We are posting our Christmas letter on our blog this year. I guess that is a way of saying we are coming into the technological world, albeit at our own pace. If we were really all the way techno-savvy, not only would we have a Christmas letter but a video message to go with it. Maybe next year - we are just not that "hip" yet. Onto our thoughts about this year.........
It has been QUITE A YEAR....spent in many places and learning lots of lessons along the way. We started this year with focus on intentionally looking for ways to give more and receive less. We have had the opportunity to participate in various local organizations and support causes from cancer to pro-life.
Then SUMMER HAPPENED!
Giann decided to spend her summer as a missionary for Child Evangelism Fellowship. This meant that after a week of training, she (and her teammates) spent the next 7 weeks holding 5-Day Bible clubs in the Birmingham area, sharing the love of Christ and the message of His redemptive plan to children. This was no small task either. Every day, 5 days a week, she was up and out the door by 7:30 in the morning and not finished until 3:00-4:00 pm or later. She had to prepare every night and be ready for her assignment the next day. Through all of the training, hard work and fun, several hundred children in the Birmingham area heard the Gospel. And many are now Christ followers. Even with all the hard work, she is ready to do it again next summer!
In the midst of Giann's busy summer, Craig and I had the privilege of traveling abroad to New Zealand and Australia. A trip we never dreamed would happen and were extremely thankful for the opportunity. The trip was amazing in more ways than one. The posts and pickies (that is Australian for photos) are on this blog if you want to read about it or see some beautiful pictures.
Exciting, yet humbling, was the opportunity God gave us when He had our family lead a mission trip to Guatemala in August. We took a team into the Lake Atitlan area (about four hours out of Guatemala City) to help a local organization and to do three things - build a home for a young family, hold a ladies Bible study and VBS activities for the children, and Happy Feet (a shoe ministry). We wish we could describe in a few short paragraphs all that was learned during those 7 days. There are some pictures and highlights of the trip on Giann's blog at http://www.mylifeunscripted1.blogspot.com/. If we had to choose the greatest impact this trip had, we would have to say that it made us aware of the conditions people live in and just how much we have in America. The Guatemalans need help with Bible teaching and training as well as physical supplies (like shoes and building adequate housing). We will be leading another team back to Guatemala in July 2010.
Upon returning from Guatemala, we hit the ground running! Craig started traveling more with his business and the kids and I started school at full speed. Their grade level, Jason, 7th, and Giann, 9th, equates to more work and a heavier academic load. We can't get by with baking cookies and calling it a school day! In November, they had roles in a one act play entitled "Jonah and the German Whale" that they performed for the Children's Ministry at The Church at Brook Hills. The play was very funny and they played their parts very well. Both continue to study the piano on top of their normal workload. Additionally, Jason studies the guitar. They both will be running track starting in February 2010.
We have been challenged by our Pastor to do several things during 2010. They are listed below:
*First, we want to pray for the entire world. Through a prayer emphasis that revolves around Operation World, we want to pray individually and as a faith family for the entire world over the course of the year. We want to give ourselves to strategic prayer and fasting emphases as a church through our worship gatherings, small groups, and many other avenues.
*Second, we want to read through the entire Word. Beginning in January, we are going to walk through the story of Scripture together day-by-day, week-by-week, and month-by-month. We are going to participate in daily Bible readings and weekly worship gatherings, family worship times, and small group discussions that revolve around what we are reading in Scripture. We want to know God fully and love God wholly through a deep knowledge of His Word.
*Third, we want to sacrifice our money for a specific purpose. As a church, we are going to set a cap on our spending at the most basic level we can in order to free up as many of our resources as possible for the sake of urgent spiritual and physical needs in the world. At the same time, we as individuals and families across the church are going to radically minimize our spending on ourselves by setting a cap on our lifestyles so that we are free to give away everything above that cap during the year (no matter how small or large) for the sake of the glory of Christ in His church, among the lost, and among the poor.
*Fourth, we want to give our time in another context. As we give 98% of our time next year to making disciples right here where we live in Birmingham, we want to spend 2% of our time (about a week) spreading the Gospel outside of Birmingham. We're trusting that when we give 2% of our time in another context (Guatemala), it will radically transform the 98% of our time that we spend in this context (Birmingham)!
*Finally, we want to commit our lives to a multiplying community. Fundamentally, this involves a wholehearted commitment to the local church of which we are a part. But even deeper, we want to commit our lives to a small group of believers that is intentionally sharing, showing, and teaching the Word while serving the world together. Together, we want to lock arms to spread the Gospel and glory of Christ from Birmingham to the ends of the earth.
So as we close out 2009 and turn our hearts and minds toward 2010, we hope you will remember us in your prayers. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing in your joys and walking with you through your valleys in the coming year. We are so blessed to have you as family and to call you friends.
Our prayer for all of you can be found in the first chapter of Colossians beginning in verse nine,
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,"
Much love and many prayers,
Craig, Debra, Giann, and Jason