We made it!

After 2 hours of driving, 17 hours of flying

7 hours of waiting in airports,

Some moments like this


 and 2 hours of navigating immigration, baggage claim and customs in Accra 

Even Hannah and Peter pushed carts of heavy luggage to make it down the long ramp to customs

 we finally walked through the exit doors and into Ghana!!

That sign in the window was our welcome committee and included some wonderful, familiar faces! (“Akwaaba” means welcome in Twi – which is one of the Ghanaian languages.)


They even brought a mango for the kids to munch on in the parking lot!


Today we spent sleeping, settling in and acquainting ourselves with this city.  At lunch we sat by a second story window and watched all the activity on the street.  The kids especially liked watching for the “TroTros”.

Tomorrow we begin the hunt for a house to rent for this year. 

Today we are very thankful to be here!

Squished into the back of a taxi

– joy

The final stretch

We are one day away from getting on a plane to Ghana.  Packing is in full mode. 
(This was the state of things yesterday. I’m happy to say most of it is now in suitcases or plastic bins that we are checking.)

The excitement level is finally rising a little higher than our overwhelmed level. Our to do list is still long but the most important things are checked off- passports, visas, shots, plane tickets, short term housing, thank yous, health  insurance, homeschool materials, moving out of our house and goodbyes (or really I would rather say, “see you laters”).

The last few months have been HARD!  We have lived out of suitcases for the past six weeks – moving every three to four days, visiting beloved family and friends and taking care of business.  We are so THANKFUL for that time.  So, so, so thankful! And so tired.  During the last six weeks we have let go of a lot of what has defined our lives until now – the only home our kids have ever known, schools, friends, families with whom we do life together.  And we have mourned.  Giving up all of this and not yet having taken ahold of the adventure, the learning, the mission ahead of us is difficult.  And we look forward to getting on a plane, the preparation behind us and settling in to what is ahead.

How have we survived thus far?  by God’s grace, friends who work alongside, family willing to take us in, taking time to rest (even just for a few minutes), bike rides, baking, prayer, dancing and a good song to pump us up.  This song has been my packing, preparation theme as we face innumerable difficulties and discouragements.  And as I listen I am reminded of the strength God has given me, even as I discover it anew each day (and am sometimes surprised by it).  Happy listening!

-joy

Spiritual Disciplines of IJM

Jim Martin: IJM Vice President of Spiritual Formation, author of Just Church

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My summary of Jim’s training session on the Spiritual Disciplines of International Justice Mission:

We engage in difficult tasks with helpful structures in place.  We hope you grow in resilience.  We hope you grow in an ever deepening maturity.  We don’t want you used up and spent at the end in need of healing, but healthy for the long haul, ready for whatever is next. We have a responsibility to invest in our own spiritual formation.  We experience transformation for the sake of others: for the sake of our clients and for our colleagues.  Quote (I think John Ortberg paraphrasing Dallas Willard in The Life You’ve Always Wanted): “A Spiritual Discipline is an activity within our power that enables us to accomplish things we cannot do by direct effort.” It is like training for a marathon.

In joining IJM, we commit, along with everyone else in the organization to 4 spiritual disciplines to sustain this formation/training in us so that we can become and continue to be the people we need to be for our clients, colleagues, and the mission God has given us:

1)      Daily Stillness: 30 minutes of stillness and silent prayer/reading/reflection.  This we had a couple of opportunities to practice.  Literally, a couple of hundred people at the IJM Headquarters (very busy hard-working types, all wearing suits) go totally silent for this half an hour.  It was an inspiring experience to see a large corporate workplace suddenly switch into silent prayer and contemplation and then switch back into business mode.  Jim offered a great variety of ideas and coaching tips on how to use that stillness time.  The most interesting to me was to download the Pray As You Go app, which will play a daily devotional made by Jesuits in the U.K. that comes complete with a scripture reading, song, prompt questions for prayer, and some sweet accents.  I’ve done it 3 times so far and dig it.  It takes about 12 minutes.  You can either listen again after, or just use the rest of the time for journaling/prayer/reflection.  When I got back home, Joy told me about the exact same resource!  Someone totally disconnected from IJM had recommended it to her that day also and she had loved it so we’ve both been using it since.

2)      Daily Gathered Prayer: Again at 11am, the whole office practices a spiritual discipline together!  This time rather than silence, we gathered together in one room (actually there were too many so some were connected via video link from downstairs, as were the regional reps), welcomed visitors, heard prayer updates from various departments, some were real time (e.g. a certain field office was reporting that they were gathered with police watching a facility, hoping for an opportunity to raid the facility, rescue those held in slavery there, and arrest the traffickers, but a certain detail was holding them back).  We heard great news reported about a generous individual who just increased giving to support IJM’s work.  A certain deepened gravitas entered the room when prayer was asked for the trial in Kenya of those suspected of killing two IJM employees and one client in a police abuse of power case there.  Then we bowed our heads and people prayed out over all these concerns.  Every field office all over the world shares this daily practice.

3)      Team Prayer retreats (4 days per year):  I did not hear for certain, but I assume this will take the form for me of a quarterly one-day retreat with the whole IJM Ghana team.  I think the exact practice may vary according to teams and team leaders.  I am told these are not retreats in which we “retreat from work to think harder about work”, but rather focus on team-building, spiritual growth, and prayer.

4)      Annual Day of Solitude: Every IJM employee is to take one day a year to do a self-led individual prayer retreat.  I am not yet sure what all this entails.

I think having these four structures in place will be a huge blessing to my spiritual life as I join in this difficult and often discouraging, frustrating, and daunting, but God-given mission of seeking to protect the poor from violent injustice.

At our orientation class’s commissioning service, an IJM employee is paired up with each of us to pray for us specifically as we embark on our work.   I was honored to have Jim be the one to pray for me.

Below I’ve attached some PowerPoint pics of a totally different session on self-care we’ll need to practice as we enter into this difficult work:

We packed in a lot of these sessions in our four eight hour days together.  I will never be able to report on them all.  I hope you gained something from reading these notes and pictures from a couple of them!

Overwhelmed

Wow.  We’re feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment.  The sustained rapid fire pace of orientation threw a lot at us in a short period of time.  We have a to do list a mile long and move to Ghana in two weeks!   It’s getting real!

A big bright spot was having coffee with this rock star:

Amy Justice, who together with her husband Greg, have worked with IJM Ghana for a year and signed up for another round! We love them!


We loved time with some other couples crazy enough to take their families on this wild ride.  We enjoyed commiserating together.

Orientation was also very inspiring.  I enjoyed several interactions with a great hero of mine (pictured below) and got to tell him what a difference he has made in my life.

Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of IJM

IJM Orientation Day 1

Imagine that your greatest hero in the whole world today (aside from people you’re related to, I mean some famous public figure that you’ve admired from a distance for most of your adult life, that kind of hero) suddenly walks in the door and sits next to you.  What would you say?  That happened to me yesterday.

Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of International Justice Mission, and my new boss (actually, my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss) sat down next to me in an open chair for a few minutes to wait for when he would go to the podium to begin our orientation for 77 new employees.  What do you suppose I said to him?

Sorry sir, this seat’s taken” I say.   doh!  I kid you not.  I actually said that!!!  Now, of course I was joking, but after I said it, the thought hit me that he might think I was serious and if that happened, then I would have just made the most boneheaded audacious insult of my life.  In a flash, I thought to myself as the joke was leaving my mouth, “Who in the world would have the gall to say this to the top man in their company in literally the first few minutes of a new job!!!??!”

I am so very grateful that Gary Haugen has a great sense of humor!  He laughed and quipped back, “oh yeah, well I’m taking it!”  Phew!!

 

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Gary Haugen opening the orientation with some big picture thoughts on why IJM exists, what we’re about, and where we’re going.  He also shared his story of discovering the world and God’s heart for justice.  It was particularly interesting to hear about his interning right out of college in South Africa under Apartheid and getting arrested for being a white person in a black township without a permit.

It was a huge thrill to show up to my first day of work at IJM.  We’re in Washington D.C. for orientation.  On day one, we met offsite in a more casual environment (the rest of the days are in suits at headquarters).  It was amazing to look around and see such a diverse array of Christians from all over the world assembled to prepare to be sent back out all over the world to protect the poor from violent injustice.  I’m inspired.

Below are some quick pictures of slides from the training.  I wish I took some pictures of people to show you.  Maybe on a future day.

 

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Marching Orders

 

 

 

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Evidence of Success in Philippines

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“When we say IJM is Christian, what kind of Christian do we mean?”

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I couldn’t stop laughing at this slide.  They were talking about how Christian human rights folks were perceived 20 years ago when they started working. 

 

In D.C. for IJM orientation!

Joy and I are now in Washington D.C. for our IJM orientation!!!

We flew out here last night, got our bags perfectly in time to catch the 11:10 hotel shuttle, ordered the best wonton soup of my life from a little place down the street, and then slept till mid-afternoon (East Coast time) with no little ones to wake us up!  We found a diner that serves breakfast all day within walking distance and got us some breakfast at like 3pm!  We were bundled up tight but still froze in 17 degree weather with a  wind chill factor of like -1700.  These California bodies are not made for such weather.

IJM orientation starts for me tomorrow morning.  I’ll link up with another IJM Fellow named Seth Thomas, an attorney from Indianapolis that’s taking his family to Manila for the year.  We’ll jump on the subway and take it to within 2 blocks of the White House, where our training will begin.  We’ve become friends with Seth and the Kildays (a couple from Austin Texas doing fellowships in Cambodia) through the process of figuring out how to do this crazy thing with families.  I’m told Gary Haugen will be leading some of tomorrow’s sessions and it will focus on the values, vision, and DNA of IJM.  I’m fired up.

Joy, and several other spouses, will join us for the 3rd and 4th days of training when we focus on country-specific and job-specific issues.

I read through the bio sheet on the plane of all the folks going through this IJM orientation, all 77 of them!  We’ve got 15 new Headquarters staff, 4 field office staff, 6 IJM UK, 1 IJM Canada, 21 interns (I assume in D.C. office for a few months), 17 field office fellows (my program) and 13 field office interns.  What an amazing group of people!  Their from all over the world, with all kinds of interesting life experience and professional training.  I’m really looking forward to getting to know them and seeing what a large and growing movement I am a part of!  If you’re reading this, it probably means that you are part of that movement too!


Other updates:

We’ve bought plane tickets!!!!  We fly out of SFO Jan 28th! Woohoo! 

We’ve applied for Visas!  That was a ton of work.  Please pray that all goes well! 

We have International Health Insurance! Even more work!  Please pray we don’t need it very much!

Dana Armstrong, a long time friend and member of UCC, as well as a former student from way back in my early days of college ministry, will join us for our first month in Ghana!  She’ll watch the kids while we look for housing and get our house setup.  She’ll also help Joy with the homeschooling for our first weeks there. Such a gift!  If you know her, please tell her she rocks for doing this!

 

 

 

Fully Funded for Year One!

I am praising God and feeling grateful to all of you in this new year!  Before 2017 began, we hit our fundraising goal!  We are fully funded for year one of our work in Ghana and even have made some headway into funding for year two!  This is really incredible, awesome, and encouraging, not to mention a great relief!  Thanks to Bill Krause, it is also organized and tracked, which I would have definitely mucked up if I did it myself.

I wish I had some great insightful interesting thing to say about all of this, but to tell you the truth I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything all that blog-worthy to say yet.  It seems that perhaps I am a bit intimidated by this whole “blogging thing”.  Perhaps I just need to lower my standards and just share whatever thoughts I do have?  Would that be okay with all of you?

Here goes: “Four things I learned from these months of fundraising and preparation”

  1. I like people.  I absolutely loved every chance I got to interact with people through this process.  The paperwork has been rough on me, though I am persevering and have done more paperwork (health insurance, visas, endless onboarding forms for IJM, etc) in the last few months than the last 10 years.  Seriously, it is really quite unbelievable how much paperwork is involved in this.  Paperwork, I love thee not.  People, you I thee.
  2. I like small group home-gatherings.   It was incredible to be a guest in peoples’ small groups.  I don’t know how many I visited, but I’d guess around 12.  Every group was different.  Every group was wonderful.  Some had kids running around underfoot.  Others were older retired folks.  Some were all mixed together.  They almost all food. They all laughed.  They all loved each other and were engaged in some kind of study/discussion/reading enterprise to grow in their faith, character, and understanding of God.  They all were a joy for me to spend an evening with, getting to know better, and engaging with on a topic that means a lot to me.  In my future ministry, I hope I can visit small groups regularly.
  3. I like fundraising.  I know to many people that sounds weird.  I know for many people it is a terribly frightening prospect, but for me it wasn’t.  For me, it was simply gathering with people and looking together at a problem (injustice) and great news about it (God’s heart to stop it).   I shared the plight of boys that I have never met, but have come to care about deeply.  I watched as other people who have also never met these boys began to join me in my concern.  I felt like at the end of each gathering or each conversation, like we were more of a team, standing together in this battle than before we talked.  To me, that was thrilling, deeply meaningful, and encouraging.  I felt a sense of camaraderie with everyone that invited me to share with them.  It was awesome.  One of my better experiences in ministry.  At one point I said to Joy, “I could do this 10 nights in a row and not get tired of it.”  She said that she would get tired of me being gone 10 nights in a row!  My epiphany was that it didn’t feel like “work” to me. It felt like I was on a quest with friends.
  4. I am profoundly moved by people’s generosity.  As a pastor, I never knew what people gave to the church.  That information is purposefully kept confidential.  It has been an entirely new experience in this mission to watch the generosity of God’s people in action.  There is something profound about watching a person make a significant sacrifice for the Kingdom of God that fires me up.  It makes me feel like I’m not alone in this.  It’s not just me going out on a limb and making a sacrifice.  Others are out on the limb with me in significant ways because they also believe in the work and believe in us.  I also experience this with people giving time and prayers and practical acts of help.  As hard as the preparation has been, I have been buoyed every step of the way by God’s people.
  5. God is with me and demonstrates it to me through His people.

OK, well I guess once I got started, I did have some things to say!  Thanks for reading!  I’d love to hear your comments below.  Just click the link at the top for “comment”

-Matt