Monday, May 23, 2016

Monterrey, Mexico Update

Back in February while attending the Twin Oaks Mission Conference I met Andres Garza.  Andres is the head of City to City for all of Latin America.  City to City is a missions organization which focuses on church planting in major cities.  Andres is also the pastor of San Pedro Iglesia in Monterrey, Mexico.  As we talked and shared about the ministries we’re involved with he came up with the idea to have me come and help lead a seminar for church musicians to explore the ideas of Gospel Identity, Excellence, and Networking for musicians both inside and outside of the church.

While the seminars came together very quickly, I can trace the roots of these topics back for the last 10 years or so.  As I progressed in both church music and music outside of the church I found myself fumbling for words and ways to describe what it is I do and how to articulate my feelings and thoughts about how I wanted to approach to these two very different worlds.   

The seminar had four sessions and took place on Friday and Saturday, May 13th-14th.  Friday was an introductory session and I shared about my background as a musician and the ministry work I’ve done in St. Louis, the work Missy and I will be joining in Perth, Australia, and I outlined my three topics for Saturday. 

Saturday saw us explore gospel identity during the first session. We discussed questions such as, "As a musician how does the gospel impact our approach to music inside and outside of the church?" 

Session two explored excellence and how that must be pursued with the understanding that our identity is rooted in the gospel of Jesus.  We also discussed how the standards and expectations of excellence vary when we’re playing music outside of our church community. 

In the final session we looked at the networking and what it means to connect and cultivate as musicians.  

The response to the seminars was overwhelmingly positive and I’m thankful for that because I was extremely nervous beforehand. I’m quite comfortable being on stage singing and performing but speaking and sharing ideas like this was was a completely new experience for me.  The other night as I was sharing with some musician friends about the sessions and trying to explain the experience I told them it was similar to debuting a bunch of new songs.  When we play new songs we usually say maybe next time we’ll try this song here and this song as an opener.  Maybe we change this lyric up and focus on bringing the dynamic down.  And the same can be said about these seminars.  The material played well but there are certainly things I’ll rearrange and state differently should I have the opportunity to do a seminar like this again.

Below I’ve included some photos to show the timeline of my adventure.  
My first evening in Monterrey , pastor Garza had a big meal and we all watched "El Classico" soccer match.

On my second day in Monterrey I was able to take part in a bible study at nearby drug-rehab clinic and then I spent the afternoon helping the church planting team move offices.  Andres and I took a moment to ham it up for the camera as we loaded up the truck.

This is the view of from their new offices in San Pedro!

Thursday evening, Andres took me to a small old town outside of Monterrey called Santiago.  He and his friends had me pose for a photo.  I obliged.
We had a much larger turn out for the Friday session than originally anticipated!
Saturday's sessions also had a great turn out!

During one portion of the seminar, the other presenter, Saul brought his band in to play and share about what it's like to play music outside of the church.  Their bass player wasn't able to attend and he asked me to sit in.  What an honor!
At the end of each session we did Q & A and I loved the ideas that we exchanged and discussed.
On Sunday I was asked to help with music at two different services.  The first was the normal Sunday morning worship for Iglesia San Pedro and the second was for the launch of a church plant in a town called Linares two hours outside of Monterrey.  
There was a lot of participation from the many musicians.
It was exciting to be a part of this special church plant launch.  I was able to share one of my favorite songs with them, Take To the World.
After the service there was a big celebration with lots of delicious food.
Speaking of delicious food.  Here's a collage of some of the meals I was treated to during my travels.  I have to say, Mexico definitely wins "best food I've ever had on a trip" hands down!
I want to say a special thanks to these brothers in Christ who went out of their way to help me feel welcome during my stay in Monterrey.  We share a lot of laughs, music and conversation and I'm thankful for the connection we made.  I look forward to the next time we all get to hang!  L-R Fernando, Sergio, Saul, Luis, me, and Wily.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Support Raising and the Gospel.

We could pick any number of tunes to soundtrack our support raising journey.   Some popular choices might be Survivor by Destiny’s Child, The Final Countdown by Europe, Roundabout by Yes, Shake It Off by Taylor Swift,  Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control by Tame Impala—considering our context and the fact that Tame Impala are from Perth, Australia this one makes me laugh pretty hard and is a personal favorite.  All are funny and in some cases appropriate.  But if I had to pick one song, it would be Some Days Are Better Than Others by U2.  I’ve loved this song for a long time.  It serves as a reminder not to be weighed down by circumstances of the day but that some days really are better than others and  it’s cool to acknowledge it.  My favorite line:  “Some days it all adds up and what you’ve got is enough.”  Some day soon, right?

In this process of support raising it’s easy to let my feelings be dictated by how many pledges we’ve had that week or day.  If we’ve had multiple pledges I find myself feeling proud and searching for the magic formula to keep this run of pledges going.  On the flip side, if it’s been a while since we’ve had any pledges I find myself searching for what I can do to get things going again.  And in both scenarios I often succumb to anger, which is ultimately born out of a sense of embarrassment of how long this process is taking, worrying what others might be saying or thinking regarding the slow-ness of our journey, and the fact that I haven’t been able to make it happen.  And in my head and heart I make it all about me trying to earn favor with God so that He will release the funds for us to go to Australia.  It becomes an ultimate thing.  And when I make support raising the ultimate thing—the thing I put my hope and trust in and it lets me down.  Every time.  This is not the gospel.

The gospel frees me (and all of us for that matter) from this self-centered way of thinking and trying to earn favor with God resulting in some warped transactional theology.  If I do this than God will do that.  Friends, the work was done at the cross.  It is finished.  I need to hear this every minute of every hour of everyday.  Of course there is work for us to do in support-raising.  We do it.  Some days we do it better than others!  We believe God has gone before us and raised up those who will partner with us.  It's our job to be obedient by sharing about our call and asking and waiting on God to provide.  The reality is God doesn’t need us to do His work.  He's graciously invited us to be a part of His plan and share the Gospel with everyone we meet-- Christian and non-Christian.  We all need the gospel.  Everyday.  As we finish out our support raising process let that be your prayer for us each and everyday: that we remember God has done the work and our trust and hope is in Him and not in the work of our hands.

News from Down Under

We’ve been Face Timing into meetings with our core group in Australia to stay connected and continue to build relationships with those we’ll be working with once we’re in Perth.  This is important as they prepare to move into the launch phase of church planting.  It’s exciting to see God raising people up to be a part of His church and we cannot wait to get there and join in the work!

You're Invited 

This summer we went to New Mexico to visit friends and meet with some churches about support raising.  When we booked that trip I had my doubts about how well we’d be received at these churches and if we’d see any support raised at all.  I was wrong.  That trip has turned out to provide not just of a number of new partners but a source of continued encouragement.  

It all began when a few years ago when Missy started her job as a gifted and talented education specialist.  One big aspect of her job is working with the parents of her students.  And since Mis has those students for 3 years at time she’s able to build great relationships not just with her students but also those parents.  In a handful of instances some of those parents have become friends after the students have moved on to 9th grade.  

That’s case with our friends, Amy and Josh.  Josh works in the film industry (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and countless others) so they split their time between Saint Louis, MO and Albuquerque, NM.   Early on in our friendship we were able to share about our call to Perth with them.   As far as we knew they weren’t churchgoers and were unclear where they stood in matters of faith.  They asked some great questions about our work and seemed genuinely curious in regards to our faith and excited about us moving to Perth to help plant a church.

When they invited us to visit them in New Mexico- it was Amy who was eager to have us contact churches in the area to share with them about our work and see if they’d partner with us.  Once we got there we were surprised and excited when they told us not only that they wanted to partner with us but also that they wanted to open their home in Saint Louis this fall to host support raising events.  Missy and I cannot begin to describe the source of encouragement Josh and Amy have been in this process.  We praise God for their friendship and hospitality!

On the evening of November 7th, Amy and Josh will be hosting a dessert for us at their home at 6:30pm.  This will be a great opportunity for us to share more about our work with potential partners.  We've invited a number of folks but we also want to invite those who live near St. Louis join us and bring a friend who might be interested in hearing about our work in Perth.  If you’re interested in coming please respond to this email for more details!

Thanks for reading and more importantly thank you for your prayers.  We are some thankful for all of God’s people who are with us in the journey!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Andy & Missy

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Australia?

Perth, Australia | February 2015

Sharing the Gospel in Australia

Recently, we were working at a conference sharing about the work we're called to in Australia.  Missy had gone to lunch with a friend and I was at the Mission to the World booth catching up with a friend and fellow missionary who works in Ethiopia.  As we were talking, a gentlemen walked up who was excited to speak with my friend.  They started talking and my friend introduced me and the gentlemen smiled and asked where I served or would be serving.  I smiled and told him "My wife and I are going to work with a church planting team in Perth, Australia."  His immediate response was, "Now why are we sending missionaries to Australia?"  I laughed, smiled, and responded with a quick explanation of why our ministry and calling mattered.  He thanked me but said it really didn't make sense why we'd send missionaries there. He then said goodbye to us and was on his way.  After he left, my friend turned to me and was somewhat apologetic and shared that he was impressed with how I'd handled the situation.  I laughed, sharing with him how that man's posture and question is not uncommon for us and that I'd had a lot of preparation for learning how to embrace those moments!

We're sharing the story above not for votes of sympathy or affirmation of our calling--  We believe we're called to go to Australia and MTW and our team in Perth feel the same way!  However, we've had to learn that a large part of that calling is helping educate not only why we're called but also asking what missions looks like in this ever-changing world and helping cast a vision for that calling.  We're sharing this story because maybe you've been wondering, "Why Australia?" and we'd like the opportunity to answer this question and paint a picture of the work God has called us to in Perth.

Why Australia? 

Australia is a land of breathtaking beauty, but it also has a unique spiritual character with both strengths and weaknesses.  

Generally speaking Australia is:
Secular Around 10% of Australians go to church on Sundays (compared to 45% in the U.S.) and religion is not a topic of polite conversation.

Unbelieving  In the 1700s, Australia was settled largely by convicts who saw the church as an ally of the prison guards.  Ever since, Australians have had conflicted feelings about the church and are deeply cynical about matters of faith.

Discouraged  Unlike the United State's history of successful expansion and enterprise, much of Australia's history involves crippling disappointment.  This attitude of dejection bleeds into matters of faith.

But Australians have:

Commitment  Australians highly prize authenticity, a value reflected in the church.  While the number of Australian Christians is few, the ones believe are highly committed.

Huge Potential  Australia has access to solid Christian resources.  With training and discipleship, they are positioned to be influencers and leaders both in national churches and beyond. 

Why Perth?

Despite having strong ties to international commerce and a long and lasting legacy in the creative classes, Perth remains one of the most isolated cities in the world.  Loneliness, skepticism, and despair weigh heavily upon the city and its people, revealing deep spiritual needs.  Australians living in Perth have asked American Christians for help and partnership in sharing the Gospel.

Why Us?
A few years ago as we were praying and exploring the possibility of becoming missionaries to Australia, we were contacted by the existing MTW team in Perth who asked us to come join them and help with worship, evangelism, and strategic planning.

Andy's focus will be planning and leading worship, discipling and developing new worship leaders, and engaging musicians outside the faith, inviting them to join in our church community.

Missy's educational background provides opportunities for students and families to have meaningful dialogue about faith, creating a safe space for big questions about who Jesus is.

Our Approach

Church Planting
We'll be joining existing believers in church planting, empowering and encouraging them in worship, evangelism, and discipleship.  We'll also be working to establish networks and build relationships with local business and community leaders to develop opportunities for meaningful conversations about Jesus and His church.

Community Evangelism
Our desire is to become actively involved to engage and participate in the values and practices of the local community.  Education, the arts, recreation, and service are areas where we can build meaningful relationships while contributing to the quality of life in the city and its neighborhoods.

We'll look for opportunities to invite unbelievers to be part of our community-- not just with special events and activities, but also in the ordinary tasks of daily life.

Over the next couple of weeks we'll be sharing more stories about Australia from our own experiences as well as from our teammates who are already there in an effort to give you a continuing picture of how God is moving down under.  Please pray for us as we prepare to leave, pray for our teammates as they share the good news of Jesus with the people they meet, and pray for those Australians who have yet to hear the Gospel.  Pray that God will work and prepare their hearts to hear and receive it.

We're looking forward to sharing more cool news on Monday!  Have a great weekend!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Andy & Missy

Monday, September 14, 2015

Incredible Impact Update

We've had an encouraging week of support raising.  As we shared last week we're praying that God will provide 100 partners giving or increasing $10/month by October 5th.    This week we're praising God for the four partners who pledged to support us.  Here's what our current numbers look like:

Total partners promising $10/month or more: 10
 Total number of dollars pledged per month: $340
Number of $10/month promises needed: 90
Please pray with us as we ask God to provide and please consider pledging to help support us in the work God has called us to in Perth.  
If you're interested in supporting us financially, increasing your current support, or just have questions, please click the link below:


If you would like to speak with us directly, you can always click "reply" on this email and you'll be chatting directly with us.

Thank you for praying with us as we journey towards Perth!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Andy & Missy

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Incredible Impact: $10 Challenge

A couple of weeks ago we shared that if everyone who receives our emails or is in our Facebook group pledged to support us for $10 per month or increased their current giving by $10 per month, we'd have more than enough to leave for Perth!

The report for those first weeks of the campaign look like this:
Total partners promising $10/month or more: 6
 Total number of dollars pledged per month: $240
While it's obvious we still have a LONG way to go- we saw something that encouraged us.  Those 6 partners did the work of 24 in the scope of our campaign!

So we're going to keep this campaign going for the next 4 weeks.  The final day will be Sunday, October 4th.  We're praying and asking God to provide 100 partners from our email list and Facebook group to make new pledges of $10/month or increase their current pledges by $10/month.
Number of $10/month promises needed: 94 
We also want to share that we're working hard at support raising and have a number of events, individual appointments, and meetings with churches scheduled over the next 2-3 months.  We believe this combined with the $10 Challenge can get us fully funded and off to Perth-- hopefully by year's end!

We'll be updating each Monday for the next three weeks and on the Friday before the deadline to keep you up to date.  We'll be announcing the totals from the campaign on Monday, October 5th.

In the mean time would you please pause for a moment, pray, and consider this $10?
If you're interested in supporting us financially, increasing your current support, or just have questions, please click the link below:


If you would like to speak with us directly, you can always click "reply" on this email and you'll be chatting directly with us.

Thank you for your partnership in this incredible ministry!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why Australia? Why Perth? Why Andy & Missy?

We get asked these three question in some form or fashion quite a bit when we share that we're going to plant churches in Perth, Australia.  It occurred to us that maybe some of you are wondering the same thing.  We put our heads together with dear Australian friend and friend who is gifted in graphic design we came up with this graphic and we want to share it.  Take a look and take a moment to pray and consider partnering with us monthly.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Incredible Impact: One Person at a Time

ANAZAC Morning | Perth, Australia | Photo by Brett Ballington

Our summer has been a wonderful time of traveling and sharing about the church planting work God has called us to join in Perth.  We are continually blown away by God’s provision in our lives and in our partners' lives as He works to grow his Kingdom.  At the moment we’re back in St. Louis, ready to make the final push to leave for Perth this December!

As you may have heard, we recently found out that we've reached 75% of our current monthly support goal!  Please praise God with us as we rejoice in this huge encouragement.

While being at 75% is a reason to rejoice, we cannot leave for Perth until we have reached 100% of our monthly support goal.

You can be a part in helping us reach this goal!

Many of us go through a range of emotions when we think about supporting missionaries— some of us get excited while others become anxious, feeling as though they cannot take part because it's going to cost a ton of money.  We want to share an amazing number with you:


If everyone who receives our emails or is in our Facebook group pledged to support us for $10 per month or increased their current giving by $10 per month, we could leave for Perth!

Even if you can't swing $10 per month, every $5...every $1 makes a difference.

Would you please pause for a moment, pray, and consider this $10?

If you're interested in supporting us financially, increasing your current support, or just have questions, please click the link below:


If you would like to speak with us directly, you can always click "reply" on this email and you'll be chatting directly with us.

Thank you for your partnership in this incredible ministry!