Hello from MT! Marceaux and I are coming to the end of our 2 weeks in Bozeman MT, Marceaux's home town and where his parents live. Here is MJ's first plane ride! All went well minus a diaper explosion right before take off and having them wait for us as we changed MJ on the smallest changing table and smallest bathroom ever!
We are here for two reasons. A big reason is to spend time with family and, boy, are Grandma & Grandpa having fun with MJ!
We are also here as participants in the week long Global Out Reach Conference at Marceaux's home church, Grace Bible Church.
Here we are standing in front of our Camp Daniel display during the conference. We were among 24 other domestic and overseas missionaries personally attending the conference. Altogether, Grace sponsors over 50 different missionaries/missions.
We have had many wonderful opportunities to share about Camp Daniel and disability ministry. We were the guest speakers for one of Grace's home Bible studies. What we had to share helped them understand the need for people with disabilities within the church and challenged them to intentionally build relationships with people with disabilities. Many responded that they never considered the things we shared before, but now will have open eyes to build such a relationship.
We also spoke to the youth group at Grace Bible Church. This was an awesome opportunity to speak to middle and high school students about disability. We shared the importance of and how to make friends with people with disabilities. We offered the opportunity to come for our Counselor in Training program as counselors.
We had many opportunities to speak with other missionaries and congregation members through several luncheons and receptions. People were very interested in what we do and our conversations made them think about how to include disability in their lives/ministries.
Last Saturday was a full day of workshops and speakers related to missions. Marceaux and I attended classes on Missionary Care - 1) Dealing with loss in missions, 2) Dealing with stress on the missions field 3) Transitioning with cross cultural re-entry and 4) debriefing after a traumatic incident on the field. Even though, most of what was covered was related to overseas missions, we were able to relate to a lot of it! Not only was this information helpful to us personally, we feel this training will be useful to the rest of our missionary staff at Camp Daniel.
Gathering with other missionaries was very encouraging. We were able to talk about things like the struggles in fundraising, giving up traditional jobs and lives, and other struggles living the missionary life. Though we could not relate fully to an overseas missionary, we related in many ways. We also connected with many state side missionaries. One thing we really walked away with is a deeper appreciation for the Camp Daniel family. Most missionaries are out serving alone and it seems like many missionaries have to take on a "every missionary for themselves" attitude with little support from their mission's agencies. We are grateful that we have a staff that is family; watching out for and caring for each other deeply.
Connecting with missionaries from all over the world was insightful to us on how most countries treat those with disabilities. Most of them do not care for those with disabilities and if they do it is in very poor conditions. (Going beyond not caring, many outcast them or kill them at birth). We were approached by native pastor from Ukraine, wanting us to come teach the churches there that people with disabilities are valuable and are needed in the church. He said there was one church that had a separate service for people with disabilities but nothing like The Able Church where members use their gifts and lead functions of the church. He really wants us to come and share that. Most of the churches there and most of society there do not include people with disabilities.
A U.S. missionary to Ukraine also approached us to come work in the orphanages where most of those with disabilities are kept in cribs all day long. I kept asking her why they were kept in bed all day? She kept giving me different answers and expressing the severity of their disability. And I would reply, "And why are they kept in bed all day?" It came down to the fact they were understaffed and can't get everyone up. But the bigger picture is a lack of value. If they valued these people, there would be more staff and they would be able to get them out of bed. The only thing that should keep someone in bed all day is the lack of consciousness or the flu. Anyways, she would love to have us come and teach them what we do and take them on outings, etc, help bring up the value of people with disabilities. Definitely, something to pray about!
Other engagements we've had include meeting with family, friends, supporters and those interested in disability ministry.
We also had the opportunity to meet with the Mission's board in order to update them with our lives and the ministry happening at Camp Daniel. Grace Bible Church has been very supportive of us and what we do and we are grateful. Simply being recognized as missionaries is encouraging to us. We even got to cash in on some free marital counselor to help keep us sane and healthy on the field. Thank you!
Of all our meetings, the most dear to us was meeting with the short term missions team from Grace that came out to serve at Camp Daniel last summer! We had the team over at Marceaux's parents for lunch and to tell stories, share pictures and debrief from last summer's camp experience. It was a wonderful time. One of the gals said it meant a lot to her to see pictures and listen to each other's experience with disability since camp. She said eventually after camp and coming home she began to forget her experiences and this gathering was a great reminder of what she learned at camp and relationships she made. It was also wonderful to see Ray & Julie Gossack, the team leaders. Julie is preparing for a very intense chemo procedure March 24th. Please keep her in your prayers!!!
We are pursuing another team from Grace to come out and serve this summer. So amongst all the engagements we have had, we also have been recruiting another missions team to come serve this summer!
Though we hate to say good -bye, we are excited to come home to family and friends in WI, except for the fact its below zero weather remains! Thank you Camp Daniel for allowing us to get away and filling our shoes. Thank you Grace Bible Church for your encouragement and opportunities you allowed us! Thank you Mom & Dad Bury for your hospitality and all the free baby sitting!
Marceaux, Jen, & MJ :-)