We have been thinking and praying about this post for months now. These last two months have been a blur with the Ride Nature banquet, finishing up working at Sanctuary RV, moving to Fort Myers, and all the last preparations for our baby boy’s arrival. Just over one year ago, Ethan and I drove down our possessions and HOME to join Ride Nature’s team. At the end of April, Ride Nature held their annual fundraiser banquet. If you all remember, last April, the banquet was the first RN event we were a part of when we came on staff. It has been a whirlwind of a year!
We had a great turn out for this year’s banquet of around 200 people and raised around $36,000 for the ministry (3xs more than last year)! Brain Sumner, a retired pro skater and pastor, was our guest speaker. Also, over the past month all of Ride Nature, us, our director and his family, and the whole staff and internship program, have moved up to Fort Myers! We got the lease on the space in downtown and will start building it out to use it as headquarters. The upstairs will be living space for our internship program and the downstairs will be a retail, coffee, hangout spot to invite in the local community and build Christ-centered relationships.
Ethan and I have been evaluating what the Lord has taught us through this last year. Also, our roles as Mission Coordinators and how we can be better stewards of all that God has given us. Our time, talents, spiritual gifts, interests, finances, and emotions should all be at His disposal, used to reflect His glory and advance His kingdom. Our director, Mark, has said on multiple occasions, “I’m not your boss. We are working directly for the Lord, He is your boss.” Which makes me think of the verse in Colossians that says: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:23&24
This verse applies to all of us but while working in ministry we do get the unique privilege to be working directly for the kingdom. We have definitely felt the weight of living on the financial support of others, trying to be transparent and never embellishing the work that we do.
We can’t say enough how truly honored, humbled and grateful for your continued prayers and support. We realize it is a hard concept to grasp: Living as missionaries in the United States. Plenty of times we were asked if we were going to get jobs, and in the last year we have been blessed with part-time work here and there to help ends meet. However, the trouble with getting a full-time job is that we would no longer be able to do our job with Ride Nature. I experienced this just in the past few months when I was working full-time at Sanctuary RV. Ethan took on all the missions coordinating, international communications, planning and leading, while I took a backseat and basically just kept up with our monthly updates and emails here and there.
A few weeks ago I spent some time asking the Lord some specific lessons He taught us in the last year. As I prayed, the Lord brought 5 words to my mind: reliance, trust, humbleness, contentment and authenticity.
- Reliance: We have had to learn to rely on the Lord for our provision. We have always somehow had enough monthly finances and He provided us free housing this past year through Sanctuary RV.
- Trust: We have had to fully trust the Lord with our purpose in moving down to FL and hand over the control we so desperately want to have over our finances and circumstances.
- Humbleness: It is so humbling to have to ask others for help and especially to ask for money. We have realized that living on support has given us a whole new understanding of humbleness. Also, having to tell people you meet that you live in an RV has been another humbling reality. For us, living frugally goes hand in hand with living humbly.
- Contentment: In the midst of being humbled and living frugally, we have to continually find our contentment in the Lord. No circumstance, car, housing, job, or paycheck can give us worth. We praise God that He sustains us and we have honestly been content in humble situations.
- Authenticity: Our prayer from the beginning has been for pure motives and authenticity in our lives, ministry, and the updates we share with you. We have to daily submit ourselves to God and never work out of our own ambition.
All of these lessons the Lord revealed to me are lessons we are still in the process of learning and I’m sure will be life long lessons. I have been convicted that many times I go through seasons in life and forget to look back and see what the Lord has taught me and give Him the glory that he deserves. God deserves all the credit for ANYTHING we accomplished this year!
I think I have shared this verse with you before but know that this is truly our heart for each of you and we can rejoice together in this truth!
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Here are a few picture collages to remind you of our year!
Costa Rica Staff Mission Trip: May 2015
Summer Christian Music Tour: June 2015
Costa Rica Mission Trip: August 2015
Ride Nature Staff Retreat: September 2015
India Mission Trip: October 2015
Ride Nature Local Outreach Skate and Skim Contests: October 2015
Peru Mission Trip: December 2015
Haiti Staff Vision Casting Mission Trip: February 2016
Costa Rica Naples Christian Academy Mission Trip: March 2016
Easter Sunday Sunrise Service: March 2016
Wake Church at Revolution Cable Park: Monthly
Now, Ethan is going to share a few of his own thoughts from this past year and tell you what we are looking forward to in the next!
First, I have to give credit to Sandra for taking over the role of keeping friends and family up to date via this blog. I hope everyone who receives these posts takes the time to read and pray for the requests we have. It’s awesome to have you all keeping up with what’s going on in our lives but more importantly to know that you are praying for us. God is blessing us through all of you! Thank you again for your continued prayers and financial blessings.
The past year has been nothing less than amazing. I have been able to visit 4 countries and go on 8 mission trips. Costa Rica for 4 different weeks, India for 10 days, Peru for a week, and Haiti for 5 days. God has provided a way for me financially to get to each country, which has allowed be to experience the global church and “congregations” that reflect the early church. Being able to travel outside the US gives me a global perspective of how the church functions and how it thrives, even under persecution. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from international missions is how in other countries, Christians have to be sold out for Christ, rather than being nominal Christians which we find filling the pews at so many churches in America. I was listening to a sermon the other week about the number of Christians in America and how it appears to be on the decline. A study shows that there are fewer people check the box of “christian” and more people mark “none” (having no religious affiliation). Interestingly enough, the study suggests that the number of “Christians” are dropping but the number of Evangelical, Christ following, Christ reflecting, Christians is rising. Now, in our society, it is becoming less politically correct to be a Christian and even looked down on, opposed to how it was in the past. To summarize the study I heard about in the sermon, American Christianity is perhaps becoming less nominal, and more genuinely Spirit lead. It is exciting, that the American church is hopefully beginning to be more authentic.
As I look back over the past year and see my shortcomings, failures, achievements, struggles, and blessings, I have the hope of living this next year serving with Ride Nature as a better leader, husband, friend, and father. Sandra and I are about to step into new roles as parents and we ask for your prayers for discernment, wisdom, strength, health, and energy.
Now that I have been with Ride Nature for a year, I am now getting more responsibilities. I will retain my title of International Missions Coordinator but will also be taking on the role of Director of Operations. As the Director of Operations, I will be overseeing and planning more events, projects, outreaches, etc. I will be pouring into the interns more and assisting the other staff with their duties of preparing bible studies, discipling, and implementing and enforcing rules. Please pray for me in these new responsibitlies, to be a better leader and role model for the younger guys serving with RN.
As you well know, our family is expanding (any day now)! We are so excited and blessed to be given the responsibility to raise up a child to serve and live for Christ. We have also been blessed to find an apartment in Fort Myers which means no more RV life. The RV is listed and has been getting a bit of attention but still no serious buyers. We are praying for the right family to come and buy the RV and that it would be a blessing to its new owners just like it has been to us.
The apartment we have moved into was truly a blessing from God. We have been in our new place for about a month now and have been dumpster diving, thrift store hunting, Craigslisting and garage saleing to piece our place together. It’s hard moving from a RV to an apartment since the only furniture that came with us was a nightstand and mattress. It has taken about a month to get the thrift store smell out of here, but thanks to a few new coats of paint and my mom blessing us with a diffuser, our home is feeling and smelling less and less like the Goodwill.
With all that said, we are asking you to pray about your continued support for us. Our family is growing and we are no longer living rent free. We know our monthly expense will be at least doubling this up coming year. Whether you are a sporadic giver, a faithful monthly supporter, or a prayer warrior, we are challenging and humbly asking you to pray about the amount you are able to support us financially. We are confident that we have been called here to serve with Ride Nature and your monthly support is allowing that to happen. God has been so good to provide our every need this last year and we know that He will sustain us in the next. We thank you so much for trusting in us and the Lord that He has placed us here to expand His kingdom and bring Him glory!
- The birth of our son and transition into parenthood.
- Ride Nature’s new headquarters
- Intentional discipling relationships
- Financial provision
- To have a God given vision and passion for all our ministry pursuits
- Mission trip teams going to Costa Rica, Panama, and hopefully Mexico this summer
Once again, we can’t not thank you enough for your continued support and prayers over this past year! We know that the Lord is working in all of our lives because of your partnership! May you and your family be filled completely with Christ’s joy and love!
Ethan and Sandra