Monday, October 09, 2017

Home, Home, & Home

There are many crazy things to share from our home here-- God is working, opportunities are presenting themselves, and we are thrilled to be a small part of what He is doing here. As fall weather hits, for maybe the first time I am almost enjoying it. This change has reminded me that this has, in fact, become home in many ways. We are blessed to be here, blessed to have a great team and good friends. It is, after all, the people who make a place home, and God has given us those kind of people here.

Kevin went home to Manitoba this weekend, and we missed being there with him. The places he went and things he did made us miss that home, reminded us of the ways God has planted us in a place we haven't actually lived in very often. Yet we have family and friends in Manitoba who make it home. A strong team, primarily from there, has sent us here and allows us to serve here. Home: it's a good word for how we feel about Manitoba.

These days I've also been reminded of my first home, Venezuela. Maybe it was going to Mexico twice and meeting a number of amazing people who reminded me of friends and a culture where I lived my earliest years. Maybe it's the fact that Venezuela is appearing on the news again and Facebook allows me to connect with various people there. Mostly I think it's one of my friends, who I'll call Carla.

Carla and I were neighbors when we were young moms. We swapped baby stories and made food together. We cooked and chatted and became fast friends, despite her initial thought that foreigners were in the country to take advantage. She taught me to make some great Italian food as well as traditional Venezuelan dishes. Her grandmother wove a hammock for us. I was invited to make hallacas, a traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish, with her family. We learned and grew together, and one day we had to say goodbye. When Garry went back to get rid of our things, Carla brought her kids by and offered a hand.

All of our kids have graduated from high school now, and while I am privileged to have both my sons at home while they study, Carla just put her second daughter on a jet plane to Spain. Carla's oldest two are living together, trying to get by in a new country, far from family and friends. The goodbye had to have been hard because with the current situation in Venezuela, it may be eternity before they are reunited. Miles and borders separate us, but my heart hurts for Carla.

The pain I feel at her goodbyes mirrors some of what I feel as family members still live and minister in Venezuela. I am appalled at the suffering and need in a country that is rich in so many ways. I am hurt by the abuses that happen and the difficulty it is for average people to survive there these days.

Yet in the midst of the suffering, many good things are happening. God is being revealed through His church, and people are being saved. Children are especially open to the Gospel, but spiritual hunger in general is greater than it was in times of plenty. God is raising up an army of prayer warriors to intercede for their country. And God seems to be opening doors to support and help the local Church and individual believers there.

I am often reminded to pray for Venezuela, and a verse that often comes to mind is the one where we are instructed to remember those who are suffering as though they were, in fact, our brothers and sisters. And truly, many in Venezuela are our brothers and sisters.

Home. We're privileged to have several, and each one brings both joy and pain. We're thankful for each person in our lives who makes somewhere a good place to be!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Camp

We had a great week at Eagle Lake Bible Camp this year. It was a privilege to serve with people from our home church and meeting some new people. We particularly loved working with Dad & Doris as well as Kaleb-- three generations of Barkmans serving together. It was a blessing to spend time every day teaching teens from the Word of God, discussing the Gospel and its implications for everyday life. I enjoyed some time helping in the kitchen and Garry joined the boys' swim time most afternoons. "Tuck" (mid afternoon snacks) were a highlight as we chatted with other staff and heard more of their stories.

It's  blessing to serve. Last week I talked with the girls at camp about the fact that the blessing is always in the assignment. We don't find God's blessing in the things we want or the things we feel pressured to do, but in following Him. He gives us gifts and enjoyment in the things He calls us to, and we are most blessed as we simply obey.

One of the things I love about God is that He calls us not only to serve, but also to rest. In busy, hectic seasons we know that as we continue to follow, He will refresh and give us rest at the perfect time. In the meantime He will give strength and grace for each day. And then, He gives us times of rest that are perfectly suited to us. He gives us time to worship and enjoy His presence. He does, in fact, give us everything we need for life and godliness!

Camp was a week of stories. Small stories and big stories. God working and people choosing to respond and others choosing not to. Opportunities taken and opportunities rejected. God calling and people responding. Teens finding God in new ways or understanding His promises in a new light. Staff finding His strength sufficient. Conflict and conflict resolution. It was good. And many of the stories that emerged were encouraging, though some of the stories were sharp prods to prayer. We loved the stories, both hearing stories and living parts of them. But the stories are not ours to share, so we won't say more about them.

Another unique thing about camp is living for a week in a close community that is relatively closed. Just over 100 people in a few cabins in the woods, eating, worshipping, learning, praying, swimming, playing, and living close together. It allows you a new insight into  people's hearts and dreams. The opportunity to model healthy ways of doing things is huge. It also gives you a new perspective on the people you know and what drives them. And these insights were encouraging and fresh, a reminder of how often God is at work even when we are not close enough to see it.

We are now in Ohio, but I'll have to write about that next time. For now, it's off to lunch and meetings. It's been good to spend a few moments with you....

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Of Age... Kaleb's 18 and

Kaleb turned 18 on Thursday! We had a little sundae party with a few of his friends. The group who showed up was diverse and interesting, each with a unique place in Kaleb's life. This was a much smaller group than helped him celebrate his graduation, but a sort of cross-section: Kaleb's youth pastor who has been a great mentor to him, a guy he works with, a kid he disciples, a new friend, a couple others. It struck me again how God has blessed Kaleb with community-- just the community he needs to grow, learn, and reach out. People who care about him and people he cares about. And my mother's heart was full with the knowledge that God does all things well, and sometimes He allows us to see the good things He is doing!

Garry has been working on developing training lately, which is a stretch when you are developing it for others to teach. It's a unique challenge to inspire others to teach what you'd naturally teach, in an environment that is both busy and structured. Yet God has provided great resources and wisdom, and we are excited about how God is going to use this as He continues to unfold it.

Much of what we do has to do with context, and this week Garry felt that when he had lunch with one of the students. This young man will be in town for a while, but not in training with Moody next year. He wants to be sure that he can continue to interact with Garry, to ask questions and gain perspective, even if he moves out of the circle where they normally interact. Of course! While we are thankful for the unique context Moody provides, we love investing with people who want to learn.

Kevin has just finished his first 2 weeks in China, and God has been so good to him. He is learning a ton, having crazy experiences, and living in a very foreign world. Yet we see whispers of God at work around him. We know God is at work in him, preparing him for whatever the next steps may be for him. He also mentioned that he has never been anywhere that there was so little sign of religion at any level-- in decorations, church buildings, or any other advertising. But he was invited to join another team member tomorrow as he live-streams a service. Wow, God.

These days we are also preparing for our trip to Manitoba this summer. We will be gone about a month, and look forward to seeing many of you. This will feel like a very quick trip as our month includes driving back and forth, a week at camp, and a week in Ohio doing an aviation audit.

We are excited about what God is doing and what He is preparing to do. So thankful to be on the journey and see it unfold!


Saturday, June 03, 2017

May Madness 2017

They call it "May Madness" for a reason-- the events of graduation, end of budget year, and normal life pile up to create what feels like a mostly happy insanity. Celebrating with graduates is so much fun, and also a bit sad as we realize friends are moving on to other places. Because of our schedule at Moody Aviation, graduation happens about a month before classes are actually finished for the year, so normal life continues and even intensifies as we try to complete all the things that need accomplished.

We have 9 graduates from the aviation program this year, and each of them are moving into something different. Graduates are often hired to work at Moody after graduation so they can gain more experience and pay of student debt while continuing in an environment that is invested in their success, but it doesn't sound like there will be a lot of that this year. This is also the time that alumni who have worked at Moody for a time move on, and two couples from Moody will be joining mission organizations this summer.

This year two couples who are friends from Biblical Studies graduated, so they are actually moving in the next weeks. One couple is headed overseas for a year doesn't know if they will return to Spokane after this missions trip. The other couple has taken a youth pastor position a couple hours from here, so we hope to see them at least occasionally over the next year.

Thrown into the mix for us as a family was the fact that Kevin left for the summer in China the end of May. He was gifted an opportunity to train at one of the top badminton clubs in the world for 3 months, and he was super excited to go. He was also given am amazing job offer that he worked through over the past couple of weeks he was here as well as finishing his school semester and week of exams.  Going to China required a lot of prep and  was somewhat overwhelming as realized he would be living with people he'd never met. People told him there wouldn't really be much English there, and that has proven to be very true. And Chinese food has proven quite different than the Filipino food he enjoyed growing up.

Kevin is now in China and graduation events are mostly finished, so now we are celebrating Kaleb's high school graduation! We are having a little party for him this afternoon and looking forward to what God has in store for him in the future. He will finish school in a couple of weeks then plans to counsel at summer camps for most of the summer. He plans to begin studying for youth ministry at Moody Bible in the fall, another exciting big step for him.

And now I suppose I better go get cooking for this afternoon! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Gift of Silence

Each of us have a gift, a certain something that we can use and pass on. A gift for the Church, a blessing for the Body of Christ. Last weekend we enjoyed the gift of silence. It's a gift from someone we've never met, a couple who has built and furnished a beautiful cabin on the lake and welcomes many people in ministry to use it. Everything we need is there. It is beautiful. And we get to simply enjoy it. Quite the gift!

One of the great things about this cabin is the lack of connectivity to the internet, cell service, and other forms of communication. It is quiet. The silence has given us time to pray and ponder in a new way. It has cleared space to read the Bible more slowly. It has refocused our minds and our hearts. It has refreshed our spirits. And we find that in the silence we have found renewed energy and focus for the weeks ahead, weeks that promise good busyness and great opportunities.

We've also enjoyed time spent talking about life and calling, cooking together, and dreaming of what God has in the future. We've talked about summer plans and firmed up some options. We've written a few notes and finished some data entry. We've read some great stories and found new hope. It's been amazing. All because someone had it in their heart to gift their resources to bless us.

Apart from this weekend, life has been moving ahead, God has been at work. As graduation draws near we're enjoying opportunities to connect with students at various places. Last week we attended the Spokane Leadership Prayer Breakfast, always a great opportunity to hear what God is doing and to meet new people. Garry has been deep into research lately, and next steps for the Safety Program are becoming clear. Kevin heads to China in just 2 weeks, and Kaleb graduates and turns 18 in just a month.

We're making plans to visit Manitoba this summer, spend a week at camp, join a mission aviation audit in Ohio, and connect with friends and family.... more about that next time!


Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Steps 2017

Spring is in the air here in Spokane, the trees are budding and the sun is shining. And in our home, we are enjoying the fact that opportunities are appearing on our doorstep, walking into our offices, and reaching out via social media. And in it all, there is a sense of something new and different happening. Yet there is also a realization that this is not new, it is just reshaped at the present time, like one season follows another year after year. 

Young adults with broken relationships and big dreams, visitors with questions and pain, couples with new challenges. Fresh coffee and dark chocolate, ice water and salty snacks. The realization that often there are no easy answers, but the answer is found in resting solidly in the One who knows and understands. He is the answer. Together we seek Him and He chooses to be found. And we stand amazed at the God we serve and the opportunities He gives to be part of the story He is writing.

These days at work Garry has been doing a lot of research, and the process has begun many great conversations. He is working on judgement training right now, the process of teaching wise decision-making to new aviators. Decisions that come up in the cockpit often do so quickly, and the decision you make depends on previous experiences and information which you process almost subconsciously. What is the best way to build that body of knowledge that produces wise decisions?

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to join the youth group on a service retreat. I was impressed by these young people who gave up a major part of their spring break to serve at a Christian camp. We helped with deep cleaning in preparation for camp season, scrubbing bathrooms, chairs, and grills. We worked on the grounds, picking up stones and pine cones. We worked hard and played hard. We "did life" for a few days, and that helps us all grow. What a privilege to be a part of young lives!

In fact, most of growing seems to mean "doing life" together in one way or another. We've enjoyed having a friend spend some time at our house while he recuperates after surgery. A couple stopped by to discuss options for their future and to pray together. Kaleb's friends came for an evening of pizza-making and fun. Kevin's friends stopped by for dinner and discussions after an afternoon of tennis. A friend is working through re-entry and we've had opportunity to discuss it and ask God for wisdom as she walks through a challenging time.

Kaleb is also doing a lot of "walking with" these days as he takes opportunities to spend time with friends. God has given him unique opportunities with great Christian friends and with kids he meets while riding BMX in the neighborhood. 

Kevin is busy with school, work, and training and is also preparing for his time in China this summer. We are excited about this opportunity and praying with him about the challenges he is sure to face. His unique perspective on life and culture as well as his ability to communicate well is a huge blessing as he interacts with friends and professors at Moody. He, too, has unique opportunities to do life with people, and summer promises even more of those.


These are exciting times, good days. Busy days. And we are privileged to walk these days with various people in various ways. And we are privileged to be part of the team.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Next Steps

Sometimes I'd like to take a leap, go far in a single step. Most often, life just doesn't work that way. Usually we walk. One step at a time. This step. Then another. Little by little. And over time those steps add up to real progress.

One exciting step this week was receiving a letter from immigration saying Kaleb's work permit is on its way! This doesn't mean his papers are finished, but it means things are moving ahead and that's a great thing. A positive step.

This has been a week full of steps. Plenty of small steps. Reports coming and going. Prayers lifted. Conversations. Paperwork. Team meetings and meetings over lunch. Questions that need an answer. New opportunities. Closed doors and open windows.

These are the real things of life that provide tangible opportunities for faith and hard work. There are things that demand attention and the things that truly deserve it. The people in our lives and the tasks that bring us together. The hours that tick by and are forever gone. The blessing of another sunrise and the beauty of another sunset.

This morning I am simply grateful for where we are the privilege we have to serve here, the blessing of the team scattered around the globe and the blessing of those who are nearby. The small steps we are taking together in our journey to knowing God and making Him known.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Family Foundations

Family. Home. Foundations.
Garry and I both grew up overseas as missionary kids. We have never been quite at home in North America. Our roots are deep, but not local. I think that's why we count it such a privilege to be here these days with both our sons at home. Our roots nor our lives are centered in one location, they're connected to people. And given where God has taken us four, our lives are uniquely connected. We love watching the boys integrate into life and culture here and we want to be sure they, too, have deep roots. Roots in eternity, the kind we are each still growing. While this is not our main goal in life, it is an important part, and today's post is about that.

So, what's up with us four at home? Garry found a manual transmission for a car we've been wanting to fix for quite some time. He spent the morning at pull-and-save and came home rather dirty but smiling. Both Kevin and Dustin worked with him this morning, so there were other bonuses besides the transmission. I'm constantly amazed at the things he can do after a long day's work. He reminds me that his work isn't as physically demanding as it once was, but I know that mental work is also exhausting, and I am amazed at the energy and determination he always has.

Kevin is studying, training, and coaching. School this semester has a few new challenges as well as new joys with some great classes. He has a couple of profs that are just incredible in their heart for ministry and depth of knowledge and passion. He is learning much about intercultural communication as well as literature and writing. God has given him some great coaching opportunities this semester,  which is covering his bills during school. He has a great group of students, from middle schoolers to a lady who could almost be his grandma. His heart for the badminton community continues to grow and he is working hard at his training, lifting and running and researching. Others doors appear to be opening in badminton, opportuntiies that we are watching unfold.

Kaleb is thankful for sunshine and clear roads to do his street BMX riding on these days. He's met a few guys in our new neighborhood that also ride BMX, either street or jumps. He continues to meet young guys and is constantly asking God how he can best invest in their knowing Him. It's a challenging and exciting journey. In between riding he is also working on a longer animation that is a strong allegory. School, interning at a local studio, and having fun with friends fills the remainder of his days.

For my part I'm enjoying working with Garry a little more, planning Kaleb's next steps in school, meeting with women for coffee, and keeping house. I'm often reminded that even in very clean suburbia it still takes time to keep a house looking like a home and meals don't make themselves. I've also enjoyed getting to know people at Moody better as I've helped Garry with preparations for a couple of events.

Family. It's a gift. Thanks for walking this journey with our family!