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Chapter 62: Church, Community, Christ

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

I want to begin this with an admission, I care what others think of me.  I fear being misunderstood, I desire to be heard.  It is enough to give me pause and, honestly, this has stopped me from writing A LOT over the last 6 years.  We are not who we were when we began this long journey and it is far from over. Lord forgive me.

Everything has changed.

Nothing has changed.

Church

Before Poland, we attended Life Church in Oklahoma City.  I served on the hospitality team and we had a Life Group we were actively attending.  When we moved, I missed it.  I craved big church and our small church wasn’t cutting it.  After our contract ended with our initial sending church, we co-created a house church with our friends (Tony and Rhonda rocked it!).  It became our family and the greater missionary presence in the city became our Church.  When we returned to the States and arrived in Portland, we realized it was not a weight station to pass through but a safe haven for recovery (more on that another day).  Our pursuit to find our local Church began, our transition was not so smooth.  Stepping into event centers, we were getting lost in the crowd.  When we made first contact we were met with little response to the question, “where do you place a family of 6?”  If a small group is 6-12 people, our family was a square peg in a round hole.

It’s hard for us to really connect in this season of our life.  How can you connect with so many people in meaningful community?  Sitting in a sanctuary I find myself asking, ‘Is this the best use of a groups resources (staff, rent, electric, etc)?  Why does every church have  2-4 songs, announcements and prayer, a sermon and then end?’

This last year was hard enough working in a different city than I lived in for the first half of the year, adjusting to Charlie (lack of sleep, four kids, time management), finding a church in our area that we resonated with….and lets not get into such a young large family attempting to attend a church!

But let’s…Here is a sample Sunday for our family:

-Make sure everyone is dressed

-Ask if anyone needs a bathroom break

-Double check all are dressed and confirm no needs for the bathroom

-Get everyone strapped into the car, triple check for bathroom requirements, double check diaper bag is prepped

-Get to Church Parking Lot

-Get into Church(recheck bathroom needs)

-Get all four kids checked in before service starts(inevitably at least 2 of 4 Sunday’s, the Service has already begun)

-Hear worship music and attempt to find a place where we can sit (easy access to get children, almost always a priority)

-2-4 Songs, Prayer, Message, Dismissal

-Attempt to quickly make eye contact with someone, get halfway into a good conversation and then excuse one or both parents to then go get kids so that volunteers can be relieved of duties

-Lose initial people you were talking to, attempt to make small talk once more only to run after children so they don’t raid the snack bar or run into the street.

 

Community

You ever argue with someone, only to realize you were for or against the same thing?  That was Michelle and I.  We both sat down and attempted to share our feelings of dissonance with the American/Western Church model.  We both argued our cases with much frustration (Example…is it a red apple or is the apple red? Same statement just worded differently).  I felt fruitless in my attempts to sway the conversation and with seemingly no forward motion happening, I stomped off(as any mature adult would do!).    God prompted, so Michelle purposed that we loop our kids into the conversation and hear their thoughts on the topic.

Bracing for the impact of what we expect is a return to the rigorous grind of Sunday Services, we asked Loralie and Jack to tell us what they thought God would like us to do for church.  No prompting, leading, or swaying. We briefly mentioned that we understand that we all missed Poland, we want to follow God’s leading and direction, and we desire good spiritual health for all of us.

Then we listened.

Loralie suggested we invite our friends over to have church in our home.  We could talk about Jesus, maybe eat food or snacks, and she could take the kids downstairs and be in charge so the adults could talk.  Jack excitedly added that we could share Jesus with all our friends and invite them over to our house, a church like we had with the Adams family in Poland.  Michelle and I looked at each other at the same moment both exclaiming, “this is what I was talking about!!!”  All of us are on the same page.

We also believe that God has established our roots with local mission minded believers here in Portland, to help us connect to the Church(big C!).  This network of believers is constructed of a diverse group from multiple backgrounds and affiliations.

Christ

I struggle with sharing where we are right now and the calling we hear because we are not where we were supposed to be, according to the plan.  We are clearly not in Vancouver (Canada or Washington).  What if God moves us again?  What if I fail?  What if… The list goes on.

But God.

He has called my family on a journey that takes my family outside the realm of “normal.”  Nothing about the path we have taken easily labels us as such.  Our Van, the house we live in, the job I have, any of our kids being alive (Michelle wasn’t supposed to be able to have children, that Doctor was sure proven wrong!), going to Poland, leaving Poland…nothing normal.  Here we are again, another branch off of normal.

We believe God is leading us to start a small group and to begin more actively seeking out partners for this.  We will not be actively seeking financial support, fund raising, or a partnership with a non-profit.  If God prompts, reach out so we can talk.  At this time we feel that a certain level of disconnect is necessary.  We believe that God has given our family a unique path to help us connect with those placed in our lives.  He has given our family countless testimonies of His goodness, His provision, and His faithfulness.  This is our family’s journey, our own story.  If this resonates with you, lets connect!

This means we will not be active members of a “Church.”   I know that as an American, if I am “abroad” then I am on the right track.   However, if I am “home” and back in the States, some will view our family as back sliding out of the church.  And that is OK!  Our main concern is following God on this adventure that is life.

Prayer

For the creation of our small group.  That we would find the right families to partner with and to know our identity for this group. (who we are, what we are for, whom do we serve)

For financial peace.  We are no longer connected with our past sending churches, so our income has decreased.  The government shut down will have an unknown impact on our food stamps that we receive.  It is not a question of IF/WILL God provide, but wisdom in how to handle our finances.

For our children.  Loralie as a leader in her classroom and friends group, Jack with attitude and social interactions, Dottie as she learns to play with others, and Charlie as she has been teething A LOT lately.

For parenting.  For wisdom, strategy, and discernment in parenting our children.

For Michelle.  Being a stay at home mom is no easy feat.  She is a true champion.  For peace, strength and energy.

For Brad.    Balancing home/work/life and better managing time after work.

 

Week 10: God is like having chocolate chip pancakes on a Saturday morning

being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

Luke 4:2 NKJV

“He was hungry.”  The Lord of all creation, was hungry.

These last two Sundays, our temporary church home has been teaching on the Holy Spirit.  Yesterday we heard some very profound truth about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Just think about this…

Jesus is fully man whom God is well pleased with (Luke 3:22)

Jesus is fully God (Luke 4:12)

Jesus did not begin His ministry until 30 (Luke 3:23), and not until He was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22)  Similarly, the church didn’t begin its ministry until it was filled with the Holy Spirit as well! (Acts 2)

Jesus lives His life as a man empowered with the Holy Spirit. 

That’s a lot to chew on, just like our breakfast spread this last Saturday.  The beauty of having chocolate chip pancakes, freshly brewed coffee, and family together for breakfast is a lot like God.

Our good friends have been welcomed into our family   —>  we have been adopted into the family of Christ

We ate until we were full —> we need to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

Saturday morning didn’t just happen.  It took time, the right ingredients, patience, and practice.  Michelle doesn’t make the best pancakes in the world by accident.  I don’t make the best coffee because I pushed a button and walked away (Sorry! Keurig wont cut it anymore).  We didn’t just coincidentally sit down for breakfast, all at the same time.

God is intentional with experience that changes the way in which we perceive the world around us.

…Much like starting your weekend with chocolate chip pancakes.

Please be praying

…for our family as we head into the final 3 weeks of our time Stateside.  God has been moving like crazy in our lives.  He has been asserting Himself as our Provider and Protector, making Himself Present.

…as we move back to Poland, our search for a place to live.

…as we open the Sweet Life this fall. (October 1st!)

…as we rest in His peace over our finances. (About 1/3 monthly raised, $1,000/$3,000)

Week 8 & 9: God still is about love

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 3:16 NKJV
So much has happened these last two weeks in our lives and in the United States.  Just thought this verse still rings true in my heart right now.  I wont get political, that’s not my style.  I will get biblical though, Jesus called us to Love others.
So, our family enjoyed more rest!  Huzzah!  We spent last week with our family in Waco.  Thank you Hyde family for opening your home to us and showing us a great time.  Nothing like being heard, loved, and spoiled!  Then we had the opportunity to travel to Community Restoration in Arlington. Talk about a Christ centered group ministering to their local community.  It started with a pick up game of basketball, Paul and Cynthia now play an active part of their local youth and their families lives.  A humble, Christ centered family that loves Jesus with all their heart.  Keep up the good work guys!
We are in OKC.  I’m allowing these words to sink in.  We are in the last month of our Stateside adventure..  Portland, California, our 2,000mile trek across the dessert of I-8 to San Antonio, Houston, Honduras, Waco, and now OKC.  Where did the time go?!  It is amazing how God has moved through these last two months.  Praise God for His protection, provision, and presence!  Amen!
It is a weird feeling seeing our old Cube in the driveway of our old house, sitting on our old couch talking with friends who now own it all.  Not ours.  Not any more.  3 years ago we moved in with my sister to save money.  We continued our journey of surrendering our lives fully to Christ.  Christ even takes the burdens of this world (financial, emotional, physical, etc), and carries them all for us.  He lines up friends to rent our house, buyers for our car, supporters for our call, buyers for our house, a church family to call our own.  Every major and minor aspect of our lives we have surrendered to Christ.  We have stepped out on the waters to trust Christ with our very lives.  Nothing is the same.
It feels good.
Our priorities have shifted.  Our passions have blossomed.  Our dreams are big.
God is our provider.  God is our protector.  God is present.

Chapter 34: Dreams

Please hear this dream which I have dreamed…
Genesis 37:6

Has God ever given you a radical dream to dream?  I remember sitting in Dr. Samples Intro to Ministry class in college and hearing him preach about dreaming big dreams for God.  I am always amazed at how God speaks through people in our lives to mold our future; how one thought sticks with us through the years.  I thought I might share some more details on our families dreams:

God gave me a dream in Middle School about starting my own cafe.  Though it has evolved from a video gaming cafe to a coffee shop, the core remains the same: Community.  We are in the works to open a Cafe here in Kraków with our friends mentioned in the last newsletter.  More details are to follow, but God has some crazy awesome plans in store.  We want to create and foster community.

God gave Michelle a passion for people, giving, and, more specifically, Hospitality.  God has given our family a dream of owning a house in Poland so we can better serve others with space for a play room for the kids and their friends, space to host guests for both the short and long term, and space for small groups and other gatherings to take place on a regular basis.  We recently had four girls over for a sleep over party, it was a blast and hope that many more are to come!

God has given us a dream to connect Coffee communities from Bean to Cup.  We are slightly delayed in our purchase, but we will soon select the coffee and farm.  We plan to send additional support to the farmer to help meet a need in their family or in the local community.  We are truly blessed with the people who  are making this happen.  Thank you Glen, Sindy and Bojan!  One day it would wonderful to roast this coffee myself, but I know that baby steps are in order.

Some of these dreams may seem crazy, farfetched, or unrealistic.  That is also what I said!  But God, who works in crazy, farfetched, and unrealistic ways, responded.  Sarah, our friend living with us, allowed God to speak through her, “Sounds crazy, like when God provided a babysitter for your training day, renters for your house, a buyer for your car, money for you to come to Poland, friends and family in Poland, free miles to fly to and from the States 4 times, a buyer for your house…”  I got the point.  There is no dream too big for God, especially when it is God breathed.

We place limitations on a limitless creator, limiting dreams to become manageable. 

I think it is time I stopped getting in the way of God and embracing the path He has set before my family.  After all, it is not by our strength, our means, or our ability, but God’s.  God supplies our strength.  God is our provider, financially and otherwise.  After all,

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

-1 Thessalonians 5:24

Please join my family in prayer as we seek to pursue big dreams for God:

  • As we establish a cafe here in Kraków
  • As we look for our future home and the finances to purchase
  • As we select a coffee and farm to purchase from in Honduras
  • As we open our home :to the kids friends, families, short and long term guests and future small groups
  • As we return to the States May 1 – August 6
  • As we connect with people in our community

 

If God has given you big dreams, we would love to join you in prayer!  Send us an email at thegravesabroad@gmail.com

 

If you feel lead to partner with us financially you have two options:

Make checks (or cash) payable to: “Centerpoint Church”
In the notes say it is for: “mission to Poland”
Send to:
Centerpoint Church (Attn: Erica Shamburg)
2750 Cornerstone Dr
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
(This is Tax-Deductible)
or
you can visit our blog at www.gravesabroad.com and donate through PayPal (not tax-deductible)

 

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Chapter 29: Next Steps

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Genesis 12:1

God seems to call people to great adventures out of our comfort zones, safety nets, and the “normal” patterns in this world.  My family is on one of those adventures.  It started in June of 2012.  We said yes to Poland and serving as Volunteer Missionaries.  What an awesome time this has been!  God has made us anew in His presence, love, and leading.  Who we are today is radically different than who we were when we began this journey.

This December marks our final full month as Mission Corps Volunteers with the Church of the Nazarene.  We have been blessed to serve as Managers and Volunteers with the Sweet Surrender Coffee Shop ministry out of Kraków.  What we have learned and experienced has been incredible.  In January we begin our transition to full-time, independent missionaries to Kraków, Poland.  Our official sending church will be Centerpoint Church (www.centerpointpagosa.com) out of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

What does that mean and look like?  Good question!

Over the next year we will be focusing on establishing direction for our future in Poland.  Our primary focus will be two fold.  We will be pursuing the Polish language and establishing a foundation from which to pursue ministry to the coffee Community.  Both of these will be centered in our goal of helping to unify the church here in Kraków.  This step of faith is extremely exciting for our family, we know that God has big plans for us here in Kraków!

With this new direction, there are many prayer requests and opportunities.

Prayer Requests:

  • Wisdom and direction as we pursue God’s plan for our family in Poland
  • As we establish a foundation from which to build ministry off of
  • For ministry partners- local and abroad (financial, prayer, and personal)
  • For the relationships we have here in Poland to continue to flourish and grow as doors continue to open
  • For God to bless us financially.  We still need to raise our own finances for living and ministry expenses in Poland
  • As we continue to learn the Polish language

Financial Support:

We currently have a budget of $3,500 per month.  We currently have $1,040 per month in support.  This money will be covering our ministry and living expenses for this next year.  If you would like to support specific needs our family has (rent, bus passes, language classes, Jack and Loralie’s school) we would love to give more specifics!  In the future we will be presenting some one time needs our family will have during this time of transition.  If you have more specific questions, please let us know.

We currently have three ways  to receive funding for our missions in Poland.  We are working on another method, which would allow for us to receive additional tax-deductible support other than cash or check.  Until then here are your options:

Make checks (or cash) payable to:   “Centerpoint Church”
In the notes say it is for:  “mission to Poland”
Send to:
Centerpoint Church (Attn: Erica Shamburg)
2750 Cornerstone Dr
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
(This is Tax-Deductible)

or

you can visit our blog at www.gravesabroad.com and donate through PayPal (not tax-deductible)

or

directly through PayPal.com using my email address dbgraves@gmail.com

(not tax-deductible)

 

Over the past two years God has truly refined our calling.  We thought we were coming to Poland to work with coffee.  While working with coffee, we have discovered our passion for the Polish people.  We want to see the Polish people encounter Jesus on a personal level.  We will accomplish this through black coffee nights, English conversations, Direct Trade coffee partnerships, worship nights, prayer meetings, Coffee conferences and competitions, learning to roast coffee at home, consulting work, hosting small groups, kids play dates, school activities and building relationships with the staff and parents and much more!

Thank you for all the prayers and support you have given us over the years and in the years to come.  Without your support we would not be here today. Thank you for partnering with us.

Brad and Michelle

Enjoy these pictures from my last walkabout of Kraków!

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