Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Day

This is the most unusual weather we've been having in Texas! I have spent every winter for the past 31 years in Texas and don't remember this much cold or snow for this long of a time period. Today was another day in the history books! We got an email last night that school was cancelled for CTCS today!! We started off with free pancakes at IHOP and a donation to the Shriners and then home to play in the snow! There was a small snowball fight in the backyard and the James and Ella worked super hard on a snowman in the front! We ended the morning with hot chocolate and Wall-E. Temple and Belton are delayed tomorrow...I hope CTCS gets the same! Enjoy the pics...
Sorry for the blur; there was snow on the lens!

Twinkie Day

Ella and her friend Sarah Kate were twinkies!
Ella's "pinkie" friends Abby, Alicia and Dori

Olivia, Tatum, Sarah Kate and Ella
Double Trouble! Heston and Carson...too cute!

Monday, February 15, 2010

You're going where?

POLAND! I know we are crazy! But this is not a decision that has been rushed into lightly. God has been working on our hearts for many, many years and now it is all coming to fruition. Let me just give you a little background on our callings and where we are at this point.

James: He has always felt a pull to missions. Different mission trips during his time in the youth group as well as his time as a student minister have caused him to know that this is something God wants
him to do as a full time position. As long as I have known him, his goal has been to take students on international experiences. These past 2 summers...and this next summer...he has been able to visit
Belize and the Czech Republic. Through these events it has solidified his desire to do full time missions in the future.

Angela: At 3rd grade GA camp, I felt an undeniable call from God to be a missionary. To this day I can remember sitting outside with the counselor after the evening session discussing this call. We had many missionary friends when I was growing up so it just seemed natural. Through multiple mission trips in high school and college my passion has grown stronger. Every time she returns from a trip I was ready to jump at the chance to be a missionary. There was never a doubt in my mind that God had called me to tell the world about Jesus Christ and I never saw myself in the United States...I don't know where I saw myself but it was always in another country.

Together: We came into our marriage both feeling called to a life of missions in some capacity. Our first mission field experience, I believe, was living at the Texas Baptist Children's Home as house parents to teenage girls. God allowed us to get a taste of what life could be like on the mission field.

In the summer of 2008 we took a couple of youth to the country of Belize to do mission work. At one point James and I were walking around the "neighborhood" inviting kids to come to an event we were hosting that night. While walking we got to talking about why we weren't doing this full time. God began to work in our hearts to prepare us for a major career change. I was ready to pack up and go but James was hesitant about taking our kids at their young ages. When we returned home, we sent an email to our family about that trip and the call we were feeling. My grandfather mentioned that the International Mission Board will not let you take teenagers on to the field. Our options were either
waiting for Macie to graduate or take them young. So we kind of put it off for the past year. I guess we weren't ready to make that decision just yet.

This past summer we went to Brno, Czech Republic. Our first day there we met Joe and Julie Silby. They were the missionaries we worked with for the week we were there. We do not believe it was by coincidence that they were who we met. They had been on the field for a little over the year. Their backgrounds were not in traditional ministry and neither had had seminary training, yet God out of the blue put the call on Julie's heart She and Joe prayed together and ended up within a year on the mission field. I loved being able to talk to them. James and Joe had and have had many conversations about all the "what ifs" we had going into full time service. Any excuse we gave as to why we couldn't do it right, just bought a new car, James in school...they countered with why those shouldn't be excuses. So we came back from Prague with a strong desire and pull from God that now is the time. So in August we contacted the International Mission Board about the possibility to become full time missionaries.

We filled out the initial applications and had a "get to know you" type interview with a representative in September. He had been a missionary since 2001 and was here on state side assignment because his daughter was having some health problems. He talked about how much his kids had become part of the culture in China. He put a lot of the concerns I had as a mom to rest. After that we were in a holding pattern. I don't stand still very well. I wanted to know what was next. (We were told that we had been accepted as candidates but that there were only 36 jobs available worldwide so not to pack our bags. There were a lot on the waiting lists.)  All this time James and I have been praying about this. When we first realized that this is what we were going to do, the world became quite a LARGE place. How do you know to go to this country and work in this city with these people doing this job? So we really prayed. Something that James and I feel burdened for is to work with people that are not generally loved by others. That was part of our draw to working at the children's home as well as being foster parents. This summer we worked with the Roma people that have been shunned by many many groups of people. We did not feel that South America or Africa were places we wanted to go. I loved the idea of Asia but James wasn't as sold on that idea. But what we did agree on was Europe. Of course living in Scotland, Ireland, England would be nice but I think that we would have had the wrong hearts going there. So we really settled on eastern Europe (in our minds).

On Wednesday, Oct 14 we got an email asking if we would be interested in Serbia working with Roma people. The job was not an immediate need at this time but would probably be there next year. My first thoughts were, "Is that a safe place? Can I raise my kids there? Where is it located?" (We have learned a lot of European geography since this summer.) So we did some quick checking and prayed and sent an email back saying yes we would consider Serbia but we also mentioned that we were not wanting to limit ourselves to only Roma. We were really interested in working in the eastern European block. Within 10-15 minutes we had a list of immediate needs in that area. They told us that they receive quite a lot of requests for western Europe but not much for eastern. They had jobs that were needing filled and were praying for God to place the right people to apply for those positions. We read through each job description and each place. They were anywhere from Serbia to Slovakia to the Ukraine to Russia and Poland. The majority of the jobs were for church planters. The other job that really got our attention was for a Team Strategy Leader. The job description said, "As a Strategy Coordinator, you will mobilize Southern Baptists and other Great Commission entities to expend their resources upon the millions of Poles in a region of Poland in such a way that a clear culturally viable proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is shared so that a church planting movement is born that is able to reproduce itself.-----Your specific duties will involve the following: RESEARCHING, NETWORKING, STRATEGIZING, INTERCEDING, EVANGELIZING, MINISTERING, IMPLEMENTING, ADVOCATING, LEADING/TEAM BUILDING AND TRAINING." OH MY!!! This has James's name all over it. I really had chills. There were 2 places that had a request for this position: Poland and Siberia. Siberia? I read the climate description from! That was not where God was calling us. But Poland kept jumping out at us. We emailed back and said we would like to look into Poland. The guy told us to take a few days and pray about it and to contact the guy over this area in that region. His name is Trey. James talked to him a couple of times and felt very comfortable with him and vice versa. We found out we would be in Krakow.  So after emailing back and forth for the week we received an email stating that there was a job reserved for us in Krakow, Poland. WOW!!! All that I have felt for 20 years was actually going to happen.

We then started much paperwork on health and family background and our kids and beliefs on salvation and beyond. By the time we had our final interview in December with Joel, our personnel consultant for the IMB,  I felt like he knew me better than I knew me. Ha! He said this was our last hoop to jump through before being presented to the board of trustees. We passed and are now on to the board!

Timing: James has received medical clearance from the travel agency. We are waiting to hear from them for Ella, Macie and myself. We will be presented to the board of trustees for the IMB in July. After approval from them, we will be appointed September 15 in Gary, FL and head to Richmond, VA for 8 weeks of training starting on Oct 11 until Dec. 10. We will get to spend Christmas at home with our families and then head out to Poland the beginning of 2011. Woohoo!

Where we are today: James and I are very excited and at peace that this is where God has us to be. At the same time, we are leaving to go to a land that we have no friends, family or speak the language. That is unbelievably scary. Our kids will go to national school...not international. They will be in Polish schools in Krakow. They don't actually start school over there until 7...which Ella will be at the
time we get there. Macie will go to preschool like setting while we are in language school. We have been told that we don't really get the option of homeschooling because 1)we are in language school all day and 2) this is the best way for children to become fluent in the language and really become part of the culture. Every missionary family we have talked to has said that it was difficult at first but
that within about 6 months their kids were nearly fluent in the language and definitely picked it up faster than their parents. As this has become more and more of a reality I have thought more about
my fears. Dropping my kids off the 2nd day of school scares me. The first day the girls won't know what to expect but the second day they know they will go to a school that the kids don't speak their language and it is difficult to communicate.  Knowing that everything will be different and we will not have the support we have in place here is a bit scary. Another thing that is difficult is knowing that for the first 3 years, our apprenticeship, we will not be able to come home. This is so that we can really build roots over there. These are just a few of our fears. But our overwhelming excitement and peace knowing that God has allowed this journey to reach its destination after many, many years makes it so worth it. I know that we will be able to take God's word to a country that less than 2% are evangelical Christians. We are looking forward to doing ministry with other Christians and figuring out the best ways to reach the lost. We also look forward to how God will bring our family closer together. An added bonus is getting to take our kids to countries and places we normally wouldn't have be able to. And also that we will all be Polish. How cool is that?

Prayer Requests: Pray that our house sells quickly and we can do ok ongetting rid of our brand new van...ugh! Also, pray for the girls as this is going to be a big adjustment for them. I wish you all could
listen to Ella talk about and pray for the missionaries she learns about in mission friends and GAs. I don't think that the fact that Ella has that heart and love for missions is by chance...but I know
that this isn't going to be super easy for them. Pray for James as he still has to finish up his PhD. work. He will take an 8 hour comprehensive test this year sometime (It was supposed to be this spring, but with the fire consuming the majority of his resources we are not sure when that will happen.), write a prospectus on what his dissertation topic will be and finally research and write his "book."He is close but still has a ways to go.

We know that this is probably met with a lot of mixed emotions. Please know that we do not expect this to be easy for you or for us. At first I thought that if this is God's will it should all just be
excitement, but it isn't always easy to follow God...and that is where Faith comes in. We will pray that this next year will be a special time that we can spend with each of you. Our Polish home is always
open to visitors. And praise God that communication is so advanced from even 10 years ago. We can skype with you all and see one another with the use of a web cam. We also have heard that we can get vonage with a local number and take it overseas and be able to call anyone anytime. I know it isn't the same thing but a lot better than just being able to write letters and mail them. Please keep us in your
prayers. This will be a roller coaster for the next year or three. I am sorry this turned out to be so long, but I wanted you to know our individual call along with how God put us together and brought us to
the point we are at. I hope it made sense.  Please feel freeto ask us anything. We would love to talk about it!

We have also started a website that we will keep up to date with info as well.

We love you all so much and couldn't be where we are without each one of you!

James, Angela, Ella and Macie

Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!"

Fire Pics

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Over the past nearly 4 weeks, my emotions have been on a roller coaster. I went from shock to overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from other believers in our community to peace from God to shock again from the determination of arson to exhaustion to anger to coming back to God's arms.

Anger...I became very selfish at this point. I was becoming tired from going and going. I was used to having my Wednesday morning Bible study break with childcare for our kiddos and an occasional mom's morning out date with James. Now I had just lost both things. Ugh! I had kids all day everyday with no break and James was dealing with all that was going on a work, on top of all that he had just lost. I didn't want to expect him to do a lot more when he got home. James had not had a day off since the week before the fire. We are also trying to sell the house so there is the added pressure of keeping the house clean and ready for a showing. It was all too much and it hit all at once. I was so angry and I didn't want to pray and I didn't want read anything or hear anything about how I am a mom and there is a lot expected and it's ok if it doesn't get done...blah blah blah. I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep!

However God knows what I need. He allowed me to meet a sweet little boy at Taco Bell the Wednesday after the Arson news. Cooper was celebrating his 4th birthday with his grandparents. It was a normal looking party except that Cooper was bald because he had been through 5 rounds of chemotherapy and was preparing for a surgery in 2 days to remove what could be of a fist size tumor between his heart and lung and attached to his spinal chord. His chances of surviving neuroblastoma are not high. But there he was celebrating his birthday and playing with his toys. What in the world did I have to be sad for? Really? Because I didn't have a break? I am not fighting for my life...nor are my children. After that things started getting a lot better emotionally.

The How

Our church was the 8th church fire in Texas since the first of the year...only 19 days earlier. I had had many people ask me if I thought it was arson. I really searched my gut to see what I felt. I wanted to feel one way or the other. I said I really felt like it was an accident. I really did not believe that someone had intentionally set fire to our church.

The fire started on Tuesday, January 19th and by Thursday the national ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) had arrived to begin investigating the fire. James was told that because of the magnitude and size of the fire it is standard procedure that they come in and investigate. On Friday morning everyone that had keys we asked to be there to be interviewed by ATF.

We were told that ATF were planning to be gone by Sunday evening and that the ministers could hopefully go in early week 2. Monday morning, however, ATF was still there. I thought briefly that maybe they had found something and were having to investigate more thoroughly. But then I still didn't have the gut feeling. They finished their investigation on Wednesday and briefed insurance Thursday morning on their findings and then were gone.

The day James had waited for had finally come. He was able to go into the education building (building B) and video the damage for the staff's knowledge and what it looks like before the renovations began. James was giddy! There was a lot of water damage and black smoke lines going up the walls. The floors were trashed...and NO fire came into that building. He did see into his office through a window. There was debris everywhere but it looked somewhat like he could find some things in it. When James called after he went in, I was expecting to hear what it was like but he had something else to tell me.

He told me that what he was going to tell me had to be kept a secret because there would be a press conference the next morning announcing that the church fire was arson. Arson. Arson? Really? I felt like I had been sucker punched in the stomach. And I couldn't say a word. My chest hurt because I really didn't believe that it was intentionally set. I was devastated. The rest of the day was numb. My kids could have colored all over the walls and eaten every piece of candy we had for dinner and I probably wouldn't have noticed. Thank goodness it was Emme's (the little girl I keep) brother's birthday and the girls spent the evening with them.

Everything after that point moved in slow motion. All that peace I had felt seemed to slowly disappear...not that I didn't feel that God was in control because I totally did...but now this fire became personal. There was not an electrical spark in an OLD building with OLD wiring and it just went up in flames. No, someone got into our church and intentionally set a blaze to ruin all that we had. Although I know the Church is not a building, it still had so many memories and things that are reminders of different points along everyone's journeys in life. It was all gone. Even today, I don't understand!

The Aftermath

The next few days seemed like a blur. It became more and more a reality of the destruction that had happened. Many questions came to mind and were asked. Why did this happen? Where did it start? How did it start? What is God's purpose with this happening? What is going to happen next? Many of these questions did not have answers.

I was at the church everyday that week. I just had to be there...nothing had changed I just needed to be there emotionally. The only building available to work in, have meetings in, set up shop in was the youth building...called the Edge. James felt like his world had been invaded. Haha! In the last year our church started a contemporary service that takes place at the same time as our 11:00 service in the sanctuary. We had done a lot of renovations for the new service. Little did we know that God was getting us prepared for a major catastrophe.

Once again our community has really stepped in to help the ministers and others that were around the church. Christ Episcopal has allowed them to use their parlor area to have multiple meetings each day. They provided lunches as well as many other people. There has never been a lack of food in the youth building. Our first Sunday we met at the Mayborn Center, our local civic center, for church so we could all worship together as a church family. Our pastor received a call on Saturday from the pastor of an Assembly of God church in town saying that he was praying for us and also that they would be taking an offering in their service to pay for the cost of the center for us. Another unbelievable outpouring of love from God's people.

In the midst of the fire tragedy another loss was our Child Development Center. Because of the extent of fire, smoke and water damage, no one was able to go into the children's building. Around 150 kids and 35 workers were out of a place to go and a job. Initially, some of the teachers were able to go to different homes and keep some of the kids. Other facilities in town were willing to allow kids to come to them. Praise God. However after understanding the extent of the damage and knowing that they were going to have to remove all flooring, I believe walls, and many things within the center because of the chance of having soot on them. A day care, so we have learned, can only remain closed for a maximum of 90 days without having to jump through all the hoops of getting relicensed. (Don't quote me on all of this. I may not have all the facts just right.) As a result, the CDC was forced to be closed. There is just no time frame of knowing how long it will be before we have insurance money and quotes and the actual stuff done. This was a difficult decision.  I cannot imagine the sadness that our director felt. She had been in this position for 19 years and truly loved each one of those children. I have heard that the majority of the teachers have been rehired at other places around the area...Praise God! 

Throughout this week God really gave me a peace. James and I had switched roles. I am usually a stresser and don't handle "surprises" well. James was very numb and in shock and devastated a lot more than I was...He had actually experienced a lot more loss than I had so I guess I could see that. But even still, God had just really given me such a calm spirit. I was ok and felt like everything was going to be fine.

The morning our world stood still

At 6:30 am on Tuesday February 19, 2010 we woke up to a call from James' secretary, Vanessa, telling him that our church was on fire. It felt like when you are dreaming but the dream seems so real and you can't seem to wake yourself up from it. Our church was on fire? What? Really? Really? Soon James was on the phone with Gary, our music minister who was telling him that the fire was through the roof of the offices and heading toward the sanctuary. He said whatever was in James' offices would probably be a total loss. It just kept getting more and more weird. I have always been an "ambulance chaser" so I immediately wanted to go and see it in flames. Instead we got up and started getting ready for the day and watched the news. We told the girls what was happening and Ella's first question was, "Where will we go to church on Sunday?" And Macie's response was, " We can go to Goo's church or Nonny's church." James took Ella to school and headed to the church. I got my kiddos there and then we headed up to the church to see what was left around 9:30. The roof had caved in on the office area and the sanctuary. There were firemen all around and water spraying...which was quite entertaining to a 2 and 3 year old.

I learned when I got there that the Episcopal church just next door had been there immediately with coffee, donuts and breakfast tacos for everyone needing nourishment. Blessing #1. Then a few of the staff were invited by the 1st Methodist Church to look at their brand new facility for their contemporary service. They offered it to us to use as long as we needed too. Blessing #2. I saw a van drive up and unload a lot of picture frames and wondered what they were. It turns out that firemen had gone in a pulled out a bunch of OLD pictures and artifacts from out a gallery that was a tribute to the past ministers and members of our church. WOW! What a sacrifice and not for a person! Blessing #3. This was just the beginning of many ways God was going show us he was still in control through this horrible tragic.

Before noon the fireman had to tear down a part of the sanctuary wall. Apparently there were embers under the floor that the firemen were unable to reach and there was a chance they could flare up. This was the only way to put them out. It gave us a glimpse into what the sanctuary looked like and the extent of the damage. There were many windows knocked out and beautiful architecture ruined. The building had just received a historical marker in the past year.

That evening we had  a prayer service in our youth building...which was, and has been since, our only working building we have access to. We had probably close to 400 people in attendance.  It was such a neat time to come together and grieve and pray and praise God. We had no idea that day what would be in store for us over the next days and weeks.