A Busy Week

A walk in the park

Well, this past week has proven to be a perhaps the busiest, most exhausting week of the year. It all began with a wonderful time at the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Master’s Seminary. The evening was wonderful, the food amazing, the company fantastic, and the music (Jubilant Sykes) stunning. What a way to end a normal week and enter Shepherds’ Conference week! Nevertheless, by Sunday Nate was off the work to help Grace Church prepare for the onslaught of 4,000 pastors who would converge upon the campus in only three days. Beginning Sunday, he worked through Saturday night, clocking a total of 109 hours in 7 days (including three 17-hour days). It was something he was dreading for months before the event, but by the time the conference came, he was into the swing of it and came through on the other side with some sore feet and a lot of good stories.

Meanwhile, Tash was supposed to spend the week in Florida visiting some family friends while Nate worked the conference (and slept at the church). However, circumstances prevented her from going on the trip so she ended up staying at home and keeping as busy as she could while Nate was gone. Needless to say, Nate wasn’t the only one relieved when the week was over. So to celebrate the week, we rested for most of Sunday and then went to the park for a short walk (as much as Nate’s feet could take) and then returned home to barbecue some chicken drumsticks…mmmm.

All told, the week was okay. Now that it’s over, it’s back to work, to school, and to life as it should be…that is, until next year’s Shepherds’ Conference!

Preparing for the party

 

Nate and Tash at the TMS Banquet

Dining below Air Force One

BBQ chicken...my mouth is watering!


Why We Love Saturdays

Most everyone loves Saturdays. For some, it’s their first chance to sleep in all week. For others, it’s having a whole free day with no obligations. But we love Saturdays for a completely different reason. For us, Saturday is produce day! Every Saturday morning we drive down to a local distribution center (about 5 minutes away) and pickup a box of fresh, organic, locally grown produce filled with all different sorts of produce, some of which you would have never thought to buy had you seen it in the supermarket. Here is just a small list of the produce we have picked up over the last few weeks:

  • avocado
  • winter squash
  • pomegranate
  • shallots
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • kiwi
  • oranges
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • peppers
  • sweet potatoes
  • pears
  • tangelos
  • lemons
  • clementines
  • grapes
  • spinach
  • parsnips
  • radishes
  • beets
  • leeks
  • bok choy
  • lettuce
  • cabbage
  • popcorn (on the cob)
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • sage
  • lavender
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • apples
  • chestnuts
  • arugula
  • green beans

All of the produce fluctuates according to the growing season, so you’re always getting what’s currently in season, and at a much lower price than the same produce at the supermarket. In fact, we get so much produce in each box that we’ve been slitting it with some friends so that none goes to waste. If you’re in the L.A. area, check out Abundant Harvest Organics to see if there’s a distribution center near you. A small box is only $21.80/week, and a large is $36.80, and you can choose online which weeks you want produce and which weeks you want to skip. Happy Saturday!


Home…

Though we would certainly prefer to be in Alaska, we can’t deny that Canyon Country is better than living in the city. Up here, it’s almost as if we’re in the country…until we get on the freeway.


The Wardrobe Hallmark…

Of all the pieces in a man’s wardrobe, the tie is the grand finale, the final piece which makes or breaks it all. You could wear the same charcoal suit and white oxford shirt everyday (certainly not advised), and never fail with a well-chosen tie. Who says men’s clothing is boring!


2:40 pm…Stuck in a Rut (i.e., a bucket)

"I am what I am..."

"...a moron"


Uh…just so you know, the bike is sold

If you’re the one person in the galaxy who actually reads this blog and is waiting with bated breath to see if and when my bike will ever be sold…uh, I sold it in, like, late August. It was difficult to part with it, but the sleek and fast computer I built with the “proceeds” more than makes up for it. Besides, what was I thinking riding a motorcycle in Los Angeles??!!


Selling to Bike…

This post serves a multi-purpose function: (1) It lets all of you who do read my blog for non-commercial purposes know about what’s going on in my life right now, namely that I’m selling my motorcycle [moment of silence, please]; (2) It lets all of you who are reading this for commercial (i.e., “I want to find out more about your bike”) reasons see some photos of the bike that I couldn’t get to email properly.

Regardless, if anyone wants to buy the bike, and you happen to live in the L.A. area, drop me a line and we can talk about it. If you want to buy the bike and you live far away…well then, we look forward to your visit.

If you want to see some info on the bike, visit http://losangeles.craigslist.org/ant/mcy/1899159280.html.

Oh, and p.s., yes that is a ‘Dora the Explorer’ kitchenette behind the bike, and no I do not cook with it often.


England, here we come (and went)! Part 2: The Team

God has a knack for surprises. Team England started out with five eager couples, and everything seemed like it was ready to go. But then one couple dropped out…and then another. And for Steve, the team leader, panic was looking like the new order of the day.

Before I go any further, I think it’s be good for me to clarify exactly what this trip was all about. Seven years ago, Tom McConnell and his wife Kathy made their way over to northern Ireland in the hopes of finding a church to pastor. A year later, they left northern Ireland somewhat confused and wondering where God would taking them next. They had no idea that He would take them to Rugby, England, a little town about 85 miles north London, nestled in the rolling pasture land of Warwickshire county. The town is not a very well-known, except for two things: it’s the home of a very famous school and a very famous sport (more on that later).

Nevertheless, this little town was, like all the rest of England, in desperate need of gospel ministry and clear, expository preaching. The whole country has lost as much as 60% of its church attendance over the past decade, and if numbers in areas like Wales are any indicator of the rest of the country, then nearly 70% of the current pastors in the country will be retiring in the next ten years, with nearly no one to replace them. This means a devastating leadership vacuum in evangelicalism in England is closing in on this little country. Though it hasn’t gone as far into secularism as the rest of western Europe, its major denominations are as dead as dead can be and the evangelical church is flailing to stay alive.

Thus Tom and Kathy came to Rugby and candidated for the senior pastor position at Rugby Evangelical Free Church. Despite learning some hard lessons early on, Tom and the two elders of the church began to transform that church into a thriving, gospel-centered ministry. But Tom had more on his mind than his ministry in Rugby. He wanted to reach the rest of England, and he knew that meant reaching England’s up and coming leaders, who had nowhere to go for training except maybe London. That meant any young man who felt a call to gospel ministry had to pack up his bags and leave his church family in order to be trained. But Tom had an idea…

His idea was a two-step process. Step one: get Master’s Seminary graduates over into England to pastor churches in the midlands. Step two: when enough men were there, pool their resources and skills together to start a training center to teach younger generations how to do expository preaching. However, in order for step one to happen, he needed to expose TMS guys to ministry in England. Thus the England trip was born. The first group went over in the summer of 2008. The next year, a new team went, this time with their wives as well. 2010 marked the third team to go to England, and Tash and I were suddenly a part of a ministry opportunity we had never even thought about before.

Team England 2010. From left to right: Nelson Hsieh, Nate and Tash, Keith and Louise Essex, Steve and Sylvia Swartz, Ross Orgill

So, getting back to the story, Team England 2010 was looking at a vacuum of their own. Two couples down and only a few short months before lift off. Yet amazingly, God surprised us all. He had somehow orchestrated events so that Steve and I were placed in the same discipleship lab. We got to know each other during that semester to the point that when Steve needed a new man for the team, he came to me. To make a long story short, by mid-April, we officially had a team.

Our team included four TMS students (Steve Swartz, Nelson Hsieh, Ross Orgill, and myself), three wives (Sylvia Swartz, Lisa Orgill, and Tash) and one TMS professor and his wife, Dr. Keith and Louise Essex. The team was, in all respects, an interesting and unique unit. Nelson, the only single of the group, was also the only veteran England STM member, having participated in the previous year’s ministry. He brought a level of experience that all the rest of us lacked. Even Steve, who had conversed for months with Tom while planning the trip, relied on Nelson countless times during the trip. Steve and Sylvia, on the other hand, were veterans in their own way. They had spent over a decade (probably more, I just can’t remember the exact amount) in ministry prior to coming to TMS. And with them came the wisdom and insight that only decades in ministry can afford. Ross and Lisa were both from England, so this trip was really a return home. In fact, Ross was using this trip as a chance to check out some of the churches in the area that were in need of pastors. Dr. Essex and his wife were also in the same boat, since he was English-born and was looking at the possibility of returning home at a future point for ministry. His vast understanding of Scripture, coupled with decades of peaching and ministry experience brought a level of maturity to the group that made it unparalleled to previous teams.

And then there was Tash and I, the new guys, who weren’t even planning on going on this trip, but Steve just had to ask! I was in my third year of seminary, preaching more and more, and thinking about what ministry lay beyond the horizon after seminary. Strangely enough, our plans (or at least, far off desires) were pretty similar to Tom McConnell’s, except that we wanted to go back to Alaska and pastor there, eventually establishing a training center for Alaskan pastors. England, however, proved to be a factor/monkey wrench that neither of us expected but was compelling enough that we fell headlong into the ministry there with the understanding that we would seriously consider whether coming to Britain was what God wanted us to do.

So with the team established, the next step was to study. Each man would preach for sermons, and with the semester coming to a close in late April to early May, there wasn’t much studying I could do until finals were complete. But after the semester had ended, and I had spent at least one full day away from any kind of book, I returned to my desk ready to dive into the word of God, and praying that over the next three weeks, the Lord would put something on my heart that I could bring to share in England.


England, here we come (and went)! Part 1: The Request

Taken on Easter Sunday, with Tash still wearing her newly purchased Easter dress. We submitted it as our application photo.

When I met up with my friend, Steve Swartz, for lunch one Wednesday afternoon in early April, I had no idea that I would be preaching in England only a few short months later. In fact, earlier that semester I had come to the decision that, while going to England for short-term ministry sounded like an exciting opportunity, it would probably never happen. Tash and I had first considered the idea when it was brought up months earlier by some friends of ours who were, at that time anyway, already planning on going as part of the team. Little did I realize that, while I dismissed it with not much thought, Tash continued to pray that God would somehow work it out for us to go. At that lunch meeting with Steve, opportunity knocked…

As it turned out, Steve was leading the 2010 England team and he had just lost two team members and was desperate to plug the holes. Thus I enter, sitting down to lunch with no idea what was about to come. So when Steve asked, “By the way, what are your plans for this summer?”, I replied without much thought, “Nothing.” The bait was set.

Next came the question I never expected: “How would you and Natasha like to come to England in two months?”

From here, the details don’t really matter, except to say that the Lord certainly expedited the whole process. The application process was not a simple, one-step plan. I had to fill out a full personal and ministry bio. I had to submit a recorded testimony and ministry history. I also had to submit two recorded sermons for evaluation (more on that later). Yet despite all that was required, in just over a week Tash and I were officially members of “Team England,” and preparing both spiritually and financially to leave for Britain on May 31, the same day I would turn 28.

Grace Church graciously (I really emphasize that part) provided the support letters and the postage so that Tash and I could quickly get our letter out and begin raising support. The estimated cost: $2,200 per person, and we had less than two months! Nonetheless, the finances were provided throughout the team so that, with a few weeks left before lift off, our team was 80%-90% supported, and Grace gave us the green light. England, here we come!


A Little Explanation…

I find it humorous that I’m starting this blog so late in the game, as it were, in seminary. Three years through seminary and entering my fourth, and I’m just now jumping into the world of the internet blog site, a practice I had vowed never to do! So why start one now? That’s a very good question…

For one, Facebook is painfully dull, and honestly, I’m nearing the end of my Facebook days. If the point of Facebook is to connect friends and family, yet my parents can’t even navigate through it, then the whole site has lost its purpose. Instead, I want to create something that actually makes connecting my life to family and friends easier, creative and fun. In the end, I am not the sum total of my Facebook bio, and regardless of how many status updates I post, you will never know exactly what is on my mind in 100 words or less.

Second, I want a venue in which I can communicate my thoughts, whether they be theological, musical, or just anything, all in an environment which spawns creative freedom.

Third, I want a place where both my wife and I can share our thoughts, activities and experiences with others. We do have another blog, but sometimes what is needed is a fresh start (at least for me), and this blog serves that purpose.

With that said, welcome. I’ll post some on the past, some on the present, and some on the future, hence the title: to Seminary…and Beyond. While California might be our residence, it is not our home. And while seminary might be our present, it is not our future. This blog will, in part, chronicle our thoughts and reflections, our activities and experiences, our joys and sorrows, and our hopes and dreams as we move through seminary and into life and ministry beyond…