Two years ago my wife and I created a ministry, FJ Ministries, as a part of our becoming missionaries full-time. We left our jobs as a corporate attorney and occupational therapist and took the plunge, taking a Crossroads Discipleship Training School with YWAM at The King’s Lodge, a YWAM base in England.
As we began our journey we prayed and asked God what FJ Ministries would do. He had already given us the name, which is another story (click here to read), and we knew He had a specific purpose in mind for us. His Word tells us that in Ephesians 2:10, and we were prepared to follow His direction and His path after spending too many years chasing our own dreams and seeing our best efforts crumble. We had seen how following our own way was destroying our marriage, impacting our children negatively, and leading us down paths we never dreamed we would follow.
In spite of our weaknesses, God, in His amazing grace, told us that we were to be a family who would reach other families, training those families to be a family to reach other families, and that we would do all of this through participation in international missions. He told us that we would teach people about the greatest commandment – loving God passionately and loving others compassionately – and that we would have the opportunity to bring justice to those who faced injustice. In sum, we would have a family ministry and we would work as international missionaries.
With those thoughts in mind we began a two-year journey across four continents with our three children in tow: Tanner (9), Keaton (7) and Regan (4). When we started the journey they were 7, 5, and 2! God took us on a whirlwind of travel, living out of suitcases for 2 years, sleeping as a family in some 30 locations, flying on 40 different airplanes over 60,000 miles, and sharing the gospel as missionaries in England, the Philippines, and South Africa. We really didn’t know at the time why we were doing all we were doing, but we knew that each step was the step God has asked us to take. So, we took each step, one at a time, by faith. The steps were typically only months at a time, and we had no idea what would happen as each step came near its end – one month here, three months there, five months there and so on. It was wonderful, hard, crazy, chaotic, and lovely all at the same time. We saw amazing growth in our family, our children, and in our marriage. We saw 100s of people begin to follow Jesus in faith. And we saw our family inspire other families along the way to take steps of faith. We have been so blessed by God simply by putting one foot in front of the other by faith in God’s vision for us.
And, now, we have realized where it has all been leading. We still don’t know how long this next step will last or what lies beyond this step, if anything, but we are very excited. We now understand how FJ Ministries will do both international missions and family ministry.
FJ Ministries will organize short-term mission trips for families. These won’t be your typical mission trips. These family journey outreaches will be all that a mission trip normally is PLUS. They will be like a Survivor Trip for the Family, but Survivor with God’s purpose at heart. Survivor where what will outlast and survive will be your family.
What is a typical mission trip? A mission trip is an opportunity for a follower of Jesus to go into another culture to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This can be done in a variety of ways, but generally we have done this relationally in homes, sharing what Jesus did by dying on the Cross; we’ve done it by serving the poor and needy just as Jesus did by giving food and meeting other needs through acts of service; we’ve distributed bibles in native languages; we’ve shared in churches, schools, on streets, performing dramas and dances; and we’ve held first aid clinics and the like. Sometimes we just pray with and for people. A “typical mission trip” or “outreach” provides a follower of Jesus an opportunity to take their gifts and passions to the Nations, seeing a culture and poverty like they’ve never seen, and be transformed by obeying God’s call to missions. For me they’ve helped me see Jesus in the least of these, giving me a deeper love for others and a greater desire to show people the Way to relationship with the Father.
So, that is a short definition of a mission trip. But, remember, I said we were going to do a mission trip PLUS! Because these mission trips are going to be designed for the family, whether traditional family or otherwise, meaning that children will be invited as valuable participants in the outreach and ministry, we are planning on doing focused discipleship training for the family and ministries designed to utilize every member of the family.
What this means is that a typical day of one of FJ Ministries’ outreaches will be a morning filled with worship, prayer and intercession, and focused teaching on God’s heart for relationship, His Father heart, His heart for family, marriage, and parenting, the effects of generational sin, blessing, and curses and the like. This will not only provide focused discipleship training to those on the outreach, preparing them for their ministry on outreach, but it will also be a part of strengthening their family for the long haul. This is the “family camp” component.
The afternoons will be filled with ministry opportunities. Some days will involve ministries intentionally designed for the family to do together or to do with other families. This might look like door to door evangelism, where kids and parents will be side by side presenting personal testimonies and stories to people who need to get to know Jesus or praying with Christians to encourage them. It might be the first time a child has ever heard his dad’s personal stories about how God has changed his life. Another family ministry might be going to an orphanage or creche to share Jesus with the children and workers. And, all of the above can and will involve meeting the needs of people along the way through giving and acts of service.
Other days will involve ministries where parents and children can go separate ways. An outreach leader would organize the children to perform drama and dance and go into a local school where they would be kids teaching kids about Jesus. Or perhaps the kids would all spend a day preparing the food for the entire outreach or preparing and distributing food for street kids. Meanwhile, Mom and/or Dad could go out to a remote village to share God’s love there. All of these activities would be the international missions component.
From start to finish every aspect of the outreach would be designed with strengthening the family in mind. And, as we have discovered, following God’s call to the Nations brings families together like nothing else. Just to illustrate this with an analogy, how often do you hear someone share a favorite childhood memory and it involves something the entire family did together like go on a camping trip. This memory stands out more than the trip to Disney or the beach. It may have been a difficult time, with rain and bad food, but it still was a memory that lasted and that gets talked about at every family gathering. Now, take that camping trip cross-culturally and do it for the Kingdom of God and see what will be written in your family journal of memories.
Just this week I was listening to Family Life Today and the guest speaker was one of the creators of the new movie “Fireproof.” He explained that his team had spent six months after Facing the Giants seeking God’s will for their next production. God spoke clearly to them to focus on marriage. I see God’s desire for us to focus on marriage cutting across all aspects of our society and all around the world. When we were in Africa this summer we saw the impact of a nation being practically fatherless. It is no accident that the bible begins with a marriage (Genesis 2:4-25) and ends with a marriage (Revelation 19 to the end). God consistently demonstrates His heart for relationship and showed us through His life on earth that love is the greatest of all things.
We will lay out more details in the very near future because the first outreach opportunity for families will take place in the Summer of 2009. We would love to hear from anyone who has an interest in participating, whether as a host, a helper, a leader, a teacher, a participant, or a sender by donating to the outreach. We believe this will be the first of many such outreaches as families are forevermore transformed by the power of participating in going to the Nations. Please pray for us as we step out by faith in this vision God’s given us.
As an aside, I think it will be worth catching “Fireproof” at your nearest cinema!