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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Model of Missions: PART 2

I hope all of you had a chance to read part 1 yesterday! If not, take a quick second to skim it before reading this entry.

     As Scott Olson (the president of International Teams) was sharing with us the vision of ITeams, the following visual aid and approach really grabbed me. I decided it was certainly worth sharing!

        We characterize people in this world as the poor, the slave, and the blind. These are meant to be both literal and abstract. The goal is to bring food, freedom, and forgiveness to these individuals that we are ministering to. 

  Part of what Scott shared with us is their vision for the year 2020. Let me explain with more drawings:

         A missionary may be living in a country and this is what their walk looks like in the morning. They live in their house and walk to their 'ministry site' every day. Let's say it's a refugee ministry at the building on the righthand side of the drawing. 

The problem is that every day they walk by people in need on their way to work. But their ministry is to the refugees and they are already stretched thin in that ministry alone.

The 2020 vision is to identify 50 communities like this-- where needs exist-- and to develop a fully-integrated ministry where no one is invisible. We want to ensure that all of the needs are being met and that food, freedom, and forgiveness are readily being given and are available to everyone that is in that community.


            In these communities, the missionary is still doing his ministry, but ministry is taking place for the other groups in need additionally. This might come about because additional workers have been called to the field, or there are partnerships with local churches, businesses, or other missional organizations-- but IT missionaries will be involved in the work and in bringing those people together to help the oppressed. 

Pretty exciting stuff, right!? It's much more captivating when Scott delivers it.... but I thought it's worth sharing. This is who we are and will be part of what we're doing. I hope you can catch a glimpse of why we've been enjoying the training here at the IT ministry center!

I pray the Lord has been blessing you and your communities,


Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Model of Missions: PART 1

      We are currently in Elgin, Illinois doing training with International Teams (IT), the organization that is sending us to Ecuador. There are 4 modules that comprise our training: Orientation, A2, A3, and A4: language acquisition. We have finished Orientation and A2-- today was our first day of A3. So technically, we're half-way done!

As pictured above, we have had the opportunity to lead worship a few times during training!

      I have enjoyed training immensely. Scott Olson, the President of IT led a few of the sessions and he shared the overall vision, mission, and values of International Teams, and I have to say that I was moved and inspired. He shared a couple of the concepts visually, so I decided to re-draw a couple with hopes that you can catch an idea of what he spoke about.

      In missions, there are generally 2 extremes. One extreme focuses primarily on bringing the Gospel to the world. They focus on the spiritual needs and want to 'save' people. This is the blue guy on the left.

Then there's the other extreme, which focuses on meeting the physical needs of individuals-- giving water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the poor. The orange person on the right represents those folks.

Now don't get me wrong-- both of these are necessary, good things! The problem is when the blue guy looks at the orange guy and says, "You focus too much on physical needs! We need to focus on the heart and on saving souls!"

And then there's the problem of the orange guy returning that same sentiment and saying, "You're too focused on what's inside-- we need to meet their physical needs before even thinking about addressing their spiritual needs!"

  You see, both focuses are good, but in most cases the extremes result quickly and frequently-- and they hold their opinion as better than the other. Most organizations out there have a much stronger focus on one over the other.

     What's pretty awesome and unique about International Teams is that our model looks like this:

     We genuinely embrace both. The ministries that IT has all over the world address both physical and spiritual needs. We fully integrate both of these views and are intentionally bringing people together with both views to help the oppressed: physically and spiritually.

     That is Part 1! I realize this is a little long... so, I'm gonna leave you biting your nails tonight  and will post Part 2 tomorrow!

 Blessing to you, friends,


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Measuring Time in Terms of Haircuts

I gave myself a haircut the other day. I've been cutting my own hair since my senior year of high school. I spent the summer before my senior year living on Long Island (where I grew up) with my cousin Jenny and her husband Brandon. Brandon cut my hair that summer and taught me how to do it myself. He had been cutting his own for years. I've cut my own ever since then.

I digress.

We have been in a  state of flux since August, and time has had a different feel to it ever since then. We've spent good chunks of time in 9 different states, stayed with dozens of different people, and the only constant has been that there is no normal.

But I recently realized that the most measurable passage of time has been when it's time to cut my hair. I cut my hair once a month-- it starts looking like it needs it at about the end of the first week of the month (typically). I started thinking about all of the different places I've given myself haircuts over the last few months. And I thought you might enjoy it as well.

August haircut: Our apartment in Brooktondale, NY-- a few days before heading to Ecuador

September haircut: T.J. and Kelly Ross's bathroom: Brooktondale, NY

October haircut: Hotel room in Iowa City, Iowa (2 days before Josh and Sarah Pederson's wedding)

November haircut: Piper DeLaPointe's apartment: Fargo, ND

December haircut: Bob Grabko's house: Stillwater, MN

January haircut: Apartment #272 at the International Teams Ministry Center in Elgin, Illinois

I expect the next 2 haircuts to be in this apartment, too. It's nice to know I'll have some consistency! The crazy thing was that every time I'd say aloud, "I'm getting a little shaggy-- guess it's about time for a haircut." Suzy would think that I'd just given myself a haircut a week or two ago. Yet every time, a whole month had flown by.

The really wild thing is: the next time I give myself a haircut, there's a good chance we'll have a daughter.

For those Lost fans out there: My constant is haircuts.


 Here's my most recent before and after haircut pictures:

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Baby Nursery

Jim and I arrived safely in Elgin on Sunday night. Upon our arrival we had a wonderful surprise! We were informed that a) during training we will only be sharing our apt with one other couple for the first 8 days* and b) the housing coordinator had cleared the beds out of one of our three bedrooms so that we would have the small luxury of setting up a nursery for our baby girl!!**

Both of these things were unexpected blessings and we are truly humbled by God’s continued provision to meet the deepest desire of our hearts - Praise God!!

It's been such a delight to be reminded this week that God has and will continue to go before us as a family; that He’s not only preparing a place for us in heaven, but in every step along the way in our journey…He even prepared a room for our baby girl!! It is this Truth that we will continue to focus on throughout these coming weeks and I hope you will for your life, too! 

May you be encouraged by these promises that God truly is who He says He is... also, we hope you enjoy the photos below of the nursery ...if you'd like to see more photos of our new apartment you can go to our facebook page: jimandsuzyolsen.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."  - John 14:1-4

"I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."   
  - Isaiah 41:9-11

The view from the doorway.

A close up of her books. 

Her car seat and bassinet. 

Baby clothes in the closet - she's all set!

*It is usually an intentional part of the training here at International Teams to live in community with one another and so they assign housing accordingly. However, with the news that we would be having a newborn they were able to make it work that we would have our own place once the baby arrives - this is a huge answer to prayer as Jim and I were a bit worried about inconveniencing others!

**Throughout the pregnancy we have been in so much transition, and will continue to travel throughout the first 6 months of our daughter’s life, that the notion of being able to set up a nursery and “nest” was never a realistic possibility in my mind. However, God is so good and has provided us with the opportunity to take the time to emotionally and physically prepare for the arrival of our daughter!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Here we are, hitting the road...again.

As I write this Jim is packing the final things into our car. Today we start the first part of our drive to Elgin, IL for our mission training with International Teams. We plan to spend the night at my sister's in Eau Claire, WI and then will finish the final 4.5 hour drive tomorrow.

As a side note, I must mention that I am struck by how patient, loving, and hard-working my husband is. The amount of times he has loaded and unloaded that car over the last 5 months is remarkable. He is always ready and willing even though I know on the inside he doesn't look forward to it. He is the master of packing - if anyone needs to hire a consultant sometime, he is your man. I am grateful to the Lord for his steadfastness throughout this journey...I clearly would not be as sane or healthy without him. But I digress...

The next week and a half will include settling in to our apartment (did I mention we actually get to stay in the same apt for 3 whole months?!?!), setting up our IL insurance, going to a doctor's appointment, and finishing up our assignments for training. Our first sessions for training start on Jan 18, therefore we'll have some time to get ourselves situated.

As we look forward to stepping into this next part of our journey we are full of excitement about the unknown that lies ahead. In just 6 weeks we will have completed our training, have a newborn baby in our lives (we'll also be trying to figure out how we can get a birth certificate, social security card, and passport in time for our departure from the States), and coordinating who/where our last pieces of luggage will be left to be sent down to Ecuador with short-term mission teams. In some ways I felt like we were just getting the hang of all this transition, but really the adventure is just beginning, isn't it? Thankfully God is going before us and that we don't have to just rely on ourselves to figure it all out - Praise Him!!

So, here's to the beginning of the next chapter and thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers and support - we are humbled by how God continues to use each of you in our lives for His Glory and Goodness!