A House for the Kingdom

Tommy wanted to GO, but God has him living in Southern California, practicing hospitality. What does missions involvement look like for him now? And what does hospitality have to do with anything?

I’ve been interested in missions ever since I was in high school and have gone on various short-term trips to Mexico, the Middle East, East Asia, and most recently to Japan with my church. I see myself as a mobilizer and currently serve as a coordinator for a Perspectives class, volunteer with OMF International, host prayer meetings for the WCF Torrance group, and most recently have come on to serve on the Board for World Christian Fellowship.

One of my biggest “ministries” revolves around the house the Lord blessed me with. I am the steward of the house… His house. My name may be on the title, but it rightfully belongs to Him. This shift in ownership has shaped my perspective of the house and its purpose. I’ve hosted dinner parties, movie nights, poker games, sharing times, prayer meetings, etc. I love bringing people together, and I hope I’ve blessed others as much as I’ve been blessed by them.

Blessed to be a blessing

In Genesis 12:1-3, God tells Abram that he will be blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations, not for comfort or personal gain, but for His kingdom. I purchased the house with that in mind – to be a better blessing. God has not only used this space to host meetings, but to house missionaries, family, and friends and to provide a place of rest and refreshing. And I get to enjoy fellowship with others and hear what God is doing in the lives of people here at home and all over the world. I get to participate in what He is doing to call His Church to His purposes. It’s a real blessing for me to use the house this way, and I thank God for the opportunities He’s given me.

“Where I have sent you”

The funny thing is that I never set out to be a homeowner. When I graduated in 2004 with a master’s degree, I fully expected to be on the field in four years and never gave homeownership a second thought. After  passing my “four year goal” and no closer to going overseas, I began to wonder what He had planned for me.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’”
– Jeremiah 29:4-7 (ESV)

The Lord spoke to me: stop looking so far ahead that I ignore the ministry around me. I began to understand that ministry happens in the present through the relationships around me. Should I really desire to go overseas, it would serve me well to learn to minister here where I know the language and the culture.

For me, the next step is to be intentional with my neighbors. Maybe I’ll host a dinner once a month to get to know them. After all, most people won’t pass on free dinner. I’ve already had some neighbors over for poker, and I hope to continue strengthening those relationships.

I thank God for the opportunities He’s given me, and I encourage everyone to ask God how you can be a blessing where you’re at, whether you see yourself going overseas in the future or not. May we be His hands and feet to the ends of the earth… AND here at home!

Tommy

Processing is Process

Kari moved straight from college in the middle of Los Angeles to the most remote and undeveloped part of Japan for 2 years. Now that she has been back in LA for 6 months, she is starting to understand why God took her there and why He brought her back. This post has been slightly modified from it’s original.

I was not excited Friday night when we arrived at the retreat center.  I was flat out intimidated. What am I doing at a missions conference? I don’t want to go; I just got home.

I forced myself to go to small group Saturday morning.  Again, intimidated.  But afterward, Keith pulled me aside and prayed for me.  I could tell when you were talking that you’re holding onto a lot of bitterness.  You need to let it go.

I met up one-on-one with Erin.  I was honest about where I was with God and life.  She asked the hard questions.  Having been my big sister for over a decade, she knew how to get me to answer.  And I wanted to answer.  I wanted to sort things out and work things out.  And she challenged me, the way only a big sister can.  Sit until God shows up.

So I did.  I slipped out after worship and went to the prayer chapel.  I sat in silence for a long time.  God, where are You? Where have You been since I moved home? Where are You, God? And then it came out. All the bitterness I held against God for bringing me back.  All the loss I suffered while in Japan.  It all poured out as hot tears into open hands.  This isn’t a one-time deal.  This is going to be a process.

I returned in time for communion.  For the first time since I moved home, taking communion felt right.  I’d finally let go of the bitterness and anger, and things felt right again with God.

That evening, we had a prayer concert. Prayer is powerful, and I was intimidated. Sharon pulled me outside.  I’m just going to pray for you.  And I felt more at peace.

And Erin introduced me to Vince.  He asked me about Japan.  And I shared.  And shared.  And shared.  He listened and asked questions.  I told him how I was angry, but God met me at the river.  I went to church to serve the body and wash dishes.  I worked crazy hours so I could spend time with my coworkers and not appear lazy.  I was the village designated driver and got to share my testimony because of that.  I got to spend time with my brother for the first time when he came to Tokyo.  God used my brother to comfort me when I got the call from my parents that Sho had died.  God used Sho’s death to open a door to share the Gospel with my adult night class.  God opened the door for me to share the love of Jesus with Sho’s parents now that I’m home.  My two friends from Shibecha came to LA for 10 days and we got to pray for them before they went back.  And I got so excited, easily the most excited I’d been in 6 months.  Then, he asked if he could pray.  I want to pray for your village, for Shibecha.  No one has ever wanted to pray with me for the tiny village where I left a piece of my heart.

Then Katie introduced me to Kevin.  I shared about Japan.  He shared about Taiwan.  And we talked about the good stuff and the hard stuff and the cultural stuff and the American stuff and the “what’s next” stuff.

Kevin introduced me to Edmond.  He asked me about Japan and the earthquake.  And I shared.  He told me to write a book.  I laughed.  I get the first copy, and I want it autographed.  He’s not the first person who has told me to write a book about my experience in Japan.

I didn’t want to be at this conference.  I didn’t feel like I belonged at a missions conference because I had just returned.  But God knew it was where I needed to be.  I needed to process.  I needed to sit in the prayer chapel and cry.  I needed to be surrounded by people with fresh ears, who wanted to know more, who wanted to ask questions, who wanted answers.

And I know now that processing is a process.  And 2 years will take a while to process.  Much like my session in the prayer chapel, this isn’t a one-time thing.  Processing is a process.  It’s going to take a while, but at least I’m starting to move.

Thank You for like-minded people and passionate prayer warriors.

Kari

Photo by Megan Mark