life overseas

A Week in the (Capetonian) Life

On our Facebook Page, we've been sharing what a typical week looks like in ministry here in South Africa.

In case you missed it, here is a re-cap of a week in the life...

MONDAYS are study days.

Jack works in "the office," aka, the Biblical Languages department at Stellenbosch University. There he works on writing his Masters thesis and discusses current research in translation, linguistics, and Hebrew. The topic of his Masters thesis is a functional description of the Hebrew word "now". He hopes that the final product will be useful for Bible translators and commentary writers.

Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible

He has made solid friendships with both Christians and atheists, and often finds himself at thecrossroads where academia and ministry meet. Most of the university culture here is very secular and I would definitely call it a “party school.” There are lots of students searching for answers, so there are many opportunities to love well and be ready for meaningful conversation.

He facilitates a group of Christian scholars who meet to discuss how best to be a Christian witness in secular academic settings. The group spends time sharing research, praying for one another, and encouraging one another.

During Micah's naps I write for East Mountain and make (slow but steady) progress leading our website development team.

TUESDAYS are meeting days.

Tuesday mornings we salute the American way of life by frantically rushing around, throwing pacifiers and lunch into the diaper bag, juggling breakfast and coffee, and realizing we are out of breath as we pull out of the driveway.

Staff meetings are held at the East Mountain community house. We discuss current ministry initiatives, get support from leadership on any tricky discipleship challenges, and look ahead to what leadership training workshops are coming up.

EM staff meeting
EM staff meeting

It’s a great time of connecting with staff, who are spread out all over the area as we serve our partner pastors.

After staff meetings, we break into our ministry-specific teams (we call them “tribes”) and work on our current projects.

Right now, my team is focused on leading EM’s summer internship, which is happening now!

We have 6 young people from South Africa, the U.S., the U.K., and Namibia.  During their six weeks with us, we will focus on teaching them practical leadership skills and theological lessons from the book of Ephesians, while giving them opportunities to go deeper in their walk with the Lord and be individually mentored by a member of our community.

Summit Interns 2016
Summit Interns 2016

Jack’s teams is heavily involved in supporting our partner church in Mitchell’s Plain, a low-income area that battles gang activity, drugs, and a lack of economic opportunity.

Micah comes along with us, (sometimes) napping in her car seat as we meet, exploring the back yard, and getting lots of cuddles from our community.

On Tuesday evenings, our small group from church meets. We are so thankful for them. They have loved us well through moving here (and not knowing anyone!), welcoming Micah into the family, surviving colic, busy ministry schedules, and more.

WEDNESDAYS are working days.

Jack goes into “the office” again, where he works on a grammar project for the Ancient Languages department. He converts written lectures into an online learning format, with the goal that students who are behind in their grasp of grammar can catch up as they begin studying Hebrew, Greek, or Latin.

I host a group of young women at our apartment. I facilitate us through an intense community-building and spiritual formation process called “Battle for Hearts.” It has been a challenging but rewarding process, and every week, I’m reminded of the ways I need to grow as a leader.


THURSDAYS are mentorship days.

Jack meets with his men’s Battle for Hearts group and does ministry work for East Mountain, including planning special events, addressing technology needs of the ministry, and meeting with others on staff.

Battle for Men's Hearts group
Battle for Men's Hearts group

I meet with Nancy (name changed to protect her privacy), a mixed-race woman that I mentor. We are going through a really great foundational study together. has provided us with so many free, high-quality tools to use as we teach and mentor others. I’m so thankful for it!

Nancy has a sharp mind and deep desire to grow in her knowledge of the Bible. Her insightful questions keep me on my toes! Meeting with her is one of my favorite parts of the week.

FRIDAYS are community-building days.

After Jack spends a half-day in the office, we go out to the EM community house for the weekly “braai,” a quintessentially South-African gathering that centers around grilling LOTS of meat and relaxing with friends.

We deepen relationships with EM’s ministry partners, board members, staff, former interns, and all kinds of other friends, new and old. It’s at the braais that many of our strategic connections are formed with local pastors.

(c) Peartree Photography
(c) Peartree Photography

SATURDAYS are catch-up and adventure days.

When we are good and get our work for the week done, we adventure around Cape Town or hang out. Often, however, we spend some of the day catching up with ministry work, prepping for the coming week’s meetings, and Jack works on his studies.

SUNDAYS are sabbath and family days.

We have learned the importance of rest and protecting family time! Being in full-time ministry means it’s easy to become over-committed, and before you know it, you are working every day of the week. That’s especially true here in South Africa, where there are more people with more needs than we could ever meet!

We worship in the mornings at Christ Church Stellenbosch. We are thankful to be slowly forming many genuine friendships with South Africans through our church.

My favorite Sunday afternoons are those we take a nap or go hiking, followed by a Face Time call to our families.

Jonkershoek Hike
Jonkershoek Hike

And that is a typical week here in South Africa!

2015: Our Year In Pictures


On January 21, 2015, we hopped on a plane, skipped across an ocean, and jumped into a new life of faith, obedience, and adventure in the suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa.

Here's what our year looked like.

All of our 14 bags arrived safely; it was an unexpected blessing and great relief.

Jack handing out tablets to East Mountain Interns and Bible Certificate Course students.

As part of our educational strategy, East Mountain uses tablets preloaded with Bible resources, teaching material and coursework. A Houston friend sent us with 5 tablets, the exact number needed for the last minute registrants. God provides in unforeseen ways when we are obedient!

East Mountain's 2015 South African Resident Interns(Left to right: Lorenzo, Natasha, Lutando)

Dialogue Education Training: Learning How to Teach By Asking Questions

East Mountain Ministry Partners 

Micah Mae

God gave us our first child, Micah Mae, on March 24! His protection and His goodness were evident throughout the entire process. 

Studying in the early days

East Mountain Fellowship

The East Mountain community and our church small group provided much-needed support and encouragement in the first couple of weeks.

Jack's parents came for a visit in April. Loren's mom came down in June.

Jack using his tech skills (i.e. Google & YouTube) in upgrading the EM Team House internet.


Summit is East Mountain's  summer internship which runs mid-May through June. Summit is a combo of leadership training, mentorship, Bible teaching, and practical ministry.

The 2015 Summit Crew.

Alex and Maggie are some dear friends. Their daughter, Emma Kate, was also born in Stellenbosch, about 6 weeks after Micah.

Some rest time after Summit at the beach. 

Studying in the department with Christian and Alex

Studying at home... sort of

The local coffee shop where I do most of my studying. By God's grace, I passed my first year of coursework cum laude.

Some of the best pics of our recent family photo shoot. (Thanks Kelsey and Autumn!)

We are so thankful for the memories these pictures represent. Each one represents tangible evidence of God's grace and his faithfulness in our lives.

Thank you for joining us in this journey!

Much Love,

Jack, Loren & Micah Mae

Read our 2015 Annual Update Letter

Read our 2015 Highlights

Support our Ministry

2015: Our Highlights

We've had a busy year. Here are some of our highlights.

What We Accomplished in 2015

- began our family!
- established solid relationships within the EM team
- completed the first year of coursework
- installed a new wireless system in EM team house
- set up EM social media strategy
- built friendships with several non-Christians
- built and fostered relationships with EM interns
- assisted with website upgrades for EM community
- met general tech support needs for EM community
- plugged in at Christ Church
- adapted to being a new mom
- conquered colic, but only just barely
- adapted to life w/o dairy

What We Plan to Finish in 2015

- Strategic Planning for East Mountian 2016
- One last capstone paper
- Family time in Texas
- Watch Star Wars Episode 7 ... multiple times
- Indulge in lots of Tex-Mex (Torchy's, Gringo's, and Lupe, we're coming for you!)

What We Hope to Accomplish in 2016

- Complete Masters in Biblical Languages and Linguistics
- Strategic planning for East Mountian Global
- Teaching Bible courses for EM
- Summit 2016 planning & recruiting

By His Grace & For His Glory!

Will You Join Us?!

We would love for you to be a part of what we are doing. Here are a few ways you can join us:
1) Thank God for what He has done this year, both in us and through us.
2) Pray for what God has in store for us next year, for direction, wisdom, guidance, and support
3) Prayerfully consider giving for any of the needs listed here.

Culture Shock in South Africa

Sometimes late at night, I lay awake and stare at the ceiling. I ponder the deep questions of life and I think about …

tacos. Yep, tacos. (Specifically, a Torchy’s chicken taco, extra mango, with chipotle sour cream sauce.)


As a native Texan living far from home, I (Loren) am beginning to think  “a land flowing with milk and honey” could be contextually translated as “a land flowing with salsa and [good] coffee, a land of large parking spaces and Targets and tacos to go.” (I’m sure my husband, the Bible scholar, would agree in spirit but disagree in principle.)

We, dear friends, are right in the middle of culture shock.


The good news: It’s just a phase, and we know it will pass.

The bad news: We are missing home more than ever.

Would you pray for us?

Here is what Jack has to say about it:

What I thought ministry would like: teaching, preaching, lecturing.

What it usually looks like:

  • Tech-ing: fixing computers, setting up wifi, teaching computer skills, solving phone problems
  • Friend-ing: building relationships with baristas and grocers in our neighborhood
  • Supporting: Sharing my Bible knowledge to support the work of East Mountain as we disciple young people and encourage those preaching in the slums

Instead of giving lots of sermons, I've been blessed by  hearing lots of great sermons.

Instead of being a Hebrew Jedi master, I'm learning to write more precisely and study hard.

Instead of leading out front, I'm supporting the work, strategizing from the back, plugging in holes.

God is teaching me that sometimes ministry looks like  showing up and loving people. Sometimes the most important people to love are the ones you see everyday.

Our presence —  the time we take to cultivate friendships with those who don’t know Jesus — it is powerful in a way that shakes spiritual kingdoms.

But it often doesn’t feel important like giving a sermon does.

I (Loren) am learning the power of being present for the mundane yet sacred moments of motherhood, as I change yet another diaper.

I’m learning how this tiny human opens doors and builds relationships with the local people in unexpected ways.

As we are reminded of these truths, we find ourselves humbled and encouraged. All we must do to be part of God's kingdom work is to be present and available for his Spirit to use us.

Wherever you are today, we pray you find the courage to be present and attentive to God's Spirit ... and possibly stop for a taco on the way home.

We miss you and love you, friends.

Prayer requests:

  • Praise God with us! Micah’s colic has passed and her sweet, spunky personality is emerging. We discovered she is allergic to dairy, and if Loren stays on a strict dairy-free diet, Micah sleeps longer and is much calmer. Please pray that Loren would have patience and perseverance as she learns to cook and eat in a new way.
  • For the friendships that we are building with non-believers here; that God would give us the opportunity and the courage to speak about him.
  • For Jack’s studies: that he would continue to be encouraged as he studies the word of God, and for more opportunities to share his knowledge and bless others.
  • For our support. We still lack 25% amount in monthly support, and $6000 for the cost of our car. You can give online here.

Discipleship in the Mud Pit

Rain slashes against the windows. It’s winter in Stellenbosch - another cold and grizzly day. The mountains are hidden in a heavy fog. I have never experienced a June quite like this one. Inside, a fire crackles in the large fireplace. I can feel the apprehension in the room; it is palpable among the group of young women gathered in a circle.


I go first and I share my story - the story of how the Lord found me and rescued me from myself.

It’s never easy, but I have shared my testimony enough to know that there is power in it. There is power in each of our stories - power in the unique way God reveals himself to each of us, power in His redemption.

As each young woman shares her story, fingers tremble and hearts race. Tears fall; sheepish smiles follow. These women barely know each other, and yet they will be living and learning together for the next six weeks.

It is East Mountain’s Summit internship program. Eleven young people in their late teens and early twenties, some South African and some American, have come to East Mountain’s retreat center in Stellenbosch to see what the Lord has to teach them.

As I listen to these women and pray for them, I start to feel alive. A part of me, dormant for these last months as I’ve struggled through postpartum days and long nights, begins to stir. I remember that I am more than simply a pair of hands to feed and clothe and rock. As I gaze down into the blue eyes of my baby, I hear the young woman across from me stumble over the words - that she was unwanted, that she can’t remember her mother, that she was made to feel unloved.

My heart aches and I wish there were a way for her to go back. I wish someone had been there to cup her chin and tilt her small face upwards and to tell her that the Lord doesn’t make mistakes; her life is no accident. As it is, she now hears this truth for the first time at age nineteen. The Lord has healing for her in this place, and he’s only just begun his redemption of her life.


I feel bold and confident. I can speak truth into these women’s lives. I can listen and ask thoughtful questions. I can help them process what the Lord is doing within them.

Fast forward two weeks, and I pull up to the retreat center on another rainy day. I hunch over the steering wheel, sobs racking my body. In the back, baby Micah wails - on and on, as she has all morning. It’s just too much and I feel I have nothing to give. I laugh at myself - at how I thought I could be a mentor to a young woman. These days, my life feels like wading through a mud pit - mucking through endless care-taking and sneaky postpartum hormones and trying to learn how to be a mother.


And yet, here I am. Waiting to pick up the young woman I am supposed to be “discipling.” She dances out to the car and suddenly realizes that my mood is grim. She knows my baby has colic. She’s heard me articulate that these days are hard, that I haven’t found my rhythm as a mom yet. I have been honest, and yet raw tears are something else altogether.

But, the Lord knows what I need in that moment and I find it in Erika’s gentle hug, in her assurance that things will be okay. And I am reminded that discipleship is not about confidence and having the right answers - many times, discipleship is raw life, laid bare for another to see.

Discipleship is not only the stories the Lord has already redeemed in our lives, but those he is actively transforming, day to day.

And so I open myself up, and we have a lovely brunch together, and I find myself excited by all the Lord is doing in her heart. She cuddles my baby and offers sympathy and reflects back to me what I look like - something I’ve sorely needed.


Just as this young woman learns best in community, so do I.

On the good days and on the hard days, we find ourselves increasingly thankful for East Mountain - for how this group of missionary families and South Africans have joined hands and formed real community - and invited us in. They have been our surrogate family, and encouraged us to exercise our gifts, and given us a forum to see God at work. As God continues to mould Jack and me into who he's called us to be, I’m thankful that East Mountain is a part of it.

As you muck through your day-to-day, may the Lord bless you with community. May he give you the courage to seek it out and the determination not to settle for anything less. May you find that whatever your station in life, there are those you are equipped to encourage and those ready to encourage you.

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”

—Acts 2:42-47

South Africa: T Minus 3 days!

January usually feels like a slow month - Christmas is over and I'm typically in "recovery mode," falling back into a rhythm and contemplating a new year, all in the midst of cold, gray winter. This January has been quite the exception! We have said good-bye to our jobs and co-workers, dealt with visas, moved out of our house, packed our bags, and prepared to start a new life overseas. We are now soaking up every last minute with family and friends as we make final preparations to move.

It's hard to believe, but in three days, we will be on our way to South Africa!


It’s 15 hours from Houston to Dubai, where we will layover for a night, and then on the next 10-hour plane to Cape Town, South Africa, followed by an hour drive to Stellenbosch.

Study update: Jack begins new student orientation the day we land. He is excited to dive back into the world of Linguistics, Greek and Hebrew. As his wife, seeing his passion and excitement for studying and sharing the word of God continues to confirm for me that God is leading us forward to pursue our calling.


Would you pray with us, that as Jack studies the word of God, the Lord would give him opportunities to share his findings with the church?

Housing update: We will initially be living with some very kind missionaries from our East Mountain team and will begin hunting for a place of our own to live, something that we've been told can take time and patience in a university town with a housing shortage.

Would you pray with us, that God would deliver us an affordable rental home in a safe area that meets our needs?

Baby update: In late March, God willing, we will welcome our little girl! We are thankful that both Loren and baby are healthy. Much of Loren's time in the first few weeks will be establishing care under a doctor and securing plans to deliver the baby.


Would you pray with us, for health for mom and baby, and that God will provide us with a skilled doctor, doula, and supportive community as we welcome our first child?

Ministry update: We are excited to finally in person join the East Mountain ministry team (check us out, we are now "official" on their team page!). We are honored to join them as we work together to equip and expand the church in South Africa.

Would you pray with us, that as we undergo a lot of transition, we are able to establish a healthy and positive community with our East Mountain team?

Funding update: Thank you to everyone who has given to support our ministry in South Africa! Currently, we are 60% funded. We are thankful to be reminded that God provides for us, enough for each day and need. You can find more information on our budget page.

Would you pray with us, that God continues to meet our financial needs as he teaches us to rely on him and our community of faith?

Thank you!!

We’ve been amazed (yet again) at how our God is a God of abundance - we have seen his care through all of you. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of our community here - between baby showers, practical help preparing, words of love, financial gifts to our ministry, and an outpouring of love and support, we are very aware that we will not journey into South Africa alone. We are deeply humbled by all of the support and love.

Thank you for being part of our journey, and thank you for your love.

Together, I know God is going to use us to encourage our brothers and sisters in South Africa, and to advance his kingdom work! Lately, I’ve been contemplating a beautiful quote from The Valley of Vision. Wherever you find yourself this January - stuck in the cold and gray, aware of his abundance, or somewhere between, may it encourage you:

“Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess, but not more than is found in thee, the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells.”

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.

The Gift of Presence

The coffee shop where we spent a lot of time building relationships and playing Uno this month

The coffee shop where we spent a lot of time building relationships and playing Uno this month

Here on the Worlp Rape (Nepali Engrish for World Race), we go a lot of places for not a lot of reasons. "Ministry" often looks like going to a church service (or a gathering or a graduation or even a wedding) and sitting there, or worse, just standing there. You're not asked to preach or sing or pray or testify. You just sit.

Meanwhile the people stare at you intermittently between singing or praying in their mother tongues which we of course do not understand.

30 min goes by.Sitting.An hour passes.Still just sitting.An hour and a half passes.

(This is how I go through 2 full battery cycles a day on my iPod touch...)

I don't think this is what Abraham had in mind when he was told God would use him to bless all people groups. It's certainly not what I thought I was signing up to do 12 months ago at Training Camp. Regardless, I am here, and I know God wants me here.

But, why?

There are so many other (read better) things I could be doing.

You have 7 brilliant, passionate, equipped, University-educated 20-somethings at your disposal. And you just want us to SIT HERE?!?

We can teach classes on health, Bible, English, business, finance, hygiene. We can preach and sing. We can host medical clinics. And that's just the list of degrees and certifications on our team!

[photo missing] Krystle checking blood pressure during the medical clinic this month

"No, thank you. You canjust sit here." (to be understood as: Sit down, shut up, don't do anything disruptive, and smile.)


Well, the short answer is I don't know. The long answer goes something like this...

Sometimes, God can use us without us doing anything. Sometimes, we don't need to preach or evangelize.  Sometimes he just wants us to BE there.

Sometimes he just wants us to BE.

Not do. BE.

At times we feel like sports stars or movie stars; people just love being around us.

Sometimes we can be an encouragement to others by just being there, hanging out, playing Angry Birds. During a medical clinic for the elderly, I sat in a chair surrounded by a flock of kids watching me play Angry birds. Sometimes they ooh-ed and awed. Sometimes they provided commentary on the action. Sometimes they laughed at my failures. They loved it.

Somehow, that's ministry.

I can't tell you how many times it has happened, but it feels like we've done more of that than what we would normally consider ministry in these past 10 months.

Sometimes you just being there is all God wants you to do.

Our American culture tells us that we are what we do. Therefore we must perform and accomplish and work and do. But God didn't create us for the purpose of doing that stuff.

He created us to worship Him and enjoy life serving Him and His Kingdom.

Worship is a matter of the whole person, your heart, your mind, your body, the deepest parts of who you are. And, worship is about all of life, not just singing songs or going to church.

You cannot worship when you are not aware of God's presence.

God is in the business of giving the gift of presence, His presence. Our Scriptures are full of theophanies. The Bible itself is a book of divine disclosure; that's what makes it holy. In the Old Testament, He appears to Abraham and Moses. In the New Testament, He reveals Himself to the disciples and Paul. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, He gives all His followers the Holy Spirit.

And because we are Spirit-filled people, God can use us as gifts of presence.

Yes, we are called to be more than just gifts of presence. All followers of Jesus have been commissioned as heralders of the good news in both word and deed. If St. Francis of Assisi really did say something along the lines of "preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words" (which is questionable), then he was wrong. TheGospel is not good news if it is not news that is both proclaimed and proved. But, sometimes, God just wants us to show up and wait.

If I were more spiritual I would now tell you a story about how I did this and share some profound insight with you.

I'm not.

I'm still learning, so maybe we can do this together. Maybe we can play fewer levels of Angry Birds and ask God to speak in those situations. Maybe we open up a dialogue with God in our own mother tongue while the others do the same.

Mad photo props to the fabulous Brianna Danese.

Girls for Sale: Reflections from the Red-Light District


On a muggy night in Chiang Mai, I walked "home" to the YWAM base. My backpack was heavy and I could have caught a ride, but I felt the need to just wander. So I meandered through the Thai streets, enjoying my worship playlist and how the city comes alive at night. To get home, I had to pass through the heart of the bar district. I slowed, walking up and down the strip. I tried to pray for those I passed - I really wanted to - but the words wouldn't come.

For the girls that can't be older than 16, their faces a mask of heavy makeup, always tugging on miniskirts hugging their straight bodies ...

For the women that used to be little boys ... before the lies whispered "You should have been a girl. Take these hormones and you can look like one. Show off your body and see your true value. Make a little bit of money."

For the mothers, with crying babies and sullen teenagers at home, far too old and too long in this business, but in desperate need of money ... just some money to put food in their childrens' mouths ...

And for the men that come to buy them, eyes glazed, searching for respect or manhood, "a good time" ... or maybe just someone to listen to their stories.

For these I tried to pray, but words wouldn't come.

The pack on my shoulders weighed me down. Pulsing lights barely lit the dark, uneven street beneath me. The hypnotic beat of dirty rap invaded my headphones, polluting my music, driving my despair for these children of God - these Jesus died for. They don't even know his name.

And it all became too heavy - my backpack, the hopelessness, the heavy sin that drenches Loi Kroh road. The deception that clouds everything.

And so I returned to what I knew - I worshipped. I worshipped the God of us, the God who came down to dwell in our darkest places, among twisted & starving humanity. I turned up the volume until all I heard ...

Wonderful savior How may I bless your heart? Knees to the earth I bow down, to everything you are Be blessed, be loved, be lifted high Be treasured here  Be glorified

And I walked. And my heart praised my king, lover of their souls.

I found myself in the parking lot of the strip club, and partway through Phil Wickham's Beautiful --

I see Your power in the moonlit night Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright We are amazed in the light of the stars It’s all proclaiming who You are You’re beautiful

I looked up ... no stars were visible beyond the neon lights - but I knew they were there, even though I couldn't see past the distractions. Just as I know Jesus cares for these women, even when they can't see him.


The Lord reminded me what a beautiful savior we have - a lover like no other.

I see you there hanging on a tree You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me

He died for all the sin, all the heavy. He took our dirty and made it pure. He took our load and made it light.

And there, in the parking lot of the strip club - in Thailand, "land of smiles" - tears flowed in a stream down my face. Becuase this sin-soaked soil, he called it Good - tov - when he breathed his God-breath on it.

And his precious blood, it washes everything clean; our old sin, new sin, even the ugly sin we don't know we'll find on ourselves tomorrow.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore Where death is just a memory and tears are no more We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring Your bride will come together and we’ll sing You’re beautiful

I desperately, desperately want these women standing next to me on eternity's shore. And you know what?

I think Jesus wants these women at the wedding feast also. He's coming to tell them: "Your tears are no more." Becuase as I write this, there are over 100 World Racers all over Thailand, carrying the Holy Spirit into dark places. YWAM Thialand has hundreds of missionaries, both Thai and foreign, spreading the news of a wonderful savior.

The truth of his word illuminated my mind, and I was finally able to pray...

"They don't know how beautiful you are yet .. but Lord, show them your face. Soon."

MANistry Video!


April was the month we lived in Thailand. This was a very unique month for us, because we were separated from one another. Jack was put on a team with all the men - they called it "MANistry month" (always said in a tones of pride). Loren was put on a brand-new team of all women. We both loved it - while it was hard to be away from each other, of course, there is a unique intimacy that comes from not mixing men and women. To celebrate their "MANistry," the boys made a video. It was made by our squad leader, Christian Roderick, is our celebration of the Thai New Year with the Songkran festival. In case you have never heard of Songkran, it's a country-wide 5 day water fight.

Chiang Mai is the best place to celebrate it because the old city is surrounded by a huge moat, which they flood just before the festival to ensure that noone runs out of water to throw in people's faces. And we just so happened to be there. Here's what it looked like:

For videos about the ministry we are working with this month, check out this link.

A Day in the Life: Rwanda

8:00 am:            Arise (rather groggy and grumpy - I am not friends with evil Morning.) 8:00 - 9:00:       Snack on some Psalms in my little tent - so tasty!

9:00 - 9:45:       Walk the long, dusty road to pastor’s house for breakfast

9:45 - 10:00:     Eat breakfast (same as every day) … hard-boiled egg, a miniature banana, black ginger tea with goat’s milk, and chapati (like a fluffy tortilla).

We were told that right after breakfast, we would leave for a “short” marriage party. It would be a “slight distance” away, and we were not sure how we would get there.

10:00 - 12:00:    Wait at the pastor’s house in confusion … where we discover it is a graduation party, not a marriage party. And that the pastor had already left. And that he is not sure how we will get there. Make small talk with the pastor’s wife (who speaks limited English) -  try to maintain eye contact as she breastfeeds her toddler, completely topless and very nonchalant about it.

Play “20 questions” with our team to kill time.

Sweat trickles down my back - the heat of the day arrives early here.

12:30 - 1:00:       We walk across town to our translators’ moms’ shop, where we will meet our translator, who will get us bus tickets to the graduation party.

1:00 pm:              Arrive at the shop, where mama wants to know where her daughter (our translator) is. We have no idea. Hands on wide hips, she is not happy.

1:00 - 1:40:          Sit on the steps and watch the cars go by. I daydream about macaroni and cheese. A precious and malnourished child wanders by, so my attention is averted to praying for her.

1:40 pm:               Our translator arrives, and after a short argument with her mom, we head to the bus station.

2:15 pm:               When we arrive at the bus station, we discover that the next bus does not leave until 3 pm. (We were told the party ended around 3). So we walk back to to the shop.

2:30 - 3:30:           Wait for a while longer, while many confusing phone calls fly around. A car arrives to pick us up, then speeds away as our translator explains that “it has two flat tires.”

4:00 pm:                We are picked up by a van. Thrilled and relieved, we stretch out on the seats and head off, bumping along back roads.

4:20 pm:                 In confusion, we are driven back to …. the pastor’s house!

Here, we are greeted by the pastor’s family, dressed to a hilt, AND the entire Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir from the pastor’s church, in their singing attire: shiny brown satin two-tone shirts and crisp pants, and long shoes that turn up at the toes.  All 16 of them pile into our van (how I wish Africans used deodorant!), along with their full arsenal of sound equipment … 2 huge box stereos, a sound board, several cables, etc. Some seats have 3 layers of people stacked high on each others’ laps.

In my little corner of the van, I thank Jesus (literally) that I am by a window, where fresh air can blow through, and that my compact size shows its advantage in this situation. My poor 6 ft+ team leader looks so uncomfortable.

4:25 pm:        After driving exactly 10 meters, the van is stopped. In a flurry of loud voices, the entire choir piles out of the van, shuffles around, and then piles back in. This happens twice more in the next half hour. But … we are finally on our way! Note that we are only 6 hours late.

During the van ride, Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir practices their repertoire, although they don't all sing the same song at the same time. It is loud enough that I hear it all through my headphones.

5:25 pm:       Arrive at the graduation party to many stares.

We visit the “bathroom” - a three-sided shack with a hole dug in the ground. The exciting part is that there is a hornet’s nest … in the hole where you are supposed to do your business.

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to do your business without angering the hornets. This is all made more exciting, since in Romania I discovered a serious allergy to flying, stinging insects. In Africa, even a trip to the bathroom is never routine. Somehow, we miraculously survive unscathed.

At the graduation party, we eat two very large dinners … one complete with animal intestines and soured milk sauce. We choke down what we can and try not to let the constant stares bother us.

We’re given a 2-minute warning that someone from our group will give a graduation speech. This should not be surprising, since at the last graduation we attended (in Tanzania), we were given a 1-minute warning that we would be performing a dance in front of hundreds. Yes, we did it, and no, it was not my proudest moment. At this graduation ceremony, however, my teammate Jake saves the day by giving a speech that is well-received. After that the stares are more kindly.

I am fascinated by a speech given by the family patriarch and his allusions to genocide. Their family was Tutsi, in the targeted group during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. His family fled to Uganda and most of them have known life as refugees. In a quiet, dignified voice, he glorifies God that he has allowed them to return to the homeland of their fathers, that he saved them while many others were slaughtered, and that now as his family - and his country - rebuilds, the graduation of his grandson marks progress for his family and hope for all.

Rwandans are a reserved, proud people that do not quickly open their emotions to outsiders - and they rarely talk of the horror in their recent past. To see a rare glimpse of their true feelings was a gift, and I felt honored to be included in such an intimate family gathering.

Little did I know the day was not even close to over yet …

6:45 pm:        Though the “party” portion of the ceremony is only beginning, we all (Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir included) pile back into the van - we are already late for evening church service. We bounce along the rutted, muddy, rocky, mountainous road to the city.

    Along the way, fields of wheat and corn unfold before me like a patchwork quilt - beautiful.     A storm rolls in, shades of steel in thunderous clouds above, brazen sunlight shining through breaks of gray. Clean, rain-soaked breezes wash through the open window and refresh the sweaty stale air inside the van. A great playlist rings in my ears, and I worship. My heart bobs above me, like a balloon on a string. It doesn’t feel like much holds me to the ground. Just when I think I can’t be more caught up in the rapture of the beauty around me, a lightening storm begins.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

Despite Genocide, God has smiled upon this land. The story of Rwanda is still unfolding, and I can’t help but sense that he is not done in East Africa yet - a feeling that was confirmed when …

7:30 pm:        We arrive at church, late for service, where everyone is singing a cappella and caught up in worship- undeterred that we have the choir and the sound system with us.

7:30 - 8:45:    Church and preaching/worship with our team.

8:45 pm:        We choke down our third dinner.

9:15 pm:         In the middle of a torrential downpour, all seven of us pile into a small four-door ancient car that in every moment feels like its last. We somehow make it home.

10:00 pm:       Collapse into bed and think, “Is this real life?


Life in Mwanza, Tanzania, goes at a slower pace than what we have been accustomed thus far. We have lots of time to think, to read, to rest, and to just be. This has lead to much contemplation about life, both here and back home.

Little things we miss the most:
-Cold-brewed iced coffee from Catalina Coffee and Revival Market
-Mai's Vietnamese pho tai
-Fast internet
-Dublin Dr. Pepper
-Pho Yen egg rolls
-College football
-A comfy bed in a cozy room
-Nordstrom's bread pudding

Big things we enjoy the most:
-Only 2 hours of scheduled activities a day
-Hanging out around the beautiful Lake Victoria on our rest days
-Preaching all the time (download latest sermon audio here and notes here, pictures below)
-Living in community with people being wrecked by the gospel and its implications
-Leading a talented team of people who are more gifted and more passionate than I am
-Serving pastors who have more faith and bigger dreams than we do
-Being God's conduit of blessing and His instrument of healing: spiritual, social, emotional, and physical healing.
-Watching God advance His Kingdom, right before our eyes.

There are things we miss, and it is difficult being thousands of miles away from our family and friends. But it is so worth it. We know we are right where we are supposed to be. The days pass quickly, and we are in month five of our 11-month journey. We are coming up soon on the deadline to be fully funded. We still have about $4000 to go. It would mean so much to us if you would join us in prayer for this. We are asking God to be fully funded by February 1st. If you would like to give, you can do so by clicking the "Support Us" link on the right. We are grateful for your partnership.