Living on Support // Pt 2. FAQ


Many people have questions about what it is like for us living on support. I wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions as well as some that you may be thinking but not asking. Feel free to ask any other questions that come to mind.

  • Why do you raise support? 

    For the spiritual motivation behind support raising, please check out this previous post. As for the practicalities of the matter, EMI serves the poorest of the poor around the world (mostly living on less than a dollar a day). The ministries and beneficiaries we work for do provide some financial investment into these services, but it is generally not anywhere near the market value of the services we provide. These contributions and other general donations go towards EMI’s operational expenses and future growth initiatives. Therefore, EMI does not have the financial capacity to support having 100+ design professionals on staff. In order for EMI to operate, its staff must raise support. For more details about EMI’s finances, check out EMI’s Financial Report, Charity Navigator’s Report, and ECFA’s Report.

  • Why can you not earn a salary elsewhere to do this work? 

    There is certainly biblical support for missionaries supplementing their support income with other gainful employment. Most notably was Paul who made tents for a period of time to not be a burden to one of the churches he was serving. Paul also used tent making as a means of ministry. For me, engineering is my primary “tent making” skill that I use as a full-time means of ministry. While doing that through EMI, it is not possible for me to also use that as a means to generate income. The time that would be required would be too much to do either one effectively. Sarah has had some part-time employment through our church during our time in Colorado, but her first priority is to our home and our kids and not to providing financially for our family. I have also done other things to supplement our income such as coffee roasting. You can go to and order some if you would like. While this does bring in a little money, it mainly just pays for my side coffee roasting hobby and is not a means to support our family at this time.

  • Is it more difficult to raise support to live in the USA? 

    I’m not sure of the statistics, but it seems that people are generally more willing to give to someone who is going to live overseas in conditions they wouldn’t want to live in than they are for someone who lives in the US. Colorado is also a vacation destination for many, so I believe that makes it even harder for us.

  • Do you have any plans to live overseas? 

    We believe that God has specifically called us to our community in Colorado right now as a place we can be most effective in ministry. At some point He may call us back home to Alabama, or to Africa, or anywhere in between, but right now He has called us to be in Colorado. We do feel like God is leading us to visit one of EMI’s field offices for a few months in 2017, but not a long-term move at this point.

  • Does the financial support you receive go directly to your family? 

    Yes. Everything donated to EMI on our behalf goes directly to our support account.  EMI does not take anything off the top.

  • How does your support account, taxes, and budget work? 

    Donations made to our support account are tax deductible for the donor and are held by EMI as designated funds. Each month we receive a paycheck from these designated funds based on an amount set for our budgeted living expenses. We pay taxes on this as income just as anyone else would receiving a paycheck and the net income is what our family lives on each month. EMI does not take anything off the top, but they also do not add anything to that either. This means we also must raise any employer taxes, insurance, savings/retirement contributions, etc.

  • What happens if you do not raise the support you need?

    If we do not raise the required support, we will not be able to continue working with EMI. Currently our support account has been allowed to go negative for the first time. Being near the end of the year, we are hopeful it will be back above zero soon. However, if it does not rebound substantially by the end of the year, we will be forced to find other means to earn our required living expenses.

  • Do you ever get tired of begging for money?  

    I hope the previous post answered this question, but if it were simply begging for money I would have never started.

  • Why should we support you specifically? 

    Each person has to do what God leads them to do when it comes to giving. I personally believe the restoration work that God is doing through EMI is a tremendous Kingdom investment. I am not asking anyone to donate to anything that I have not already given my time and finances to support.

  • Can we sign up to support you for a defined period?

    Yes. If you are not comfortable signing up for donating for an indefinite period of time, you can choose to make recurring donations that automatically end after 12 months or another period of time of your choosing.

  • Can we give as a lump sum at the end of year, as a one time donation, or annually? 

    Yes. We accept and appreciate donations of any amount at any time. We understand that some people would prefer to give this way based on their known income. To help us plan better, we would greatly appreciate knowing if we can anticipate receiving a donation from you, but we also recognize that isn’t always possible.

  • Does it offend you when friends and family don’t support you financially?

    God must lead us all in our individual giving. If someone chooses not to support us, it is ultimately not me they are rejecting. (Well, maybe it could be me, but I try not to take it that way).

  • Do you get the majority of your support from churches, corporations, or individuals? 

    Every person living on support will likely have a different make-up of supporters. Ours is predominantly individuals supporting us between $25-$200 per month.

  • Do you ever feel bad about posting on social media about family vacations while living on support?  

    Not really. We definitely try to attribute any gifted vacations to the donor (usually our parents). But, we all need some amount of fun and rest in our lives and we do not apologize for that. While we do want to invest in fun for our kids, we are always budget conscious and are simply not able to afford extravagant vacations on our own at this time in our lives. We do the best with what we have and we do not say no to any offers if we can make it work. It does help to live in a vacation destination, but the beach is also nice if anyone wants to help us not feel so land locked.

  • Aren’t you afraid that you will lose support in uncertain ecomonic times?

    While we never want to lose supporters, we recognize that things change and sometimes supporters are not able to continue. We will also be continually inviting new supporters to partner with us. This enables a healthy support level to remain somewhat stable even in uncertain economic conditions.

  • How long do you plan to live on support?

    We have not heard clearly from God as to when/if this season will end for us. We will continue to live on support either here or wherever He calls us until He leads us in a new direction.

  • Would you rather not live on support?

    At times it is difficult and I really wish I had a paying job (quite honestly). Other times (when my perspective of support raising is in the right place) it is a tremendous blessing. Even beyond the financial support side of things, I know that my family and I are being covered in prayer by hundreds of people. That is something that is absolutely priceless that I wish every believer could experience. In addition to that, God has used this season to grow my trust in Him and to stretch me in ways that I never would have thought were possible.

  • Where do I sign up?

    I’m glad you asked!

    You can set up a donation to our support account on EMI’s website. Select the STAFF donation category, and then CHANDLER-2126.

Living on Support // The Elephant


I don’t talk much about living on support. Occasionally, I send out indirect requests as support gets low, but I rarely have intentional conversations to invite people to support us. If someone asks about it, I discuss it. But, some times I act almost as if I am ashamed that it is a part of the work I do. By avoiding the elephant in the room, I’m hoping that it just takes care of itself. My avoidance is usually an issue of my perspective of raising support, which I confess is not always in the right place.

When Sarah and I made the decision to join staff with EMI, the thing that haunted me the most was the prospect of raising support. Some people are natural fundraisers and salesmen, but that is not me. I am an engineer. I like numbers and I like making things work. I absolutely hated the idea of “asking people for money” (and that was my mindset when I began raising support). Quite honestly, I have moments where I still feel that way after living on support for 3 years now.

The first several months of “support raising” for me was spent delaying the inevitable. I knew that God had made it clear that we should join EMI, but I didn’t want to do the work that was required. I kept thinking that God would provide in some miraculous way, simply because I was willing to do what He called me to do. Maybe I could go fishing and find a wad of cash in the fishes mouth! That was my idea of biblical support raising. Then a good friend spoke some truth into my life. He quoted Matthew 6:26 and said that God cares for me more than the birds of the air, but how many birds do you see sitting in their nest waiting on God’s provision to fall from the sky. The obvious answer being, none. They go out and get what He has already provided all around them. This is true for those called to work for a paycheck as well as those who are called to work on support. I also had someone tell me that raising support (or developing ministry partnerships) is not about “asking people for money” because we are not running a campaign. Further, raising support isn’t about me, it isn’t about the giver, and it isn’t even about the particular organization or cause.

Raising support is about the work God is doing to restore people and creation back to Himself.

That is the narrative of scripture. All of human history is a story of the Creator pursuing restoration with His creation. His ultimate plan for doing this was made clear through Christ, and guess what… IT INVOLVES ALL OF HIS PEOPLE.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  -Matthew 28:18-20

Sarah and I raise support and people support us simply because we have collectively dedicated ourselves to being a part of God’s restoration work with our time talents and treasures. Neither the supporter or the supported are greater than the other, but they are codependent in participating in this work. Partners in ministry.

There is a long list of biblical ministry partnership examples where people have funded other people in the participation of God’s restorative work. This is how God instructed His people to operate and it is a beautiful picture of how the Kingdom of God is revealed to us. Paul is a great example in the first century church, but even Jesus wasn’t completely self-funded in His ministry! Imagine being one of the women that funded the ministry of Jesus (Luke 8:3). Talk about making the maximum impact with every dollar! But, yet their money wasn’t what made Jesus’ ministry effective and it would have been funded some other way if they had not given. Instead, these women were blessed by being able to participate with Jesus in that work.

That is the perspective of raising support that motivates me to invite people to partner in this work (and one that the enemy tries to make me forget). The reality of what it means to raise support doesn’t change and the flesh in me still doesn’t enjoy the process. But, through it I get to be a part of something much bigger than my own selfish desires and I get to see God work in incredible ways (both in and around me).

Our initial commitment to EMI was for 3 years, however Sarah and I still believe God is continuing to lead us to be a part of the work He is doing here in our community and at EMI. This means that we will continue to live on support for this to be possible. It also means that we need to stop viewing it as a temporary assignment. That doesn’t necessarily mean He has called us here for the rest of our lives.  It simply means that for the foreseeable future it is where He has placed us. That could all change tomorrow, but we have no indication from Him yet that it will. It also means that our support needs to be at a healthy level so that we can provide for our family and operate effectively in our given roles.

Since joining EMI, we have received approximately 2/3 of our financial support from recurring/monthly donors.  The other 1/3 has come from less predictable sources such as one time or end of year giving. While we appreciate all giving, it is those recurring donations that give us security in our budget. Right now we find ourselves with a deficit in our support account, anticipating that end of year giving will bring us back up above negative. God has always provided (even when things have looked bleak) and we have no reason to believe He will not do so again since He has called us to this work. At the same time, we recognize that if we want more security in our finances, it is as simple as being faithful to get out of the nest and invite more people to join us in this ministry opportunity. In fact, it is my laziness and selfishness that not only prevents us from being fully funded through recurring donations, but also has kept others from being blessed by being a part of this ministry. I’m certainly not Jesus or Paul, but I believe we are participants in some amazing restoration work that God is doing.

As a family we also want to be able to save and give more, and that shouldn’t be limited by the fact that we live on support.  On the contrary, it should show that we are stewarding our support well. Our supporters have been good stewards, and they should expect that from us.  Thankfully (and much to the credit of our amazing parents), we are blessed to not have any debt (other than to our support account as previously mentioned). But, being out of debt is only the beginning to financial freedom. We shouldn’t be foolish about the future and we should put ourselves in a financial position to give generously when we have the opportunity. We are not there yet, but we do have the motivation to be there. We don’t anticipate having a six  figure income or living extravagantly, but we do want to be faithful stewards of the opportunities and the finances God provides.

So, I am asking for your support. Whether that is $25, $100, $200 or more per month… I leave that to you to decide what God has enabled you to give. I will continue to share about the incredible restoration work God is doing through EMI. I will continue to pray that people will see these posts, actually read them, pray about how they can participate and that God would motivate them to partner with us. In addition to that, I will also be praying for specific people I can talk to directly about partnering with us.  That may make some people uncomfortable….don’t worry, it makes me uncomfortable too. If you have read this far and are worried about being made uncomfortable then here is the link to join our support team now. (Select the STAFF donation category, and then CHANDLER-2126).

Please also know that I will not ask you to donate to anything that I have not also given my personal time and finances towards. I believe in the Kingdom restoration work that God is doing through EMI.


Beer Sheba // Senegal

This past month I had the privilege to be a part of a project team serving the Beer Sheba Project to design a primary school and teacher training center in Sandiara, Senegal. The name Beer Sheba means “well of the oath” or “well of seven” and comes from the location on the southern end of Israel on the edge of the Negev desert where Abraham dug a well and had it stolen by the Philistines. To secure his ownership of the well, Abraham gave Abimelek seven lambs (hence the meaning of the name).  Beer Sheba is a barren land where water is scarce and Abraham’s well helped provide life and sustenance to the people and the land.  Similarly, Senegal is on the edge of the Saharan desert and the Beer Sheba Project began on barren land where water was scarce. The property where Eric Toumieux began the Beer Sheba Project was given to him because the locals believed this land had been cursed.  Eric will tell you that the best land a follower of Christ can find in this part of Africa is cursed land. They will literally give it to you and at the same time you possess the cure for the curse.

Eric praying with the EMI team over one of his newly acquired "cursed properties"

Eric praying with the EMI team over one of his newly acquired “cursed properties”

When Eric acquired this land (unlike when Abraham moved into the region of the Negev) he started by praying over it and building a fence around the property (to invite the presence of God and to keep any Abimelek’s from coming in and causing a dispute). The spiritual and physical barrier served as his oath to the surrounding communities that this property was now set apart for God’s purposes. After this, a miraculous thing occurred.  The land inside the fence started to produce vegetation!  Eric also had well drillers come out to the property who told him there was no use trying because they wouldn’t be able to get water in this area.  Eric told them to drill anyways and sure enough, they hit a large aquifer.

Agricultural area at Beer Sheba

Agricultural area at Beer Sheba

They began to plant trees and crops and raise livestock and they are now using this site for biblically-based agricultural training and production.  In addition to the Kingdom building work they were doing and sending from this property, they didn’t realize the impact they were having on the surrounding environment until a group of bird watchers showed up with TV cameras from Europe. They claimed that not only was this property the home of hundreds of bird species, but it had actually affected the migratory patterns of the endangered turtledove!

The view from the Beer Sheba Project surrounded by desert

The view from the Beer Sheba Project surrounded by desert

The population of Senegal is over 90% Muslim, but unlike some of its neighboring countries in west Africa it is very tolerant of other faiths and is a very peaceful nation.  Peace is of tremendous value to the Senegalese.  In fact, the local greetings in Wolof and Serer can last for several minutes and greatly consist of ensuring that the other person has peace.  Still there are challenges for Christian ministries in Senegal and God has protected the Beer Sheba Project from assault on several occasions.  Protection has even come from the surrounding Muslim community who recognizes the good work they are doing for the people of Senegal.  As a testimony to the good work that they and other Christians are doing in Senegal, the government openly supports and encourages the development of Christian schools around the country.  They have a very high regard for the quality of Christian education.

EMI team meeting with the Mayor of Sandiara

EMI team meeting with the Mayor of Sandiara

This is no exception in Sandiara.  The Beer Sheba Project has built a great relationship with the local government and they are providing land for Beer Sheba to build another agricultural demonstration area in the main part of town as well as a piece of land for a primary school and teacher training center (that we are currently designing).  Beer Sheba has also acquired another piece of cursed land on the main highway coming into town where Eric envisions building a restaurant sourced by the Beer Sheba Project. God is doing and has plans to do even more incredible things through Beer Sheba in Senegal!

Volunteer Landscape Architect (Hutch) working with Eric on masterplan

Volunteer Landscape Architect (Hutch) working with Eric on masterplan

Another thing that struck me about the name Beer Sheba was its significance throughout the Bible. It is not often taught about or thought of, but many revelations from God occurred in Beer Sheba and many journeys of faith began or ended at Beer Sheba.  Those included Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, and Elijah.  For the nation of Israel it is the southern border and is mentioned many times as a boundary description or a place where the people of Israel settled after being in exile.  I began to wonder why God would choose to use such a barren place on the edge of the desert as a place of Biblical significance. What I didn’t expect was to have my own Beer Sheba moment while on this trip to the edge of the Sahara.


My participation in this design project was supplementary to my primary reason for being in Senegal. With the launch of EMI’s west Africa office in Senegal, I was interested to see how we could partner and participate in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects from this office.  This project provided a great opportunity for me to do this and spend some time visioning with some of the office launch team.  While I was hoping to make a few beneficial connections with ministries in Senegal and get a better understanding of what WASH would look like in Senegal, I did not have high expectations for projects or clear direction to come from this exploratory trip.  However, God had other things in mind. I left the desert with a clear picture of what God wants to do through EMI in WASH and specifically in Senegal.  I even left having identified a potential WASH project near where the office will be launched. I look forward to sharing more about this vision and future WASH projects in Senegal as things begin to take shape.  For now I know that I have heard from God and a new journey of faith is beginning.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22


His Grace is Sufficient // Nepal Reflections

DSC_9250The people of Nepal have been gripped with fear as the aftershocks of a massive 7.8 earthquake have continued to shake the ground beneath them.  Rumors swarm as to when the next “BIG ONE” will hit while each ensuing tremor serves as a constant reminder of the buildings they saw crumble to the ground, injuring and killing thousands of their neighbors, friends and loved ones.   Not trusting the structure over their heads, families relocated to tents in clear spaces that would give some assurance of safety and rest for another day.

Just as some had begun to put their fears behind them, another large earthquake (7.3) shook those feelings right back to the surface.  I had arrived in Nepal with EMI’s first Disaster Response (DR) team a few days before this earthquake and I can honestly say that the shaking was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  After it was over, I went outside to assess the situation around me.  Birds were circling overhead and a cloud of dust hung in the air almost symbolic of the spirit of fear hovering over the people.  By the time I reached the streets, they were flooded with people.  Many were crying in disbelief that it was happening all over again as they held tightly to loved ones or frantically searched for evidence that their friends and family were safe.

The moment was surreal, but helped me empathize with the experience of the people I had come to serve.

Our EMI team had come to connect with partner ministries to provide technical assistance primarily through structural assessments of damaged buildings.  The evaluations gave many the assurance needed to move on, some to return to their homes and others, plans for rebuilding.


Earthquakes of this magnitude typically leave questions as to why some buildings are completely destroyed while similar structures seemed to be left undamaged.  Some of this can be explained by physical characteristics of the structures that are easy to identify by a trained eye, such as: simple structural techniques, the age of the structure, or slight differences in materials and/or workmanship.  There are also significant geological reasons why some areas have more intense shaking than others, which can be much harder to identify precisely without significant shake monitoring and geological studies.  Still there can even be anomalies outside of those causes that are even more difficult to explain.

Our team visited areas near the epicenters of the initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the 7.3 magnitude earthquake as well as many areas around Kathmandu valley and saw numerous things that were hard to explain.  For example, in Kathmandu, we anticipated that damages would be much greater than they were in many areas.  That is not to say there wasn’t considerable damage in some areas, but it wasn’t as widespread as we expected.  Kathmandu valley is a former lake bed, meaning the soils are expected to not be resistant to shaking.  However, not far from some of the historic sites of Kathmandu which received heavy damage and extensive media coverage were similar old multiple story buildings with large ground floor openings (soft stories with few rigid support walls) that were not built to any sort of earthquake resistant code but were still relatively undamaged.

My team was on the third story of an older building in this alley when the 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit

My team was on the third story of an older building in this alley when the 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit

Perhaps even more surprising was what we saw in Ghorka, only 12 miles from the epicenter of the initial earthquake.  The damage in this area was relatively insignificant compared to buildings that were of similar construction hundreds of miles away! Again, that is not to say there was no damage in this area, because there certainly was, but it was much less than other areas.

What made this difficult for our team was repeatedly getting the question, “Is this structure safe?” An honest answer to most was a resounding, “NO!” Most of them were not safe structures to be located in an earthquake prone area to begin with, but somehow they survived unscathed.  We could tell them that there was no immediate danger of it falling, but given another earthquake with greater shaking, it could easily fall just like those we had seen in other areas.  We could give some recommendations for strengthening the structure against future earthquakes, which could give them some level of peace but wouldn’t guarantee that it would survive another shake due to the many other structural weaknesses.  At the same time, we couldn’t recommend that they do massive upgrades or rebuilds because honestly there is not enough money available through the relief efforts or otherwise for them to replace every non-earthquake resistant structure.

Rock and mud mortar building in Ghorka with relatively no damage

Rock and mud mortar building in Ghorka with relatively no damage

Reconciling the collision of God’s sovereignty and grace can often be difficult for the limited capacity of our understanding.  It can be exceptionally challenging in the context of natural disasters which are largely indiscriminate in who they affect.

It is much easier to resolve such a thing in our minds when we can see God’s grace clearly surrounding only those who put their faith in Him, much like the Israelites who were passed over because they had the blood of the lamb over their doorposts.  While I am certain God’s grace is not absent in disasters, being a Christ follower doesn’t seem to delineate a clear line of safety. Further, it seems almost arrogant and insensitive to claim the grace of God for the unaffected, when others who were greatly affected are no less valuable as human beings.  Some are even committed followers of Christ.

…BUT God’s grace is certainly at work, even in a disaster or in suffering, and should be given due credit despite our understanding. After all, His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

As a testimony to God’s grace and sovereignty in concerted work through this disaster, the initial earthquake took place at mid-day on a Saturday.  This could not have happened at a better time in terms of preventing loss of life.  Saturday is the one day of the week in Nepal that kids do not go to school and in the middle of the day, most people are out of their homes.  I can tell you from the many schools that our team evaluated that the loss of life would have been tremendously greater if schools would have been in session when the earthquake occurred. This doesn’t lessen the value of the lives that were lost, but it should increase our faith in the all sufficient grace of God.

Praise God that these children’s lives were spared!

We know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been calledaccording to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Partially collapsed school in Ghorka

Partially collapsed school in Ghorka

Fully collapsed school in Sindhupalchok

Fully collapsed school in Sindhupalchok

Children playing on the rubble that fell into a school in Sindhupalchok. The steel structure survived, but if school had been in session then the children would have been crushed by the rock infill walls that collapsed.

Children playing on the rubble that fell into a school in Sindhupalchok. The steel structure survived, but if school had been in session then the children would have been crushed by the rock infill walls that collapsed.

My prayer for the people of Nepal is that they will come to know peace through the love and hope of Christ and that they will put their trust in the One who saves.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10)



faithful in the small things // Malawi update

Update from World Vision Malawi: Water is flowing & Tank 1 is FULL! // What a privilege for @emidesignhope to be a part of this story. All glory to God! Check out the back-story at and

Update from World Vision Malawi: Water is flowing & Tank 1 is FULL! // What a privilege for @emidesignhope to be a part of this story. All glory to God! Check out the back-story at and

Recently, I posted this update on Instagram of water pouring into a full tank in Chikwina, Malawi.  EMI sent a team to help World Vision troubleshoot this water system in March of this year and if you read my post following the trip, you will understand what a HUGE deal this is for these people!  It was incredible to see the progress that was made on the water system after our visit and to know that the people living in the shadow of this tank are now able to draw water from it for the first time since this project began almost 10 years ago!

Seeing this made me think back to our last day in Malawi.  In my previous post I mentioned how impressed our team was with Robert, the new National Director for World Vision Malawi. The day before we left the country, we had the opportunity to meet with him for a second time when we spent the day in their headquarters office in Lilongwe discussing our findings with the executive team. When we arrived at the office we immediately went to their morning prayer and devotion meeting that had just begun. After the prayer time, Robert stood up and addressed his employees that were present in a way that I was not expecting.

Robert addressing World Vision staff at morning devotions

Robert addressing World Vision staff at morning devotions

He started by quoting Luke 16:10-12:

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?” 

From there he proceeded to openly address personnel issues that he was noticing within the organization. He did not call out people by name, but I am sure there were several warm seats in the audience. In fact, my seat felt a little warm as well as his words also began to challenge me. He said that on paper everyone is supposed to come into work at 7:30 am every morning, but in reality it is more like 8…8:30…9. They do this so they can knock off work early on Fridays, but in reality they still knock off earlier than they are supposed to (even when they didn’t come in on time all week). He said that he has a hard time trusting people that say they are coming, but in reality they are going, and their yes doesn’t mean yes. In addition to that, he addressed use of organizational resources by saying we should take care of others things as if they were our own, because how else can we expect to be trusted with things of our own.  If we can’t be trusted in small things like this; how can we be trusted with greater responsibility?

Now this is only a brief paraphrase of all that Robert challenged his employees (and us) with that morning, but keep in mind that Robert is a native African and he is talking to a room full of native Africans. Most African cultures do not typically put much importance on timeliness like we do in America. They are typically more event focused. They will arrive at the next event after the one they are currently in is over. It is considered rude to rush away from something because you have to be somewhere else at a certain time. Church services may say they start at 9, but in reality they start whenever most everyone shows up. With that in mind, Robert is confronting not only issues of appropriate work ethic, he is also confronting cultural norms.

He continued to say that as a Christian organization and as Christian individuals; our lives and the work we produce should all be distinguished and set apart from the rest of the world. Our behavior and attitude should be reflective of our holy God and our Savior. We should be faithful in every task that God has given us, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem and we should be faithful even down to the menial details of that task.

This got me thinking about the small things that I need to be faithful in and challenged me to be distinguished as a follower of Christ. As a Christian engineer, is my work distinguished from that of any other engineer?  After all, when I offer a cup of water in Jesus’ name shouldn’t the result of my work be fitting of bearing His name?

I think of Daniel who was so distinguished that even the pagan king was able to see that something was special about him by the way he ordered his life and how he held honor for authority. Daniel worked for some pretty rotten pagan kings during Babylonian captivity, but he was unwavering in his faith and he loved and served them like he was doing it directly for God…and people noticed. The thing that truly set Daniel apart is that he was faithful in the small things. It also got me thinking of another verse that our surveyor had brought up several times throughout the week where Zechariah was prophesying about rebuilding the temple.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)

Our Surveyor, Nate Kohl, with community children

Our Surveyor, Nate Kohl, with community children

Of course a surveyor would get excited about plumb line references, but the beginning of this verse grabbed my attention and so I began to research the context of the passage. The NIV says, “Who dares despise the day of small things…” The small things/beginnings that Zechariah is referring to is the size of the temple that was being rebuilt. At the time of this prophesy, Zerubbabel had already laid out the foundation of the new temple. Some of the older Jews at the time who had seen the grandeur of Soloman’s temple were indignant that the temple that was being rebuilt was nothing compared to the size of the previous temple. What God is saying through Zechariah here is it is not the size of the task that matters, but that it is done well.  The Lord rejoices that Zerubbabel is holding the plumb line because He knows that it is going to be done right, with proper skill and care. The important thing is completing the task that we have been given to the absolute best of our ability, not wishing the task we had been given was greater. Being faithful in the small things.

I don’t know how many people left that particular morning devotion time at the World Vision headquarters with a sense of urgency to live a distinguished life as a follower of Christ, but I do know that Robert’s challenge had a deep impact on me that I won’t soon forget.  I also know that God has unquestionably placed the right people at World Vision Malawi to accomplish the task of getting clean water to the people of Chikwina & Mpamba.  Bringing water to the barren tank was an enormous and long-awaited success, but there is still more work to do to complete this system. It would have been easy to lose hope and give up on this project, but I believe that God is rejoicing in their continued faithfulness despite the difficulty of the task.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)

An Integral Role // Reaching the Nations

Back in September of 2010, I blogged about my experience volunteering on a project design trip with Engineering Ministries International (eMi) to Samfya, Zambia. It was there that I began to realize my place in a much larger picture that God was painting. As I had a chance to sit down and hear from a man named Charles who is a graduate of the Bible School we were there to serve, I started to truly understand how integrated the body of believers must be in order to effectively reach the nations as we are commissioned to do. It started to make sense why the Bible does not make light of its mention of us all being gifted by the grace of God to do certain things well and that we are to dedicate ourselves to excellence in the things we are gifted to do instead of coveting the gifts of others.

Charles’ ministry was to a people that I could not possibly reach with the gospel without dedicating my entire life to learning the language and the culture. Even then, I could still not be as effective in reaching them as someone like Charles. But, what God HAS given me the grace to do is to use my technical expertise to help provide ministries like Samfya Bible School with engineering designs that will help equip them in a practical way to train and send out more leaders like Charles to reach these areas that are effectively out of my reach. Equipping the local church to be the hands and feet of Christ!

But, God’s portrait isn’t done there! Before me were people that prepared me professionally and spiritually through teaching and mentoring, financial sponsors that helped send me, friends that helped shape me, a wonderful bride who loves and supports me, and parents who raised me according to Biblical standards (just to name a few). All of these people are also pieces of the same much larger picture. Beyond Charles and those like him in Zambia and around the world are countless other pieces of the same picture (most of which I will never even know on this side of eternity). All of these pieces, spanning to ALL people, across ALL cultures, are somehow connected in an amazingly integral way, just like a puzzle. Some of the pieces in the puzzle will look very similar (think sky or tree puzzle pieces) or in God’s puzzle may even match exactly as we allow God to use us over and over, in even more strategic ways (eagerly desiring every spiritual gift as can be most beneficial to serve and love people). However, regardless of how many times we allow God to place us in this puzzle, none of the pieces can be considered an accurate depiction the entire picture alone.

God continues to place each piece of the puzzle with diligent care until FINALLY He places the last piece and steps back to view the completed masterpiece exactly as He had originally envisioned it…a picture of Him reconciling the world to Himself, using His people to reach the nations for His glory! Then just like the loving Father He is, He calls His children to come close and view the masterpiece with Him as He leans in to say, “Well done!”

I am excited to be a part of God’s plan with you all!

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Silent Night at A Highlands Christmas

Silent Night at A Highlands Christmas

I love Christmas traditions! Which is somewhat of a strange thing for me to say because I typically get bored quickly with any sort of repetition. Probably being that it is only one time a year, the traditions don’t have time to become dull to me. I also find that as I get older and am raising my own family, more and more traditions become appealing to me (even if for nothing more than bringing my family together and creating memories). My parents were good at creating memories (especially around Christmas) and I hope my children will be able to say the same about Sarah and me. Some examples of things our family does during December are as follows:

It all starts with picking out the “perfect” Christmas tree shortly after Thanksgiving (this way it can be fully dead by the time Christmas arrives). Then we decorate our house (inside and out) listening to Christmas music. Sarah likes white lights, but I am a fan of colored twinkling lights. She usually wins with the more visible parts of the house and my lights get relegated to the kids treehouse in the backyard (it’s for the kids of course!). We also like to do fun things like look at Christmas lights; watch staple Christmas movies; make cookies and other unhealthy treats like cheese straws and toffee; make drinks like apple cider, lots of home roasted coffee, and egg nog; give to others as a family (including letting the kids pick out presents for friends and family at the Dollar Tree and also pick out things like donating a chicken through an organization like World Vision for a family to have eggs); make a year in review photo book; go to a Christmas Eve service at our church; eat Christmas Eve dinner at Waffle House; have friends and family over for waffles on Christmas morning (yes that’s two waffle meals in a row for most of us, but I usually go for something healthy like the Texas cheesesteak at WH); and eat a steak dinner on Christmas night. This year our family started a new (but ancient) tradition of lighting the advent candles at dinner each night during December and reading in the Bible about who Jesus is. Amazingly enough, Jack (5 yr old) can now tell you 25 names for Jesus with very little assistance, and Will (3 yr old) isn’t too far behind!

The picture at the top of this post is of the traditional candle lighting and singing Silent Night at A Highlands Christmas. This year Pastor Chris spoke about things we need to silence in our lives or remove from our lives to get rid of the chaos that so easily keeps us from hearing God speaking to us. Sarah and I both had the initial thought that if only our three young boys could be silent (even if only occasionally) we could have some peace around our home! While there is certainly some truth to that and we both need to do a better job honoring a Sabbath day and even occasionally getting some quiet time away from the house (particularly Sarah who is home all day, every day), I began to process how fortunate we truly are! We have three amazing, healthy, and fun kids! And I am sure one day Sarah and I will wish we could have the toddler induced noise and chaos back (if only for a little while). It can be incredibly nerve racking now but it is only a phase and hopefully the time invested in them now will reap blessings far down the road.

I ran across this picture last week in the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school tragedy…

This picture especially made me stop and take notice because it bears the name of my oldest son along with items that all my sons have taken interest in (watching Curious George has been a very very veerry rote tradition at our home since Jack was very small, in fact we just read a Curious George book this afternoon). It also made me think back to the near drowning experience that Jack had at the lake when he was two years old. Jack and I had been camping and as I was packing up some of the last items he fell off the dock without me hearing or seeing him. I had only had my eye off of him for a minute and when I turned around he wasn’t there and didn’t answer when I called. I looked out and saw the top of his head and his little hand just above the water at the end of the dock. Thankfully, I was able to get him out before he tried to take in a breath. This experience was probably more traumatic for me than it was for him.

So, as we sang Silent Night at church this year, I was reminded to make the most of these days, our family traditions, and even the stressful noisy moments of daily life no matter how mundane (as I am typing this Jack and Josh are singing loudly and Will is fueling up with M&Ms for the grand finale). God revealed to me in this moment that I need to focus on the things that matter and not get so overwhelmed by the things that do not. I have known for some time that this was a problem that I needed to work on, but God was revealing that I need to be intentional in my responses to the stressful moments. For someone who likes order, this is very difficult! So, if you have read this far, I need your help holding me accountable in this. We may not have very much silence or lack of messes in our house right now, but we can choose to enjoy the time we have together.

At the same time there are so many families that are celebrating their first Christmas without the presence of a loved one this year, whether that is a child (like the ones in Connecticut), or a spouse or parent (like our dear friends, the Kempfers). Sadly, at some point, those days will come for all of us and apart from the eternal peace that comes from Christ there is no way to prepare for the heartache that comes along with that. Even with an eternal perspective it still isn’t easy. So, for all those who are hurting this Christmas, my prayer is that you can “sleep in HEAVENLY peace”.

Merry Christmas!