This morning we left together for school at the Spanish Language Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was Eli’s first day of any school and for all of us it was the first time we all have attended school as a family. Bianca and I go to the adult classes on one side of the campus and the boys go to the Children’s classes on the other side. The school is known as “ILE” around here (Pronounced: Eeee-lay”) and it has been around for over 70 years. This trimester there are 55 new adult students and most of them are missionaries planning to serve all over Latin America. In fact this school has Missionary DNA all through it! It was founded by missionaries for missionaries though it serves a lot of different kinds of people in a lot of ways around San Jose. It is such a blessing to be able to study Spanish here for the next year while also knowing our boys are being trained by such caring and capable people as well! The next stop is Panama and we are praying that we all get a strong foundation before we get there!
This morning I’m watching as Ethan, Ezra and Eli go through all their toys and make big decisions. We assigned to each of them a travel bin, so they could choose what they want to go in it. Whatever fits can come with us to Central America in November and whatever doesn’t—goes in our giant “Yard Sale for Missions” this fall. As I listen to each boy struggle with what to “Keep” and what to “Yard Sale!” I have come to an obvious conclusion. We have issues with Stuff!
We are not unusual in this regard but it’s apparent to me that we have lots of stuff. Like a giant snowball rolling through life we tend to pick up things without even trying and before long, every available space we have is crammed with our “treasures”. Perhaps we think nothing of it or maybe somehow we think those things will truly bring us (or our kids) happiness. Either way, I wonder if we have more reason than most to be extra careful here, especially as Christians.
I think of this with the Parable of the Soils taught by Jesus (Luke 8:1-15). In the third scenario of the four Jesus gives about the “seed” of God’s Word hitting the “soil” of people’s hearts we see Satan will often “choke” us with the very stuff we fill our lives with. Jesus mentions three vices that Satan often uses to choke us spiritually and prevent maturity: worries, riches and pleasures.
“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
All three vices are actually our choice to pursue or not. Now, I don’t think Jesus would get much push back from Christians today on the damaging effects of “worries”. However, in our society, I do think people would bristle with the vices of “riches and pleasures”. In a culture that says, “If you can, then you should”, Christians often do and without even pausing to challenging this notion. This verse haunts me because it makes me think that we’re actually tying our own spiritual noose every time we indiscriminately take in more and more treasures, riches and stuff to our homes.
This morning with our boys, I witnessed that there is undoubtedly a powerful attraction to our things and we have succumbed to it more than I care to admit but there is an up side to our experience as well. I was reminded that if we can let go of our grasp on many of our things, then we might find that we are also releasing ourselves in the process. In giving things up, we may even find another level of spiritual maturity and fruitfulness awaits us. So if you sense that there is stuff you possess in your house or your life that Satan is actually using to choke or suffocate you spiritually, then it may be time to let go of it and begin to experience a new kind of unhindered spiritual breathing because the reality is that spiritual growth often comes through the stuff we give up; not through the stuff we pick up.
Typically you get permission to write something public about someone other than yourself but I figure bragging about your sister serves as an exception to the rule and besides, I’ve been in trouble with her before – it’s not so bad! (:
Let me start by saying, my sister Esther (Fowler) Theonugraha and I are almost 2 years apart in age. Most of our lives people have assumed she is older than me because of how much more mature she often acts but in fact I am the oldest – don’t be easily fooled (: For reasons like this and because of our close ages I will admit that for many years we have had a somewhat “turbulent” relationship at times, (I.E. we haven’t always gotten along!).
It hasn’t been until our adult years that I have really begun to appreciate who my sister is and who she is becoming. Our families living near each other in Chicago and attending the same great church for our 4 years of seminary greatly helped with this. I had the chance to observe the capable, loving wife and mother that she is. I watched her be a leader in our church full of passion for the Word of God and developing others with a similar passion. I also personally benefitted, tremendously from her help and insights through my Seminary class work since she was my best proofreader and academic advisor without question. I can say with absolute confidence that Jesus Christ is using her and will continue to use her to do powerful things for the Kingdom of God.
Most recently Esther was one of just a few people asked to help with a Theology conference held just for women at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I am not surprised that they would ask her to play a part in this but I am glad that others had the chance to see and hear for themselves how much she has to offer the Body of Christ with all that she has learned and lived for the Lord. I am not writing this to embarrass her or to call undue attention to my sister, although I know she will probably read (or proofread) this eventually and want to kill me! I just want to acknowledge the work that I see the Lord accomplishing in and through her because what she does is valuable and critical for the Church. Praise the Lord.
As Bianca and I get closer and closer to serving the Lord again in a full-time ministry capacity with every bit of support that comes in to get us to Panama, I see the Lord doing a lot of other great things all around us and often even inside our own family. The glory is God’s and it’s always worth pointing out the good things He does! AMEN.
– Jon Fowler
We are so thankful for all of you and we just felt this was overdue! We are so thankful for all your prayers and your sacrifices and gifts. It is difficult to express how grateful we are to the churches and people who have gotten behind us so far and encouraged us. We could not do all that we are doing now or hope to do in the future without each of you holding us up and being wiling to invest Kingdom resources to make this happen. It is an honor to have you all as partners in this. – Jon & Bianca
3 “I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy”
A few years ago Bianca and I made our two oldest boys memorize Psalm 133:1 which says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” We have made them recite it at times when they were fighting each other in the hope that they would someday understand that they can be more than brothers, but they can be friends as well. This video reminded us of the kind of powerful love that is possible between two brothers! Check It Out.
IN case you never got to view our Christmas card, we just wanted to post it one more time for fun! Hopefully your Christmas was awesome and Your New Years is even better. We have been so blessed in so many ways and we cant wait to tell you all about it!
Watch for more updates about our 21 IN 21 coming soon!!! – Jon & Bianca
Well Bianca and I are holding strong but we have both agreed that we are in a season of growth and testing. Lately we are feeling this on all sides. Our boys have just started school and they are obviously sad to say goodbye to the lazy summer days but Ezra had another reason for some sadness after he met his first “bully” as he put it, at recess during day one. It wasn’t a major incident but the kid pushed his head down to the ground and Ezra got a small scratch on his cheek. He got back in the saddle the next day but not before we all prayed with him and his big brother put a second grader on patrol for him during recess since the 3rd graders and 1st graders don’t share the same recess period. We also talked with his teacher and she seems to be on the ball too. On Friday Ezra came home and reported that “my bully became my friend”. God is refining all of us it seems.
Bianca and I are making “home” happen here in the basement of her Mom’s house. It’s tight to put it mildly but we keep reminding ourselves of the fact that God is getting us ready for the mission field and things worth doing are also worth sacrificing for. I have carved out an office space in the area that also happens to be the bathroom and laundry room. It is the first time I have ever had to leave my work so someone could relieve themselves…/: I don’t usually rush to get back to work until I know its “safe”. When I am working, I am usually trying to connect with people who may want to support us and I have also been looking for part-time work. It is surprising how difficult it can be to find a job that is compatible with the efforts of support-raising. I have applied at all kinds of different places but so far very few have gotten back to me and the one or two that have, have not been without there issues. This morning the thought occurred to me that the Lord could even be preventing me from getting a job because then it would only divide my time more and support raising could just move slower. Who knows? When we can’t see then I have learned that we have no alternative but to trust and obey, like that old song says…“Trust and Obey….for there’s no other way…to be happy in Jesus…but to trust and obey”. Kind of corny I know but those words are deeply comforting at times like this.
Currently with the support we have and that which we have been pledged we are at 15% of our monthly needs. This is encouraging in the sense that it represents a growing list of individuals and at least 1 church that have said they believe in us and or our mission. When I let myself think about it, it really builds up my courage to talk with more people. Our next big goal is to get to 50% of our monthly support because that’s when a part-time job will no longer be necessary. That is the point when we can start taking a pay check from ReachGlobal with the funds that have come in. I don’t know how long that will take to get there but I have a growing hunch that God is going to do something really amazing in the days ahead so our plan is to just trust and obey, since that’s all we can do. We are asking you to please pray for us to grow in our patience and endurance when you think of us. His peace to all of you!
May 31, 2012 – Family Update
As I write this, boxes our piling up high all around our apartment. The thought of moving our family in just a few days brings to mind all the people we are in the midst of saying “Goodbye” to. Have I mentioned that I hate saying “Goodbye”? for something I hate to say, we’ve been saying it a lot lately! We’ve said it at our Trinity Community where we live, the Russian Baptist Church where we’ve made great friends, and this Sunday we’ll say it to Gurnee Community Church (www.gcchome.org) where we’ve been serving for four years! As I look in scripture, I’ve realized that there is a good reason why the word should not sit well with me!
1 Thess. 4:16-18, says…
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
Part of this passage rings in my mind when I say the word “Goodbye” to Christians… “and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord”! This dramatic description of the day the Lord returns promises me that all Christians will one day be together again and forever with Jesus Christ! No matter what happens to separate Christians physically from each other in this life, there’s a guaranteed day coming when a Huge, Holy reunion will take place with all of us and Jesus! So if we are going to live like we believe this, then here is my proposal. Don’t say “Goodbye” to other Christians. Say “See you later!”, “Hasta luego!”, “увидимся позже”, or as a good friend of mine said to me once, “See you here, there or in the air!” Say any kind of temporary salutations you like but remember it’s just for now, not for forever and that’s why “Goodbyes” are not for me!!!
– IN Christ – Jon Fowler
Here are some of the faces we can’t wait to See Later!!!
I can hardly believe it! Jon is graduating! Not that I ever questioned whether he would graduate or not (although we did pray him through Greek and Hebrew), but when we moved here almost 4 years ago, graduation seemed so far away. The thought of our kids being 8, 6, and 3 seemed so crazy! Now, here we are with boxes beginning to pile up around the apartment as we get ready to move. You are probably wondering where and what is next. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that, but as I reflect on our time here at Trinity, I can honestly say that some of our rough edges have been smoothed and some of our gaps have been filled in. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for leading us here and for providing for us. He has truly used this time to shape and refine us! I am also so grateful to all of the people God has used to help get us through (you know who you are)!
I’ve been pretty emotional lately (more than normal, for those of you that know me), thinking about getting ready to leave. It’s not the tiny campus apartment that I’ll miss, believe me, we are bursting at the seams, but it’s the community or should I say family that we have gained since coming to Trinity. I am so grateful for all of the people the Lord has brought into our lives during our time here! Our neighbors here have become like family to us and we now feel like we can say that we have brothers and sisters from all over the world…and not only because we are brothers and sisters in Christ!
So about what is next…well it’s going to get a little more crazy, if you can imagine that! We will move out of our apartment June 6th. On June 7th we will drive to Minneapolis, MN to attend an orientation for ReachGlobal, the mission agency we have been accepted with. From there we will drive back to Pittsburgh and settle the boys in with all of their Grandparents…are you still with me?…On June 14 Jon and I fly back to Chicago to take our Gurnee Youth on a mission trip to Panama as our last trip with this church. On June 24th we will fly back to Pittsburgh! Whew! Told you it was going to get crazy! As we continue to work towards our goal of getting to the mission field, we will be moving back to Pittsburgh to begin raising support and developing our ministry partnerships. Once we raise 100% of our support needed, we will head to Costa Rica for a year of language school for all of us. After that…Panama to help plant churches and facilitate training and discipleship for national, local pastors and ministry leaders. At least that’s the plan so far! With all of the change coming up we really appreciate all of your prayers and we will keep you posted along the way! For now we are just going to enjoy and celebrate the milestone of Jon’s graduation weekend!
Until next time,
Blessings, Bianca :0)
Finding our place in God’s story is not exactly a science. In my mind, it’s sort of what you get when you combine a treasure hunt with an experiment, a hope and a hunch. It’s a wild ride with lots of unkowns but along the way you just sort of know deep inside that God is in it so it has to be good. You also know that somehow that’s what faith is like too. If we were honest with ourselves, living by faith is part of the reward in itself because that is living life with God. While I want to know where God is going to take us and use our family along life’s path, at the same time I don’t want to know. I want the chance to demonstrate that I do trust Him and I do believe that He is good and that He loves us. I am excited to lead my family on this journey and to walk as one toward all that God is doing. You can follow us too. Stay tuned here for all our updates as we walk this road together!
– Jon Fowler