Greetings from Uganda

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We have been completely blown away by the support we have received on our adoptions.  God has led us, for now, to a little four-year-old girl and her one-year-old brother, living in the city of Kampala, since their mother died last June.  Pray for us as we are currently in Uganda.  We have a court date set for February 11, and we ask that you pray that we would have favor in the eyes of the courts and the judge.  A lot will need to happen while we are here, and we don’t even know how long we will be in-country.  We are trusting God to provide in every way. All five of us are here together, as this has been a family thing from day one.  Our kids are so excited, and we cannot wait to see what God has in store for our family through all of this.  Planet Holloway is in Africa (the lyrics of Toto are ringing in my head right now)!

Thanks for all the support both through prayer, and through giving over the past year.  God is faithful, and so are his people.

Joseph: First husband of faith

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I heard a pastor say last week, “Joseph was the first person to receive Christ by faith.”  He made the point that Mary received a person-to-person visit from the Angel Gabriel, and then she had a baby human placed in her body.  She knew, but the faith she had was different than that of Joseph.  He had to completely trust in the Word of the Angel of the Lord that this really WAS the Christ child that Isaiah had prophesied would come.  He was the first man of faith in the physical, incarnate, realized Christ.

Matthew says Joseph was a “just” man.  This meant that he loved God’s law, which would have demanded that this child-mother with child, be punished.  To excuse her sexual sin would be to exercise fleshly mercy.  Joseph knew he did not have that authority.  God has said that mercy cannot be without justice.  And Joseph loved justice.  He loved God’s law. But he also loved Mary.  He refused to ignore the just law of God in favor of the love of a human.  He was a just man.  So the conundrum was before him, and he embraced it.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”-Matthew 1:19

He would preserve justice and preserve Mary.  Joseph shows us grace that has a spine.  But God preserves Joseph.  He gives him a faith through the Word he brings him — that will be the first-ever faith in the incarnate Christ as greater than The Law.  Christ is the fulfillment of The Law that would have demanded Mary’s punishment and Joseph’s action.  The Law was fulfilled in Christ.  He said it himself (Matthew 5:17).  Joseph was the first to believe this.  He was saved by faith, and so in a sense, Mary was saved by Joseph’s faith.  In this faith Christ fulfilled and satisfied the Law, which is exactly what he was coming to do.

He was just a construction worker, who raised a kid he didn’t actually father biologically.  I like this guy.  I can learn a lot from him.

I wanna be the kind of husband and daddy Joseph was.

Mountain Man Field Trip

Tuck and I were able to spend a day in the woods last week, here in the mountains, and we wanted to share a bit of that hunt with you. I let him miss a day of school, so I guess you could call it a mountain man field trip. Tuck took a buck by himself, and we packed it out after walking about three miles from where he made the shot. I cannot emphasize enough to dads to do things with your sons and daughters that they will never forget. Get out of the ordinary. Do something that will make the day you do it, literally, a day they will never forget. In a world of technology, video games, texting and social media, I can tell you that Tuck and I will never forget the smell of fall, the rising sun and fog that morning, the roar of his muzzleloader, the blood trail and recovery after the shot, and the tasty backstraps fried up for supper. Do something soon, Dad, that you and your child will not forget in this lifetime.

Ugandan Adoption Update

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Little and I have been blown away by the support and encouragement we have received in getting our boys home. We are so close to our goal of going to Uganda and getting them! I wanted to give a detailed update as many of our readers, friends and ministry partners have been watching closely and asking for updates.

We finally received official photos of our boys and they are AWESOME! My kids are so excited, and each night at home we have a sweet time of prayer for the boys. Their names are Elam and Charles, ages 5 and 7. Please pray for them, for their salvation and for their HUGE adjustment transitioning into our family and the SWO community. We believe the scripture is clear on how God feels about adoption and are so blessed to be a part of this picture of God’s love, but we know it will be very difficult for them. We do not have romanticized ideas about this. The road has been short, and the longest part of the journey will be the next couple of decades.

Financially speaking, the total adoption cost is around $40k. That seems overwhelming, but we felt led specifically to adopt from Uganda because it is so expensive, which is a deterrent to many families. In addition, we will need to travel to Uganda twice in the next couple of months — once for a court date and again to bring our boys home.

We went in knowing God would have to provide this money, and that we didn’t have near that kind of personal funding. To date, we have received $26k in the form of donations. Praise the Lord!  Many of these gifts have been in the form of $50 and $100, with some reaching into the thousands. It has been confirming to see God’s people get behind us. Our agency and caseworkers have been a joy to work with and have done the heavy lifting for us, which has made the whole process much easier.

We will spend a total of three weeks in country, split into two trips a month apart. We are waiting on a couple of final governmental documents to receive a court date. However, we cannot make the travel arrangements, or get our official court date, until we send our final and largest payment of $20k to the Ugandan government. We are $8k short of this. It seems like a racket, but it is what it is, and we are committed to getting our boys ASAP, which we know is in God’s timing. There are a couple of grants that we are in process of applying for now, but there is still financial need, and we trust the Lord with that as well.

Again, thank you all so much for prayer, encouragement and financial support. It has grown our family so much, and we are so close to the goal.

I will end with some highlights of where we are.

  • International Home Study Fee — $2000, Paid
  • European Adoption Consultants Inc. (our adoption agency who we give 5 stars) Fee  — $11,000, Paid
  • US Governmental fees and processing — $3000, Paid
  • Ugandan Governmental fees and processing — $21,000, Need $8,000
  • Travel over and back twice (Four tickets on the second return trip!)  — $12,000, Still need
  • Two grant applications in process that would equal a total of $5,000-$9,000

We are blessed to even share these needs and updates, with rejoicing, at what God has done. We will share pictures as soon as we are allowed. Please, PLEASE more than anything, pray for the huge life change about to occur in our family. Pray for Little and me, Kilby, Tucker, Lailee, and Elam and Charles as we move to the next phase of our lives together. We need God’s grace and wisdom in this all.

Ashes and Eyeballs

I love to play with fire. I always have. One year, about this time, I was messing around with a fire out in our fire pit, when a piece of hot ash flew into my eye and burned my cornea. It was so small that you could not even see the wound, but it burned and hurt like crazy.  For the next three or four days, I was in constant, nagging pain. It drove me crazy! If I blinked, it hurt. If I held my eye open, it hurt. I couldn’t sleep. I was too tired to be awake. But that little eye “booboo” would not give me a break. It literally affected my whole person, both physically and emotionally.

I am grieved to hear of the persecution in Pakistan of my brothers and sisters. They are part of the same body as me — the body of Christ.  We… WE are persecuted. Not “THEY” are persecuted.  WE are persecuted.

Pakistani Christians chant slogans as they burn materials during a protest against a suicide attack on a church, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 in Pakistan. A suicide bomb attack on a historic church in northwestern Pakistan killed scores of people Sunday, officials said, in one of the worst assaults on the country’s Christian minority in years. (AP Photo)

Pakistani Christians chant slogans as they burn materials during a protest against a suicide attack on a church, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 in Pakistan. (AP Photo)

If we are the body of Christ, then we should literally feel the pain of persecution when we read the headlines that 85 brothers and sisters have been killed for the name of Christ. We should grieve for their families left behind. We should grieve for our LORD.  He told us this would happen.

Pakistani women grieve over coffins of their relatives who were killed in the suicide attack on a church. (AP photo)

Pakistani women grieve over coffins of their relatives who were killed in the suicide attack on a church. (AP Photo)

But I fear that American Christians, so often, in perfectly peaceful cities, towns, neighborhoods and churches would much rather remain comfortable and unpersecuted than to feel the pain in another part of our body. The body doesn’t work like that. We can’t turn a blind, painless eye. We SHOULD lose sleep over this.  We SHOULD hurt with them. We should, at times, be ashamed of ourselves for failing to lift them up to the Father in prayer. We SHOULD feel this, if we are part of the body.

There is hot ash in our eyeball. Surely we should feel it.

WE are persecuted.

Half-way through and going strong

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SWO13 is approaching the mid-summer point, and it has been a blistering pace.  We have had students come from all over the country and have seen God move in amazing ways.  Many have come from darkness to light, from death to life, by the power of the Gospel.  We have been blessed with a great staff for the summer and they are pouring their lives into these students.

SWO is a year-round ministry, but more than half of our participants come in during the 10 weeks of summer camp and stay longer than at any other time of year.  During the school year, the average conference or camp at SWO is two nights, but in the summer, it is five nights.  This gives us a great opportunity to really invest in and connect with students and leaders.

Pray that our staff continues to endure the long hours and emotionally and spiritually grueling ministry of so many thousands of hurting students and families.  We are standing on the Gospel alone, in Christ alone, to minister to needs that we are not qualified to address.  But praise be to God, HE knows every need, and every person who will come through, this summer.

I will share some personal stories as the summer continues.

Thanks for the support through prayer.  Hope to see you at SWO before the summer is over.

SWO13

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We are going into Week 3 of SWO13. It’s awesome to see what God is doing. Continue to pray with us for the work God is doing this summer. Pray for our staff — for endurance, for obedience, for humility, for zeal. Pray that we boldly carry the Gospel.

PROJECT: India — Take the Gospel to the Unreached

SWO is establishing several Gospel endeavors with the purpose of reaching people groups that don’t have access to the Gospel. This year, we are partnering with believers in South Asia to provide funds and resources for the building of businesses. Eco-tourism and aquaculture (fish farms) will increase local employment opportunities and provide a platform for sharing the Gospel. Snowbird staff are headed to India this fall to meet with missionaries on the ground who will be connecting us with local land owners and believers in the area. The PROJECT: India launch team will consist specifically of Brody Holloway and Eric Potter. Assisting them with planning on location will be Howard Brown, owner of Carolina Mountain Trout farms and chairman of Snowbird’s Board of Directors, and Tracy Nelson, wildlife biologist and pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. Plans have been coming together very quickly for PROJECT: India. Over the past 12 months, SWO has already sent 4 teams to the area and the purpose of this September trip will be to scout out property to purchase or lease for tilapia and trout farms. Simultaneously, we are meeting with missionaries on the ground to help establish an ecotourism business that will both provide jobs for local people and put more believers on the ground to engage unreached people in remote villages with the story of redemption found in Jesus Christ.

Our end goal is not simply to feed the hungry or provide jobs. People in the areas of India that we are targeting are caught in the hold of Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. They need to hear the Truth. The mission of PROJECT: India is to reach the unreached, disciple believers, plant churches, and advance the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Partner with us and take the Gospel to South Asia.

PROJECT: India Contact:
Eric Potter
Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters
eric@swoutfitters.com

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:14-17

Fighting Sin, Fighting for Holiness

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Holiness is a fight.  It doesn’t come any other way.  We know that our righteousness is IN CHRIST, given to us based on HIS work, not ours.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.  God GIVES us the very righteousness that he demands.  But he tells us to BE holy.  And he doesn’t just tell us to be “some kind of holy.” He tells us to be holy as HE is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  He sets the standard.

There is a specific pursuit of holiness.  To be holy as He is holy is not just to do good or abstain from sin.  That is moralism.  He is calling us to be like Him.  He is calling us to be devoted to His glory, and to turn our affections and desires toward Him.  He is wholly devoted to himself and calls us to this devotion.  He expects it and demands it.  But it is a good gift.  It is a gift to take in the glory of God.

One of the realities of the life Christ calls us to is daily death to the desires of the flesh.  It is never easy to die, and the enemy of the flesh never goes away quietly.  But Christ has given us the ultimate example of how to fight.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ was tempted in EVERY way just as we are, yet He never yielded to sin (Hebrews 4:12).  In fact, it is He alone who has ever felt the full weight of sin, because He bore it all on himself and never buckled under it’s weight.  I seem to buckle daily.  Instead Christ chose, daily  in his earthly life, to yield to the will of the Father for the glory of the Father.  Christ has shown us what it looks like to be holy.

The Apostle Paul also identifies with us in this regard.  He said in Romans 7 that evil is always present in his own life.  He says, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21).  The reality is that I don’t need any help when it comes to sinning.

The problem is within me, and it is always close at hand.  The human side of me, made of flesh, desires and demands its own way.  It seeks cheap, momentary thrills that leave me empty in the end.  This is the way of the world and the way of the flesh.  Since Adam bought the snake’s lie, this is how it has been.

Through the pursuit of holiness and submission to the Word of God, I am invited to a relationship with The Father that exposes the cheapness of the desires and pleasures the flesh demands.  I am so grateful that God calls us out of this world and into a relationship that Christ has made available through his victory in life over sin and temptation, and his victory in death over sin and its affects.

There is no fight against sin, apart from a fight FOR holiness.

The Power of the Gospel… the Hope of the Gospel

We travel all over the country, and even to other countries quite often, preaching in a huge variety of settings. Occasionally we are in large, cathedral-type churches, but most often find ourselves in settings that are a little less traditional. This past weekend began with students at SWO, then we hit the road on Saturday night so we could be in a church in South Carolina on Sunday morning. Something interesting happened in the church we were in on Sunday morning. As the worship team was leading, a lady became very distraught and began to cry out loud as she staggered down the aisle to the front of the church. She fell down and began to thrash around and cry out in loud, gargled, unintelligible speech.

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This happened early in the service and just before I was to stand up and preach. The commotion was very attention-grabbing and pretty much took everyone in the large building by surprise. It was as if time stopped. People fidgeted, some looked away, some stared. I mean this lady was WAILING. It was loud and disturbing.

Little, my wife, and some godly ladies from the church were very sensitive to this dear, hurting lady, and basically picked her up and carried her out. They ministered to her and learned that she is a woman much like the women Christ often ministered to. She has suffered a life of sexual abuse, substance abuse, broken relationships, and darkness.

Mary Magdalene

I think of the woman at the well in John 4, and of Mary Magdalene, who had been completely controlled by demons when Christ entered her world, setting her free from a most tainted and abusive past. So many people are hurting, and the church should be the place they can come to find answers and freedom. But when they get here, we have to point them to Jesus. The Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation, and it alone can break the kind of chains that this poor, hurting woman is bound by.

As Little and the ladies at that church shared Christ with this lady, she heard the ONE message that alone can heal her, save her, and set her free from a past of being abused, abusing, and darkness. They spent an hour with her, sharing and praying. By then, the worship service was over so Little walked her home and prayed with her one more time.  She has been heavy in my mind today. I wondered how she will respond to the ONLY thing that can save her. I wonder what she will do with the Gospel.

The long drive home was filled with reflective silence, interspersed with conversation about all that had taken place. It is impossible to look that far into darkness and pain and not be shaken.

Christ was once interrupted while he preached in a synagogue. He silenced demons and demanded they release the man they controlled. We get nervous when people start to talk about the spiritual realm, but we need only an encounter like this to realize that for so many people, the reality of darkness is far more normal than the reality of light. Christ is the only hope for them. He is the only hope for us. We need to find them and give them that hope.