Thursday, 29 May 2014

trivets of grace

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, a trivet is "a three legged stand" or "a usually metal stand with short feet for use under a hot dish."  But you probably knew that already, right?  But here's what you may not know: several years ago God gave me a picture of broken china...the formal stuff ladies only take down once or twice a year on special occasions...and this china was hammered down into pieces that no longer were pristine.  Then, the picture was of the broken pieces being plastered together into a hot-plate, or trivet, if you will.  This trivet, made up of the fine china, was now a serviceable tool that could be used at every meal...365 days a year.  And so, God's indication to me was that our lives (the Buntings) have been broken down from fine china to a serviceable trivet or "hot-pad" that will be used every day, anywhere...for His glory.  One further detail to note is that the trivet is Three-legged, indicating the presence of God working there through us...similar to the picture in Eccl. 4:12 "A three-fold cord is not quickly broken."

Well, many times in the last few years I have recalled this picture the Lord gave me and smiled, even in the midst of pain, remembering what He has done and is doing in us.  But this morning as I was reflecting (Boy, I do THAT a lot!) it struck me again that much of my personal ministry here in Nassau has been manual labor...simply preparing, serving, and cleaning up food.  At church, in my home, in others' homes, and out at and all that goes along with it has been the #1 thing I've been busy doing here!  This is unique to this place, though we have served in two other churches vocationally as a pastoral family, and in three other churches as lay-people.  My desire in ministry would be to counsel, disciple, and facilitate ladies' groups, and for the most part this is how God has used me in the past, but that is not how the Lord has used me here.  At times, it has felt like a misuse of my time and gifts.  At times I have likely complained.  But this morning I am thanking God that He has used me nonetheless...just differently than before.  There is nothing dishonorable about preparing and serving food, in fact Jesus himself gave us the example of "serving" the Last Supper to His disciples as an indication of laying His life down for them.  Should I seek to rise higher than He?

We Buntings are simply trivets of God's grace.  Usable in whatever form God asks of us, we desire to respond humbly.  Be encouraged this morning that whatever service God asks of you, there is nothing "too small" when it is done in the name of Jesus. 
 "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”  Matt. 10:42

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Gospel Speaks, The Gospel Acts

We have been running, running since the Crossway team arrived two days ago!  Let me give a shout out of thanks to the Seeleys once again for loaning me their car to get the girls and me back and forth to camp each day for meal prep.  Otherwise, we would not be seeing much of our dear Lancaster folk!  So far, the Crossway team, divided up into two groups, has been able to multiply their ministry.  One group has been working out at the All Saints Camp (a residence for men, women, and even families dealing with the reality of AIDS and other debilitating diseases) and the other group helping to roof our church building.  Then, last night and tonight, the team has joined up with some from our church to reach out to people at Goodman's Bay...a park/beach where many locals can be found.  Last night was packed with many gospel-driven conversations, invitations to stop by our free hot dog and drink table, and invitations to visit our church. 

I (Kristin) teamed up with my good friend here, Faye Bascom.  We encountered a young couple working out at some exercise bars.  I have to say I appreciated their honesty.  When asked "are you Christians?" by Faye they replied "no."  They also said they attended no church.  Now this may not strike you as strange if you live in America, but I can assure you this is not the norm for Bahamians.  Here, similar to the "Bible belt" of the southern United States back just a few years ago, most people would say they are "Christian" and that they do attend church.  So this couple, in a sense, was being humble with us.  They listened attentively as I explained our plight as humans...the bad news: all of us have sinned and are on a hell-bound race.  The good news: God has provided a way to cover our sin, forgive us, and give us eternal life.  Though there was no prayer for conversion, these two young people were attentive and seemed to be thinking as we talked. 

Our next conversation was much more pointed.  We met Celeste sitting on a bench texting someone.   She was very nice, and though she herself could quote the gospel to me verbatim (remember, children here are taught religious instruction from Kindergarten through 12th grade!), she had no personal relationship with God.  By the end of our time together, she admitted that she was on the other side of the cavern, away from God.  She wasn't ready to "cross" by giving her total life to Jesus.  But she was very engaging, she listened, and she asked for prayer for family members.    It was a wonderful time.  A wonderful reminder that in the gospel work some plant, some water, but God gives the increase.

Today, realizing I would not be able to do the evangelism night due to one of our girls being ill, I began asking the Lord to keep my heart soft toward sharing the gospel.  Then it hit me: the gospel doesn't just speak, it acts.  There were two Haitian gentlemen, hired by our landlord, out working in our yard.  They have been working the last few days.  I have taken them water each day, but today, I felt impressed to do all I could.  I made them lunch...just some sandwiches and popcorn, cookies and lemonade, and motioned for them to sit up on our porch out of the sun.  They speak almost no English, so communicating was hard.  Then I had the idea to give them a shirt someone gave Keith recently that was a tad big.  Then I began thinking of all the clothing I could find that we were either wanting to give away or just don't need.  I motioned to one man's wedding ring and said "Wife?"  "Clothing?"  He smiled and nodded.  I said, "I'll be back!"  I filled a box and a bag with shoes and clothing for women and children, then found all of Keith's shirts he no longer needs.  The men seemed a little at a loss for what to say or do, but I noticed they bundled up the box tightly, so that the people transporting them would not see inside.  One thing many people don't realize is the hatred that exists here for Haitians.  Many of them are illegal aliens and many Bahamians resent them residing here, trying to make a better life for themselves and their children.  Well, legal or illegal, they are in need.  I have never been able to enter the portals of a "Haitian settlement" here, where the poorest of the poor dwell.  They live in wooded areas out on the south side of the island.  Making shelter with pallets, cardboard, tin, plywood, and whatever else they can find, these people are desperate...yet still prefer life here to back in Haiti.  I wept as I packed up the clothes, realizing God had given me the desire of my heart: just to touch the poor in the name of Jesus.  And I never even left my yard.  God brought them right to my doorstep.

Tonight, whatever your prayer in the way of "living a more gospel-centered life," remember God delights in that prayer.  He is working.  He will bring fruit in its perfect season.  And you may never even leave your own yard.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Let the missing begin

Though I really don't think I (Kristin) will be as emotional before we leave as some members of our nest, I am beginning to take pictures of things we have enjoyed for the last two years.
Kendall and Darnell

evening sky out our front

Our mango tree...more fruitful this year than ever!

the palms and bougainvillea

The twins

driveway/front yard

frangipane (amazing smell)

More bougainvillea

Good friends the Seeleys (with Francis Chan)

Church life

Our friends the Deans...Katie and CJ...these kids are like our own

Kingdom Life Ladies and kids

Time at the Mosses (from our first visit, this feels like 2nd home)

More beautiful sky at our home
More Kingdom Life friends
As you can see, the beach hasn't really factored into the "missing" pictures.  It has always been so comical to me that God sent us to a beachy island when we aren't really "beachy" people!  Not that we don't love the sights and water...but we really can go a good long while without it and be just fine.  And more comical still is that we are moving to a place in the U.S. where the beach is one of the most beautiful in the country...Destin Beach is only 30 minutes from Crestview.  Perhaps the reason God matches up "non-beachy" people with "beachy places" is that he knows we won't be distracted by it.  I never sit here homeschooling the girls and think, "Boy I wish we could just lay it all down and go to the beach."  Neither is it a distraction for Keith at work, though he literally works 5 minutes from Paradise Island, where Atlantis sits.  As we reflect on our time here, it is predominately the people and not the place we will miss.  We do enjoy the perfumed night air scented of jasmine, frangipane, and other delightful scents.  But the flip side is the smell of dead rat festering in the heat on a 90 degree day...which is quite common!  Anyway, we know there will come many days in the future day when we will reflect back on our life here and all God has done in and with us.  The highlights for us will always be Sunday mornings, our time spent serving in various ministries, and fellowshipping with our church both in our home and at church.  This week we look forward to the Crossway Church of Lancaster e-team coming!  The girls and I will be serving out at the camp which will serve as their "home base."  Making breakfast and dinner and helping serve it will be a highlight for us as it was last summer when we served in June.  We leave here in just a few hours to begin preparing dinner!  Keep posted for pictures of the team as they land on our island!

Friday, 9 May 2014

When we hear a "no"

How we respond when something we really hoped for does not happen tells us much about what we're hoping in.  Two nights ago, as our Care Group was walking into our home, we received news that the home we tried to purchase in Crestview, FL had been snatched up by another buyer.  We felt sure that home was for us.  Our realtor even thought so. She said how unusual it was that it had lasted this long on the market.  ("That's because God's been keeping it for us," we thought to ourselves).  Then BOOM!  It was gone.  Back to the starting line again.

This is a small thing in the large scheme of life.  Though our desire is not to rent again after 3 years of living in someone else's property, we humbly realize it is not purely up to us.  God has a plan.  Perhaps renting is best, though we cannot see it now.  Our girls have expressed their desire to "settle in" somewhere, paint their walls and actually hang some photos.  Our oldest is hoping to have a picture of what "home" is before she moves away to college in a few years.  But God may not have that for us.  The lesson of finding our real home in God alone is one Keith and I have been learning all of our married lives.  Wherever we land, whether we rent or buy, it will be our ninth dwelling place as a couple.  Yes we long for something long-term and stable, but God alone can truly provide that sense of "home."

It is hard to know whether I was born with a desire to "nest" or whether the desire was born out of so much moving.  I love to set up a home, decorate it, and make it better than it was when we moved in.  It truly is a delight for me.  But God may have another year (or more) of not settling in.  These two years in Nassau have been so interesting in this regard.  It is the first time we lived in a home that was so big, but also came completely furnished...down to the pictures on the wall.  The only things we brought were kitchen items, books, and a few family photos.  Not a single design idea was mine.  Not a single paint color was our choice.  Yet people walk in and say, "Oh, I love your home."  Or, "What a neat color for your kitchen."  I just laugh and say, "Yes, our landlord has great ideas." 

So as we wait and pray we consider; where is our hope?  As the Lord would have it, our weekly memory verse for church memorization is Colossians 3:1-3.  I'll "recite" it for you now:
"Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

It's Official!

Drumroll, please.....We are thrilled to announce the new home of the Bunting Nest...Crestview, Florida!  We received word this past week that we are being joyfully welcomed into the staff and membership of Crossway Community Church in Crestview!

In my previous post, I alluded to our "friends" at some unspecified locale that we might be linking arms with in pastoral ministry.  Well today the mystery is over.  Jim and Tammy Brown were our care group leaders and friends during our year at the Pastor's College.  We cannot say enough about how they enriched our time there.  You can find my entry about Tammy Brown on a blog post from 2 years ago here:

I may not have survived my year at the PC without Tammy's companionship and likewise, some of our girls may not have survived without her children for friends.  To think of the two families being reunited in location and mission is very exciting.

We covet your prayers in this time of transition and re-entry into American life.  I know we've only been gone two years, but for my girls that is a chunk of their most significant years to date.  These have been the years of the most growing up; with marked changes in their looks, maturity level and relationships.

Pray for Crossway Community Church in Crestview.  This church has been through many ups and downs over the years and we see how God has enabled the dear members there to hold tight to Christ through it all.  We are honored that God would send us there, to be part of the next era in this church's life.

Six weeks from today we set sail (or board a plane) for our next step into Florida life.  Lots of packing, planning, and saying good-byes here in these next weeks.  Bittersweet, yet we know the hope of what God is calling us to.  Stay tuned for a post on the home we hope to purchase in Crestview.  Our offer is being made today, and we pray God grants us favor with the bank that owns it.