Marshmallows

My life drastically changed when I was 8 years old.  We moved (for a year) to Argentina for my dad’s job.  Before we left, I was given several diaries from friends and family to preserve the memories of my time there.  At first, I began with the typical “Dear Diary, Today was great because…” but I was so bored by what I wrote that I stopped writing all together.

However, soon after arriving in our new home (and not just the motel where we spent the first 3 weeks), I began to miss friends… and being able to talk to anyone outside my family… and marshmallows.  (Seriously.  At that time, the country did not have marshmallows… and I was an 8 year old that adored them!)

My faith in God was just beginning… as I had been baptized by my own choice only 6 months before leaving the States.  I began to turn my frustrations into a new writing… prayers to God… in those tiny, tiny diaries that had a clasp, lock and key.  Soon, things began to change.  As I wrote out my sadness in not having friends in Argentina… more so… that could speak my language.  God began to answer my quiet cries.

We began attending an Anglican church in the area, that had English-speaking services.  I sat that Sunday, in reverence, inside that beautiful church building that sat just off the square, and squeezed my eyes shut.  “God, I just need some friends who can understand me!”  Then I tried to listen to the sermon and swallow the wine at communion that burned my throat… all…the… way… down.

Afterwards, my parents were surrounded by older men and women who all had wonderful British accents and wore dapper Sunday attire.  A woman, who appeared to be slightly older than my own mother, pushed her way into the crowd and tapped my Mom on the shoulder.  I couldn’t hear what she was saying to her, but I immediately zeroed in on the girl, about my height, who was standing directly behind her and holding the hand of a smaller child, her sister.  My heart began to float… and finally hope… that maybe… just maybe!

After that service, we were invited to lunch out on an estancia (wealthy farm).  I realized soon afterwards, that God does listen to our cries, selfish thoughts and voice in every circumstance.  The girl was just a year younger… but spoke brilliant English.  We became fast friends and had adventures with our brothers all over that estancia!  She began to teach me Argentine Spanish and soon my brother David and I were fluent for our ages.  My friendships at the local school grew at that point, and when we left Argentina, I had so many friends… it broke my heart to leave.

I continued to journal my prayers even after we came back.  Now, I look back and see how far I’ve come.  God shows me when I begin praying something rather selfishly, and how he turns my heart back towards His Will and Plan.  But most importantly, my prayer journals tell me a story of God’s faithfulness in loving me through it all!  Prayers are always answered.  It make take an hour, day, week, month or year.  Maybe even years later.  But He will always listen and answer.

My prayers for Argentina to begin carrying marshmallows in their supermarket were never answered while we lived there.  However, after several months, we drove 4 hours to pick up a box that was so large, they could not deliver it to us in Venado Tuerto, Argentina.  The box was from my Grandma… and it was full of marshmallows.  🙂

marshmallow

Lesson #3: Red Flags for a Rotten Core

Building a united and effective church planting team is challenging, but the success of the church plant hinges on it. You must be careful and look for signs that potential team members do not appear to be a root to potential problems.  But, before you look at team members look at your own leadership.

Be aware of red flags… and if you see them, address them.  (seriously, address them)

Red Flag #1:  If one person begins to talk bad of the church, it will spread like a virus.  Their distrust of the team/church will leak into relationships, friendships and even into the lives of those that you are trying to reach.  These people are divisive and need to be cut out of leadership as soon as they are found out.

Red Flag #2:  If you notice marriage problems growing within a family, address it! Do not feel as though you will encroach on their personal problems if you address it.  Ask them to begin marital counseling as soon as possible. Make sure you minister to your team.

Red Flag #3:  Most of the church planter’s extended families are supportive.  But there are those that will not be.  Some will come to visit with the intention of encouragement, but leave you only with criticism and doubt that can creep into your heart.  Remind your team only to trust in the God who brought you to plant this church.  Reflect on the criticisms, but don’t dwell on it or own it. If the criticism continues to grow and there is no positive encouragement, relationships within the team will begin to fray. Ask families for positive encouragement and prayers.

Red Flag #4:  Watch for signs of apathy.  People in church planting, at times, do not feel an urgency to accomplish tasks or apply excellence to the tasks that they do accomplish.  Be aware of this: soon this apathy will creep into everyone’s philosophy of ministry and the church will fail.  Stay on your team to remember the reason the church was planted (to bring the lost to Christ) and appeal to them to go all-out in all aspects of their ministry.

In order for an apple to remain fresh and good to eat, you must cut out any bruises/rotten areas before you consume it.  The same is true for any church.  Fight against these red flags and keep moving forward.