Rev your Engines

Nestled in the rolling hills of northern Nebraska you will find a small camp and on bright and sunny days you will see roving groups of kids swinging over the pond on a rope, or scrambling the 40 ft precipice known as Mount Ann. Eric “Gil” Kimmons serves as the director for Glad Tidings Bible Camp and he does a great job with very limited budget and staff. His wife Jamie really cares about getting young kids exposed to and engaged with the God’s word and the good news of the gospel.

With about 10 acres keeping the grounds maintained is a constant chore. Late last summer, the mower engine at Glad Tidings Bible camp went out.  The shop estimate was $4,000 to fix it – a major hit in both cost and equipment unavailability.  After we prayed and looked for creative solutions, God provided a new replacement engine with a 15% increase in power for $1600 less than the shop estimate.  And a few weeks ago, Chester, the kids and a couple others headed out to swap out the engine and tackle a few smaller projects.

Gil, the director of Glad Tidings Bible Camp, and I swapping out the mower engine.

As I was working on the engine, I mulled over a few Biblical parallels loosely related to what I was doing. For me fall is a time of self-reflection, sometimes a little bit of depression. I find myself wondering the different ways others uses to take their thoughts captive, or what they might recomend to “get my motor running” so-to-speak. Almost every engine manufacturer spell out a process for starting up a new engine or one coming out of storage and likewise Self-help books attempt to do the same for people.

Since our manual is God’s Word I wanted to share a couple “lawn mower” reflections that have been helpful to me when life has gotten me down, or when I am trying to “rev up” my faith walk.

Nothing missing
A lawn mower has a clear identity and it has all the pieces needed. As believers, we also have all of the pieces needed. At the moment of belief in Christ we not only receive the gift of eternal life but God has “given birth” or brought forth a new person (James 1:18). This new person, (me, you), has Christ living in them (Galatians 2:20) and what God has created is perfect, not missing any pieces. (1 Peter 1:23, 1 John 5:12 and 5:18). One key idea to getting up and going is confidence in the permanence and wholeness of our identity as a believer. I really love John 10:28-29 where Jesus promises security for the believer.

Powerless to run
A lawn mower does not just start itself and mow the lawn. It requires something outside of itself both to initiate and to sustain its operation. Everyone knows what the lawn mower is supposed to do, but also that it is powerless to accomplish that task on its own. This is also true in the life of a believer (though it’s a real temptation to live like we can do it by ourselves.) Paul’s argument in Romans 7:15 and following says it beautifully “I delight in the law of God in my inner man” but “what I want to do, I do not do” and “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out”. I’m pretty sure that is the same thing the lawn mower would say. “But there is another power at war within me. This power makes me a slave”. Clearly I can’t just “get ‘er done”. In fact one of the worse parts of my own experience is that the wolf which wins is the one I do not want to win. I know I’ve thought frequently “I can’t do it, who can bring victory?”. Paul says it with real feeling. “Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me and set me free from this body of death?”

When I fill the gas tank of the mower and give the rope a pull it is me who is providing the outside source needed to get the motor running. The one who has believed in Jesus has God’s Spirit living in him. And “if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus out of the dead dwells in you, He who raised up the Christ out of the dead will also quicken your dying bodies, through His Spirit dwelling in you”. Since I can not muscle it up myself only God can give me life. Another foundational principle for “getting going” is an understanding of our everyday complete dependence on the grace of God both to secure our eternity but also to help us in the here and now.    


Adjustment needed
Most of us have experienced some troubles with our equipment when the motor refuses to start because there is something broken or it needs some adjustment. I am often like that motor, having something wrong that needs fixed or adjusted but refusing to respond to God guidance. When I understand my security as a believer and my only hope for living today being God’s free grace, it makes it easier to bring my brokenness to God or ask God for help.

Mr. Fix It
Imagine your mechanic only taking care of the problems that you know about and returning your equipment to you still not working right. I doubt that you would have much confidence in such a mechanic. It is great news that when I bring my issues to God He attends both to the things I know about and the stuff I don’t. 1 John 1:9 gives a picture of this process and it is something I think about almost daily.

What is the point? This reflection came from an engine. I doubt that it has anything novel or new for you, maybe it simply reinforces our foundations. I know that you can do the same, by taking the time to notice Biblical parallels in everyday life, or to note teachable moments we learn to appreciate and understand God’s word. It gives ideas on how to apply and share wisdom with others, and helps make application in our own lives. God wants us to engage His word in thought and conversation with others and of course in life application. What are the little things you can do today or techniques you can use now to motivate your thinking and speaking toward spiritually valuable things? We’d sure love to hear them. Drop us a line or a comment!

Real Life

The past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind in a different way than usual.

Chester’s parents contracted Covid, and so did their primary caretaker.  Chester moved there to help care for them, and also contracted it.  His mother has recovered, and Chester also is recovering.

Chester’s Dad, Merlin left his earthly body early this morning, following a long battle with Alzheimers.  It was an honor for Chester to join his Mom in caring for him in his final days.  We appreciate your prayers for the family, and are thankful that when a person believes in Jesus for life everlasting you receive it and nothing can snatch you out of the secure hands of Jesus and the Father.

In the midst of grieving, we’re also celebrating – not just Merlin and God’s goodness to our extended family, but also in a few smaller, personal ways.

Josiah was baptized on his 12th birthday.

Micah is officially graduating from high school.  You’re invited to join us in celebrating this accomplishment.  Reply to this email to rsvp or for more info.

As we navigate a season of celebrating and grieving, we’re so grateful to you, our friends and family, both local and everywhere for praying for us and supporting us in very practical ways.  Thanks for living out the way that the family of God functions!

If you’d like to provide a meal or donation for our extended family, sign up here

Current Support Level: 51% monthly, 74% annual

Join us for Breakfast!

We started off summer with a big road trip to visit and reconnect with several friends and supporters.  It was a great time, and we loved seeing you!

We’d also like the opportunity to see our local friends and supporters, and to hear and share about what God has going on with all of you and with us!  In order to facilitate that, we’ve scheduled a few small local events.  Each of these will be a short time with a ministry update from us (and possibly others too), some pictures, and the opportunity to ask questions and pray together.   We’ll serve coffee and a light breakfast (no need to bring anything).   

The places and times are:

Lincoln, NE:  July 24th   9:00am – 10:00am 
Omaha, NE:  August 7th   9:00am – 10:30am
Ashland, NE:  August 21st   9:00am – 10:30am

Reply to let us know you can come, and we’ll send you the address!  (That way, we also know about how much food and coffee to prepare).  If you would like to host a similar event at another time or location, let us know!

We look forward to seeing many of you soon!

This time, connecting with you – our friends and supporters – won’t require a five-week road trip!

Current Support Level: 41% monthly, 68% annual

Summertime!

Summertime is vacation season, and we know a lot of you are traveling and keeping a different schedule through this season.  We are too, and wanted to share a few of the things we’re up to.

Since Memorial Day, most of our family has been up at Glad Tidings Bible Camp serving in a variety of ways.  All the kids and Chester were there for Staff Training, Moriah helped with a Vacation Bible School near camp, Isaiah and Micah got seasonal employment for a few weeks with a farmer, Chester cooked for most of the camping season, All the kids have taken turns as staff and cabin leaders during various camps, done maintenance and mowing, and have been helping out anywhere they were needed.

The camping season is close to wrapping up – one and a half more weeks as staff, and then possibly another week of work and a final camp for Micah, then we’ll be together as a family again in August!

While Chester and the kids have been deployed, I (Amy) have been specifically pursuing ministry and work here at home too.  God has allowed me several friendships that are focused on God and His word, and I’ve spent the summer cultivating them.  I’ve also had a week here and there with kids that are home – most notably two weeks in a row where Josiah and I spent the week together in Ashland, just the two of us.   They were quite special – we went on mom/son dates (to look at camper trailers), and he helped out several locals with yard work and various cleanup tasks.  Our kind neighbors took him fishing and swimming, and he had a couple of all-day play dates with cousins and friends too!

In the midst of this, Chester and I are preparing to teach Vacation Bible School (in two weeks, yikes!) at our church – Grace Bible Church.  The lessons are over the life of Paul with the overarching theme of “God is Faithful”  We’re excited to serve this way too!

Overall, this summer feels like most summers do for us – a big whirlwind.  It’s spiritually intense, and oh so fun!  We very much appreciate your prayers for our stamina and strength as the camping season wraps up, as we prepare and teach lessons and as we start to plan the next few months.

Thank you so much for praying and partnering with us!

Josiah cleaning up brush at a neighbor’s house
Chester and I are keeping our weekly date tradition by each driving half-way and meeting between home and camp for a date.

Current support level: 41% monthly / 68% annual

Date Nights and Gun Fights

It seemed to be a date-night like many others, a little ice cream and good conversation. We had managed to step out together for an evening out alone during our recent trip and we were delighted to practice this important routine in a new place.  As we finished our ice cream and walked back to the car, we recalled seeing an Indian grocery store nearby, and thought we’d like to go check it out.  We pulled through the parking lot toward the Indian grocery and noticed a group of bikers standing at a bar and grill. But what shocked us out of our conversation would change our night. 

It started with yelling suddenly getting louder than our conversation.   

“I’m not f… drunk.   … on’t let him go..  …  keep him away fr…..  “

A bike revs to life as a handful of bikers run toward the commotion. Five or six others were trying to restrain a guy on a bike.

“get your….  he’s got a….. Bi..’s gonna run… Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go”

Before we knew it, there were more then twenty guys in leather were rushing forward. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.  People went down, bikers were shooting and running, and cycles were racing out of the lot.

In a matter of a few seconds, our evening was transformed from a peaceful date night conversation into one with gunfire less than 40 feet away.  It could have easily ended badly for someone.  It sounds like a bad TV drama, but this was no romantic Hallmark rewrite of “The Wild One“. 

As the action slowed, people poked their heads from behind cars and looked around.  As far as anyone could tell, there wasn’t going to be a bloodbath right in front of us, and the danger was past.  Amy and I looked at each other and said “Welcome to the big city”. 

Later, I reflected on the situation and was reminded again that five seconds can be a very long time.  God was gracious that night, and reminded me again how precious life is, and how uncertain is the number of our days.  We are given but a small window of time here, and the choices we make significantly impact our own lives and the lives of others, both here and for all eternity.  

If you have not believed in Jesus to give you the free gift of everlasting life, please talk with us – we would love to share with you some of the reasons that we are persuaded that you can believe Him to do as He promised. 

If you a believer and not experiencing closeness and vitality in your Christian walk, I want to share a bit with you from my heart.  You have probably heard me say it before.  Even though you can’t lose eternal life, there is something which you can walk away from – discipleship.

Luke 14 defines a disciple of Jesus this way “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”  You can try to sugar coat things a bit but let’s just be honest here, if we look at what we have been given (time, talent, treasure) and we see relationships, objects or affections in close competition for our lives, you can call it lots of things but one thing you can be certain is that it is not discipleship. If we meditate more on Facebook than on His book, it’s not discipleship. If we are seeking the praise of others, it’s not discipleship. If we spend more time investing in our sports team than God’s mission, it’s not discipleship. Discipleship is learning from Jesus and putting this knowledge into action. Discipleship must permeate all aspects of life or it is not discipleship. It is not free and it takes hard work, commitment, and endurance.
 

Perhaps the hardest thing is that for every one of us there are times where we can see we are not living the life of a disciple. But do not give up. Luke 15 goes on to tell three of the most gracious and emotionally stirring stories which answer “Can I regain discipleship – and become salty again? Is there hope even for me?” I encourage you to read them on your own and note just a few things. 

  • The sheep, the coin, the son – they are always the Shepherd’s sheep, the Widow’s coin, the Father’s son. No matter where you have strayed, any who have believed in Jesus’ promise for everlasting life are secure in that position.  
  • See the common thread of God’s joy over anyone who gets right with Him. See 1 John 1:9 on how to get right with God. 
  • Note the patience and forbearance of the shepherd, the widow and the father in looking for the restoration of his valued possession. Remember that this is the picture of God who in His lovingkindness is merciful and longsuffering yet looking for the restoration of you, His valued child.
  • See the tender kindness of the shepherd who carries his wandering sheep back. Remember that you can’t restore yourself, only God can. 
  • Observe the father who does not bully or cajole but waits for a straying child to ‘come to his senses’ and does not withhold richness much beyond what the son deserves or could earn through his own labor. 

There is much more and coincidently our pastor chose to teach this particular passage just this last week. (You can watch the service here) .

Friends, I hope that you know that there is little more important to us than that each of us would be able to stand before Jesus one day and with a radiant, warm smile on His face He would wrap you up in His arms and say to you “Welcome home, you were a faithful servant. I am so proud of you. Rejoice, come share in your inheritance.”   

Your life is precious, and your time here on earth is finite. Use it with great discernment. And if there are issues between you and God, now is a good time to get things right. 

If you have any questions about this passage or other matters we would love to chat with you. 

We’ve been taking a date every week for more than 20 years, but didn’t get a picture on this one.  So here’s a different picture from our trip – where we found a “Davis” truck stop!

Current Support Level: 41% monthly, 63% annual

Home!

Thanks so much for praying for us during our supporter-connections trip, dear friends!  We had a wonderful trip, successfully connected with several supporters and a few churches, and are thrilled to be back home (even if it’s only for several hours).

During this trip, we memorized Romans 15:5.  It says “May the God of encouragement and endurance give you the same attitude of mind toward each other as Christ Jesus had”.  As we drove home, we took some time to notice that indeed, God had provided encouragement and endurance all through the trip.

Several times on the trip, there were several small things that threatened to discourage us – poor nights of sleep, guilt over what felt like missed opportunities for deeper discussions, a bout of stomach flu and interpersonal tensions.  But there was so much that encouraged us too – so many people willing to host us (even some complete strangers!), opportunities to help out on small home or grounds improvement projects at our hosts, people asking to know more about this ministry, then taking the time to let us know that they think what God has given us to do is really cool.  Even our kids encouraged us by serving heartily and by really enjoying and participating in the Grace Evangelical Society conference we attended.  

God also gave endurance through long days of working and long days of driving, and gave the extra measure of grace we needed to withstand (most of the time) the temptation to be irritable with each other and with our hosts, instead helping us to have a bit of Christ-like attitude toward each other, as mentioned in the verse.  Those of you who have traveled with kids know what a miracle that is, and we are grateful to God for that!

We reached home five weeks and two days after departing, did lots of laundry, attended church and visited our local area family, then forty hours after arriving, Chester and the kids left to be staff at Glad Tidings Bible Camp.  As we look forward to a summer of serving with the camp, we’re again so grateful to God for His encouragement and endurance, and are continuing to pray that we’ll have the same attitude of mind toward others that Christ Jesus demonstrated to us. 

Thank you for partnering with us as we serve!

A taste of the work we did on our trip.
We also had lots of fun!

Current support level: 41% monthly, 65% annual

Road Trip!

We have been on our supporter connections road trip for the past two weeks, and are currently enjoying our eleventh host of the trip!  A special thanks to the many who have shared of themselves through lodging, food or other resources.

If you visit our website or are connected to us on social media, you’ve probably seen several pictures of our adventures (we’re posting pictures a few days after visiting a particular place).

The highlight of the trip for me (Amy) so far has been the wonderful fellowship.  We’ve made or renewed connections with a number of people, and have been greatly encouraged by the community of those who love God and His word.  

Along the way we’ve done a handful of small helping projects – scrubbing a school bus, constructing a fence, and filling potholes, and we’ve also had some terrifically fun experiences – barrell riding, swimming, four wheeling, and bowling!  We even got to enjoy some tourism – it was the kids and my first time to the Gulf of Mexico, to see an alligator and dolphins in the wild, and to visit  Washington DC.

We’re so grateful to God for allowing this trip (and providing the car to do it in), and to our friends for hosting us, praying for us, donating hotel time, and giving toward this ministry.  Truly, we are beyond blessed.  God is using this time to refresh and encourage us, and help focus in our mission and methods toward greater effectiveness. There also have been so many wonderful opportunities for conversations that glorify Him also. Please continue to pray for us on the trip especially that God would give opportunities to share the gospel while we are traveling. 

Thank you!

Sweet fellowship at the Grace Evangelical Converence and in many other places!

Have Car – Will Travel

Thank you for praying!

Thank you for praying for our car situation, and for the discouragement that it caused us!  God has supplied a replacement vehicle for our family and ministry – and it’s already in use.

We dubbed the new-to-us Ford Expedition “Excalibur”.

Lord willing, this coming week we will be departing on an extended road trip to attend a conference and visit friends, family, supporters and churches. Will we be near you? (see map below)  If so, we’d love to meet up for coffee, lunch or dinner. If you are really crazy (like us), let’s flip some pancakes for breakfast  or have a dessert with your Bible study group or a few friends from your church!   Emailing us right away (or use the form on our “Keep in touch” page) will increase the likelihood that we can figure out a time that works!

Our current hoped-for stops.  You can add your location to the map by emailing us now!

Current Support Level: 36% monthly, 62% annual

Stories of God’s Awesome deeds

A week ago, our family had the opportunity to serve for a long weekend at Glad Tidings Bible Camp.  They are celebrating their 65th anniversary as a camp this year, and the theme for the summer is 65! Stories of God’s Awesome Deeds.   We had a great time serving, and were reminded that time spent considering and remembering God’s Awesome Deeds is time well spent.

The kids stuffed 832 envelopes for a camp mailing!
Chester built an addition to the new kitchen for a serving line, then assembled and installed a fire-rated roll-down door to close the opening.
Moriah painted a display board for the camp theme

An update on the cars:  We asked you to pray for us to trust God and act with wisdom.  We decided to replace both our non-functional family/ministry vehicles with one that we hope will serve us for at least a few years, and are currently car shopping!

This weekend at camp reminded us to recognize God’s perfect timing in our current situation.  Just before our Pathfinder’s transmission problems became serious, we had bought a second Prius.  This means that we can still go anywhere we want as a family – we just need two drivers.  And we have four drivers (with a fifth one in training – when did we get this old?), so having a second driver isn’t difficult! 

We have found the two-driver scenario quite workable, and were even able to go out to Glad Tidings Bible camp to serve with the two Priuses (what’s the plural of Prius anyway?).  Still, we’re car shopping so that further-away projects as a family are possible in one car, and because we often need to haul tools to a project.   Pulling a loaded trailer is just a bit much for a Prius.

Thank you for your prayers and for taking the time to encourage us!  

We’d love to hear some of God’s awesome deeds, small or big, from your life – please share!

Current support level: 36% monthly, 62% overall

Car Talk

Vehicles play a huge role in our ministry. In our first year of Projects 4 Missions we drove almost 40k miles. Even with the effects of Covid, we drive quite a lot. We recently evaluated our vehicle usage and decided to reduce costs and increase our flexibility in service by buying two new-to-us vehicles: an older Prius (40+ mpg makes a real difference), and used cargo trailer that will replace our portable work shed.

In the Prius we can pack a few kids and a few tools and quickly serve a nearby project. The trailer will allow us to run work parties of any size, and significantly reduce the labor necessary to prepare for work parties while also providing storage space for tools and supplies. We expect both of these to have a major impact on our ability to respond quickly.

However, these encouragements have been accompanied by two car “issues”, and we would like to ask for your prayers (and advice, should you choose to give it) in this respect.

Our first “hauling” vehicle, dubbed Barnabus for its encouragement to us and others.

First, it was our intention that the extra Prius would replace our family car (Nissan pathfinder) as the pathfinder does not match our usage and costs more to drive. The selling would replenish our savings account from purchasing the Prius and the cargo trailer.   However, the Pathfinder recently developed transmission problems which should not be ignored. We ask for wisdom in choosing whether to sell it “as is” or to repair it before selling.

Will the current Suburban be a “Barnabus” with more invested, or should another replacement be sought?

Second, we have a Suburban that is our primary ministry “hauling and projects” vehicle.  It’s been sitting idle for the winter, waiting for a thaw to perform needed repairs.  We started on these repairs last week and are experiencing some real frustrations (some are almost comical: fuel spraying out of electrical connectors, rebuilt parts arriving with the wrong pieces, and driving all over Omaha chasing a $3 o-ring).  To simply get it back to running, we need to repair a fuel issue that causes the engine to stall.  Beyond that, it needs suspension work and steering repairs.  And with it’s age, there’s likely some rusted lines and other work that will show up in the process. We see this type of vehicle as essential to our ministry, and we need wisdom to decide whether to continue to invest in this particular Suburban or to sell it off.  And if we do sell it, we need both wisdom on what to replace it with, and prayer for an amazing deal on a suitable replacement.

We know that God meets our needs and that we can trust Him in this.  At the moment, we’re asking you to pray that we trust Him even more fully as we anticipate both His wisdom and His providence.