Open Door

IMG_3228“So, you guys are missionaries?  What are you doing while you’re here?”

“We’re driving around, praying about where God wants our friends (the Funderburks) to be in northeast TN.”
“…really?” with an eyebrow of disbelief raised.
My friend Kenneth nods his head with a grin, “What do you think of that?”
…thinking, then accepting, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
There were five of us.
Five guys…three from Colorado, one from Louisiana, and one half-and-half (me).  Our ages ranged from 24 with cool hair (not me) to 50-something with a white beard (not me either).  I felt like I was on the cast of a super-cool TV show or theater crew…everyone worked together so well, each played his part on the trip so well.
Last week, we went to northeast TN to pray about where the Lord wants our family to be.
I’ve never been on a trip that more obviously had God’s fingerprints all over it.
I think the theme of the trip was “open door.”  We had an open door at every meeting (whether planned or not).
We had a restaurant manager who opened up to us and shared her heart and honesty with perfect strangers.  A young missionary fellow gave us the royal tour of Greeneville and Jonesborough, educated us well on the area,  and then brought us home to let us meet his beautiful family.
One afternoon, the Lord rearranged our plans by canceling meetings I had planned and led us downtown Johnson City.  We stopped by a benevolent ministry, met with the director, and spent two hours praying and worshipping and encouraging each other with his staff.  The Spirit was obvious in that meeting.  The director was thrilled that the Lord is sending our family to stay.
We met a couple who owned a business in Johnson City…delightful they were.  The husband really wanted to join us for conversation but had to get home to his kids.  He gave us his cell number for later.
We met with the director of missions of the Southern Baptist association there.  What a treat.  Such a humble man he was, praying for God to do something in that region…watching for the Spirit to do something.  He told us of several folks in the area who have been praying for the Lord to work in their region.  We saw light there.  When we move, I hope to join him in praying the same prayer and seeing with him the Spirit work.
We also met with two ministry-leader ladies in Elizabethton…one spicy, one sweet…both wonderful.  We got a tour of their benevolent ministry and had a prayer time with one of the ladies, praying for a little church, which was obviously her heartbeat, that met in the worst part of town.
Most meetings ended with a prayer time where the people who were blessing us with their time and heart-stories were blessed by us as well.  How kind is God to benefit everyone involved, not just us?  I hope I can have a part in joining with each of these TN folks in seeking the Lord.
In short, the whole trip, start to finish, was orchestrated by our Father.  Every meeting was another open door showing us again and again that we are supposed to be there.
I went asking for the Lord to show us where we will live and have community.  I believe He’s zero-ing in on the west side of Johnson City/Jonesborough/Telford/the country spaces outside there.  Looks like that’s gonna be home.
Back in Colorado, as I was looking online at the maps of that area, I noticed these many, many “roads” that twist and turn every-which-way.  “That’s a lot of roads,” I thought.  As I zoomed in, I realized they weren’t roads…they were streams and brooks and rivers…as many of them (or more) as there were roads.  Then I remembered the scripture the Lord gave us a year and a half ago to nail-down that northeast TN was the place He was calling us: “For the Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills.”  Yep, there are lots of brooks and springs.
He also said the land was “valleys and hills”, not mountains.  Guess what that area is called?
“The Ridge and Valley.”
With no exaggeration, the Lord went before us and led us the entire trip.
Those who prayed with us, thank you!  I’m grateful you are out here with us.
Davy, Laura, and the Gonna-Be FunderHillDwellers

Leaving on a jet plane Sunday.

Sunday evening, Lee, Kenneth, and I leave for east TN.  We’ll join Glen and Steven (a new friend, young fella, loves Jesus) in TN.  We’ll have two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) to pray, meet with people, and listen to the Lord.

I asked the Lord for favor in being able to connect with ministry-minded folks in TN while we’re there.  He gave favor.

We have meetings scheduled with several people, from a young missionary/pastor praying for folks to join him to two directors of missions of Southern Baptist associations.  We will also get to tour a benevolent ministry with a heart for the poor, out of which grew a church to the poorest of the poor in their town.

I’m grateful for the doors the Lord is cracking open and will continue to open over the next few days.

While I’m grateful for these meetings, I’m not looking to these folks to give direction.  We’re meeting with these folks…listening for the Lord.

What are we asking Him for?

I am praying for a zip code…praying that the Lord will show us which community we’re supposed to join.

I’m also praying He’ll begin to tell us more specifically what we are going to do there…how we’re going to bring the gospel.

Would you mind praying for the Lord to speak Tuesday and Wednesday?

 

Spying on TN and other updates

Spying on Tennessee

My friend Kenneth (www.williamsinthewilderness.com) sat across from me in a room full of missionary guys.  The topic was spiritual strongholds here in New Castle, CO, and Lee invited us to spend a few minutes asking the Lord what He had to say about it.

The Lord kept bringing east TN to my mind.  I reminded Him several times that we were supposed to be talking about New Castle.

I found myself praying for the people in east TN and planning a trip there in my mind.  I wrote down that the Lord may want us to go to TN soon to pray about where we are supposed to move there.

Then Lee asked if the Lord had spoken anything.

Quiet.

I wasn’t gonna say anything…my conversation with the Lord had revolved around east TN!

Then Kenneth said, “Well, the Lord gave me something for Davy.”  The Lord had told Kenneth that I needed to take a trip soon to east TN (with a “brother”) to pray about where we are supposed to be.

How great is that?  I love it when God tells someone something on our behalf.

So!  Kenneth (church planter/missionary), Lee Price (director of River Center/church planter), Glen Whatley (pastor in LA), and I are flying to east TN mid-January.  They are my “dream team” of folks I wanted to join me.  I had zero funds to put toward the trip, so I asked the Lord to make a way.  Within about 3 weeks, all expenses were covered without me having to ask a soul.  Very grateful.

Also, we’ve been praying for contacts in east TN…someone who will accept us and help us become accepted in the community.  Today, I spoke with a former ministry leader in that area…the Lord not only gave me favor with her, she’s hoping I’m the next director of a ministry there (a mission center very similar to the River Center with an opening for a director…what are the odds?)  I don’t know God’s plan regarding that, but I am grateful for a lady who I think will come alongside us in whatever the Lord leads us to do.

Seven Good Months

We’ve been in CO for 7 months now.  Seven months well spent.  We found a prayer list that we wrote before leaving LA.  The Lord has met all of the needs, to some degree or another.  How great.

We have said goodbye to both summer and fall here in CO and are stepping with snow boots into winter.  Snow covers this southern family’s yard and roof.  Quite different for us.  Kids are enjoying sledding, snowballs, “igloos”, and licking ice cicles.  And we have found it possible to drive in snow and ice (provided your city/county has snowplows and gravel or salt).  We’ll see how we fare come February and March.  I’m hoping snow entertainment, hot chocolate by the fire, puzzles, and board games will fend off the cabin fever.

The community here has been amazing.  They have a wonderful understanding of what the church is (not a building, not an organization, not a denomination, but the living body of Christ, led by Christ.)  Church meets in our home weekly.

We had a fun all-church gathering of some of the churches here in the Roaring Fork Valley.  We all came together: the homeless church, the churches that meet at Lee’s house and Davy’s house and Desi’s house, etc., a mission team of teens from a Christian school in CA with an extra 15 exchange students from China, and a Southern Baptist church plant who hosted us in their tightly packed building.   We heard testimonies of a mom and wife who found herself in prison last year due to substance abuse but now lives in the grace and love and life of Christ who experiences more joy in her family and church than she has ever known, a Chinese fellow whose mother told him there was nothing, pure nothing, after death who enrolled in a Christian exchange program and found Christ.  One fellow who wandered into the meeting late and had no idea why all these different people came together asked, “What kind of church IS this?”  🙂  There were certainly lots of colors in the crayon box that day.  All brought together by Jesus.  How beautiful.

But Still Going to TN

But even with the beautiful community and scenery, we have never forgotten our purpose in being here.  We haven’t settled; we know it’s temporary.  Our minds are fixed on east TN because that is where God is drawing us.

After the “scouting” trip in January, we will begin planning the details of settling in TN.  I expect the first year will be just living and working there, getting to know the area, the people, praying to understand what God is doing and what He wants to do.  I’ve heard (and experienced) that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans; so, we will see. 🙂

I am imagining that I (and the boys with me, as often as possible) will do part-time work in TN, maybe landscaping and yard work.  The other part of the time will be ministry.  We have also started an online art business called Mud & Daisy (www.mudanddaisy.com) to help support our family, to serve as an avenue for the creativity that resides in us, and to bring art into other’s lives.  It’s a business Laura and the kids can run at home.  And there is plenty of homeschooling and learning to be had in running and operating a business!

 

This extreme faith-journey is 6+ years old now.  Some of you have been with us the whole time.

Thank you.

Some of you have woven in and out, being the encouragement we needed at the moment.

Thank you.

As we hopefully round the bend with east TN in sight, we look forward to us all seeing what God has planned.

September Snapshots

We realized this month that we’ve been “waiting” or “out here” on this crazy journey for almost half our marriage.  For half of our oldest son’s life.  For most of the next two.  And for all of the last two.  Woah.

September was quite full and good, and you probably wouldn’t have time to read all the stories I could tell!  So, here are some snapshots…

Feed My Sheep

I spent two days a week all September trying to help at Feed My Sheep, a Christian-run homeless shelter in nearby Glenwood Springs.  I say “trying” to help because they didn’t really need my help.  🙂  I thought I would be able to help clean the place or help keep order or…something!  This shelter, tucked away in the basement of an old, Catholic Charities building, runs like a well-oiled…well, family.  Mike and Karen, who head the place, and Jeff, who keeps things running, do a remarkable job.

Honestly, based on the hear-say and TV I’ve seen in my life, I thought homeless folk were dirty, stinky, off-their-rocker, and would swipe you clean if given half a chance.  Well, they are dirty, stinky, and some think a little differently, but that’s before a hot shower at Feed My Sheep.  Afterward, they still think differently but are treated with love and respect and kindness.  And, as a result, Feed My Sheep is a super-clean, organized, and safe place with men who, when lining up for lunch, allow the ladies to go first, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and offer one another their left-over sandwich bits.  Each person who comes downstairs signs in, washes his hands, and commits to a chore, whether it be sweeping, mopping, cleaning up lunch, whatever.  And this year, Feed My Sheep has been able to find affordable homes for 19 of their guys, giving them a good start with a bed, dresser, and pots and pans.

Karen reads scripture each day before lunch and prays with and for those waiting to eat.  Her husband, Mike, leads a church in the shelter on Sundays.

Appalachia Team

We’ve begun praying for a team…another family or individual, or more…whom God will call to go to Appalachia with us.  They will be our friends, community, prayer partners, and encouragement, and we’ll be the same for them.

Obviously, God is wanting to provide this.  During the last 3 weeks, four people (plus Laura and I) have sensed, each individually, that God wants us to begin praying for a team.  So, we look forward to seeing God do it.

Provision

Our Father has been faithful to continue to provide for us, even weekly.  He has brought along 2 new piano students, bringing us up to 8 students…which was our goal.

He’s been faithful to bring me work Thursday and Friday each week.  About 7 weeks ago, while I was praying semi-frantically, “Lord, what do You want us to do to make money on Thursdays and Fridays.  What do You want us to do to make money Thursdays and Fridays.”  He challenged both Laura and I separately to simply ask, “What do You want us to do?”  We are to ask Him what He wants us to do, whether it makes money or not.  When I get stressed about finances, I am to thank Him that He knows what we need and remember Him and all He’s done.  Since that challenge, He has been faithful to provide work each week.  The day I didn’t have work, I was able to do some work on our vehicles, saving us money.

I also recently learned that a church who helped launch us up to Colorado is planning to support us monthly as well.  I did not expect that.  How grateful we are that our Father sees and provides in good time.

The Gospel and how to do what He’s calling us to…

God taught me a lot recently about the importance of the gospel.  When I asked Him for a purpose for our family, He said it was to tell the gospel.  I’m asking Him to show us specifically how our family can do that.  This fits nicely with the promises He’s given us about Appalachia.

He has also begun a conversation on how to live this life He’s called us to.  In short, we (and all believers) live out what God calls us to do through…the power of Christ in us.  I know, pretty obvious, I guess.  But there’s more to this I want to learn.  I’m asking Him to teach me more.

Worship

After several years of the Lord allowing me to learn and re-learn about worship from the sidelines, recently He’s allowed me to lead worship quite a lot.  And I’ve loved it.  He’s taught and continues to teach me much about music and worship and what He likes and doesn’t. 🙂  I’m especially enjoying the meetings where almost everyone has something to bring…a song, a scripture, a prayer, an encouragement.   It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 14:26 (except without the trouble Paul was having.)

Prayer

I’m learning the importance of prayer being the first step in any direction.  If you think about us, please pray with us:

  • for connections in Appalachia – people with whom we can connect and gain insight and acceptance into the community there
  • for a team for Appalachia
  • about a small, online art business we’re prayerfully moving forward on.   We would be selling my watercolor artwork through prints, originals, PDF printables…we’ll have more to say on this later, hopefully.
  • for a newfound friend of mine to know he was created by God and can have life here and forever through Christ.

We are grateful and honored that, almost six months since coming to Colorado, so many of you support us, pray for us, and send us encouraging notes.  I pray that our good Father return the kindness and multiply it back to you.

Love to you and your families!

Davy & Laura & the FunderBots

A Conversation with Mr. Grace

I met with the gruff old man, Mr. Grace, again today. (His real name is Don).  According to him, he wasted 65 years of life…drank it up, hurt himself and his family.  Then Jesus saved him.  And now at 75, according to me, he exudes grace and love so fluently that I call him, behind his back, “Mr. Grace.”

We talked about God directing the FunderFamily to east TN and how that came about.  Hearing about the week of prayer involved in that and hearing about the preceding 5 years of Wait, Mr. Grace asked, sort of waving his hands in the air, “Do you ever just want to tell God, ‘Just tell me what to do!  I’ll do it!  Just tell me what to do!”

I laughed.  “Yep.”

I told of a time during the latter part of the five years when I got into a habit of yelling at God (sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head).  Before that, I had always been reserved in my conversation with God, holding back TOO MUCH emotion…sometimes not even being honest in how I felt.  So, to be honest with God and vocal about how much I hurt or was confused or frustrated was a step in the right direction.

And my good Father let me say my piece and listened.  He knew I was hurting and was just learning to express how I truly felt to Him.

Then, after a while, days and months later, after I had gotten the hang of being honest and now bordered on the “tantrum” side of expression, He corrected me.

One day, when what had been productive communication had become whining and stomping my foot, He said,

“That’s enough.  You need to stop talking to Me like that.”

My good Father had listened and let me vent but it was time to break the cycle I had settled into.

“I have feelings, too,” He pointed out.  Not that He’s a sensitive wimp, but I realized I needed to treat Him as the Person He is.

So, I stopped hollering.  Now when I get frustrated, confused, or hurt, I’ve learned to think about Him…not what I need or what He needs to do for me…but Him.  Usually.

And that’s much better.

Mr. Grace smiled under his whiskers.  And chuckled a gruff, throaty chuckle.  In that story, I think He recognized His good Father, too.

Hodgepodge

Hodgepodge of little updates…

Dirty Hugs

Got my first hug from a homeless lady in early July.  Unfortunately, her story checked out as true:  several years ago her baby girl was killed by the girl’s father.  Years, bad relationships, more children, and mental health medications later, she followed her parents (who have custody of her children) to Colorado, where she lived in a tent in a park a few miles from the River Center.  Her parents decided living in California near relatives was the best place for the children, so they packed up and moved, leaving our lady behind.  After learning more of her story and prayer, we decided to give her and her fiancé enough gas money to get to California to live near her parents and children.  I got a dirty and heartfelt, grateful hug from our lady in return for the gas card.  We prayed with them, and I asked the Lord to use their circumstances, their trip to California, any problems along the way as a means for them to know Him better.

Papa

We realized in mid-July that Papa (Laura’s grandfather) would soon be going to Heaven.  After praying it through, we decided to drive to south Louisiana to visit him one last time while he was still alert.  What a perfect decision.  He had been somewhat unresponsive before we left; while we were there, he was more alert than he had been for days.  We were there for his last two good days.  How good of our Father to give us that gift, huh?  We drove back to Colorado (40 hour round trip).  Three days later, we flew back for his funeral.  (And the Lord, in response to our questioning who should go and when, provided fully-paid plane tickets for our family.)  Papa was one of the main Christian influences on Laura as she grew up.  I have a wonderful wife and family due in part to this quiet man who gently and consistently lived out his faith.

Third Person

There are some titles that I have never held:

Davy, the Athlete.

Davy, the Macho.

Davy, the Dancer.

Davy, the Orator.

I’ve never held these titles because I am not those things.  Definitely not.

But, recently, the Lord challenged me to take on, in my thoughts and speech, a title that DOES apply to me (and you) although I hesitated to take it on:

Davy, the Disciple Whom Jesus Loves

Reading the gospel of John with my friend Kenneth, I noticed how each time John referred to himself, he wrote “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  I don’t believe John thought that of himself that way because he thought he was so lovable…because his lovableness would change depending on his actions or attitude.  John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” because Jesus loved him.  And that doesn’t change.  So I am, and you are, the disciples whom Jesus loves.  Because Jesus loves us.  And thinking of ourselves that true way, can change us.

And a word about givers…

For four months now, we have consistently been supported in part by a group of 17 folks who prayerfully committed to give each month so we can train here.  Four months ago, I had some unspoken fears that they might forget or think it not worthwhile to continue.  But they haven’t.  And I pray that the Father who uses their gifts to provide for us will take care of them in an obvious, over-and-abundant way in return for their kindness and obedience.  Right now, they are planting and we are learning.  I pray, that in time to come, we both see the fruit of what they’re sewing.

And here ends the mixed basket of updates.

Thank you for praying with us and may God amaze you with the precision and timing of His provisions,

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loves (and the rest of the gang)

Then and Now and Later

I just finished reading “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.  His pure delight in God Himself reminded me of the life Christ started in me as a 15 year old.

I ate the Word, spent my days in peace and delight in Him, hoping for a chance to wait in a waiting room or drive a tractor or do some other monotonous activity so I could spend time doting on Him in my heart and mind.  I would spend quite a lot of time praying and thanking Him and reading His Word.  Then I might dance like an idiot for a few minutes just to give the excited happiness of being with Him somewhere to go.

Since then, my “maturity” and “experience” have stifled that simple, pleasant relationship.  The conversations I start now are more about what He wants me to do or what my family needs than about how wonderful He is.  Is it possible for Him to still provide and care for us and use us for His glory if I stop trying and thinking so hard and be like Mary at His feet?

I tell you, I loved that relationship I had with him at 15, 16, and 17.  He did, too.  And now, twenty years later — a wife, 5 kids, obediences and sins, faith and doubt, bills and fears — surely He hasn’t changed.