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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Be a Missionary day 3

Wow, things are certainly different than we all had planned, but God is in the business of doing unexpected things when we are surrendered to his will and obedient to his call. Here is day 3 of the mission team's bible study. Pray along with them that God will use them today, and that they will arrive safely in Tula before nightfall.

Day 3

Today is the beginning of a great adventure as you become actual missionaries in Mexico. You will probably find opportunities this week to serve in ways in which you are very comfortable and very gifted. However, you will probably also be asked to stretch into areas that you have never been. You may experience uncertainty and discomfort. Our key phrase on mission trips is always, “Be flexible.”

In I Corinthians 9:22-23, Paul says it this way, “When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings.”

Finding common ground with the people you are serving can be challenging across a language barrier. How can you demonstrate unconditional love to the people to which you are ministering? How can you show abundant love to the team you are serving alongside?

Many times today you may need to think on Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” God put you into this moment for a reason. He plans to give you the strength to succeed.

Saturday night musings

It's been a very long day at the Kemp house. I was knee deep in mud in my backyard (well, ankle deep at least) before 7 a.m., on the phone with my dad, trying to repair my air conditioner. The good news is that I was able to do a temporary fix on the condenser that may hold until Shawn gets back from Mexico. This made me very proud of myself for two reasons. 1. I didn't get shocked and die which is what my dad told me would happen. 2. I didn't have to call any of my guy friends to come wade in the mud and rain to take care of me

On another note, our mission team is still stateside, in Brownsville, Texas. After multiple tries to cross the border today, finally all the correct paperwork has been faxed in from the rental van company, and they are prepared to try again in the morning. They are asking that we continue to pray for the team, that God will send them over in the morning.

However, even though the mission team did not have success getting into Mexico, they have already seen God at work. One of the team's passports had expired, so a couple of people were staying behind to go to the consulate to get things straightened out, then planning to take the bus to Tula to meet back up with the rest of the team. On their way back across the bridge, they accepted a ride. The driver of that car accepted Christ on the way back to the states from the border crossing. It just goes to show how important one person is to Christ. Our entire mission team was stalled so that one person could "happen" to hear about Jesus.

I have spent the day in prayer for the team. I don't know how you feel about spiritual warfare, but to me it is a definite physical reality today. The longer I prayed today, the sicker I became. I experienced severe nausea and the worst migraine of my life. My body is still reeling, hours after my intense intercession has ended. No matter how much medication I take, I can't make the pain go away. The interesting thing is that I still have the ability to write, while my spoken language center has all but shut down.

So tonight, please pray for me. In twelve hours I will be at The Crossroads, setting up, running a million miles an hour trying to be multiple personalities that are gone on the mission trip. But most importantly, I will be sharing the message. This message has been crazy hard to write. The computer ate it twice, the electricity went completely off on our street the 3rd time I was writing, my handwritten notes were missing key pages, and now the migraine is making it impossible for me to focus on editing and revising. I am nervous about sharing anyway, but at this moment, my speech is too garbled to even make sense. I need to be pain free, and focused, alert, and able to hear God's voice about how to best communicate to guys how to love their wives so they are encouraged, not dismayed.

It will be a very different gig tomorrow. I am not playing in the band, instead choosing to focus my energy on just doing Shawn's job while he is gone. Pray that God will be glorified, and that I won't jack it all up too bad! I am excited to see how God is going to be at work tomorrow at The Crossroads!


It has become a tradition that I blog about my children on their birthday. Continuing in that tradition, today my daughter Grace turned 12. She called me before 7 this morning, getting on the van in Brownsville, Texas, to go into Mexico on a mission trip. She was giddy with excitement, and having the time of her life. Before she hung up the phone, I heard her talking with the other women in the dorm. She is loving every moment of this journey! I am excited that God has given her such a heart for others, and a desire to minister, even to sacrifice her own comfort on her birthday.

When I see who she is becoming, I am overwhelmed at how God has worked in her life, and in our family's life. Grace was my most challenging child as a little girl. Even as a tiny child, she had her own ideas about life and was extremely difficult to parent. Born with a strong lion, type A personality, she tended to bully her brother and sister into submission. It was a long journey to teach her how to treat them with honor and respect. She used to make this funny little face right before she decked her brother with her fist. I got to where I would watch for the face, and start yelling "No", before she ever did anything wrong to try to head off disaster.

At the same time, Grace was unbelievably insecure. She was born with a deep need for love that was almost impossible to fill. In kindergarten, she threw up every single day at lunch because the loud lunch room made her nervous. At recess, she stood in the middle of the playground and cried. My teacher friends worked hard with her, allowing her to stay inside as a "helper" and finding teenagers willing to come befriend her at recess - boosting her coolness factor with her peers. I owe them a debt that I cannot ever repay, because they dug in deep as a favor to me, and found ways to make Grace feel beautiful, valuable, and important. They went far beyond the call of duty to love my daughter. Our church family, many of them now at The Crossroads, also loved Grace abundantly and unconditionally. At times in her life when she would not accept my love and rejected me daily, they did their best to love her in ways that she understood. They prayed with me, on a daily basis. I could not have parented her without their love and support. It wasn't easy.

I probably have more regrets in parenting Grace than I do with any of my other children. I often lost control of my hot temper as we butted heads. I have said many atrocious and cruel things in an effort to gain control of spiraling situations that I would love to take back. I wish that I could turn back time and parent her again, knowing what I know now about her personality type. However, it is impossible to undo my past mistakes. But somehow in the midst of all my horrible mistakes, Grace still felt the undercurrent of my deep and passionate love.

When we jumped off into church planting, I was most concerned for Grace. Changing schools had the potential to undo all of the years of hard work that we had put into her life at Pottsboro. I spent days and nights on my knees begging God for wisdom. God is good beyond my wildest dreams. Instead of damaging her and setting her back, church planting caused Grace to bloom.

In church planting, Grace was needed. Her natural leadership qualities, her inability to quit, and her administrative ability were desperately needed in the early days of the church plant when we were short handed on volunteers. Now she has assumed primary set up of our children's department and takes care of our nursery every week. She delights in meeting new people, and she makes their children feel special and valued. She brainstorms ideas with us at the table about ways to do outreach in the community, and pitches in to help.

Being in the church plant has helped her to see mission work first hand. She feels called into full time mission work someday. I know that she is young, and it may be that God changes that call along the way, but I have also seen her work tirelessly by my side in ministry. Long after all the other adults have given up and gone to bed. She feels passionate about helping the underprivileged. It is cool to see her strong fighting spirit channeled into a constructive path. That same fighting spirit that kept me from leaving her alone in a room with her little sister as a toddler is now rising up to fight against injustice. She wants to make a difference in the world for kids affected by slavery, poverty, and abuse.

When I see the woman she is becoming, I stand in awe of my God. I could never have made Grace into this incredible girl. In my own strength, I often tried to change her personality and crush her passions in an attempt to obtain good behavior. Every time that I watch her scoop up a small child, or she begs for Bibles to give to her friends, or she asks for a camera to document the God moments on a mission trip, I am amazed. God is able to do such big things in people's lives, sometimes in spite of us.

Don't misunderstand me here - we still have difficult days, and even difficult seasons. However with Grace, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the woman God intends for her to be. Now instead of trying to change her personality, I talk to her openly about her strengths and weaknesses and try to give her tools to use when she is angry. Her anger when channeled against injustice will change the world. I have no doubt. However, as she grows and becomes more and more amazing, I also see her struggling against spiritual attack. This year we had some tough moments. Moments where Satan won some battles and all I could do was hold her, pray over her, and cry along with her.

Bottom Line? I am grateful every single day that God let me be Grace's mom. I am excited about how he plans to use her for the kingdom. It is amazing to watch God work in her life. As I sit here weeping, there is only one thing left to say, "Happy birthday, my beautiful Grace!"

Be a Missionary day 2

This morning our Mexico Mission team is crossing the border and headed several hours deep into the interior to Tula. They are hoping to arrive in Tula early enough to spend time ministering in a local prison. I have heard that this is a phenomenal opportunity, and I am very excited for them.

The question remains, for those of us who stayed home, how can we be on mission today? Who is God going to give you the opportunity to love today? How can he use your life? Maybe it's just chilling at home with your family. God is exceptionally glorified when we love our families with His love! We have to be alert to see what God is doing in our life today.

Here's the day 2 Bible study that our mission team is reading this morning. Pray along with them, that God will go before them, and that God will go before you.
(my apologies again about the font - still doing weird stuff)

Day 2

Today is a big day. You are leaving the United States, heading across the border, deep into Mexico. Tonight you will sleep in Tula! Some of you are anxious about a first time border crossing, while others are feeling the excitement that comes with entering a country that you have grown to love.

In ancient times, Joshua led a large group of people into a new land across a raging river. God parted the waters for them to cross, going before them on their journey. They took time to stop, notice, and remember what God had done.

Joshua 4:4-7, “So Joshua called together the twelve men and told them, ‘Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulders - twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a permanent memorial among the people of Israel.’”

Today God is going before you into Mexico. Watch to see Him at work, each day on your journey. Be like Joshua’s people - stop, make note, and remember what God does on your behalf. It is always amazing to watch God’s footsteps on mission trips.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Be a Missionary

For years, I have enjoyed mission trips to Mexico. I love going into a different culture, making new friends, and making a difference in people's lives. But my favorite part of the trip is always seeing how God works. He always goes ahead of the team, doing big and miraculous things. It is an incredible time of seeing God use my limited abilities for his glory, and also a time of recharging spiritually.

This year, for many reasons, I am not in Mexico with all my friends. My husband, and 12 year old daughter, Grace, are traveling without me. I am excited for them. I know that this will be an amazing experience that the two of them will share memories together for the rest of their lives. But being human, I was a little sad to see them leave this morning without me. I hate to miss out on anything!

However, a few minutes ago, God reminded me that being a missionary has nothing to do with being in a foreign country. We are all missionaries, every day, wherever we happen to go. God is at work around us just as much as he is at work around the Mexico mission team, if we only take time to see what he's doing. God is using us all, no matter where our lives take us, for his kingdom plans.

On this note, I decided to publish the study that I wrote for the Mexico mission trip. Maybe we are not all in Mexico, but we are all on mission. Parts of this are very specific to the Mexico situation, but parts of it can apply to us all this week. It occurred to me that God might do some amazing things indeed if we all are on one page, in one mind, with one heart, seeking to be used completely for God's kingdom this week. Even if this Bible study does not meet you where you are, at least read through it and pray for the mission team that is using it this week. (sorry, the font is doing weird things coming in from Word)

Love you all,

Day 1

This morning began early - more like in the middle of the night for many of you. You are meeting new people, establishing new relationships, and sharing your excitement and heart for mission work. You are excited, maybe even a little nervous about the upcoming week. There are many emotions running through your mind as you are seeking to discover your role on this particular trip. God is clear that he designed each of us to perfectly complement the other believers around us so that God’s kingdom purposes are best accomplished.

Ephesians 4:15-16, “Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

On this trip, God has a purpose for you. The people who are with you are the people intended to be with you on the adventure. Each of you is necessary to accomplish God’s plan. Every single person is of great value and importance for this mission. Begin now to get to know the people around you, and begin to pray for them and for your time together. Ask God to use you and your friends (old and new) beyond your biggest expectations.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Morning Update 7.5.10

I loved the lesson in kid's cove this week. It was a reminder that all of your worries and all of your fears belong in God's hands. Moses was rightfully afraid to face down Pharaoh, but God told him to be courageous and promised his presence. In surrendering his fear to God, and giving his entire life to God, Moses was able to do unbelievably more than he ever imagined.

I haven't heard anything about grown up church other than some snickers and giggles. Apparently Shawn preached the sex sermon. LOL! Hopefully it was a super service and couples left with some practical tips they could apply in their marriages.

After church is when the magic began. One of our friends in Anna opened up her home for the fourth of July. I think she ended up with over 50 Crossroadies and their extended families showing up for lunch. I had a blast. It was so good to have time to sit down, dig in deep, and visit with these people that I serve and love. I also enjoyed meeting some members' families that don't attend church with them. There was great food, loud laughter, and wild craziness. While at the same time the love in the room was almost tangible. These are all traits of a great Crossroads' party.

After lunch, we went back home for a while so I could crash. After a nearly 4 hour nap, I felt much better about life, and ready for the next round of parties. In Shawn loving me by letting me sleep so long, we were running a little late for the party at the fireworks show. It was the coolest thing to pull into the parking lot only to be met by a church member who said, "We saved you a spot." It made me feel wanted and important. We pulled the car into the empty spot, and set up our chairs. Then I glanced to my right and to my left. Almost as far as I could see in both directions there were Crossroads families in their lawnchairs, in the backs of their pick-up trucks, and in the backs of their suburbans. As I walked the parking lot visiting and laughing with these families, I was overwhelmed with joy. A year ago, I knew almost none of them. Most of these families have at least one family member that's accepted Christ this year. Many of them are people who have walked through hard times and tough places this year. It was a moment of thankfulness as I looked at all of the couples who are still married. At all of the people who have accepted Christ. At all of the people who have found forgiveness for and recovery from addictions. It was a moment of thankfulness as God showed me that my life has purpose, and He is moving in ways that I cannot begin to fathom.

After the fireworks, several of the families headed up to Braums for some ice cream. As we completely took over the restaurant with our loud selves, our rowdy kids, and our laughter, I had a moment outside of time. I was transported back to that first Sunday. The day that we opened our doors for the very first time, and nobody from Anna came. Coming back to the present and looking around me at these people that I have come to know and love as part of my family, I was absolutely in awe of what God has done at The Crossroads. I cannot express the depth of my amazement, or the heights of my excitement as I contemplate where God is going to take us next! What an incredible journey!

I would appreciate your prayers this week. I am speaking at The Crossroads next week while Shawn and Grace will be in Mexico on a mission trip. I am going to do "What a girl wants", the flip side of Shawn's "How to make your husband happy" sermon. I need great wisdom on this. I am wired up a little differently than many women, and am having to think pretty hard on this topic. I am also a little nervous about getting children's stuff set up next week with Grace out of town. She handles all the nursery stuff. So I'm praying for a hoard of volunteers so we can get it done quickly next week.