I Won’t Be Here For That

Friends: Are you going to renew your theme park passes for 2016?

Me: No, I’ll be leaving for Germany soon.

People: Are you going to get your own place?

Me: No, I’ll be leaving for Germany soon and don’t want to furnish a place I will soon leave.

Friend: Do you want to go to the upcoming women’s conference?

Me: Yes, but I won’t be here for that. I’ll be in Germany.

Co-workers: Are you going to try to move up from being a bakery clerk?

Me: No, I don’t plan to be here long. I’m moving to Germany soon.

Westwood staff: How long do you think you will be here? How long can you commit to the student director position?

Me: I have no idea. I’ll gladly serve here until I am sent.

It’s official, I’m done setting deadlines. I don’t even feel that I can say “soon” when people ask me when I’m leaving for Germany. The truth is that I have no idea. Fundraising deadlines I have set for myself have come and gone with the seasons. Friends and co-workers have mentioned plans for things in the future. I have listened, with excitement, and said “I probably won’t be here for that.” That response never seemed unreasonable. Yet, I feel foolish about it now. I should have been careful with my expectations. 

In many ways, being in the US longer than I had hoped has been a great blessing. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to invest in the lives of students and friends here. I’ve even had the privilege of others investing in my life. That could not have occurred, had I gone to Germany in my own timeline. Yet, there is a frustration and a guilt that lies beneath. 

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(Video recap of the youth retreat we had this summer: https://vimeo.com/171882065)

The team that I will be joining in Germany has hoped for my funds to come in. Whether or not they share my frustration and disappointment, I imagine that they do. Even though I am trying to commit to a lifetime of service in another country, I feel the need to move forward faster. I can’t decide if a year and a half of fundraising is a long, appropriate, or short period of time. Fellow missionaries have shared “encouraging” stories about how God provided their funds within a short period of time. These stories have left me with two feelings. The first being comfort. I’m comforted by the fact that God will provide when the time is right. He is the one who called me to this and He will send me when the time is right. The second feeling is insecurity. I begin to wonder what is wrong me with me. I ask God: “Why won’t you send me?!” I’m so willing.

I hate to admit this, but I recently found a huge error in my financial planning for Germany. I have a budget sheet which I fill in with all of the monthly donation commitments I receive. Every time someone gives a verbal commitment to fund me, or gives a donation, I update the spreadsheet. A graph of my progress is automatically calculated. It’s fantastic! However, I recently learned that I’ve been filling it in all wrong. I’ve been marking my one-time donations as annual donations. One time donations help me cover moving expenses, my language school, my travel funds, and my backup funds. Annual and monthly donations collected now (before leaving for the field) also contribute to that fund. However, the main purpose is to secure my future income. An annual gift of $1,200, for example, would be counted as a monthly donation of $100. The funds collected now go to my one time goal of $24,000. I cannot leave the US without reaching that goal. I am also unable to leave until I have 100% of my monthly funds.

A couple days ago, I updated my spreadsheet and found that I had 85% of my monthly funds promised. I was ecstatic!! After correcting my error of recording one-time gifts as annual gifts, I found that I was only at 65%. I had been telling people for over a month that I was at 75%. So now I have taken a step backwards, seemingly. Talk about feeling defeated! I’m trying to regroup and make new fundraising plans. I’m waiting on the Lord and trying hard to trust in His timing, but I’m frustrated with myself. I can’t escape feeling like I haven’t done enough. Yet, I am not sure where to go from here.

This is where I usually conclude my post with a positive outlook and/or a biblical perspective. Unfortunately, I’m still living in this tension of trusting God but feeling like a failure. I don’t believe these two are mutually exclusive concepts. I’m sure I haven’t done as much as I should have to raise the funds. On the other hand, I’m not really sure where to go from here. So, I’m waiting for God to lead. That’s all I can do.

Spiritual Mamas

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I have several mamas in my life. Cindy McNair is the woman who has had the joy, pain, pleasure, and chore of raising me. I can assure you, however, that it DOES take a village. The number of women in my life that have had a profound influence on me extend MUCH longer than this blog. I would like to call these women my spiritual mamas.

My spiritual mamas have been there to listen, advise, teach, guide, and model what it means to be a woman after God’s heart. They’ve humbly offered their victories and their failures as examples that I can learn from. My spiritual mamas, like my own mother, have endured my endless chatter, heard my complaints, and have even seen me at my very worst. Instead of reprimanding me and making me feel small, they have encouraged and challenged me. 

I would not be the woman I am today without the community of women who have surrounded me with love. I am richly blessed beyond what I can express. If there weren’t so many of you, I would be tempted to reach out to all of you, individually, with a hug and a rose today. You are each very beautiful and special to me.

Not all of you have children of your own. I hope that young women (like myself), who are currently in your proximity, were able to hug your neck today and share words of encouragement. We need you. Your vulnerability and strength were not wasted on us. 

Happy spiritual mamas day to you all!

(If the age issue bothers you, you can consider today spiritual older sister day 😉.)

Knowledge is Power

Raphael_School_of_Athens(School of Athens- If you get it you get it. Sorry if you don’t.)

“Knowledge is power.” This popular phrase is attributed to the famous British philosopher Francis Bacon. Other variations of his phrase are: “wisdom is power” and “knowledge is His power” (referring to God’s power). Any translation of FB’s Latin will lead you to his conclusion that God’s Word and God’s creation reveal His power. A study of history and science, paired with diligent study of scripture, could/would open our minds to the power of God in a way that we could never merely understand through daily observation.

Romans 1:20 states that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” At a glance, this passage from the apostle Paul might seem to say that we don’t need to study to know God. God is obvious. This is truth. Yet, a deeper look only teaches us more about God’s eternal power.

I am continually surprised by the schism of scientists, historians, and the religious. As if our fields of study were exclusive and hindered by the other. Indeed, they are not. Learning more about the human body, animals, and nature has obviously changed our understanding of history. Any forensic show proves that point. Yet, people groups of various religious categories seem critical of the scientific method. The idea of having a testable hypothesis seems to threaten their faith. Because what is faith? “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see “(Hebrews 11:1). I think Galileo addressed this issue best when he said: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Faith is important, because we cannot know all things, but it does not excuse us from using the very faculties God has given us.

The other side of the coin is this: “science is not our only means for accessing truth.” This was recently stated by a lesser known, but highly respected, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. (Click HERE to read the rest of his article about science and the resurrection). Historical record is also an important means for truth. In today’s world, we don’t reject history. We just do our best to interpret history through our own worldview.

What does this have to do with power? Knowing God more completely, through every sense, reason, and intellect He has given us reveals His power. The human body, for example, is beautiful to the eye and easily observed as an amazing work of art. To look deeper and see how EVERY bit of our body works perfectly to maintain life puts me on my face before God, in absolute awe of His brilliant creation. Likewise, when I read my Bible, I feel enriched by truth. When I dig deeper and understand the cultural context, the real meaning of the original language, and fit each passage into the framework of the entire Bible and the history of the world, I’m in tears. I’m overwhelmed and I can’t get enough!

In today’s world of resources, we have no excuse for laziness. In 2 minutes, we could download an app that explains the anatomy of the human body. For $12.99, we could upload the Archaeological Study Bible to an e-reader. In 20 seconds, we could Google free resources for just about any field of study. It’s all right at our fingertips. The question is, are we using our resources to learn/access God’s power?

Just this morning, I was reading from the book of Esther and I decided to Google “Cyrus and the Diaspora,” on my phone. Instantly, I found myself entangled in an article posted on The MET website which made mention of the cuneiform tablets found amid the ruins of ancient Nippur. These same tablets were mentioned in the notes section of my Archaeological Bible, which I had open on my tablet. In my lap sat my leather bound Bible. Every resource I opened pointed back to the historical authenticity of a story of God’s sovereignty.  My heart burst with excitement!

Day by day, I have to challenge myself to be a student of God’s Word, a student of life. Knowledge IS power. It’s God’s power. We could spend our entire lives gaining knowledge, but it’s meaningless without Him. Every field of study comes alive when we have a relationship with Him. He is the one who gives life and purpose. The more intimate our relationship with God, the more clearly we see his eternal power and divine nature. Being a student of life and a student of God’s Word only increases that intimacy. It’s not enough to be an observer.

Proverbs 1:7- “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

 

Go Be

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Go to the Nations. Be the body of Christ.

This is the motto of The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). The idea is simple. We are a group of people that have committed to leaving our home countries, for the sake of the Gospel. We recognize the global need for the message of Jesus (Romans 3:21-31) and believe the message is most effectively received through relationship. Therefore, TEAM focuses their efforts on being the body of Christ within foreign countries.

GOing involves a certain amount of sacrifice. It means we must leave the comfort of our home, our culture, and our loved ones. It means going on adventure, engaging with a new culture, and making a new home. It’s exciting! It’s not without it’s challenges though.

BEing is about existing. A huge part of missions is simply existing in another culture. Christians worldwide are meant to be a witness where they live and move. Missionaries exist as ambassadors of Jesus in a culture that is not typically aware/accepting of Him.

While this motto of going to the nations and being the body of Christ is particularly fitting for our mission, it is not an exclusive challenge. All believers are called to go (Matthew 28:28-20). They may not be called to go across the world, but they are meant to go to their neighbors- across the street, at work, and in their community. It’s about being intentional in our relationships.

In that sentiment, I am selling red leather bracelets/bands which bear the phrase “Go Be.” They are meant to serve as a reminder to be intentional about leaving our comfort zone for the purpose of living incarnationally among those who don’t know Christ. All of the profit will go directly into my TEAM account for long-term missions in Germany. This product will help me go. Please show your support for what God is doing in Germany by purchasing this reminder for yourself and sharing my link with others.

http://www.leximcnair.com/merch/

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Vision

I am not a church planter. Why? I’ve just never done it. I know church planters though, in the US and in Germany. Right now I’m learning a lot from the church planters I know in Florida, but not everything can carry over cross culturally. The one concept that I’m discussing with my pastoral friends now is the simple idea of becoming a part of a community that already exists, rather than inviting people to a become a community. That’s pretty simple, right? A friend of mine lived this out when he became a part of a group of guys who play basketball at a fitness center instead of trying to have a basketball night at the church, to which he would invite people.

I believe this concept is practical for Germany. Why? The church planters I am joining, in Dresden, share the same vision and they have already successfully planted churches. Before I committed to joining their team, Jeff (team leader) told me about an instant community that already exists in German culture. It’s called a Stammtisch. A Stammtisch is a table where a group of like minded people meet regularly to discuss the thing which they have in common and/or to get to know one another better. For example, a friend of mine was invited to join a hunting Stammtisch. All of the hunters in his area gathered at their table weekly to enjoy one another’s company and to discuss hunting. Jeff suggested that this would be the kind of automatic community that he could become a part of, or even create, for the purpose of building relationships. This is something I can do!

Believing that this was something I would learn more about when I moved to Dresden, I put this thought out of mind. It has recently come back to me, as I consider things that I saw when I went on my vision trip to Dresden last summer. I will explain briefly: One night, Frank took me and my friend Roger down to a part of town called the Neustadt. He wanted to share a drink with us at one of his favorite bars. We ended up getting a late night tour of that whole part of town. The streets were filled with bars and various night life scenes. The area of the Neustadt that struck me the most, however, was an intersection where University students had taken over the sidewalks. They were sitting everywhere, enjoying beers and conversation. Apparently, this was a common occurrence. Being that it was only midnight on a Monday, I figured this was a smaller crowd.

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Looking back, this path was not coincidental, nor was the friendship I began to build with Frank that night. (Read his story here). Frank is now meeting with Jeff and Anne Ingram weekly to learn about God. Over Christmas break, he told me that he wanted to love Jesus as much as I do this year. Some of you have been praying for Frank. Please keep it up! During our discussion over drinks at the Neustadt about life purpose, I kept thinking: “Frank would be an incredible missionary!” I think God was the one speaking, not me.

My vision is this, I would like to visit the same Neustadt intersection weekly to mingle with University students. After meeting people, I hope to join or start a Stammtisch. As a matter of protection, I hope to get Frank and Jule to come along. I’ve already emailed Frank to ask him what he thinks about this. This could bridge into the church plants that the Ingrams are working on or it could become its own ministry. I don’t know, but I think God is the one revealing this vision to me and I’m excited to see what He does!

I’m not a church planter… YET. There are many steps that have to be walked through before I get to the point where I can put this idea into action, but they are equally important. 1. I must raise funds. This is an opportunity for me to get others involved in what God is doing. 2. I must complete language school in Berlin, so that I can be conversational in German before I move to Dresden. 3. I must be a part of Jeff’s team. I need to learn through observation and through internship. I can’t just jump into a new culture and do what I want to do. I have to be culturally intelligent.

Please jump on board with step 1 and help me get closer to this vision!

(If this is your first time hearing about what I hope to do in Dresden, you should visit leximcnair.com. I do have a desire to work with refugees in Germany as well.)

Click HERE to learn how to give

If I had it my way…

Frank

If I had it my way, I would be in Germany right now. I would already be done with language school. I would be settling into a small apartment, in Dresden, and getting ready for the challenge of a lifetime. I would have several videos of my journey recorded and posted. Hundreds of people would be praying daily for God to move in Germany. They/you would be waiting expectantly for my next blog/email/web update. They/you couldn’t wait to see what God was doing!

Alas, I am writing this blog from Orlando, Florida. Not too shabby, I know. There are worse places to be “stuck.” Worse people to be “stuck” with. Don’t worry, I appreciate the time I get to be with my family and the exciting city of Orlando. I am, however, writing this blog from my childhood twin bed, in a small room filled with packed suitcases. I’m ready to go.

I’m in a place of waiting, but not really. I’m still moving forward. What do I mean by that? Well, everyone says that God’s timing is perfect. The tricky thing is ACTUALLY believing that. When I hear the question “So, when are you moving to Germany?” I sigh. Truthfully, I want to know the answer to that question more than anyone else. If you have been the one to ask this question, you know that my answer is something like: “whenever the money comes in.”

I’m learning, again, that this time of “waiting” has to be a time of learning as well. I’m learning to be thankful in all things. I’m learning that God is my provider. I don’t gain financial supporters because I am cool, because I am fun, or even because I am the most equipped person to reach the nations for Christ. He is the one who laid out the mission. I will move when He tells me to move. Until then, I will spend this time in preparation.

A wise missionary once compared missionaries and their support teams to NASA. Thousands of people worked for NASA, but only a few actually went to space. Astronauts were the ones to go into the unknown, but the thousands of other NASA employees made the mission work. The astronaut could not work alone.

This analogy has been expanded for me recently. I’ve been struck by the short amount of time that astronauts actually spent in space. They spent most of their life training and working as scientists. This is not completely unlike the life of a missionary. While I do plan to move to Germany for good, I see how important this time here in Orlando is. I would have missed so much if I had things my way.

Right now I am serving as the interim youth pastor for Westwood Alliance church. I’m teaching through 1 Samuel and the book of Psalms. I love it! I get the chance to teach God’s Word! I get the chance to get to know some awesome teenagers and step into their stories. I get to be a part of their lives! I cannot express how much I love this. I wouldn’t be here though, if I had things my way to begin with.

If I had my way, I wouldn’t have had a year with the most awesome kids in the world at Westwood Alliance Church. When I first moved back home, I anticipated working with the youth. The church leadership asked me to work with the children’s ministry instead. If I had done things my way, I would have missed out on building relationships with some of my most favorite people on this earth.

If I had my way, I wouldn’t even be at Westwood Alliance Church. When I first prepared to leave for the Black Forest Academy (in Germany), I thought my friends at East Lake Community Church would provide the funding I needed in a short period of time. I didn’t anticipate ANY struggle with fundraising. Things didn’t come together like I thought they would though. Instead, I struggled financially and moved to Germany without the proper funding. God had a different plan. Instead, I learned to be dependent upon Him. Instead, God brought Westwood Alliance into my life. I wouldn’t have this incredible family if I had had things my way.

I’m learning, yet again, that my way is not the best way. Rest assured though, I am moving forward. I’m at about 64% monthly funding. I am in need of about $1,450 a month to be at full funding. I am hoping to move in June. Would you please keep me in prayer? Pray for God’s way, not my own.

Isaiah 55:8-13

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

Click HERE to learn how to give

Pre Departure Orientation

(PDO in Chicago, 2011. This was my short term PDO for my first move to Germany)

I am an appointed missionary with The Evangelical Alliance Mission, TEAM for short. TEAM requires missionaries to raise support funds that match their projected budgets. This budget covers benefits (health insurance, retirement, etc), work funds, and my living allowance. I’m not able to move to Germany until I have enough donors to cover 100% of the budget. I am also required to attend a Pre-Departure Orientation week in Chicago before I am able to move. This PDO is a week of training and meetings related to moving and living overseas.

At the end of 2015, my mission coach informed me that there were only going to be 2 PDO opportunities in 2016. He also mentioned that I had to have 60% of my funds committed/promised before I was able to attend. The first PDO would be in February and the second would be in July. After PDO, I would certainly have work to do before being able to leave the country. In scenario 1, I would attend February PDO and spend the next 4 months accomplishing those tasks and finishing my fundraising. This would get me to Germany this summer, if the funds were raised. In scenario 2, I would attend PDO in July, miss English camp in Dresden, and would possibly have to wait until 2017 to move.

TEAM originally gave me two budgets, a low budget and a high budget. They suggested that I raise enough funds to live off of the high budget. When I learned of my PDO deadline of 60% by January 15th (for February PDO), I had 40% of my lowest budget figure raised/promised. Getting to 60% of my highest budget seemed unlikely. God is good though and brought in several friends who joined my support team. By January 11th, I had reached 68% of my lowest budget and 49% of my highest budget. Not knowing which budget would be considered for my PDO clearance; I prayed that God would work things out.

After a lot of discussion with my mission coach and the TEAM finance department, I learned that I was able to adjust my own budget. I was not previously aware that I could do that. So, I spent time carefully adding figures based on what I knew of Germany. Emails went back and forth between Jeff (Dresden missionary), Carl (mission coach), and Kristen (TEAM accountant) for a few days. Jeff was able to help me sculpt my budget. Being the ministry leader in Dresden, he also approved the adjusted budget. This brought me to EXACTLY 60% on February 13th.

Praise God for His provision! I am so stoked that progress is being made and that I’m within months of being able to move. I’m so anxious and excited about getting started.

What now?

I still have 40% of my monthly funding to raise. I also have to raise $20,000 to cover moving and language school costs. Monthly support that comes in will chip away at that expense, but it could take a year to raise $20,000 that way. Therefore, I still have a lot of people to speak to about financial support.

I am confident that God will arrange things perfectly in His timing.