Dear Supporters, Friends, and Family Members (and random blog followers who haven’t given up on me despite a 14 month hiatus from this blog)!
We wanted to explain a little bit more about our situation as far as it relates to finances, ministry jobs, and our future than we wanted to write in a newsletter. If you’ve made it this far, we assume that you’re interested in hearing what’s going on with us, and how you might be able to help us.
We sense that our time at Grace Ministries International doing primarily counseling, which has been my primary ministry the last 6 years (with a one year break in Denmark) is coming to an end. We also sense that this is a good time for me to try stretching different ministry muscles than the ones I’ve primarily been stretching these past 6 years. I never thought I would enjoy doing counseling, and yet, I’ve grown to love it, and will always cherish all the radical life-change I’ve been privileged to witness in my counseling office. But both Jeannette and I sense that God is challenging me to get outside of my office and work with bigger groups, and get challenged and have opportunities to grow in different areas than counseling. I will always do counseling in different ways. It’s become such an integral part to who I am, and I will always love meeting one on one with individuals and walk through all kinds of life-experiences with them. But neither Jeannette nor I sense that it has ever been God’s plan for me to work as a counselor the next 10-15 years.
As we look, wait, pray, and search for what our next step is, I will continue to do counseling and all the other ministry that Jesus does through us. Nothing will change on that front before we are ready to step out into our next step. We are so appreciative of those of you who support us financially. And please, bear in mind that we continue to need the financial support as we’re trying to find out what God’s next step for me and our family is.
As we look at our future at this point there are a three possible scenarios that we can see:
Scenario A) We receive a substantial and very unexpected increase in our monthly support which would enable us to decide on whether we would want to stay with Grace Ministries International, or whether we would pursue life in full-time support-based ministry with another Christian organization. Our current support level isn’t enough to continue long-term in a support-based ministry situation. And even short-term it’s a challenging situation where we are going a bit into the red each month for the last few months.
Scenario B) I get a salary-based ministry job working for a ministry or a local church somewhere in the United States. This is where we need your help! I have been applying for several different church jobs, but with all of the churches the reality is that I don’t have any contacts at any of them. And the likelihood of them choosing someone they don’t know at all, and who has no network contacts in their church, is definitely smaller than if there is someone who knows (about) me who can put in a good word with the church search committee.
In other words: we need network help! Do you know of a job opening in your own church, or in a church or a ministry where you have friends or family members, we would love to hear from you!
These are the types of jobs at a church that I would be interested in. I’m certainly also interested in any kind of paid ministry job that has to do with any or all of these different ministry areas:
– Discipleship Pastor (or any role to do with Discipleship and leading people)
– Missions/Outreach Pastor (I have five years of experience working with international missions with Youth With A Mission, and I would love to get a ministry job where I could focus on missions, caring for missionaries, and developing strategies to help fulfill the Great Commission! If the church you know works with Muslims I would be even more interested!)
– Care Pastor (any sort of role where the focus is on caring for people of all walks of life and do different types of counseling would also hold my interest)
– Connections Pastor (a role where my focus would be on connecting people to each other and Christ would definitely be interesting as well)
Maybe the job title would be Director of Missions, Director of Discipleship, etc. or any other similar title. But the point is that any job that has to do with discipleship, missions, outreach, care, leadership, and connections would have my interest.
We dream of staying somewhere on the east coast of the United States, BUT we are willing to go anywhere in the States, if we see a ministry opportunity that’s exciting enough!
So, to recap: if you know of some kind of paid ministry job in your church, or a church or ministry you know about, or a friend’s church in the areas of discipleship, missions, outreach, care, leadership, or connections, please contact me as soon as possible! I will also be happy to forward a resume to you, if you would like to see a bit more in writing what my ministry experiences, educational background, and spiritual gifts are.
We are not interested in hearing about part-time or support-based jobs. We want to continue with me in full-time ministry and Jeannette being at home with our kids.
Scenario C) If it doesn’t work out for us to find a ministry job, I will have to look at different job options. So if you know of any interesting jobs that might have something to do with different cultures, international relations, and communication, I would certainly love to hear from you as well.
We hope and pray that God has someone out there in our network or in your network who could help us find our next step in our service for him!
Blessings, Torben, Jeannette, Marcus, and Sebastian
Several years ago Jesus gave me a promise in regards to our family living on financial support. It was during a group prayer time where we had been asked to write Jesus a letter. Instead he completely turned things upside down, and showed me that the letter that he wanted me to put inside the envelope that we had been given was a letter from him. The letter is us as a family, and the message in the letter is one of honesty, hope, forgiveness and love.
He impressed on me to just write ‘God’ as the sender of the letter, and then I attached a permanent marker and a pencil to the envelope and left it on a chair. What Jesus had invited me to was to allow him to decide how the receiving address of the letter was going to be written. It is his business whether he writes the address with a pencil, so it can be easily and more frequently changed, or if he wants us to be in some location for a long time where he would write the address of the letter with a Sharpie permanent marker.
The symbolism was simple and beautiful, and I heard very clearly in my spirit: “And I will pay the postage!”
Jesus will pay the postage. That’s been our promise that we’ve been clinging to ever since I heard those words from Jesus 5 years ago. We have gone through many challenging situations financially, and he has always been true to his promise. But let’s face it….right now we could really use some more stamps!
I’ve been working on, alongside many other projects that require my attention, a major support raising campaign. Let’s be honest, so far where I’m almost done with it, it’s been hugely discouraging. We really need more monthly support to be able to continue doing what we know Jesus has called us to do. We have received some gifts towards our moving expenses this summer, and we are extremely grateful for those! But as far as monthly gift pledges, we have to accept that right now we are looking at a minus of at least $210. Yep, that was $210 less each month…..
Jesus, we just choose to quietly remind you of your promise. You will pay the postage!
A song I was just reminded of as my thoughts and feelings experience lots of turmoil:
And a classic by Rich Mullins, sung by Big Daddy Weave:
In the midst of reading about an abortion doctor crushing innocent babies because their parents decided that the babies were an inconvenience, and thinking about lots of personal and family related problems that require much attention, prayers and miracles, I was sitting on a public bus going through the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark with tears in my eyes. Tears of pain. Tears of anger. Tears of frustration. But also tears of hope. My iPod was playing a song that seemed so out of touch with what I was thinking about, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Our God Is In Control from his majestic album, Beauty Will Rise. God is in control? Really?
As I sat there and pondered this, a beautiful 5-year old girl smiled at me. I had noticed her running to catch the bus with her dad who looked like he had the day off. They made it, and the little girl in a flowery dress was beaming with pride when she walked through the bus and found two available seats. They sat and talked, and got off at the center of the city, ready to explore. She smiled at me, jumped down from the bus, and walked happily away with her daddy. Just the way life should be.
Early this morning Marcus and I were watching a Baby Einstein DVD about colors while eating breakfast together, and my 15-month-old son got very excited when the color yellow was presented with a picture of a field filled with yellow, perfect daffodils. He was so happy. So out of touch with everything that was going on in his daddy’s head. He came with books and toys for us to play with. Laughing, smiling, ready for a new day.
“This is not how it should be. This is not how it could be. Our God is in control. This is not how it will be. When we finally will see. We’ll see with our own eyes. He was always in control”, the song was playing in my ears. It’s true. This isn’t how it should be. Death, disease, pain, lack of finances to pay for health insurance, fear of losing your job, intense loneliness, fear of going through life all alone and depression. None of this was part of the original package. Sin, destruction and death entered the world. And it’s so easy to be swallowed up by the existential hopelessness that is our lot if we don’t know God. If we don’t know someone who is in control. In control even when it sure doesn’t look like he is.
The little girl is right. Marcus was right. Life is good. Yellow is a wonderful color. A day out with daddy is wonderful. It’s epic. It’s eternal. It’s what will last. Yellow daffodils will last. Death and sorrow will wither and pass away. Wearing a sundress with daddy and laughing at his old jokes won’t.
And life is found in the midst of this tension. The tension between aggressive diseases, unbelievable cruelty, loneliness, shipwrecked marriages and daffodils, teddy bears, sundresses and wonderful, patient dads. Hope and light is breaking through. Jesus is real in the midst of this mess we call life.
Most blogs from people in Christian ministries are teaching tools where they start with a question they ponder, or that they know other people think about, and then they talk about it, include some God-stuff and wrap it up neatly with a bow at the end. I’ve thought about writing like that. I guess I wish I could. I guess I wish that would be true to me. True to what’s going on in my life. Alas, it’s not. Far from it. I’m a teacher, but I teach from my mess. I teach in the midst of my mess. I know no other way.
I thought about posting an update about how I’m doing on Facebook, and I chickened out. Afraid of peoples’ comments. Afraid of being put on a pedestal for being honest. Afraid of hearing empty clichés with zero power to help me or anybody else. So I thought I would share something of how I’m doing out here in my little corner of cyber space where I can write whatever I want, and whoever reads it can take it for what it is.
Life is tough right now. Tremendously tough. If I were to give a snapshot of my inner world, these are some of the thoughts and feelings I run into a lot these days:
Worries. Lots of worries. I come from a family line of worriers. Not warriors, but worriers. My grandad was a worrier. My dad is a worrier. It’s something that’s in my blood. It’s a temptation that’s always present. It’s easy to worry about the future, and right now, where we have zero certainty and endless unanswered questions about our immediate future, it’s particularly easy to worry. “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere“, someone semi-philosophic wrote. It’s obviously true. But it doesn’t change the fact that I worry a lot about the future these days. And there is plenty of real reason to worry. We don’t have a place to stay, when we move back to Marietta, Georgia, USA at the end of July, and will we be able to find something that we can afford? We don’t have anything to drive at this point either. We don’t have a bed to sleep in or a table to eat at. We don’t have the financial support we need for our immediate and long-term future, and so far our renewed support raising efforts have been almost completely fruitless. It’s desperately discouraging and sends me into many dark thoughts and feelings that include anger, resentment, hurt, loneliness, confusion. And some more confusion and some more worries….
Frustrations. Frustrations that Jeannette and I can’t seem to talk through the things we need to talk through. We don’t seem as apt at conversing as we normally are. We misunderstand each other. We jump to conclusions that are not right. We both have lots of hurts to work through before we move to the States again. Old wounds have resurfaced. And we struggle to help each other the way we normally do. The pressure in our home is high. “Won’t we just go to Marietta and fall into another empty, lonely, frustrated hole with no money, limited future prospects and few deep relationships?” is one of the questions lingering under the surface.
Tiredness. Not just tiredness from being a dad of a (wonderful) 15 month old toddler who struggles to sleep through the night, and who was sick for three weeks in a row recently. But also tiredness from trying to finish up my last semester of university. I feel stretched like too little Nutella on too much bread. And it will keep going like this the next couple of months.
Confusion. Confusion about my calling. Isn’t my calling crystal-clear? It seems to be clear to me, but it’s as if it’s still not happening. Still I run into walls. Walls of a lack of support, both humanly speaking and financially. Walls of a lack of opportunities. Walls of being misunderstood and seen as someone I’m not.
Irritation. Irritation that it’s so hard for me to rest as I walk through this corner of the valley of the shadow of death. I oughta know better. I’ve been here so many times before. I know this too shall pass. Somehow. And I know who I am in Christ. And I know the truths about who Jesus really is. I know I’m okay with Jesus no matter what I do, say, think or feel. And yet, I can’t rest very well. I struggle. And I get even more tired and frustrated and angry.
Hope. There are feelings of hope. Indeed there are. Not based on anything in my circumstances right now. But hope that God somehow knows what he is up to. And hope that he hasn’t left us alone. I feel alone, but I know I’m not.
I had to end on a slightly brighter note. Because that’s the truth. The other stuff feels a lot more real, and my thoughts agree with my feelings. There are times where I wish I only felt a few feelings, and only thought a little, and typically landed on simple statements of truth. Again, I’m not created like that. I feel feelings deeper than most. Hurt deeper than most. Experience glorious joys deeper than most. I guess the whole “than most” is irrelevant to write. It’s not a competition. No-one wins. And we can’t trade with each other anyway.
‘Till next time.
It’s a cold and quiet Friday morning in Copenhagen. I had tears in my eyes as I was walking through the streets trying to keep the insisting winter-cold out. I feel sad. Sad because of consequences of a choice that I made many years ago that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. How is that for an oxymoron?
This Sunday I have to tell my parents that our family are leaving Denmark again in July to move back to the States. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what we want to do. We sense that’s what God’s inviting us to do. I’m called to pour my life out in full-time ministry in the Body of Christ, and right now God has somewhere in America as the place where he wants me to do that. I’m excited about the prospect of getting back into devoting all my time to counsel, teach, train, lead, and through all of it point to life, liberty and hope in Jesus Christ. I’ve missed doing that dearly these last 8 months where I’ve been studying Communication and English at Roskilde University. It’s not my thing to study and look at theories and do academic projects. I’m a practical guy. Does it make a real difference in everyday life? If it doesn’t, I’m not very interested.
So I’m excited to move back to the States and continue in ministry in whatever capacity that’s gonna be. I’m excited for my dear wife and son to have other stay-at-home moms and kids to hang out with, unlike here in Copenhagen where those are extremely hard to come by.
Lots more to look forward to, but what makes my heart heavy today is the loss of leaving Denmark. The emotional loss for our family of not being able to spend a lot of quality time with our Danish family. It was tough for my family when I left Denmark to pursue God and his will for my life outside of Denmark’s borders 10 years ago. It got tougher when I had a lovely wife with me on my journeys that they would love to spend more time with as well. And since we got Marcus, the reality of missing us and us missing them has increased. And will increase with every child God will be kind enough to give us as a family. It sucks. It’s not fair. It’s not right that my parents, Marcus’ farmor and farfar, and the rest of my family, in particular my younger sister, Merete, who has been Marcus’ regular and excited babysitter during our stay here in Denmark, won’t get to see us very often. It’s not how it should be. It hurts us. It hurts them. And Marcus will be missing out on many fun and important experiences because he won’t get to be around his Danish family very much these coming years.
August 20, 2005 I said “I DO” with all my heart when Pastor Shawn Wallace asked me if I wanted to take Jeannette Lynn Thomas to be my lawfully wedded wife. Of course I wanted to do that! What a great choice I made. But I and we also made some choices on behalf of our respective families. Georgia and Ohio in the United States of America, and Herning, Stubbekøbing, and Copenhagen in Denmark are never gonna be very close to each other geographically. “The world has gotten so small”, the airlines tell us, but it still takes 8-10 hours to fly across the big ocean, and it still costs a fortune. That’s the raw reality. One set or both sets of families will miss out on as much contact with our family as they would prefer. And we will miss out of being with them. It will be different on the new earth someday. And I so look forward to that. But as far as 2013 goes, the reality is that we’re leaving Denmark this summer, and it hurts. I don’t know how to tell this piece of news to my parents. There are no clever words to say. It just sucks. They love us, and they love and adore our sweet little boy. And they won’t get to see him grow up. They won’t be nearby for his first day of school. They won’t go to grandparent day at his school. They won’t…..And tears come into my eyes again.
I love being married to my American wife. I love the craziness of being part of an international and intercultural family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a ton of fun, and a huge challenge. And I love it all. And yet, there are real downsides to the choice we made in 2005. We made the choice for our respective families as well. We had to. They have had to live with that. And now, my Danish family will have to work through these realities that I will present to them this weekend. It is not easy. But all I and we can do is share the reality of what’s going to happen. Share that it’s tough for us too. And then entrust my family to Jesus, and ask him to help them in the grief and surrender process that they have to go through to be able to let go of their hopes and desires and submit to what Jesus is calling our family to do. Not an easy thing to do. Real surrender is never easy. But it does make a difference. It does make letting go possible. If you love somebody, set them free, Sting sings. And he is right. It’s the only way to live.
This day is a day of contemplation and reflection for me (plus I have to write a newsletter that’s wayyyyy overdue). And this morning these were my reflections.