• I Have a Hole in My Heart

    We walk around for too long in life disappointed because we put the wrong things on the throne of our lives. We expect things to fill our hearts with joy, but they ultimately leave us filling empty.

    One thing I know for sure is that my heart and my life will never be the same. This journey to Africa has not been easy and at times it has been down right ugly. BUT I want to be real even if it hurts. If I had to guess, I bet you want to be real too.I love children’s books and I love the story about the Velveteen Rabbit.

    “What is REAL?” the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

    A huge part of our journey here has been our life with Vusumzi. If you don’t know the story he is a double orphan and has had to live with things in his life that no child should ever have to live with…ever. Lots of people ask what will happen to him and if it will be hard to say goodbye to him.

    It is a day that I have tried not to think about since I first met him. I decided at the very beginning that I was going to love him with my whole heart even if I was scared that doing so would break my heart. Fear isn’t a reason to hold back.

    So back to the question…my answer is this…I don’t know exactly what will happen to Vusi. He will go live in the Ubuntu Academy House for now. And yes, it is heartbreaking telling him goodbye. There is a huge hole in my heart, an emptiness really and a few months ago I really didn’t think I would be able to walk away. Obedience isn’t always easy. But God has slowly been filling in all those empty places in my heart and what I have learned is this…

    Vusumzi isn’t mine. He is the Lord’s. Just like Jackson and Grace aren’t mine either…they belong to Him too. I have the privilege to love them and teach them everything I can about Jesus, life, and love TODAY because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I can’t hold onto them too tightly and I can’t hold onto them more than I hold onto God.

    Sure my kids, my husband, my friends, my family all have places in my heart but they can’t FILL me like Jesus can and until I fully accept that I will always have places inside me that feel empty. I will have days that feel “less than” what they should be. BUT when God has His proper place on the throne in my life then my heart can truly say:

    “This is the day the Lord has made; I will REJOICE and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

    We walk around for too long in life disappointed because we put the wrong things on the throne. We expect things to fill our hearts with joy…things that just can’t completely do that. A wise woman once told me in a bible study group that if you put your husband on the throne in your life you are asking him to be God and you will always be disappointed because he can never fulfill that role. When God is on the throne then you leave room for your husband to be who God created him to be.

    I would say that this could be said about lots of things…children, careers, paychecks, houses, friends, status…when we care more about those things than we care about our father in Heaven then we are asking those things to fill us up. The problem is those things never ever will. They just weren’t made to do it.

    God is the ultimate healer. He is the only one that can make my heart whole. God is the only one that can make Vusumzi’s heart whole too. So we talked about it. Vusi and I shared how much we have enjoyed this journey together and how much we love one another. We have shared our hopes and prayers for this not to be a forever goodbye but we both have prayed too for His will not ours. I hope our paths will cross again and if or when they do, I hope that our hearts will recognize one another.

    God is so good. He is so tender. He loves us so much. Being “real” to me means less of me and more of HIM. I want to love like Jesus does and I want to ONLY look to God to fill up the empty spaces in my heart.

    It isn’t easy but Vusumzi and I are going to be ok. Our hearts are in good hands. Our part is to love big, live surrendered, be obedient, and leave the rest to Jesus.

    “Lord, you are my portion.” – Psalm 119:57

    From South Africa with love,

    – Melissa Hall

    For more updates from Erik & Melissa, follow them on their website www.halls4hope.com

  • Obedience Through Action – Relationship Church Update

    Relationship Church is learning our level of confidence (faith) in Jesus is demonstrated by our actions of obedience and trust.

    I was asked to write a few words about what’s happening at RC, Relationship Church. So, how can I condense what Jesus is doing in “The Quay” Fuquay Varina? Well, I think it’s all about Him stretching our faith both individually and collectively. We just found out that the building we meet in on Sunday is being sold and in less than seven months we have to be out. While that sounds like a lot of time, it’s not. If you consider the time it takes to find a potential facility, negotiate a lease or purchase, submit plans to the local authorities for renovations – well, you get the picture.

    So, what’s Jesus up to? I think He is giving RC a great opportunity to demonstrate faith in Him. But why, because our demonstration of faith is essential to a vibrant relationship with Him. Every “next step” I take toward Jesus is one of faith. Here’s why, He wants me to trust Him to help me do something that I cannot do myself. He is always asking me to do more for others on His behalf and He knows I need His help to do it.

    The really cool thing about Jesus and what He’s doing is that He knows that if we can figure it out on our own, we do not need Him to help us. This is why He continually asks us to take larger steps of faith. His desire for us is to live fearlessly – to have fearless faith in this present world. Right now, Jesus desires for this very moment in history to be characterized by our fearless faith in Him.

    Here’s the way it flushes out for RC. Our level of confidence (faith) in Jesus is demonstrated by our actions of obedience and trust. Our obedience and trust in Him are a result of the confidence or faith we place in Him. Please understand I’m not promoting foolishness or irresponsibility. Definitely not! However, I am exalting the foundational principle that Jesus wants to do more with us than we can do without Him and to accomplishment this we must exercise faith through our actions.

    So, is RC taking this step of faith? Well, we are trying. This is where you come in. I not only encourage you to pray for us to demonstrate faith but also challenge you to take your own actions steps to demonstrate your faith in Jesus. Because, we are all challenged by Jesus to live a life of faith. A life that stretches us beyond our comfort zone and in so doing it brings us closer to Him and when we engage others they see a little bit of Jesus in us.

    Thanks so much for you prayers and support as we all continue to help others follow Jesus.

    -Pastor Tim Epling

    (Launched in the fall of 2011, Relationship Church was Journey’s first local church plant. You can keep up with them at growarelationship.com.)

  • Becoming Change-Makers | Generation Church Update

    Hear what God has been up to at Generation Church

    “Our vision is to be change-making followers of Jesus. Change-makers don’t sit and pray for change, they are actively involved in creating it.” – Jarret Hamilton

    Most church planters set out to launch the perfect church. We want the perfect band, the perfect kid’s ministry, the perfect small groups, the perfect weekend services, etc. “We may not be where we want to be now, but we’ll spend all our money and time getting there!” What we seem to forget is that something imperfect can never create something perfect on its own. Charles Spurgeon said, The day we find the perfect church, it becomes imperfect the moment we join it.

    Generation Church officially launched on February 1st of 2015. Launch day was insane! We had three full services in our little matchbox of a building. We currently have two services and will soon be moving to three services in the fall. If you measure a church’s success by numbers, then we’re pretty successful so far. Our average weekend attendance is around 450 people, including kids. We held our first Baptism service in May and baptized 30 people, which was amazing!

    We are beginning the process of Missional Groups. This will be one of our biggest challenges. We believe our success will be found in how many people our Missional Groups are reaching. What we do on the weekend is important, but it’s not our only focus. We want our people to be the church and reach our community. We want our people to be disciples making disciples.

    So, nothing to complain about right? Actually, there isn’t really much to complain about at this point. However, ministry is the business of people, and people are a mess. In our short existence as a church, we’ve had conflicts, awkward moments, goodbyes and even a few foxes in sheep’s clothing. It’s a slap in the face when someone tells us that Generation isn’t the church for them. However, we constantly remind ourselves that we aren’t trying to build the perfect church for everyone. God doesn’t intend for us to create a formula that just makes everyone happy. He calls us to reach people. How many people will begin to say yes to and follow Jesus because of our existence? That is how we will measure our success.

    Here are some ways you can pray for us:

    * What is our next move? We are already too big for our current building, plus the lease runs out in December. Pray for clarity and guidance for the next move.

    • Leaders – Pray that God will raise up the right leaders for the right position.
    • Current Leadership – It’s no surprise that a church plant is a lot of work. Pray for strength and guidance for the current leadership.

    Thank you for your support. Journey Church will always be a special place for a lot of us here at Generation Church. It’s a privilege to be on mission together with you all.

    – Adam Neal

  • Love Those in Front of You

    A story of about a man who showed up at the front gate looking for work that ended with he and his family coming into a relationship with God.

    I know, I know … we have not posted anything in a while. I have no reason other than life has been busy and hard and the words just wouldn’t quite come together.

    This week though, watching God work has caused me to pause and share for no other reason than for you to see how good He really is.

    Erik’s last post shared about Rasheed and his family from Ocean View. We have been praying for Rasheed and his family and have asked many of you to pray for them too.

    For months, we have loved Rasheed and his family. We have shared food, clothes, books, medicine, and money with them. We have also shared Jesus. Rasheed and his family are Muslim. I have told Rasheed so many times that I know God is after his heart. I have told him that it isn’t chance that he shows up to our gate week after week and sometimes day after day. A few weeks ago we gave him and his wife a small devotional book. I asked them to read it and come with questions the next time they decided to visit.

    Rasheed and his son showed up this week asking for work so that he could earn some money for rent. I paid him but as he was leaving our eyes locked and he lingered at my gate. I prayed and talked to Rasheed about Jesus again. I asked him what he knew about Jesus. I asked him if he was ready to follow and then I waited for his answer. Erik and the kids were at training so I was home alone on this particular night. For the last month I have taken a step back from some responsibilities to pray and listen to the Lord. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been home, but I was and I realized it was for Rasheed. Rasheed said to me that he couldn’t read but that he did believe that Jesus was God’s son. He said that he wanted to follow Jesus too. He said that our family has treated him differently than other people that have given him money or food. He said that we have encouraged him and talked to him about God. I prayed with Rasheed and with tears in his eyes, he said he felt so much better. I promised Rasheed that God loved him and that life wouldn’t be easy or comfortable, but no matter what happened God would be with him. I encouraged Rasheed to go and help other people make the same decision that he had just made. I told him to talk to his wife.

    The next day Rasheed’s wife came to the gate asking for food and R100 (less than $10) because Rasheed was stabbed and robbed on his way home the night before. She held her sleeping baby in her arms and had her other son behind her. She was crying. She said she had prayed to Jesus too.

    God loves this family. He loves them enough to go after them. He comes for all of us because He wants a relationship with us and once He has our hearts, he uses us to help others understand His love.

    Too often we think the end of the story is our decision to follow Him, BUT it is really only the beginning. There are lost people that God loves at your gate and in your day. Love them; encourage them; pray for them. Our Pastor Jimmy, back in Raleigh, likes to say, “followers help other people follow.” Who are you helping to follow Jesus? God is too good to keep to ourselves.

    “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” – Psalm 34:8

    “Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.'” – Luke 15:4-7

    From South Africa with love,

    – Melissa Hall

    For more updates from Erik & Melissa, follow them on their website www.halls4hope.com

  • Firewood and a Mother’s Heart

    As I am about home, I see her. She’s walking along the side of the road, slow but graceful. On her back, her baby. On her head, a bundle of firewood for cooking. She stands out to me more than the others.

    I’m driving home, dodging the potholes and mud along the way.  People are out on their bikes and traveling by foot, doing their daily tasks.  As I pass by, I’m wondering what I’ll do with my few free afternoon hours.

    As I am about home, I see her.  She’s walking along the side of the road, slow but graceful.  On her back, her baby.  On her head, a bundle of firewood for cooking.  She stands out to me more than the others.  Probably because I too am a new mother.  Probably because I can’t imagine walking this road carrying a baby on my back; much less with a whole bonfire of wood bundled on my head. How in the world do they balance that much wood on their heads, anyway?

    Before I know it, Im pulling my car over.  And I sit there.  Then, I get out and stand along the road.

    “What am I doing?” I wonder.

    Okay, so I’ll take a photo of this unsuspecting mother as she passes by and I’ll share with others how hard motherhood can be here in Uganda.  Yea.  Is that what I am doing?

    Here she comes.  She’s about to pass by.  I am about to snap a quick picture with my phone.  But I don’t.  Instead, I look up and my eyes make contact with hers.  And she begins to speak.  Hmmm, that’s not Luganda.

    “Something something something, Boda, something something.”

    “Oh, boda money.  I can give you boda money.  Wait here,” I tell her.

    I go to my car and I get some shillings to give this lady for a boda (motorcycle ride).  And as I am returning there are two more ladies there with me.  I don’t even know where they walked from.  And they begin thanking me for helping this woman.

    “Sure, no problem.  So glad to help.”

    But, my heart was not allowing me to leave.  I found myself with the strong desire to help this lady right there in that moment. But how? What am I to do?  That’s when I realized one of these ladies were speaking to her…and to me.  She knows English.  She can translate!

    So, begins our conversation.  I ask her name.  She drops her load of wood to the ground for a rest.

    Carolyn. And her son, Samuel.

    I tell her mine.  And I walk her to my car and show her Kaliyah.  ”See, I am a mother too.”

    “Can I help you take your load somewhere?” I ask.

    Carolyn looks so puzzled. She wipes the sweat that’s running down her face.  The other two ladies smile with joy.

    “Where are you going? Are you passing this way? I can put your sticks on top of my car.” I tell her.

    Carolyn agrees. “Ch-Karamoja,” she says.

    The two ladies start right away putting the load on top of my car while I show Carolyn to the passengers seat of my car.  She holds her son and rests in the seat.

    “I have a second bundle to pick just up the hill.” she tells us.

    How in the world was she going to carry all of this wood, I wondered. And to Ch-Karamoja? That’s more than a mile away.  Maybe even two, and mostly uphill.

    The two ladies poke their head in the car and ask, “Can we also come? We are traveling that way.”

    “Get in.  You can come.”

    So, My three new friends, Kaliyah and I start up the hill toward Ch-Karamoja.  We stop along the way and pick her second bundle and then continue to travel.  ”So, are you born again?” I ask my English speaking friend.

    She smiles.  ”Yes, I am! Even her! (motioning toward her sidekick).”

    “Oh that’s very good. How about Carolyn?” I ask.

    She begins talking to Carolyn.  After a bit I find out that Carolyn is not saved.  But, she thinks its a ‘good thing’ to be saved.

    My heart beats a bit faster.  ”Lord, are you going to save this lady today?” I wonder.  So I ask Carolyn to tell me about Jesus.  What has she heard? What does she know?

    My translating friend begins to laugh.  She is so happy.  Then she tells me…

    “This is a very good testimony.  She says, even this very morning, she woke up and asked God to show her the real way.  The real truth. And then she began her work.  She didn’t know how she was going to carry this wood on her own, and with her baby.  But God has brought you to help her.  And she sees that God is real, and you are showing her the real truth.”

    I am praising God in my spirit.  ”Wow, Amen! That is very great!”

    We continue talking and praising the Lord together because we both know this is God at work.  And it was a very joyful moment.  I tell Carolyn about grace. About His death and His resurrection.  About His great love for us.  And she tells me she is ready to be saved.

    We begin to arrive in Ch-Karamoja; I know this place, and I know this road.  It’s more of a pathway really, with huge holes and water streams running through it.  I drive slow as to not lose our load up top.  Kaliyah begins to cry, and we lose a few sticks.  I jump out and grab them, throwing them back up top.

    “She says her house is just there, but we can’t reach by car.  So we can drop her just ahead, by the gerry cans, and we’ll unload there,” my friend tells me.

    We park by the small hut with the gerry cans, and I get Kaliyah from her chair to console her.  We are all sitting there, handling our goodbyes, and I ask Carolyn to pray with me.  There, with puzzled onlookers, we begin to pray in our multiple languages as we breast feed our babies and hold each others’ hands.

    “…Lord, Save me.  Help me to follow you every day…”

    As I open my eyes, her son Samuel is smiling and my friends in the backseat are so joyful.  Carolyn is quiet and peaceful.  She is so thankful.

    We get out of the car and the ladies begin unloading the firewood while I place Kaliyah back in her carseat.  I quickly become the sight to be seen and touched by all the local children.  One girl stands by Kaliyah’s window; “Something something Baby,” she says.

    I shake hands with Carolyn.  We exchange eye contact and smiles, and I tell her goodbye.

    As I tell my other friends goodbye, my English speaking friend joyfully says, “This is God. That’s the only way this can be explained.  This is God.”

    I agree with her.  We shake hands.  We smile.  And we share our praise and joy of our Creator.

    As I drive away, my heart is full.  And I know in that moment, I serve a Great God.

    Even as I have set aside my ‘ministry’ job to be full time at our Jinja home, He has seen me and used me.  He intentionally chose me.  He knew, even before I did, that I would be willing to share in Carolyn’s load.  And so He ordained this moment.


    He allowed me, chose me, ME, to bring this daughter to the Father.

    How humbling. 

    And so I am reminded, right here, right now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I am enough.  And my obedience in my day-to-day is my ministry, whether at our home in Jinja, in a village, or even driving home on a hot, African afternoon.

    Thank you, Lord.

    – Kelly Via

    Carolyn Uganda


    Smooth and Kelly Via serve as missionaries in Jinja, Uganda. Formerly the student pastor at Journey, Smooth led his family to follow the call of God to Uganda when their 2012 adoption came to an abrupt halt. Since he couldn’t bring his daughter home to the U.S. from Uganda, he took home to her. You can read more about their life, ministry, and amazing journey by going to thevias.com

  • Please, God Let Me Be Anything But Normal

    What if an “abnormal” life can still happen in our everyday “normal” routine?

    For years my prayer was “Please, God just give me a normal life. Let me be normal. Let me be comfortable”, and sometimes my prayer would drift towards asking for my life to look like someone else’s because somehow his or her life seemed better than mine.

    I remember being 18 and sitting outside a tattoo parlor with my best friend and wanting so badly to walk in and get something inked on my body, but we drove away because in my circle, no one would have approved. I also remember that Erik and I had talked about eloping to get married and then have a big celebration later, but that wouldn’t have gone over very well either. Years ago we talked about adoption but at the time, we didn’t know a single person that had adopted to build their family.

    I have had moments of breaking out of the “norm”… I hiked 250 miles of the Appalachian Trail with a boy I really barely knew after having done only one overnight hike in my entire life up to that point. I didn’t attend my college graduation because Erik and I were on the road moving to Connecticut before moving to Hawaii. I didn’t continue on my high paying career path because I wanted to stay home and raise my family. Erik and I chose to end a military career just 7 years shy of “retirement” because it wasn’t helping us build the kind of life we wanted for our family. I did finally get a tatoo 4 or 5 years ago. And moving to Africa last year was definitely out of the “norm”.

    Why does “normal” seem so appealing to so many of us? Why do we spend so many of our days trying to fit in? As teenagers, as moms, as children, as employees, as neighbors, as friends … we just seem to go for beige. A dear friend that I love to run with used to say there are times when it seems best to “shut up, show up, and wear beige”. She is right but the problem comes when we change out our whole wardrobe and beige is ALL we ever wear.

    One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss: “Stop trying to fit in when you are born to stand out.”

    “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” – John 15:19

    “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

    We have had lots of discussions about this lately because at some point there will be a transition back to life off the mission field. How do we find the abnormal in the normal? How do we find neon moments in our beige routine? People must work. Children must be schooled. Laundry must be done. Dental cleanings must happen. Groceries must be bought. But what if an “abnormal” life can still happen in our everyday “normal” routine?

    If I had to describe Jesus, I would say that hands down he loves people. He is relational. He cares about our hearts more than our “to do” lists. He is interested in the details of our lives. He is creative. He likes unique. He likes variety. He likes it when we find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

    “God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

    “And even the hairs on your head are numbered.” – Matthew 10:30

    “We are his workmanship.” – Ephesians 2:10

    So … if we are to be like Jesus, to “love like Jesus” then relationships matter. Every encounter we have with another person is God ordained. Sometimes we are the teacher and sometimes we are the student. Put another way, every person put in my day is put there to teach me something or maybe God wants to use me to teach them something.

    Whoa … now when we look at people and life like that, then our normal suddenly becomes abnormal but only when we stop living life in a coma. Routine isn’t bad unless it becomes just that … routine.

    The grocery store, the post office, the carpool line, the office, the soccer field, the running trail, everything is an opportunity to experience Jesus and share His love with others.

    These days, I don’t want to be normal. I don’t want to live life in a bubble. I don’t ever want to watch a football game, pick out fabric for a chair, or buy broccoli without looking at who or what God has in store for me each day. I don’t want to ignore the dreams He has birthed in me. I don’t want to ignore the desires of my heart. I don’t want to get so comfortable in beige that I miss my neon moments.

    The truth is beige doesn’t look good on most of us. I can’t think of one thing that we have done outside of the “norm” that we have regretted. In fact, we probably wish we could change more of our “beige” moments than anything else.

    Being authentic and living an intentional life means that we figure out what neon looks like on us and we wear it proudly.

    In 2015, I want to fit in less. I want to walk in complete faith even when it seems abnormal. I want to embrace each day as a gift and each person in my life as a blessing. I want to love more and worry less. I want to face everything with anticipation and watch God connect the dots.

    “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

    Maybe, just maybe, 2015 is the year that we all decide to wear a little more neon. My guess is that it will look pretty good on us too.

    Happy New Year from South Africa with love,

    – Melissa Hall

    For more updates from Erik & Melissa, follow them on their website www.halls4hope.com

  • Jesus Loves Muslims Too

    Mwiti was one decision away from ending his life, but Smooth’s influence on him caused him to reach out for help, discovering that his heart really longed for Jesus.

    Whenever my family and I head into Kampala, we stop at Café Javas. It was there, over coffee, that I first met Abdul. Abdul and I would chat about life and family as he was making my coffee. He always loved our girls and would give them free cookies when they greeted him. I still remember the first time I invited him to come to church if he ever visited Jinja. He replied, “But my friend, for me, I am a Muslim.” I replied, “That’s okay. Jesus loves Muslims too! Jesus died to save even you.” He assured me that one day he would visit me in Jinja, and perhaps he might even come visit Jinja Town Church. I continued to visit with Abdul over the weeks until one day he was no longer there. That was about 8 months ago. I had not spoken with him since, until I recently received a message from him on Facebook. I learned that his given name was actually Mwiti. He asked if he could come to church on Sunday, and wanted to know if we could talk.

    After service on Sunday we sat down together and he began to tell me his story. My friend had been through a difficult few months. His entire life was falling apart around him. He had sought council from some of his Muslim brothers; most had nothing to offer him. Only one prayed for him one of their Muslim prayers. Mwiti said that as his friend prayed for him he felt no impact. He said, “When the prayer was finished I just felt empty, as if I was dead inside.” What he said next changed the entire tone of the conversation.

    “I felt like I didn’t have any reason to go on living. Please forgive me. On Wednesday night, I decided that I was going kill myself. But suddenly I thought about you and how you said you were my friend. I felt as if God was telling me not to commit suicide but to find you instead.”

    I looked across the room and noticed my wife in deep prayer. This was a divine appointment, and the presence of the Holy Spirit felt strong in that place. I told him that this was not about Islam versus another religion. This was about Jesus versus everything else! Here in Uganda we have a large population of people who are Christian in name only. They are Christians because they believe in “God” and not “Allah.” I told him that Jesus is the pivotal figure. Without him, everything else is just a useless system. I don’t care whether you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a pagan. Without Jesus, it’s all pointless!

    “The reason you cannot find the thing to satisfy your emptiness is because the ‘thing’ you’re looking for isn’t a thing, it’s a person. There is a reason you feel dead inside. You are! Scripture teaches us that without Christ, your spirit inside of you is dead. When you give your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes inside you and raises your dead spirit back to life! That’s why we call it being born again. I don’t believe it simply because I’ve read it in Scripture. I know it is true because I have experienced it myself. And right now, you know it’s true. You understand the truth of what I’m telling you in way you never have before!”

    It was in this moment that Mwiti began to weep uncontrollably. I knew that the Holy Spirit had him in His grip and wouldn’t let go. As Kelly continued praying, Mwiti put his hands in mine and, in one of the most powerful and glorious moments of my life, he put his faith and trust in Jesus. Through the tears, he begged for Jesus to save him, to fill the emptiness inside, and to give him life.

    Afterward, I gave him a Bible and we talked for sometime about future plans, finding a church family, etc. When he left, you would have sworn that it was a different person leaving than the one who had come earlier. He arrived as a dead man who wanted to end the life he had. He left as man fully alive for the first time. He has dropped the name Abdul and prefers to be called Mwiti instead.

    – Smooth Via

  • No Excuses

    Lessons from Erik and Melissa Hall, a Journey family who moved to South Africa to be missionaries.

    I can’t. I don’t know what to say. I’m too busy. I will another time. What if he thinks I’m weird? What if I offend her? What if he says no? I don’t know how. That person is a stranger. That really isn’t my thing…

    A few weeks ago one of the sweet girls that I coach showed up at our usual pick up spot for church with a little girl who was 6. I assumed it was her sister. I started asking questions because I didn’t know she had a sister so I was surprised. I try really hard to get to know the girls I coach and the kids we bring to church. After lots of smiles and questions of me trying to understand who this sweet child was that was in our car, Lusanda finally explained that this sweet 6 year old was her neighbor. She had invited her neighbor to church.

    When we arrived at church, Lusanda took her hand and led her inside. She proceeded to make them both a cup of coffee with lots of milk and sugar. She stirred it ever so carefully and uttered quiet warnings that it was very hot. The music began and she guided her guest to a chair where they sang together and then at just the right time, Lusanda took her neighbor over to the children’s area and checked her into to the right class. After church was over, she made sure to get her guest a donut and talked to her about the picture she had colored in class.

    Lusanda is 10 years old. If she can invite her neighbor to church and show her the hospitality and love of Jesus, then any reason we come up with NOT to do the same is weak.

    I can’t….yes, you can.

    I don’t know what to say…Just say “Hey friend, I love spending time with you and would love to invite you to church with me.”

    I’m too busy…No you’re not.

    I will another time…Do it now, today. Our days are numbered and Jesus will return soon.

    What if he thinks I’m weird? You probably are weird. We all are a little weird in one way or another so that part is settled.

    What if I offend her? You won’t. Love isn’t offensive.

    What if he says no? No worries. Ask again.

    I don’t know how…Ask God to show you how.

    That person is a stranger…maybe for now, but that person may end up to be a really good friend one day.

    That really isn’t my thing…Yes, it is. Followers help others follow. Christ didn’t give his mandate to go make disciples to just a few people. He gave it to everyone.

    Love makes you do crazy things. At least true love does. Good people don’t go to heaven. Saved people go to heaven. Make no mistake there is a difference. The precious blood of Jesus covers all of our sin and weirdness. It is a good gift worth sharing with others.

    Lusanda loves Jesus and she simply wanted to share the good news with her neighbor. What a blessing it has been to witness Lusanda’s idea of hospitality and friendship. The sweet thing too is that Lusanda’s neighbor comes every week to church with her and now Lusanda’s brother is coming too.

    “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Mark 12:31

    “Go and make disciples of all nations…” – Matthew 28:19

    “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” – 1Peter 4:9

    “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:13

    “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

    True southern hospitality still exists. If you don’t believe me, just ask a 10 year old.

    From South Africa with love,

    – Melissa Hall

    For more updates from Erik & Melissa, follow them on their website www.halls4hope.com

  • Not Our Eternal Home

    Lessons from Chad and Jami Bader, a Journey family who moved to Guatemala to be missionaries.

    In previous posts written, I’ve talked about living in a foreign country, the differences we have, and this being a constant reminder that this earth isn’t our eternal home. However, there is a big part of me that wants to connect with these people without the barrier of culture and language. This year of language school has earnestly been spent helping make that more possible.

    Recently, a very close Guatemalan family lost their grandmother. Her name was Martha, and she was so sweet. She died at the age of 82. During our time there we had numerous interactions with her through various visits and events. In our time together I could tell just how much she was treasured by her family, and that she lived life to the fullest. In our last interaction a month ago she touched my heart greatly. We’d been visiting the family for a birthday. Martha’s grandson cooked some traditional steaks, his girlfriend made some traditional salads, and we supplied the birthday cake. There was lots of laughing and plenty of conversation (of course with a sharp critique of the local soccer team as a topic). Martha’s son led the kids and adults in a game of BINGO. You wouldn’t believe how popular this game is in the capital. It was a great day to say the least! As we were leaving, I bent down to give her frail, small body a traditional kiss and a hug good-bye, and she announced to the family, “Now the real celebrating can begin!” The phrase puzzled me, and I thought something got lost in translation so I quickly looked around a someone. Everyone laughed, and her daughter told me that I didn’t miss anything she’d said to me. It was a common way for Guatemalans saying good-bye to endearing others at celebrations. In that moment, Martha was telling me, “You’re one of us.” Her words affirmed our place in her family, and in her country.

    This past week when Martha passed away we paid our respects. When someone passes away here, their body is usually buried within 24 hours. Life stops for the entire family of the deceased spend all day and night grieving as visitors come to pay their respects. Jami and I went as soon as classes finished in the morning and spent a good portion of the afternoon with the family. From the visitors that came, we could tell that Martha was a very well-known well-liked and respected. We laughed once again with the family and cried as well as we remembered a life well-lived that was impactful. Her affirmation through simple words could never be repaid, and I am thankful that one day we will re-unite with her as a part of one people, with one heart, singing to THE KING who rules every nation.

    Thank you for your continued prayers and support, and continuing to join us on this journey!

    – Chad Bader

    For more updates from Chad & Jami, follow them on their website www.greaterbyfar.com

  • Fuel For Missions

    An appeal to the people of God to move beyond mere words and to let worship fuel the flame for missions.

    Years ago Matt Redman wrote a song called Mission’s Flame. In the song he offers an appeal to the people of God to move beyond mere words and to let worship fuel the flame for missions—to let worship propel God’s people forward into action. He says,

      Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame

      We’re going with a passion for Your name

      We’re going for we care about Your praise

      Send us out
      Let worship be the heart of mission’s aim

      To see the nations recognize Your fame

      Till every tribe and tongue voices Your praise

      Send us out

    Redman projects an action-based purpose for the worship of God—to be the fuel that drives God’s people to go and make disciples. More often than not, however, worship resembles nothing of what Redman describes. If we sang what we believed, it would sound more like “Let worship be the food for my own soul. I’m not going anywhere so I’ll just enjoy the show!” Have you ever wondered what must enter the mind of God when He observes His people paying Him plenty of lip service on Sundays, but then showing absolutely zero follow-through Monday through Saturday? Amos chapter five gives us a glimpse into the mind and thoughts of God regarding this worship travesty.

      “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them;
 and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

    The tone of these four verses is nothing short of severe. God, in His matchless glory, was reaching out to His people, helping them understand the gravity of the situation. Though their lips were offering praise, their hearts were offering nothing of the sort. Their songs had become noise. Their solemn assemblies were now carnivals. Social gatherings. Emotional experiences. Block parties where God received an invite just like anybody else, but wasn’t really expected to show.

    Verse 24 offers a little insight into how their hearts had steered away. He says, “Let justice roll down like waters.” When the Bible speaks of justice here it is suggesting that the people of God must appropriate the mercy of God to a hurting world. This is the idea of being God’s hands and feet, and it is contingent upon the fact that our actions match what our lips profess.

    God’s people knew nothing of justice during this time in history. They cared only about themselves. They were content paying lip service to God, singing Kumbaya, and checking the Sabbath worship checklist. But justice? That was the farthest thing from their mind. Missional living? Not a chance. God’s people had become nothing more than a holy huddle—a religious country club where insiders never left and outsiders were never welcome.

    This is why God responded the way He did. He called their songs “noise.” He said He “hated” their religious gatherings and festivals. He would not accept their sacrifices because they were offered with lying hands and their songs were sung from lying lips.

    When we translate the principles of this passage to the people of Journey Church in 2014, we must honestly reflect on and answer the following questions: Am I content with the Sunday morning “shot in the arm,” where the message and music makes little difference in my life the remainder of the week, or do I truly allow the Sunday morning gathering to be the fuel that propels my missional lifestyle? Am I content to view the worship of God as simply another duty of the Christian life, or will I finally begin to align the words I profess with my lips with the actions I portray with my life? Will I reject the false image of the Sunday morning social club and embrace it as a community of disciples being sent out to make more disciples?

    Many churches in the 1980s placed signs in their parking lots that served as a missional reminder to members as they exited the property. It read, “You are now entering the mission field.” As corny as it may be, we cannot escape the truth of that statement.

    What if we viewed every Sunday as a commissioning to a week of missional living? What if, as we exited the property, our immediate thought was, “I am entering my mission field. Here we go. Let’s do this!” I believe if we adopted that mindset we would see our city changed with the power of the Gospel.

    – Josh

  • Can I Be Absent Today?

    Lessons from Erik and Melissa Hall, a Journey family who moved to South Africa to be missionaries.

    I think I might be the worst missionary on the planet.

    I miss home every other day. I miss my house and my neighbors. I miss my friends and family. I miss Jax and Grace’s friends. Erik misses his job terribly and his long rides to work on the bike. I daydream about having coffee at Jubala with a friend or going on an early morning run with another friend. I daydream about shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and sitting on my back porch. I daydream about the day when I don’t need to homeschool (Homeschooling is hard people!). And the Lord above knows that I daydream about a vacation and about rest.

    I stress about our finances and agonize over every purchase…do we really need this? Can we do without that? Can these socks be worn one more time before Grace’s entire foot breaks through the hole?

    I stress about my kids making the transition back with school and soccer teams and boy scouts and just life. I stress about the kids we will have to leave behind.

    I push myself to the point of exhaustion because there is always something that needs to be done or someone that needs to be fed and I have a problem saying no. Erik and I are doers and we carry more than our share of projects, problems, and tasks. I get frustrated with Africa sometimes. My American brain can’t compute African logic.

    Aren’t missionaries supposed to be Jesus super-heroes? Aren’t missionaries supposed to be joyful always? Aren’t missionaries supposed to be free from stress, worry, frustration, and longing?

    Aren’t missionaries supposed to keep all of this to themselves?

    What I have found is that we are who we are no matter where we are in the world. Whatever our strengths and weaknesses are at “home”, they are the same on the mission field. I didn’t all of the sudden become “super” and lose my weaknesses when I crossed the ocean and life still happens…dirty dishes, laundry, school, grocery shopping, and house cleaning. AND the mission field is not some far off place that some people are called to…it truly is wherever we are at the time.

    Erik and I know we are where we are supposed to be right now but it isn’t easy. We will come “home” when our work here is done but that doesn’t necessarily mean when ALL of the work is done. God is using us for a specific purpose and a specific season. We have learned to hold our plans loosely because things change. Time is relative on the mission field and God knows the length of this chapter in His story. But if I get too caught up in the future or the past, I will miss so many things that He wants to show me right now.

    The reality is that we are all missionaries…in Raleigh or in Africa, we are meant to love others, serve others, and tell them about Jesus. Perhaps the most important quality of good missionaries is that we stay fully present where ever we are and allow God to show us what’s next.

    I’m working on looking ahead less and looking up more especially on the hard days. Being absent is not really what I want. What I want is to be fully present…everyday and always to the blessings, lessons, and people that Jesus puts in my day.

      “Go make disciples of all nations…” – Matthew 28:19

      “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13

    From South Africa with love,

    Melissa Hall

  • Lessons From Solutionary Training Center

    A couple of lessons about the urgency of sharing the Gospel and not missing moments to share your faith.

    This video shares just a couple of lessons learned from the Solutionary Training Center, expressing the urgency of sharing the Gospel and not missing moments to share your faith.

    Solutionary Training Center meets on Mondays at 7:00pm at Journey Church. It is free to attend and open to anyone who wants to learn how they can have a greater impact for Jesus where they live, work, study, play, and shop. To get more information, email Paul Crouthamel ().

  • Why Go On An International Mission Trip?

    I strongly believe everyone should go on a short-term international mission trip at some point in their life.

    “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-2

    I love international missions and love to lead teams on short-term international mission trips! In my opinion, every Christian should go on at least one short-term international mission trip. There are several reasons why I believe this.

    In the verses above Jesus is speaking with his disciples and even commanding them “to go and make disciples of all nations.” A disciple is simply a follower of Christ. I am a follower of Christ and so is everyone else who has accepted Christ as their Savior. This command was not only issued to His (Christ’s) disciples who were with Him during His ministry on earth, but this command was issued to me as well as you, if you are a follower of Christ! He also tells us “to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.” The ends of the earth for me as an Executive Pastor over Missions at Journey Church, are the countries of Honduras, Uganda, and Venezuela. God has commanded me to take groups from Journey to these countries to make disciples!

    The second reason that I believe that every Christian should go on a short-term international mission is that the trip will be life-changing for you! Many of the individuals who travel with me the first time, feel that they are going to help the people who live in another country. Their minds change once they are engaged in the trip and with the people of the country – they realize that the people of the country blessed them more than they blessed the people. It also opens their eyes to the fact that Americans are “rich”. We are all rich in comparison to people who live in third world countries.

    The last reason that I believe that every Christian should go on a short-term mission trip is found in Matthew 22:39. “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” One of my favorite things to do on a mission trip is to love on the people inside of the country. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as yourself. Everyone is our neighbor! Although we may not be able to speak the same language, showing God’s love to our neighbors allows us to communicate with them. Before every mission trip, I always tell the team members that I expect only three things of them. They are:

      1. Love the people
      2. Love the people
      3. Love the people

    So come and go with us on our next trip!

    – Mark

  • Honduras 2014 Recap

    We had a great mission trip to Honduras in June, full of great new experiences and sharing God’s love.

    Play Slideshow

    On June 14, Jeremy Davis and I left for Honduras at 6:00am. We arrived at our hotel in Honduras around 3:00pm Honduras time. To say the least, we were both very tired, but were looking forward to an exciting week there. I had been asked to come and teach Garifuna pastors and church leaders, and Jeremy had asked if he could come along with me the first week as he would be unable to come with the team during my 2nd week in Honduras (Jeremy has been with me 3 straight years to Honduras). I told him that I would love for him to come along with me!

    On Sunday morning, I spoke at Pastor Eduardo’s church in LaCieba, which was great. The remainder of the week I taught and Jeremy painted classrooms and the outside of special needs school in Corozal. The interesting thing about Jeremy painting all week is that Jeremy hates to paint and he also likes to talk and he was basically painting alone. The week was great for me, as I always love being with the Garifuna pastors and leaders. I think Jeremy also learned a little about himself that week – it was okay to have some quiet time! The other interesting thing about this week was that FIFA 2014 was going on during this time and Honduras played two games during this week. When Honduras was playing, the city, LaCieba, was basically at a stand-still. I ran (getting exercise) during the game on that Friday (June 20) and there was no one around – everyone was watching the soccer game. The Hondurans are crazy about soccer!

    On Saturday (June 21), it was time to take Jeremy back to the airport and pick up the Journey team. The team and their bags arrived safely at around 11:00am Honduran time. The team consisted of 14 people and more than half of them had never been on an international mission trip before. We arrived back at the hotel at around 3:00pm Honduran time and everyone was anxious for the week to begin. During the week, we helped to replace roofs on 2 churches and the roof on a pastor’s home. We also painted the pastor’s home. More than all of that, the team showed God’s love to the Honduran people. We had a great week! On this trip, we had two thirteen year olds. I must admit that I was a little reluctant to take 13 year olds on a mission trip, but they convinced me that they really needed to go! They were both troopers and were just great! The entire team was awesome and learned so much about themselves and God’s love during the week.

    I love the Honduran people and always love going back several times a year! If you have never been on an international mission trip, please consider going to Honduras with the Journey team next year.

    – Mark