Monday, December 20, 2010

Summer Dreamin'

My missionary friends, the Haydens, once posted on their blog a video of their kids observing some bugs they bought in the market. They said this is what delights kids without TV. Well, my kids don't have TV either, and part of the time the result involves plenty of mayhem and fighting, but many sparks of GREAT creativity. They play outside a lot, do a lot of creative activities, and there are some frustrating moments of boredom at times. But, for the most part, they have done a lot of healthy playing and creating.

This video brought a smile to a weary mother's face today. It is an example of some of their creative moments playing outside, and it made me long for summer during today's snowstorm here in central Minnesota:


video

Friday, December 17, 2010

All I Have Is Christ

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life --Jordan Kauflin from another favorite Sovereign Grace song

If there is anything good that can come from loss it would be finding joy and fulfillment in Christ alone. I honestly cannot think of a better way of tearing down our idols than having them sovereignly taken away, leaving us to search for something deeper, longer lasting, and eternal. God has brought me to this place over and over again through difficult trials, and though they were extremely painful, I can rejoice over them.

My husband prayed a prayer once that has had eternal impact on us:
Lord, reduce me to Christ.
Were we prepared for the impact that would make on our lives? Jesus is the bread of life. If we have Jesus, we have everything we need. This Christmas season has been especially meaningful to me as I remember the significant gift of a Savior to save us from our sins. Praise God for Immanuel, God is with us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Family




It's Been TOO long..

I cannot believe it has been over a month since I have posted anything on this blog. When we were missionaries, I felt like I actually had something to write about. Now that life is pretty much about education (homeschool and Ethan's seminary classes) I have restricted my blogs to photos of the kids and Ethan's wonderful mission trip this past summer. Plus, in general, I do not have the gift of writing that my husband's first cousin once-removed has on hesowsshesews.com. Yet, I can follow Gretchen's blog and in some ways feel her writing reflects many aspects of my life as a mom.

Homeschooling has been going much better than I expected at the beginning of the year. Now that things are well organized and we are in the flow of our work, my anxiety level has decreased to pretty much nothing. This has its exceptions however, especially when one of my children becomes very frustrated with his work and does not wish to endure through a difficult assignment. After a strong emotional reaction from this child, I do begin to wonder if I am doing the right thing in teaching this child at home, however, when I see the progress the kids are making, I don't doubt it any longer. They truly are making excellent progress in all areas. Now, if we could see some progress in the area of maturity and character. May God be strong in my weakness of instructing my children in this area. Parenting has to be the hardest job ever.

The School of Choice at Adams School has been a fantastic addition to homeschooling. I have been so very thankful to God for this program. Mrs. Torkelson and Mrs. Heikes have about four times my energy and are tremendously gifted teachers and communicators. In many of the ways I lack in teaching, they make up for it in many wonderful creative ways. Last Tuesday, the families of the co-op got together for a Thanksgiving Party with authentic food and dress. Gretchen, Lizzy, and Amy dressed as pilgrim girls, and Peter John was an indian. I baked two huge 9 x 13 pans of pumpkin pie (in the bar form so that it could be served more easily), and the kids sang songs that Mrs. Torkelson had taught them.
Unfortunately, I missed the entire event due to the stomach flu that has been bothering me for several days now. The kids performed beautifully from what I could see of the video Ethan shot.

Ethan's classes are going well. He has been swamped with papers and tests for weeks now. He has barely had enough time to breathe, and the Thanksgving Break has given him time to finish some papers that were due. I am sure he is looking forward to the end of the semester coming up in a few weeks. God has so graciously provided our daily bread, and I am truly thankful for his goodness. Now that things are slowing down for him at work (his work is primarily seasonal), Ethan will probably need to find another part-time job over the dark winter months of December and January. Until then, we pray for God to continue to provide in the miraculous way He has done so far.

This past week we celebrated my mom's 60th birthday and a wonderful Thanksgving holiday. These two events have turned my mind and heart to God and His goodness and steadfast love that endures forever. Our memory verse for last week was from I Chronicles 16:34 "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever." God is good.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hi from a Busy Mom

Since starting homeschool this month, I have had very little time to do anything other than the basics. That is beginning to change as we have established more of a routine. My three oldest kids are in Kindergarten, Second, and Fourth Grade this year. I am teaching them at home three days a week, and they attend a Christian homeschool co-op that meets at Adams School twice a week. The School of Choice has been a great time for them to be in a classroom and interact with other children and teachers. They enjoy the hands-on, creative environment, and we are very thankful for this gift to our family.

Lizzy is really taking off with kindergarten! She is really learning her numbers and reading, so I am thrilled. I think she enjoys the other kids, and drawing too. The other kids are getting adjusted to this new experience. It is very hard some days, and at least every day we have our very difficult moments, but I am reminded of God's strength and help as I come to Him in faith. He gives grace every day. My two-and-a-half year old child, Amy, is taking this really well. She is so good at entertaining herself (hours of mom busy gardening, canning, and cleaning this summer put her in that position pretty easily) so she is taking my involvement with the other kids during homeschool very well. Plus, I get to spend some one-on-one time with her every Tuesday and Thursday when the other kids are in School. I just signed her up for the library story hour on Thursday mornings, so that will be fun for her.

Ethan is back at seminary for this year. He is a "senior" this year, meaning that if he completes the right number of credits, he will be able to graduate with a Master's in Theological Studies this upcoming spring. This is both thrilling and terrifying as we continue to seek an answer for a job for Ethan. This would be even more terrifying if we didn't have Jesus Christ in our lives. He has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." He has also said that "He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young." (Isaiah 40:11) We are held by a big God who will guide us into this next step. Until then, we have a LOT of work ahead of us this year. Meanwhile, the kids and I are studying Russian using Rosetta Stone and putting forth a language effort while we study many other things! It has been thrilling to study Early American History this year as well. We are enjoying studying Life Science with an emphasis on plants, as well as improving our skills in reading and math. My kids never cease to amaze me in their artistic, creative abilities, so they are continually pouring forth art projects. It has been fun in that way this year.

This weekend we are excited to renew friendships with Danny Foote, Olya Velichko, Jake and Anya Knotts. My children are staying with my parents, and Ethan and I will be meeting our missionary friends at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis, MN. These missionaries from Ukraine will be hosting a booth for In Lumine, their Ukrainian publishing company. Ethan will also be helping out with the Training Leaders International booth at the conference. Please pray for these ministries as they are impacting the world for Christ. I pray that they will make great connections with people and increase their financial support through this conference. May God's great name be proclaimed and His fame go throughout the earth.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! The name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

(Charles Wesley)


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Like no baby dedication I've ever seen

Darren Carlson (TLI Director), Josh, and I went to a Pentecostal church in Kibera on the last Sunday of our trip. Definitely a cultural experience. Loved it! Wish I could drum like those guys! I think we should add them to our worship team... what do you think?


video

Teaching Trip Summary

I returned from my trip to Kenya and Ukraine on the 17th and have been getting back in the groove of life, work, and family. Since our friends, family, and supporters are scattered all over the world I thought a blog post might be the best way to give a review of my trip, a summary of the things God did, and what I learned during my travels.

Africa


I traveled to Kenya with Training Leaders International (TLI) for ten days teaching and training church leaders and pastors in Nairobi. We worked with an Anglican evangelistic ministry called Church Army Africa and spent our first three days teaching lay leaders from the Anglican churches of Nairobi.

A Vicar (Anglican pastor) may serve 3-4 congregations, and so these men and women carry much of the load of ministry within their local parish. We talked through a Biblical Foundations curriculum from Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis (part of John Piper's church) which covered basic elements of systematic theology, Biblical interpretation, and Christ-centered life and ministry. Church Army produced a video about TLI's ministry and you can see us in action. I was sick the day they did the interviews and missed out on that, but you can see a few shots of me teaching and a number of my students appear in the video. It was a joy to serve them.

The next four days we spent in the slums of Nairobi. My teaching partner Josh and I went to Korogocho slum, one of the toughest in Nairobi. The conditions are difficult to describe: extreme poverty, mud houses, sewage ditches in the walking paths.

We also watched hundreds of adults and children picking through the vast city dump sorting trash to sell to recyclers for a few pennies.

Yet God's Church is here. We spent two days teaching at a training center for pastors who live and serve here. After our sessions we were invited to visit the churches and homes of the pastors. We prayed for blessing on their homes, families, and ministries, and we received their hospitality: a bottle of cold water in Jesus' name. These were amazing men who love the Lord, His word, and His Church. It was a blessing to serve them.


This is the view of the church in Kibera slum where we went on our last Sunday. The church is the bulding on the left with the flag. I am standing on a log bridge over an open sewer that runs alongside the church and down through the slum.

Ukraine

From Nairobi I flew to Kiev where I was met by my friend Vlad and his wife Zhanna who now serve the church in Priluki where we used to live.


They re-did the central plaza in Priluki with nice new paving brick and upgraded the Lenin statue from his old bronze green to a shiny coat of gold paint. Hmmm.

I spent five days in Priluki and it was great to be back "home" and to see our church family again. I gave some lectures on the historical background and context of the New Testament and spent some time in personal ministry...and enjoying Ukrainian hospitality and food.

My Friend Max invited me to his dacha Saturday.
His wife Tanya made homemade Pelmeni. Yum Yum Yum!

Then I spent four days in Chernigov reconnecting with some of my old missionary teammates. It was good to see their growing families and spend time renewing our friendships. Jake, Danny, and Conor came to Ukraine in their early twenties and have spent about ten years planting churches and laboring to see Christ formed in the men, women, and future church leaders of Ukraine. They are great brothers, and I love and respect them so much.

Conor, Jake, and Bogdan discussing the passage they will each be teaching in their home fellowships.

We all love books and always have great conversations about what we have been reading, thinking, learning, and experiencing. Our conversations always seem to circle back to our passion to see the Gospel proclaimed in Ukraine and the Church to grow and be strengthened.

In the course of our conversations we discussed the possibility of a TLI teaching trip to Ukraine next year, and also some ideas for ongoing theological training for churches and pastors. One of my desires is to see the Bethlehem curriculum I used in Kenya translated into Russian. It is an excellent curriculum in four volumes, and it would provide a basis for a solid theological education for pastors and churches. It uses Wayne Grudem's systematic theology as its main text book, which Jake's publishing ministry, In Lumine, just began printing and distributing in Ukraine. Cool huh? (Check out In Lumine's titles and current projects) So I would like to see if we can secure the permissions and copyrights to translate and use this curriculum in Ukraine. It is a big project but has massive potential! That is something big to pray about. Would you join me in praying? How 'bout taking 30 seconds to pray for the future of theological training in Ukraine right now?

Summary

I came away from this trip with lots of incredible memories and experiences, of course, but also a huge thankfulness to God for the privilege to go and serve these brothers and sisters, and a humble thankfulness to those who gave financially to support my teaching trip. My trip also strengthened my convictions and stirred my passions in a couple of core areas.

First is the incredible power and durability of the Gospel as it enters various cultures and social and economic contexts. Through this trip I have learned even more about the challenges of communicating the Gospel and strengthening leaders and churches in a cross-cultural context. Yet I am even more convinced of the power and the durability of the Gospel and God's intention to use weak, culturally-challenged vessels of clay to show and communicate His power, grace, and love. Cross-cultural missions was and is God's idea.

Second: I am more convinced than ever of the need for theological and ministry training for the leaders and the people of the Church, foreign and domestic. I am well aware that mere knowledge does not make a pastor, and training alone does not qualify a man to lead the church. Theological training is not a silver bullet. It does not guarantee an effective pastor or healthy church. And yet I have seen in my ministry experience in the States, my experience as a missionary, and again on this trip that where theological training is not emphasized or is not available, there is a corresponding weakness in ministry, and a vulnerability to many errors.

Third: On a personal level, I found that I still have a deep desire to be personally involved with the training and raising of church leaders in the parts of the world where opportunities for training are limited. I also found that I have an abiding love for the people of Ukraine and a passion for the growth and strength of the Church there. What God wants to do with that in the future is up to Him. For now He has given me the opportunity to study. I will finish my Masters in Theology in May. Please pray for me and my family as we consider and seek God's will and direction for our future ministry.

Prayer Requests

  • Praise and Thanks to God for the financial provision for me to go and serve!

  • Financial provision for this last year of school, and perserverance and fruitfulness in my studies.

  • Wisdom and direction for me in considering future teaching opportunities and trips with TLI.

  • Pray for the potential translation project of the Bethlehem curriculum into Russian. Pray for God's will, his direction, his favor, and his financial provision for this project and its potential fruits.

Thanks again to those who supported me financially, and thanks to all who prayed for me and my family as I traveled. Thanks for your prayers for me as I was sick in Kenya. I really felt them and God gave me much grace to endure, and gave healing to my body. Thanks also for your prayers for those in Kenya and Ukraine. Pray that the the teaching, the conversations, and ministry continue to bear fruit and build up the Church of Jesus Christ for their joy, and for His glory.

TLI and Kenya

Training Leaders International put out a video that shows the purpose and practical aspects of their ministry. This video highlights the team that went to Kenya this summer. There is a small glimpse of Ethan in the video, so keep your eyes open to that. It was so great to hear from the Kenyan lay leaders who took part in the training. Here is the link to the video:
A picture is worth a thousand words!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Flopsy Bunnies







We have had a little varmint running around our garden for a few days. Finally Peter John chased him around this afternoon, and we discovered there were three wee rabbits in there. One ran under the fence and escaped through the rhubarb patch, and the other two were caught by Ethan and Peter John with the aid of a couple of buckets after being cornered against the fence under a sunflower. Here are the triumphant varmint catchers in a photo. Afterwards the kids and Ethan drove them out to a nearby field and let them free. Stay away from our lettuce, wee rabbits! Too bad they are wild and probably bug infested. They would be so cute to keep.

It's Good to Be Together Again

Ethan made it back safely Friday night. His airplane arrived in Minneapolis at 8:45pm, and we drove to Fergus Falls arriving at 12:30am. What a blessed and fruitful mission trip. Thank you to EVERYONE who prayed and supported him.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Helping the "Untouchables"

Jesus Heals a Leper (drawing by Rembrandt)

Today some brothers and sisters from the church in Chernigov, along with Ethan, visited a hospital for TB patients (some who also have AIDS). In Pastor Jake's newsletter, he stated there are perhaps 30 children living there along with 700 adults with tuberculosis. The hospital and the people living there are in very sad shape, and the church has begun visiting there, hoping to help. Today they brought a load of balls for the kids to play with. A nurse thanked them for the balls, but said the children are living without toilet paper or underwear. Tomorrow they plan to return with these much needed supplies. My heart broke for these kids when Ethan shared this with me. May God's love and mercy be given to these people who are virtually the "untouchables" of Ukraine. May we remember to pray for them!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ethan took a marshrutka (passenger van where you buy a seat for commuting) to Chernigov this morning and plans to visit with friends there. He will be staying with Jake Knotts, the pastor of Christian Bible Church .
He will see our friends, Danny and Anneliese Foote, today who are passing through Chernigov, and he hopes to see Conor and Koren McNamee this week. There are also wonderful saints in the church there whom he would enjoy seeing again.

Thank you for your prayers for his time in Priluki. It was a good time of ministry and also revisiting old places, and seeing many people whom we love and pray for. He spent two evenings teaching, and then Sunday he preached on Psalm 67, a favorite of our family's. I am looking forward to talking to Ethan when he gets back about his time there. A couple of blessings from the past couple of days included spending Saturday at Max's dacha outside of Priluki, and spending time talking to Lyosha, a theology/Bible professor who is from Priluki, who was visiting. On Sunday afternoon, many people stayed after church to fellowship, eat pizza together, and visit with Ethan. What a blessed time!


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Update on Ethan's Trip to Ukraine

Ethan is feeling really great now. Thank you for praying for his healing! The antibiotics began to work very quickly, and God has restored him. Praise the Lord!

Priluki has changed quite a bit from our days there four years ago, Ethan says. There is much that has remained the same, too, but it has been interesting for him to walk around and see the changes. God brought different people on his path while he walked through town a few times. In Ukraine, people walk a lot, and much of the shopping is done on the streets or walking from shop to shop. It is SO easy to see people you know and visit with them. God brought one man to him who is right now not going to church and not walking with the Lord. Though it has been really tough for Ethan to remember the Russian language, he was still able to communicate a bit, and also he prayed for him there on the street (in English). The next day he saw him again, but this time Pastor Vlad was with him and was able to translate. They were blessed with a real time of ministry with this man, and Ethan was able to challenge him on some issues. God is faithful to seek out his lost sheep. Ethan was also able to see and visit with some friends from the church who came to Vlad's home where Ethan was staying. I am sure it must have been amazing to see these young couples who now have children!

On Thursday and Friday evening, Ethan taught at the church a short course in Early Church History. Pastor Vlad had asked him to teach on this subject. I have not heard from Ethan yet how things went, but I know he was praying for an opportunity to visit and minister to people after the class. That is very difficult with the language, so I prayed that God gave him a translator to help with that time. I will let you know how things went as soon as I hear.

Sunday Ethan will be preaching in Priluki, and then later in the day, he will travel to Chernigov to visit with friends there and participate in the ministry there. God has really opened a door for the pastor in Chernigov to do publishing work in the Russian language. They have translated and printed several excellent and challenging Christian books from the English language related to theology and spiritual growth. They also host a Russian language website for John Piper's preaching and to advertise some books. The most recent need they have is to fund the printing of Randy Alcorn's Heaven and Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I would really like to get the word out so that anyone who might feel led to pray for them or support them financially could do so. Here is some further information:
Jake Knott's website (the pastor/missionary in Chernigov) has all the links and information for In Lumine, their publishing company. The In Lumine website is also in English, so you may click on the "Eng" on the top to view it that way. Jake's website also gives information on supporting their work. You can designate funds if you wish them to go toward the book publishing specifically.

Thank you for your continued prayers. May God continue to give Ethan open doors and boldness to share with people the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ and the truth of God to all who hear.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Answered Prayer

Ethan arrived in Ukraine today, and he is feeling better. He was able to sleep in the airplane and in the Istanbul airport. He took some antibiotics and another medication, and they both helped. Both the body aches and the diarrhea are much improved. He is now in Kyiv, Ukraine with the pastor and his wife from Priluki. They will go back to Priluki, and Ethan will be teaching three times this week. He is so happy to be there. Praise the Lord. Thank you for your support in prayer!

Monday, July 26, 2010

God's Work

A View of a street in the Korogocho slum
I just got to talk to Ethan on the phone! He called to ask for prayer because he is very sick right now with a gastro-intestinal illness and body aches. He told me some amazing stories of how God is working in Kenya right now, and it is obvious that they are experiencing spiritual warfare. He said they experience much spiritual oppression and darkness in that land. Their team has been so great, and he has been blessed by them. Please also pray for one of the other team members who is also sick.

The first interesting fact I learned was that Ethan and his teammate, Josh, were teaching in Korogocho (not Kibera) last Friday and Saturday. This is remarkable because this slum is about 2 steps poorer than the huge Kibera Slum. The pastors there were so hungry to learn, and they asked for them to come back and teach them again.

Here is a story about a supernatural thing God did while they were there. Four of the African pastors along with Ethan and Josh were walking through an alley in the slum. The alley was only about a meter and a half wide with an open sewer running through the middle of the way. It was a dangerous area where people cannot walk alone, especially foreigners. As they were walking, Ethan saw a beautiful young woman walk by who had white skin, shiny blond hair, and piercing blue eyes. She was alone and walked by them in this narrow alleyway. Ethan had thought about turning around and asking what she was doing there, but he did not. When he asked the other men if they had seen her, they said "no." He believes it might have been an angel. God is there amongst the poorest of the poor, and he is sending his ministering angels there. After telling my mother-in-law this story, she told me that this angel may have been sent to protect the group of men that were walking. God knows! Praise His name! Psalm 91:11 says: "For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways."

On Sunday morning they went to Kibera for a service. You can read a few comments about that on TLI's facebook. Ethan conveyed to me that it was beyond description at that moment, and that he would have to tell me about it again when he gets home. All in all, we praise God for all He is doing in His kingdom around the world. There are believers in many nations, our brothers and sisters in Christ. May God's fame spread throughout the entire world.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kibera Slum

I learned from a wikipedia article on the Kibera slum in Kenya that this slum is the second largest slum in Africa with over 1 million inhabitants. The pastors Ethan and the team are teaching live and minister in this informal settlement. Here are some photos I found from other websites on the internet giving you an idea of the geography of this area:


The team leader posted a quick note on how the teaching is going today on the TLI facebook page:
"Teaching how to study the Bible by studying Philemon in the slums of Nairobi brings A LOT of interesting questions from the pastors."
Please pray that these pastors might be refreshed by God's word and be encouraged by the love of God.

Another note came from the team leader yesterday saying that Ethan and Darren are both healed from their illnesses. Thank you for all who prayed and continue to pray for their health and safety.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Please Keep Praying...

Ethan wrote and said he is starting to feel better, and he thinks the fever might be gone. Praise God! There are two other team members suffering from diarrhea. They are experiencing spiritual warfare, so they believe that God has something really special in the next days planned in the slums where they will be ministering. Please pray for them!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Prayer Requests and Report from Ethan

Ethan with his group of Lay Leaders in Nairobi
We finished up our training with the lay leaders of the Nairobi Anglican diocese. They have a good knowledge of the Bible but are weak in relating and expressing those individual truths in a systematic way. It was exciting to come alongside them and take what they know and strengthen them and build on that foundation. These lay leaders do the majority of pastoral ministry within their parishes. They have a tough job. We created a Facebook page for Training Leaders International where you can see some pictures of our training time and maybe even some video of the amazing music.
Teaching time

Last night I came down with a fever and have been pretty wiped out all day—lots of body aches and zero energy. This morning I attended a training time for our ministry in the slum churches that is supposed to start tomorrow, but had to stay at the school this afternoon. I slept about five hours. So, please pray for me and for our team leader, Darren Carlson, who is also starting to feel sick.

We are going to start our training with the church leaders and pastors in the slums tomorrow. One of my teammates and I are going to one of the roughest slums in Nairobi. Please pray for healing and energy for me, for safety for us, and especially for the filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit to serve these brothers who serve Jesus in the midst of numbing poverty. They have asked us to help them understand the history of the time of Jesus and the spread of the early church in Acts and then to do some teaching on Bible studying and applying the Bible. We will also be teaching on a Biblical view on suffering, and on money. This is desperately needed in Africa where the cancer of prosperity teaching is exploding. This "gospel" is the most shameful fruit of the American church and is devastating the African church. You may read more about this at the Gospel Coalition’s website:
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/11/05/the-prosperity-gospel-in-africa/ or watch a video on this at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU7rnDw1Ekw
Please pray for us as we teach and confront this heresy with the truth of God's word.

Thank you for your prayers.

Grace Mercy and Peace,
Ethan Larson

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Great Day at the Fair

I can't show any photos because Ethan took the camera with him on the mission trip, but I can tell you we had a lovely afternoon and evening today at the county fair. We were there almost six hours looking at animals, riding some of the rides (I bought discounted tickets in advance at Service Foods), and enjoying some of the exhibits and shows. Today was the first day so there were only a few people there, parking was free, and we had great weather. We also saw two of my sisters there with their families. That made it extra special. The kids were so good, and I made sure to compliment them for that, because as a parent some days I spend more time scolding them than encouraging them. I need to find as many opportunities to encourage them as I can! Today was one of those days. (Yesterday was the opposite, I am sorry to say.) Thank you so much to all who prayed for me regarding the kids and me. To God be the glory.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pray For the Last Day...

Ethan's last day of teaching the lay leaders in Nairobi will be Wednesday, then they will spend time with and teach pastors from the informal settlements (slums) of Nairobi. Here is a quick update from Ethan:

I am having a good time in Africa. I am teaching all day and then usually spending the evenings studying. tomorrow is my last day of teaching this group and I still have lots to get through so pray for me. the group of people i am teaching is really wonderful. very nice people. three men and four ladies. they are lay leaders in the churches.

The weather is cool here. i didn't bring enough cold weather stuff. Thursday to sunday we are working with some pastors and lay leaders in the slum churches.

Ok It is late i need to get to sleep.

And here is a quick update from me:
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 Being still and trusting is often exactly the opposite of what we feel like doing, but it is exactly what we need to do. Please pray for me as reality has set in...today was a difficult day with the kids. Lots of good moments, too, but lots of difficulties as well. I need the power of the Spirit and the armor of God more than ever. Thank God, His grace is sufficient through everything, and we are kept by the power of God. I have life because of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross, I am sealed by the Holy Spirit because I believe, and I am in the excellent care of my Heavenly Father. My kids are His lambs, and He will carry them. Hallelujah.

Monday, July 19, 2010

An Update from Kenya

Ethan sent a personal email to the kids and me, but I would like to share a few excerpts. Please pray for him as he continues to teach all day the next two days. They are teaching 11 classes in three days on theological foundations and God-centered living. They will need much wisdom and power from the Spirit. Here is the email:
Hi everyone! Jombo!
I got my laptop working with the college internet system this afternoon and am finally able to write.
my flights all went well and i didn't have any neck or back trouble. thank you everyone for praying! ...
...I just finished my first day of teaching and it went well. I am very tired. saturday and sunday night I slept well because I was tired from the flight, but last night I did not sleep well, only about 3-4 hours. Taught from 9am to 5 pm today very long but good students and good communication i think.
yesterday we went to a great church. anglican, i loved the liturgy, the worship; good hymns (with some african style) plus worship songs in english and swahili, and great communion time.
my team is really great, and the school here is nice. Nairobi is a big city both very poor and very rich together.
I miss you all so much!! thanks for all of your prayers.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preaching in Kenya

Dear Praying Friends:
Ethan's team with Training Leaders International was scheduled to arrive in Kenya this morning (our time). After a night of sleep (hopefully), they will spend Sunday morning in prayer and then splitting up to preach at various churches in the slums of Nairobi. Please pray for Ethan as he preaches tomorrow morning. May God's name be lifted high, His truth proclaimed causing many to find freedom, and Jesus Christ to be glorified.

The kids and I are doing really great, by God's grace. I can tell that people are praying for us. Please continue to pray for us. The thunderstorms/tornado watches are causing some anxiety and fear in the kids. Also, some different loved ones are having health problems which causes some anxiety. Grumpy times suddenly come upon us just before meals and at bedtime. This is normal, of course, but I pray that God will deliver us from evil and from the enemy of our souls who would like to make things miserable for us. I have found SUCH comfort in God's word and the promise that "The LORD is my shepherd." We are His sheep, and He is carrying the little lambs in His arms (my kids :). We have enjoyed some fun times together the last few days, praise the Lord.

Thanks for the support! Love, Elysia

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Letter From Ethan

I am currently in Minneapolis, and I will be meeting with my team tomorrow and Friday to finalize our preparations. We all climb into the sardine tube on Friday night to fly out to Amsterdam then Nairobi.

I fly to Ukraine on the 27th (2:30 AM departure! Pray!), and I will spend Wednesday to Sunday (July 28-Aug. 1) in Priluki meeting with and encouraging our friends there. I am teaching Thursday and Friday and again on Sunday. From Monday to Thursday (Aug. 2-5) I will be in Chernigov visiting the church there and some of my old missionary team-mates. Pray for good conversations during this time and vision for ministry in Ukraine.

I will try and send some updates but am unsure how much web access I will have in Kenya. Check in on Elysia's blog (larsonjournal.blogspot.com) and Elysia's Facebook, and thank you for your prayers.

Specific Prayer Requests:

Pray for my family as they adjust to Daddy being gone from home.

Praise God for his abundant provision for my trip. Looks like everything will be covered!

Pray for the truth of the word and power of the Spirit as I preach and teach. Love, grace, wisdom, and effectiveness in communication as I teach and preach.

Pray for my final preparation. I am feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material I have been given. I know we will not teach it all but it is intimidating nonetheless as it is a lot to prepare for.

Pray for safe travel and healthy body: I have heard weird stories about anti-malaria drugs…strange dreams, etc. That could be interesting.
My back has been feeling sore… and I have a long appointment with an airline seat.
I would rather not pick up any parasitical/viral 'friends'

Grace in remembering Russian so that I can visit with friends there.

All for now,
Ethan Larson

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God is Faithful!

Ethan is leaving tomorrow for Minneapolis, and then heads out for Kenya on Friday. God has provided for all the expenses including clothing needs (Ethan's wardrobe was pretty small and he did not have enough of the business casual attire needed....God provided all of that this week), books/gifts for ministers in Ukraine, travel and lodging expenses, and teaching expenses. Praise God he was able to find a ride down to the Cities and also someone to stay with Weds. night in Minneapolis before his meetings on Thursday.

Please pray for a few more needs:
Ethan needs to buy a used blazer in case a suit is required at one of his preaching engagements in Kenya.
Cross-cultural communication and teaching.
Ethan's preparations for teaching and preaching.
Health and Safety.

Pray for the people who will be ministered to in Kenya and Ukraine. Pray that many hearts would receive all that God has for them in the knowledge of Him.

Hallelujah! Amen.

Garden Update

carrots
zucchini
onions, peppers, tomatoes, sunflowers
tons of raspberries this year!

Ethan's parents asked for more pictures of the garden. Peter John took all these photos for me. We are picking about two zucchini per day. I can't believe they grow that fast! We also just harvested a huge piles of green and yellow snap beans. I blanched and froze six bags. There will be more to come in a day or two! I am looking forward to eating them this winter. Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Passion to Preach Christ

Dear Friends:
We are gearing up for Ethan's big trip to Kenya and Ukraine July 16th. Recently Ethan had the opportunity to fill in for our pastor who was on a mission trip. Being able to preach again brought a spark to Ethan's eye and renewed his desire to preach and teach. Though he has done this for many years, the past couple of years have been a time of transition, study, and waiting. Then, last week, I read these words from Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest:

"If that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended." Philippians 3:12

Never choose to be a worker; but when once God has put His call on you, woe be to you if you turn to the right hand or to the left. We are not here to work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has apprehended us.

This is the kind of passion that Ethan has to preach Christ. He cannot let it go, though God has seen it fit for us to wait for a time. Studying again has been very hard work, but I believe in the end will produce something good.

Good news! Ethan will be able to receive credit towards his Master's degree for the work he will be doing preparing to teach overseas this summer as well as for the time he will spend teaching in Nairobi and Priluki. How exciting that he will receive a benefit towards his degree. He also was able to obtain some transfer credits for a "Leadership" class from his studies at Calvary Chapel School of Ministry as well as for his many years of work as a Bible teacher in the area of "Field Experience." These benefits will save Ethan some money and time. Thank you, Lord! He plans to return to studies this August full-time, and Lord willing, will receive a Master's in Theological Studies next Spring.

We are very excited about the curriculum Ethan and the other men will be teaching in Nairobi. They will be ministering to a large group of lay leaders from churches in Nairobi as well as doing a separate seminar for the Pastors. The material they will be covering will be Biblical Theology, Spiritual Growth, Church History, and How to Study the Bible. These will be wonderful opportunities to minister to these men who have devoted their lives to serving Jesus Christ. In Priluki, Ukraine, Ethan will be teaching some Church History material to the church there. We must PRAY for these times.

Prayer Requests:

  • For the preparations for teaching in July and August
  • For the Men who are serving Jesus Christ in Kenya and Ukraine
  • For financial provision for this trip. We are still waiting on the Lord for some funds needed.
  • Good health and safety
Thank you for praying!!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bird Enthusiasm


(a male Scarlet Tanager)

Since living in this house we have found the trees surrounding it to be perfect habitats for various interesting birds. Outside the dining room Ethan's folks put up a bird feeder that has been great entertainment during our meals. We enjoy identifying the different kind of birds and talking about them with our kids. Last winter Peter John and Ethan built a bird house to hang from the birch tree. For a while this spring we had a fat male sparrow (whom we named "Mr. Nezzer) who had taken up residence, but since he couldn't seem to attract a mate, he abandoned it. Then this summer we had a beautiful pair of bluebirds who have nested and are raising some young in the bird house. What a pleasure to watch!

We know the day they hatched because the male bluebird made a very noisy call over and over again one evening while Peter John was trying to sleep in his tent. We also could hear the wee chirping of the baby bluebirds inside. We are not sure which day they will fly out of the box, but we will miss them when they leave. The kids named the male and female "Isaac and Rebekah." Very cute!

Some of the other birds we have enjoyed watching are chickadees, chipping sparrows, and housefinches. The kids also love bluejays, but we don't see them very often.

Today Ethan and I were hiking in Maplewood State Park when we spotted the most vibrant small red bird we have ever encountered. No, it was not a cardinal. It was red with a dark, black wing. We looked it up at home and discovered it to be a scarlet tanager. The amazing thing about these birds is they migrate all the way to tropical central and South America in early August. Then they return in the spring to feed on the abundance of insects and berries in the woods of North America. It was amazing to me that that special little bird had made a trek from the northern parts of the U.S.A. all the way down to the tropical parts of South America. We enjoyed its beautiful song as well. Glory to God.

We also saw an interesting hawk today that was being chased by sparrows. It was quite a sight to see! We saw a whole group of small birds chasing a large bird of prey and trying to attack it. They must have been keeping him away from their young. This hawk was not a red-tailed hawk, but was yellow in color with shorter wings than the red-tailed. He must have had quite a day today with those pesky sparrows!

Another favorite from the day was all the little yellow goldfinches. These are some of my favorite birds to see! Thanks, God, for all the beautiful birds you have created and sustained by your caring hand. Birds have nests and food to eat thanks to You. Thanks that we get to enjoy these little creatures here in Minnesota. What a delight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Training Your Children to Understand Money

Here is an outline of Randy Alcorn’s article on ways that parents can help their kids learn to think biblically about money.

1. Give your children something greater than money—your time.

2. Use life’s teachable moments to train your children.

3. Take a field trip to a junkyard.

4. Teach your children to link money with labor.

5. Teach your children how to save.

6. Get your children started on the lifetime adventure of giving.

7. Provide your children with financial planning tools.

8. Teach your children how to say “No.”

9. Show your children how family finances work.

10. Never underestimate the power of your example.

Read the whole thing for an explanation of each point. It is well worth your time... parent or not.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Happy Summer! PTL!

Gretchen and Peter John helping out at Grandma and Grandpa Frank's 40th anniversary.
Our fisherman!
Amy on our new swingset! God gave this to us for free from a neighbor! An answer to prayer to help make the summer happier for our kids.
Here is some progress from our garden. We have enjoyed the fresh lettuce SO much.
More pix of the garden with carrots and raspberries in the background, zucchini and cucumbers in the middle and tomatoes in the front.
This picture reminds me of my mom when she used to wear a handkerchief while gardening. I have been enjoying the garden so much this year. What a blessing it has been, and one we can share with others.
Lizzy enjoying the new tree swing Ethan built. Lovin' it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

God's Providence and Goodness

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. -Ephesians 2:8-10
Praise God for the gift of eternal life that Jesus freely gives to all who come to Him in faith. We were truly lost in all the sin that filled our hearts and defined our sinful nature. Now we have been brought near to God through the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all our sin and unrighteousness. Thank you for the freedom that we have in You, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is freely given to all who ask. Thank you for the home that is waiting for us in heaven where God dwells. Thank you for the abundant life that all believers in Jesus are given. We love you, Lord.

These verses are a truly great reminder of the rest that we have in knowing Jesus Christ as our Savior. We do not work for our freedom nor for our salvation. We live by faith in the Son of God. The works that He has prepared for us are something that we simply walk in.

God is doing a great work in this world full of lost, sinful people, whom He loves. He has given Ethan works to do by His grace in Kenya and Ukraine this July and August. These works are not something that we have earned or gained by our righteous life, but they are works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in. I pray that God will use Ethan to encourage people and bring people to the truth of God's greatness and His great love and mercy. Please pray for us as Ethan prepares for this short-term teaching trip.

The preparations for the trip are going well. So far, Ethan has applied for his Kenya visa, and he has also gotten most of his vaccinations taken care of. The books and other preparations are currently in the works. God has already provided for the costs of going to Ukraine, and, to our knowledge, 1/3 of the costs for Kenya have been provided so far. Praise God, and all glory to our Redeemer and King.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mission Trip Preview

Today we sent out our prayer support letters for Ethan's upcoming mission trip to Kenya and Ukraine. Here are the details, all tentative of course, and all dependent upon God's leading and perfect will:
Nairobi, Kenya July 16-27 trip teaching with Training Leaders International
Ethan will be joining a small group who will take turns teaching Biblical Theology at a Bible College and teaching pastors and evangelists in the slums of Nairobi. He will also have the opportunity to preach one Sunday while he is there. Ethan's group will be led by Darren Carlson who is the director of TLI.
Prayer Requests for this trip include:
  • God's guidance as the men prepare to teach
  • Health as they travel
  • The Holy Spirit to lead their encounters in Africa
  • Financial provision
Ukraine July 27-August 7 trip encouraging the church in Priluki through teaching, service, and Christian fellowship/discipleship. Also to visit and bless the missionaries and churches which we are acquainted with in whatever way would serve them best, whether through teaching, service, or fellowship.
Prayer Requests for Ukraine trip:
  • God's guidance in planning this trip
  • Healthy physical body after traveling in Kenya
  • Renewed friendships
  • Holy Spirit encounters
We would also appreciate your prayers for the kids and me while we are at home during Ethan's trip. I am extremely supportive of this mission, and wholeheartedly want to serve the Lord by caring for our kids while Ethan is away. God will give us strength, and I pray Jesus will be glorified. So, if you are worried about me, don't! Just pray!

FYI:
One of the items Ethan mentioned in the letter is the opportunity to donate to this mission endeavor. If you are interested in finding out how to donate ONLINE, you may do so by visiting the Training Leaders International and by going to the Support The Cause page. Click on "Donate Now" to proceed to the online donation page. It is important that you indicate your donation is for Ethan Larson's mission trip in the "Special Instructions" part of the form. If you do not take this step, your donation will go to support TLI as an organization rather than to Ethan's trip specifically.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Excellent (Grace-Filled) Teaching on Parenting

We have benefited from the teaching at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Bloomington, MN. Ethan and I have recently listened to a Parenting Seminar series by two of their pastors. The messages have brought me to tears, but have been exactly what I needed at the time, reminding me of the need for more grace from my Lord and Savior. The greatest help for me is in understanding God-given authority of mothers and fathers. For too many years, I exercised my authority as a parent with fear. The pastors have gleaned from the teaching of Tedd Tripp in "Shepherding a Child's Heart" as well as from J.C. Ryle, John Calvin, Paul David Tripp, and Lou Priolo.
Here is the website to listen to the sermons from 2010 online:
http://audio.sovgracemn.org/2010/
Look for the following sermons:
Parenting In Weakness by Dave Harvey (guest), January 17, 2010
Parenting Seminar: Rooted in Gospel by Rick Gamache, January 30, 2010
Parenting Seminar: Rooted in Purpose by Steve Bice, January 30, 2010
Parenting Seminar: To Nourish, Discipline, and Instruct by Rick Gamache, March 27, 2010
Parenting Seminar: Faithful Correction by Steve Bice, March 27, 2010

Praise the Lord for these resources!