A Letter From Our Father

We received a letter from our father. In it he told us that we have brothers and sisters whom we have never met. Now we are aware of their existence but they are not aware of ours. These siblings live far off and speak another language. They are held captive as slaves. What is worse is that they may not know their lack of freedom or the extent of their bondage. Our father told us that he desires to free our brothers and sisters from this bondage and welcome them into our loving family. After experiencing the joy that comes from our family we cannot imagine a brother or a sister or one of our own children being taken into captivity, lost in darkness. The thought of it brings us much pain.

But, our father has the power to free our siblings! He sent our big brother and he paid their debt. This they must know! So we will honor our father’s desire and we will go to them. We told our brothers and sisters at home and asked if they would help us go, for we cannot do this alone. Our brothers and sisters are helping with their prayers and support. Together we will seek our brothers and sisters so that our father may free them and welcome them home. And then together we will stand strong in the family; waiting for the day our father will destroy the darkness forever.

 

 

2Cor. 5:6   So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

2Cor. 5:11   Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2Cor. 5:16   From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2Cor. 6:1   Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain2 For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,

and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

Vision trip update from Clay

So here we are! We read a lot about this place and we watched a lot of documentaries in order to prepare for this trip. The Faulkner family has welcomed us into their home. We are asking a ton of questions and they are graciously answering them all. There is a lot to take in about ministry in Naples. This is a difficult place for ministry but God is definitely at work in the hearts of the people we have talked to.

Even though we were aware of the issues here it is still shocking to see the trash on the streets and the prostitutes along the roadways. The culture loves children so despite the crime it is not unusual for children to walk throughout their neighborhoods without fear, even for the American children/parents. The toughest mafia boss would apparently stop to help a fallen kid get back up.

Lauren and I have looked at various communities to get an understanding of where we may live. We have been to one language class at the church and will attend another on Thursday. The church is great and we can see the hearts of the leadership for reaching the people here. Tonight we are going to a birthday party for a member of the church. We have been able to spend time with both Italians and American families here. It is comforting to see the American families caring for and discipling each other. Our focus will be on serving and ministering to the Italians while encouraging bridge building between the two cultures of the church members.

We still have a lot left to do during our time here. Lauren and I will take a day trip to Rome on Wednesday, spend one day touring Naples, visiting with the president of the Biblical Institute and much more. Oh, and of course the food is awesome. We have actually had American food a few times as well…Yep, hamburgers, hotdogs and baked beans, go figure. Café is amazing and we can’t wait to make you guys one when we return! Thanks for your prayers! We miss our kids but are so grateful for this opportunity. God has continued to confirm this calling and our hearts are broken for the lost here. We can’t wait to reach the Italian people here with His love. Hopefully we will be able to move here and immerse ourselves in the culture soon.

Well, its almost 2:00pm here so time for lunch!

Ciao!
Clay

Vision Trip update from Lauren

There is so much to process right now, going through culture shock. But I love these people. They are so warm & welcoming and the missionary team of is amazing, I’m so thankful for their guidance. Mostly, I’m thankful that the Lord has opened my eyes to another culture and that He has called us to be apart of His work here in Italy!

-Lauren

Confirmation: Lauren is willing to move?!

When I first met Lauren she was a senior in high school. Ever since I have know her she has had a huge interest in Italy. She told me when we got married that she would love to go there one day. I responded to her that I had absolutely no desire to ever move to Europe.

For the last 10 years I would often mention moving to another city or state. This was NOT an option for my wife. She could not even think about leaving family and our home to go somewhere else. I couldn’t even get her to consider moving 2 hours away to NW Arkansas. So when I knew God was calling me into full-time ministry I figured it would be local or He would have to change her mind. I finally reached a point where I stopped asking God for my 10 year plan, healthcare, and retirement options and finally told him that I would follow where ever He would lead. I prayed with men in my discipleship group, asking God to open doors and confirm His leading through my wife.

Over the next year I would overhear my wife talking with family or friends and she would make subtle statements like, “Who knows where we will be in a few years…” Now I know she was 100% behind my desire to pursue ministry, and while these statements were subtle, they were HUGE to me. I knew God was at work. Even my own mother noticed this change of heart.

Lauren finally confirmed that she knew God was leading our family to something new. She was ready to follow where ever that may be…but there were still questions and nervousness. What would our mothers do? What about our children? These are normal questions and I would probably be worried if she were not asking them. We began looking into missions organizations and seeking council from leaders and friends. We looked into WorldVenture and decided to check out the opportunities there. I saw a church planting opportunity in Ireland that sparked my interest so we talked and prayed about looking into it. WorldVenture contacted us and did their homework to make sure we were capable to enter ministry-We aren’t crazy thank God!

The opportunity in Ireland was not there so our missions coach sent us a list of other opportunities in Europe. There was a church planting intern program and a need for a web designer/techie to help a biblical institute in Italy. This immediately stood out to me and so I showed it to Lauren. When she saw it she knew that we needed to pursue these opportunities and her nerves turned to excitement. We asked our missions coach if those positions could be combined. I work in IT and I desire to help plant churches and make disciples….

Well, you know the rest of the story, but if you don’t just keep reading our blog or check out the video on the main page.

 

Confirmation: Stickers?…really?

I was talking with Lauren about ways to help people remember to pray for us. I started looking at making wrist bands, shirts or stickers that mention Italy. This way we could send them out with prayer letters and hand them to people we know would pray for us. I did my research in order to see how much this would cost us…but then our friend Emily Pendergrass showed up.

Emily is the garage sale queen of Cabot, and possibly Lonoke County? Her son Isaac is buds with my son. She sent Caiden home with a box of 75 stickers that she found at the Cabot Goodwill. They were Italy stickers that a scrapbook store would sell. See picture:

Some scrap-booking or craft store/enthusiast decided to get rid of them by donating them to Goodwill. We asked Emily if there were more stickers at the store and she said yes. I drove to Goodwill and found 6 more boxes of stickers on the shelf, every one of them Italy stickers. Now I bought them all at a little over $1 a box and thought that is was a pretty cool find. Not once did I think it to be confirmation from God that we are obediently following His leading in our life…until my good friend Eric Evans told me so. The more I think about it, the more I realize that God has been preparing us for this change for a long time now. And if I keep my eyes open I won’t miss the ways He decides to comfort us in our choice to follow Him.