Christmas Letter 2019

2019 is coming to a close, and with it so is our time “home.” It is hard to believe how fast the time has moved. We spent so many moments, even days, looking forward to our time stateside and now it is gone like a vapor. Admittedly, we had romanticized it as if being in the U.S. would be a kind of “break” from the battle. But within the first couple of months here, we learned and began to struggle with the reality that there is no “break” from the battle. There is no “bunker” on this side of Heaven. Suffering may take on different forms, but we have grieved with and for the many Americans who are hurting too. The grass may look greener, but it’s dying too. The reality that there is no location where one can hide out from the curse of sin is a heavy one to absorb. We have experienced moments of near anger in desperation asking God, “Why would you leave us here? Why haven’t you come to get us?” To be honest, we didn’t want to stay in America, but also didn’t want to go back to Zim. We, like C.S Lewis have “found in ourselves desires nothing in this world could satisfy.”

But then His reminder came, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…” He reminded us that we have His Spirit and His power to help us navigate our way through the wilderness to the Promised Land. He reminded us that we still have brothers and sisters out there who don’t yet know Him. The war has been won, but it is not yet over. We have a mission to accomplish. There is purpose in the pain and because of the victory Jesus won, He gives us JOY and abundant grace in and for the journey.

We have been overwhelmed by our time stateside, visiting churches, and meeting countless individuals who make up this amazing body of Christ which works together to make His name known to the nations. We’ve enjoyed date nights, amusement parks, the Florida beaches, the Smokey and Utah mountains, ready-made meals, fast internet, hugs and laughter with friends and family. We’ve watched our kids flourish at a school where they were welcomed and loved so well. We have seen God’s faithfulness over and over through, yet again, another season that is closing. We praise Him for His kindness to us as our faith grows in His promise to “be with us always.”

At the start of the year, God did some remarkable things by answering two of our biggest prayer requests. His timing was perfect (imagine that!) in presenting these good gifts. First, He brought us a family to labor alongside of us in Gweru!! We can’t stop thanking Him for our new partners, the Lancasters. Secondly, He led us to visit a small church in Gweru that we’d noticed several times but never visited. We were invited for lunch by two of the leaders and learned that the church was dying and nearly ready to close its doors. This conversation led to more conversations and we have been praying and moving toward “re-planting” this church upon our return. In short, God is basically providing a building and a core group of believers to start a brand new church in a very strategic location. What an amazing answer to prayer! For numerous reasons, the end of our first term was difficult, but this small group of believers brought us so much encouragement that we didn’t even know we would need. In them, God gave us the gift of fellowship for which we had been starving. We are so eager to get back to these people and see what God has planned for this new body and how He will use it to reach Zimbabwe with the hope of a coming King and the promise of His Kingdom.

I recently read a quote by E. Stanley Jones that stuck with me, “The early Christians did not say in dismay, ‘look what the world has come to,’ but in delight, ‘look what has come into the world.’” In light of this truth, our hope this Christmas, though surrounded by all things America (that we missed so much), is the same hope that we had in Zim. That Jesus is our King and He knows our names. He covers our shame, carries our burdens, and calms our anxieties. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother and He is preparing a place for those of us to love and trust Him. We tell the kids regularly, keep looking up and waiting eagerly—He’s coming back for us!

We pray you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS, celebrating the One who is most worthy of celebrating, and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

With Love,

Nick, Kyndra, Jake, Jimi, Libby, Sophia, Kate, Juliet, Johnny

If you want to know more on the individual crew, you can read below:

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Nick spent the early part of the year trying to get things wrapped up from our first term in Zim so that after our time STAS we would be able come back and hit the ground running in our second term. Once we got home in June, Nick dove straight into a full schedule of speaking engagements, Ph.D dissertation study and writing, and teaching a course on Personal Evangelism at his alma mater, Boyce College, all while trying to keep up with happenings on the ground in Zim. Almost immediately upon arrival, Nick began experiencing some sustained health issues. After several rounds with several different doctors, we believe we have gotten some answers on the best way forward on these things and feel confident that, despite the struggles he has had while in the U.S. the problems will continue to improve once we return to Zim. Please pray to this end.

Kyndra: I can barely remember the start of 2019. It honestly feels a bit like a blur. All the kids worked really hard to finish an entire grade to be ready for the American school schedule. A big bulk of my time was in this as well as getting the house and the crew ready to head stateside in June while I killed flies by the pile and wrestled growing mountains of laundry due to power outages. We survived. I’ve enjoyed American food a little (like 20lbs 😳) too much, and not having to cook everything. I enjoyed a few opportunities to speak to women’s and WMU groups as well as teach chapel a few times at the kid’s school. It’s been fun, but I’m ready to get back into the Zim swing and back to work. Please pray for my adjustment back into Zim home life.

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Jake (14) has passed Nick by about 2 inches and 30lbs. He’s like a gentle giant and hard to not love. He had fun making friends at school and he’s always up for a good conversation about life in Zimbabwe. He got into computer coding and began working on creating a website. He still keeps us entertained with goofy dance moves and perfectly timed movie quotes. He started playing drums and hopes to be able to continue learning how to play. He says he misses the laid back lifestyle in Zim and life not feeling so busy.

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Jimi (13) can be found in his room shredding his electric guitar, writing songs, drawing comics, or dancing around the house in some kind of 80’s attire. He is determined to reach his potential in whatever gifts God has given him. He’s witty and always up for a good pun. He made several friends and excelled in school. We were encouraged by some stories the teachers told us about him sharing truths with his friends. He seemed to be a teacher favorite (not something I can relate to- km). He got it from his Daddy. He’s looking forward to being outside, exploring, and seeing some of his friends in Zim.IMG_4996

Libby (11) has made me feel like I cloned myself. She has been a huge blessing to me in meeting needs. We’ve been able to go on dates and come home to a clean house and kids asleep in bed. She’s quick to see needs and meet them. She has a compassionate and patient heart. She remembered most of her new friends birthdays and wanted to be sure to make them feel special on their day. I know she will be missed. We were blessed by her gift of singing as she sang at most of the churches we visited while a slide of pics from Zim played behind her. Libby is looking forward to being back at our house and being with the people in Zim.

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Sophia (10) is a self-taught/self-proclaimed gymnast who prefers “cartwheeling” and back bending over walking. She got to have her big 10-year birthday party in November. True to her spunky style, she chose a skating party complete with a sequined outfit. Her personality has come out more this year and she’s kept us laughing with a voice for different characters she takes on depending on her mood. I guess this could also be known as schizophrenia, but I’m hopeful it’s just her weird humor. She is a social butterfly. I know details about every kid in her class as she studies people and is fascinated by their differences. Sophia misses our house and the people in Zim.

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Kate (8) never leaves you guessing about where you stand with her. She’s an open book that can be fun and exciting to read or rather frightening. She’s not lacking in opinions or personality. She told me the boy she liked doesn’t like her, and followed the thought with, “that’s his loss…” as she skipped away. She loves a good meal and was blessed with a metabolism most “foodies” would covet. She’s a deep thinker/feeler and often surprises me how perceptive she is about situations and feelings. I can see her possibly having a gift of discernment that when paired with the Spirit’s wisdom, could make use of some of her outspoken, often unwelcome views. I have no idea where it comes from. Kate misses “home” in Zim. She is looking forward to having her room back and not having to share a bed.

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Juliet (6, will be 7 in January) is usually in the middle of drawing something, hopefully on paper. She is very expressive, compassionate, and affectionate. Nearly every time one of her siblings is crying, she is somewhere nearby crying with them or drawing them a picture to make them feel better. If there is a dog within reach, it will have her heart and attention. She’s as sweet as can be, but her scream could break glass. She’s eager to read and is working hard to learn her letters and blending sounds into words. Juliet misses her dogs and the yard in Zim. We are the world’s worst parents for giving the dogs away, so pray we can find a couple puppies for her soon after arriving. Her crying could break the hardest of hearts.

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Johnny (5) might be the friendliest little kid I have ever seen. He has broken the record for how many kids call him their “best friend.” He has a gift of getting along with just about anybody. He’s had so much fun meeting new friends, and reconnecting with old friends/cousins. He randomly walks up to Nick and me throughout the day to give us hugs and tell us that he loves us. He loves dinosaurs and superheroes. It’s hard to get on his bad side, but one sure way of crossing him is to hurt his big sister, Juliet. He’s very protective of her and you rarely see one without the other. Johnny misses our house and his friends in Zim. He has asked “when are we going home?”

As much as I love Zim and want to see disciples made there, I am begging God to make them in our home too and it is my main prayer/focus for this season. They have walked with us in the ups and downs. They’ve been hurt and felt our hurt. They’ve rejoiced themselves and rejoiced with us. They really are amazing partners to have. They forgive quickly when wronged and have a faith in prayer that puts us to shame. Of all the things God has used to show us his love and to challenge/sanctify us, nothing compares to how He has used these seven little people. Thank you for praying for them, loving them, and caring about how they are doing. There is no greater thing you could do for us than to pray for their health, safety, growth, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

We are working to complete our medical clearance and hoping to leave before the end of January to begin the New Year in Zim.

Moore Family Christmas Letter 2018

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Another year has come and gone. It’s true what they say—the days are long, but the years are short. As we look back on 2018, I can’t say that we’re too fond of this year or sad to see it go. Our third year in Zim will be marked as a year spent in the Refiner’s fire and remembered as smelling like burning flesh. Just when we thought we were doing well, the Spirit humbled us to reveal blind spots and areas where we were struggling. He has been faithful, but it has not been easy.

We’ve never observed advent with more excitement. We’ve found ourselves wanting to skip ahead in the story set just to get to the birth. There have been many days where obedience, heck…life, just felt too heavy. But our hope has been found in Christmas.  Our hope is in a Hero who came to rescue us from this depressing, disease-stricken, full of pain, and fallen world. And our hope is in the promise that He’s coming back for those who are eagerly waiting for Him. Our hope is found in knowing this life is but a vapor, a blade of grass. The discomfort is temporary, but His word and His Kingdom will last forever.

A lot of good is happening all around us, but it has not come without a fight. There is an enemy raging who does not want to see laborers trained and raised up for the mission, But our King is victorious. And even what Satan has meant for evil, God has used for our good. When we came, there were 15 students, only 3 of whom were able to pay. There was a significant amount of debt and a staff who were months behind in their pay. We finished the year with 37 students, every one of them paying their tuition, (many with help of Umambo Farm). We have partnered with a local farmer and we are raising chickens to lay eggs. He buys the eggs from us and the students get paid for their work. This project has changed the whole morale of the campus. We even have 5 new students who have come from the rural area of Tongaland, where Nick came on his first trip to Zim. Tongaland is home to a people group called the Tonga (or BaTonga) which is one of Zim’s only people groups considered unreached with the gospel. But the Spirit has led these men to come and train and we are hopeful they will be used to make that statistic one of history.

Along with the chicken project on campus, this year we also initiated a project in partnership with Baptist Global Response (BGR) to construct 10 small-scale chicken houses to take part in the same egg-production system as the seminary. Because of this, there are now 10 households of orphans and/or widows who have a steady income raising chickens and selling the eggs. We are in the initial plans of starting another 10 houses at some point.

The Spirit is moving and we are encouraged knowing there is purpose in our being here. We are thankful for the fruit He has shown us to spur us on, knowing many who are serving overseas that don’t get to see tangible fruit. We are thankful for the countless brothers and sisters (many of you) who have prayed for and/or supported the work here. We are more aware than ever of our dependence on the rest of the body of Christ.

We enjoyed hosting several short-term teams this year as well as a visit from Nick’s parents and my sister Amy. Every time we have visitors, they bring a piece of home with them- a piece of the familiar. As Christmas Day marks 3 years since buying those one-way tickets, we miss home…now more than ever. But I’ve been comforted many times by the realization that Jesus also knew what it was like to come to a foreign land where he was despised and rejected. He knew what it was like to leave home and was separated for a time from His Father so that others (we!) wouldn’t have to be separated from Him forever.

If we are honest, we are longing for home, but what we are learning is that our longing is not the familiar and fallen American soil. What we are truly longing for is the home He has prepared for all who love Him. We are longing to see the face of our King. We are longing to have the kind of heart that will love Him the way He deserves to be loved. Until that days comes, however, our prayer is that many more will come to know Him. We pray that He will use us to find the remnant of His brothers and sisters who are still captive to the enemy. And we are praying for faith to persevere until He comes.

We love and miss our friends and family and long for the day we will never be separated again. We wish you a Merry Christmas, one filled with faith, hope, and joy in the promises of God. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. May we live the coming year as though we truly believe that!

With much love and gratitude from Zim,

Nick, Kyndra, Jake, Jimmy, Libby, Sophia, Kate, Juliet, and Johnny

Update on the crew:

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Seminary Graduation August 2018

Nick has been busy learning about chickens and teaching classes at the Seminary. He got to attend an Africa-wide theological education conference in Nairobi , Kenya where he was encouraged to hear all that the Spirit is doing and will do through the disciple and theologically trained men and women in Africa. After 2 years of not feeling “right” I finally convinced him to get tested. The test revealed he has an allergy to African gluten. In fact, his numbers for this were almost as high as they are for shellfish, which he actually carries an Epi-pen for. So, it’s been fun (sarcasm) trying to figure out what he can and can’t eat here, especially since it’s only the African gluten and anything brought from America is fine! Something about the way they process (or don’t process) their wheat here? Just one of the many “fun” things that make life in Africa more interesting!

 

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Me: we started homeschool in January. While it’s been challenging at times, it has proven to be the best decision for this season. I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of it to help the kids develop their specific giftings. The Lord was gracious to send Myah Barker, an 18-year-old who graduated High School in June. She came here in July to help around the house, with homeschool, and to allow Nick and I to get much needed time away from the kids. We were able to enjoy many well overdue date nights thanks to Myah! She had planned to stay a year, but was only given 6 months in country on her visa so she left right before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed having a friend around and an extra hand. I’ve spent half the year working on a project to get one of my national friends (who has 8 children and is married to an absent alcoholic, so is basically a single mother) onto her own land and into her first real home. She has agreed to care for 2 orphan girls and their widowed grandmother on her new property. We will be moving them just in time for Christmas and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad this project is almost complete. It has been a lot more time consuming than I ever anticipated. I’ve also been busy helping to launch a program to begin offering training for the Seminary Wives this year. I’m still in awe of the Spirit’s help in providing and making this dream happen. These women are truly incredible and have put me in my place many times. It is humbling to be among so many women who make me feel like a sissy.

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Halloween 2018

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Jake, 13: Jake is still the quirky kid who will talk to anyone about anything, he’s just about a foot taller and 40lbs heavier. He passed me up and has almost got Nick. Jake was baptized along with Libby at an Easter camp here back in April. He loves to read and can finish long chapter books in a day. He hates doing schoolwork, but enjoys building and fixing things. He’s gotten pretty creative in the kitchen as we don’t have many snack options. I think a good amount of the 40lbs he has added is from homemade French fries he has made his specialty. He washes, peels, cuts, and deep fries the potatoes several times a week. We are in the process of building him a workshop for all his gadgets. He asked for a soldering kit and a multi-meter for Christmas.

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Jimmy, 22…I mean, 12: Jimmy picked up a guitar and you’d think he’s been playing for years. He will sit and play for hours trying to learn a Van Halen or Brad Paisley song. He is a gifted writer and has written a few short stories, songs, and comics. He enjoys drawing and turning any piece of paper into some form of art. We have origami swans laying all over the house. He’s a hard worker and is always looking for ways to help. He’ll tell you he loves Zim and feels at home here. He is actually already worried about missing it when we go to visit the States this year. He asked for an electric guitar for Christmas. I put that on the list right next to my beach house.

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Libby, 10: Libby is responsible. She wakes up every morning and takes a shower and puts a nice outfit on. She always smells good and has spray or lotion on hand. She loves singing and dancing. She also writes plays or skits and leads the other kids in acting them out. She is a natural leader, but is often irritated by her little sisters copying everything she does. She still begs to hold every baby she sees and is getting to where I feel confident leaving her with the smaller kids for short periods of time. She’s so creative and fun. She asked for art supplies and a karaoke machine for Christmas.

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Sophia, 9: Sophia marches to the beat of her own drummer. She professed faith in Jesus as her King back in July. She enjoys gardening and has planted several flowers as well as a small cilantro garden to help Nick be able to make a complete Mexican meal. She has developed a fascination with missionary biographies and has already read several while giving the rest of us a play by play of what is happening. She says the stories are “so exciting!” She is always the one we call on to catch a bug, chameleon, or any critter, and she has no qualms about quickly making them her friend, complete with a name. She loves being outside and she asked for a hammock and a violin (fiddle) for Christmas.

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Kate, 7: Kate is, hmmm…what is the word??? Boisterous. She is over-opinionated and persistent. You never have to wonder what Kate is thinking, though sometimes (often) I wish she’d leave some to the imagination. She may be the 5th child, but she will never be overlooked. She is a singing and dancing queen who can show the monkey bars who’s boss and do a perfect cartwheel. She’s not afraid of anything, except an unkind word. She’s fierce but tender-hearted. Kate asked for a red Kindle fire for her birthday with gymnastics games.

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Juliet, 5: Juliet is spunky. She hates having her hair brushed and doesn’t understand why she has to wear shoes. She can be found laying out in the yard with the dogs under a blanket or watching a movie trying to hide a dog under a blanket, knowing they shouldn’t be in the house. She’s not afraid to tell you exactly what she wants or needs and can definitely be bossy. God have her the highest possible volume on her voice/scream and I’ll admit I fail often as a parent, just trying to avoid hearing it…just give her the sucker. She’s super affectionate and sweet, until she’s not. She asked for a bike for Christmas.

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Johnny, 4: last but certainly not least. Johnny is my sunshine. He’s always there to give a hug or say something cute. He’s developed a not-so-charming attitude and temper this year, but it stays in the shadows most days. He’s very observant and literal. He’ll say “I’m hungry” at least 10 times per day so we just started calling him “Hungry.” He got so mad he now says, “I need something to eat.” He and Juliet are like 2 peas in a pod. It’s rare to see one without the other. He takes her orders all day and tries to keep her happy. Johnny is an easy and content kid who will like whatever we get him for Christmas, but he asked for a Kaleidoscope. Weird, I know.

I’m so proud of these kids and thankful for how God is shaping their hearts. The hardest part about life over here has been missing friends. There are no extra-curricular options where we live. It can be lonely and often boring, but they are learning to get creative with their time. Please continue to pray for their growth, contentment, health, and safety.

 

 

They Didn’t Teach THIS In (My) Seminary

IMG_0426There is a saying among pastors. Whenever one encounters a scenario in ministry that is out of the ordinary, mind-boggling, or otherwise perplexing to ministry sensibilities, it is common to say something like, “Well they certainly didn’t teach THAT in seminary!”

While most of the time this comment is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that there is simply no way to fully prepare a person for all the challenges of ministry life. In our case, it has recently become just a simple fact– Chicken farming: they didn’t teach THAT in seminary!

As most of you are aware, from early on in our time here at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe, the most immediate problem we encountered and continue to face was the seminary’s financial viability. Long story short, through a history of well-intended mission efforts and transitions, the local Baptist Convention ended up with a management crisis which landed the seminary in a world of financial difficulty. But heading up this list of financial problems was the fact that none of the student body has been able to pay their school fees for a long period of time (>95% national unemployment will cause this). When we arrived, there were 15 students, only 3 of whom were able to cover their fees, and this was only due to sponsorships from outside of Zim. This meant that, for decades, the seminary continued to operate, but with little-to-no money—further running up debts.

Of course, our immediate response to this need was “can’t we just raise the money?” But the strategy of sourcing funds from the west and handing them out in poverty-stricken areas is actually one of the major errors that has damaged many developing economies and has specifically done a great deal of harm through missions in Africa over the years. What was needed here was not another handout of relief money, but an initiative of empowerment and long-term development. So, we started dreaming about what kind of strategy might enable our students to learn certain skills and work to provide funds for their own education/training, thereby generating more income for the seminary through school fees that are actually being paid….Enter agriculture.

If you know anything about Zimbabwe and its history, then you may have heard about how it used to be known as a “breadbasket of southern Africa” because of its rich agricultural heritage. Unfortunately with economic decline, this booming agricultural output has slowed in recent decades. But knowing the nation’s history, we figured any path forward financially for our seminary must be through agriculture as well. In God’s providence and timing, He brought us incredible partners from Reclaimed Project in Brett and Allison Barnhill who came to Zimbabwe to do, of all things, “agricultural consulting and training” (Coincidence? I think not!). Around the same time, we encountered a farmer in our area who operates a vibrant poultry business and has been looking to expand as the market demand for poultry is high and the supply is extremely low. The only thing he has lacked has been the startup capital for expansion. Meanwhile, one of the only things we did have in the way of agricultural input is access to some startup capital, but we didn’t have any infrastructure or networks to do anything with it. We had found a perfect match. So combining the efforts of IMB, Reclaimed Project, and the local farming community, with the help of some extremely generous donors, we began the creation of a project we are calling “Umambo Farm.” (“Umambo” is Shona for “kingdom”).

Umambo Farm will ultimately consist of two large poultry houses being constructed on the seminary campus (we have already completed the first one, construction photos below) and 20+ smaller-scale poultry houses scattered throughout the surrounding community. These houses collectively will be home to over 9,000 Hyline laying hens which will produce around 9,000 eggs per day at standard production rates for sale in the local supermarkets.

While this is an extremely viable and timely business model, the part I’m most excited about is the opportunity it will provide for training pastors. Each student who qualifies for our “work-study” scholarship will be employed to work part-time at Umambo Farm during the course of their seminary studies. I have made the comparison numerous times to how my employment at UPS paid my way through a Bachelors Degree because of their “Earn and Learn” program. Similarly here, by working 20 hours per week at Umambo Farm, our students can generate enough income to have their tuition, lodging, board, fees, etc. covered in full for each semester they work. And during the semester breaks, they can also continue to work additional hours for personal financial savings and gain.

In addition to earning their school fees, though, the students are also gaining invaluable training and experience in poultry methods. Eventually we hope to add courses in beef-fattening and cropping as well. These skills will be extremely useful as most (if not all) of our graduates will go into some form of bi-vocational ministry in which they will require some form of non-ministry related income to survive. These skills will also provide ministry opportunities in their own right as students can teach others these same skills for economic development in other impoverished communities. In the future, we hope to partner with a locally-based organization called Farming God’s Way to offer an official certification in each of these reproducible and sustainable agriculture methods so that our students can graduate with a certificate in both theology AND agriculture. We are even in the process of recruiting another IMB family to come and oversee the agricultural component of the seminary program. So while there have been many times I may have had to say to these farming ventures, “they didn’t teach me THAT in seminary,” by God’s grace future generations of students from BTSZ will be able to say, “Oh yes, we learned all of that at mine!”

Aside from the benefits to the seminary, there will also be a tremendous community impact from this project. In March, with the help of BGR, we will begin construction on what we hope to eventually be 20+ smaller-scale chicken houses scattered throughout the local community, Chiwundura. These chicken houses will enable individual households to create their own small business. We will provide the start-up funds to create a 200-bird poultry house in each of these 20+ locations and as long as these households (primarily widows, orphans, child-headed households, abandoned women, etc.) can properly manage them, they will be able to generate as much as $70-80 in personal income per month. While that may not sound like much to us, in an economy where the vast majority of people survive on $1-$2 per day, this is a hugely significant part-time job! So we are confident this project can not only benefit our seminary efforts, but can even help develop the local economy. We are praying the new IMB couple who comes to oversee this agri-business initiative will also be able to utilize this platform for evangelism and church planting in this underserved area.

Having just begun this project, we are more convinced now than ever that the way forward for community and economic development in Zimbabwe and the whole of Africa is through sustainability projects, not simply through aid. Of course, donations and support are critical to the work we do, but more of these need to be invested strategically not simply dispersed to meet direct needs. Because of this one simple project, a seminary that was once squeaking along with only 3 paid students out of a student body of 15 will, this semester, have around 26 full-time students who will each be 100% fully funded. In addition, a community with little-to-no employment opportunities will see an influx of 20+ small businesses that will provide income for individual households and, in turn, stimulate the local economy.

And none of this is even to mention the significant spiritual good accomplished by initiating development projects like this. By seeking to restore individuals and communities to a place where they can provide for themselves and their families through God-glorifying, image-bearing, and soul-dignifying work, we feel we are adorning the Gospel of the Kingdom that we preach and teach with visible and tangible “signs” of what the Kingdom of God on earth was intended to (and someday will again!) look like. So as we begin the process of harvesting, packaging, and marketing our poultry products here in the Zimbabwe market places for the glory of God under the logo “Umambo Farm,” please join us in praying what will be the the tag-line of our logo– “Umambo ngauuye,” (trans. “Let thy Kingdom come.”).

Moore Family Christmas Letter 2017

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2017. How can it simultaneously be the fastest and the longest year ever?! 2017 has been spent attempting to learn a tribal language called Shona, working on trying to get a seminary above water, giving strangers rides to town, driving bumpy dirt roads, and not blinking when the power shuts off. It’s amazing how what once might have seemed strange is now the new normal. We only realize how strange our new “normal” is when teams visit and grown men scream like little girls over the spider that our 3 year old has affectionately named or when the table talk about the demon-possessed girl and witches who live down the road keeps our guests from being able to sleep…(sorry guys).

We have enjoyed exploring this place that’s been assigned as our home and are growing to love our neighbors more and more. There’s no denying that coming from a culture of instant gratification where the customer is always right to a culture where customer service is virtually non-existent and the saying “Americans have the watches, but Africans have the time,” couldn’t be more true, has been a frustrating and sanctifying process. But we are learning to appreciate this way of life and are growing in admiration for the resilience and contentment of these amazing people, most of whom have never known any of the luxuries that we often feel so entitled to.

I personally don’t like using the word missionary. And in 2 years I find that I’ve seldom used it because somewhere along the line, this word has somehow become a title associated with strength, spiritual distinction, and a praise that we’ve never felt worthy of having bestowed upon us. After 2 years of being “missionaries” we can’t speak for all m’s, but we’ve never felt more dependent on the church, more needy of prayers/support, or more desperate for grace from both God and men. Strength is the last word we would use to describe how we feel. Instead we feel as though, in many ways, we’ve been stripped naked in a field with nothing to hide behind…nothing except the one reason we are here in Africa…Jesus who clothes us in His righteousness. And its only when we face our weakness that we find encouragement in the truth that His strength is perfected in our weakness. He’s not surprised to find out we can do nothing apart from Him and His body.

When we are missing home and feeling like fish out of water, we are comforted by our Savior who left His home in heaven to come live in a foreign land so that God and sinners (like us) could be reconciled. I imagine what life must have been like for Him, being born in a barn to an unwed mother. He was never welcome. He was despised and rejected by those who had been created to worship Him. He is the One who was always expected to meet the needs of others while rarely having anyone notice His. He was the most broken man to ever walk the earth, yet the only one unbroken by sin. It takes an unparalleled wholeness to love with such reckless abandon. This is why He is the only one who fully met God’s standard for loving others.

The humility of this King, who laid down equality with God and all His entitlements to come and make himself nothing by serving those who should be serving Him, is nothing short of breathtaking. I imagine Him walking among the least of these…meeting them at the well, eating on their dirt floors, holding and healing their sick children…What an amazing picture of a compassionate King who LOVES His people. As the rightful owner of every earthly possession and word of praise, He’s completely unimpressed by the status granted by men. People have value to Him because He made them in His image, not because of an “image” they’ve crafted before fellow creatures.

As we co-labor with Zimbabwean believers to “Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born….” We are increasingly thankful for the opportunity to be here in this place and for Nick to use his gift of teaching to help equip believers who have many different gifts—gifts like languages, faith, and evangelism. Together with those who give and pray for us stateside and with our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters, we form a full body that has been commissioned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. It has become increasingly clear to us that we will need the gifting of this entire body if we ever hope to fulfill the great commission.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are excited to see how the Spirit is working and how He plans to use this seminary to train laborers for the harvest field. Of course, we greatly miss the lights, smells, and sounds of Christmas. But Christmas has never meant more to us than it does now. The lyrics of all the songs have come to life. We’ve experienced His grace and patience on another level and this motivates us to share His goodness with fellow sinners who have yet to find His forgiveness. We’ve seen Him adopt orphans, restore broken marriages, liberate alcoholics, and empower weary saints. We’ve felt Him patiently correct, lovingly comfort, and generously give to us as He fulfills His promise to be with us always. We are watching His Kingdom come to be on earth as it is in Heaven as His word transforms hearts and brings glimpses of peace on earth with every changed heart. Every year when I write this letter, I wonder about what He has written into our story for the next. But whatever is to come, one thing is certain—He is faithful.

Merry Christmas from Zim,

Nick, Kyndra, Jake, Jimmy, Libby, Phia, Kate, Juliet, and Johnny Moore

If you’re interested in the tradition of individual updates on the Moore crew, you’ll find them below:

IMG_2111I’ve been busy juggling language learning with life in Zim. Nick and I just passed our last language evaluation 20 December! Thank you for praying. It’s truly miraculous to see how He helped us get here. I can remember having to practice over and over just to say good morning! I’ve enjoyed learning to cook more creatively and one of my greatest joys in this life is hosting teams/Individuals who come to serve alongside us. I’ve een busy keeping kids alive while prepping to start homeschool mid-January. I’m looking forward to having more time and flexibility to have the kids on mission with us. I’ve struggled to find my place here as this is the first time since being a Mom that I’ve had responsibilities in addition to motherhood and, to be completely honest, I’ve lost balance a few times and forgotten to make my home priority. I’m thankful for how the Spirit continues to expose my sin issues. It’s been painful but amazing to be assured that He knows the truth about me, but loves me anyway.

IMG_9957 2Jake (12) has had a harder time adjusting to life in Zim. After struggling to connect with him we had several people mention that we may need to have him evaluated. He was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Since the diagnosis, we are now able to understand him in ways we never have before. We have been given a new perspective about his quirky sense of humor, random fact sharing, and solo dance parties. He’s been studying New Testament Greek and has a deep interest in the book of Revelation. He uses words sometimes that I’ve literally had to google to find the definition. He’s been asking for a foghorn and “those shoes that turn into skates…” He refuses to admit that he found those on a list of most annoying gifts to ask your parents for.

IMG_9604 2Jimmy (11) has continued to foster a love for music. He’s a natural musician and has picked up guitar extremely fast. He’s written a couple songs, one of which he played in his school’s talent show and was recognized by a local musician as the best act of the show. He’s witty and clever. He and Jake can both quote every line in every movie they’ve ever seen…they’re pretty proud of this fact. And, yes, it’s just as annoying as it sounds. He’s 11 going on 18 and is almost daily trying to convince me that his maturity level is ready for freedoms that he is most definitely not ready for. No Jimmy, you cannot ride 30 miles to town on your bike or watch “5 nights at Freddy’s”…EVER, it’s NEVER gonna be a yes. Gotta give him credit for trying… Lately, he’s been asking for a ukelele, “you know, like a little guitar…”

IMG_9882Libby (9) is really growing up. She’s still a Daddy’s girl and loves taking selfies with him. Her love for babies has only grown and she still asks to hold every one she sees. She loves going with me to visit in the village and she is eager to see and meet needs. She’s quite the comedian and enjoys making videos on the iPad that could give Ellen a run for her money. My favorites are her workout videos where she recruits Phia to be her punching bag example of what not to do. Libby wants her own room for Christmas…cute, huh?

IMG_9842-1 (dragged)Sophia (8) is our little tree hugger. She says things like, “Why can’t we just have peace and stuff?” She’s always asking if the things we do are safe for the environment. She too is eager to help our neighbors and is the first to volunteer when I need something done. She is hoping to start her own little garden plot and learn how to live off the land, she says she can share her food. I’m bracing myself for when she starts growing armpit hair and refusing to flush the toilet to conserve water. I’ve often wondered if maybe she was switched at birth and there’s a mellow hippie somewhere wondering how she ended up with a wild, opinionated little blonde. Her request for Christmas was world peace, just kidding…she wants “books about nature…and stuff.”

IMG_0014Kate (6) is a dancing queen. She’s perceptive and smart. Just finished kindergarten, but is reading on a 3rd grade level. She loves gymnastics, dancing, and cooking. She’s extremely honest and it seems her filter may have been left out of the box. I think I’ve met my match…no denying this one’s mine. She keeps us on our toes and I’m saving up for a boxing ring for her teenage years but praying Jesus gets ahold of her before I need to. Kate asked for new jeans and a gymnastics bar to flip on.

IMG_0025Juliet (4) is one of the weirdest little people we know and I mean that in the nicest way. She’s like a little marshmallow. Very affectionate and has a contagious laugh, but an ear-piercing scream. She is always carrying a bag full of toys or random items from around the house. When something is missing, nine times out of ten we can find it in a stash-pile under her bed. We are trying to teach her about serving and when we give her chores she replies with things like, “but I would have to lift my arms…” or “but I’m just a baby…” It might be funny if I weren’t sincerely concerned about her ending up on “hoarders” one day. She’s got plenty of energy to boss others, (especially poor Johnny), jump on beds and obsess over one movie at a time. Juliet wants “Trolls and paw patrol things” for Christmas.

IMG_9897Johnny…what can I say about Johnny? He’s perfect. Haha! No, but really…he’s pretty close. He has turned me into one of those doting Moms who can’t see any wrong in their child. I’d never been one until this little guy. He randomly gives hugs and expresses how much he loves us, gives compliments freely, apologizes when he hurts someone…he earned the nickname “puppy boy” for a reason. I do think there’s something to the baby thing. He loves playing with bugs, taking walks, and hanging out with his siblings who he calls “the kids”. Johnny asked for “dinosaurs and cars…and trucks.”

IMG_5966Overall, the kids are doing well. Of course we have our days and moments of missing home, family, and friends. But each time this gives us an opportunity to be reminded of why God has us here and what our purpose is. I am praying that having them at home for school and serving alongside us will help foster in them a love for the people and even help them learn Shona! We are all really excited about the opportunity to help them find their place and calling in Zim. One of the hardest transitions here is the difference in church. We feel a void having left a church family who we lived life with. The kids especially struggle to feel like they belong in the church setting. But I am hopeful that being home and having the chance to make some friends around the seminary will help them build relationships with kids who attend the church near our home.

*not included: several trips to the ER, a few snakes and scorpions caught and killed, almost constant sicknesses, countless fights, tantrums, a perilous trek across three African countries and back, and various other forms of chaos.

 

Moore Family Christmas Letter 2016

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Christmas Day last year, we loaded up 3 boys, 4 girls, 36 bags (plus a little Tylenol) and we all boarded a plane with one-way tickets to Africa. We had no idea what the year would hold, but the One who held it all in His hands has shown himself faithful. As we’ve inevitably had mountains and valleys, highs and lows, each low has been lifted and each valley has been filled.

It’s been humbling to learn how to navigate life in another culture. We’ve both been in language class Monday-Friday for 3 hours a day then 2 hours per day in the community. It feels a lot like being a child again. Dependent on others for help, not knowing any of the social cues, where anything is, people laughing at you when you mispronounce words…some of you may be wondering how any of those things are new for me. Ha! Nick has been teaching some classes and working to help get things in order at the seminary. There are lots of exciting things the Lord is showing us He’s able to do and we are praying in faith that He will continue to do them.

We’ve laughed, cried, grieved, and rejoiced as we continue to part with life as it was and seek to embrace the “works he has prepared beforehand” for us (Ephesians 2:10).

The year has been challenging as parents, it would have been anyway because our kids are moving out of the stage where their opinions are somewhat entertaining and their gagging over vegetables is cute or funny. But add Africa into that mix and the stress level is magnified! The kids have enjoyed so many privileges as M-kids…safaris, traveling across Africa, sharing the gospel with people who have never heard it, killing a black mamba with hand made sling shots, playing in the villages, just to name a few…but they’ve also given up a lot. And those things aren’t always in the shadows of the cool stuff. I’ve cried with them about missing friends, family, and Chick-Fil-A (all comparable in our affections) but we always cry with hope. Because of Christmas we know that comfort isn’t far off. Our God is the God of all comfort who has promised to be with us always. He is a Father who hurts when His children hurt and rejoices when they rejoice. He is able to sympathize with the separation Christmas Day represents for us this year because Christmas is all about Him being separated from the Person He loves most. Christmas reminds us that God Himself was separated from His beloved Son for a short time in order that He wouldn’t have to be separated from us forever.

When I’m ugly-crying in my room for my kids missing friends and struggling to make new friends here, God has been faithful to remind me of the fact that He also sent his Son into a foreign land as a baby to watch Him live 33 years despised and rejected by those He came to save. Going into this year, I was eager to “model obedience” for our kids through a difficult transition. But I have been humbled to see this has meant pointing them beyond my failure to see our Savior who never failed.

Like that newborn baby in Bethlehem, this year has brought many feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, but like Him our strength has come from a Father who will stop at nothing until we are safely back with Him. We are praying this news of His steadfast love will sweep Zimbabwe and the world and that next year we will have masses of new brothers and sisters eager to celebrate the birthday of our older Brother who humbled Himself and made Himself nothing so we could enjoy the love of His perfect Father.

Thank you for walking with us, for giving so we can be here, and for praying so we can stay. We recognize we’ve only just begun this journey. And while we certainly miss the smells, sounds, and temperatures of Christmas as we have known it (and those things pale in comparison to missing our friends and family) we press on to win the prize to which we’ve been called and we look forward to being together again to celebrate at the finish line! Merriest of Christmases to you all.

Holding true to the tradition, here’s my little blurb on each of the kid’s. I sure do love them. Words and time prohibit me from articulating how proud I am of each one this year and how thankful I am for God’s grace toward them thus far:

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Jake just finished grade 5 (4th grade by US terms)…he played rugby this year and is still daydreaming about food in the states. Still goofy and fun-loving, and makes conversation with anyone who will listen. He got one of the few awards given at school for being “diligent in school work”. He apparently got my intelligence because I have to consistently explain to Nick what words in his vocabulary mean. Okay, maybe it’s the other way around. Someone who got to know Jake recently explained him as having a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. So we are staying busy trying to keep that Ferrari from running off the road and being totaled but instead admired for its value and rarity. Meanwhile, we will persist in turning down his frequent requests to receive weapons this Christmas.

Jimmy just finished grade 4 (3rd grade). He played rugby and swam on the swim team. He keeps us laughing with his wit and keeps us from being lazy with his early morning rises ready to start his day and knock out his to-do list. I can count on him to have the dogs and rabbits fed before I even get out of bed. He’s always been responsible and reliable. We are working on getting him into some kind of music lessons soon, maybe guitar or piano. Nick says he has something called “relative pitch” and is very musically inclined and has already written several songs. The last one was super weird, about a girl. It made me so uncomfortable I had to turn around while he sang it, but the effort was admirable. Hopefully I can grow up a little before they come to the dating/courting age. Jimmy also got an award in class for being “hardworking”. He takes himself a little too seriously sometimes and we are trying to help him admit that there are indeed many things he’s just not very good at, and that’s okay.

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Libby just finished grade 2 (1st grade). She has made all kinds of new friends. It has only been recently that she has begun to voice some frustrations with life here, but overall she has handled the transition really well. She’s obsessed with babies and makes the whole family stop so she can greet every one we walk by. When we have babies at our house, she loves to wear them on her back “like the Africans.” I told her if she really wants to be like an African she also needs to have about 100lbs of wood in her arms and a jug of water on her head. She responded, “Okay, I want to be an American who holds my baby like an African.” She got an award for being “reliable and helpful in class”. I wasn’t suprised by this because she’s so eager to help at home. Wait…what?! Glad to know she is listening after all. She’s “growing up” and asked for high heels for Christmas. I told her I’ll buy her a whole closet full and even a matching mini skirt…when/if she can beat me at arm wrestling.

Sophia just finished grade 1 (kindergarten). She loves to read and is reading better than any of the other kids were at this age. She has just kind of gone with the flow and doesn’t seem to think life is much different here than it was in Louisville. Not surprising as she’s never really been one for observing details. As long as she has proper sleep and enough to eat, she’s generally pretty pleasant and happy. Phia was given an award in class for “being compassionate”. She’s always willing to give up a toy, seat, or whatever is needed to “make peace.” She loves people and nature. The response to “Where is Phia?” is often “talking to that girl over there” or “playing with that bug.” She consistently eats more meat than anyone in the family while remaining skin and bones, clinching her stranglehold on the future title, “every man’s dream.”

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Kate gave preschool a shot and it proved to be just too many changes too quick. That’s a nice way of saying she was a monster those first few weeks. When we pulled her out of pre-K and let her stay home, she really started blossoming and being herself again. She’s my little buddy. She loves her baby brother and is always looking out for him. When she isn’t following me around asking questions about everything under the sun, She can be found standing on a table singing frozen songs, doing the robot (dance), or looking in a mirror talking to herself.

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Juliet will be 4 in January. She is independent and sneaky. I couldn’t count how many times we’ve caught her in her room with a bag of chips or the markers she isn’t supposed to have. It never fails if something is missing, Juliet has it stashed somewhere in a pile. We call her the bag lady because at any given moment she always has a bucket or bag full of random household items. She goes to our bathroom every morning and puts Nick’s cologne on because “it thmells good.” She hates having her hair brushed so it often looks like a Mrs. Doubtfire wig. She’s so quirky and cute that I can’t help but hold and kiss her, and she’s purrs like a cat when I do. I can’t help but wonder if she’s a bit like John the Baptist was as a child. And Nick says of all the kids, she’s the most like me…um, thanks?

Johnny was 2 in September and he has been a constant source of joy. We’ve had many days where thjngs seemed to be falling apart and then he’d walk in the room with a big smile on his face, “Hi mom. Hi Dad.” And as bad as we’d want to stay in our pity party or anger, he’d make it impossible to not smile. Sometimes we take him in our room just to talk and laugh at his answers. I asked him how he got so cute and he answered, “God did.” The kids asked him who he wants to marry when he gets older and he said “I’ll marry Mom.” He randomly breaks out in dance usually shaking his pointer fingers in the air. I mean, come on! Can you blame me that he’s my favorite?! (Did I just say that out loud?)

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The Hopes And Fears Of All The Years

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On our way to church a couple weeks ago, we came upon a car accident. There was nothing unusual about this accident. The cars didn’t look particularly more mangled than any other crashes I’d seen before. In fact, if it hadn’t been for one tragic detail, we would probably have just glanced over in curiosity and then gone on about our day. But this accident wasn’t like others I had seen. There, beneath the Zimbabwe sun, on the red-dirt-stained tar road, in a white sealed body bag lay a man or woman who woke up that morning not having any idea it would be their last. Where were they going? Maybe they were also on their way to church or perhaps coming home from the store. Do they have kids? Who might be waiting for them, wondering where they are? Tears begin to flow. I’m overwhelmed by the implications of what I’ve just seen. I’m instantly reminded how fragile life is and how small I am. But I’m also offended. After all, where were the emergency workers with makeshift walls to shield all of us from this uncomfortable reality- the reality that we are not in control and our lives are actually dependent on something bigger than us.

Since we have lived in Africa, my husband and I have been consistently amazed by the “freedom” that exists here to hurt oneself. Don’t expect to see any warning signs about the missing parts of the road up ahead or to have any boundary fences to keep you from just walking right over and falling over a cliff. Swim at your own risk and only wear a seatbelt if you want while you drive on roads that have no clearly painted lines. It’s likely if you’re reading this from the US, you’ve probably never really considered all the warnings signs that are everywhere around you, because it’s all you’ve ever known. Before living here, I didn’t either. “Slippery when wet,” “keep out of reach of children,” “stay right except to pass,” “STOP,” “toxic if ingested,” “does not protect from UV rays.” What about all the boundaries, barriers, and fences, extensive instructions, warnings, disclaimers, vaccinations…everywhere we look the world is screaming at us “stay safe! You’re in danger!”

From this side of the ocean it is easier now for me to recognize how we constantly seek to orchestrate our lives around avoiding danger. We believe that if we stay between the lines, avoid certain foods, live by the rules, we can be “in control.” We can be “safe.” And of course this works just fine, until we hear about the healthy, athletic dad of three who suddenly and unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. Or when the tiny heart of a baby laid in bed by his loving mother’s hands simply stops beating as he sleeps in his clean, cozy crib. “But…he was safe! How did this happen? They lived by all the rules! They checked all the boxes!” We hear almost daily about masses of people dying somewhere overseas, but if we’re honest it doesn’t really shock us that much. Why? Because of course they died, they aren’t “safe.” They don’t follow the same rules we follow. They don’t live with the same protections.

What an illusion we entertain! We walk around in bodies that require miraculously intricate order to function, controlled by brains that could instantly be turned to mush by the even smallest puncture in a skull that is merely a fraction of an inch thick, propped up by skeletons that can be broken into pieces simply by falling, covered up and “protected” by skin that can rip, tear, burn, and even grow cancer! And yet we think that somehow, someway, if we just keep all the right rules and standards, we can avoid disaster.

How do we so easily ignore the fact that we are dust? Could it be that “you will not surely die…” Is still being whispered into our ears? Could it be the reason we don’t like hearing about death (the reason I was so offended at the sight on the side of the road that day) is because it reminds us that our “control” and “safety” is an illusion. Contemplating the horrifying reality that one day there will be a gravestone with our own birth and death dates on it, and the same goes for everyone we know and love, is disturbing. So we cling to our safety nets. We strive to keep our lives as perfectly “between the lines” as possible. And we are paralyzed or, as the author of Hebrews says, “subject to lifelong slavery” through our fear of death (2:15).

All these fears seem so normal, just part of life. But have you ever thought about the strangeness of these warnings and precautions? After all, why do we need to protect ourselves from things like other drivers, the sun, and diseases? There is a story behind this. Death is not simply a part of life, it is an enemy to be defeated. We were not designed to die or to live in fear. Our Creator actually made us to live forever in fellowship with Him. He is perfect and He made us in His image…without wrinkle or blemish, pain (physical or emotional). He created us “very good.”

So what happened? What changed? The Creator didn’t of course. But we did. We changed from sinless to sinful. The first transgression and its aftermath broke our fellowship with a Holy God because God hates sin. This isn’t because God is mean and judgmental, but because He is love. Because He is love He must hate the sin that has brought such suffering to His children. He must hate that which causes babies to die, entire countries of His image-bearers to starve, and hearts that He fashioned to experience the fullness of joy to be broken. God hates sin. He hates our sin. He hates it so much that He has gone to war against it. He has judged it. And yet, He has found a way to hate and judge our sin while also showing us mercy. By sending His Son into the world not to condemn or judge it, but to give His life as a ransom for it, God provided a way for us to be saved from the “wages” of our sin. Because of His mercy, God doesn’t desire to judge us for our sin, He wants us to begin to hate it like He does. He wants to give us power to see it for what it is and to receive forgiveness when we confess it and turn away from it.

God’s perfect creation was compromised when those He created to find their ultimate joy and satisfaction in Him chose inferior and fleeting pleasures instead. Animals started growing fangs and claws, white blood cells started being overwhelmed by intruders, hairs started turning gray, husbands starting losing interest in their suitable helpers. This isn’t some fairytale. It is history. It is our history in fact and it is the only story that makes sense of who we are, where we came from, what our purpose is, and where all of this is headed. Any other attempt to explain all the pain, suffering, and death around us will simply leave us wanting, terrified, and well, enslaved. Our aging and dying bodies groan for a better hope.

That hope comes to us in Christmas! Unfortunately, this time of year we are often numbed to the very truths that ought to provide the peace we are looking for. We see nice phrases in tinsel and lights like, “Son of God,” “born of a virgin,” “Savior,” “Lamb of God” and yet we have reduced such profound truths to nice slogans. But have you thought about what made this birth so special? What made this baby unique? As we celebrate the incarnation we tend to emphasize the things that made Jesus “like” us. But think for a moment about what made Jesus different. While every human being in history has done whatever was in their power to avoid death, what gave this One the audacity to follow His Father’s voice straight into death? It is because He knew the only power death has is sin. So Jesus didn’t fear death, because He had none of that. He knew death had no hold on him. Because He would never sin, He would never be separated from God. He knew that when He cried out to His Father, He would always be heard. And that includes from the grave. Three days after His crucifixion, even as Christ lay in death’s strong bonds, His Father heard His cries and raised Him up to a glory that is far better than any He could find on earth.

Apart from Jesus, our sin separates us from God, so when we die our cries for resurrection go unheard. Our fellowship with God is broken. But Jesus came to this earth and identified with us so that we might claim His victory as our own. And the good news is that God promises to hear and receive anyone who trusts in His Son. As Jesus is being stripped naked, mocked, and tortured on a cross, the soldiers ask a valid question- if He is really the Son of God, why didn’t He do whatever was in His power to be delivered from death? Come to think of it, why didn’t He since that is the logical thing to do? The Scriptures answer this question for us. He endured the cross and despised its shame so that our sin would be forgiven and our death conquered. The only One who wasn’t owed the wages of sin was be sent to receive the wages we were owed for ours. This One did not come to boast or be served, He came to save all who would acknowledge their imperfection and their need to be forgiven.

So let me ask, do you ever ignore the red light or the STOP sign? How many mothers let their children swim unattended at a pool with a “no lifeguard” sign? Hopefully we recognize the wisdom in heeding such warnings. But even as we do, are we also careful to heed the warnings that are even greater? After all, what good would it do for someone to abide by all the rules and warnings to protect their life here and now, but neglect to seriously heed the warnings in scripture which ensure their eternity is safe. “Whoever loves His life will lose it…” Could it be that sometimes the “wisdom” we see in focusing all our attention on temporary safety and protection now is actually “foolishness” as it is driven by self-preservation for fear of death and holds no value for eternity?

After all, how can we tell people to follow a Savior who calls us to “take up a cross” if we ourselves are paralyzed by fear of hardships and death in this life? We will only be free to obey the commands in scripture when we have the confidence of knowing death has no hold on us. Satan seeks to appeal to our pride and convince us that everything we need to live is not dependent upon God, but on watching our cholesterol or maintaining a gym membership. “Sell your soul and I’ll make sure you never go hungry. Bow to me and I’ll make sure no bones get broken. Just worship and serve me and I’ll make sure you get everything you want out of life.” Sound familiar? The same weapon Jesus used to battle these lies is one we must use…faith in God’s promises. We must believe that our true and lasting safety and provision is not here, but in the future. When Satan attempts to make us doubt God’s promises by offering empty and false assurance, his deceptions will only be disarmed by the truth of God’s promises.

These are the truths we have had to remember when criticized for exposing our kids to the danger of moving them to Africa. Have we ever considered the offense it is to God when we act as if safety is found in a location? Our security is not in a place, its in a person and that person has promised to be with us always. And whether our kids are called to international missions or the suburbs of Louisville, we aren’t training them for life in a country club in either setting, we are training them for a life of war on a dangerous battlefield. Our willingness to take our kids away from perceived safety is often mistaken for us not loving them as much as other parents. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The love God has for them is too deep to let the fear of death rob them of life. He loves them too much to give them the world, so why would we want to? I don’t want their hope to be in this sin-infested place, because this is where we are in danger. Instead I pray they will find a refuge in Him and His coming Kingdom. The truth is my kids, my husband, and I are all in the process of dying, But God wants to share with us His perfect Kingdom where there will be no tears or struggle, no growling bellies or abandoned children. He is inviting us into a world that will be perfect because it will have a perfect King who loves, serves, and fights for His people. This is the future I am working to point my children toward and the “safety” I desire for them.

Satan isn’t whispering anymore. He’s shamelessly shouting from the rooftops and boasting about all those he has in bondage through fear of death. But Jesus was born to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb 2:15). Maybe we would find it easier to follow Him to resurrection and eternal pleasure if we weren’t so distracted and paralyzed by all the warning signs of danger in the wilderness. Of course I am not saying we should just throw caution to the wind and live like fools. But I am saying there is something that should be more frightening to us than following our Father’s voice past the “danger ahead” sign. And that is the thought of disobeying His voice and then one day calling out to Him to deliver us from the death all our planning and caution failed to deliver us from and hearing the reply, “depart from me I never knew you…” (Matt 7:23). If we have truly received the Spirit of adoption as sons through Whom we can cry “Abba! Father!” and know we are heard, we need not fear either scenario. So let’s march forward with our hope in a newborn baby who came to the little town of Bethlehem and met face to face with the fears brought by all the years of suffering, sorrow, and death in the human race, and silenced them all with the hope of a cross and an empty tomb!

Because You’ve Asked

So many of you have kept in touch with us and often your first question is, “how are the kids adjusting?” First of all, thank you for that! Secondly, here is a brief update on how things are going with them.

Libby and Phia are still doing great and loving school. They are doing ballet again. They are both learning a lot and are very responsible doing their homework, making their own lunches, and keeping track of their things. Culturally there is a thing called a “lobola” here, it’s like a dowry so the parents of the bride make a list that the groom is expected to provide before they consent to the marriage. Um, yea…I’d want an island somewhere near the Maldives and “1 meelion” cows for each of them. Maybe I’m biased but they are rocking this transition and showing a lot of resilience.

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The girls modeling their makeup during “Girls’ Night”

Phia loves catching creatures and I told her not to catch the bright ones because God made them bright to warn us (I might have made that up, but I’ve always used it as a rule of thumb). She said, “That’s silly. Why didn’t he just write ‘Don’t touch?” So not only is she responsible, she’s smarter than God. A real catch.

The boys are having a harder time, which is expected of older children. They begged me over break to homeschool them and not make them go back. They pulled my mom-heartstrings and had me looking into the option. After talking with Donna my mentor on the field, I realized they are in the peak of “culture shock” and don’t need to be coddled or “saved” from it, but taught how to handle it. We had conversations with them about how following Jesus will never be easy, but if we want to follow Him we have to push thru the hard spots and persevere, and by faith know that joy will follow. We all agreed that the Lord wants them where they are at least in this season and we are working to see the blessings in His plan. Swimming is the required sport this term, so they’re doing well in that and they joined the chess team. Hold up. Did I just say my sons are on the chess team? So that is happening…. They seem to be enjoying it and making friends. I’ve been really proud of them and their attitudes since starting this term. The Lord is helping them to keep perspective and they are learning so much about life.

 

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The three littles are loving life. Jumping on the trampoline, watching cartoons, eating maputi, and playing with the dogs and our new bunnies, Peter and Cupcake…and “Man”, that’s the free baby bunny that Cupcake was pregnant with when we got her and we didn’t know it. He fits in my palm, so the boys thought it would be funny to name him “Man”. They laugh every time they say it. Johnny turned 2 on Sept 9, so we sang him happy Birthday and had cake and ice cream.

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While the seminary students were slashing, they found some SWINGS!!

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And a SLIDE!!!

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Johnny sharing his cereal with Leia

Jimmy turned 10 on Sept 15. We traditionally make a bigger deal out of the 5th and 10th birthdays, so it was really sad for me when I asked Jimmy what kind of party he wanted to do and he said he didn’t have any friends to invite. I know, are you crying yet bc I am. So instead I took him and Jake camping at Antelope Park and made it a special night. We had a lot of fun. They aren’t nearly as obnoxious when they don’t have little sisters around to annoy or be annoyed by.

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10!!!

We are learning new ways of doing things and embracing new traditions. Halloween is coming up and there obviously isn’t anywhere to Trick or Treat here so we will just have to find another way to worship Satan I guess (Kidding!). We will definitely miss dressing up and getting loads of free candy from the neighbors… All that to say, things are good. We like it here. We’ve even grown to crave the one local fast-food restaurant…Chicken Inn. God is so good. He has done and will do far more than we could ever ask or think. He shows Himself faithful and worthy to be trusted time and time again.

Please continue to pray as they continue to adjust.

 

What Is A TCK?

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Johnny getting one of the only “baths” taken during our stay in rural Mberengwa

In our company, you learn to use acronymns and LOTS of them. One of the many acronyms we have been introduced to is TCK which stands for Third Culture Kid. If you’re like us, at first glance this phrase may sound a little weird, but to break it down here’s the basic idea: a “third culture kid” is a kid who doesn’t really fit in with the culture he lives in (because he is not from there) but he also doesn’t really fit in anymore with the culture he came from (because of his whole new lifestyle and experiences), thus they are “third culture kids” because their life is like being in a whole new culture of their own.

As you can imagine, bringing seven kids to the field has meant we have seen and used the phrase TCK more than we care to count. With seven TCKs to help transition, we have spent quite a lot of time thinking, praying, and planning for their new lives here. So here’s a bit of an update on how that is going (for the billions who have asked :):

Jake has struggled to fit in. As many of you know he’s just a different kid, even when in the states, so fitting in has never been easy. But he has been doing better and is doing awesome academically. He is literally setting the curve in his classes and his teacher is sending students to him to get the answers. He is growing like a weed, in about 6 inches he’ll be as tall as me. He was not picked for the first traveling rugby match, which was really hard for him because he worked so hard and did all the conditioning. After I (Kyndra) egged the coaches house and hacked his email (only joking), we encouraged Jake to stay on the team and continue working hard and earn his spot. He came home super excited today saying the coach told him to plan to play in the next game. We are proud of him for sticking it out. He’s been having fun riding his bike around seminary. Even though the tires pop about every 2 days from rocks and thorns. Nick should open a bike repair shop as he’s becoming quite the handy man.

Jimmy has his day/moments of struggle, but overall is doing great. He made the rugby team and is having fun learning the game. He’s earned the merit badge at school twice and the headmaster wanted to move him up to the accelerated classes, but we declined that move for this year. We don’t want to put too much on him too quickly knowing we are still in transition. We are really proud of how well he’s adjusting.

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The boys absolutely loving the cool gear sent to them from the US with the Greenwells

Libby is an answered prayer. Of all the kids, I was most worried about her and she is probably the one who is doing the best. She is miss congeniality. She has a new best friend every day (we might need to talk about loyalty) and can literally imitate her African friends as if she were one of them. She is just rolling with the punches and always ready and happy to go to school.,

Phia is doing great and has jumped right in. She is more sensitive than the others, so she has come home with “hurt feelings” a few times. Accordingly, I’ve taught her how to punch people in the throat and watch them gasp for air :). She’s an exceptional reader, reading far better than any of the others were at her age. It’s hilarious to listen to her read because she adds the teacher’s African accent to her words without even realizing she is doing it. She has really surprised us with her strength and resilience.

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As mentioned above, Libby and Phia have had NO problem making new friends!

Kate has probably struggled the most. She has cried several nights wanting to “go back to Kentucky” and when we pray that’s usually one of her requests. We were talking about heaven the other night and she asked if it would be like Kentucky. Then she asked if Africans would be there because she didn’t want them to be (not sure how she missed that being the whole reason we are here???). We ended up taking her out of pre-school and she is now staying home with the little kids. She has been so much better since doing that. I think school was just just one too many changes for her all at once.

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The girls in one of their favorite things ever- the cedar Aspen house from Mimi that came in the shipping crate way earlier than expected

Juliet and Johnny are little rockstars. They are as happy as ever and making us smile no matter what the day looked like or what mood we are in. I’m coming home from language learning Shona words from them because our helper speaks Shona to them. It might be the sweetest thing in the world to hear Johnny say “tatenda” instead of “thank you”. The other day, Juliet asked for a kleenex bc she had “madziwa”. They are my favorites (did I say that out loud?).

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Johnny LOVES helping our gardener David (we simply call him ‘Baba’)

Thank you so much for praying for our kids. I know we have made this a regular prayer request, but that’s only because its been one of the largest things to consider in our mission. TCKs are awesome. If you know one, you should get to know them better as they are amazing people. With your continued prayer, we are confident that God will mold and shape a small army of well-armed and ready TCKs, all with the last name Moore! Keep up the good work!

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This Is My Commandment

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We recently returned from a weekend at “Easter Camp 2016” in a nearby town called Kadoma. Lest you start conjuring up images of a bunny-themed Summer Camp, Easter Camp is actually an annual tradition in Southern Africa during which local churches either host themselves or gather (usually at a camp-like retreat center) with other local churches for an entire weekend (Thursday-Sunday) of worship, fellowship, prayer, and Bible Study. This was our first Easter in Zimbabwe and thus our first exposure to Easter Camp, and we can now testify to what a blessing this kind of intentional and concerted time of devotion over the Easter holiday can be.

One of the biggest blessings for me (Nick) was being able to share the preaching/teaching load with my supervisor, mentor, boss man, and all-around missionary kingpin Gregg Fort (that’s the title he requires I use :)). As we planned our teaching programme (note the Anglicized spelling, I’m becoming more African daily!) we decided to walk through the Easter narrative chronologically with our sermons. In doing so, it fell to me to preach on the passage known as the “Upper Room Discourse.” This discourse is found in John chapters 13-17 and takes place on the night Jesus is betrayed and handed over for crucifixion. Since this is the last bit of teaching Jesus does before heading to the Garden of Gethsemane and then the cross, I thought it likely that this discourse may contain some important themes. And boy was I right!

As I looked through this passage to analyze its structure, I (with the help of a few commentators) came to see a clear pattern in the text. Some might refer to it as a “chiasm,” but one commentator suggested the more accessible illustration of a target featuring a “bullseye” with concentric rings around it. Whichever image one chooses to use in their thinking, what is undoubtedly clear is that the central passage of this “Upper Room Discourse” is John 15:1-25. And I would argue that the central message of this central passage comes in verse 12, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” In John 1-12, John hangs his narrative on the fenceposts of “the Passover.” We see at least 3 (possibly 4) different Passover feasts in these chapters: John 2, 5(?), 6, & 11. It is no surprise then that when John begins the second half of his book, he chooses to start in the Upper Room during (you guessed it!) the Passover. It’s as though John is presenting Jesus as a New Moses leading His people in a New Passover in preparation for a New Exodus (cf. Lk 9:31). But before this Exodus happens, Jesus (like Moses) delivers a sermon (Deuteronomy anyone?) to guide His people during their wilderness wanderings. And at the center of this sermon, He gives a “commandment.” No, not 10 commandments, not 613 commandments, but one commandment- “…love one another.”

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 How will the world see the glory of God in this His new people? Jesus says, “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). How will this new people adhere to all the Law and Prophets which came before them? Jesus says “You shall love the Lord your God…and…you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40). As Paul will later say, “love is the fulfilling of the Law” (Rom 13:10). If this commandment is what Jesus chose to make the center of His last sermon prior to the cross and if this is what He says actually summarizes the entirety of the Old Testament, we would do well to consider how this “love” is meant to play itself out.

I normally don’t post exegetical discussions like this on the blog (honest, check and see), but I was compelled to do so after reading a recent post by my friend David Hare. In this post, David asks and answers the question “What is the hardest part about being a missionary?” The answer he gives is not (as one might expect) the separation from family, isolation from home culture, change in climate, sickness, insects, snakes, etc. The answer he gives is simply, “the people.” Theologically we know that wherever human beings are, sin exists. And wherever sin exists, there will be conflict (James 4:1). But nowhere do we see this more clearly than in Gospel ministry. After all, the goal of Gospel ministry is to gather a group of sinful people and shepherd them through sanctification to become a unified people set apart for God’s glory! As Hare points out, trying to bring sinners together in this way is ALWAYS going to be challenging, but there are particular nuances to this difficulty when doing so across cultural lines.

Please don’t read me as saying that some cultures are inherently more sinful than others and thus more difficult to minister among. I am not saying the sins of other cultures are more, but simply that they are different than the sins of the missionary’s home culture, and thus more difficult for the missionary to adapt to and address. As human beings, we say we naturally prefer to group ourselves among those with whom “we have the most in common.” Often we assume this means the people who are interested in or enjoy the same things as us. This may be partially true, but I think at least one of the reasons we group ourselves the way we do is because we prefer to be around those whose sin patterns are more “acceptable” to us. And the reason these sin patterns are more “acceptable” to us is because they are most closely aligned with our own. I won’t belabor this point, but would simply point out that this is likely the reason we have so much division along racial, economic, generational, and even niche (read cowboy, hipster, biker, traditional, etc.) lines in our churches.

When you cross cultures to engage in ministry, however, these types of cultural dividing lines are exacerbated. Sure, the freshman missionary inevitably goes through a period of romanticization (which we have just recently finished). The sentiment is, “Ah, these people are so simple, pleasant, joyful, thankful, and welcoming, etc.” Well of course they seem that way—as does anything new for the first few weeks! But what happens when you settle in among these people to begin doing ministry and life together? This is when the cultural divisions really begin to show themselves. And while I do not have the level of insight or experience my friend David has, as we have only been on the field for a few months now, I can I can testify along with him that this is one-hundred percent, without a doubt, the most difficult part of being a missionary.

All this to say, our family has officially entered into the well-known phase of missionary life known as “culture shock.” While this is the most commonly used term, I think the term “culture fatigue” is probably more accurate, as there is little that actually “shocks”me about the culture or its customs. What the culture does do, however, is simply wear me out! Its not the newness or surprising nature of how things are done here that affects me, it’s the fact that it is so deeply and consistently different! Any group of sinners is hard to engage with the Gospel. But this is especially true when that group’s pattern of sin is so far removed from my own. Again- not more sins, just different ones! Yet, it is in the face of these mounting divisions and frustrations that the Lord has kindly been reminding me of Jesus’ command to “love one another.”

In David’s post (which, again, I cannot recommend more highly) he addresses “why?” we ought to love one another. In what follows, I’d like to briefly address the “how?” from the structure of Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourse.” How do we love unloveable people? Particularly when the unlovely things about them are so different from our own unlovely things? I think the target structure emanating out from the “bullseye” passage gives us three answers to the question, “How?”

1. The Spirit Will Help You (14:25-31; 15:26-16:15)

The first concentric circle surrounding the command to “love” is filled with what is perhaps the most dense collection of teachings on the Holy Spirit in all of the Bible. Jesus says when the Spirit comes He will “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:26). He will “take what is mine and declare it to you” (16:14). He will not speak on His own authority, but “whatever He hears, He will speak” (16:13). Jesus says the Spirit will be with us as a continual teacher and reminder of the words Jesus spoke. And if the center of Jesus’ teaching (as it seems to be in this message) was “love,” it stands to reason that one of the chief things the Spirit comes to lead us in is “love.”

Small wonder, then, that Paul lists the first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit as “love,” (Gal 5:22). In fact, if you think about it, nearly all of these characteristics must be fleshed out in the context of community. One cannot “love” by oneself. The same is true for exercising patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, etc. These things describe the characteristics of those who are living in community while walking by the Spirit. Paul points out something similar in Ephesians 5:18ff and Colossians 3:12ff. While urging the churches to “put on” kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col 3:12) and to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21), he also provides the “how?” In Ephesians he says, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). In Colossians he says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16; cf. Jn 15:7). In short, this is not something that comes naturally to sinful people. If we are going to live in community with other sinners (especially those whose sins are different than ours), we must walk in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, Who alone can guide us in the path of peace and love.

The second “How?” Jesus gives in His “Upper Room Discourse” is…

2. The Father Will Reward You (14:1-14; 16:16-33)

The second concentric circle in the target surrounding the “bullseye” is yet another “infamous” passage about the reward awaiting those in Christ. Jesus tells His disciples prior to going to the cross “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14:2). He picks up the same promise of reward from the Father later in chapter 16 when He promises, “the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me” (16:27) and “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me…because I am going to the Father” (16:17). Jesus grounds His command to “love one another” not only in the reality that the Holy Spirit will be with us to help us, but also in the reality that the Father loves us and promises to give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name (16:23). Jesus speaks here of the future reward for those who have loved and believed in Him. And consistently, Jesus uses this future reward as an encouragement to “take heart” (16:33). How can we carry out the command to “love one another” in the midst of a world full of sinners? Because we know something better is coming!

The NT consistently ties commands to “love” and “unity” to the promise of Christ’s return. Hebrews 10:25 warns us not to neglect “to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In Romans 13, Paul urges us to “fulfill the Law” through “love” and grounds this command in the fact that “the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:10-11). Similarly, when Peter speaks of our awaiting the “new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13), he concludes by urging Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Pet 3:14). The consistent teaching of the NT is that our promise of future (and near!) reward ought to drive us to a present peace and unity as the people of God. After all, what sin can your brother commit against you that will have even the slightest significance five trillion years from now? Therefore, in light of the coming Kingdom, we must strive to “love one another.”

And finally, Jesus tell us that we are helped to love one another by the reality that…

3. The Son Serves You (13:1-38; 17:1-26)

The third concentric circle surrounding the central “bullseye” passage contains two of the most paradigmatic episodes in the Bible illustrating the ministry of Jesus to His people. In the first passage (13:1-38), Jesus physically acts out the servant posture He came to earth to assume (cf. Matt 20:28; Mk 10:45). When Jesus removes His outer garment and stoops to wash the feet of His disciples, this is a visual picture of the fact that He willingly refused to cling to His “equality with God” but rather emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7). This is the picture that lies behind His command to “wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14). Far from implementing a third “ordinance” for the church, Jesus is instead giving a much greater challenge- that we would imitate His example of serving one another out of love. Similarly, Paul takes up Jesus’ example of service as grounds for His command to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). The Son first serves as an example of His command to “love one another.”
The second way the Son serves to help us obey this command, however, is through prayer. In what is sometimes called the true “Lord’s Prayer” or the “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus intercedes on behalf of His disciples as well as those who would believe on account of their message (Jn 17:1-26). This prayer for His disciples can be broadly summarized under two requests: 1) that they may be sanctified by the truth (i.e. God’s word) (17:17), and 2) that they may be one (17:21, 22, 23). This sounds strikingly resonant with what we saw earlier regarding the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth, which leads us to love. Similarly, this resonates with what we saw in Paul regarding being filled with the Spirit (or “word of Christ”) as the grounds for putting on love, gentleness, meekness, humility, etc. The summary of this prayer, then, seems to be the same thing Jesus has already said the Spirit would accomplish—namely sanctifying us with the word to the end that “the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (17:26). The difference here is that we actually see JESUS praying these things for us! Don’t skip over that sentence. Jesus PRAYS these things for us! So not only does Jesus put this commandment at the center of His teaching and live out the quintessential example of obedience to this command for us to follow, The Righteous Man actually prays for us that these things would be so in our lives (cf. James 5:16).

I apologize that this post has become so lengthy, but I needed to review these truths for myself as much (or more!) than I hope some of you needed to hear them as well. I know it is easy when missionaries are sent to have an initial phase of engagement and interest followed by a phase in which they fade into the background of the thinking of those who send. I am writing this post to plead that you not allow the rope to slip on us now. Honestly, the early phase in which much interest and involvement is expressed is perhaps the period in which it is needed the least, as most missionaries are still “honeymooning” and experiencing the “romanticized” view of the culture. For us, it is now, when the “culture fatigue” is really starting to hit, that we most desperately need your prayers and encouragement as the people of God. And we don’t just need generic or token “prayers” or “encouragements,” we need to be encouraged and challenged anew by these words of Jesus. That the central message in His commandment given to guide us through this wilderness is so simply stated, but through such difficulty obeyed—“love one another!”

Pray for us as we seek to navigate this new culture and learn to truly “love” as Jesus loved!

 

 

 

Zvikomborero

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View from our front window looking out on one of the below-mentioned “frog chokers” and BTSZ campus in the background.

During our first week in Zim, the kids made fast friends with the neighbor children. The first day, their play consisted of helping round up the cattle that had gotten out of the kraal (pen) and bringing them back home. The next day, it was the goats (mbudzi) that had gotten loose. This whole time, we kept hearing the kids refer to one of their new friends as “Blessing,” which is not an uncommon name here in Zim. But the other day, the parents of “Blessing” came to visit and we told them how much our kids love playing with “Blessing.” A puzzled look came over their faces and at first we thought we had made the embarrassing mistake of assuming they were his parents when they weren’t. But suddenly came a knowing look and then one of laughter as they realized their son Zvikomborero had introduced himself as “Blessing” as this is a form of the Shona word for “Blessing.” At age 9 he was already acting as a cultural accommodator for our kids!

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Impromptu “snowball” fight between neighbor kids and the Moores. While our friends in KY were getting the cold stuff, we settled for cotton-foam balls in 72 degrees and sunny 🙂

This story reminds me of one of our first Sundays here in Zim when we visited FBC Mkoba. One of the hymns we sang that first Sunday was “Zvikomborero.” Of course I did not recognize the words right away, but as soon as I heard the tune I knew what we were singing about was “Showers of Blessing.” The words of this hymn rang all too loudly as we were singing in the midst of a drought the likes of which Zim has not seen since 1992, and even that one (many say) was not this bad. From the time we arrived (12/27), there had not been any rain since the prior week and there wouldn’t be any rain until just a week or so ago today. So there was well over a month with no rain at all. Zero. And this during “rainy season.” The result of this has been sparse vegetation, resulting in a downturn in crops as well as starving, ill, and dying livestock. Many farmers have been forced to sell emaciated cows for $50/head (less than 10% of value) simply to be able to recover some of their costs. For a primarily agrarian society, this is devastating. Never before had I had I heard believers cry out to God like many OT saints for rain to fall from heaven. It was gut wrenching to see something so essential to life, yet something we had largely simply taken for granted our entire lives (water) in such short supply.

But as in the OT, the Lord has heard our prayers and “opened the good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain” (Deut 28:12). In many parts of Zimbabwe we are now hearing reports of the rains beginning to fall, including almost daily gully-washers (or as our supervisor might say, “frog-chokers”) at our place in Gweru. Please do not hear me as saying all of our problems are solved, as many places are still without rain (particularly toward Tongaland) and still need much prayer. But I bring up this example as an illustration of how we are learning to trust our God who hears and answers prayer. Even when there seems to be no sign of rain, we can cry out to our God who hears from heaven and pours out Zvikomborero in His good timing. We have seen this to be true one-hundredfold since we have been here in Zim.

Time would fail me to list out all of the specific blessings and answers to prayer our God has provided since our arrival. I have actually tried to make a discipline of sitting down once a week and writing in my new journal (thanks MG!) these specific things so that in days to come we can look back and reflect on God’s faithfulness to us along the way. Because many of you have been praying with and for us for these things, I thought it would be appropriate to update you on some of them:

  1. Within our first week here, we received news that all of the seminary’s debts (to power company and all) had been paid up to date! This extraordinary development (dare I say, miracle?) enables us to move forward with many plans for getting the seminary back on track which would have been seriously hindered otherwise.
  2. We had asked for much prayer regarding the kids’ and specifically the dynamic that they would be the only whites in a somewhat racially charged environment. We are happy to report that, thus far, the schooling could not be going better. The kids are not only loving their new school, by all appearances the school seems to love them. They have seem to have been openly embraced into virtually every facet of the school from the academic side to the athletics side and even hearing about many friend eager to learn from our kids about “what things are like in America.”
  3. Another thing for which we had prayed and requested prayer was a trustworthy and competent helper for the younger kids and around the house. In God’s grace, our new helpers the Mandimutsiras (David and Miriam) have moved from Harare to Gweru and are now assisting us with these things. David will be helping with the lawn and general maintenance around the house, while Miriam will be watching Juliet and Johnny during our language study and also helping around the house cleaning, etc. The Mandimutsiras come with the highest recommendations both from our previous LCs on the field as well as some of our friends who now work with BGR, but who had employed David and Miriam during their years in Zim.
  4. I know we came here as cross-cultural missionaries, but any missionary who says they don’t find some satisfaction in discovering “westernish” comforts on the field, is lying! 🙂 Since being in Gweru, we have found SO many unexpected comforts we had originally assumed we would go without. Not all of them are entirely affordable, but it is still neat to know things like Coke Zero, Chicken filet sandwiches (nearly rivaling Chick-Fil-A…I said nearly), new release DVDs ($1 each), and even a NICE (by that I mean one of the best I’ve ever had) steak dinner are available if/when needed.
  5. Another thing many had told us to prepare for in coming to Africa was a sense of isolation from relationships. Coming from a church like Redemption Hill, where “Community” is one of our core values, we knew this would be a struggle for us. Obviously we realize there may still be some sense of this to come in the months/years ahead. But one huge answer to prayer has been an almost immediate sense of community through some new relationships we have been able to forge here. To make a long story short, God providentially placed some folks in our path within our first week who are our age, from a South African (more westernized) background, and who have 4 children the same ages as ours. This relationship has opened the door to several others like it and we look forward to building on this sense of community we already feel.

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The kids enjoying the evening air at our new Friday night treat, Chicken Inn. The Chicken filet sandwich here (or Chicken burger as they call it) is top notch!

I could literally go on and on about the things God has done and is doing to make our landing and deployment here as smooth and effective as possible, but as I said before, time would definitely fail me to do so adequately. So I will just leave you with this report- God is hearing and answering your prayers! “Zvikomborero!” Thank you for lifting these things up to the Father over the past months. The prayers you have prayed and are praying are paying big dividends for us on this side of the pond! So keep it up.

On that note, I would be remiss not to add some new things to your list 🙂 :

  1. Pray for the upcoming semester at BTSZ which starts on 22/2 (Feb 22). We have a completely new set of degree programs and curricula we will be launching with an entirely new administration and staff. A complete reboot, if you will. Pray that God blesses our efforts and prayers and that BTSZ makes some headway to becoming one of the premier theological training institutions in Southern Africa.
  2. Pray for plans we are in the process of making to bring training to 1000+ leaders across Zimbabwe in 2016. By God’s grace, and with a little help from our friends at World Hope Bible Institute, we will see pastors, deacons, and lay-leaders from each of our 20+ Baptist associations in Zimbabwe enroll in sound theological and practical ministry training this year.
  3. Continue to pray for our language study as we are moving steady along at 20+ hours per week in Shona. The good news is we are already finding ourselves understanding more of the daily conversations we hear. The bad news is, when people see us they almost always revert to English, so we are at a disadvantage not being fully “immersed.” Anyway, pray for continued progress and fluency. Supernatural ability would be much appreciated! 🙂
  4. Pray for a relationship to be forged deeply and quickly with our new helpers. For someone to virtually live with us and act as surrogate parents/caretakers is a huge step. Even more so when you have just met that person! Pray that we would have a beautiful gospel friendship with this brother and sister and that much fruit would come from our partnership.
  5. Pray for wisdom and discernment regarding meeting needs. The needs here are so overwhelming from the macro level (national food and water shortage) to the micro (untold beggars and orphans on the streets in genuine need). Please pray that we would have divine guidance as to the most wise way to engage poverty and need here in this country and to provide helping that really helps rather than hurts.

Blessings to you until next time!

 

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The family at one of our new favorite family places, Antelope Park. The sights (wild animals and nature) as well as the food at the restaurant are second to none in the world!