Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Christian Challenge March 2016 Update!

Hard to believe it's already March!  It's been months since we were able to get an update to you so it was definitely time to get one out.  Hope you had a great Christmas and hope that the new year is off to a good start!  We've had an adventure the last few months or so.  It's been a roller coaster for sure.

The ministry has been amazing but we've had some stresses outside of that.  With the ministry, we've been averaging 25-35 students consistently at our family dinners and discussions.  This is the most we've seen consistently in the history of the ministry.  We're growing, and it's really encouraging to see.  Lately, we've been tackling hot button issues in our discussions.  In weeks past, we discussed the Syrian refugee crisis, what's driving it, and what the Bible has to say about it all.  The students were really engaged and seemed to have really learned a lot.

We also just had one of my favorite events, the Silverton Snow Day, where we go up to Kendall Mountain, and students can ice skate, sled, cross-country ski, alpine ski, and snowboard.  Here is a link to video of one of our students, Ryan, sledding down a pretty steep hill: Click here!  Don't worry, we didn't have to take Ryan to the ER after his run.  Next year, we might have to start bubble wrapping all of our students for the day.

So I mentioned that it's kind of been a roller coaster over the last few months.  Though the ministry side of things is going great, house issues have been a pretty big stress in our lives.

Let's rewind back to November.  We finished up the month of November up with our house heater and water heater going out.  Not something you want happening going into the cold season.  It actually went out earlier in the month but it took our plumber three weeks to fix it.  We were told we just needed a part at first.  That turned into needing a whole new system and because the previous owner of the house had it hooked up by a guy who cut corners, the warranty was voided.  So $5,500 later, we have a new combo heater that runs our house heat and hot water.  It's still not working right but hopefully that will be remedied soon by making some small adjustments.  And if not, hey, summer's just around the corner.

We started the process early as we had a marriage conference/retreat for people in ministry we were supposed to be at for a week in early December.  We had some awesome supporters who had attended it and told us they would pay for us to go.  They thought it would be years down the road before they could send us but they ended up being able to send us much earlier than we all thought they would be able to.

Anyway, due to us not having a working heater, we kept a fire going in our wood stove pretty much 24/7.  With us going on the retreat, there would be no way to keep the fire going and keep our pipes from freezing.  It had to be fixed before we left.

Now with the retreat, we were told that there would be things that came up beforehand that would make you not want to go.  I thought it would be mental blocks like a fear of talking about your feelings or something.  Well, I was wrong.  It turned out to be the heater.  When the time came to leave, the heater still wasn't fixed.  We knew that God wanted us at this retreat, and that it was going to be extremely encouraging.  We just really had to trust God to protect our house while we were gone.

Also, the plumber was supposed to come the next day and have it fully fixed.  When he called us at the retreat to let us know he replaced the system, he also let us know it would be almost $2,000 more than what we were originally quoted due to him being misquoted by the distributor he ordered the system from.  Thankfully, God protected us from letting that news ruin our whole retreat.

We ended up having an amazing time at the retreat.  As much as I loved it, it impacted Rachel even more greatly.  I thought I'd let her share in her own words about our week there.

"One of our supporters surprised us this past summer saying that they wanted to send us to Sonscape hopefully by the summer of 2016. Then this fall, they wrote, 'We have the funds!  Go as soon as you can!' Sonscape is a week long conference for those in full-time ministry. It focused on figuring out how to balance the demands of life, family, and ministry while rekindling passion for Christ and His church. The days were spent alone with the Lord, together as a couple, in group discussions with the three other sets of couples, and time with the hosts where you could discuss anything going on and work through those things in a safe environment. It was hands-down the most enriching, life-giving thing we had ever done for our marriage. We felt understood, cared for, and encouraged. We learned new things about each other. We were given tools as well as understanding more about how we operate as individuals and as a couple."

It was truly an amazing time.  We felt so refreshed and encouraged.  That lasted the whole 6-hour car ride back to home...and then we were back in the dark stronghold of Durango.  The spiritual attacks started literally the moment we turned into the neighborhood.  We had a dog try and attack our car.  We had some kids we'd never seen before walking in the middle of the road walking slow almost like zombies refusing to move a bit to the side so that we could get by.  I felt like were in the twilight zone or something.  You could just feel a heaviness.

Finally, we pulled into our driveway.  We were home at our place of refuge.  We could rest from the drive and from the outside world.  All would be well.  Yeah, not so much.  We came home to a house that was 35 degrees.  It was literally colder inside than it was outside.  Clearly, our new heater wasn't working and hadn't been working since the night the plumber supposedly fixed it.  We had no heat pretty much all week with night time lows dipping to around -10 degrees.  My mind immediately went to if our pipes were okay.  Thankfully, they were.  The fact that our pipes didn't freeze was a true miracle and answered prayer.  God had protected our pipes.  Eventually, the plumber made it out and somewhat fixed the heater.  It still struggles to heat our house and water at night.  But that's better than nothing so we're very thankful.

Upon getting back, we realized that we were going to need our water guy to come out and bring us some water for our cistern.  We told him to come out the next time he had a chance if the weather was good.  We didn't want him coming out in bad weather as our road to our house can be a bit dangerous when it snows.

Well, he decided to come out three days later during a really bad snowstorm and put his water truck in the ditch blocking our road home.  He also dropped a thousand gallons of water on our road which could have possibly froze making our neighbor and HOA president not very happy.  It didn't help that he tore up our road too.  It took all day to get him unstuck but finally we did.

Though he shouldn't have even attempted it, it wasn't entirely the water guy's fault.  Our plow drivers had new tires that had too much tread which swallowed their chains.  They couldn't make it up our hill to plow so snow accumulated and didn't appear to be removed.  Then we had a very wet storm move in.  The wet snow hit the old snow and froze on contact making it an ice skating rink, only on a steep hill.

Even I had trouble making it up in my Xterra with 4wd, snow tires and studs.  I actually ended up sliding backwards 20-30 feet on my first attempt.  A little scary on a steep and very narrow road but I did finally make it home.

So without our water guy being able to make it, we were without water for three weeks.  Did I mention our house uses water for heating the whole place?  Any water that we had to use was from the snow.  I shoveled it into our cistern so that we could flush toilets every now and then.  Eventually things started freezing so I had to stop shoveling the snow into the cistern.  We melted it on the stove so that we could take weekly baths.  It felt like we were doing mission work in a third-world country to be honest or maybe just living like people did 200 years ago.

Our water guy tried a couple more times to make it up over those three weeks but got stuck again.  Finally, he made it into our driveway.  He unloaded his water in our cistern and then proceeded to slide off our driveway, almost taking out our outhouse, and blocking the driveway.  He also tore the driveway up while getting it unstuck three or four days later.  There comes a point when circumstances get so ridiculous that you can't even be stressed or frustrated anymore.  You can really only laugh.  We were at that point.

If you've stuck with my update this long, thank you.  It's been a rough couple of months...but we expect that when the ministry has been so amazing.  While all that ridiculousness with the house was happening, we were still doing ministry.  God was working in our students lives.  We were trying to get as much discipling in as possible before break.  We were also doing all the end of the year Christmas parties and such for the students.

Just before Christmas break, Tate, a cross-country runner who I first met at FCA, graduated.  It was great to see one of the guys I've been discipling for almost four years walk across that stage.  He really opened the door for the cross-country team to be reached.  That door continues to be as wide open as it's ever been.  It's amazing to see how many students have been reached and discipled thru him showing up at FCA one night as a freshman.  And thru that open door, the girlfriend of one of the other runners I disciple lead Tate's girlfriend, who is also a runner, to Christ!  Tate's girlfriend then also got baptized!  It's awesome to look back and see all the work God has been doing!

Eventually, we hit Christmas break which meant shoveling snow and chopping wood at every spare moment.  With our heat going out, we blew thru our winter's worth of wood in those three weeks trying to keep our pipes from freezing.  That meant we needed a lot more to make it through the rest of winter.  Shoveling has taken a lot of our time as well with our snowblower being broken.  (I figure all of these things breaking are just going to make us that much more thankful when they finally work as they should.)  I did eventually get three days of rest during break to recharge so that was nice.

The night of Christmas Eve, we had our annual event where we take students with us to the candlelight service at church and follow it up with dinner at my mom's place.  It's normally a big highlight for our Japanese students who come.  We've been told it's one of their favorite experiences on their time in America.

Leading up to the night, we were really wondering if we'd have any students.  None had really signed up.  The night before, we had a couple of our Japanese students sign up.  When we showed up to pick them up, we saw one of them walking towards our vehicle with another Japanese student who wasn't signed up.  That student said that he was also going.  Then another student showed up.  Then another.  Soon, we had no more room in the vehicle.  We ended up having to call for reinforcements to drive because we had so many extra students show up.  We ended up having almost fifteen people in our group at church with us.  It was pretty awesome.

We then had the issue of making sure we had enough food for dinner as we had a lot more students than the two we had planned on.  It all worked out though.  It was an exciting night for us.

Also during break, Jen was able to go to Africa.  She went with Blythe, one of our students.  I've mentioned Blythe before.  She is the one who started up an organization called She has a Name which rescues girls out of sex slavery.  Well, Blythe and Jen were able to go over there and work with girls who had recently been rescued.  It sounds like it was a pretty amazing trip for the ladies.

Unfortunately, it was also a very hard trip for Jen as she got news that her dad had passed away the moment they touched down in Africa.  He had been battling complications from diabetes when the Lord called him home.  Due to flight schedules, Jen wasn't able to make it home for a week but she was able to make it to the funeral.

Immediately after that, Josh, Jen and the boys met us and the students up at Life Impact in Colorado Springs.  Life Impact is a conference where college students from all over meet at the Glen Eyrie Castle and Conference Center.  It's an amazing place but what's even more amazing is that we pulled in almost 400 college students this year.  We had fifteen in our group from FLC.  There's worship, big name Christian speakers, and breakout sessions for the students to go deeper.  It's an amazing time.  We saw great growth out of each and every one of our students who attended.

After the conference, Rachel stayed behind in the Springs.  She was going to be a matron of honor in the wedding of one of her best friends from high school.  Due to the scheduling of things and finances, it just made more sense for her to stay up there for a few weeks instead of having to drive six hours back and forth from Colorado Springs to Durango every weekend.  It ended up being a great time for Rachel.  She got to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and I know that was extremely refreshing for her.

Other than getting back into the swing of being on campus and doing ministry, I spent that time shoveling snow and chopping wood, of course.  We ended up getting about two feet of snow while we were at the Glen so I had a lot of work to do when I got home.  I literally spent about a week working to shovel things out.  Don't worry, though.  I did have some fun in there too.  My free nights were filled with movies, pizza, and Oreos.  Rachel got to have her fun up in the Springs so I felt like I should have mine too.

Since our last newsletter, we've got some big news to announce concerning the ministry.  Randi will be leaving our staff to start up Christian Challenge down at the college in her hometown of Farmington, NM.  While we're sad to see her go, as she played a huge role in the success of our ministry, we're really excited to see what God's going to do thru her on the campus down there.  It's part of what our ministry is about.  Raising up students to go and be missionaries wherever God may take them.  Randi was literally one of our original students.  Now, it's time for her to leave the nest and start a ministry up at San Juan College.  She'll start down there with the start of the fall semester.

That said, we have some other exciting news.  We're bring on three new staff.  We've got Rachel Horton who went to Peru with me on the Climbing for Christ mission trip my first year in Peru.  She's one of our students who has been with us since she was a freshman.  She's graduating this spring with a degree in Adventure Education.  And yes, it's a real degree.  It's not just a code word/phrase for "I was a ski bum for all four years."  She'll be discipling girls, and helping Rachel and me with our outdoor events we run for the ministry.

We've also got Aleksandr Trbovich and Anna Kallas (soon to be Trbovich) coming on staff with us.  Aleksandr has been with us since he was a freshman.  Anna goes to CU Boulder.  Both of them are graduating this spring.  They'll be getting married in August.  We're stoked to eventually have them on campus discipling students full-time.

The team certainly will look different next fall but I'm excited to see God work thru everyone.  Be praying for our staff as it will be a big transition for everyone.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that!  Keep us, the ministry, and the FLC campus in your prayers!  #Pray4FLC

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

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Prayer Requests:

- With the passing of Jen's dad to diabetes, please be praying for comfort and peace for the whole family.  It's certainly not an easy time for them especially since Jen's brother passed away just a year or so earlier due to cancer.

- With Sarah still being in the Philippines, be praying for her.  Pray that God would bless her ministry and grow her in her faith during her time there.

- Our next big issue I foresee with the house is our rodent issue.  The mice are going to start coming out with the spring and they are always an issue.  We've plugged up all the holes we can but we can still hear them in our walls. We also have squirrel issues.  One decided to crawl up under my hood and chew thru a bunch of wires.  That was not a fun fix.  I've tried everything to keep them out but nothing works.  I finally decided to find the hottest hot sauce I can and put that all over the wires.  Maybe that will scare them away.  All that said, be praying that God would protect our house wiring and vehicle wires from rodents this spring, summer, and fall.

- With our well that is dry most of the year and the excitement our water truck guy has brought us, we've come to realize that we really can't rely on a truck making it up to our place in the winter time.  We're at the point where we should probably put up a system that captures rain and snow from our roof and pipes it to our cistern for use.  A new, deeper well would be nice but rain capture systems are a fraction of the price.  It would be nice to have water so that we can have students over and not have to worry about it running out.  (Though rain capture systems are illegal in most of Colorado due to the fact that the state doesn't believe that the water that falls on your roof is yours, they are actually legal where we are due to us having an existing well so we've been told.)  Please be praying that God would bless us with a rain capture system (and the man power to put it up) so that we can have a more consistent and much cleaner water source.

- Throughout the year, the semester can wear on you and it can be easy to find yourself discouraged at times or burning out.  It happens in just about any ministry at one point or another.  Pray that God would keep us and our staff encouraged and energized.

- Being Christians, we are in a spiritual battle.  When you do ministry, you become a bigger target in that battle.  Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us from any spiritual attacks.  Pray that God would give us the strength and encouragement to endure.  Also pray for everyone praying for our ministry because when you pray for the ministry, you become a bigger target as well.

- On any given year, about half of the students we work with are atheists or non-believers.  Pray that God would open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of the students we work with, especially for the ones that seem really close to coming to salvation.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement.  Currently, Rachel is having issues with her back and neck that she just soldiers thru despite the pain.  I'm having issues with a pinched nerve in my neck which sends debilitating migraine type headaches that shoot all over my head like lightning bolts.  On good days where I don't get the full-on headaches, it still keeps me pretty nauseous.  Please pray that God would keep our staff safe and healthy, and bring healing to Rachel and me.

- Rachel has picked up a little side work caretaking for her grandma after her stroke.  It helps bring in a little extra money but we are still working to get our support where it needs to be.  We trust God to provide but would appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met.  If you would like to give, go to: Give Now!