Links

TEAM Ireland | Swords Baptist Church | Videos about the Ministry

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Faith in Motion

“I can’t do it, God.  I just can’t.  If I am going to reach 100% of my funding this month, it is going to have to be You reaching down and making it happen because I can’t make it happen.”
This has been typical of my conversations with God as of late.  I am at 78% of my funding for Ireland and I have been stuck here for a while.  I only need about $800 a month to finish off my support, but I have exhausted most of my contacts and I am exhausted emotionally and motivationally.  I need a miracle!

This entire journey of support raising has been one of trial and character formation.  God has been showing me that I cannot do this ministry on my own, and in fact, none of my efforts produce anything apart from God working in the hearts of those that I talk to.  But He has also been showing me that I am still responsible to talk with people and share about this incredible ministry to which He has called me.  The song Trust and Obey has been my theme song in this journey. 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!  While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who would trust and obey. 
Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Now in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, or we’ll walk by His side in the way.  What He says we will do, where He sends we will go.  Never fear only trust and obey.

As I have meditated on these lyrics, the verbs have really stood out to me: walk, do, abide, sit, and of course trust and obey.  In my mind, these lyrics perfectly outline how I need to be going through this journey of support-raising.  I must trust that God is the one who provides for me and for the call that He has placed on my life, but I must also obey that call and take steps of faith in pursuing Him through action.  This has been a great challenge for me because my life has typically followed this pattern: I try really hard, and then as a result, I succeed at whatever I have set out to accomplish.  Or, on the flip side, I get overwhelmed with the work that there is to do, and I give up completely while hoping that God miraculously steps in and provides without any action on my part.  But what God is calling me to do here lately is this unique combination: to try really hard, but not to expect my efforts to produce any results.  I am expecting God to provide, in His perfect timing and in His perfect way, but I am still responsible for taking action and walking in obedience all the while abiding in His presence.  It goes against American thinking so harshly, and yet it is such a great reminder that none of even my best efforts can accomplish anything apart from God making them effective.  So I’ll keep moving forward trusting that God will provide as He sees fit.

As I prepare to again go into full-time ministry, I am so thankful that God is giving me a season of watching Him provide through my failures and short-comings.  I am looking forward to looking back on this time and saying with confidence, “God provided then, and He can provide now too.  I can’t do it, but God can!”

Monday, July 31, 2017

Blessed Beyond Measure



Just when I think I’ve got God figured out, He goes and surprises me again!  There are so many times in my life where I have been given directions from God, and I go off to do as He has told me, and then I forget to rely on Him in the process.  And just as I am beginning to fail miserably-because I am doing things in my own power and not by God’s strength-God graciously steps in and reminds me of His goodness, strength and provision.  What an amazing God we serve!


I have recently been reminded of God’s goodness and provision in a couple of different situations.  As many of you know, I have been appointed as a missionary with TEAM to go work as a Youth Director in Ireland.  So currently, I am in a season of support raising.  I expected this season to be quite a challenge, and perhaps somewhat of a chore, however, I have seen God show up in some incredible ways through this time!

He has allowed me to reconnect with many friends that I had lost touch with, and not only catch up, but also invite them into something way bigger than either of us.  It has been a great time to pray with friends, family and other loved ones.

God has even brought a few people onto my support team whom I have never even met!  Isn’t that just like God to remind me that He doesn’t need me in order to accomplish His purposes?  Every time that I have been overwhelmed by the numbers, God has reminded me to rest in Him, His plans for my life, and His power to provide for my needs.

One of the ways that God has provided for my needs is by bringing along another missionary to go to Ireland with me, her name is Caitlin!

A little backstory on Caitlin: When I first applied to be a missionary, one of my greatest fears was in leaving my incredible community that I have been blessed with here in Omaha, and going to a place where I had never been before and I knew nobody.  But then I had heard that this girl named Cassie was going to be going also, and my fears were relieved.  Then, the night before I left for Missionary Orientation, Cassie told me that she was no longer going to Ireland, and all those fears rushed back in.  One of the main things that I worked through at Missionary Orientation was trusting God to provide community for me even if it wasn’t in one specific person.  And through that process God gently reminded me that He is my Provider and that He was not taken by surprise by this turn of events.


Fast forward to July when I was informed that another girl, named Caitlin had been hoping to go to Ireland too, but she had been told that the position had been filled, by this other girl, Cassie.  But when Cassie decided not to go, this opened the spot for her to come onto the team.  To read Caitlin's blog and learn more about her, you can click here.  
God used this whole situation to remind me of His provision in my life and to reassure Caitlin of her call too.  God takes joy in blessing His children, and I am ever so thankful that I am His!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Two Agnostics, a Christian, and the Catholic Church

The title of this blog may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but in actuality, this has been a description of my last few weeks of life.  Before I get into this, let me give you a little context as to why these weeks have been important.  For those of you that don’t know, at the beginning of this year I was appointed as a missionary to Ireland with TEAM and I will be going there at the end of October.  Even though most of the people in Ireland identify as Catholic, Ireland has the lowest percentage of Evangelical Christians of any English-speaking country.  This history with the Church, but lack of meaningful relationship with God has been heavy on my heart and is one of the main reasons that I have wanted to do missions in Europe. 

This call upon my life was recently reaffirmed in two different conversations in the past few weeks that I have had with two different agnostic individuals, Doug and Sam.  Both of them grew up with some background with the Catholic church, but despite their “religious heritage,” both of them have decided that following Jesus was not something that they were interested in.  Doug had some negative experiences with people who claimed to be Christians that gave him a distaste for Christianity as a whole.  Sam, on the other hand, simply could not believe different parts of Scripture and accept all of Scripture as truth.  As I listened to these stories, my heart hurt for the pain that had been brought into their lives at different points in time.  

Both of these guys are currently on a search for truth, but as hard as they search, truth seems to be evading them.  I had really good conversations with each of them, but in the end, we had to just agree to disagree.  I told them that the Bible says that the only way to heaven and a right relationship with God is through Jesus Christ, not simply believing He existed, but placing your faith in Him and turning your life over to Him.  However, at the time of our conversations, neither of these guys were able to accept that as truth.  As I reflected on these two conversations, I was struck by the fact that these are the same sorts of people as many that I will be ministering to in Ireland: those that have a history with Catholicism, but no meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.  God is burdening my heart for those who need the gospel!

I continue to pray that God will reveal truth to these two guys and that eventually they will find an amazing, life-giving relationship with Jesus.  Not only do I wish this for these two individuals, but this is my prayer for the people of Ireland as well.  God has brought incredible meaning, purpose, truth, and LIFE to my life, and I hope that someday, He will bring those things to them too.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

God's Preparations... using the past and paving the way ahead

Tonight was the last regular night of Citylight High (the youth group I've helped lead this year) and last night was our last Leaders' meeting.
My fellow leaders prayed over me at our meeting last night commissioning me on to my next youth group in Ireland; what a precious memory! 

God has used Citylight High in great ways in my life this year, and I know that He is paving the way ahead of me for Ireland too. 


It is terribly hard to say goodbye, but it is so good to know that God will continue to provide for my beloved people here in Omaha even after I leave and He will also continue to provide for me wherever He leads.  What a great God we serve!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Reflections on Missionary Orientation

Whew!  What a week!  My time at Missionary Orientation in North Carolina was chock-full: spiritual warfare, emotional highs and lows, keeping up with work, being overwhelmed with lots of new information and the excitement of meeting new friends.  For those of you who have been keeping up with me, you know that I have been appointed as a missionary to Swords Ireland with TEAM.  Two weeks ago I went to a week of training at a conference center in North Carolina and the whirlwind of preparing to be a missionary began.

At Missionary Orientation (or MO) we learned about TEAM’s core values, how to raise support, what partnering with churches looks like, how to ask for support, how to work with missionary budgets, how to do taxes as a missionary, and so much more!

As we went over TEAM’s seven core values, I was amazed at how perfectly their core values matched with my own!  Everything that they covered, I agreed with 100%!  How often does that happen?!?  Not only did I agree with their core values, but I agreed with every concept they discussed as the week went on: their emphasis on prayer partners, their support raising partnerships, their fiscal responsibility as an 
                                                          organization, and their support of their missionaries.
As the week went on, God graciously showed me many affirmations of His plans to send me to Ireland with TEAM.  He provided amazing people to walk alongside me in this journey: both staff and fellow missionary appointees.  He also affirmed my call as I shared my story with these amazing people and we were mutually encouraged by each other's faith.
I’ve been back for two weeks now, and it has been a crazy two weeks!  I have experienced more spiritual warfare in the last 14 days than I had in a very long time.  I have felt discouraged, downhearted, and at times even oppressed, but God has also shown Himself faithful to provide encouragement along the way too!  I am beginning to build a prayer team and soon I will begin my journey of developing a support 
                                                         team to partner with me financially too.


If you would like to hear more about God's call on my life to go to Ireland, I would love to have coffee with you to share my story and hear what God is doing in your life as well!  
Please email me at 
applegarthdesigns@gmail.com so we can set up a time to talk.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Tale of Surrender

Has there ever been a point in your life where everything was almost too good to be true?  This story begins with a point in my life that could have been described as just that: too good to be true.  Many of my college friends had recently moved back to Omaha.  I had a job that I absolutely loved; it used my gifts and I was surrounded by a community of believers that encouraged me daily.  I was a member of a church that was totally on fire for God.  I was truly blessed!  However, all of those comforts created in me a false sense of security in my circumstances.  It was this recognition of trusting in my blessings rather than the One who has blessed me that led me to take a step of faith.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Last summer, the University where I work was going through some significant structural changes.  These changes made my future (and more specifically the future of my job) unsure.  During this time, I was browsing on Facebook and this beautiful picture caught my attention.  

Under the picture was this caption: Significant NEED in Ireland for an interim youth pastor. 

Because of the uncertainty of the coming year, this opportunity intrigued me greatly.  I had been wanting to do missions in Europe ever since visiting Germany in 2011, but God had shut the door every time that I had tried to go overseas.  Why would this be any different?  But every time I thought about that picture, I felt as if I was in disobedience for not applying for this crazy opportunity.

As I mentioned earlier, my life at this point was very comfortable.  While my job was somewhat uncertain, the rest of my life was falling into place.  I had a strong friend group, I was getting plugged into a church that I absolutely adored, and overall, my life was just incredibly good.  Applying for a position that would take me out of Omaha seemed contradictory to what “made sense,” but it was for that very reason that I felt called to surrender my comfort and apply.  I was beginning to rely so much on what “made sense” that if I had refused to apply for this position, I would have in essence said to God, “I don’t trust You, I only trust what has been placed before me.”  With that realization, I knew that I had to apply!

So I started the application process, and boy, it was a long one!  But every time I would come to another form to fill out and I thought about quitting, I kept being reminded that I had been called by God to take a step of obedient faith and apply.  At this point, I was not certain that God was calling me to go, but simply that He was calling me to fill out the application, and so I pressed on.  I kept moving forward with the process expecting God to shut the door at any point, but He kept opening the doors wide.  I went through many Skype calls, a lot of application paperwork, and other such things.  Then, on January 4th I got the news from my Facebook friend and Missions Coach Tasha: “Jessica, you have been appointed as a missionary with TEAM!”

It was at this point that everything started becoming real.  It seemed that God was not just calling me to apply, but He was actually calling me to go to Ireland!  And so here I am, taking steps of faith and waiting for God to show me the next step in His plan for my life.  I still have a journey ahead of me before going to Ireland, I have a lot of missionary orientation and training to go through, not to mention the biggest obstacle: support raising, but God has brought me this far and I know that He will continue to provide! 


So I would ask of you, would you please pray for me?  Pray that I continue to be attentive to God’s leading, but also pray for those that I would serve in Ireland.  Swords Baptist Church is just North of Dublin and the people there are in great need of the Gospel, especially the youth.  Many of the teens are the only Christians in their entire schools.  Please pray that God would be moving greatly in the hearts and lives of the Irish, and that by His grace I would get to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Need for Community


God created us for community.  It is evident all throughout Scripture starting from the very beginning when God said that it was not good for man to be alone.  But why is community so important?  And why, at least at times, is it so hard?

Community, good, godly, Christian community draws us closer to God.  There is something deep inside of us, that reflects and reciprocates holiness and edification when we gather together as the body of Christ.  We can be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  When we see our own faith lived out in someone else’s life with the nuances of another instead of just ourselves, it broadens our understanding of our own faith and helps us get a better glimpse of how big our God is.  In and of ourselves we can only know so much about God, but with the help of other believers, we get a bigger picture of God than what we would otherwise be able to see on our own.  God has distributed bits and pieces of His glory in each of our lives; none of us have the whole picture of who He is, yet each of us reflect a bit of Him.  And when we come together, those reflections form a mosaic that starts taking shape.  Will we ever get a complete picture of God this side of eternity?  No.  However, we get one step closer to that picture when we spend time with other people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Why then is community so often so difficult to achieve?  If it is so good for us, and so necessary for understanding God more fully, why is it such a challenge?  First of all, I would argue that the fact that it is instrumental in our spiritual growth is probably the number one reason that it is difficult: Satan does not want it to happen.  The devil knows that if he can separate us from other believers, then his lies can speak more loudly and the truth is harder for us to discern.  So it is advantageous for him to keep us away from community.  But secondly, community, especially as an adult, requires intentional effort.  Growing up, we were surrounded by people that we lived life together with.  In school we were with the same group of people every day.  At church and youth group we would see the same people week in and week out.  For my college years, I lived on campus at a Christian university which intensified this community even more.  Those that I saw at school were those that I also saw at church and those that I lived with.  Community was not something that I chose so much as it was a reality in which I was forced to live; it happened naturally, without much effort.  But then graduation happened.

Without dorm life and chapel and class and other daily community-driven events, there was a severe drop in community in my life.  Everyone’s schedules were different, each with different jobs, responsibilities, and commitments.  Spending time with people had to be scheduled or it just didn’t happen.  I had to be intentional to pursue time with others and that time often involved a specific event rather than just hanging out or living life together.  Not only that, but often even when we scheduled time to hang out, other things would come up and get in the way, or life would just be tiring and people would cancel.  Gone were the days of simply saying hi on the way to class or catching up about our days over lunch.  Now, getting coffee was spent chatting about work or what life event had changed since we last saw each other.  The brief discussions of what God did in the last five minutes evaporated and became the much more canned “How has your time with God been?” if that question even came up.  Suddenly, community became very difficult.

Which brings me to today.  I have recently realized how much I NEED community. This challenge to community that adulthood has brought has hindered a lot of my relationships.  Commitments, a lack of time, and distance have made living life together incredibly difficult and therefore often too hard to actually make happen.  However, I find that whenever I do get to spend time with believers who are in the same stage of their journey with God as me, I find it to be so incredible and uplifting!  Fellowship with other believers draws my spirit to God in ways that I can NEVER achieve on my own; believe me, I’ve tried.  There is just something about conversations about God and all that He has done that knit my heart to God in ways that talking to Him just doesn’t do.  I am not saying that we should only talk about God and not to Him, heaven’s no!  But just that if we only talk to God and do not talk to others about Him, then our faith becomes flat, 2-dimentional if you will.  It loses a depth that comes only through community.  God created us to get to know Him more fully through community.  I don’t fully understand why He did it that way, but I know that in order to get to know God better, I need that community.

Community as an adult is hard.  It takes a lot of effort and intentionality that many days I do not have the energy to put forth.  However, it is necessary!  I don’t have an easy solution for how to develop quality community, but only the realization that it is worth the effort.