Come, Lord Jesus, Come…An Advent Thought

“Behold, you come. And your coming is neither past nor future, but the present, which has only to reach its fulfillment.” -Karl Rahner

advent

Advent is the season when we are especially mindful of “the coming” of Christ. It is not only of his coming 2,000 years ago, when he entered the world as a child, walked among us, taught us how to live and love, and ultimately offered himself as a sacrifice for our redemption. Neither is it only of his future coming, when he will establish his Kingdom in fullness and all of creation will be restored. But it is also of his present coming, in the here and now.

Christ comes to us in every moment of every day. He comes to us through the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit that draws us to him. When truth is spoken and grace is offered, he comes to us. When light is chosen over darkness and peace instead of war, when love is offered and hate is rejected, he comes. He comes to us through the beauty of creation and the splendor of the heavens. He comes to us in the faces of the least of these and urges us to serve him by serving others. During this season of Advent, I pray that we will always be aware of His presence and that we never fail to recognize him when he comes to us.

**This post was recently posted on http://www.nativeleader.org/blog/2014/11/4/come-lord-jesus

 

Family Shot copy 3

To Our Incredible Partners & Friends…

We want to begin this update by sharing an incredible development with you. You may know, that during our first 5 years in Kenya, we served at Rosslyn Academy, a Christian International school in Nairobi. We have recently received word that Jessica has an incredible opportunity to serve at Rosslyn on a part-time basis when we return to Kenya. This position will provide us with a housing allowance, as well as a reduction in school fees, both of which help to lower our budget significantly! Taking this into consideration, we are extremely close to meeting our budget, which opens the door for us to return to Kenya. Since the position is part-time, Jessica will still be able to oversee the financial/accounting/office management side of our ministry with People to People. We are very excited about this development, and are thankful for any opportunity that allows us to get back to Kenya as soon as possible.

In the last couple of months, we have also been blessed with opportunities to connect with several great churches and individuals, allowing us to add many prayer partners and financial supporters to our team. Through God’s grace, and your generosity and faithfulness, we are believing that we will be able to return to Kenya soon! Please join us in prayer that within the next few months, we will be released to return to Kenya. Thank you so much for your part in our ministry.

Churches Visited Since Last Update:

–Springs Church (Franklin Springs, GA)
–Oakridge PH Church (Wade, NC)

–Lakewood PH Church (Myrtle Beach, SC)
–Resurrection Church (Greer, SC)
–Stedman PH Church (Stedman, NC)
–Saint’s Delight (Andrews, SC)
–Baker’s Chapel (Wytheville, VA)

Events Attended:

–SEND Week at Holmes Bible College (Greenville, SC)
–Emmanuel College Homecoming (Franklin Springs, GA)
–Falcon Children’s Home Harvest Train (Falcon, NC)

As always, we are looking for opportunities to expand our network of partners. If you are currently one of our partners, would you prayerfully consider sharing about our ministry with your friends and family? We would love to have open doors into new churches, small groups, and home groups. If you have friends, family, or contacts that you feel may be interested in learning about our vision for outreach in Kenya, please let us know.

Interested in becoming a Partner?
You can make a donation or become monthly supporter by clicking here. Information for mailing checks can be found at the bottom of this newsletter.

For more information about our ministry, click on the About the Dunnings link in the Menu column

Speaking at Holmes SEND Week

Speaking at Holmes SEND Week

Recent Happenings
The last couple of months have been a whirlwind for our family…as with most families this time of year. We have been fortunate to have many speaking engagements. We were also able to return to Emmanuel College for Homecoming and an EC Singers Reunion in October, as well as spend a lot of time with our families for Thanksgiving. Things at Falcon Children’s Home have been increasingly busy for Jess with Harvest Train and the beginning of Christmas activities and responsibilities, and the next few weeks will probably be even busier. In the midst of it all, we have also found a way to squeeze in a couple of Clemson football games with Jessica’s family, and we were able to visit my Granny’s sister (Aunt Laura) and her family, in the beautiful mountains of VA, with my parents. We try to make the most of each church we visit by connecting with friends and family if we find ourselves in their part of the country.

The kids are growing much too quickly! Sophie had an exciting month at pre-school. In October there were a lot of exciting Halloween activities. She decided to be Elsa from Frozen this year…no surprises there….she has been pretending to be Elsa every day for the last year. She can give an extremely cute rendition of “Let It Go” if you are interested. In November her class had a Thanksgiving Feast and performed a short program. We think she is going to be a little performer. She is very excited that she was chosen to play Mary in her school Christmas program! She is growing smarter every day and has really taken an interest in reading using her sight words.

Ethan has been potty training….with mixed results. It is a lot more difficult than it was with Sophie, but that seems to be the way it goes. He decided to be Jake, the Neverland Pirate, for Halloween, and he is fairly skilled with a foam sword. He has really surprised us with how much he has been learning from listening to his big sister…..ABC’s, counting, colors, numbers….she is a great teacher to him. He loved our visit to the mountains, and really seems to have his Daddy’s love of the outdoors.

We are very excited about Advent and the Christmas Season. We started a tradition a few years ago of using our Advent Calendar to lead up to Christmas, as well reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible each night as a family. It has become our absolute favorite thing about this time of year. This year we have also been visited by two very special Kindness Elves! They visit us each morning and encourage us to help with random acts of Christmas Kindness each day! Sophie is especially excited about these two friends. We know this will be our last Christmas Season in the States for several years, so we want to make the most of it with our families and friends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Project Opportunity
Would you like to help build a green-house to provide fresh vegetables and a source of income for a 65-child Orphanage?

As you know, we have a vision to equip and empower the ministries that we support through long-term, sustainable development. When we return to Kenya, our first task will be to work towards moving all of People to People feeding programs toward self-sustainability. However, we have recently received word that one of our orphanages has had an extremely difficult couple of months. The director shared with us: “the home has been facing numerous challenges for the last few months. For the last three months we have not been able to pay our workers, food suppliers, school fees balances and other creditors. Getting food has been a great problem as we are now living a day at a time. We are seriously affected, but we thank God that we have not gone without food for even a day.”

This is an incredible ministry and we have had a strong relationship with them since 2009. They provide shelter, food, medical-care, education, spiritual formation, and a sense of purpose and belonging to over 60 orphaned children. We are going to assist them in meeting their needs of today, and the future, by helping them build a greenhouse that will provide additional produce for their feeding program and also generate additional income for the orphanage. We have decided to act on this as soon as possible, even though we are still in the States.

If you are interested in supporting this project, you can use this link: http://donations.iphc.org/dunning-ministry-project-account, or use the information at the bottom of this newsletter (Ministry/Project Acct. #11521M).

Love That Conquers the World….

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:43-44

Over the course of the last several months, world news has been dominated by the emergence of ISIS, an evil and abhorrent group of Islamic Extremists. ISIS, as well as other extremist groups, commit heinous crimes against humanity (specifically Christians), leaving many of us angry, confused and distraught.  I recently came across this question posed by Brian Zahnd, author of Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace, that addresses this type of radical terror: “Are Caesar, Attila, Saladin, Hitler, Al-Qaeda, ISIS exceptions to what Jesus taught about loving our enemies…or are they the test?”

This question doesn’t have a simple answer.  What are we, as followers of Christ, to do in the face of such horrible atrocities?  Because of their faith, innocent men, women, and children are being tormented by ruthless and vile men in the name of religion.  There is no doubt that there is a mandate and responsibility to protect the innocent, to stand with those who are suffering, but how should you and I personally respond?    

I believe we must respond with action; the type of action that Jesus demonstrated and taught his followers.  We must pray for our neighbors, the persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.  We must unite with them in prayer, but also in support, by finding avenues to assist those that are suffering, many of which are now refugees.  This action shows our love for our neighbor, but that should only be part of our response. 

We must also take radical action in regards to our enemies, but our action should be counter-cultural.  We must also pray for them.  Yes, we should pray for ISIS.

NativeLeader5-LoveConquersPrayer

We must pray that:

  • God will give us the grace to, somehow, love those that persecute us.
  • He will reveal himself, His true-self, to these evil and misguided men through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Christ still comes to people, even those that are misguided and lost. 
  • He will raise up men and women of faith that will stare into the face of this evil and respond with the love of Christ, showing His true nature.
  • He will confuse and confound this evil group from the inside and bring an end to this madness.

Ponder these challenging words written by Pastor and Pulitzer-Prize nominee, Frederick Buechner, in his book, The Magnificent Defeat:

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother.  It is to love what is loving and lovely.  The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely.  This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich.  The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain.  The tortured’s love for the torturer.  This is God’s love.  It conquers the world.

Some will argue that this is naive, and it may be, but I believe that it could more accurately be called faith, and it is the best chance we’ve got. 

September Update…

We have had a busy and productive couple of months since our last newsletter update. We have driven 2,700 miles and have been fortunate to visit 14 amazing churches during the last two months. We have also been able to attend several events, meeting hundreds of wonderful people and adding dozens to our team of partners. Every week brings us closer to meeting our budget goal, allowing us to return to Kenya. We are believing that we will be in a position to return to Kenya within the first few months of 2015. That is not a guarantee, but we feel hopeful that we are going to meet our goal by then. This journey of itinerating and fund-raising can be a bit difficult, as there are many ups and downs. There are times of great encouragement, but also times of discouragement, times when we have to focus on putting our trust in God’s provision and timing. We want to thank each of you that support us, especially during this time of waiting. Your continued support humbles, encourages, and challenges us. We love and appreciate you.

Churches Visited Since Last Update:

–Goshen New Life (Faison, NC)
–The Refuge (Conway, SC)
–New Destiny (Greenville,NC)
–North Myrtle Beach PH (North Myrtle Beach, SC)
–Wallace PH (Wallace, NC)
–Clinton Community (Clinton, NC)
–Gospel Tabernacle (Dunn, NC)
–The Bridge (Princeton, NC)
–South Strand AG (Murrells Inlet, SC)
–Hope Church (Clayton, NC)
–Higher Ground (Ahoskie, NC)
–New Covenant (New Bern, NC)
–Vaughan Chapel (Elm City, NC)
–Faith Outreach Church (Hampton, VA)

Events Attended:

–North Carolina Conference Campmeeting (Falcon, NC)
–Goldsboro/Greenville District Meeting (Goldsboro, NC)
–Missions FEST (Burlington, NC)
–Fayetteville/Clinton District Meeting (Eastover, NC)

Click here for more details about our ministry.

Interested in becoming a Partner?
You can make a donation or become monthly supporter by clicking here. Information for mailing checks can be found here.

Recent Happenings…

Jessica is still enjoying the work that she has been able to do serving as Marketing Director at Falcon Children’s Home. In October, Jamie will begin tutoring a few of the students at FCH again this year. It has been great to have the opportunity to pour into this amazing ministry during our time Stateside.

The kids are great. In September Sophie started pre-school. She absolutely loves it and thrives in that environment. She is extremely social, so having a classroom full of friends is the perfect scenario for her. She enjoys making crafts, reading books, and of course playing with her peers. We expected her to have a difficult time making the transition, especially on the first day, but she has had no trouble at all.

Ethan is growing and seems to have made the transition from baby to little boy very quickly. He has started a class at The Little Gym in Fayetteville called “Super Beasts”…which is a perfectly fitting name for him. He is such a natural when it comes to climbing, flipping, balancing, and jumping…so he loves having free reign in a padded room with a plethora of things to climb on, hang from, and jump off of. He also loves having his own teacher, Ms. Miranda (he calls her Ms. Baranda).

In August we had our friends, the Nippers, visit us for a week! We lived next door to one another in Kenya during our first 3 years there, and became extremely close….more like family than friends. It was awesome to spend a week with them and their beautiful girls, and of course Sophie and Ethan loved having friends for the week. Later in August, we also had Melissa and Christian come into town for a Post-Wedding Reception with family and friends in NC. We had a pig-picking (it wouldn’t be a party in NC without a pig) and we had a great weekend with the newly-weds. This past weekend we got a last minute invite (3 hours before kick-off!) to the NC State-FSU football game. It was an incredible game (even though the Pack lost) and a fun-time with friends.

Upcoming…

In the coming weeks we have a lot to look forward to. We have a fairly full speaking schedule, which we are grateful for. In early October we are excited about going back to Emmanuel College for homecoming and the EC Singers Reunion. We are also excited about football season in the States. It is a small thing, but it is something we do miss when we are in Kenya. We are looking forward to going to a couple of Clemson games with Jessica’s family, and maybe even another NC State game as well. Going to D.C. for a Redskins game would be brilliant as well….but that one isn’t quite as possible. Of course, we are looking forward to the coming holiday season…which will be our last one with family for a while, so we want to make the most of it.

A Thought on Love…

We recently came across this beautiful and challenging thought from author and pastor, Fredrick Buechner, that we wanted to share with you:

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

Prayer Requests…

-That we would love God and others as He loves us, and that we will be faithful in all the areas that He is calling us.
-For continued direction, favor, and wisdom in ministry, both here and in Kenya.
-For our marriage to grow stronger every day.
-For Sophie and Ethan…that they will feel a meaningful connection to our ministry and that they both will grow to love and serve Jesus. For the Nation of Kenya, and the individuals, ministries, and churches we support.
-That we will continue making strong connections with partners and will soon be able to return to Kenya.
-For our extended families as we prepare to make the transition back to Kenya.
-For good health, safety and protection.

Can we pray for you? Please send us your requests at jamandjessdunning@gmail.com.

Grace and Peace,

Jamie, Jessica, Sophie, and Ethan

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To Give…To Teach…or To Join?

NativeLeader3-Give,Teach, Join-Fisherman Photo
Often in our Missions/Humanitarian efforts in developing countries (as well as domestically!) we have approached the issue of poverty by offering charity.  We have been taught that if we freely give to those in need, we have done our part in assisting them and in giving them a chance at a better life.  We know the value of giving.  We know that Christ expects us to be generous and to be filled with compassion when faced with the suffering of others. We have become extremely charitable, which is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Christian Church. Around the globe, Christian communities are immensely generous and freely give to the needs of others through aid and charity.   We follow the way of Christ, knowing that we serve Him by serving others and that what we do for “the least of these” we do for Him.  (Matthew 25). But sometimes our charity isn’t enough.  

When faced with extreme poverty (whether it be financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual), we cannot be content with offering charity alone.  Don’t misunderstand me, I believe charity is immensely important.  Taking the time to provide a meal, offer financial assistance, or pausing to pray for someone, is always the right cause of action. We should daily look for opportunities to serve the needs of other’s, however, after several years of living and working in Kenya, I believe that charity alone can’t be our only approach to social justice ministry.  

In the book, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, Noble Peace Prize recipient, Muhammad Yunas, states, “When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity….But charity is no solution to poverty.  Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor.”  These are sharp and poignant words, but there is truth within.  Charity, on it’s own, can perpetuate poverty by taking the initiative away from the people that we intend to help.  Charity can also create a self-absorbed and inaccurate lens through which we see ourselves as heroes and those we are helping as incapable and dependent upon us.  So, how should we approach charity and foreign (and domestic) aid?

There is a well-known Chinese Proverb that says, Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  There is great value in empowering people to provide for themselves; in essence, teaching them to fish.  Through micro-finance programs and investment in income-generating projects, we can offer people the opportunity to, not only meet the needs of today, but to also be prepared to face the needs of tomorrow.  I would like, however, to stretch the analogy a bit further. In our experiences in Kenya we quickly learned that no one needs us to ‘teach them to fish’.  Most of the people we work with are far better “fisherman” than we are.  They are creative, intelligent, hard-working, and prayerful men and women capable and willing to provide for themselves, far better than we could.  What they do need are partners, partners that will assist them in purchasing the boat, the fishing nets, and be willing to join them in the boat.  

Ok, enough of the fishing analogy (unless you are actually investing in a literal fishing business!).  What does this approach to “charity” look like?  For individuals, it can come in the form of micro-loans, which are small amounts of money that allow them to start businesses (such as buying a cow/goat to sale milk, buying chickens to sale eggs,  planting crops, starting a sewing project; etc..there are dozens of possibilities).   When these individuals began to make a profit, they are required to repay the loan (at no interest….though many that offer these programs do charge interest). In repaying the loans, the fund grows, allowing others to apply. This creates a network of partners that are funding one another.  The entire community can benefit as they invest in one another.  For ministries such as orphanages, schools, feeding programs and medical clinics, this can come in the form of investing in income-generating projects. Larger scale chicken farms, dairy farms, bee-keeping, greenhouse gardening, Aquaponics, handcrafts, etc., are all examples of income generating projects….the possibilities are endless.  This type of sustainable aid requires a more humble, trusting, and organized approach, but it can bring about the long-term change that simple charity cannot.  The greatest benefit of this type of “charity” is that it provides the opportunity for the receiver to eliminate the need for our charity tomorrow.  C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote: “The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.” (Four Loves)  After all, isn’t that the goal?

For more reading on micro-finance and/or changing the nature of foreign Aid:

Yunus, Muhammed. Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty; Public Affairs, 2003
Smith, Phillip & Thurman, Eric.  Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and The Business Solution for Ending Poverty; McGraw Hill Professional, 2007
Moyo, Dambisa.  Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009

July Update:

Travel/Fundraising:

We have had an exciting couple of months that have allowed us to visit many churches and events, as well as spend time with friends and family. We are grateful for all of the new relationships we have formed, and for every church that has welcomed us. We continue to make progress towards reaching our budget goal so that we will be able to return to Kenya. We want to thank each of you for, not only partnering with us, but for being patient with us as we strive to raise our budget. We know that you are as eager to see us return to Kenya as we are to return, so we thank you for your support and dedication to our family. We appreciate each of you.
As always, we are looking for opportunities to expand our network of partners. If you are currently one of our partners, would you prayerfully consider sharing about our ministry with your friends and family? We would love to have open doors into new churches and even small groups and home groups. If you have friends, family, or contacts that you feel may be interested in learning about our vision for outreach in Kenya, please let us know.
Travel Stats Since Last Update:
Churches Visited: 9
*Westmoreland (Wilson, NC) *Baraneau (Lake City, SC) *Thrive Church (Richmond, VA) *Living Word Full Gospel Fellowship (Wilmington, NC) *Smyrna P.H. Church (Smyrna, NC) *Falcon Children’s Home Chapel (Falcon, NC) *Roper P.H. Church (Roper, NC) *Maxton P.H. Church (Maxton, NC) *Cedar Point (Swansboro, NC)
Events Attended: 3
*Redemption Ministries Great Comission Meal (Chesapeake, VA
*South Carolina Campmeeting (Lake City, SC)
*Upper South Carolina Campmeeting (Beech Springs, SC)

Ministry Miles Driven: 3,000+

Recent Happenings:
This last couple of months have been full of a wide variety of amazing experienes. In addition to our usual work, speaking, and travel, we also had Sophie’ first dance recital, celebrated Sophie’s 4th birthday, drove down the NC Outer Banks for the first time while traveling from one church to another, went to Denver, CO, for Melissa (Jamie’s sister) and Christian’s wedding, celebrated July 4th with Jessica’s family, and met up with some of our closest friends from our first two years in Kenya for a camping trip. This has been an extremely eventful and exciting couple of months.

Upcoming:
In the next couple of months we currently have 14 different services scheduled, as well as plans to attend NC Campmeeting and serve as presenters at Missions Fest in Burlington, NC. We are also still working on a few other potential bookings. That will be a lot of time on the road, but we are thankful to have a full, busy calendar, because we know that each opportunity leads us closer to returning to Kenya. As you can see in the picture on the left, Soph and Ethan have gotten used to being on the road.
In late August, Melissa and Christian will also be coming to NC for a wedding reception, so we are looking forward to seeing them and having a large family celebration.

Thanks for stopping by to check in on us. We are striving to raise our budget so that we are able to return to Kenya as soon as possible!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Truth Learned in Sinai….

The Following article was written for http://www.nativeleader.org and appeared on July 7, 2014

I took a moment to survey the trail before me. I was prepared for the steepness of the climb; however, the predawn chill in the desert air caught me slightly off guard. I counted the series of steps ahead that were crudely carved out of the granite mountainside. The monks that carved these steps refer to them as the “Steps of Penitence.” I can’t verify the authenticity, but according to legend, these steps were originally created by a monk named Stephen who felt led to make recompense for a past sin by hand carving a path to the summit of Mt. Sinai….the mountain which is believed to be where God handed down the 10 Commandments to Moses. Glancing up, I could see that we were nearly to the summit. I knew that if we hoped to arrive before sunrise, we needed to forge ahead. I offered Jess a drink of water and took a moment to stretch my tight hamstrings. Then, one foot after the other, we continued the steep ascent.

We were completing our first year of serving as bivocational missionaries and working at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. Since we were living relatively close to Egypt, at least closer than we ever had, we decided to take the opportunity to visit during our Spring Break. We excitedly planned our itinerary that included stops at all of the popular sites. A friend of ours encouraged us to include a midnight trek up Mt. Sinai to see the sunrise. We’re always up for an adventure and hiking is one of our passions. We didn’t need much convincing. Knowing we had the opportunity to see the sunrise from the peak where Moses may have stood was enough for us.

After spending a few days in Cairo, we made our way across the Suez Canal and then down the Sinai Peninsula. As we drove, the Red Sea was shimmering on our right while arid and rocky desert mountains rose to our left. After a few hours, we turned inland and drove into the desert, leaving the Red Sea behind us. Granite cliffs towered around us as we navigated through the rugged terrain. Eventually we made our way into an arid valley that was one of the most unique and beautiful places we had ever scene. It was Breathtaking.
Knowing that we had a long night ahead of us, we ate an early dinner and called it a night. I awoke at 1:00am, unsure if I had even slept. We stepped outside and were immediately greeted by a strong, cold wind. It was difficult to comprehend the extreme drop in temperature compared to earlier in the day. We met our guides, Ahmed and Mustafa, at the van and made our way to the base of the mountain. When we arrived at the trailhead, Ahmed introduced us to Ishmael, the Bedouin guide that would be leading us up the mountain. Ishmael nodded, lit the first of many cigarettes, and motioned for us to follow him. I looked back at Ahmed and Mustafa, and noted that both seemed relieved to be heading back to their warm beds. I turned around to find Ishmael already well ahead, and so, we began our ascent.

The hike up was quaint and peaceful. Constant views of the moonlit valley and the occasional camel passing made for a serene and unique experience. After several hours of climbing, Ishmael motioned for us to stop. He pointed up and I could see that the summit loomed just above. We still had a couple of hours before sunrise, so we entered a Bedouin tent just off the path. Inside there were warm padded benches, hot tea and coffee, as well as camel wool blankets for rent. While he lit another cigarette, Ishmael motioned for us to sit and rest and have a warm cup of mint tea or water. We were soon joined by dozens of other hikers. Following a brief respite, and renting a camel wool blanket, Jess and I decided to continue our trek. Ishmael was standing outside the tent, talking with a few of the other guides. I told him that we were ready to press on, but soon learned that he would remain behind. We were to finish the last section on our own.

After a half hour climb, we arrived at the summit. We were instantly greeted by a stone chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity. I scanned the area and was surprised, and to be honest a bit disappointed, to see the number of people already present. Several different groups consisting of dozens of people crowded the mountaintop. Jess and I quickly moved toward the edge in order to find a private spot to await the sun. There was a small precipice facing east that was slightly removed from the crowd. It offered the perfect vantage point of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. We wrapped ourselves in the rented camel wool blanket and leaned back against a smooth boulder that felt as if it had been created specifically for this moment. Then we waited. We chatted occasionally. We admired the pristine view. We tried to not be annoyed by the group of noisy teenagers nearby. We listened to the iPod in an attempt to block out the noise. But eventually we feel silent.

The stillness settled in around us. My thoughts turned to the Father, the creator and sustainer of all things, the Son whose grace and mercy beckons us to follow Him, and to the Spirit, who restores us and guides us towards all that is good. As the warm glow of the rising sun began to peak over the horizon bringing life to the valley below, something began to rise within me stirring something fresh and new. Prayers began to fill my heart and praises flowed from my lips in response to the awareness of the incredible presence of God. His presence was not only evident in the movement within me, but also in the beauty of life and creation around us. I glanced at Jess and was not surprised to see that she was having a similar experience. We lost ourselves in reflective worship as tears of joy, peace, repentance, and awe mingled together and freely flowed down our faces.

Some time later, I stood to stretch my legs. I scanned the surrounding area and was surprised to find that we were nearly alone on the mountaintop. The sun was well into its’ journey across the sky. It was time for us to make our descent. As I made my way down the steps, with feet much lighter than they should have been, I reflected on the beautiful spiritual experience of the morning. What had made this encounter so powerful? Was it possible that this truly was the mountain where God had interacted directly with Moses, making it a holy place? Had the thousands of prayers and worship offered at this site over the centuries created a unique and sacred space? Or was it simply that we had chosen to intentionally pause and make ourselves aware of the powerful presence of God around us?

In the book, Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius teaches that as followers of Christ we should be contemplatives in action, always seeking to find God in all things. Often we are so focused on our activities, responsibilities, ministries, and general pace of life, that we forget to pause.. We forget to be aware of the presence of God around us. We fail to recognize that, according to Paul in Romans 1:20, the eternal power and divine nature of God can clearly be seen in the things that He has made. The Psalmist shares a parallel truth by stating, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.” That morning on a mountaintop in Sinai I learned a valuable truth, one that has been echoed in my life many times since. You and I encounter the glory of God in every moment of every day, but we must pause and choose to be aware. It is our responsibility to take advantage of this unique privilege we have been given.

048

Apr-May Update…

Travel/Fundraising:

    “I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.” -Will Carleton.

One of the greatest aspects of this part of our journey has been the opportunity to build relationships with new people, as well as reconnect with friends and family from our past. We are incredibly thankful for all of the new relationships we have formed, and for every church that has welcomed us. We are steadily making progress towards reaching our budget goal. According to our most recent report we have met between 60-65% of our budget! Thank you for all of you that are partnering with us!
We do have a request to make…we are looking for opportunities to expand our network of partners. If you are currently one of our partners, would you prayerfully consider sharing about our ministry with your friends and family? We would love to have open doors into new churches and even small groups and home groups. If you have friends, family, or contacts that you feel may be interested in learning about our vision for outreach in Kenya, please let us know. We appreciate you all so much!

    Travel Stats Since Last Update:

    **Churches Visited: 5
    ——-Thunder Swamp (Mt. Olive, NC)
    ——-Benson P.H. (Benson, NC)
    ——-Radiate (Columbia, SC)
    ——-Nakina P.H. (Nakina, NC)
    ——-Christian Life Ministries (Kingsburg, SC)
    **Great Commissions Meals Attended: 9
    **Miles Driven: 2,400

Recent Happenings: This last month has been a full one. In addition to our travel, we celebrated Ethan’s 2nd birthday, celebrated Easter with Jessica’s family at Kingsway P.H., went camping at Morrow Mt. (Jamie and Ethan camped while Jess and Sophie worked at Falcon Children’s Home Alumni weekend), and we took a family camping trip to Medoc Mt. for Mother’s Day (our speaking engagement was rescheduled, so we found ourselves with the rare, open weekend and decided to take the opportunity). A photo slideshow is at the bottom of the post.

Upcoming: The calendar is fairly full the next few months. Our travels will take us from NC to SC, VA, and FL, for speaking engagements and conferences. We will also be heading to Denver, CO, in early June for Melissa’s (Jamie’s sister) wedding. In the coming week Sophie also has her very first dance recital and in June she will have her 4th birthday….these kids are growing way to quickly! It is going to be a busy and exciting stretch for us!

Encouragement from the Past: A few weeks ago I (Jamie) came across a letter that my Granddad had written in 1939. The letter detailed his struggle with Tuberculosis and how he had been miraculously healed a few years earlier. He concluded the letter by writing, “I am in good health and still in the King’s service. I have no pains. I am happy in the Lord and desire to live long and serve Him.” As I was reading this letter, I was overwhelmed with emotion. My Granddaddy has always been one of my heroes. I only knew him for 10 years, but his character and the way he lived his life made a distinct impression on me. People often tell me I resemble him…and even though they are mostly referring to our similar features (the characteristic “Dunning” nose, forehead that slopes towards the hairline, and ears that stand a considerable distance off of the head)…I secretly hope that they will one day see a resemblance in character. I hope to be a man that lives with passion, and one that puts faith and family above all else. Like him, I hope to be a someone that responds with compassion when faced with injustice, and someone that has the perfect balance of seriousness and silliness. I want to be the type of person whose character speaks volumes without needing to speak a word. Even though I haven’t heard his voice in over 20 years, he spoke to me as I read this letter, or perhaps more accurately, the Lord spoke to me through his writing. It served as a reminder that He is always at work in our lives, regardless of what we face. There is no guarantee that life will not be difficult. Hardships will come and storms will need to be weathered. Life will be filled with struggles and disappointment, but faith in Christ will guide us through. He will be our constant source of comfort and healing, but when adversity comes we have a decision to make in regards to how we respond. “I am happy in the Lord and desire to live long and serve Him.” After typing this statement to conclude his letter, E.R. Dunning went on to live 52 more years. 52 years that were full of faithful service to Christ. Ultimately, this is the way I most hope to be like him.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Update: Fundraising, Thoughts on Lent, Top 9 of 9 yrs. of Marriage…

Travel/Fundraising: We are feeling extremely encouraged after the last several weeks. We have been fortunate to meet many new people and add to our fast growing network of partners! In the last several weeks we have driven nearly 1,700 miles and visited several awesome churches. It has been busy, and at times difficult to juggle with travel, our family, Jessica’s job, and my tutoring, but we are thankful for it all. We were grateful to have had the opportunity to share and build relationships at The Journey (Dunn, NC), Capital Church (Garner, NC), Parkway Christian Center (Chesapeake, VA), Culbreth Memorial (Falcon, NC), Wilmington 1st (Wilmington, NC) Church Alive Ministries (Pikesville, NC) and Kingdom Place (Lumberton, NC). We also attended 6 Great Commission Meals in NC and SC. We are thankful for every church and individual that we have met along the way. We have also done some traveling for the Falcon Children’s Home (Virginia Beach, VA, and Methodist College) for Jessica’s job, so that has provided added opportunities for ministry.
We are continuing to make progress towards meeting our budget. According to our most recent report we have met more than 40% of our budget! The great news is that this report didn’t include the majority of partners that have been added in the last 2-3 months! We are very encouraged by this. Thank you for partnering with us!
The next few months look to be just as busy…if not busier! Between speaking engagements and Great Commission Meals we have 13 commitments in the next 15 days! We are excited and grateful for every door that is opening to us. If you are interested in having us share about our vision for work in Kenya with your church, we have a few open Sunday (mornings or evenings) and Wednesday nights in the coming months. We would also enjoy sharing with your small group, home group, family, book club, or fantasy football league….anyone really, just let us know!

Lent: “As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” –Mother Teresa.
We are currently in the middle of the Lent season. Lent is the 40 day fast in preparation for the day of Christ’s Resurrection, where one attempts to identify (in a very small way) with the suffering of Jesus Christ. It is a time of repentance. A time of fasting and increased prayer and study. We have not always observed Lent, as it was not a part of our church’s background or practices. However, in the last several years it has become an extremely important part of our spiritual journey.

Sophie and Ethan: The kids are both doing well. We have asked a lot of them with the travel, and busy schedules, but they are troopers. They are not perfect…nowhere close actually, but we honestly could not ask for more laid back and go-with-the-flow kids. There are times that they seem to get tired of meeting new people and traveling so much, but overall they do well and enjoy it. The late nights do occasionally lead to temper tantrums the next day….but we can usually get Jessica calmed down fairly quickly.
Sophie continues to grow and amaze us every day. She is smart, creative, and extremely social. She has recently fallen in love with chapter books, and loves Daddy to read them to her at bedtime. She is also turning into a bit of a pack-rat. There is no such thing as trash…everything is usable. A few weeks ago we brought her a surprise after a weekend away. I reached into the bag to pull out the gift, and saw an empty medicine box in the bottom of the bag…clearly trash. I jokingly pulled it out and said, “Surprise!”….expecting a look of concern. Instead she said, “Daddy, I LOVE it! I can use this in my Dr. kit, or keep special things in it! Thank you!!!” I laughed and told her I was kidding and then gave her the real gift. She said, “Wow! Thanks!….but can I still keep the box too?” Three weeks later, that box is now decorated with stickers and contains all types of mini-treasures. We love that about her. She has also found her calling….she is a candy pusher. After services she carries the candy bowl around and makes sure everyone has gotten a piece…or 5. This shows her giving and compassionate nature, but it also gives her unlimited, unsupervised, access to the candy bowl…which she takes advantage of for herself as well.
Ethan will be 2 in April. His personality is starting to grow and develop. He is inquisitive, adventurous, sweet-natured, sneaky, and loves to make people laugh…especially “Soapy” (what he called Soph). He adores his big sister….but he is also learning how to annoy her as well, which is part of the package. He loves being outdoors, animals, and riding in Papa’s “cruck.” His verbal skills have really taken off recently as well. He is talking so much. He is also a good little worker, and enjoys helping me when we work with my Dad. The other day he reminded us of how frequently we visit new churches, when we pulled up to a restaurant and he said, “Nursery?”

Our 9th Anniversary: On March 26 we celebrated out 9th Wedding Anniversary! We had a church scheduled on that evening, so we decided to celebrate the weekend before. We didn’t do anything extravagant, just spent a day in Raliegh, just the two of us. In honor of 9 incredible years together, here is a list of our 9 Best Memories/Events of the last 9 years (in no particular order, except for #1 and #2)….
1. Having Sophie and Ethan.
2. Moving to Kenya…and all of the amazing things that are a part of that: (ministry and partnerships, incredible friends, Rosslyn, safari, hikes, camping trips, coast trips….)
3. Trip to Italy….all of it (Rome, Venice, Pisa, Milan, espresso, gelato, food)….but mainly hiking the Cinqe Terre together.
4. Trip to Egypt….all of it (Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Pyramids, Khan Al Khalili, Felucca ride on the Nile, Coptic Cairo)…but mainly watching the sunrise from the top of Mt. Sinai after hiking through the night.
5. Rafting the source of the Nile River in Jinja, Uganda.
6. Seeing Les Miserable at the Queen’s Theater in London.
7. Honeymoon in Hawaii.
8. Leading short-term missions teams from Emmanuel College to Peru and Kenya in 2006 and 2007….(While in Peru, Jess got to see Machu Picchu and hike to the top of Huayna Picchu for the 1st time!)
9. Now…preparing for our future of living and working in Kenya. We are completely at peace and stoked about the direction our lives have taken.
***On the Bubble….Sky Diving (engagement, so it was before marriage), Washington trip to see the Redskins play!, California trip to see Dave and Iniray, Dunning Family Cruise, walking down Main Street in Highlands, NC, during a beautiful snow flurry, Vogel State Park Camping Trip, section hiking the A.T., Seeing Phantom of the Opera at the FOX in Atlanta…we have been blessed and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and our family.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The last several weeks….

We have been meaning to write an update for a while (I think all of our updates start this way). Sorry for the delay!

Travel/Fundraising: In the last month we have seen drastic extremes in regards to our travel schedule. Due to Christmas and the New Year, the last couple of weeks in December and 1st couple of weeks of January were relatively slow for us, as this isn’t necessarily a prime time in the calendar year to visit churches. However, the last several weeks have really picked up. In the last 3 weeks we have driven 1,300 miles and visited several awesome churches. We were thankful to have the opportunity to speak at Tarboro 1st (Tarboro, NC), Jones Grove (Mt. Olive, NC), Holland’s Chapel (Roseboro, NC), and Glad Tidings Church (Morehead City, NC). We also had the opportunity to return Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA, as a part of SEND Week. We were able to speak to the entire student body in Convocation, as well as address several classes, about the importance of being globally-minded and sharing the love of Christ wherever we find ourselves. The next couple of months will be busy for us as we will be attending several Great Commission Meals in NC and SC, but we do still have a few open Sunday (mornings and nights), as well as Wednesday nights, if you would like for us to visit your church and share about our vision for work in Kenya. We would also love to share with your small group or home group if you are interested. We are starting to make progress towards meeting our budget, but we still have a ways to go. We know that God will provide, and we are extremely thankful for those of you that He is using to do so. Thank you for partnering with us!

Christmas: We had an extremely special Christmas this year. It was great to be home with family for the entire Christmas Season, as opposed to arriving just a few days before Christmas. The kids are both at fun and exciting ages and the wonder of Christmas was very much alive for them. They enjoyed the lights, decorations, time with family, and of course presents. The most special moments of our Christmas Season took place during our nightly family Advent prayers, reading, songs, and calendar. It is a tradition we started last year and it was by far the highlight our our holiday.
This was our first year where the kids really got into the “Santa” thing, so we had to figure out exactly what approach we were going to take as a family. We have friends on both sides of the Santa argument. Some of our friends do not do Santa at all. Other friends use Elf-on-the-Shelf and have interactive naughty-nice lists on their i-phones. We decided that we would be somewhere in the middle. We try to focus on the value of giving and how Saint Nicholas embodies that. We don’t use the idea of Santa as a behavior modifier, and we try to answer every question honestly by either referring to the real Saint Nicholas or answering for ourselves (since we are Santa Claus after all). At the same time there is something magical about Santa that we didn’t want our kids to miss out on. So we had our picture made with Santa at the mall, we made hot cocoa and cookies (Santa enjoyed them very much), and read “The Night Before Christmas.” When Jess and I crawled into bed at 3 a.m. Christmas morning (after 3 hours of putting Ethan’s wooden train table together) we definitely felt like we had gone through a parenting right of passage.

Snow Days: One thing we were hoping for during our time in the States was for the kids to be able to see snow. They had never seen snow, and since they will be spending the majority of their childhoods in Kenya, odds are they won’t see very much in the future. Even Jess and I hadn’t see any snow in 7 years (other than a snowstorm I encountered at the peak of Mt. Kenya that lasted 20 minutes or so….pretty cool to be one of the few people that have been in a snowstorm on the equator!). Well, needless to say, we got our wish. Two weeks ago we had around 4″ of snow that stayed around for several days. This week we had another storm that gave us 7″ of snow in our backyard! The kids have had a blast watching it fall and playing in it. The 1st morning Sophie ran outside, immediately fell into it and shouted “It IS delightful!” Ethan, meanwhile, walked around kicking it while saying, “Funny…Funny….It Funny.” We went sledding (there are always good people in Falcon willing to pull the kids around with 4-wheelers), built a snowman (Olaf from “Frozen”), made snow angles, ate snow cream, and had epic snow ball battles. It has been awesome to see snow for the 1st time through the eyes of Sophie and Ethan.

Well….that is what is new with us. Thanks for checking in!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.