Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Faith is a Verb

If you had asked me whether or not I believed myself to be a person of faith, I would've said yes. Most emphatically and without any hesitation whatsoever. God has been showing me, however, that I'm not where I need to be with regard to faith. Many of you are unaware that we've been without a regular salary since the end of May. In fact, just this month we received a partial salary, the first in four months.

When we left the field the first part of June, our account had suddenly fallen into deficit. A large deficit. And, given our particular missionary status, we did not qualify to receive a reduced portion of our salary each month while our account remained in deficit, as career missionaries do. You can imagine the panic this threw us both in. Immediately, I started calculating the barest amount of money we'd need to survive on each month...and how we could earn it.

Did you note that last part? How we could earn it. God was trying to teach us a lesson in faith, how to blindly trust in Him for our every need. But I, in my stubbornness, continued to want to do things my way.

We thought we were doing well when, through a couple means, we were able to scrape together enough money to get through the summer. It also helped that we were staying with family, at OMS headquarters, and in a camp meeting where all of our expenses and physical needs were met. I have to admit that I continued to stress and plan and conspire. I cried upon the Lord, constantly asking Him to provide. But I still clung to my own stubbornness.

At the end of July, He even gave us a demonstration of what He wanted to do for us. During a random encounter at a grocery store, we ran into a couple we hadn't seen since before we left for Costa Rica. After spending a few minutes catching up, they handed us a check. Later, they called to say they had another check for us, doubling the total amount given! None of this was our own doing. Even the timing had God's hand upon it--we'd been delayed in reaching the store by dead battery on our car. If we'd arrived at the store when we'd planned to, we would've completely missed this encounter.

I'm sorry to say this was not enough to convince me that He was our ultimate provider. Throughout August and September, I continued to stress about the finances. Never mind the fact that our needs were met. Never mind that we had plenty of food to eat, gas for the car, and bills that were paid. Never mind that He kept providing opportunities to earn a little income--this is not something we've actively sought out during the last several months--or helped us find ways to stretch what we had. I still persisted in doing things my way.

Then, the beginning of October, I calculated what we'd need to live on for the month, calculating in extra things just in case. When the OMS prayer group met that first Friday, I asked them to pray that God would supply that amount ASAP. But I'm ashamed to say I didn't have much confidence that He'd actually do it. After all He'd done to prove to me He is faithful, I continued to doubt. That same Friday, on a whim, I checked our bank balance and discovered that a deposit had been made into our account that day.

It was for the full amount I'd calculated we'd need.....plus an extra $40.

I sat there and cried, completely overcome. Immediately, I confessed my doubt and turned it over to God. He had finally broken through my stubbornness and shown me that faith is not an adjective, not a noun. It is a verb, something that requires action. I have to put aside my doubt and fears and make the decision to trust in Him. To rely solely, completely upon Him. Even when circumstances are hard and seem impossible. Especially then. A huge burden rolled off my shoulders and I felt free in the knowledge that our finances were not mine to control. They are God's responsibility, not ours. Yes, He asks us to be good stewards of that which He provides, but that's the key--He provides. Not me. Not Troy.

Then, not two weeks later, we received notification that we'd been cleared to receive a partial salary for the next pay cycle. The amount? Double what we'd needed the month before. Before I could even think about the next month, God had already provided.

I can't tell you where our next check will come from and when. But God knows. And He's more than proven Himself capable of providing for our family's needs. All He asks of us is that we make the conscious decision--every day--to trust in Him.

If you told me earlier this year that this is something we would be facing, I would've freaked out. But now, despite the uncertainty that still remains, I can honestly say that I'm thankful for this hard thing in our lives. Because it was only by going through it that I was finally able to learn that faith is a verb.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Time Flies -- The End of Our First Term

It's hard to believe we have less than 24 hours left of our first term here in Mexico City. There are a wide range of emotions we're experiencing, but mainly I'm (Jenny) just numb at the moment. I'm sure it will sink on as we're sitting on the plane tomorrow, or as we're saying perhaps one of the hardest "see ya laters" we've yet had to say tomorrow morning.

It's amazing to think how close you can really get to people you practically live with for two years. We've joked over the last months that we've been like ostriches--but as much as we'd prefer it otherwise, time really does march on. We as a family have been so blessed that God chose to unite our family and the Forsythes during our year in language school and then our first year on the field. Of course, this is not to say that we don't love the rest of our field family, only that we haven't spent as much time with them. We are all so thankful for Skype and in knowing that we'll see them again next summer (we are praying that we'll be funded by July 1, 2015. However, if this is not the case, we intend to come back at least for the big OMS Mexico 25th anniversary celebration next July).

Tonight, also for some reason, I've been thinking a lot about what my parents told me about my first return to the US from Burundi when I was 2. We'd arrived in Africa in time for my 1st birthday, so we'd only been away for a little over a year. But when kids are that little, they have a hard time remembering what life was like before. After living in Africa for a year, I'd had very little interaction with other Caucasians (aside from my parents, grandparents, and other missionaries or foreigners on the field). I can't even imagine how terrifying arriving in the US must have been--that sea of white faces and a landscape I was not at all familiar with. I've heard the story many times, how upon arriving at the airport, I was so overwhelmed with culture shock that when I spotted an African-American police officer, I walked right up to him and put my arms up for him to pick me up. His skin color represented home to me. I know our kids are a bit more culturally experienced than that, but I do wonder how things will be different for them going back. I know it's only been two years, but we've been warned to expect some changes--reverse culture shock.

As difficult and painful as it is to leave this country we've only just started to really feel a part of, we are very much looking forward to our time in the US. We're excited about the opportunity to share with many of you just what God did for and through us in Mexico. About the ministries and people that have so burdened our hearts. And about why we can't wait to get back. We're also looking forward to some time spent with both families during these initial weeks back. These visits will be a chance to reconnect with our extended families while recharging our batteries at the same time. Once the middle of July arrives, our schedule will pick up and we'll be "hitting the ground running" with regard to fund-raising. In the coming weeks, I'll be sure to update the blog with our schedule as it stands so that y'all know how to be praying.

In the meantime, please pray with us for the following:

(1) For our goodbye with the Forsythes tomorrow morning. Pray especially for Matthew and Susie as they adjust to having our kids away. Also, pray for the emotional ups and downs for everyone. Goodbyes are never easy--even when you know they are only for a period of time.

(2) For traveling mercies and that all of our 9 pieces of checked baggage will arrive together.

(3) For the transitions our family will be making over the next months as we travel from place to place and then again as we settle into a temporary home in North Carolina in August.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for our family!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


The word 'home' brings many things to mind. Family. Friends. A physical place. A sense of being. Certain smells. Certain sounds. A country. All of these things combined make a home.

With very little, it is fairly easy for me to feel at "home". Anywhere my family is, in fact, is home to me. Our house in Jackson was home. But so was our house in Costa Rica, and our house here in Mexico City. It's strange to me, especially considering that in another two months, we will once again be homeless. We'll be leaving this home we've lived in since October and returning to the States.....but where? We've never owned a house, so we have no physical residence waiting for us back in the States.

As we've not been on the mission field for decades like other we know, the United States is still home for me. It's where our extended family members live. It's where many of our closest friends live, where our supporters live. It's where all of us were born and raised, where we have roots.

And yet...

Mexico is home too, in a way neither of us can describe. I can remember the very first time we visited Mexico after we were married. Immediately after stepping off the plane, we both felt this overwhelming sensation that we were home. How could this be, when we'd never been there before? Perhaps it's because we were visiting Troy's parents. Or perhaps it's because all of the people we met were very friendly. But I believe it's because this is where God has chosen to send us as missionaries. He's given us this gift of feeling at home to make the transition that much easier. And to make sure we don't get too comfortable back where everything is familiar and "easy".

We only have two short months left in Mexico before our first term is over. There is tremendous sadness in this. We know we'll be leaving friends and ministries we've begun. Leaving behind people--missionaries and Mexican friends alike--who have become family to you over the months you've worked together is painful. We rejoice that we'll be returning to many of them soon. But we also know that there are some who may be called onto other places or other ministries.

At the same time, there is excitement in returning to our home country. Having the opportunity to see family, friends, and supporters. Visiting favorite places again. Easing back into English and American culture. It's very strange to think how a person can be so completely torn--sad to leave one home, yet excited to return to another.

Maybe as missionaries, this is the way it always is--especially for newer missionaries. Perhaps the longer you've been on the field, the more your country of service feels like home and your birth country feels foreign. But for now, we have two homes: our home country of birth, and Mexico--the beautiful place that tugs on our hearts like no other.

Please pray for us in the coming months as we wrap up ministries here and prepare to say our temporary goodbyes. Please pray that the transition back to the States will be smooth for everyone. Above all, please pray for our children in this process. Troy and I are ever conscious that we are the ones with the calling, not them. They have a calling of sorts, yes, but it's not the same. We thank you for joining with us in prayer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

God's Strength is Sufficient

Today, the missionary team was invited to join one of the church planting teams as they did door-to-door evangelism in a neighboring community we're trying to saturate with the Gospel. When I say "invited", we really didn't have a choice. And at first, I was absolutely terrified at the idea. I mean, street evangelism in English is not my strong suit (I must prefer the less uncomfortable method of friendship evangelism). Throw in Spanish, and it really did feel impossible.

For two straight days, I was in a panic about this. Finally, it was agreed that I would be permitted to simply share my testimony in Spanish, something I've done, and my partners would make the actual Gospel presentation. I did feel better about this, but I was still pretty nervous. After all, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Our group of Mexican church planters and missionaries met together for prayer and then relocated to the area we would be working in. Before we left, our field director's wife, Helen, handed me a devotional and encouraged me to read today's passage.

I stood there, tears streaming down my face. It is from "Jesus Calling" (by Sarah Young), a devotional book with a daily reading from the Bible, yet from the perspective of Jesus speaking to us. Here's the reading:

"Walk by faith, not by sight. As you take steps of faith, depending on Me, I will show you how much I can do for you. If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you. When I gave you My Spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength. (Emphasis mine.) That's why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you. The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless. By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength. (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:25)"

Was that not the most perfect reading for today?

I was partnered with Diana and Margaret, and we had the opportunity to talk to five women. Three of the women listened to everything we said and were interested in hearing more (we wrote down their contact information). The first woman we talked to had recently experienced a house fire and was in the middle of the cleanup process. She took a little booklet of the Gospel of John with Margaret's telephone number on the back. The fifth woman, however, was a very strong Jehovah's Witness and was not interested in anything we had to say. Indeed, after about 10 minutes of back and forth discussion (which Diana and Margaret handled superbly), we ended up leaving.

Between all of us, there were 5 decisions for Christ and over 10 new contacts made---quite a blessing from God and an answered prayer for open hearts. Despite the fact that I completely forgot everything I'd planned to say in my testimony, I did share with two of the ladies. God really helped me by taking away the fear. Yes, I was still nervous, but even that went away after awhile.

This is not something I ever would've volunteered to do on my own. Only because it was part of my job did I even have this experience. And if I hadn't, I would've missed out on the tremendous blessing I received by stepping out in faith and leaving my comfort zone.

What might God be calling you to do that is outside of your comfort zone? How might he want to use you in a situation where you are forced to rely not on your own strength but His?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

My First Visit to MEFI

I recently had the opportunity to visit MEFI, our ministry to the street "kids", for the first time. We use the term "kids" lightly, as most of them are 19 or older. It was overwhelming despite the fact that there were only four individuals there that day. It was overwhelming despite the fact that I could understand more of the Spanish than I'd originally feared I'd be able to. It was overwhelming even though the youth were very welcoming of me--one young man even asking me so many questions that I felt like I was on a talk show being interviewed.

It was overwhelming to recognize that probably the vast majority of those who come to MEFI are either addicted to--or have at one time at least sampled drugs. It's fairly easy to determine which of the youth are the hard-core addicts. The drugs have affected their speech, their physical appearance, even the way they walk. Many of them look far older than someone in their early-to-mid 20s. I met one young woman who couldn't even remember what she'd talked about not two minutes before. I told her my name at least three times--a name that should've been familiar to her, as it was her own as well.

It was overwhelming to learn that most of these young people have left their homes and families because of horrible abuses perpetrated by those who are supposed to care about them the most, many of them living on the streets from the time they are young adolescents.

It was overwhelming to realize that many of them have been forced to sell their own bodies in exchange for basic necessities. Like food or shelter--things most of us take for granted.

These young people have experienced atrocities that I will never know or understand. They've endured life at its utter worst. They know cold. They know hunger. The concepts of safety and well-being are as foreign to them as the concepts of hunger and danger are to me.

For that, I was overwhelmed and moved to tears.

God has burdened my heart for those most at risk of being exploited through human trafficking. These kids all fall under that at-risk category, for who would care if something happened to them? Their families who abused and turned their backs on them? The government, in a city of 30,000,000 people?


However, there are a handful of faithful workers who week in and week out, amply demonstrate to these kids just how special they are. How loved. How cherished. That their lives--as difficult as they've been--matter. That, as the prophet Jeremiah reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11, God has a purpose and a plan for them. A plan to prosper and not to harm them.

It is my privilege and my joy to join their ranks in sharing this message with the street youth.

Monday, January 13, 2014

More Facebook Posts

Again, for those who don't follow our Facebook group, "Gentrys' Mission To Mexico":

A post from yesterday:

Today we had a good taste of what Sundays will be for us. The morning activities begin at 9 AM and end around 1 or 1:30. As Troy is a new pastor, there have been many afternoon meetings. Today's ended at 2:30. Then, we were invited to the home of one of the deacons, where we ate and visited with his family, leaving their house a little after 6. That's 9 hours of almost non-stop Spanish. Don't mistake me--it will be very good for us and will help us get to know the people. But I admit, I'm exhausted after that length of time in a language I'm not overly comfortable with. My brain feels really full right now. Please pray for us as we grow accustomed to our longer Sundays and for me as I work very hard to improve my Spanish.

Besides our full Sundays and my weekly lesson on Mondays, we are instigating Spanish only days in the house a couple days a week, I will be going with Helen to MEFI and working with street kids on Wednesdays, and on Fridays I'll be taking lessons on how to make Mexican dishes from one of the ladies in a nearby church. Every day except Saturdays, I will be speaking Spanish for at the least an hour or two a day. I look forward to seeing improvement by the time we return to the States the end of May/first of June.

From December 30:

Our family will have our first "house guest" in Mexico, but we've never met her before. A young woman from Tennessee is flying in on Friday for a short-term missions experience. She'll be staying in our spare room for the month. Inside of a small building located just a few steps from our back door, this room was originally intended to house live-in-maids. It has enough room for a bed, dresser, night stand, and desk/chair, plus it has its own bathroom--complete with the best water pressure of all the showers!

We look forward to meeting Rebecca and having her become part of the family, even if for a short while. Please pray we can be a blessing to her during her stay with us.

(Added note: After the first day with us, it feels like she's always been a part of our family. She has younger siblings near Tori's and Cody's ages, so she fits in with us incredibly well. Her presence here has been a huge blessing to us. It will seem very strange when she has to return to the States and we'll be back to a family of 6 again.)

From December 12:

Today is the day honoring Mexico's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe. All night long, we could hear the cannons firing on regular intervals, something we suspect will continue throughout the day. There were even fireworks.

All week pilgrims have been walking from across the surrounding area not unlike the pilgrims journeying to Mecca--except the Mexican Mecca is the basilica here in Mexico City that has been dedicated to her honor. Many will crawl on their knees the last several miles until their knees are literally bleeding. This demonstrates their utter devotion and piety. They also do it with the hope that she will pour out her favor and blessings upon them.

They will wait for hours to be blessed by or to give their confession to one of the many priests. They have spent precious hard-earned pesos on bouquets of flowers to present to the Virgin.

And they will leave the basilica even emptier than before.

For all their devotion, all their piety, they know not that she cannot fill the emptiness inside. She cannot take away their burdens, their pains, their sins. She cannot bring healing to the hurt and sick.

She is nothing but an idol.

This is the spiritual climate we find ourselves in. This is why God has called us to Mexico. To proclaim Truth to those who have been utterly deceived.

Please pray for us, our teammates, and our Mexican brothers-in-sisters in Christ as we work to bring the Gospel to those in spiritual darkness.

From December 3:

A long-awaited day has arrived: we received our temporary residence visas for Mexico!

New Ministry Opportunity and a Pleasant Surprise

While I don't want to go into too much detail (as our January newsletter will be focused on these two new ministry opportunities), I want to briefly explain the significance of one.

Due to certain circumstances which we will not relate, Troy has agreed to serve as interim pastor in one of the UNIFAM churches. He will serve in this roll until we return to the States on our Homeland Ministry Assignment at the end of May, first part of June.

There is something very precious about this particular church, however, that makes this opportunity to serve a real privilege for us.

In June, 2008 when we first visited Mexico City with the family, our first church visit was on a Saturday morning. We accompanied a missionary couple to the church they attended for their MEXI-Kids program (very similar to a weekly VBS program). Before the trip, Troy and I had been very concerned about our kids and how they would respond to living in a new country/culture/language. After all, we believed we had a call to Mexico, but it was one we'd received prior to our children's births. That day, however, the kids welcomed our children into the various groups they were in and made it an extremely enjoyable experience for our kids. We didn't understand how much they'd enjoyed it until later, however.

Upon arrival back home, almost the first thing the kids started asking us was, "When can we go back?" Not, "Do we have to go?" Troy and I were thrilled, of course, and so thankful for their positive attitudes. We realized that the kids' experience at the church greatly influenced their desire to return.

This is the very church we have been asked to serve in.

On Troy's first Sunday preaching, we showed the congregation some of the pictures I will post below. A couple of the children and leaders are still in the church--5 years older, of course, as are our kids. They helped us put names to the faces and enjoyed seeing themselves 5 years younger. Sharing the pictures and the story about our kids I just mentioned above has helped link us to them in a way nothing else could have. There are still challenges, naturally. But we have felt welcomed from the very first Sunday.

All those months when we visited church after church, praying about which one God would have us serve in, we never dreamed He would place us here. Where our kids' excitement to serve in Mexico first was nourished. And for that, we feel so blessed.

(Yes, I know I promised pictures. The internet is acting up in our house, so these will have to wait. Sorry!)