My Banner

April 24, 2015

My time serving as a pastor at Ocean View Methodist has recently come to an end and I have been reflecting on the years and all God taught me there. We came to know South Africa as home while serving at that church and it became a home for us and our growing children. Leaving is painful, especially as the future is not clear, but obedience to God is everything and we know He will light the path.

I love to reflect and wrap things up and that is what I did in my last sermon at Ocean View Methodist two weeks ago. I reflected on Exodus 17 where God’s people find themselves in a battle that could only be victorious when Moses’ hands were lifted in prayer. After the battle was won, Moses received a new name for God: Jehovah Nissi or “God is my banner.” God wanted them to remember what He had done for them and that in HIM was always the victory. A banner or flag has been used throughout history to declare a party’s victory or meaning, and it still remains its purpose. I felt led by God to declare what my banners were over my time in Ocean View. If I had a flag to fly about what God taught me while serving his people at OCean View Methodist, what would it be?

My BANNER and my VICTORY in Ocean View would be:

1. We are GROUNDED by the Word of God

We have encountered many challenges during our five years living in Ocean View and walked with many families through their own desperate times. Through these challenges we have seen that ONLY the word of God provides light, hope, and vision. ONLY the Word of God helps His people to see His truth and face and guide through the darkness. Only God’s word speaks fresh into dead situations and total darkness.  There is nothing sweeter, there is nothing richer, there is nothing more true, and there is no other way to hear the heart of God than to go to His Word.  God’s Word is my banner and that is my victory.

2. Our Obedience Brings Blessing

I heard this truth years ago from Beth Moore and it was something I believed I lived by. I have however learned that obedience is truly difficult and calls us not just to outwardly look like we are following Jesus but inwardly as well. I have to completely trust Jesus and give him every part of my life in order to show that I am truly following His heart. It’s about the state of my heart in the follow not just the footsteps I am leaving. Obedience is following HEART AND SOUL and I have learned that while living here. Obedience brings blessing is my banner and my victory.

3. God’s Love Always Wins

When I came to South Africa I thought it was so that I could love the people here, but instead they have taught ME what love really looks like.  In the community of Ocean View there is a great deal of hurt and it is certainly a truth here that ‘hurt people HURT PEOPLE.”  Most often the people we hurt the most are those who love us the most.  This has been true in the families I have served here.  I have personally been hurt and seen them hurt one another, but out of that something has shone through that I didn’t expect.  What defines the people in Ocean View Methodist is not their hurt but truly the way they love even though they have been hurt.  They love despite the hurt.  They love through the hurt.  They love those who least deserve it, including me.  No matter how dark it has gotten in Ocean View I have seen my friends choose love and it has taught me that truly, love ALWAYS WINS.   Love conquering all is my banner and my victory.

I am so thankful for what God has written on my heart and life as I have served at Ocean View Methodist Church.  It’s hard to imagine our life and family apart from this church but I am certain that the relationships will continue to grow and flourish for years to come.  My heart is filled with gratitude for all God has shown me over the years atOcean View Methodist.  JESUS and HIS LOVE is my banner and my victory.

Five Ways to Last As a Missionary

November 7, 2014

This past October we will celebrated five years on the mission field living in South Africa.

This is a momentous and special occasion for us and definitely something we celebrated.  Not because we are so special for lasting this long, but more because those we love and serve are so special for putting up with us so long!  No but seriously…

So it has me thinking of HOW DID WE MAKE IT THIS LONG??

In honor of our five year anniversary on the mission field here are:


1. GIVE and RECEIVE .  Many missionaries come in to serve, help and love people.  This is based on the assumption that I have something and those I am coming to serve do not.  I am blessed.  I am whole.  I am healed.  I have resources.  I have and they do not.  Obviously most missionaries do not realize this is their thinking, but it’s an underlying assumption and it separates you from those you serve and can quickly create a ‘Messiah Complex.’  Urban Dictionary describes the Messiah Complex as “a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief they are, or are destined to become, a savior.  Jesus had a messianic complex.”  Umm yeah, Jesus had a messianic complex because HE WAS THE MESSIAH.  WE ARE NOT.  We need to know that while we have been blessed with some talents, gifts, finances, and training, there is SO MUCH that we can learn from those we serve and we always need to be open to what God wants to teach us.  Trust me, He has a LOT to teach you.  Be ready to teach and help but be open handed so you can also receive from those God puts you among.

2. CREATE COMMUNITY. Oh man you can’t do this journey alone.  We have had a few instances happen in our story here that FORCED us to create community (i.e. major burn accident and special needs diagnosis) but no matter the ease of life we always need to do this life together.  You need people to pray with you, laugh with you, cry with you, work beside you, and celebrate all the milestones of ministry on the mission field.  Bring people on the journey with you and it will be so much fuller.

3. Love SCANDALOUSLY.  When you go into the mission field I want to let you know one thing you will encounter that you won’t expect: BROKEN PEOPLE.  The people you will go to love will be pretty unlovable at times and it is hard to love broken people.  They don’t know how to receive love or give love.  People will hurt you and try to break you and manipulate you and turn their back on you.  When this happens… love anyways and love SCANDALOUSLY.  We are called in Philippians to have the humility of Christ who gave everything to love His people, and we must follow that example.  Don’t just love the ones who are easy to love, the ones who come to all your events, the ones who respond to your brilliant sermons and studies, but seek out the really broken and hurting.  They need it most and love even when it’s beyond reason and scandalous.

4. LIVE in Scripture.  As a pastor for many years, I have taught scripture, read scripture and studied scripture for my bachelors and Masters’ programs.  I KNOW much about scripture, but as a missionary I have learned that I have to LIVE in scripture.  I eat scripture and devour it like my life depends on it.  We have faced so many huge trials in our five years here and huge challenges we face in serving the people here in Africa.  Without scripture I honestly don’t think we could have made it through what we have faced.  God has been sovereign and allowed these things to happen in our lives, but learning to cling to HIM for power and strength in it all has changed our lives.  We find that strength, hope, guidance, and inspiration in God’s word.

5. Seek out REST.  This last one is the hardest for me.  Seems that my life trained me to be a ‘do-et’ and not a ‘rest-er’ but I have found that you desperately need to be both.  Our hearts, our health, our families, our entire lives desperately need both.  We know so many missionaries and pastors both near and far who struggle with finding rest as well and we are convinced that the only cycles and habits of rest and renewal will allow the spiritual worker to make it for the long haul.  Find out what gives you rest and renewal and put it on the schedule.  Be unapologetic and persistent about your rest.  Your life depends on it.

Now go and change the world!  Or rather, be changed by the world you SERVE!

It's Our Anniversary!

October 22, 2014

It’s anniversary time!  We are so happy to celebrate that we have been in SOUTH AFRICA serving for FIVE YEARS!  What the what?!?  But what we are most cheering about is that we have lived in the incredible Ocean View community for five years.


1. The noises.  There is always something happening.  Always someone in conversation.  Always a dog barking.  Always music playing.  Always someone sharing in someone else’s life.  I love that.  If I need to go write a sermon or focus on something I like to sit in a crowded coffee shop with lots of noises and action.  I dig lots of stuff going on and I dig Ocean View.

2. The food.  My people know how to eat and value food.  It is awesome.  It has always reminded me of my Mexican heritage (my Mom is Mexican-American) because people in Ocean View love to gather and share food together.  Another great thing about Ocean View is that while food is a value, there are many who do not have a meal to eat some days, including many vulnerable children.  What I see is that those who have are ALWAYS sharing with those who don’t and making sure children go to bed with a meal.  My friends are always sharing with those who are in need.  In addition, when there is something to celebrate it is done with FOOD.  People love to have gatherings for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, accomplishments, holidays and anything else in between.

3. The laughter.  You know the Prince’s love some laughing and this is something that is really valued in the community of Ocean View.  Come to any meeting, dinner, gathering or even tea and you will eventually hear laughter.  Laugher is LOUD and done with the entire body.  I remember vividly seeing a stand-up comic we love named Trevor Noah with a group of friends and our friend Treswill was laughing so hard that he unintentionally was hitting the seat in front of his with his knees.  He didn’t even notice but the people in front of him did and kept looking back at him hoping he would stop.  I told him of his kicks and he changed his sitting position but continued to laugh WITH HIS ENTIRE BODY.  It was awesome.  And it’s normal.

4. THE COMPASSION.  You guys.  In Ocean View you SEE IT ALL.  Pain, suffering, abuse, gangsterism, addiction and just HURT.  You would think people would be so use to it that they don’t even notice it happening, and unfortunately that does happen at times.  But the norm in Ocean View is COMPASSION and response to those who are hurting and in pain.  I am frequently humbled when I hear about how my friends in Ocean View respond to hungry children at their doorstep or people who need to borrow money… again.  Compassion is deeply woven into the fabric of hearts here and it challenges me to be God’s compassionate hands and feet even more in this community I love.

  5. The LOVE.  People in Ocean View love FIERCELY.  They take care of their own family and they love really deeply.  The love of the people here in Ocean View has spilled into our lives and we will never be the same.  We see it most vividly in the way people here love our children.  They hug and kiss them spoil them beyond anything they deserve.  Even with Keller who struggles to interact with anyone because of his autism, he has LEARNED how to love people because of those who have loved him in Ocean View.  That is profound and true.  We are loved beyond our failures and weaknesses here and seen just as we are.  That is true love and we are so blessed to experience the love of Ocean View.

Happy anniversary Ocean View!  To MANY MORE!!

After the Mission Trip

September 8, 2014

Living in Ocean View allows us to be here before the missionaries come and long after they leave.

I do understand that I too am a missionary, but as the days, months, and years go on, Ocean View has become home to us and we consider ourselves a part of the community.  By God’s grace others do too!

A few months ago a missions team came to work with us and took over the church and its grounds for two weeks transforming everything they could get their hands on.  They did big projects, connected with our people, played with the kids and even ate in the homes of some of our church members.  It was a life-changing experience for the missionaries and impacted many of our church members.

But now it’s months later and we are still here in Ocean View with no one to rally the community with projects and outreaches.

So what does it look like AFTER THE MISSION TRIP?

Sometimes, unfortunately it doesn’t look good.  One thing that hurts my heart is when I see people I know here in Ocean View, mostly children, act a certain way around the missionaries who come to visit and then act another way after they have left.  One day while the missionaries were here, a boy who I know really well was walking through the church grounds (and didn’t notice me).  However he obviously saw the missionaries and had been hanging out with them for days.  He was trying to seem as if he was just casually and normally walking through the church grounds but he was LOUDLY singing a Christian worship song.  Suddenly as he came close to me I said hello to him and he met my eyes and laughed.  I have honestly never heard this boy sing a worship song in my life and I don’t think it was an accident that he was singing it in front of the missionaries.  Sometimes those we go to serve play roles towards us as we play roles towards them.  This hurts me because Jesus wants us JUST AS WE ARE.  We come to Him just as we are, broken and messed up, and we need those we serve with and alongside to meet us as their true selves.

Sometimes after the mission trip something changes for the better and it makes an impact far beyond the beginning project.  The church that visited us helped to start a garden and greenhouse and planted many of the plants while we were still in the cold winter months.  When they left they greenhouse was up but other than that all that sat there was a big square of dirt.

Here is what I love.  The American mission group didn’t leave a finished project tied in a bow, they left an undone project that needed nurturing, care and teamwork.  This is PERFECT.  This unfinished and baby garden has needed a LOT of work over the past months and there are no short-cuts in gardening.  Over the past months the women and men of this church have spent hours nurturing and watering the garden and now it is OVERFLOWING with greenery and life.

 This garden is growing and flourishing and beginning to provide for our community.

It is a beautiful thing.

PLANTING is a beautiful thing and GROWTH is a beautiful thing.

To me, this is a beautiful metaphor for what it should look like AFTER THE MISSION TRIP.

A mission team needs to know that they aren’t there to save the day or change the world.  We have one savior and it is JESUS.  But a mission team can PLANT SEEDS that can only grow and flourish after the team is long gone.  The missionaries were blessed and provided all that was needed to start this garden… and then they left.  Now those in the community have had to COME TOGETHER to make something beautiful grow.  These projects will only be fully brought to completion when those in our community work TOGETHER.  This is so good.

I am very proud of what it looks like at Ocean View Methodist AFTER the mission trip.

Why I Say it Out Loud

September 2, 2014

I sometimes realize that not everyone does the journey like we do it.

The journey of missions, the journey of family, the journey of special needs.

Not everyone finds the need to SAY EVERYTHING that they are feeling about the journey and publish it on the internet for the world to read.  Not EVERYONE does this I recently realized.

For me, I have this need, this push from within to write and share the places and steps of our journey, and I don’t even know why. However, I read from God’s word recently and realized why I say it out loud

“For the Lord is God,
    and he created the heavens and earth
    and put everything in place.
He made the world to be lived in,
    not to be a place of empty chaos.
“I am the Lord,” he says,
    “and there is no other.
I publicly proclaim bold promises.
    I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner.
I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me
    if I could not be found.
I, the Lord, speak only what is true
    and declare only what is right.”

-Isaiah 45:18-19

I tell about our life OUT LOUD because I believe this scripture to be true.  I believe that God is GOD and we can publicly proclaim His promises without fear that He won’t hear us.  God says He can ALWAYS be found.  God says our earth is not a place of empty chaos.  This is HIS WORLD and we are HIS CHILDREN.  He puts everything into place INCLUDING MY LIFE.

Recently I realized that I was having a down day and my heart was hurting.  I was scared to say what I was feeling out loud.  Scared to let my heart show.  Scared to say what I DESPERATELY needed God to do and what God had told me He would do.

But then I read Isaiah 45 and realized I was in good company.  God’s people have always been in the gap between the promises and the promise WAITING ON THE PROMISER.  And they too were scared to say what they needed God to do.  But God responded to them.

God always responds.  He is never going to let us just drift into chaos and nothingness.  He is truly HOLDING ALL THINGS TOGETHER (Colossians 1:17).


So what do YOU need to be saying out loud?  What has God promised that you are still waiting for Him to fulfill?  Where are you terrified that He might not show up?  Where are you desperate for God?  We say these things out loud to reach for God together and so we allow Him to get ALL the glory when He does show up.  And He will.


The Other Side of the Mission Trip

Last week we finished up our #Mission2Missionaries, which you can read more about here.

It is strange to be on the other side of a mission trip!

It was an incredible and exhausting week.  It took us a couple days of processing to even figure out what had actually happened after it ended!  Bethany was incredible in our home and empowered us to take on every part of Keller’s life as therapy for him.  He is actually loving it and really enjoys the growth and challenges.  We watch him to see when it gets too much but we know we need to push him daily.  He is doing awesome.  We had two incredible community workshops about autism and special needs that were very well attended and are still getting ‘rave reviews.’  People were given knowledge and steps in how to engage people in need wherever they are at.  It was brilliant.  Bethany met with the principal at the special needs school here in Ocean View and even met with one mother who had a recent autism diagnosis of her son.  Amazing.

But for us as a family her time here goes beyond what words can express.

It touched us deeply.

Through our hours of conversation, learning, and engaging in EVERY part of our life, we somehow now find ourselves in a different world with autism.  I feel like before autism was hovering over me like a dark cloud, making everything dreary and impossibly sad.  NOW I feel like I am bigger and stronger than autism and looking down on it like a challenge but one I know we will overcome.  I think Casey would say he learned a lot and understands it all more.  Can you tell who is the feeler of the two of us?

Truly, something shifted in both of us over the week, and I can only give the glory and honor to God for that.  God moved within us and helped us to see everything from a different perspective.  We can do this and we will do this.  Keller is excelling but it goes beyond the physical and palpable signs of growth.  God is in our midst and He will do amazing things.  We are ready to see miracles and looking for every single little miracle He gives us.

In Bethany and her husband Eric we have made new life-long friends.  We are now family.  In our community of Ocean View (and beyond) we are now known as a special needs family who is passionately and loudly advocating for those who were previously overlooked.  We are in it together and we are dragging a BUNCH of people along with us on this crazy ride.  Casey and I are good, we are strong, we are one, and we are THANKFUL.

All the glory and honor and praise to our MIGHTY GOD!

Oh, and it seems that being on the receiving end of a mission trip can be good.  Really, REALLY good.  Amen.


We are in the middle of a crazy nine days.  It is what I call #Mission2Missionaries.  We have an incredible new friend, Bethany Covington, who is here all the way from Scottland dong a MISSION TRIP in our own home.  A mission trip to the missionaries.  She works for the Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Kids, located in Texas, but helps direct their international outreach to families all over the world who have kids with autism.  Bethany is training our family in how to do therapy with Keller at all times and has introduced a new therapy this week to us called PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).  It. Is. AMAZING.  But IT. IS. EXHAUSTING.

We are spending every waking minute with Keller trying to push him in these therapies so he can advance and then we can learn the next stage while Bethany is here all week.  It’s all based around play, so he is having a blast in all of it!  The therapies are very specific and complex so we are also continually talking through them and making sure we are doing it right.  Casey always remembers the details.  I can tell you a story about how I FEEL about the details… does that help?

Part of Bethany’s mission here is to do workshops and reach out to our communities here as those with special needs often don’t have the abundance of resources found in the USA.  It has been super heartwarming for me to see so many people come out and learn about autism.  Last Thursday night we had our first workshop on autism and developmental disorders here at the Ocean View Methodist Church and 45 parents, teachers, and community members attended.  It was insane.  I was overwhelmed with emotion because two months ago I wouldn’t have been at such a workshop and now autism is rocking my world.  It was beautiful.  Then on Friday, Bethany and I went to the School for Disabilities in Ocean View to meet more with the incredible principal who has been working there proudly for 25 years.  She is a mighty woman and I loved seeing more of the school and hearing about their vision.  These teachers are living and working and serving in a world that is all new to me, and I am in awe of them.  Every day my worldview and what I value is being challenged and these people are my new heroes.

So we find ourselves in the middle of #Mission2Missionaries and I have learned that we missionaries still need a lot of change and mission in our own hearts and lives.  I am so thankful for a God who is in the changing business and loves us enough change our hearts.  And as we are changed I can only pray that we can change others.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the world.” -JRR Tolkein