In any given season, I believe 2 things need to be ever at the forefront of our minds. One - Am I staying true to what the Lord has set before me right now? Two - Am I staying true to the road he has had me on to this point?. I have been learning a lot and gaining experience working with people in a Technical Support role since I was hired to that position in February. While the big picture for my life involves overseas missions, until the Lord opens the doors for that transition, I am bringing all of my best efforts in my new role with Elexio (you can read about that as well as any of my previous updates here). However, I continue to consider solutions to some of the more systemic issues that exist in the world today - many of them caused by a vacuum created by the lack of understanding of who Jesus is and what He came to do. Part of that is continuing to hone my skills and understanding of designing, building, and operating Aquaponics Systems.
My good friend Nate Nielsen of YWAM Yosemite and I have spent countless hours geeking out about Aquaponics. We had decided last year that whenever the base was ready, I should join them in getting their initial system built so they can not only reap the benefits of delicious locally grown vegetables available for their kitchen, but also the point of contact it creates for members of the community there. I got the call that they were moving forward in April.
Not only was I able to collaborate with Nate to come up with a design for a cost-effective and manageable system, but it worked out for me to take vacation and fly out here to run a seminar for the local community and to help manage the build with anyone who was interested. It was a big hit, and I've spent the week here fielding questions about Aquaponics in coffee shops and grocery stores as word gets around in this little community that it is possible to have a great ability to produce healthy food at home even in a drought. It's a great feeling to stay connected with areas I'm passionate about as well as settle in to the routine of a 9-5 job at a great company working with great people. I know many of you reading this feel a pull to invest in our nation as well as other nations around the world, I must say that it is awesome to rest in knowing that God has things under control as he prepares us for what lies ahead at any given time.
Before jumping into building, it's good to know what you're working with. The first night of the seminar is where we covered why Aquaponics works and where to find more information. It was great to be able to distill down all the volumes of information I've acquired on Aquaponics into a digestible format for people from the local community to get into as a first step.
All Hands On Deck
Saturday was our build day. We took all the theory from the classroom from the night before and we gave anyone from the local community that came a chance to actually put together a typical DIY backyard Aquaponics system. Many of the materials for this build were donated, purchased used, or scrounged. If big budget projects are not your thing, be not afraid - there is an Aquaponics system for you!
All Finished! Now it's up to Nate and the crew at YWAM Yosemite to grow some deliciousness!
In 2004 I embarked on what would become a 10 year journey
I could not have imagined where all I would go, who all I would meet. I can't be grateful enough for the friends that invested in me every step of the way and for the people that let me invest into them. I learned so many lessons, grew in so many ways, and realized that I need to be engaged with efforts to expand the influence of the gospel in every sphere of societies, The biggest realization I've come to though is that it is quite difficult to be a missionary if you are not actually sent out with a church backing you. Now I know that Jesus already commissioned us to go, but this is different. After financing my last couple of years of missions-oriented ventures mostly from my own savings as well as generous donations from a few friends, it seemed like it was time to stop trying to force the issue. I decided to land back where I started, in Lancaster PA, and let God orchestrate the pieces necessary for me to head out to the frontiers again, hopefully in not more than a couple of years. I get to live out the process I helped send so very many DTS students out to. How do we live out the gospel in the everyday craziness that is the American life in the 21st century? I have a chance to see for myself :) I have taken a position as a customer support technician with a great little company called Elexio. They create software solutions to help churches use technological tools to aid their mission to transform lives. I've also started volunteering with a young adult's ministry as well as getting my fingers in a few other pies. For all of you wonderful, generous people that helped contribute to my journey to this point, words cannot begin to express my thanks. My heart (and my passport!) are full of the stories and testimonies of how God wants to reach each of us where we are at. My journey for the next season may not be as full of distant lands and big projects, but it will be a good one. I will be sending out fewer emails but I hope to continue to encourage you where I may with what God is doing here, and I can't wait to hear from you what might be happening there! To all of you, may God richly and abundandtly bless you and equip you to perform the task he's put in front of you!
The Susquehanna River in winter. This park is a beautiful overlook a few miles upstream from a large hydroelectric dam. It was great to be out there, but it didn't last long as the wind chill had the temperature down to 0 or below.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is an enormous agricultural event that happens every year in Pennsylvania. It was the first time I've ever gone, but I'm glad I did. I met some great people, learned some new things, and got to sample some local bee products. Every place I've been always has so much to explore!
I want to say thanks again to everyone who made it possible for me to be a blessing to so many in so many nations for all these years. I appreciate your prayers as I currently seek to be a blessing in my own nation in my own community. God is on the move, and I want to be running right alongside him.
I just love this photo. It encapsulates so well where I spent the last 3 months.
In the US once again
My apologies for the communication delay, but I'm home safely!
I returned to the US last week safely and promptly got very sick with a bad cold and then had my computer crash (which is why there are no new photos in this update!) Communication has been difficult, but I've been delayed sending out an update until now. I'm alive and I love you!
My trip to Uganda was incredible and I feel very blessed to have gotten to go. I learned so much alongside the students and will be praying for them as they serve several refugee communities on the South Sudanese border in the north of Uganda. When I am able to recover some photos from my crashed laptop, I will send out a few in another followup email for those who are interested.
Now on to another note. When I was on my way to Uganda, I was able to visit some friends at a base in southern France called YWAM Bridges of Life. It was a very neat base, but while I was there I felt like maybe God was putting it on my heart to spend more time with them. I'm not totally sure what that means yet, but I'll be traveling back there in November to scout it out and pray into it more, since I've never before felt particularly called to France. After that I'll be having Thanksgiving with family and then heading back down to San Antonio to spend time with everyone there who made this trip possible. Thank you again!
God Bless Michael
PS If you'd like more details or to hear stories, feel free to write back with any questions, thanks.
Thanks for thinking of me! I was so encouraged to have your prayers while I was away. Please continue to pray for me as I believe (and hope!) strongly my time of wandering will be drawing to an end soon.
My walk to our morning get together for myself and the team of staff I work with to pray for the day. Pretty stunning!
Life in Uganda
Quite the adjustment
Let me preface this by saying that I have traveled quite a lot and have seen a lot of things and adjusted to lots of different ways of doing things, but nothing could prepare me for the reality of Africa. Life here goes at a pace that is almost hard to believe in it's slowness. Some days, that's refreshing and on others it makes one feel like the slightest task is impossible to accomplish. One thing is for sure though, it might be good for our whirlwind pace of life to see a different way of doing things so maybe we have more time for the things that matter. In many ways it is the hardest place I've ever been, but it's worth it. I am blessed to be able to be here and thank the Lord every day for making a way to come. The people I've met humble me and it is an honor to rub shoulders with them every day. They are heroes each and every one and it is amazing to hear the insights they are pulling from the class sessions we have together. I can't wait to hear from them after they finish and go back to apply the things they've learned about how to enter communities, serve them, and help them to break out of the cycle of poverty in lots of small, innovative ways that bring dignity, life, and hope where previously there was helplessness and despair.
Have you ever heard of Farming God's Way or No Till agriculture? The name of the organization has recently changed due to the title being somewhat presumptive, but the main idea is that the soil, the crops, and the farmer do far better if the land is farmed without heavy equipment and large amounts of chemical inputs broadcasted in the fields. They are having a lot of success with these methods here, and in the process are helping people to think differently about planning, order, and saving for the future. It's pretty awesome to see!
Amazingly enough, this base is able to prepare food for sometimes up to 150 people on these wood-burning stoves. There is very little infrastructure, so propane gas is not a viable option. They have done some experimentation with methane production, but have only so far been able to generate a small amount. It takes quite a long time to prepare a meal, just one of the things that makes me thankful for everyday conveniences that we're all so used to!
Having reached the halfway point of our school a couple weeks back, we wanted to plan a school outing somewhere fun. Jinja's main clame to fame is that it is the "source of the Nile". There is actually a beautiful park overlooking the river just a few hundred yards from where it exits Lake Victoria. Apparently at that point there are 2 large springs that feed 30% of the Nile's water into it, which is why that place is of interest. It was a really good evening encouraging each other and enjoying a snack together. It never ceases to amaze me how these groups of random people come together to learn inside YWAM and become a little family every time. God is good!
Here's our school at the same spot. What a great bunch! I'm looking forward to the final third of the school with these guys. Please be praying for all of us as we learn, grow, plan for their outreach, and raise the remaining funds for the school. I hope everyone is having a great summer! Enjoy barbecues, camping, fireworks, and all of the rest of the fun summer has to offer.