Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Redefining Wealth

Dear Family and Friends,

I thought I’d start tonight with an update on what is going on with our family.

1) We are now at 78% of our support pledged.
2) Dan’s last day of work at Aegon was Sept. 17 (Rebekah’s birthday!)
3) We will leave for a support raising trip to MI and OH on Sept. 26 and return on either October 7 or 8. We will visit two churches and two schools while we are there and have potential for 2 to 3 dinners/deserts with family and friends.
4) When we return, our plan is to focus on packing and getting ready to leave for Nicaragua. We do not yet have plane tickets, but we are watching prices and hope to secure these soon.
5) The school has found housing for us in a group of 10 houses that is within walking distance of the school. We were praying for an opportunity to live in this area – it is secure and has both missionary families and Nicaraguan families living in the same group of houses which was something we were looking for.


As I mentioned, Dan’s last day of work was last Wednesday. Dan and I were reflecting today about how he is unemployed, we do not own a home, and we drive a van that has 171,000 miles on it and this is our only vehicle. I was telling Dan that it was so strange how on his last day of work, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace – something I really did not anticipate. I’m finding that there is an incredible freedom that comes with depending on God for our financial and material well-being.

As I’ve thought about this, I’ve been having flashbacks to a summer that I spent in Mexico. Another young woman and I were assigned to a small village and commissioned with the task to lead a Vacation Bible School at the church in the village. The people of the village were very poor, most of them living in huts with dirt floors. We lived with a family that had a cement floor – most likely one of the wealthier families in the village. I remember how people would crowd into the church anytime there was something going on there – often heads were poking into the windows from the outside of the church because the church was packed inside with no room left to sit. I remember how we gave the people a few trinkets before we left and how they ran to their homes bringing back some of their most valuable possessions to give to us. I remember riding back to the city in the back of a pickup truck weeping as I thought about how poor they were, yet how generously they gave. This experience changed my life forever. I came back to the U.S. with a new lens. I remember struggling a great deal with the wealth of this country, moving at times from anger to sorrow. Eventually, I recognized that I could not change our country, but that I could change how I managed God’s money on a daily basis.

One of the things that I noticed about the people of that Mexican village was that they were happy, unusually happy. They enjoyed rich community with the others in their village. They shared freely with one another. They spent time talking with each other, really talking. And often church would last much longer than an hour and not a single person complained. I think that what I eventually realized was that they were the ones who were rich.

Our family is beginning a new chapter - one that will redefine the meaning of wealth for us. We are not poor by any means. But, there is a very clear sense that we are much more dependent upon God for our financial well-being. I think in these next few years, we will come to know Him much more intimately as our Provider than we have known Him before. We are also very aware that God has provided us with a faithful community of people here in the States who are caring for us in so many different ways and we recognize our relational wealth. In addition, our visit to Nicaragua demonstrated to us how missionaries are dependent upon one another, often sharing their possessions with each other as need be. And we will be living in a culture that is very warm and interested in people and time is taken to get to know one another. We know there will be challenges and obstacles. But, we also look forward to the relational and spiritual riches that God has in store for us.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”


1) I’ve been concerned about my allergy treatment. The problem was that our missionary insurance will not cover preexisting conditions and I am 1 year into a 3 year program of weekly shots. My serum alone costs $2,000, and then there was concern about transporting it and keeping it refrigerated, etc. The great news is that my allergist said that new serum was just ordered for me and she said it should last 7 to 8 months! She also said that transport should not be a problem in terms of temperature. Also, I just found out that the school nurse at Nicaragua Christian can administer my shots!

2) It has been so encouraging this month to have many people help us with the support raising process. Several people have volunteered to make phone calls for us; several have offered to do dinners/deserts; and family members have sent out a letter with our information to many of their friends letting them know about an opportunity to partner with us. Regardless of the results of their efforts, we are so honored and encouraged that people would join us in this process. It makes the process so much less lonely!

3) Our kids are seeing God’s provision for them. We had a party for both of them to say good-bye to friends who have been a part of their lives these 7 years we have been in IA. Will’s was an outdoor party and there were so many incredible ways that God made this party possible – the most obvious was that it was raining most of the morning, but before the party there was a break in the clouds and we were dry for the whole party. Rebekah’s answer to prayer involved a friend who was not sure that she could make it to the party due to difficult circumstances. She was able to make the party after all!

4) Praise for friends who have given us and our kids a place to stay when we are in Cedar Rapids. Dan and I were talking about Jesus today and how this is how He lived His life – traveling and staying in the homes of friends. We are so blessed to have the friends that we have!

Petitions: I will give updates on last week’s requests with a couple more -

1) God is showing us His plan and vision. Our time in MI and OH has fallen together beautifully as we were trying to coordinate two churches and two schools and their schedules - all of this fell into place. We now pray for the opportunity to speak with people at 2 to 3 desserts/dinners and for the smooth scheduling of these events.

2) Home schooling is still my favorite part of the day. The kids are doing well considering the craziness of their lives right now. We still have tears at times, but these too are times of learning and growing as we ask God for help.

3) Our internet situation is still difficult, but we are adjusting by driving to Grundy Center library or to the Cedar Falls Panara. Our responses may be delayed due to this
adjustment, but we will continue to make an effort to communicate and to update.

4) Please continue to pray for rest and for health for us.

Thank you for all of the ways that you continue to pray for us and care for us. We are very thankful for you.

Peace to you,
Lisa Van Zoest