Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Value of an Apple

Yesterday our oldest girl, Sophia ate an apple.  Before she took a bite she made it clear that she wanted to keep the seeds.  Her reasoning was that she wanted to plant an apple tree so that Mommy and Daddy would not have to go to the store anymore to buy apples.

I have bought and consumed hundreds of apples in my lifetime, but it occurs to me that I have been throwing away the most valuable part.  The fruit of an apple is delicious and healthy.  It is full of vitamins, sweet, and filling.  We even have a proverb about the value of healthy eating that uses an apple to make its point.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Yet for all the goodness of the fruit, the most valuable part is in the core.  It is the seeds.  Each apple has the potential to plant several more apple trees each with the ability to produce hundreds of apples, yet this is the part that almost everyone considers to be garbage.

This morning, Sophia went outside to check on the two small cups of dirt in which we planted two of her seeds from her apple.  (One is for us and the other is for her Baba.)  She was very disappointed to find no trees sprouting up.  There was not even a hint of green in the fertile black dirt.  This morning she learned why most people throw away their seeds.  Growing an apple tree just takes too much time.  It does not seem to be worth it.

There are two spiritual lessons to be learned from Sophia’s experience with the apple seeds.

First, when we see people’s lives changed through the salvation Jesus gives us we rejoice.  We are filled with joy as we see one piece of fruit from the hard labors of so many.  What we often fail to do is see the potential in our fellow believers.  Each one is capable of going out and bringing hundreds more into a personal relationship with Jesus, yet we are content if they just show up at church 3 out of every 4 Sundays and sing a few songs.  We discard the best part of the fruit.

Second, we are impatient.  The few times we actually bother to plant the seed that we have been given, we are disappointed if we do not see immediate and drastic results.  Sophia did the right thing if she wanted more fruit.  She stuck the seeds in dirt, watered them, and put them in a place where there was sun.  Yet she was so disappointed when there was no sign of growth the next morning.  Some kids might give up at this point and assume that their project was a failure and a waste of resources.  Others might think that perhaps Sophia is a failure as an apple farmer as her efforts have produced nothing.  They might think, “This girl can’t grow fruit.”  They would be right.  None of us can really produce fruit in either a spiritual or physical sense.  Fruit comes from obedience to God, but God produces the fruit.  We can plant an apple seed and water it, but only God makes it grow.  In the same way we can tell people about salvation through Jesus, but only He can take that seed and make life out of it.  This often takes time.

Knowing my daughter, I assume she will stick with this project.  She will water the seeds and take care of them and repot them when they outgrow their cups, and eventually plant them in the yard.  Yet many of us give up on people when we do not see immediate results.  We make this mistake because we think that we are responsible for results.  Yet the results are not in our hands.  They are in God’s hands.  All we can do is be obedient to His commands to use the seed we have been given.

Are we using it?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Financial Follow-Up

Some of you have written asking about our financial situation since seeing our post last month.  Here is where things currently stand.  Last month we fell over $2,000 below our minimum reserve level.  What this means is that we still have some money in our ministry account, but we are below what our mission would like us to have in reserve.  This means that we are not allowed to reimburse any ministry expenses until our reserve levels are back up to where they need to be, so all of our ministry expenses are coming out of the Bliss bank account for the time being.

Fortunately we did not need a salary cut this month, but if the trend continues we might.  Equally fortunate is that we do not have many major ministry expenses this month, so we are not in trouble with our personal finances.  These are both things that we are thankful for, and once again evidence that God will provide for all of our needs.

To sum up.  Our needs are being met, and neither our family or our ministry are suffering, but money is quite tight at the moment.

What can you do?  The big thing we need right now is prayer.  Please pray that God would provide for all our needs, and that we would have peace and trust Him.

Please also pray for regular pledges (be it monthly, quarterly, or annually).  Such pledges help us make long term plans, and also really encourages us as we see people willing to make regular financial contributions to our ministry.

Of course, the other thing you can do is make a donation to our ministry account.  If you want to give online you can do so here.

If you would like to give through mail, or automatic monthly deductions e-mail us for details.

Either way, we would love it if you send us a note letting us know that you are making a contribution or a pledge.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Speaking Bulgarian Hearing English

Sophie started Bulgarian school earlier this week.  After her first day she made an interesting observation.  She told me "When you speak Bulgarian to a Bulgarian they hear English.  When you speak English to a Bulgarian they hear nothing."  She also said, "I need to learn Bulgarian so that when someone speaks Bulgarian I hear English."

At first I did not understand, but as she explained further I figured it out.  What she was trying to say was that Bulgarians understand Bulgarian like she understands English, and many of them don't understand English at all.  She wants to learn Bulgarian to the point where it is just as clear to her as English is.

She is making progress in learning Bulgarian.  Sometimes we ask her questions in Bulgarian, and she responds accurately in English.  I was encouraged by her childish explanation of languages because it shows me that she understands language differences and what it means in a practical sense.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Annual Retreat

Tonight I am taking my annual retreat.  I will spend the night alone at a hotel in a town about an hour away from Sofia.  I will pray, read of scripture, and listen to God's voice as I write our my annual ministry plan for the next year.

I had planned to take this retreat last week, but family illness made me think it would be prudent to wait a week until we were all off medication (including me).  It looks like things are pretty clear now.  There are still some lingering symptoms from this persistent bug, but nothing that Sasha can't handle on her own.

Please keep my in your prayers tonight and into tomorrow.  Pray for wisdom and clarity as I seek God's will for my life, my family's lives, and the ReachGlobal ministry in Sofia.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What a Month!

August was quite a month.  We started out with a terrible stomach flu that nearly canceled our trip to Germany.  Then we picked up a cold that has really slowed down our family.  Finally we went to see a doctor earlier this week, and it turned out that our oldest had a bacterial infection in her lungs.  We now have a kitchen counter full of medication for our girls who are still fighting this persistent bug.  It seems like so long since we have all been healthy, and even longer since Sasha and I got a good chance to rest.

On top of the sicknesses, August has been one of our busiest since arriving in Bulgaria in January.  Not only did we have the conference in Germany.  We have also had 9 overnight guests and seemingly non-stop appointments and meetings.

We did have a lot of fun in August too.  We celebrated Sasha's birthday, and had a great time at the conference.  We also really enjoyed all 9 of our guests.  Still, I'm personally looking forward to the school year beginning so that things can calm down a bit.
Hereare a couple of videos from the children's program at the conference.  Our oldest 2 are up on the stage :)