Our final CML Update

About 10 months ago we moved to Tulsa to work at a new church, live in a new place, meet new people, and see what God has for us as participants in the Certificate in Missional Leadership program. You might remember that the program lasts 10 months…which means we are done. Its been a good 10 months, we have learned a lot, experienced some new things, met new people, seen different ways of doing ministry, and grown in our understanding of ourselves.

It’s kind of hard to sum up 10 months into an email, so we are not really going to try. We do want you to get an idea of what we have been doing though, so we each did a little project that tries to capture a bit of what we have been up to. Beth’s project is a pdf that you can download. Ben’s is a video which can be found here: http://vimeo.com/13713546. The video is about 30 minutes long…be warned!  If you want to get a good idea of what the last 10 months have been like for us these are a great way to find out…or, stop by sometime, we would be glad to take you out to coffee and talk about it.

The big question we have been asked a lot recently is “what’s next?” For now we will be staying in Tulsa. We will both continue to work part time at Garnett Church of Christ. Although at the beginning we were a bit unsure of what our time with Garnett would look like, and even wondered if we’d enjoy worshipping there on Sundays-we are excited to stay involved. We have been blessed by Garnett & were welcomed in right away as members of their family. Beth will also be working for Chris King doing administrative work for CQ Missional. She will be focused on a program called GPS Tulsa (http://www.cqmissional.com/gpstulsa/). Ben will be doing a couple of things, including freelance graphic design and working for Challenge Quest (the “CQ” part of CQ Missional) on their new zip line canopy tour at the Buffalo River in Arkansas (http://www.buffaloriver.com/blog/default.aspx?id=136). For now that’s the next chapter.

We really do want to thank you for the support you have given us over the last year. Your financial support, prayers and encouragement have been a huge blessing to us. We are very thankful for all of the people who are a part of our lives, and are honored to count you among our community.

We are excited about the adventures to come, we will continue to blog at http://www.benandbethwest.com, and we might send out occasional emails. We would love to keep talking with you!

Thanks again for your involvement in our lives! We will keep you up to date as we continue to work here in Tulsa, or wherever God takes us.

Ben and Beth

3 months in

Happy New Year!
Three months in. Want to know what we are doing?
We have spent the last several months getting settled in and starting to figure out our roles in this new community. Since being here, we’ve experienced a Hmong funeral that lasts 4 days, a training for Meter Readers on dog safety, met a man who has just been released from prison after 18 years & is struggling to find employment, attended a seminar given by a Jewish scholar about interfaith dialogue & how we can better listen & understand each other (even when we have opposing views), written some reflections, explored our new neighborhood, helped drill a well, walked around the community around the church, helped out in the food pantry, helped host 20/30, and met so many interesting people.
One of the requirements of this program is that we each have a project that we are instrumental in developing. Something that will enhance or expand what the church is already doing, and something that will be sustainable after we leave. As we look to next year we will begin really focusing on our projects.
Beth:
I will be developing a café in the lobby area of Garnett Church of Christ.The idea is to create an environment that allows people from all walks of life to come and inhabit the same space for a little while and to interact with each other. The lobby is one of the most under-utilized spaces inside the building, is centrally located, and is easily accessible from all the areas of the building. Some specifics are to provide coffee, sandwiches, snacks, juice, Internet and a comfortable environment. The main purpose underlying the whole idea of the Event Center in the first place is to open up the building and interact with the community. God continues to bring people to the front doors of the church (either through church things, or event center things.) The dream is that by creating a space that is inviting and accessible relationships can continue to develop here. You can read more about the vision for Cafe Mosaic on this blog post.
Ben:
I will be spending my time learning and documenting the stories of the people that are in the community around the church. The plan is to use audio and pictures to try and convey something about the lives of people…there joys, struggles, and dreams. Honestly I’m not sure what will come of this. I really just want to learn about people,to learn about their lives, and perhaps give them a voice…a chance to just say who they are. This is going to be a stretch for me. I don’t have a lot of experience interviewing people, asking probing questions…stuff like that…so I’m actually a bit nervous about the whole thing. Despite that, I am excited to get to learn how to tell stories well and to get to hear the stories of this community. This is a great chance to get to just learn and experiment with something that i have been interested in for a long time. There is a bit more info on this blog post.

We are both excited about our projects. They are unique and each of them have aspects that are challenging to us. They both involve meeting with lots of people and getting to know lots of people, and that can be intimidating for us. Maybe we sound a little crazy for continuing to say that we are excited by being challenged. But the truth is that while being stretched and challenged in these ways is not always easy for us, we know that they will help us experience more of this life that we’ve been called to: to love all.

In the coming months we will also continue to meet with and help develop a group of 20-somethings called “20/30.” It’s been fun to meet with others our age who are also interested in real, authentic community. We are challenged to figure out how to really develop that with a group of people that don’t really know each other, and it has been a blessing already to see the ways God brings people to this group, and the relationships that are already forming.
We have been honored and blessed by the financial support we’ve raised so far. It truly allows us to do what we’re doing right now and we are well-taken care of, both physically and emotionally here. We haven’t raised the full amount of support that we are able to though, and we have had some unanticipated costs come up recently (like fixing our car after someone hit it in the parking lot & didn’t leave a note). If you’re interested in supporting us, just send us a quick note & we can give you the details.
The past 3 months have gone by so quickly. And we’re sure that the next 7 will pass just as quickly. We trust that they will be just as full of community, growth and learning that the first 3 have!

Some details about CQMissional…and such.

Im working on an email to send out giving people some more details about CQMissional and our move…you get to see it here first….

We thought we would send out one last email before we move, giving you a few more details about what we will be doing…and some specific things we would love for you to be praying for.

As you know we will be participants in a new program called the Certificate in Missional Leadership. We want to try and give a good idea of what that really is, so here it goes (oh, if the pictures are small on your monitor just click on them, you will get a big version)…

CML

So, that is what we will be doing. For 10 months we will be studying, be mentored, and getting hands on ministry experience.

Next slide…

orginizations_CML

We are the participants, CWMissional does the academic, coaching, and housing part (as well as facilitating the whole thing) the Ministry site is Garnett Church of Christ which runs the Green Country Events Center:

connections

Garnett Church is doing some really cool ministry by serving their community and reaching out to other organizations. But there is of course a reason for it all:

why_church

So, the idea is that by serving people, building connections, and making sustainable impact God will be glorified and people will come to know Jesus Christ. This could happen through building relationships, people coming to and coming to trust the church…there are lots of ways that this could happen. For example:

example

This is a real story! But see that stuff in the dreamy cloud? It has not happened yet. But someday it could, and it could have a huge impact on the Hmong community in Tulsa.

We will spend the majority of our time working at the church. Part of the point of all of this is to experience lots of things, so we don’t know yet exactly what we will be doing, but there are lots of possibilites:

whatwewilldo

And of course one of the big questions is why? Why do we want to go do this? And of course we have a nice picture:

why

Part of this is for us…it is a way for us to be equipped, challenged, and prepared for ministry. A big part of this is for CQMissional. We want to help establish the ministry that they have. We think it can impact a lot of people in the coming years and we want to be a part of that. And a big part of why we are going is that we want to continue impacting people for God’s glory.

So, that’s it! This is what we will be doing!

header

There are a few more things we want to mention:

We are still in the process of raising money to help pay for all of this. (see this post on our blog for more info). If you would like to help support us financially just give us a call or shoot us an email and we would love to talk to you about that. Or you can download this pdf with some more info in it.

We will be moving to Tulsa on September 26, and the program officially starts on the 28th. If you want to help us move we would love the help!

We still have our cell pone, so that is the number to call if you want to talk to us.

We also have new email addresses im scared of spam, so let us know if you want them. Our NLR addresses will keep working for a while. Same thing with our new mailing address.

Some things to pray for.

We want to be open to what God has for us to learn. As we study, meet people, and serve the community around us we want to have receptive hearts and minds.

We want to embrace new and uncomfortable things as we serve people. Pray that we will not let ourselves get in the way of serving others.

Our friends are generous, and we have already raised about a 1/3 of our tuition, which is amazing!

Pray for New Life Ranch as they transition our positions to new people. The Ranch will be fine without us, but we want the transition to be smooth.

That’s it! We will send out a few emails in the coming year to update people on what we are up to, but mostly we will be posting to our blog http://www.benandbethwest.com. Thanks for reading our story and being a part of our lives!

Ben & Beth’s move to Tulsa – the email you knew was coming.

We just send this email out…so if your interested:

Hopefully you have a good idea of what we will be doing in Tulsa (the summary: participating in an 10 month program run by CQMissional, during which we will be studying and working for a church to impact their community for God’s glory). The program is set up so that we have a couple days a week to work part time jobs so we can pay our day to day expenses. As part of the program, CQMissional will provide housing for us, so we don’t have to worry about paying rent every month. We posted a bit about housing and jobs on our blog if you want to check out what that is going to look like.

In order for us to be in the program we will pay tuition to CQMissional. The tuition is $5,000 each, for a total of $10,000. We will have an opportunity to work for Challenge Quest, facilitating on their ropes courses which will bring the cost down to $3,800 each (so now we are at $7,600). We are supposed to pay CQMissional half of the tuition on day one of the program which starts at the end of September, and make monthly payments on the rest until the end of the program.

We have been financially blessed during our time at NLR and were able to pay off our car, pay cash for Beth’s graduate school, and we have paid off significant debt from our undergrad degrees (although we still have a good chunk remaining). So, we are in a financial position that makes it so we can take some risks like we are doing. Despite all of this we don’t have $7,600 laying around. Through a partnership with Global Horizon’s Inc, gift to CQMissional are tax-deductible, and we are encouraged to raise support though them to help make it possible to be in this program. Our goal is to raise enough support to pay for the entirety of tuition, and then work enough to pay our own way when it come to general living expenses (like car insurance and laundry soap). This is by far the biggest financial leap of faith we have ever taken…we are truly dependent on God and the generosity of others to make this happen.

If you have any interest in helping us financially we would love to talk to you about it! Because we are very persuasive people we thought we would give you a few good logical reasons that this is a good thing to support:

  • We see this as an investment in our skills, knowledge, maturity and faith, and our ability to work effectively for God’s Glory.
  • It is also an investment in CQMissional. By being the first to go through this program we can help Chris and Greg form it into something really effective (and help them develop their web site, communication systems, stuff like that). The potential to equip hundreds of leaders over coming years exists.

That is our high pressure sales pitch. So, if you’re interested let us know and we would love to talk to you more about all of this.

We really are excited about what we will be doing! We really do see it as a time to learn, grow, experience a lot of new things, and be prepared to have a greater impact on the world for God’s glory. A big part of what is exciting about this is that we get to learn in an environment where we will continue being able to minister to people in real ways…it wont just be book work, but will be real and hands on as well. We will get into some more specifics of the program in our next email, or feel free to check out http://www.cqmissional.com/certificate/ to get some details now.

We are truly grateful and humbled that you are interested in what we are doing. Don’t worry, we only have a few more emails planned, so we wont fill up you inbox too much more!

Ben and Beth
www.benandbethwest.com

Why?

We just sent this email out…so if you missed it:

First a quick clarification: we will be participants in the program that Chris is starting, not leading it, or on staff with his organization. At the end of the program we have no idea what we will do next.

We thought the next thing to talk about is why we are doing all of this. It’s a good question: Why would we leave New Life Ranch, which is a great community, stable, financially secure, in the woods, we have great friends, good jobs, our work impacts people…it really is a blessed life.

However, despite all the good things about living and working at NLR is time for us to move on to the next thing. Our reasons are varied…but related.

For Ben:
I have had some unsettledness…or perhaps restlessness about being at NLR. I have always been drawn to serving those with less…the poor, the widows, the orphans, but in truth have never really done that. I have a strong desire to see how serving those with less can be combined with my interest in communication, business, marketing and economics. I also do have a (hopefully not selfish) desire to do something new…to live somewhere new. I have lived in Siloam Springs most of my life, and Beth and I have never really known anything but NLR.

For Beth:
I haven’t felt the same restlessness Ben has been feeling and quite frankly, I wasn’t ready to leave this place. Ever. But as we have asked some hard questions I have learned to let go of what is comfortable & safe & am learning to embrace wherever the Lord is leading us next. It has not been easy, but so many things make sense about this move for us. I am also looking forward to figuring out what roles counseling and my desire to serve through administration should have in my everyday life. These are two areas that have always seen so in conflict with each other, but I know they don’t have to be.

We see this as a chance to do several things:

  • Explore our passions and talents and see how they can be used by God in places other than NLR.
  • Serve, live with, and learn from new people who are not like us. We live in a nice middle class Christian bubble. We are excited about the diversity of people we will interact with.
  • Study and learn about some important ideas, like how the church should interact with and serve the people around it.
  • It’s a chance to be a part of forming a new ministry and organization which has potential to impact a lot of people over time.

Those are the big ones. In the end our decision came down to this: Staying at NLR would be safe and comfortable. We would have continued to make an impact and things would be good. Moving to Tulsa and joining this program is unknown, stretching, very uncomfortable, and a big step of faith…but it is also a chance to see what God can do in our lives and the lives of people around us when we just go for something we feel called to, even if it does not really make sense. So that is what we are doing…

Thanks for being interested in our journey!
Ben & Beth
www.benandbethwest.com

What we will be doing in Tulsa

There is of course a reason we are moving to Tulsa, it takes a bit of explaining, so be patient.

There are thee characters in this story: Ben and Beth, CQMissional, and Garnett Church of Christ.

You know Ben and Beth, so they don’t need to much introduction.

CQMissional is a ministry that our friend Chris King is starting with Greg Robinson. They have a vision to “Teach and Mentor Emerging Leaders who Contribute Redemptive Works in Their Communities.” Basically they want to help people who are in their 20s figure out their passions, skills, and role in God’s kingdom. Part of how they are doing this is by staring a 10 month program that is centered on gaining ministry experience, studying a range of topics and mentoring.

Garnett Church of Christ is a church in east Tulsa which has a unique story. You can get a lot of details by reading this article on Christianity Today . The basics are that the church was a big church with lots of people, but as the neighborhood around it changed, the church began to shrink into a small congregation with a huge building and a bunch of land. Several years ago through a lot of searching and hard questions the church decided to completely rethink how they minister to the people around them. They decided that their huge building should be an open place, that they should take every opportunity to live life with the people around them, and to “equip our congregation to be Christ to neighbors, co-workers, and family members, rather than trying to coax people into signing up for every church program possible and burning families out with church involvement.”

In practical terms this means several things. The most obvious thing is that they rent their building out to basically anybody who wants it. The Tulsa school system rents classroom space; 4 other churches meet there; a small denomination has their home office; the Hmong Association of Oklahoma, a catering company, a bilingual school and a karate school all rent space in the building. All of this with the goal of living life with the people in their community to ultimately point them to Jesus Christ as savior.

All of this fits together, really it does. A big part of CQMissional’s program is working with a ministry that is doing real work you are interested in and one of the possible locations is Garnett Church of Christ. We will be participants in this program working at Garnett.

That is the plan. There are still tons of unknowns. This program really does not exist yet. We will be the first to go though it, so we will be really flexible. We don’t know where we will live yet, or what our day to day will look like, or how we are going to pay for all of this, or what we will do when we are done with the program, or even exactly when we will start (probably around the end of September). But we are excited about all of this! So many of these pieces make sense for us and answer a lot of questions we’ve been asking for awhile now.

This got a bit long, we’ll talk about why we are doing this in another post.

Big Changes in Our Lives

We want to let everybody know about a big change coming up in our lives-we are moving to Tulsa. The basics are that we will be participating in an 11 month program which includes working at a church in Tulsa, training, and academic study. The program is very new (actually so new it barely even exists, we will be in the very fist group of people to go through the program.)

That’s the super quick update version. We would love to let you know more details, but we also don’t want to fill up your inboxes with stuff you don’t want to get. So, over the next couple months we will be sending out 4 or 5 emails with details about what we will be doing, why we are doing it, and a little bit of support raising info. After that we will send out occasional updates. If you want to get these updates just sign up using the form below . We wont send them to you unless you sign up. Well, unless you are our moms, then you get them no matter what. We will post these updates to this blog as well, so if you follow our blog you don’t have to sign up for the emails…but you can if you want to.

We thought we would try to convince you to sign up on our little list, so here are three reasons:

  • You are our friend or our family and you care about us and want to know what we are up to simply because you love us.
  • We think that what we are doing has some big important ideas around it, ideas you might want to consider, talk to us about, and even debate about.
  • If you are interested in new ministries and how you can be involved with them…well, this is a very new ministry that you could be involved with.

So,that’s our pitch, sign up if you want to using this form:

First Name:
Last Name:
Email: [required]
Phone:

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You wont get an email every time we post to this blog. If you want to know when we post subscribe to the RSS feed.

A few housekeeping things:

  • We will start being more active again this blog.
  • I (Ben) have a blog at www.poolhousered.com, there is not much on it right now, but I think that I will be using it as a place to record  and discuss some of what we are learning about in this program, so check it out if you want as well.
  • Our cell phone number will probably stay the same.
  • Our email addresses will be changing. Let us know if you want our new addresses.

Summer Update

We just sent this email out as a little update for people, so here it is for you if you don’t get the emails:

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First, a little shameless promotion for a friend: Our friend, Cass, has a few songs he wrote and recorded on itunes. Check out his site at www.cassharrismusic.com. If you like what you hear you can buy it on itunes, if you really like what you hear sign up for his mailing list and tell your friends about him. If you don’t use iTunes but like his music let me know and I can probably get a copy of his cd for you.

We will get back to our “all about us” emails after summer camp. For now we just wanted to send out a little mid-summer update.

We thought we would give some stats for the summer:
New Life Ranch: 70 summer staff, 2000 campers, 1 ream of paper (500 sheets) a day for camper eMessages, thousands of candy bars, 40000 meals served, 1 fifty-year celebration coming up, and 96 chapel services

Ben:
Two summer staff working for me
3000 pictures posted to the web
8 summer camp videos
800 DVDs
14,000 50th celebration invitations
800 feet of steel cable for the 50th (What’s that for? Come to the 50th and find out…)

Beth:
3 days per week spent in the Office
1 ½ days per week spent at my internship site
1 morning a week of time off to do whatever I please. (read: clean the house, veg out)
Several times per month I order 3-4 cases of paper (3,000 sheets per case)
Hundreds of times per day I answer the phone (or at least that’s what it feels like)
350 + e-mails I’ve answered regarding Summer Camp since March.
Hundreds of online account payments I have helped process since May.

All this is in support of Summer Camp, it all has one goal: a place and an environment where campers can come and hear the Gospel, and be equipped for a life of bringing glory to God.

We covet your prays us as we finish up the busy season of summer and get ready to have hundreds (500? 700? 1000? nobody knows…) of people at the Ranch for the 50th celebration on August 2nd. Would you like to come celebrate with us? Just sign up on the web to let NLR know you are coming! (It’s free!)

Thanks!
Ben and Beth
http://www.benandbethwest.com

Email# 5: Beth

This was the 5th email in our series.

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Well, you’ve been hearing from Ben for awhile, so I thought it was time I spoke up. It’s a hard thing to be heard in our house, between Ben & I it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. (That was a joke.) But seriously, here’s a word (or a few) from me about what I do at the Ranch.

The hat I most often wear at the Ranch is “Program Administrative Assistant.” It’s a nice hat-it fits me pretty comfortably, with a little room to grow. It’s still a pretty new hat, but I think it’s breaking in well. In one sentence: I manage most of the administrative stuff for our Retreat groups. Most of the groups that come for a Retreat at NLR are youth groups, adult groups, schools (public & private), and a few types of other groups that book our beautiful valley. After a group finds an open date & books specific lodging, it’s my job to send them a contract, process their payments & take care of random other paperwork that is required. At NLR, our job descriptions all include the following phrase: “…and whatever else needed.” My “whatever else needed” is ordering office supplies, managing inventory in our camp store, answering the phones, processing paperwork for Summer Camp, copy editing, making coffee, running the mail, helping people figure out what they originally walked in the office to do. (My desk is right in the middle of the office, between the front door and the mailboxes and the copy/fax/scanner machine.) I often get distracted by people walking through, but I like where I sit a lot…plenty of action…and good conversations to overhear. 😉

Three things I love about my job:
1) Taking care of the administrative stuff of camp is a GREAT fit for me. I get to be behind the scenes & take care of things so my co-workers can do what they do best out in front.
2) It’s AT CAMP. I worked in an “office job” for several years & enjoyed myself & my time at DaySpring. But after a few years of driving in to town from work every day and missing what was happening at camp, my heart ached to stay in this valley & be a part of the ministry happening here, at my home.
3) I work with AMAZING people. So many people here who love the Lord and are sold out for being a part of serving His people, so many beautiful little children live here & are really fun to play with, and last, but certainly not least, my husband.

Three things that I don’t love so much:
1) That I still split my time between work & school. (but that’s a whole ‘nother Oprah story, as my friend, Melissa, would say. More on this one in a later email).
2) That I still sit at a desk for a good part of each day. Though I have a flexible schedule, which helps a lot.
3) That I have a difficult time saying “no”…there are millions of opportunities for me to serve people, and it’s hard to say, “I don’t really have time to do that.” I’m working on this one, and am actually getting better.

Beth

Email number 4

This was the fourth email in our series.

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In our last few emails we talked about why NLR exists (To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to equip believers for ministry), and how we do that (through relationships in our seven areas of ministry). The first three emails are on our web site (www.benandbethwest.com) just click on the emails category. It seems like the next thing to talk about is our roles at NLR. First Ben’s, we will talk about what Beth does next time.

My official job title is Communications Coordinator. Basically I am responsible for brochures, videos, the web site, letters…anything that is a way we communicate with campers and guests. It’s not what comes to most people’s mind when they think of camp jobs (I’m in an office all day…not leading backpacking trips or being in crazy skits), but it is an important job. I really think of what i do as helping to get people to come to camp so that ministry can happen. I also do some random other stuff like take care of our AV systems in meeting rooms.

uh…so that’s it. That’s what i do. Here are three things i like about my job:

  1. solving problems creatively – I really like being able to figure out what a particular promotion or video needs to accomplish, then figuring out how to do that (Thanks Mr. Andrus…). It gives each project purpose, not jut pretty lines on paper
  2. planning promotions – figuring out the most effective way to promote something and putting a plan together for how to do that is probably one of my favorite parts of my job.
  3. seeing direct results – This year’s Mother/Daughter Retreat set attendance records. There were lots of factors in why so many people came, but part of it was as a result of postcards, ads, etc that i made. It is really fulfilling to be able to see the effectiveness of something I have done.


Three things I don’t like about my job:

  1. maintaining the web site – designing web sites is kind of fun…keeping them up to date, not so much
  2. making mistakes – I have had several projects go wrong recently…its really frustrating and discouraging to have to throw 1000 brochures in the recycling bin because of a misspelled word.
  3. being in front of people – I’m never really in front of people, but my work gets seen by a lot of people (we send the New Life News to around 13,000 people…which seems like a lot to me…). I have a very behind the scenes personality, but my job is, in some ways, not very behind the scenes.


Thanks for reading

Ben and Beth
http://www.benandbethwest.com