Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 in Review

Realizing that not everyone reads this blog wants to read our December newsletter (ministry update), but in the event you do - here it is.  :)
2010 in Review (at least the last half) by John

Once again, this letter is sent with much weariness in the bones, as it has been a busy couple of months - but we are grateful for the activity and thankful for all of you who come along side of us. I returned from Rwanda and Kenya in mid-October, traveling across the world to minister along with my son and my mother - what a trip it was for us all! I taught through the book of John to a classroom of eager students that are preparing to be pastors in the Anglican Church.

Just as last year, they vigorously soaked up any information I could pass along. It was a great reminder of how much we have here in the USA - as most of these students did not even possess their own Study Bible (one of the most helpful tools a pastor could own). I gave away a few, as well as some marriage and family books, and had the joy of giving them a number of old shirts (last time I noticed that many students rotated the same two or three shirts over the two weeks I was there). I even had some old cloth diapers that Julie sent along - and one man was about to have a baby in the next month!

We traveled out to the national game park, then visited with the parents of a Rwandan student that we have befriended in Little Rock. We arrived in the village and were immediately surrounded by children. Everywhere we went; it was like being surrounded by a swarm of bees. Our friend later told us that some of them may have never seen a white person before. It was quite an adventure - John Isaac was even given a live chicken!

At the end of the trip, I became ill and was laid up in bed for a couple of days. I felt horrible - I just wanted to be home. I now have a better understanding of what it means for Christians to really long for heaven. When you are sick, you just want to be home. We are all infected with sin here on earth and should have a more intense craving for our true home. After listening to me whine long enough, Mom coaxed me out of bed to do our final money exchange - but I confess that I did NOT want to go. The Lord was gracious and sustained us (even while sweating profusely and covered head to toe with a funky purple rash). He allowed us to travel on to Kenya as planned where we met with the FamilyLife staff couple who work and live there. Not being fully recovered, I had to cancel a speaking engagement but we were still able to enjoy many fruitful conversations about the ministry there and the work I’m currently doing onThe Art of Marriage.

From Kenya we had a smooth trip home, punctuated by a very touching moment with John Isaac that caught Mom and I completely off guard. When it was time to go our separate ways in Chicago, John Isaac began to quietly cry very sincere tears, begging to continue on with his grandma, asking “Why does she have to leave?” It broke our hearts! I really don’t know how Mom endured it. It had to have been brutal for her. We finally persuaded him that it was necessary to part, and began the journey to our separate gates. At this point he twisted the knife already firmly planted in her heart by walking backwards for the entire length of the airport (in what must be the LONGEST airport hallway in the country), waving to her until she was completely out of sight, sniffling softly the entire time. A classic memory indeed!
I was so exhausted by the end of this trip that I vowed I would never fly again. Airplanes had become my archenemy - just the thought of entering the foul metal tubes left me twitching in fear. Yet this resolute doggedness lasted a mere two weeks, until our family packed up for a week of vacation with dear friends and old acquaintances in Phoenix, Arizona. Again we enjoyed many fruitful conversations about the gospel and ministry with our former pastor and his wife (whom we stayed with). Two weeks after that I flew on to Atlanta to attend the annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting - an important event for connecting with key leaders and thinkers in the evangelical academic world. Of course I was busy with many details of The Art of Marriage while there, detracting a bit from the experience, but it was still beneficial.  

The Art of Marriage
Our time on The Art of Marriage project is finally winding to a close. This week we expect to have everything wrapped up and ready to send to the printer to prepare for the events on 2-11-11. A big praise indeed! It is both exciting and difficult to see two years worth of work finally come to fruition in full form. I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch the videos or read the manual again for some time, as we have poured over it so many times these last few months. As Agassiz’s student said of the fish, what began as beautiful “has become loathsome!” Julie is becoming rather wearisome of hearing me quote lines from the vignettes - again, and again, and again. However I’m very proud of how this has turned out. Last week Dennis Rainey heard from an exec at Disney that this is “Disney Quality.” There really is nothing else like it out there - anywhere.
Remember that we are praying for 1,000 churches to sign up to host the event on 2-11-11. Right now we have almost 200 signed up and many more having expressed interest.

Please pray about how your church might host such an event.

I think you’ll find it to be a refreshing approach to a video marriage conference.  Watch a trailer and learn more about how to get involved.
Looking ahead to the spring: First we will test some ways to customize The Art of Marriage content for use in small groups. I also hope to finish up the last (or first) chapter on my book and get it self-published and in the hands of men who need encouragement for leading their families spiritually. {UPDATE: a church has asked to have copies for their men by February 5th. I’m going to try and have it done by then. Pray everything falls in place!}

Teaching Bible Study Methods
One other event I just signed up for right after the New Year is to travel to Fiji to teach a Bible Study Methods course to Campus Crusade staff from all over the Oceana region (South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand). This is the same course I’ve been involved with in the U.S. for the last three summers. I know, I know, you’re thinking “Fiji? Wow… really slaving for the Lord there Majors!” Ok, I’ll try to make it sound worse by saying there are poor parts to the Island, and that’s where I’ll be, but that probably won’t win any sympathy. I will say that the drama ensuing around the decision to go to Fiji was a good indicator of the need of the work there. There was another teacher lined up for this course, who had to cancel due to family illness, so they asked me to come, saying “If you can’t, we’ll have to cancel” (can you feel the pressure?) After accepting the opportunity, the man organizing the event said “You have no idea how important this course is. The staff desperately needs this because they have very weak theology. The churches here are not strong and they just did not grow up with a good understanding of what it means to study, understand, and teach the scriptures to others.” What a praise, as I cannot think of a better way to spend my life than teaching others to do this very thing.
Of course, there are many challenges to this trip for which I need your prayers; the first being that I will be away from my family for over two weeks (Depart Dec 30th and return Jan 16th). Also, this is the first time I will teach the entire course and organize and lead the coaches (while also preparing 8 lectures over the 10 days of the course). This is a significant increase in responsibility from my role with the summer courses in Orlando and Colorado. Time is short, so your prayers are needed to ensure I am fully prepared.

Also pray for Julie during my absence, as we experienced a break-in at our home in early November. Julie came home in the middle of the day to find the front and back doors wide open with our computer, camera, iPod, and an old cell phone ‘liberated’ from our home. The house was ransacked, though the damage was rather minor (outside of a broken bedroom window that the landlord promptly replaced). Pray for a peace of mind for and for details to work out for family members to be able to stay with her during those weeks.
Finally, we also ask for your prayers for Julie’s father, who found out in November that he has cancer (lymphoma). He began chemo the week after Thanksgiving, and the doctors are giving him a 40% chance of survival. He seems to be handling everything very well, but please pray for him - for his healing and for his comfort during all the painful stages and tests related to treating cancer. He had a close friend die recently from a very similar type of cancer and is very aware of the urgency of the hour in his life.

On a personal/family note: It has been an interesting year - being re-settled in Little Rock for the first full year, yet busier than we can ever remember in our married life. God has blessed us with a daughter this year - in whom we can already sense a bit of shyness at 7 months old and who is very observant and full of joy.  And we’ve been amazed to continue to watch John Isaac grow into a very energetic young boy with a creative mind and enthusiasm for life. His reading skills have grown significantly this year (as well as his interest in good books - we’ve been reading through The Lord of the Rings, Pilgrims Progress, and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea) and he seems to have a natural knack for math and a good memory. We continue to pray for both of them that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be their greatest joy and significance in this life. Last week we ‘dedicated’ Caroline during the morning church service. The verse we chose for her is Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she is to be praised.” In a world where charm is worshiped and beauty is valued far above personal character, our prayer is that Caroline (and John Isaac) would develop a healthy fear of the Lord and walk faithfully with Him for a lifetime.
Julie has been hard at work continuing to help women change the way they eat and care for their families’ health. She has a blog ( and had great success connecting families with a local farmer that supplies nutritious food to these families. Plus we’ve enjoyed the community that has grown up around this group of ‘foodies.’
One lady, after Julie gave her some simple, healthy recipes for her family, said (and I’m paraphrasing here…) “You have completely changed my life and brought peace to our home. Before, we ate out MOST NIGHTS OF THE WEEK, which led to chaos every evening because we were always short on time. Not to mention that restaurant food is not the healthiest. Now there is peace in our home and we are enjoying time together around the family table.”
There’s no coincidence that time spent together over an evening meal is one of the greatest indicators of the health of a family. It’s not just the food - it’s where life, passions, and values are shared, it’s where Chuck Swindoll says, “life makes up its mind.” It’s where children learn to converse with adults and act like adults, where they truly learn to socialize in a way that is respectful of others. And it’s often the one place where the family members really spend time talking to one another and taking interest in one another. At six years old, we can already feel the tug on our son to be busy during the dinner hour (part of the reason we passed on football this year - saying no to three nights a week of practice - for a six year old!) I can only imagine what the teen years hold. But we want to establish the pattern now that this time together is sacred.

Thanks again for all your prayers for us. If your family sends a year end letter, please add us to your list. We enjoy hearing updates from you. We deeply appreciate you!

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