Looking Forward to 2014
It is hard to believe all of the events that have occurred in the past twelve months. Last January I was working in Porterdale, GA for Garbutt Construction and Val was working on gowns in the Dublin loft. We were preparing to attend pre-field training, six weeks at the Center for Intercultural Training, our last phase of training before launching our ministry in Rome, Italy.
We spent two weeks in March, all of April and the first two weeks of May traveling from Georgia to Michigan and back, raising support and visiting family and friends.
On May 12 we had our send off from First United Methodist Church, Dublin, and on Tuesday the 14th we left Miami heading for Rome. Upon arrival we began looking for a place to call home and locations to could serve. We were successful at both. On the following Tuesday, we began our service at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center and on the 31st we moved into an apartment.
We were off and running. Through our work at the JNRC and the USO Rome we met other Christians dedicated to serving the oppressed. We learned of other refugee centers and began making many good connections.
After we arrived in the field, we began to see that there were other mission agencies working in Rome that we felt were more aligned with our vision of service, “… delivering an authentic Gospel that fully integrates mission and compassion.”
We also learned in June that GEM would be assessing a flat rate monthly administrative fee, not the 10.5% as clearly stated in their handbook. The flat rate came to 34.7% of our monthly support which was unacceptable to us. By way of explanation most missionary couples have significantly higher monthly budgets and the flat fee GEM assess is reasonable. However, since we do not have to pay for health and life insurance or retirement and, we do not draw a salary or have a car, our support budget is much lower. After discussions with GEM, they admitted the flat rate was adversely affecting us, however, they were reluctant to change their policy and we mutually agreed it would be best if we switched to an agency with a percentage-based administrative fee.
We were already involved with ministries serving refugees and oppressed groups (trafficked women) through ITeams and ReachGlobal in Rome so we contacted International Teams in August and began the application process. We were able to have an in-person interview at ITeams Headquarters in September when we came back to the States for Jessie’s wedding. We also had several meetings with ITeams leadership in Europe. On November 22, 2013 we received our acceptance letter and notification that we scheduled to attend a week of orientation in Elgin, IL beginning January 6, 2014. Please take some time and explore the ITeams website. I think you’ll like what you read. www.iteams.us
We finished our orientation with ITeams and we have meetings scheduled this week with both the Italian team leader and the US team leader. We are going to be developing our ministry with oppressed people in both Italy and Georgia. We will also be furthering our training and experience in service to those caught up in human trafficking as Atlanta is one of the primary cities with this problem.
Once we are cleared by ITeams to return to Rome, I will be going back ahead of Val to find a new apartment. That is another area where we have learned some good lessons. We will be renting month to month and with all utilities included. We keep reducing our monthly expenses so that we can provide more resources for those we serve.
As mid-term volunteers we will be able to assess our support each year and then evaluate how far it will take us. We understand how critical support is to missionaries, it goes beyond caring for the missionary. We use our support to provide for some needs of those we are walking alongside. Their needs are so basic, it is impossible to separate the spiritual and the physical.
Our families have had some life changing events that will impact our lives in a big way. We found out that we will be grandparents in 2014. Paul provided that blessing.
2013 was a year of learning and growing. We have been through some rough spots but, through it all, we remain committed to serving the oppressed and lost. We are learning how we can best serve God and keep ourselves focused and strong.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, He calls us to be “fishers of men.” This was one of Jesus’ first public statements and His last was…”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:18-29
In previous writings I have told you about Nasim and about the relationship that developed between us. Through that relationship and through others that I was lead to in Rome, I believe God was opening my eyes and exposing me to a frontline battle that is taking place in His kingdom, the battle for souls between Christianity and Islam. Through prayer and study my focus is becoming more and more clear. We will continue to trust in God’s leadership over our lives.
Many people asked us when we first began this journey “why Rome, why not Africa or Asia or South America, aren’t the people in Rome already Christians and well off?” At that time I could only answer “that’s where God called me.” Today I know this was part of my journey, the next of many steps to come. I would say to anyone answering the call, it is not the yellow brick road you will be following, it is not that simple, it is a journey of faith. To quote Oswald Chambers “Faith never knows where it is being led. But it knows and loves the One who is leading.” There will be distractions and detractors along the way. At the end of Mathew 28:18-20 Jesus gives us cause for all the faith we will ever need “…and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I know some of you may be asking yourselves, what are the Edens doing and should I continue to support them? Or maybe even, is this something I should begin supporting? To answer that in part I would like to remind or suggest to you that you think of it as supporting God’s work. Just as we are doing, trust God and where He is leading.
Regarding the location or people group we serve, I offer the following analogy. During WWII America had soldiers and civilians serving in the South Pacific, Africa, Europe, the US and in almost every country around the world. Through the efforts of which group in which part of the world would you give the credit to for our victory in WWII? You’re right, it was the combined effort of every American and our Allies. It is the same today in our battle for the lost souls in the world, it will be the combined effort of all of Jesus followers that leads to victory. When you pray for those on the frontline and sacrificially give of your resources and love, you are part of the global team God is putting together to expand His Kingdom to all nations and to every corner of the world.
We give heartfelt and grateful prayers of thanks everyday for all of you that pray of us and lovingly give of your precious resources. Thank you for trusting in the work that God is doing in us and through us.
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