live in.

How do I forget this so easily? How is it possible that in between Easters, I become dull to the miracle of resurrection - that in his love, Jesus solved the biggest problem. With love and a lot of blood, he gave us a very powerful solution to our human struggle.

When my refugee friends are mired in fear and confusion, when my co-workers share those burdens that keep them up at night ... I have a choice in my response. Because I know the real answer they seek. But too often, I settle for the band-aids of sympathy and logical solutions. I keep silent about my faith, the axis on which my life turns.

And so I pray for more courage.

Courage, to gently and boldly tell my co-workers that those band-aids won’t heal the wound - it’s only Christ that will.

I pray for courage to not try so hard. In the midst of ministry, I pray for courage to not consider myself important than I am. Many refugees I serve have figured it out anyway - “The Lord will care for us,” they say.


Worlds Collide at Christmastide


Yesterday I watched as worlds collided.

A wealthy group of Americans delivered Christmas gifts to an African family who just arrived to our land of plenty.

Adopt-a-Family is a program facilitated through my refugee resettlement workplace. Refugee families who are experiencing their first Christmas in the U.S. are “adopted” by sponsors, who purchase items from a wish list assembled with the help of their case manager. Typical refugee wish lists include everything from microwaves and socks to bicycles and barbie dolls.

One of the most exclusive schools in Houston adopted many families this year; each classroom purchased an impressive collection  and it lifted my heart to see their hallway filled with gifts for needy families.


I accompanied a few fifth grade students and their parents as we excitedly loaded two SUVs full of packages and drove to one of the poorest neighborhoods in Houston to deliver our bounty.

I tried to explain what a refugee is while a very stressed-out mom threatened to pull over the Mercedes if the children didn’t stop fighting over who was eating more European chocolate in the back seat. Just as I felt how keenly their childhood was from my own, we began to compare knee scars and discuss Katy Perry (we agreed her older songs are way better).

When we arrived, we were greeted in true African fashion: with hugs all around, mango juice thrust into our hands, and lots of “God Bless You!”s and “Karibu Sana!” (you are very welcome here). This American girl felt very confused as a pang of homesickness for East Africa washed over me.

I was so proud of my Congolese friends, who have been through so much. They’ve endured threats on their lives because they were born into the wrong tribe. They’ve fled from machetes under the cover of night. And here they were, spreading joy to the privileged and proclaiming the kingdom of God. “By the hand of the God who is good, we escaped!” they exclaimed joyfully to the agnostic anesthesiologist and the stressed-out, stay-at-home mom.

Wide-eyed, the children listened as the proud African mother listed her eight living children, and two dead long ago. “God has surely blessed you,” I replied.


We sat in her bare living room and Zaheri's* face lit up as she told her fellow mamas how thankful she is to be here in America, “where no one will stop you from working to feed your children.” Her four-year-old son bounced excitedly as he tore open brightly-colored gift after gift, his brown eyes growing larger by the minute.


We spoke of our families, and we realized that while our stories may be different, we have common threads among us all: love for our children, hope for the future, the joy of family gathered at Christmas.

And as I sat, facilitating the conversation with my very poor KiSwahili, my heart filled and the Holy Spirit whispered: “I am Lord of them All.”

And I was thankful. Thankful as I remembered that God is even now at work, drawing each of us to himself.

None of us are left alone - not those frightened in the dark forests of the Congo. Not those in the wealthy desert of upscale American neighborhoods. Not even me, when my to do list buries my intentions to celebrate each day of Advent thoughtfully.

The Lord of them All send his Son .... his perfect, fully human son, born of the most humble circumstances.

When he drew his first cry somewhere in Bethlehem, it all changed for us. And when he drew his last breath on a humble cross, he saved us all.

He changed it for us all, and he made our particular darkness light -- For the African mother. For the stay-at-home mom. For the fifth grader with the skinned knee. For me. For you. And for all you love.

It is, indeed, a Merry Christmas.

*Zaheri was excited to have her photograph taken, but her name has been changed, and some faces have been blurred to protect these women and children.

Cleaning Toilets & the Still, Small Voice (Mission Impossible, Part II)


“How did I find myself here?” I thought as I scrubbed the old man’s feces off the floor.

“This is not my job!!” came the next rebellious thought.


I laughed under my breath as I remembered a hurried prayer from last week: “Jesus, teach me humility. Show me what it means to love like you did.”

The thing about serving Jesus … he always asks for more, not less.

It reminds me of when my little cousin learned how to walk. The poor kid had no chance. My mom was on one side of the room, arms outstretched. “Just one little step!” she cried. “You can do it, baby!”

He was not having it. He glanced suspiciously at the circle of faces hovering above. We were all grinning hugely, clapping for him, urging him to trust his wobbly, chubby legs.


His furrowed brow communicated that this did NOT seem fun to him - but oh, he so badly wanted to please these people that loved him so.

Shaky step by shaky step, he launched himself forward. Every step he took, we asked for another - until he was all the way across the room. Cheers abounded. He got a cookie.

He couldn’t have known it then - that those first wobbly steps were only the beginning. He couldn’t have known that what seemed like a risky, terrible idea to him was actually quite safe and natural.

Today this kid zooms around the yard. I gasp for air trying to keep up with him. But, I still remember those shaky steps in the beginning.

Sometimes I think Jesus must feel this way - the amused and patient Father, watching us take our first wobbly steps as we follow him. He must know that he has bigger plans; the further we go, the more he will ask.

It would be unnatural, nonsense for an active and fully grown child to revert back to crawling, to wobbly baby steps. And yet, how often in my own faith journey do I petulantly want just that?

I’ll know God has called me to love deeper, to be more sacrificial. In a moment of holy zeal sitting in a cool, air conditioned church, I’ll even ask God to make me more humble.


But the moment it arrives - when humility looks like scrubbing someone else’s toilet? When loving like Jesus looks like not casting the first stone, or forgiving seventy times seven?

I whine and wish I didn’t know better. I’ll try to manipulate the situation so I’m exempt - from talking to that awkward person. Or having to go out of my way to visit a family that's barely holding on. Or giving my shopping money to a missionary that really needs it. I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that last yelled request for a cup of water (while I’m already in the kitchen).

I’m the most spoiled of God’s children. Worse yet, if I’m not very careful, I can become comfortable.

How do you love Jesus well in America?

For me, I can’t let myself get too comfortable.

Life overseas is so fraught with challenge that I am aware multiple times every day that I need Christ. I cry out to him frantically, consult him constantly … and my desperation feeds a healthy and intimate connection with him.

Even a simple trip to the grocery store in a foreign country is exhausting. Imagine yourself in such a situation:

How do you get there? Are you using a public transit system? If so, it probably doesn’t have English writing anywhere - and you can’t ask directions if you don’t have an interpreter with you.

When you get there, how do you tell how much something *actually* costs? If those tomatoes are 8,000 Tanzanian Shillings … quick, do some math in your head! Is that a good deal, or are you about to blow the week’s budget on some fruit (because they might be giving you ‘white people’ prices). And wait, you’re probably hauling water for your team - the city water is not safe. That means you need at least a few gallons. You don’t have a car. Make sure you don’t buy too much to carry home! (Did you check how much water the team had before you left?) If not, you may run out before tonight.

As you leave, there’s a tiny child, belly distended. She doesn’t speak - she just holds out her hand pleadingly.

You’re not sure you have enough money with you to get home on the bus and to give her something. You know it’s foolish to carry too much cash on you, but still you kick yourself for not bringing more. Should you give her some of your tomatoes? If you do, will there be enough for the team to eat tonight? And - is she being sold by a pimp? Will giving her something only serve to promote a system of injustice, leaving the little one with nothing? Your heart aches and your first instinct is to take her back with you- but you don’t know this culture or this land and if that’s okay. Where is her mom?! …. Oh, Jesus, have mercy.

Life in a foreign land - you know you need Jesus. Every day. I found myself desperate for him.

“After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice.”

That still, small voice became louder every day until it was quite clear.


In the U.S.? I don’t need Jesus at the grocery store, thank you very much. I know exactly how to get there in my own car. I can buy what I want with the money I earned from the job I work. And, I’m probably gabbing on my cell phone while looking up traffic on Google Maps AND thinking about what color I should re-paint the kitchen … all while at the store.

But - where is the still, small voice? I’m comfortable. I don’t know I need him.

Soon, I’m living as though Jesus is one of those relatives I only see on major holidays.

And so I have learned that I have to put myself in situations - to ask for opportunities, and then pursue them - where I will be uncomfortable.

It’s in the discomfort, in the awkward, in the desperate that my heart yells for Jesus.

And I find him. That still, small voice  that grows louder when I practice listening.

I'm learning that an adventurous life of faith is NOT about a geographical location, or even about what fills your days. It’s an orientation of the soul.

At the moment, making myself uncomfortable looks like working with refugees and teaching them about American life.


And so it is that I found myself showing an elderly Burmese couple how to clean their toilet - because they’ve never had indoor plumbing before. No one ever taught them basic hygiene.

Jesus invites me lower, to deeper levels of humility. On shaky legs of faith I looked up at my Father.

“Jesus, really? I barely know these people.”

“And child, as God of the universe, I washed dirty feet. Whatever you do for them, you do for me. You can do it. Just one more step.”

What do you think? Does being comfortable mean it’s harder to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice? How do you make space in your life to hear the voice of the Father? 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Sanga's Story


Every day, I have the privilege of working with refugees. After years of applying; waiting; hoping; they arrive to the U.S., full of hope and yet hiding a history of heartbreak behind their wide smiles. Often, I can only guess at the traumas they've endured and the things they've escaped. One thing I do know: the word refugee is synonymous with survivor. All of them have left behind loved ones, the ones that weren't so lucky or weren't so strong.

Sometimes, I get the honor of actually hearing a refugee's story from start to finish; it never fails to leave me in awe. I got such an opportunity recently. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an organization that helps refugees resettle, had their annual conference recently. One of the refugees I work with was honored to be selected to share his life story in front of hundreds of people.

Sanga* and I had already become friends after he attended my Cultural Orientation classes, where I taught him and other Congolese refugees practical lessons such as how to get a driver's license and how to apply for a job. These days, Sanga has a full schedule working full-time in manufacturing and taking steps toward applying for college. While I helped Sanga edit his story for grammar, all of these words are his own.

As he shared his story with me, I often had to blink back tears or hide my shock as he spoke about his life journey, from deep in the forests of the Congo to the heart of Houston...

I am 36 years old and I was born in a small city in the North Eastern part of the Congo.


I ran away from my country in 2005 after the death of my father, who was a district commissioner. My father was working to unite warring tribes; he wanted peace in our district. Because of this, some of the men from his own tribe killed him with a machete.

They were afraid of his betrayal, and so they killed their own brother. Then, they tried to kill my family, and so we had to flee. My family was separated; I fled alone to Kenya. On the way, I had to stay in hiding, because the rebel groups were everywhere - I hid on a train for four days. I was 30 years old, and I had never felt so sad  because I wasn’t sure what I would do.


When I arrived in Kenya, I slept on the streets for 2 days because I didn’t know what to do. After that, I went to a church. They helped me apply to be a refugee. During this time, a pastor took care of me and gave me a place to live. But, I was always afraid in Kenya because I didn’t have any legal rights and I was always afraid that the same people who killed my father would come to kill me. Once in Kenya I was attacked; I thank God I am still alive. After some time in Kenya, I began to teach French at a language school. I first applied for refugee status in 2005.

After waiting 7 years, in 2012, I finally received a letter that the United States had accepted me as a refugee to live in their country. I felt great when I got this letter. I knew there were so many people applying to live in the United States, so I was not sure if it would ever happen. I had been hoping for this for so long that I could not believe it.

When I first arrived in the United States, some things surprised me. For example, I was surprised by how people take care of other people here. I find the American people very caring.

I want to contribute to the American community. I want to help people, especially new refugees. In the Congo and Kenya, I was a medical first aid worker because I like helping people. I would like to do something similar in the United States one day to help the community. I know the feeling of what it is like to flee, the feeling of going through a war, and I feel that experience will help me support new refugees.

In Africa, there was no peace, so I could not learn or finish my studies. I feel like America is my land now. I am happy because I have found peace where I am. The people I have found here represent my family. If I have a problem, I can go to my new friends and talk to them and find a solution.

In my opinion, one of the greatest struggles for the African people is a lack of peace. This will be the most important thing for them – to learn to have peace. Peace allows refugees to work, study, and dream for their future. Without peace in Africa, there can be no hope and no progress. That is why I left. In my case, a lack of peace means I do not even know which of my brothers are still alive.

Even though I have had many difficult times, I am proud to be a called a refugee -- even Jesus Christ was a refugee. When he was born, some people wanted to kill him. His family had to flee, so even Jesus was a refugee like me. He had to leave his land because he was in danger of something happening to him. He was living in a state of fear, like me. I know what it is like to live in this state of fear. Now that I am living in the US, I am comfortable and I do not have fear.

I will always be proud to be called a refugee."

Sanga got to fly to Washington, D.C., to share his story. When I asked if he was nervous, he told me, "Of course I am nervous. But I must do this, because not everyone can speak the stories we know as refugees. Someone must tell the stories for those that did not survive."


His favorite part of the trip was getting to see the White House in person after his speech.

May you be encouraged by Sanga's story, ever more aware of the blessings you have, and be reminded that within all of us, God has given us the spirit of a survivor.

*Sanga's name has been changed to protect his identity.

Giving Jesus the Silent Treatment

Have you ever asked a question you couldn’t answer? Have you ever excitedly jumped into a new project, only to realize a tragically short time later that this *particular* project would soon haunt your dreams?

Well, friends, here’s a confession: I do this ALL.THE.TIME. And now you’ve been caught in the cross-hairs of this particular shortcoming of mine.

You see, I did both recently on this humble little blog when I

(a) posed the ridiculous question - “How do you love Jesus well in America?”

… around the same time that I decided to

(b) build a brand-new blog from scratch. (Apparently making the internet is hard. Who knew?)

The result is that I got overwhelmed and simply stopped blogging. I’m sorry about that. Some of you may have noticed that it has been an embarrassingly long time since I last wrote. And that last time, i left you with a cliffhanger. I’m not sure how to make amends except to say that if you come to my house, I will make you a cup of tea with a side of heartfelt apology. And I promise, I’m now out of “pretend it doesn’t exist” mode and into “get to business” mode. I have not forgotten I promised you a Part II, and it is forthcoming. In the mean time, however, I have some musings regarding Lent and Easter that I’d like to share.

The Lord has been moving me (okay, pulling me kicking and screaming) into a place of deeper honesty - with myself, and with my community. I’m just not sure we do each other any favors when we pretend like we have it all together. Sometimes, I don’t even make the conscious choice to pretend … it’s just sort of my default mode. (Incidentally, I think it’s often the default mode of our churches, too.)

So on Good Friday, I found myself sitting in a dim sanctuary, staring at a blank slip of paper, having just been challenged to write out “a confession.” There was just one small problem … I had been giving Jesus the silent treatment for weeks. It wasn’t intentional, but I ended up living for a while mostly independent of that small voice inside - the one that gives me joy and life and strength. In all this, there’s the good and the bad.

The Good: My relationship with Jesus every year resembles more of an actual … relationship. We talk. I talk a LOT, because I’m self-centered, but sometimes I also let HIM talk and I just … listen. Every time I do this, I’m reminded that I really like listening to Jesus. More and more, my “Christianity” isn’t about adhering to a set of beliefs or identifying with a religious label or even being part of specific church, but instead, my “Christianity” is having real interaction with God. And this is good, I know. And something to celebrate.

The Bad: When I act like an angsty, immature teenager (which is embarrassingly often), it gets reflected in my relationship with Jesus. Hence, the silent treatment.

Lately, I’ve been running. I’ve felt so restless and so every day I’ve run four or more miles at a time, scratching that itch to get out, to move, to do something.Until Jesus bought me a to a halt … literally. What I didn’t realize? That physical restlessness was a pretty accurate picture of internal state as well. Then I tore some ligaments in my ankle and ended up in a cast - with strict doctor’s orders: NO RUNNING . For six weeks. Just long enough to wreck my carefully constructed running routine and miss Houston’s best weather.


It’s almost as if I could hear Jesus saying, “My child, it’s time for us to talk.”

Then, there was that fight with my husband. The one where I looked in his angry eyes and saw reflected back at me … my own imperfection. My selfish flaws that had ignited his anger. A fight that stopped me in my tracks and brought attention to my ugly, glaring sin. That’s the thing about marriage - there’s no place to hide.

I could almost hear Jesus saying, “My child, it’s time for us to talk.”

And finally, there was that PERFECT road trip with my soul-friends. The ones that make me feel most like ME when we’re together. The ones that touch a deep part of me and reassure me with their very presence that yes, things are going to be alright. We danced ourselves crazy at a dear friend’s wedding, celebrated love with tears in our eyes, and laughed until my stomach muscles tightened in protest. I realized it was the most alive I had felt in weeks.


And I could hear Jesus saying, “My child, it’s time for us to talk.”

And ever so gently, he told me … “I came to bring you LIFE TO THE FULL … in Africa, in Asia, AND in America. You are more than your work, more than the sum of your hours, because you serve a bigger kingdom.” As he spoke, I felt very small. And very sad, because I realized I had missed his voice - the entire Lenten season.

This year, I gave up sweets for lent. Because they are my kryptonite, and sometimes my love for them is rivaled only by my love for my family, God, and cheese. I was disappointed that I still craved sweets - daily. Only a few days in, I was doing it more out of pride than penitence. (Probably because Jesus and I weren’t talking.) I did it because I said I would - and my stubborn pride would let me be *that girl* that “failed” at Lent.

So after endless days of stupid, prideful self-denial, I sat in a dim sanctuary and with burning cheeks, I read: “[She] honors me with her lips, but her heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) How painfully true. Missing The Point - this could be the summary of my Lenten season this year. I had been following the letter of the law, but shut out the Spirit. I had stuck my fingers in my ears and gone my own way. I laughed out loud in that sanctuary as the thought occurred to me - “How old am I?! Shouldn’t I know better by now?” And so, I finally started talking to Jesus again. It went a something like this:

“Thank you, Jesus, that you don’t give me the silent treatment - even when I deserve it. You won’t play my silly games. You just wait for me, and draw me near. Thank you that you require no self-punishment before I return to you. I AM that prodigal daughter … and for some reason, I keep leaving. And every time every time every.time. You run You run out to meet me. And you kiss me, and embrace me, and adorn me with your finest of jewels, and invite me the feast. And while you hold me, Father, my shame is a tidal wave threatening to drag me out to shore But you hold onto me still and you whisper words of love in my ear. You invite me to communion … still. After it all. You ask me to partake of your body and blood. Again, and again. And again. The perfume of my idols still on my clothes, and you whisper still - “this is my body, broken for you.” And I just … ache. For how good you are. For how easily I forget. I ache for my leaving, and I ache for your love that always brings me back.”

For reasons I still can’t fully understand, God betroths us to him

in righteousness

in justice

in iron-clad, covenantal, kind, unbreakable love in mercy in faithfulness (Hosea 2:19)

And more than that, he brings us to his banqueting table, to the feast - while our sin is still on our hands and written on our hearts, he washes it all away. The sin, and the shame, and the past … as he washes our feet.

And this is love.

Wherever you’ve been, and wherever you wander - Jesus waits to welcome you back home. It’s the reason we call that Friday Good. It’s the reason he set us free on Easter Sunday, and why he sets us free every day … Jesus is still there, still waiting. Ready to welcome us back home.

Mission Impossible, Part 1


I’m a missionary. My mission field is located in a small, dilapidated office building in Houston, Texas, USA.In October I re-entered the American workforce, when the Lord graciously provided a job that allows me to provide for my family and also work with refugees.

In my opinion, America is as challenging a mission field as Vietnam was, where being who I am - a Christian - is illegal. It’s as challenging as the desperate slums of Uganda. As challenging as the hostile Hindu village in India, where I called home last year during the Christmas season.

The Lord has LITERALLY brought the nations to Houston ... Every day I walk into my multicultural office and I feel as though the Lord has handed me the nations on a platter.  I share a cube wall with Iraqi Muslims. A few paces away sit a few self-proclaimed atheists, Hindus from Nepal, a few buddhists from Burma.

My job is to teach life skills and to serve over 15 different refugee populations. In an endless stream, they come from Ethiopia, Burma, Egypt, Cuba, Nepal, Iraq - just to name a few.


They’ve arrived in this land of plenty by proving that to stay in their country would be to place themselves in immediate danger of serious bodily harm. That’s the story their visa tells with its stamp: “REFUGEE.”


And I see their eyes, haunted and yet hopeful. I look into their faces, adoring me for the small help I can give.


And some days I feel like Atlas, that mythical figure who carried the world.


After giving up everything - saying goodbye to siblings and friends, parents and sometimes even spouses or children - after undergoing rigorous testing by the UN, external agencies, and the US government - when they receive the YES they’ve been waiting for … they make that long flight from East to West. I’ve done it before - the confusing mix of days and nights, airports, sleepless hours, security checks, transfers.


They step onto the flat, humid land of Houston with only a suitcase and the hope of a better life.

... And then my office steps in. We provide a small, semi-furnished apartment with the rent pre-paid for a few months. We provide a week’s worth of food and access to services like health care and food stamps.

In a strange land of strange tongue, they are promptly told they have exactly 3 months to learn English, find a job, begin paying taxes, and navigate a brand-new country. Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to cover it.

These people who grew up in deserts, jungles, and tented camps now attempt to navigate the Houston bus system that covers over 15 major highways and interchanges.


Single mothers that can’t write their name in their own language are told that to feed their children, they have 90 days to learn English. Doctoral professors in Engineering are told that despite their education and experience, they must start by taking the GRE - that in America, everyone starts over. Many for better. Some for worse.

And sometimes I think God made this heart of mine too sensitive. Because I ache for their situations. I’m keenly aware of the challenges, because a year ago I got lost trying to take the bus across Kathmandu. I couldn’t read or speak Nepali and so for about three hours I wandered the city, desperately trying to remember my “address” … wishing someone spoke my language.

I remember the shame when I was told my modest (to me) clothing was causing the catcalls as I walked down a muddy Rwandan road - my knee caps were showing - and how inappropriate that is in Rwanda! I might as well be naked, I was told.

I remember my tongue twisting, trying to master the tones of Vietnamese merely so I could thank the woman who made my breakfast each day. I never did say “Thank You” successfully - not once in 35 days of repeated attempts.

I remember wondering HOW the skills I had from home - my college degree, my ability to type 100 words a minute, my knowledge of drilling wells -- how would any of this contribute to the rural society of Tanzania, where prized abilities included being able to to skin and cook a chicken with ease, to preach in Swahili, to drive a Dala-Dala (a 15-passenger van used as a taxi) down the left side of rutted roads.

I was completely unemployable, nearly useless, and mostly unable to build solid relationships without help.

And so when they come to my humble desk, and I’m told: “Teach them to be successful, responsible American citizens” … I know, I know how impossible that seems. And yet I also know what love and patience could do for them.

This is my mission field. The fields are ripe for the harvest.

And yet I’m mostly miserable, constantly at war within myself because I can’t seem to find the courage in this “tolerant,” politically correct, anti-Christian society to declare (or even whisper): “Jesus. The most important thing this place can offer you … is the freedom to know Jesus.”

And on Tuesday nights I gather with a small group, and we read his word and we speak of how difficult it is to tell of the Lord’s goodness … In a corporate office. In a public school. In groups of stay-at-home-moms, quick to judge but slow to be real. In the messy families we call our own.

And I pray to be given courage but mostly I feel like Peter ... in his early days, well-meaning but all-too-quick to deny that I know anything about THAT MAN  - the one that divides, the one surrounded by misperceptions … the one I’m so secretly and so desperately in love with.

Were I to write a gospel, it might read: “I tell you the truth: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for an American Christian to honestly and lovingly spread the Kingdom in his homeland.”

and with the disciples my mind wonders: “Who then [in America] can be saved?”

and this Sweet Savior Jesus, he looks to the core of me and says: “With man this is impossible, but with God all.things.are.possible.”

So ... where do we go from here?

Stay tuned for Part II …

Why I Give Thanks on Election Day


I never knew … I never knew what a blessing it is to be American until I lived overseas.

Living in America, the political nagging and fighting is constant. It’s exhausting … and if I listen too long, I begin to forget there's anything else.

Brief news clips of horrors abroad remind me about those that suffer around the world, and are forgotten quickly.

It’s one thing to hear about horrific realities that could be ours. It’s quite another thing to meet them face to face, when raw results of chaos become a name, a friend, a hand you hold …

  • to hear a Rwandan quietly tell of his family being butchered by his next-door neighbors - because his family’s skin was too light.
  • to hear my new friend tell me simply that she has never known her father - he never returned after "they" dragged him from his bed one night to fight in the Vietnam War (a war he vehemently opposed, for a government he did not support).

In America, we debate “women’s issues.” But a woman's issue I will never face is the fear of being raped by a policeman … unlike a small girl I met in Zambia, her sweaty hand swallowed by mine. My mind scrambled to think of Bible verses that might comfort her as tears made tracks down her swollen cheeks. What do you say?

In America, I have the right to a fair trial. Unlike the young East African mother who approached me after class one day, begging for prayer. She had been wrongly accused of stealing some fruit, and was afraid to walk home for fear of being jumped by the neighborhood “justice system.” She explained that the authorities would look the other way. “An accusation is treated as the truth, here …”  she trailed off.

I have the right to practice (and share) my religion … and my neighbors have the right to theirs. Unlike so many of my faithful brothers and sisters in India, who accept that to be Christian is to be persecuted, to live in fear, to walk around with bloodied lips and bruised cheeks.


I have the right to participate in the political process. In messiness of election, I can take part … or not take part. I remember awed faces in Africa and in Southeast Asia, their amazement at the brazen freedom we have to declare our stance, even if it is against the government. I remember the longing in their voices as they dreamed that one day, they could vote knowing their vote would count, in a monitored system.


Our constitution is a beautiful piece of literature - and sometimes, it’s those living OUTSIDE the US that realize it most keenly. The truth is, we don’t know what we have.

America is still beautiful, home of the free … but it’s still just a dream for most. I’ve lived in impoverished countries, under corrupt governments this year … and even my brief time was enough to make me understand why so many are desperate to get to America.

In our times, it’s easy to live in the U.S. and be jaded by it all. I used to look around at our materialism, at our messy election system, at our incredible inability to get along … and just feel distaste for it all. And I think that's pretty natural, but I want to provide a different view, in light of what I experienced overseas.

My ingrained sense of what should be collided with the realities others face - when became MY reality;

  • feeling the sting of injustice as we had to pay off a man to avoid jail in Cambodia (for committing no crime)
  • being gawked at and groped by men, while policemen looked on in apathy
  • being taken advantage of time and again for my skin color
  • knowing there was no higher law, that we were completely at the mercy of the base morality of the majority

… I couldn't believe it. Inside, I would scream at the difficulty of it all and long for home … long for the safety, the justice, the rights I took for granted in the U.S. I realized that it was easy for me to feel fed up with America, while I daily reaped her benefits and never realized all she offered me, this land of my birth.

As we ponder these blessings, I don’t want us to become puffed up and proud -- there are reasons enough to be embarrased by the U.S., too. On Election Day, no one needs the reminder that America is not perfect.

But, may I persuade you to thoughtfully consider all the protections, freedoms, and rights you have as Americans? May I ask you to hear the words of my Vietnamese friend, and may it bring you hope:  “Your people, they have the power to mould your OWN reality - and your stability remains, even in all your disagreement. It's amazing."

When you’re on US soil, in the thick of election season and you think,  “would they just shut up already!” … when tensions run high between neighbors, colleagues, friends because of varying political issues -- it’s easy to forget.

Please, may I remind you?

Our country is a gift -- being American is a gift … and no matter who wins, we are children of privilege, simply because America is ours.

Awake, My Soul


Many of our friends have asked us the inevitable, "How are you doing ... being back home?"Most days, I'm unsure of how to answer. Honestly, it changes moment to moment. It's surreal, and wonderful, and painful to be back home. Allow me to explain ...

Last night, I nearly cried. Of happiness.

I slept on a bed - a REAL bed, off the floor, soft as a cloud after months of sleeping on the floor. I was wrapped up in a feather comforter, with cotton sheets cool against my skin. The temperature was kept at a constant 74*.

Most of all, I felt safe. I didn’t have to worry about venomous spiders crawling on my neck at night, didn’t have to worry about strange people that might be staring at me when I woke.

And yet.

Despite all this, there was a pang in my heart as I thought of my two precious friends in Vietnam. I pictured their faces as I thought over all our conversations. I wondered how they are doing - Has he filled that hole inside his heart -- or is he still plagued by self-doubt? Does she still think she doesn’t want Jesus, the God of  "The American War of Aggression"?

I thought about Cambodia, where hope grows slowly and is often drowned in a sea of liquor. I thought of this little one -- and I wondered if her sweet grandma had enough food for her to eat today.


Before we left, 

I made a map with pins in each place we would visit. It’s now a map of my heart, charting little pieces scattered across the earth.


Even during the months I prayed would end quickly, the places I could never see myself living, the moments I wondered if I was making a difference -

I didn’t realize my heart was slowly growing roots downward, into the soil that I walked over.

It hurts to be divided - to know that now, no matter where I live, someone will be missing. But more than hurt,

 I feel the weight of what a blessing, an undeserved gift this year was.

What a privilege -- to carry Jesus all over the world, and to find him in the most unexpected places. What a joy - to stand on the Himalayas and pray the people would lift their eyes to the mountains, and find their help in the Lord. (Psalm 121)What delight I found in Uganda -  to look into baby Elijah's face every day, and in it to see the face of God. To encourage his mom, a destitute woman that has given up everything to serve the church.


And now, to return home -- to the comforts of home, the joy of family, the sweet friendships we missed so deeply. Yesterday, I drove through Houston. I came to an elevated highway overlooking downtown - one of my favorite spots. One of my favorite worship songs played over the speakers, and I sang over Houston --

Like water covers the sea, Let the earth be filled with your glory, Till the prayers you prayed become reality and the earth looks just like heaven

We won’t be satisfied, until the Earth looks just like Heaven

Wake up, you Sons and Daughters, we were made for so much more! (Earth Like Heaven, Jonathan David & Melissa Helser)

I sang over the city, becuase we were made for more.

I prayed over the broken-ness I know is hiding behind our walls in Houston. I prayed for the father that feels like a failure, for the single moms desperate to raise their children right. I prayed for our secret porn addictions, our pride, our love of money, our endless cycle of working ourselves to death to buy things that don’t make us happy.

I prayed all of us that know Jesus, but still have a hard time gulping from the fire hose of grace without feeling guilty about it.

This year, I woke up. And I can't turn around, I can't go back. God is taking me on a journey of waking me up to more. (I actually suspect he’s been trying to shake me awake for years.)I have a hunger -- to see the Earth look just like Heaven. This year, I got a foretaste of Heaven, watching his Kingdom come. I’ve been ravenous ever since.

Beloved friends, take a taste with me; 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Wherever you find yourself, I pray God would give you hunger pains to see the Earth like Heaven.

If you ask him “how?” -- if you keep asking --  and in the stillness wait for his answer … I know he will show you the more you were made for.