Monthly Archives: June 2011

Counting the Cost…

If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost.

– Luke 14:26-28 (NLT) –

How many times do I jump into something without counting the cost? I don’t remember thinking about the verses above when I accepted Jesus into my life, confessed my sins, and asked Him to be my Lord. It can be easy to paint a picture of Jesus from my own preconceived notions, or by simply reading the verses that I like to read. I like the Jesus who is easy to follow. I like the Jesus who tells me to keep living in the U.S. and enjoy life in the here and now. I like the Jesus who always says, “I love you.”

But, I don’t get to make up or choose which Jesus I get to follow. After all, there is only one Jesus Christ who died on the cross so that I might live. It makes sense, then, that He gets to make the rules and I have to look at the whole picture, not just the parts I like.

So, I read the verses in Luke 14 and realize that before we skip off to the Mission Field, perhaps Jess and I ought to consider what the cost will be. I would like to think that we can jump in with both feet and trust that God will take care of everything, but this wouldn’t be the wisest choice. Jesus tells the people who were following Him to count the cost, primarily because He knew that they were following Him with joy because everything was easy at that moment. It is easy to follow Jesus when people are being healed, demons are being driven out, the Pharisees are being rebuked, and people are being fed miraculously. But, that is not the true test. Jesus knows that it will not always be easy.

There would come a time when Jesus would be arrested. There would come a time when Jesus would suffer. There would come a time when Jesus would die. Where did all those crowds go?

What will Jess and I do when things get tough? We need to know, and resolve in our hearts, that we will not allow anything to change between us and God no matter what happens. We need to know what dangers, what hardships await so that we are prepared and ready to respond with faith and not fear. We won’t know everything, but we should know what we are getting into.

So, what is the cost? I have heard it said that whenever you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to multiple other things. What are we saying no to? What are we letting go of?

  • One of the greatest blessings is how involved both of our families have been, are, and desire to be in the years to come. We have lived so close to Jessica’s Mom and she has the pleasure of watching Adelina every Tuesday while Jess works at Summit. We lived with Jessica’s Dad for a few weeks and he makes frequent trips to Reno to visit his family and his lake house. My parent’s have made it a point to fly out to wherever we live once a year, and we usually come home for Christmas to see FarFar and FarMor (My maternal grandparents), my brother and his family, and my sister. We love our families and it is important that we cultivate and maintain these relationships. Yet, following Christ to the Mission Field (wherever it may be) will mean that we will not get to see our families as much. We will Skype and iChat and email and facebook, but we will lose something by not being present, by not giving hugs, by not sharing a cup of tea, by a thousand other things that can only happen in person. This is one of the costs that we face.
  • We attend an awesome fellowship of believers here in Northern Nevada. Summit Christian Church is an absolutely joyful place to work and celebrate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I stood behind the Starting Point counter a few weekends ago and was struck with the reality that I wouldn’t be there soon. But, I love these people. I will miss these people. In fact, I miss them already!!! They have been through so much with us and we have traveled with many of them through their ups and downs. We have prayed for them, visited them in the hospital, shared meals, etc… But soon, we will be sent out. Our family will always be a part of the Summit family, but we will be part of an “extended” campus. Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it is gone. Well, I know what we have here at Summit and I know that it will be difficult to leave such an amazing church.
  • Food! Recently, Jessica poured over a mound of magazines in order to clip out and save the best recipes. She would carefully remove them with a pink scalpel she bought at Michael’s. I placed the recipe in a plastic sleeve. As I was putting the sumptuous recipes in the plastic sleeves, I realized that we wouldn’t be able to make most of these dishes once we reached the Mission Field! I mean, where are we supposed to get cake flour, vanilla bean paste, quinoa, or possibly even beef!!! Don’t laugh! Our diets will change and so will the way that we cook. And don’t get me started about going out to eat!!! We do not eat out much, but it is nice to be able to go to a restaurant and have someone else cook the meal for us. Yes, we will have an airplane and the ability to fly all over the place. But, it is not like there’s an In-N-Out or a Whole Foods in the middle of the jungle or on random Indonesian islands!
  • Life in the U.S. can be easy and safe. Have you ever thought about the fact that there aren’t too many dangerous animals in the U.S.? There are some countries that have lions, cheetahs, poisonous snakes, elephants, spiders the size of a human hand, fire ants, anacondas, tigers, rhinos, hippos, crocs, etc… What do we have in the U.S.? We have some poisonous snakes and mountain lions, a few grizzly bears and some alligators in Florida, but it is a safe place to live. I turn on the faucet and crystal clear water, sometimes with added minerals for taste and fluoride for my teeth, flows freely! I turn the hot water on and I have it in seconds! I can get anything I want for lunch (especially raw fish) and it is good to go! I can go to movie theater and see the newest releases. I can go to Costco and buy twenty pounds of two-ply toilet paper and a side of ribs…make that six sides of ribs! Life is ridiculously convenient! Most diseases, especially the really bad ones, do not even exist in the U.S. I could live in the U.S. and my greatest health concern might be a heart attack or hypertension, instead of the numerous diseases that exist, and sometimes thrive, in third world countries.

Yes, there are other costs. Financial costs of not making anything close to a six-figure salary. Comfort costs of enjoying the latest technology or installment of Angry Birds. Relational costs of not having tons of friends and being able to call any of them just to hang out.

But, before you get depressed for us, or think that we are anything more than a family just like yours, I want to remind you that there are some things that we are saying yes to…

  • We are going to fly airplanes all over God’s creation. (And the airplane that we are going to fly is simply amazing!!!
  • We will teach our children to fly and we can fly on missions as a family whenever there is room in the plane!
  • “Tis a gift to be simple, Tis a gift to be free…” Nothing says simplicity like living in a remote village without many distractions and living as a tight-knit family!
  • Our children will receive an education that we couldn’t buy, and they will know at least two languages!
  • It will be a great way for us to disciple our children and show them what it means to follow Christ.
  • Our house will have plenty of land and places to explore all around. There will also be a football field (a.k.a. a runway) where the children can play, ride bikes, and do all manner of things that only become real through imaginative play!

There will be a cost for us as we endeavor to serve the Lord anywhere in the world as Missionary Pilots. There will also be benefits. I cannot foresee every cost but I do know that nothing will make us love God any less. He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Shelter, our Ever-Present Help in times of need. He is our Provider, our Sustainer, our Salvation, our Peace, our Hope. He gave us our lives and we will give them back without reservation for glory of God!


Why Go?

It has been encouraging to see how many people are excited about Jessica and I deciding to pursue a career being Pilot Missionaries. It has been humbling to see how many people desire to support us financially and with their prayers; extremely humbling.

In order to let you know a little more about how we made this decision, we have recorded a little of our journey after high school…

Jessica and I met at a small Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ. Embry-Riddle is an aviator’s dream. Blue skies, 100 mile visibility, over 300 great flying days a year, and a beautiful landscape for miles around! Imagine walking on the campus and seeing a couple hundred men who appear to be trying out as an extra for Top Gun. Motorcycles, Aviator sunglasses, flight jackets, crew cuts. (Now, I should clarify since Embry Riddle has the second largest Air Force ROTC program in the nation. The first being the Air Force Academy in CO.)

Jessica and I developed a passion for aviation in high school, so we attended Embry Riddle with hopes of becoming professional pilots. I, Phil, had chosen to attend Riddle over the Moody Bible Institute because I was interested in missionary flying, but I didn’t want to be pidgeon-holed just in case I wanted to try something different after I was finished. Jess had chosen to fly at Riddle because she couldn’t see herself working in a cubicle. Her goal was to become a corporate pilot, flying business jets and small corporate fleets.

Both of our plans were thrown for a loop as we began to pursue God. Chi Alpha, the only campus ministry at Embry Riddle, is a fun-loving and passionate group of young men and women from all walks of Christianity. Jessica got involved with Chi Alpha her freshman year. It was perfect as she was able to start a new life, away from her life and friends in Reno, and truly learn what it meant to follow Jesus Christ. I, a year younger than Jessica, jumped into Chi Alpha with both feet. Though I had grown up in a Christian home, college was when I was able to spread my wings and make my relationship with God my own, instead of simply holding on to the coattails of my parents.

In Chi Alpha we grew as leaders, as servants, and as disciples of Christ. We learned what it meant to lay down our lives for our friends. We built lasting relationships; relationships that will extend into eternity. (In fact, we just attended a wedding of one of our good friends from Chi Alpha. We met up with some of our other friends and it was like no time had passed. We will always be close!)

Kevin and Kim MacFee, the Chi Alpha campus pastors, taught us what it meant to live a life abandoned unto the will and purposes of God. They had been serving at a church in Ohio and Kevin was a Youth Pastor. He learned of how some of his graduated students had left the faith after they entered into college. It broke his heart so much that he knew he wanted to make a difference in the lives of college students. He moved his family all the way out to AZ, built a modest house with his father-in-law, and they planted themselves in Prescott Valley, AZ. They taught us what it means to sacrifice, to raise godly children, the importance of relationships, and the joy of obedient service to God.

As the few years of college went by, both Jessica and I began to feel God leading us into ministry. We had been gifted by God to lead and to minister in ways that we could not ignore. God had more for us than flying a glorified bus and making a paycheck. We graduated in May 2004 and got married that July. We decided to stick around Prescott for our first year of marriage. We would learn how to be married and help out with Chi Alpha. After leading a short term mission trip to Bangalore, India, we felt that God was leading us to move to Reno (something Jessica always swore she wouldn’t do). Our goal in moving to Reno was to grow in ministry, minister to Jessica’s large extended family, and pray for the city.

We loaded up in December 2005 and drove all day to get to Reno. The second church that we checked out was Summit Christian Church. After the service, we approached the Senior Pastor to meet him and introduce ourselves. After some conversation he asked Jessica what she was going to do in Reno and she said, “I would like to work for a church.” Well, it wasn’t long before they needed someone to fill a position in their small group ministry, so they contacted Jessica and we have been at Summit ever since! Jessica (I can say this because it is never wrong to boast about your wife) is an amazing leader. By the grace of God, and Roger Yount, she helped grow the groups from a little over 10 to over 90 groups. The growth strategy for this ministry was fourfold: leadership training and development, assimilation of church attenders in to small groups, vision casting and information sharing to the church body, and curriculum. To say that she is amazing seems just a little inadequate!

After she had our first child, Adelina Lynnae, and I graduated from The King’s Seminary. I moved into her role overseeing the small group ministry and she moved to a part-time role writing curriculum and shepherding leaders. In the fall, while I was away on a work project, a MAF missionary couple that Summit supports visited the church. God was not done shaking things up. Jessica had the opportunity to speak with the wife and learned that being a Missionary Pilot was an incredible opportunity to serve the Lord. Jessica learned that MAF can also be a great place to raise a family and teach them about different cultures, service, and ministry. Her spirit was stirred by God as she listened to the missionary speak about life, ministry, and their family. So many aspects resonated with Jessica’s spirit. She called me immediately after the church service and said, “We need to talk. We could do this. This may be what God has for us.”

We decided to pray about the opportunity and we looked into what we would need to do to become Missionary Pilots. We weren’t sure if this was God leading us, and things at our church were going extremely well. I was learning more and more about small group ministry and trying to see how we could take things to a new level. Our relationships with our co-workers were, and continue to be, amazing. Why would God call us somewhere else when everything was going so well? I didn’t know, but we just felt the tug like this is where God was calling us.

A friend from Costa Rica came to visit the church and we shared a meal with him. Jessica had told me before he had arrived, “I am going to ask him to tell us what his spiritual gifts are. If he says prophecy, I am going to ask him to pray for us.” Well, what do you think happened? We sat on our couches after the meal and he answered Jessica’s first question by saying, “Prayer, hospitality, teaching, and I don’t like to say it because I don’t want people to think the wrong thing but… prophecy.” After her second question he almost interrupted her and said, “I have been praying for you every Friday since I met you. I fast and pray for you and your family. And, I don’t know why but I feel like God is calling you out. I don’t know what this means but it keeps being repeated. God is calling you out.”

Confirmation. It felt right. We had been feeling this way and then, without any hints or foreknowledge, God uses another person to confirm.

Now was the moment of truth. Do we obey? What will Summit think? Will people understand?

We were still going back and forth, so I told Jessica that I was going to fast and pray at the beginning of January 2011 and wait until God had made it clear. Then, we would obey no matter what it meant. I began my fast on January 2nd, because the 1st was a travelling day. I prayed and waited to hear what God would say. During the week, there was a passage from Luke 4 that came up a number of times; in my times of personal Bible study, from a friend’s reading, and a book that I was reading. Here is what I read…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

– Luke 4:18-19

You might be thinking, “And?”

But that was it! Over and over. Preach good news, the news that Christ came to die for the sins of all mankind so that they may be free from the punishment that they deserve and be restored to a right and pure relationship with God. Preach this news to the poor. Proclaim freedom, freedom from the broken rules of this world and the lies of the devil. Recover sight to the blind: literally in praying for healing, and metaphorically in exposing the lies of the devil. Release the oppressed and bring them hope. Proclaim that the Lord is willing and able to pour out His favor to those who will turn to Him and trust Him with their lives!

This would be our job as an MAF Missionary Pilots! This is what we long to do!

So, I drove to the MAF headquarters on the fifth day of my fast. I entered the MAF building and I received a tour of the facilities and learned all about the ministry. As we walked through the hangar and I saw the planes I could fly, I felt God speaking to my heart, “This is what I made you to do.” I knew. No doubt. No more questions. I was made-Jess and I were created by God to be missionaries. Where do I sign?

I called Jessica from a Red Robin after I ordered a hamburger (not the best thing to order when you haven’t eaten for five days). “Does this mean that we are moving?” she asked.

“Yes. We are moving.”

We told Steve Bond, our Senior Pastor, and he was even more excited than we were! Turns out, it has always been a dream of his to send out missionaries from Summit. So, we have begun the process of telling our friends and family about our plans. We have registered for school in Michigan so that I can get my Airplane mechanic’s license (A & P, which stands for Airframe and Powerplant). This is because it doesn’t help if I can fly the planes in remote areas if I can’t service them as well!

The future is wide open. We can’t see the end, but we know the road that we are taking will lead us there.

Why Go? Because this is what God has created us to do!

The Adventure Has Begun…

There are less than 2 months before the Vana’s are packed and on their way to Ionia, MI.

This is just the beginning of the process in which we hope to become Missionary Pilot/Mechanics with MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship), an organization that shares the love of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. Despite the challenges ahead, we are excited to serve in this way as we seek to bring glory to Father God who is exceedingly worthy.