Monday, December 27, 2010

The best gift ever

Is it wrong for me to have the holiday blues? After all I have gained 10 pounds in a week, my clothes are tight, I’m coming down from a sugar high, and our new puppy has kept me up two nights in a row! I’m already headed back on the road and we still have Christmas presents stacked in every corner of the house. Even better is the thought of making 20 trips to the attic to put up all the Christmas stuff next weekend! You will have to forgive my negative attitude. Give me nine months and I’ll be ready for the next season. I promise honey!

Regardless of my “poor” Christmas spirit, I have to be honest; I love presents. But who doesn’t like getting presents? Not a single one of us, not even the Grinch himself, would want to get rid of presents. This year marked my 35th Christmas and I still receive the same warmth in my heart when my mom passes out presents that I did 25 years ago. But what about giving presents? At what point in our life do we feel this same warmth in our heart from giving a present that we have when we receive a present? Some famous guy, after all, did say "It is more blessed to give than to receive." However, faced with a holiday season that's too often fraught with chaos, stress, waste, and debt, it's easy to lose track of the pleasure and meaning of giving.

This year has probably been my favorite, probably because of my kids. One is four and the other is two. This meant they not only understood the joy of opening presents but they were able to start understanding the true meaning of Christmas. More than ever before I anticipated Christmas morning, not for the gifts I would receive, not for the piles of food, not for the time off from work, but rather the look on our kids’ faces when they saw their new puppy. But, much to my dismay, the kids were less impressed with the cute, cuddly puppy and more excited to give me my Christmas present (a present our daughter personally picked out). It took everything in her power to keep my present a secret. As much as she wanted to open her present, she really wanted me to open my present. I guess you could say I learned a lesson this year from a four year old. To be honest I think I learned several:

  1. It can be more blessed to give than to receive. And why not, the central theme to Christmas is both receiving and giving. How often do we lose sight of this?
  2. The time we spend with our children is priceless. You see, this present (the sled) derived from a summer trip we took to White Sands, New Mexico. During that trip I slid down the sand on my stomach, kids in tow! They haven’t forgotten.
  3. Every child deserves to know someone loves them. We take for granted the value we have as parents and the impact we can have on our children by spending time with them and showing them true love.
  4. The lessons we teach a child today will shape them forever. As a parent I’m overwhelmed with the pressure of having a positive impact on my children. There is no greater opportunity to teach them life’s valuable lessons than the holiday season, especially the true meaning of Christmas and the joy of celebrating this time with family.

Now we find ourselves less than a week away from a New Year. At that point and time we will discard resolutions from the past year, many of which we failed, and replace them with new, improved resolutions. However, before you make those resolutions I ask you to consider joining the Red Page team as we strive to focus on these four things above. Would you consider supporting our ministry financially as we invest in the lives of Romania’s children? Help us show these children the joy of receiving. Help us fill a void for so many children that do not know someone loves them. Help us invest in a team that will spend quality time with them. Help us teach these children life’s lessons that will shape them for the future.

Red Page is new and we have many needs. However, our greatest need is the empowerment to share the Gift of Christ in 2011. Your financial gift will allow us the opportunity to share this gift. Red Page is a 501 (c)(3) and all gifts are tax deductable. You can mail your gift to P.O. Box 53653, Lubbock, TX 79453. For additional information you can email us at contact@redpageministries.org.

From all of us at Red Page Ministries we wish you a Happy New Year. Aspire to new heights. Jon

Monday, December 20, 2010

Excess Baggage

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

I’ve done a lot of travelling the last two months. Scratch that; I’ve done a lot of travelling the last six years! Most of my travel this year has been via car, but I’ve flown a few times as well. Last week I flew out to L.A. for the weekend. It had been a while since my last time to fly. I was so focused on the new screening processes that I almost forgot the excessive baggage fees.

Fortunately I was flying Southwest where “Bags fly free!” A few weeks ago I saw a report on baggage fees. Did you know that from July to September of 2010 airlines raked in over 900 million dollars in bag fees alone? Delta brought in $1.26 billion the first 9 months. I’m far from a philosopher and I rarely, if ever, use this blog as a political platform; however, something is wrong with this country when there are needs all over the world and even in our own country yet the airlines make this kind of profit on bags alone.

Just out of curiosity I Googled “How much would it cost to end world poverty?” After all we Google everything, right? Anyhow, the first answer I found was “A lot!” Not exactly sure how much “a lot” really is, but to me 3.6 billion dollars (estimated annual baggage income) is a lot. I truly doubt 3.6 billion dollars could end world poverty but it would make a significant dent.

People complain about how little a dollar is any more. They say that a dollar doesn't have the buying power it used to (it takes 25 to reserve a spot for your bag). I’m honestly surprised they still have “one dollar stores.” I figured by now they would at least be the “five dollar stores!” Granted a dollar cannot go quiet as far as it once did. You cannot get a gallon of gas for a dollar. Not that long ago you could get 10 gallons. You cannot get a bag of popcorn at the movies for a dollar. Not that long ago you could buy your movie ticket, coke, and popcorn for a dollar. I can still get my large coke from McDonalds for a dollar but there was a time you could get your entire meal for that dollar.

Just one dollar in our pocket does not provide much peace of mind. Now days $25 in our pocket doesn’t go very far. Kept in our pocket this $25 will not get us too much. However, if you give this $25 to Red Page ministries it can:
  • Feed a poor family living in rural Romania for a month.
  • Give a child living in rural Romania a Christmas or birthday present.
  • Help send a child living in rural Romania to our winter Disciple Now.
  • Purchase medical supplies and a personal hygiene kit for families in rural Romania.
  • Sponsor a child attending Red Page’s after-school program for a month.
  • Help support indigenous staff in rural Romania including social workers, teachers, and ministry coordinators.
  • Assist in the construction of the House of Joy community center.
  • Help dig a well in Susani, Romania that will provide clean water for over 300 families.
  • Assist with ministry support for Red Page.

You see, $25 can go a long way with Red Page Ministries. In addition, your support will allow Red Page to share the Word of God to over 3,000 families in over 30 villages in rural Romania. Twenty five dollars is a long way from $3.6 billion. However, the airline industry received this $3.6 billion $25 at a time, one bag at a time. Many people never give to missions, because they think they can't give enough. I just showed you what one gift of $25 can do. Why not give that gift of 25, 50, or even 100 dollars and let God multiply it and use it?

Asprie to new heights!

Red Page is a 501 (c)(3) and all gifts are tax deductable. You can mail your gift to P.O. Box 53653, Lubbock, TX 79453. We also have a number of trips scheduled for 2011. We would love to have you join one of these trips. Additional information is available on our website.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Get Involved with Red Page Ministries

I hope you have taken the time to visit the Red Page Ministry website. Our sight has gone through a number of changes the past two weeks. Many, many thanks to Brad Rock for doing such an awesome job. The section currently under construction is a description of how you can get involved with Red Page Ministries. In an effort to get you involved as soon as possible I wanted to point out a few ways you can join our team.

  1. Go – Last June marked the first mission trip to Susani to begin construction of the House of Joy. The Winter Youth Camp trip in February will mark the first “official” Red Page mission trip and we already have three trips scheduled for the summer. If you are interested in joining one of these existing trips or if you want to schedule a group trip shoot us an email at missions@redpageministries.org. For additional information on existing trips visit our Trip Information section.
  2. Serve – Last year we were blessed to have a long-term intern who helped pave the way for our mission trip. Again we are truly excited about two long-term servants that will be travelling the last part of January and will remain until the end of summer. During their time in Romania they will assist with mission trip coordination, the development of an after-school program, creating family plans and case studies, orphan team development, and ministry coordination. We are always looking for more interns and would be happy to taylor make an opportunity for you. If you have an interest shoot us an email at jhogg@redpageministries.org.
  3. Give – God continues to bless us in ways we never could have imagined. This ministry has already grown faster than we expected. Unfortunately with this rapid growth comes an increase in cost. The Trustees of Red Page all agreed on day one that 100% of each gift would go directly to the use intended. We have not and will not tax any donation. With that in mind we hope you will be comfortable in giving to this wonderful ministry. At the same time we ask you consider giving to our general fund to assist with nominal administrative expenses such as marketing and web design. Red Page Ministries is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Lubbock , Texas. All financial and in-kind donations are tax deductible. Please send your tax deductible donation to Red Page Ministries, P.O. Box 53653, Lubbock, TX 79453.
  4. Pray – God can do all things through prayer. The thing we covet the most from you is your prayers! Please pray for our ministry partners in Romania, Ovidiu and Adina Petric as they continue the work on a day by day basis. Lift up our interns, mission teams, and ministry partners. Please continue to pray that God will provide the resources necessary to grow this ministry. Pray for the people of Romania that their hearts will be open to the Lord. Pray for Red Page as we seek to grow and strive to complete construction on the House of Joy and get it fully staffed and operating.

What a joy it is to share with you on a weekly basis the progress of our ministry. Thank you for growing with us. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Everything IS bigger in Texas!

What a joy it has been to have Ovidiu and Adina in our home this past week. God truly blessed us with a wonderful time of food, fun, fellowship, and promotion of our ministry. I asked Ovidiu to take a few seconds out of his busy schedule to share with you about his first week in America. I hope you enjoy - Jon

This past week we were filled with lots of “firsts” because Adina and I visit America for the first time. I had the privilege to start this visit with no other state but TEXAS. Everything is bigger in Texas! Large cars, large buildings, large stadiums, large cups of coke (“buckets” as Adina would call them), large steaks (beef steaks are my favorite).

Texas (268,581 sq mi / 696,241 km2) is almost three times the size of my country Romania (92,043 sq mi / 238,391 km2). Many times Romania was covered by the love of the people of Texas. There is still room for Romania in the heart of the people of Texas. I have experienced this in the last seven days since we are here. Almost everybody smiles and asks you “how are you doing?” Texans drive very different than Romanians! The food is amazing. Most important of all, the people that I have met love the Lord. We encountered people from different churches that used to be involved in Romania several years ago.

What makes Texas big is its love for God. Texas sent missionaries all over the world to give the people the good news that God saves. That shows that it could include a whole world in its heart not just a country. In the last five years many churches and organizations focused on other areas of the world with different needs. Missionary organizations and families of missionaries withdrew from southeastern Europe.

God brought on our way several people and churches that want to refocus on Europe, Romania though the needs are maybe a little different here than in other parts of Asia, Africa or South America. On this international context of missions, God burdens the hearts of some churches to continue to come to Romania. Some are from Texas, some from other places.

Texas is large enough to engulf Romania in showing God’s love. Texas in large enough to love and “adopt” the thousands of orphans that our country has, is large enough to evangelize the 20,000,000 people that do not know Christ as Lord and Savior. Texas is large enough to plant churches in the 1,600 villages in Romania without an evangelical church, is large enough to focus on the 30 villages we target in Susani area. Texas is large enough to reach the 2,800 children and youths in all these villages, is large enough to build the House of Joy Community Center in Susani. Texas is large enough to help the poor families with 8-12 children that live in our villages around Susani. Texas is large enough to show God’s love to the world and if God wants to show it to Romania, too.

This is an opportunity to be challenged to know the spiritual and physical realities of Romania and to be challenged to come back or to come for the first time in a mission trip or in a partnership in the vision God has for this country using us in western side of the country.
In God’s economy not the number of people makes sense or the large number of things or the size of their possessions. What He cares for is the heart of man. He is always looking at the heart of man.

May God’s love give you a big heart that would include Romania in it, too. God bless, Ovidiu Petric

Monday, November 22, 2010

God, Family, Romania

I was blessed to worship at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene on Sunday. It was a joy to hear my dear friend Dr. Stan Allcorn preach, but this Sunday was especially special because Red Page’s ministry partner, my best friend Ovidiu Patrick was given a chance to speak for a few minutes in each service. This was Ovidiu’s first time to America and his first time to speak in an American church. For 10 years Ovidiu and Adina have hosted me and hundreds of Americans in their home and church. How fulfilling it was to finally return the favor.

For whatever reason, I was able to spend some time in reflection during church. Maybe it was the emotion of having a dear friend share his gratitude with a partner church or maybe it was hearing the same sermon on “Thanksgiving” four times! Whatever the reason I had a chance to reflect upon my life and think of the things I’m most grateful.

Without a doubt I’m most thankful for my salvation. I know it sounds so cliché, but without Jesus Christ all other things in my life would be irrelevant and likely non-existent. I’m thankful I was adopted into a home that exposed me to this salvation and modeled Christian values on a daily basis. I’m thankful that I’m given the chance each day to live out this salvation. I’m especially grateful that I live in a country that allows me to live out this salvation.

Only my Aggie friends can understand my next statement. I remember thinking the day I received my Aggie ring that no other day could beat this day. I know it is just a ring! Sorry it is just an Aggie thing. However, my wedding day proved me wrong, as well as the day my children were born. I’m so thankful for my family. God has truly blessed me.

In 1999 God changed my life by introducing me to a world beyond the U.S. borders. It was then I fell in love with Romania. Since that time I’ve visited more times than I can count. Kacee and I were blessed to call Romania our home in 2005 and 2006. Now God has opened the door for Red Page our new ministry designed to end rural poverty in Romania. I’m thankful for the opportunity.

As Ovidiu, Adina, and I drove from Abilene to Lubbock I realized how thankful I should be and how much I take all these things above for granted. Ovidiu reminded me how little I praise God through prayer. We spent the last 45 miles of our trip lifting prayers to the Lord. I’m thankful I have a friend that reminds me how thankful I should be. I especially thankful that I can spend this week of thanksgiving with that friend!

Last but certainly not least I’m thankful for you. I don’t know your situation. I don’t know why you are reading this blog. Maybe you are a former trip participant. Maybe you are family. Maybe you are a friend. Maybe you are just a random person checking out this sight. Regardless I’m thankful you took the time to spend a few minutes with me. My hope is that you will spend many more; hopefully in Romania! Happy Thanksgiving! Aspire to new heights.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Technology Today

My father-in-law sent me an email the other day about a lady whom she referred to as “grandma.” This email went on to list all the things that had changed since grandma was born. There were things like color television, satellite radio, cell phones, etc. She also talked about how the cost of gas, milk, coke, and movies had gone up. She concluded the email by saying, “By the way, Grandma is 59!” I took a minute to ponder all of these changes the last 60 years. It’s hard to believe.

Well today I took a trip down memory lane. I was charged with driving our work pick-up. About three minutes into the drive I realized this pick-up only had A.M. radio. Holy Cow! I went from XM Radio in my car to a six hour round trip drive in a pick-up with only A.M. radio. Needless-to-say I chose silence over A.M. radio! Honestly it wasn’t too bad a drive. Silence does the body good!

Back to this technology thing though. Modern technology has made it so easy to communicate half-way around the world. With e-mail, Skype, and international calling plans the world is just seconds away. I’m amazed at how easy it is for me to travel across the ocean and still remain in contact with my customers. Granted I may field a few calls at 3:00 A.M., but it is still very easy to travel these days. I don’t know if you’ve noticed where I’m going with this or not but I’m attempting to squash one of your many excuses for not going on a mission trip! The world is now at our finger tips and the mission field is closer than ever before. This can no longer serve as a valid excuse for not serving.

We are in the process of adding a “mission trip” link on our website. I hope you will click on www.redpageministries.com and find a trip that fits you. We would love to have you join us. And yes, you can join us and not miss a beat with work!

As you pray about joining us on a trip, I hope you will take a minute to lift up Ovidiu and Adina in your prayers. After 10 years of anticipation they will depart Thursday morning for the US. We are totally ecstatic, as I know they are as well, about their three weeks in America. Pray they will have an easy transition. Pray for the number of meetings we will have with potential donors and ministry partners. Pray for the future of our ministry. Hopefully we will see many of you real soon. Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orphan Sunday. How about Orphan Everyday?

This morning I made a special point to say a prayer for the hundreds of orphans in the U.S., Russia, Romania, Latvia, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Kenya that have touched my life the past 10 years. As I finished my prayer I felt a tug on my heart, obviously from the Holy Spirit, asking me why I need a “special day” to lift these beautiful children up in prayer. In the same light, why do we have to set aside one Sunday as “Orphan Sunday?” Yes I understand the need to draw attention to the enormous needs; however, what if we focused the same attention every Sunday, or even better, everyday? If we made the same effort 365 days a year we might not have the need for a focus day.

However, since today is Orphan Sunday I thought I’d end with a very thought provoking interview. Several years ago I was honored to meet a 25 year old orphan graduate by the name of Valentine. He had lived in the orphanage since he was 10 months old. While sharing lunch with Valentine, a fellow trip participant and Moody Broadcaster Dave Jolly interviewed him.

Dave Jolly: What was it like growing up in an orphanage?

Valentine: Life was very hard in the orphanage. The bigger kids make the rules in the orphanage. They tell the younger ones what to do and what not to do. I was forced to do things I did not want to do and I was beaten numerous times.

Dave: When did you first remember things changing?

Valentine: Up until the age of 17 I did not know what it was like to be loved. This changed when an American team visited my orphanage. At first it was very strange for me. I had lived my life in a certain way but this team showed me something different. They showed me what love was. I asked the Americans what made them so happy. They told me about Jesus. This is what made the difference in their lives. I wanted to feel the way they did. From that day on my life changed. It was something very good for me. I told this to all of my friends in the orphanage. Many denied it but many wanted to know more about it. I taught them about Jesus and it made a difference in their lives too.

Dave: How do you view hope?

Valentine: My life with Jesus is different. I can feel joy and I’m happy. It is a big difference from how I lived in the past and how I live now. I now have a purpose in my life.

Dave: As someone that grew up and graduated from an orphanage what do you think all orphans need?

Valentine: I’m thinking of me when I was their age. They need to be loved. They live in a place where no one cares about them. They are not shown love. They need someone to show them love.

Dave: Upon my return I will be sharing your story with other Americans. Is there anything you would like me to tell them?

Valentine: Pray that God will send people to the orphanage to make a difference in their life like the American team did in my life. This is my prayer request.

In his most recent book on prayer Phillip Yancey warns that “Unanswered prayers pose an especially serious threat to the faith of trusting children.” In a world full of pain, suffering, and an endless search for love, prayer may be all these children have. I don’t know about you, but I lose sleep at night thinking about the thousands, if not millions of children that are praying for help. Jesus himself said in Matthew’s gospel, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” If we are not helping answer these prayers, then maybe, just maybe, we are hindering them from coming to know Him. So, I pose the question to you. What can we do to help answer these prayers?

If you have an interest in working in an orphanage or if you want to travel to Romania to work with at-risk children shoot me an email at jhogg@redpageministries.org. If nothing else, lift up a prayer for Valentine and the 150 million orphans around the world. Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You have a voice; use it!

We’ve all heard the philosophical riddle “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” To be honest I’ve never given it much thought, as I doubt many of you have either. However, for the sake of this blog I decided to read a little bit more into this riddle. Here is what I discovered at wikipedia.org: “The most immediate philosophical topic that the riddle introduces involves the existence of the tree (and the sound it produces) outside of human perception. If no one is around to see, hear, touch or smell the tree, how could it be said to exist? Perhaps the most important topic the riddle offers is the division between perception of an object and how an object really is. If a tree exists outside of perception then there is no way for us to know that the tree exists.” The real question is what is the difference between perception and reality? I actually did my doctoral dissertation on perception vs. reality. Trust me; you don’t want me to go into great detail of this 300 page sleep aid!

Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of information. Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or may be thought to be. Confused? I am. I’ll do you a favor, just forget all that. It really means nothing, not even to my argument. I hope you will give me just a second to defend myself. You see, the other day I was reading an amazing blog from Todd Agnew entitled “Erasing James 1:27.” Here is a snippet:

“Most of us who have spent any time in church have heard the verse James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” We preach on it. We agree with it. We make banners and t-shirts. But I went to an adoption conference this weekend and it opened my eyes and my heart. Dave Gibbons asked us the question: if you were the devil and needed a plan to paralyze the church, what would it be? Maybe it’s not a huge direct opposition. Maybe it’s not a war. Maybe it’s simply sowing the illusion that we’re doing something when we’re actually doing nothing.”

So my question to you is this: “If a child cries out for help and no one is there to hear, do they really exist?” I hope you don’t even have to think about this question for one second. I promise they do. Been there. Done that. Read the book. Saw the movie. Blah, blah, blah. They do. My fear, however, is that if they are beat down to the point they no longer have a voice we will no longer listen for their cry. Or, as Agnew feared, maybe their silence will lead us to believe something is being done that actually is not. So how do you give a voice to someone that does not have a voice? My in-laws are notorious for their numerous Labrador dogs. They’ve had so many that it almost always seems that there is something wrong with one of them. A few years ago they had a dog that ended-up being blind. They cared so much for the dog that they put bells on another one of their dogs so he could lead the blind dog along. There are 140 plus million orphans in the world. Sadly these statistics seem to get worse every year. If we are truly going to make a difference we must start by giving these children a voice. Make sure they are heard. Like my in-laws dog we must go to great lengths to make sure they are heard. They have a story to tell. We know there are plenty of places to tell the story. We even know there are plenty of people willing to hear the story. What we lack are people willing to TELL the story. Common’ people let’s TELL THE STORY. Use your voice. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Better answers for bitter times

I’ve asked my good friend and ministry partner Ovidiu Patrick to right this week’s blog. Ovidiu is the pastor of Susani Baptist Church. He and his wife Adina have sacrificed greatly the last few years to remain in Susani in an effort to reach the future leaders of Romania, the youth of Susani and the surrounding villages. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed by those around them and hundreds of Americans. God blessed Ovidiu and Adina with a vision for the House of Joy, a community center that we are in the process of building. This community center will not only serve Susani but also a number of villages surrounding Susani. Within a 25 mile radius there is an estimated 30 villages with approximately 2,500 youth under the age of 18. Red Page Ministries is honored to partner with Ovidiu and Adina in an effort to complete the HOJ pilot project, a project we pray will one day stamp out rural poverty in Romania.
_______________________________________

When God says “No” it does not mean that He doesn’t love the person that receives this answer, it only means that He has a better plan. With God everything is better in life. I have received that answer from God in the year of 2000 when I was applying for the US visa to travel to America. But I was denied by the US Embassy in Bucharest. Then I tried again. And then again. And again…until I reached nine applications. I went from anger to joy and through all the feelings in-between. Then I let God give me the answer that I was waiting to receive for more than ten years. When I applied for the first time for the US visa I tried to go to an American Seminary and God’s answer was negative. He had something better. He opened the door for me to go to a Romanian Seminary. I do not mean that Romanian schools are better than the American ones; in my case it was better because there I met my wife Adina and that was definitely better! (By the way, tomorrow on October 19 we celebrate our 7th anniversary.)

What a great gift from God through our friends to be able to visit America in a month. That is another example of a good answer with good timing. But leading up to this time the number of our US friends increased greatly and now He has surrounded us with an army of loyal friends that pray for us, love us, support us, and dream big with us when we await even better answers. We were denied 9 times by the US Embassy. Now I love the “coincidence” about our trip to America: we will be in 9 cities in America, all cities where we have friends that we would not have had 9 years ago! Did you notice how God works? When you think your present circumstances are bitter, wait for God patiently and He will sweeten it with His plans (which I have found are always better than my plans) and answers to your prayers.

We will be in America for three weeks visiting with friends, preaching, celebrating Thanksgiving Day, shopping for Christmas, and attending a mission conference. We will have the opportunity to meet new people, talking about Red Page Ministries and the House of Joy Association. We are so excited to present our ministry in Romania to friends both old and new.

I know we will see many of you in person. However, I wanted to give you a quick update on the House of Joy. For more than a month and a half the construction site has been on standby. Though we are eager to see construction start back soon we are thrilled that the walls of the first floor are finished (ahead of schedule). Our desire is to add the concrete platform over the walls of the first floor. This has not taken place yet primarily due to timing and resources. But we are excited about 2011. We pray next year we will be able to complete the exterior of the first floor, dry it in and possibly start working on the interior. We continue to dream of the chance to dedicate the building in 2012 and ask you join us in praying for this miracle.

Though construction has probably ended for the remainder of 2010 we hope we can finish the year strong. Our desire is to show our appreciation to the construction company for allowing us to use credit for a portion of the construction costs by paying them back before the end of the year. We also hope to drill a water well before the end of the year and to connect the House of Joy property to electricity. Please join us in praying for a great finish to 2010. Our ministry continues to help people both spiritually and physically. Every weekend we bring the teenagers in many villages around Susani to be part of our activities, to be equipped with the Word of God or to hear the Word of God through our programs. This fall we identified several poor families with many children that will receive our help along with the Gospel. Adina is doing a great job as a social worker in this area. People love her and she loves the people.

In everything we do here we try to show people Christ’s love and to give them His truth in love. Thank you for all your prayers. God continues to work in Romania and to answer our prayers. His answers are always better than what we expected.
________________________________________

As you process this wonderful update from Ovidiu we hope you will consider joining Red Page Ministries in completing the construction of the House of Joy. If you have any interest in supporting this ministry financially or if you have an interest in travelling to Romania feel free to shoot me an email at jhogg@redpageministries.org. Aspire to new heights, Jon, Ovidiu, and the entire Red Page family.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Most Influential People in the World

When you think of an influential person who do you think of? Does your opinion change if I ask you who has had the greatest influence on you? What if you consider the world’s standards rather than your own? Driving down the road yesterday I heard the latest list of most influential people of 2010. Any guesses as to who they are? If you guessed either of the Obamas you’d be guessing right. Also included on the list were Lady Gaga, Sarah Palin, Conan O’Brien, Oprah, Taylor Swift, and Bill Clinton. At least they didn’t include Tiger this year. I’m not going to debate the presence of any of these people on the list. I don’t write that kind of blog. However, I was confined to my car for close to 12 hours yesterday so I had some time to reflect upon who has had the greatest influence on me in my life.

My answer? Well my Sunday School answer would be my parents and grandparents. And they have. I’ll admit I’m who I am because of so many wonderful things they have taught me over the year. If they had not chose to adopt a child I have no idea where I would be today. I also can think of a number of teachers and professors that invested a great deal in my life. In this chapter of my life my wife and children have a great deal of influence on me. And yes you can learn a lot from a child. My father-in-law has even impacted me the past 12 months (even for the positive!).

But when I sit down and think long and hard about those that influenced my life to the point that I am who I am today the list is narrow. Engrained in my mind I envision pictures of a select few orphans that hold a special place in my heart. There are two groups of orphans that helped set the stage for who I have become. Both sets came on my first trip to Romania and Russia. One orphanage was in Romania and the other was in Russia. The details of our visit are not relevant to my point but I will carry the images to my grave. The second group of orphans to push me further to the point I’m at today were those that attended Camp Lapusna in Romania the summer of 2000. Inevitably it was young siblings Cosmin and Ioana that stole my wife’s heart while we lived in Romania and consequently stole mine as well. But probably more than any other orphan there were two that I still pray for each night almost five years since they changed my life: Janis and Andrei.

Janis and Andrei lived in a remote country orphanage in Latvia. I was honored to take a team to their orphanage where we spent an entire week living in the orphanage. No doubt this 24/7 presence had a huge impact on everyone. My relationship with Janis and Andrei was solidified almost upon arrival as we hit the hardwoods and played some basketball. It was a simple game of two-on-two and the language barrier was somewhat present. However, we seemed to play for hours. What resulted was an immediate trust. I’m not going to go into extensive details of our week but two stories still haunt me each night. The first is the 15 year old Janis asking me to rock him to sleep like a baby our last night at the orphanage. We concluded the night with his request that I pray for him by name which was immediately followed by him praying for me by name. The second was the 18 year old Andrei clinging to me as he wept like a child upon our departure. Andrei knew he was only months away from having to leave the orphanage due to his age. He’d never opened up to anyone before and he didn’t want me to leave.

These are the people that truly posses the ability to impact our lives for eternity; not someone that has a weekly T.V. show, not someone that can crush a golf ball 300 plus yards, and definitely not someone that spends all her time singing about her “poker face.”

I hope you will take a few minutes to think about the people that you would consider most impactful in your life. If an at-risk child or orphan does not come to mind I challenge you to add a line to your bucket list: Impact the life of an at-risk child or orphan. I promise you will discover they will impact your life more than you will ever be able to impact theirs. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pack Rat

I almost always keep my golf clubs in the trunk of my car, for easy access and convenience, of course! A few weeks ago I took my clubs out of the car and put them in the garage to make room for a trip to Kansas. A few weeks later I grabbed my clubs, threw them in the car, and ran to the course for an early morning tee time. Just before we were to tee off I threw my flip flops off and my golf shoes on. I grabbed the laces of the first shoe only to discover they had been cut into ten plus tinny pieces. The first thing that crossed my mind was: mouse. I replaced the laces and headed for the course. As I walked to the first tee box I grabbed my glove, or what turned out to be the remnants of a glove. Living in the country I didn’t think much of my situation other than we needed to eradicate the problem before the remainder of our stuff was destroyed.

Day 1 of the great mice hunt I placed 20 poison blocks in the garage. Day 2 and all the poison was gone. Again I didn’t think much other than we had a lot of mice. Day 3 I placed 25 small sacks of poison in the garage. Day 4 and all the poison was gone again but no dead mice. At that point I knew we either had a small infestation of mice or we had something entirely different, a pack rat. You see, pack rats gather all the poison and take it with them to their nest. They will actually not eat the poison until winter comes along. I’ll save you the remainder of the details but I purchased the appropriate equipment to take care of the problem. Once I was certain the problem had been taken care of and I gained enough courage to sift through the garage, I discovered a large nest in one corner made up of tree bark, grass, hay, a destroyed phone book, and my golf head covers. Within this nest I also discovered all of my poison, light bulbs, screws, tools, and a variety of other things I was missing.

As I researched Pack Rats I discovered several interesting factoids about the hoarding little creature. First, the obvious is that Pack Rats love to collect as many things as possible to form their nest. They can move things of rather large size to start their nest. Second, Pack Rats are attracted to shinny things like tools! Third, Pack Rats have a short attention span. They will be in the process of moving one thing towards their nest only to abandon it for something they like better. Finally, I discovered that Pack Rats can be extremely vocal, sounding at times as though a fight is taking place!

Many of you are probably wondering where I’m going with this. Some, if not all, may think I’m off my rocker! But come on; look at the things you can learn from Pack Rat.
  1. Like a Pack Rat we collect tons of things (both spiritually and physically) that we never put to use. We just use these things to make a “nest” of sorts. We probably have enough stuff under our bed and in the far corners of our closest to feed a child in Africa for a year! Think of the spiritual gifts we’ve been blessed with that we never use. What a shame. What a Pack Rat.
  2. Like a Pack Rat, we too are attracted to shinny things. We are all about the bling; whether it’s the fancy cars, fancy houses, or fancy clothes. Even in missions we are all about the touchy feely things. Very rarely are we willing to get in the trenches, behind the scenes, and get our hands and feet dirty.
  3. This one is easy. Like a Pat Rat our attention span is so short. If you don’t believe me, I’ve been working on this blog for three hours. I’ve finished watching a NASCAR race, I’ve watched football, I’ve played hide and go seek with the kids. We are somewhat the same way with missions. How rare it is for both individuals and groups to commit to something long term. What’s even long term anymore? Two years? Four years? Seems like the first time we come across another “shinny” opportunity we lose our focus.
  4. We are in a fight. So, like a Pack Rat why don’t we use our voice? We might not have the financial ability to make a huge impact. We may not have the flexibility to actually go or do anything. However, we do have a voice and there are millions of stories we can share.

Sadly I must tell you my Pack Rat friend has moved on to greener pastures. But he didn’t move on before he left a big impression on me! Now it’s time to take those lessons and go to work. Thanks my fuzzy little friend. Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eleven is the magic number

I received wonderful news this past week from my good friend Ovidiu. After 10 failed attempts to secure a visa he finally received a travel visa that will allow him to visit the United States. Now I want you to take a few minutes to think about that. Ovidiu has been trying for 10 years to receive a visa.

Kacee and I just returned from a short family vacation. Over the past 10 years of marriage we’ve seen the world. We’ve been to Kenya, Guatemala, Romania, Italy, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Austria and many other countries. Not once did I even consider the value of my passport. Why should I? It only takes about 10 minutes to get one. I stop by Walgreen’s for a quick picture, fill out the application, and drop it in the mail. Within a month or so I’ve got my 10 year passport (even faster if I’m willing to pay the fee). How blessed we are to have an open invitation to see the world. How even more blessed we’ve been to have the resources to do so.

I’m thrilled beyond measure that Ovidiu and Adina will be visiting the US in December. I know they will be pulled a million different directions by those that have waited patiently for 10 years to have them visit. However, I know they will find some time while they are here to talk about the wonderful things they are doing in Romania. I’m honored to be working with them and I would love the opportunity to have them personally share with you their vision and passion for rural Romania. If you have any interest in visiting with them let me know.

The next time you jump in your car or board a plane to travel the country think about how fortunate we are to see the world. Then think about this world we have at our finger tips and how much they need us. You know with freedom comes responsibility. I hope you will join me in making the best of this opportunity. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A pat on the back

Today begins premier week for all our favorite shows! I’m embarrassed to say it has been a long summer without all my favorite shows to watch. Hey, we live 20 miles from town in the middle of west Texas with two children under the age of five. What are we supposed to do with all our time? Don’t answer that! Of course the summer has not been a complete waste. Most nights Kacee and I would watch an episode or two of MASH. What a wonderful show. I have so many wonderful memories of MASH. When I was young I still remember the intro music being my cue to head to bed! Then when I was in college, 10:30 p.m. was when Glen Allen and I took our study break each night. Like a contestant on Survivor I took all 10 seasons with me when we moved to Romania. You laugh, but Hawkeye got me through many long days and nights!

Last night we threw in one more episode to mark the end of summer. As fate would have it, this was one of my favorites. During this episode entitled “Blood Brothers” Father Mulcahy gives the following sermon:

“I want to tell you about two men. Each facing his own crisis. The first man you know rather well. The second is a patient here. Well, the first man thought he was facing a crisis. But what he was really doing was trying to impress someone. He was looking for recognition, encouragement, a pat on the back. And whenever that recognition seemed threatened he reacted rather childishly. Blamed everyone for his problems but himself because he was thinking only of himself. But the second man was confronted with the greatest crisis mortal man can face, the loss of his life. I think you will agree that the second man had every right to be selfish. But instead he chose to think not of himself, but of a brother. A brother! When the first man saw the dignity and the selflessness of the second man, he realized how petty and selfish he had...I....I...I had been. It made me see something more clearly than I've ever seen it before. God didn't put us here for that pat on the back. He created us so he could be here himself. So he could exist in the lives of those he created, in his image."

Oh how often we (I) get caught up in the complexity of life and how it effects us (me). I’m ashamed to say that more times than not I live my life for myself rather than for God. Even when I’m serving God I often find myself doing it for selfish reasons. I’m reminded of two verses in the first book of Peter.

“…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5: 5-6.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4: 10.

I hope you will join me today in making a better effort to use His gifts for His glory rather than the pursuit of a pat on the back. After all, He did “create us so he could be here himself.” Aspire to new heights.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What do you do?

As our weekend came to a close I took a moment to reflect upon our daily rituals. Our family seems to follow pretty much the same schedule over the weekend. We get up on Saturday morning and then me and the kids cook pancakes, waffles, or muffins. Kacee and I then sort receipts and balance the check book. We then usually load up and run to the grocery store before grabbing a bite to eat. There is usually some outside time in the afternoon either at our house or the park. The evening typically drags on before we call it a night. On Sunday we go to church, eat as soon as we get home and I park it on the couch for NASCAR, football, or baseball. Every once in a while things get a bit out of routine like they did this weekend when Kacee and Becton were sick. Occasionally I have to throw some work into the mix as well.

Our schedule is really not the point, nor is my Type-A personality that causes me to live by this schedule! What really grabbed my attention this weekend was how we respond to things around us. Take for example:
  • If someone is sick, we go to the doctor.
  • If we need groceries, we go to the store.
  • If we are hungry while away from home, we go to a restaurant.
  • If we are thirsty, we get water from the faucet.
  • If we have to “go,” we “go” in the bathroom.
  • If we need gasoline, we go to the gas station.
  • If the kids need clothes or shoes, we go to GAP.
  • If our clothes are dirty, we wash them.
  • If we need to be fed spiritually (and we do), we go to church.
  • If the kids want to play, we go to the park.
  • If we need to learn, we go to school.

    What if, however:
  • There is no doctor?
  • There is no grocery store?
  • There is nowhere to eat?
  • There is no running water?
  • There is no sanitary restroom?
  • There is no gas station or even better, there is no car?
  • There is no clothing store or even better, there is no money to buy clothes?
  • There is no clean water to wash clothes?
  • There is no church?
  • There is no park?
  • There is no school.

We (I) loose sight daily of the many, many, many blessings I have. Oh how often we take for granted the simple things in life. I could ask you “what would you do if you did not have these simple things?” However, we are so far from this even being a remote possibility that we truly can’t even imagine what we would do. Instead, I would like to ask you “what would you do if you had the chance to make a difference in the life of someone that didn’t have these ‘simple things.’”
Well? What are you going to do? What are we going to do? Hope this gives you something to think about. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

“Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”
Albert Einstein

I ran into an old friend the other day at a football game. We were reminiscing about the first time we went to Romania 10 years ago. Neither of us could believe how much had changed in our lives over the past 10 years. As I reflect back over the past 10 years I think about these many changes. I have lived in a foreign country. I’ve received a doctorate. I’ve married the love of my life. I have two of the best kids in the world. That’s a pretty good start to my bucket list!

One cannot reflect upon the past without realizing real quick how much our life is “built upon the labors of our fellow men.” On this Labor Day of 2010 I want to take a second to pause and appreciate the sacrifices of so many that have impacted my life. The list of those that have built upon my life is way too long to list, but what I would rather do is honor them by attempting to give even half of what I have received from them.

This desire to “exert myself” as much as possible is what fuels me daily to see Red Page Ministries succeed. But just what exactly would I consider success? Success, from the world’s perspective, is the sum of who we are and what we achieve. Whether we will admit it or not, we have all dreamed of being successful! There is nothing ungodly about striving to be successful; however, it appears that we have skewed the idea of success to give it a worldly definition. We measure success by the size of our house, the zeros in our paycheck, or the title on our business card.

Success, from God’s perspective, is measured by our continued desire to become all He has planned for us. John C. Maxwell defines success as “knowing your purpose in life, sowing seeds that benefit others, and growing to your maximum potential.” As a fellow servant of Christ, our definition of success should be to accomplish what God has called us to do. Charles Stanley tells us that success will come to us when: the goals we set are God’s goals, we rely on God to give us the resources to achieve His goals, and our deepest motivation is to glorify God and know Him better. This is exactly what the Red Page Ministries team has set out to accomplish in the coming months: 1) Create Christ centered goals, 2) Rely on God to open doors for financial support to accomplish these goals, and 3) Glorify God in all that we do.

I guess you could say Ralph Waldo Emerson summed up success for us much better than I can.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”

To all my fellow men and women out there laboring to make this world a better place I say Thank You. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm not afraid. Are you?

It’s not too often that I find myself quoting Eminem. As a matter of fact I’m not sure I ever have. However, I was flipping through the radio today when one of his songs (if you can call it that) was on the radio. All I got out of it was “I’m not afraid to take a stand.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this new ministry my family and a handful of friends are starting. At the heart of this new initiative is the desire for change, or to “take a stand,” if you will). You see, this December will mark the 21st anniversary for the fall of communism in Romania. Has much changed? You bet. One does not have to look far to see the vast changes that have taken place across the country. Unfortunately, after suffering for more than 40 years under communist rule, the people of Romania are still struggling to rebuild their nation, hoping for a better future for their children. The greatest poverty in Romania is in the rural areas of the country where:
  • Thousands of orphans roam the streets.
  • A large number of children are exploited and forced to do manual labor to support their poverty-stricken families.
  • Almost half of the population lives on less than $1.50 per day.
  • In the poorest areas, parents are forced to leave Romania to find work in other countries—leaving their children in the care of the government, extended family members, or private institutions. These children have been left behind - depressed, angry, and alone.

I’m not a patient person. Consequently I think I just woke-up one day and said, “Enough!” I will no longer stand by with my head stuck in the sand. I love Romania and I will not let another 20 years go by without doing something. I mean come on, do the math (40 years of communism + 21 years trying to recover = a lifetime). Well in this lifetime I want to see change. One village at a time, we (Red Page Ministries) are going to stamp out rural poverty in Romania!!!!!!

Take a look at these exerts from an article by The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations to validate this need.

Poverty has a firm grip on Romania’s rural areas, where almost half (44 per cent) of the population lives. In 2003 the UNDP Human Development report estimated that 38 per cent of rural people were living in poverty, compared with 14 per cent of people in urban areas. Rural people are particularly vulnerable to the hardships brought by the painful economic and social transition after the collapse of communism.


Who and where are Romania’s poor rural people? The country’s poor people are subsistence farmers, unemployed rural workers and women who are heads of households. The poorest people live in remote areas, where infrastructure and social services are lacking.

Why are they poor? Low agricultural productivity is one of the main causes of poverty in rural Romania. And in rural areas there are limited opportunities for formal employment opportunities, partly because of minimum wage regulations, high payroll taxes and the rigid labor code. Inadequate social services, reflected in the poor condition of rural health centers, long distances to schools and poor sanitation facilities, also contribute to rural poverty.

Two decades have passed since the Iron Curtain fell. America jumped to action given the opportunity. And great strides were made. Unfortunately today it almost seems as though too much time has passed. Many individuals, churches, and organizations are focusing their attention elsewhere, primarily the Global South. I love missions and I’ve left a piece of my heart in so many countries (Kenya, Russia, Romania, Latvia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to name a few). However, there’s just something about finishing what we’ve started. There’s still a need. I’m not afraid. Are you? Much more to come in the next few weeks regarding the nuts and bolts of Red Page Ministries. I hope you will join us in praying for God’s direction and consider how you can join us in Romania. Until next week, aspire to new heights.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Color me red!

He who wants milk should not set himself in the middle of a
pasture waiting for a cow to back up to him.

I’ll never forget my first trip to Romania sometime in 1999. My parents had travelled to Romania the previous year with a small group to do VBS in an orphanage. My father was once again returning with several friends to explore opportunities for future ministry. At the last minute a spot opened up and I was able to join the group. God really opened my eyes and touched my heart during that trip. I will never forget this trip because it laid the foundation for everything yet to come in my life. Since that trip I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve travelled to Romania, even taking a year to live in Timisoara. Since that first trip I’ve always known God had many great things in store for me and Romania, plans that are much bigger than I can even imagine. As I look back over the years I’m amazed at all the stops we’ve made along the way. Romania has become a fabric of my DNA. Most of my close friends are either Romanian or people I met while living in Romania. Some of my fondest memories have come from Romania. I would trade nothing for where I am today but I will always value the time Kacee and I shared in Romania.

I’ve had a lot of dreams about doing work in Romania. Before we moved to Romania I swore to myself that I was not going to just “do something” in Romania so I could say I “did something.” Consequently, a lot of ideas have ended up in File 13. I guess you could say I’ve spent a lot of time “sitting in the pasture” waiting for an opportunity to find me. What I’ve discovered is that ideas don’t find us, and truthfully we don’t find ideas either. The truth is that when a dream, or idea if you will, is planted in our heart by our Father in Heaven it completely consumes us to the point we know it is not of us but rather of Him. That’s where we are today. When Kacee and I moved home we promised Ovidiu and Adina that one day we would work together to restore the people of Romania to the place God intended them to be. The timing and opportunity just had to be right. Now after years of praying and prompting from the Hold Spirit we are finally grabbing that cow by the tail!

Last week I put in the mail an application for the Articles of Incorporation for Red Page Ministries. You are probably asking yourself where I came up with the name. A little over a year ago Kacee and I purchased our daughter Brynlee her first Bible. To this day she still loves reading her Bible. She will climb in my lap and tell me, “Daddy, read my Bible to me.” Prompting a response from her I’ll open it to the Old Testament. Immediately she will respond, “Daddy, turn to the red pages!”

I guess you could say our name is pretty simple. First, we all want to leave something that will last for our children. This ministry is more than just something for the founders; rather it is a legacy we all hope to leave for our children. As Max Lucado once said, “The greatest gift you can give your children is not your riches, but revealing to them their own.” As we strive to impact Romania we hope we will encourage our children to pursue His will for them. Second, there is no greater place to turn than to the words of Jesus (written in red) to find instruction for caring for widows, orphans, at-risk children, and families.

We’ve been down a long and winding road that has led us to this point. Now our vision is clear. It’s easy to see how the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place for this ministry. Over the next few weeks I’m going to share with you information about our mission, purpose, vision, needs, and dreams. We are new, very new. We don’t have a website. We don’t have a logo. We haven’t even been approved as a 501.c.3 ministry yet. However, I couldn’t wait to tell you the wonderful news. Right now we need your prayers more than anything. So until next week, aspire to new heights, and add us to your prayer list!

Blessings from the Red Page Ministries team.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

God Sized Dreams

Have you ever looked at those strange pictures that have a picture within the picture? Forgive me for not knowing exactly what they are called. All I remember is hardly ever being able to see the picture within the picture. More times than not I think I was just looking too hard to see what was right in front of me. How often do we do that with those God puts in our lives? Many times we are so close to them we don’t realize what is right in front of us. My good friend Ovidiu is like that. I was reminded by a mutual friend how much faith Ovidiu has and how big a vision he possesses. I wouldn’t say I had forgotten that, but rather I’m just so accustomed to seeing this type of action from him that I forgot all about it!

The irony is that Ovidiu would never seek any recognition for anything he does. However, he is doing some amazing things right now. As our mutual friend said a few weeks ago, “Ovidiu reminded me that it is more important to have God size dreams rather than me size dreams!” How true. How true.

Ovidiu has inspired a handful of us to join him in these God sized dreams. Our dream is to see the House of Joy built now, not 10 years from now. How disappointing it would be to miss the chance to reach an entire generation of kids because it took us 10 years to build this community center.

Monday I’m having a conference call with this small contingent of Ovidiu followers. We are going to make some plans for future trips to Romania. We are also going to talk about ways to speed up the construction process for the HOJ. We are also going to talk about a potential organization to aid in fulfilling these God sized dreams. Hopefully I’ll have great things to report next week.

Until that time I’ve challenged Ovidiu to continue moving forward with both the construction of the HOJ and the fund raising of the HOJ. I’ve been amazed at the progress his team has made on the HOJ the past month. I’ve also been amazed at the initiative Ovidiu has taken to personally raise support for the HOJ. Ovidiu has over 800 followers on Facebook. He’s challenged each follower to donate $25 to finish 2010 strong. We would love to have you join us in this cause. If you are interested in making a donation shoot me an email at jonahogg@gmail.com and I’ll get you information on where to send the donation.

Right now we need your prayers more than anything. I hope you will pray that God will give this team the vision necessary to fulfill these God sized dreams. Until next time, aspire to new heights.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

An Update from Ovidiu

I’m excited that Ovidiu has delivered me a message to pass on to each of you. I cannot think of a greater person to work with in Romania or anywhere in the world for that matter. His heart (and the heart of his family) inspires me. I yearn to help Ovidiu, Adina, Ruben, Dani, and their many disciples, have the resources they need to fulfill their calling. My yearning is so great I have no doubt it is my calling as well. Enjoy their updates. Pray for their ministry. Consider how you can be involved. We need your prayers. We need your financial support. We need you personally. I do hope this update will inspire you. Aspire to new heights---Jon

Please Come in February
Romania needs Jesus. There is an abundance of religion in Romania and in the midst of it we need Jesus more than ever. We pray for a new generation that will find the truth, grow in the truth, love the truth, and give it to others. People in Romania live in ignorance regarding the truth of God and this ignorance leaves them without hope. Two years ago when Franklin Graham organized a huge crusade in Timisoara they named it The Festival of Hope. Why? Because they realized that the Romanian people do not have hope. People in Romania need hope; a hope that lasts forever, not one just for a season. When people do not have hope they do not rejoice. Their joy is missing. When people find God, they find joy, an abundant joy, as He intended.

As a pastor in Romania, I challenge you to come and help us bring the truth back to the hearts of the people of my country. They can hear it, but they can ignore it. What we want to do is to see the truth changing lives, bringing fruit, making a difference in society, unleash the eternal joy. How can we do that in an effective way? By investing in disciples. We have around 35 teenagers that we consider our disciples and the more we invest with the truth in their lives the more we can see the change in our country. Romania’s hope and only real joy is around discipleship in the Word of God. We want to do that on this side of the country where God called us to work for Him.

We invite you to be part of our work in February as we continue the tradition of investing in the lives of these young people through our Winter Camp 2011. This year marks our fifth year and we want it to be special. Jon, our team and I invite you to join us in this effort of bringing the truth to the hearts of our people in a special environment. We will be hosting our camp in Brasov this year, one of the most beautiful and historical places in Romania. Pray for us as we prepare for this camp. Pray for resources, for people to come, for great weather, for protection, and for a great time in the Word of God. If you would like more information about our camp, contact Jon at jonahogg@gmail.com

A short update on the House of Joy
God continues to bless us as we build the House of Joy. I will give you very few words to tell you how much progress we make but want to leave you with some pictures at the conclusion of my update. The walls for the first floor are almost complete. We still have two workers that are slowly finishing the first floor. We have joy that we have made this progress but we also have sadness as we wait to raise more money so we can continue the project. Once we have additional money in hand we will be able to put the floor on the second floor or the ceiling on the first floor. Then all we will have to do is purchase doors and windows and we can begin finishing things on the inside. God has blessed this project more than we ever thought he would this first year. We are so excited about the future. We cannot wait to begin using the facility. However, we know it is only a building and it cannot make our ministry. At the same time we are able to continue doing great things in the area while we wait for this building to be finished. Until He Comes---Ovidiu




Monday, August 2, 2010

12 Happy Campers


Twelve; such a magical number. In football you have the 12th man (and yes there is only one 12th Man). Egg crates have 12 eggs. In the Old Testament we have the 12 tribes. In the New Testament we have the 12 Disciples. Eleven just doesn’t look right (looks like sticks) and 13 is an unlucky number. Like the famed movie Twelve Angry Jurors I’m looking for Twelve Happy Campers.

This February twelve of you (if there are actually twelve reading this blog) have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 35 young Romanian disciples. For the past six years Ovidiu and Adina have poured their lives into the youth of Susani and the surrounding Greater Traian Vuia Area. They’ve drove thousands of miles down bumpy dirt roads with vans full of children eager to worship together. For the past three years they’ve taken a handful of the brightest on a “winter retreat” in an effort to mold them into lead disciples for their youth group.

I’m asking you to consider joining Ovidiu and Adina as they invest their time and energy into 35 bright young kids this winter. The trip is schedule for January 29 – February 6. The team will depart the U.S. on Saturday, January 29 and arrive in Timisoara, Romania, on Sunday. You will spend the following Monday working with Ovidiu and Adina finalizing plans for the camp. The team and campers will then depart on Tuesday for Brasov for four days and nights. You will then return on Saturday and prepare for your flight home on Sunday.

I’ve been asked what you will do during the camp. Though I don’t have an exact answer I compare it to a Disciple Now. You’ll do some Bible studying. You’ll do some singing and worshiping. You’ll do some praying. And you’ll do some playing in the snow! Ovidiu and I are working on the details of the study. However, I can assure you that we will focus on the spiritual growth and maturity of these wonderful kids. Maybe you can help me come up with a theme and name.

The Land Cost is $908. This includes all meals, lodging, in-country transportation, insurance, interpreters, bottled water, sightseeing, and a t-shirt. Included in this cost are scholarships for campers. Each trip participant will help pay for three campers. This is $500 of your cost.

Not included in the land cost is Airfare. I estimate airfare to be around $1,100, depending on your origination. We are willing to help you book airfare.

In addition to the land and air cost is a $100 Administrative Charge. This charge will help cover trip arrangements, domestic and international staff costs, trip orientation, and a portion of the cost for a trip leader.

Also included in your land cost is $20 for Spending Money. Staff will convert money to Romanian Lei and present this money to you upon your arrival so you will have some money in your pocket just in case you need it!

So if you really break things down, this trip is only going to cost you $888 plus airfare and $500 of that is to send three kids to camp! What a bargain.

Applications are due September 29 with your $100 admin fee and 10% of the land cost ($92). We need to book airfare around October 29 so you will need to be ready to pay for that cost then as well. The rest of the expense will be paid out over the following months.

When Kacee and I were considering our move to Romania a friend of mine asked me this question, “If you move to Romania do you think you will ever look back and regret it?” I said, “NO.” He said, “If you do not move to Romania do you think you will ever look back and regret it?” I said, “YES.” So my question to you is this; if you don’t take this trip do you think you will regret it? After all 11 just does not look as right as 12!

I comfort you in the fact that these kids will go to camp with our without you. However, wouldn’t it be so much more fun if you were there with them?
For an application, trip flyer, or additional information, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email at jonahogg@gmail.com. Hope to see you in February. Until then, aspire to new heights.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Re-Gifting

“The greatest gift you can give your children is not your riches, but revealing to them their own.” – Max Lucado

One of the things I love the most about my dear friends Ovidiu and Adina is the fact that that they would give the shirt off their back to help their fellow neighbors. However, what I love even more is the fact that they are planting seeds in the lives of the future leaders of Romania by revealing to them their own gifts and abilities. Instead of giving them a gift that will have a short term return they give them something that will truly last.

Earlier this year Ovidiu and Adina (with the help of Ruben and Dani) began a Bible study in Lugoj. Lugoj is a larger city approximately 30 minutes from Susani. This study began in Dani and Ruben’s apartment. After a short time their apartment was busting at the seams with eager Romanian students. One thing is obvious, whether it is a van transporting students to their house in Susani or an apartment Bible study the Patricks use every square inch available!

I’m pleased to report that this Bible study has now moved to another location that is more accommodating. One day a pastor in Lugoj asked Ovidiu what he was going to do if this “Bible Study” turned into an actual church. Ovidiu said, “Praise the Lord!” What a dumb question!

You see, this “Bible Study” or “Church” if you will is part of the greater vision of this ministry. As mentioned in my blog last week the goal of the House of Joy in Susani is to provide children with educational opportunities, while equipping them with life skills and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. By doing so we will make our best effort to break the cycle of poverty and raise-up a generation of educated, equipped leaders and servants of the Lord. This is a great vision but we would miss the entire point if we planted these seeds in the lives of future disciples and did not continue to walk alongside them while they grow and disciple. Afterall, some plant and some water!

Lugoj is the perfect location for a “support ministry” such as this. Most, if not all, of the children in the Greater Traian Vuia Community (Susani and the surrounding 25 plus villages) where Ovidiu and Adina work will attend high school in Lugoj. After investing years in the lives of these children it would be foolish not to continue this investment while they live in Lugoj. This is where the Lugoj Bible Study comes into play. It is a continuation of the investment we are making in the lives of these children. Think of it as compounding interest! Quiet simply it just makes since.

I’m thankful that Ovidiu, Adina, Ruben, and Dani took the time to continue their investment. I’m eager to watch this Bible study grow. I’m anxious to see what God does in the lives of those attending this study.

I hope you will join me in praying for this wonderful ministry. As you read this there is a team from FBC Euless and Next World Wide in Lugoj assisting in the growth of this Bible study. I hope to be able to provide you some updates of their success upon their return. Until then, keep them in your prayers and keep aspiring to new heights.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What is a house of joy?

As many of my loyal followers (if I have any) know, my dear friends and family members of Romanian decent have suffered from years of oppression (or maybe suppression). They’ve experienced more in a lifetime (especially those more seasoned) than most of us will even read about in our history books. We may read about history, but history they have lived! Though the senior adults have seen and experienced the most, the children of Romania may have been affected the greatest, especially those living in rural villages. Most of these children and their families have never been given an opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty.

So how do you break the cycle of something that has been going on for decades? In my honest opinion the solution is simple: EQUIP.

If Romania is going to break this vicious cycle, parents must be equipped and children must be educated. Providing a safe, stable home environment increases a child’s chance for success. In addition, providing these children with educational opportunities, while equipping them with life skills and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, will be the best chance to not only break the cycle of poverty but also to raise-up a generation of educated, equipped, leaders of their country and servants of the Lord.

This is where the House of Joy comes in to play. Many of you have seen my pictures from the Pioneer Drive Baptist Church mission trip in early June. This team began construction for the HOJ. Much progress was made but much progress is left to be made. Our goal: To see the doors of the HOJ opened to the children of Susani and the surrounding communities. Our timeline: NOW! Well, to be more realistic by August 2012.

How will the HOJ make an impact you ask? Our dream is for the HOJ to be a support center, hub, or beacon of hope if you will, not only for Susani, but for the surrounding communities. The primary goal for the HOJ is to break the cycle of poverty. Lofty goal! Yes, but an achievable one none-the-less.

The essential components for the HOJ are as follows:
  • Location – Place the HOJ in a high need area. What is a high need area? An area with a large number of single parents. An area lacking infrastructure (water and sanitation). An area in need of education (formal and vocational). An area in need of medical care. An area with a high rate of poverty. Most importantly, an area with vulnerable children and families.
  • Services – The HOJ will provide services to parents that enable and empower them to provide a safe, loving and stable environment for their children. Core services - medical, job training and education, humanitarian aid, family preservation and intervention, and foster care and family unification. Specific services - activities for the youth (physical education, life skills development, educational support, and spiritual development) and the adults (parenting skills, vocational skills, and spiritual development). Support services - delivered via local and international mission teams. Teams will be recruited to host camps/clubs (sports, English, life skills, parenting, etc.). These camps can be hosted at the Center or remotely as well. Teams will also be recruited for short time medical care to be hosted at the Center. In addition mission teams will be recruited to provide support services in the local communities via construction (home repairs and home construction). Individuals and teams will also be recruited for evangelical support via Vacation Bible School, Disciple Now, lay leadership training, and pastor conferences.

Why Susani?
Susani is a community of approximately 200 people. It is a very poor community, but a communty with a big heart; a community noted for great leaders. Susani is strategically placed to reach thousands of families. Within a 30 mile radius of Susani are approximately 25 villages with over 2,800 children 18 years of age or younger. Ovidiu and Adina Patrick have already placed themselves in a leadership role at Susani via the local Baptist church. They have spent over six years developing relationships with the children of these 25 villages. They have the trust and support of the local community.

Why the House of Joy
Why not? Not really! The principles behind the House of Joy are built upon the foundation that:

  1. Every child needs and deserves a safe, stable and permanent family. If given this support system a child will develop into a healthy, productive, contributing member of society.
  2. Families are the basic building blocks of communities. Parents are the foundation. Children are the future.
  3. Most children from rural Romania will leave for educational opportunities and rarely return. Some leave to go to the next village for middle school education. Others leave to the next big city for high school education. Some will leave to a big city for college. A few will leave the country to seek employment. Regardless of where they go given the proper tools these children can serve as leaders of their circle of influence and even better, as missionaries.

The House of Joy truly can make a lasting impact in the life of a child. The foundation has been poured. Walls are being erected. Seeds are being planted. The future is bright. All we need now is you. So how can you get involved? More on that next week. Until then, aspire to new heights!






Monday, July 12, 2010

Dream Big

August 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famed “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In this speech he exalted “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” These were lofty dreams no doubt, but they were dreams he was willing to sacrifice to see come true.

I have big dreams myself. In my opinion if you’re going to dream you might as well dream big. My dream; that the children of Romania be given a chance to have their own dreams. What a copout right? Maybe. Maybe not. Can you really dream of a dream? Maybe I should explain.

Do you remember your childhood dreams? Maybe you still have those dreams. As a child maybe you dreamed of being an actress, doctor, lawyer, or firefighter. There was a time my daughter wanted to be a princes. In my opinion she already was! However, if that’s really what she wants to be then I would do anything I could to help her be a princess. There is something to be cherished about the freedom to dream big. As American’s we sometimes take for granted the freedom to dream big. Even more than that, we take for granted to resources available to actually make these dreams come true.

Through my years of mission work and worldly travels I have often wondered what a child living in a one room shack with dirt floors and nine other siblings could possibly dream about at night. Was it to be a doctor or a lawyer? Maybe she dreamed of being a princess. More than likely she dreamed of a world without pain and suffering; an opportunity to just be a kid. Her dream might be as simple as a new pair of shoes. Maybe her dream is for a new dress. Maybe it’s just for a warm meal or a bed of her own on top of a freshly tiled floor that is covered with a roof that does not leak. We might consider her dreams simple. I assume she would disagree.

In 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a theory of Human Motivation. His thesis was that before a person could seek to fulfill “higher” needs they must meet their most basic needs. This theory has never been more true than in the life of an at-risk child. After all, how can an eights year old that sleeps on a twin bed with six siblings dream of anything but basic necessities?

I have a dream. A dream that one day all children will receive the freedom to dream big. My dream is that they will one day be able to dream of being a prince or a princess not what they will each for breakfast the next morning. So how do we make this dream come true? More on this next week. Aspire to new heights (heights for yourself and heights for others).



Monday, July 5, 2010

Celebration of Independence

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."
Elie Wiesel, Romanian born American writer. Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986

One of the things Kacee and I realized while living in Romania was that life goes on whether you are present or not. So many things changed while we were away from home. At the same time we now realize that life continues in Romania in our absence. We also discovered that our calendar is different than the calendar in Romania (in many, many ways). Many of our holidays do not coincide with those in Romania. Easter is based upon the Orthodox calendar so they only line up with America every once in a while. Thanksgiving in the U.S. is November 25 but it’s not a holiday in Romania. We found this out the hard way as we searched and searched for a turkey (dead of course).

July 4th in Romania is just another day. However, the celebration of our independence always forces me to reflect upon the things I have to be thankful for and to think about my Romanian brothers. All too often we in America read about history while many around the world actually live it. Most of us have no idea the cost that was paid for our independence. Most Romanians still have a vivid memory of what was paid for their independence (many actually paid a price themselves).

As I reflect upon all the things I have to be thankful for, especially my freedom, I cannot help but think about the responsibility that comes with this freedom. After all, didn’t I read somewhere that “to whom much is given, much is expected?” I can’t help but think that with all this freedom I have a responsibility to do something. That’s why I’ve committed to making life a little bit better for my Romanian brothers and sisters.

I’m excited about what the future holds. I find myself having numerous conversations about future opportunities in Romania. Todd, Ovidiu, and I (as well as our families) are truly excited about the future. We hope to have exciting news to share in the near future. Until then, aspire to new heights.

Don’t forget our planning meeting Monday, July 19. We have several churches joining us to discuss the future of Romania. Please pray for us. If you would like more information shoot me an email at jonahogg@gmail.com.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Planting Seeds – A celebration. A challenge.

"After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames."1 Corinthians 3: 5-15

Yesterday I was honored to join Pioneer Drive Baptist Church as they reflected and celebrated our recent trip to Romania. What a blessing it was to sit through three services and hear trip participant testimonies regarding this trip. Each participant obviously had different experiences. However, as I listened and observed each participant several things stood out in my mind.

A Time of Celebration – My heart jumped with joy as I heard the stories of lives changed, both in the participant and in the children we served. We obviously had much to celebrate. Our trip was a huge success. A number of children came to know the Lord. We were able to deliver bags and bags of groceries, medicine, and cleaning supplies. Doors were opened for future ministry opportunities. The foundation was laid (literally) for the House of Joy. Pastor Stan Allcorn said it best when he said, “I cannot imagine this trip without each and every trip member.” Every trip participant played a key role in the success of our trip.

Planting Seeds – By the second service I noticed a theme: Seed Planting. I don’t know why, but it seemed almost every participant talked about seeds being planting. No doubt seeds were planted, some were watered, and some were even harvested. What pleased me the most was the talk of planting seeds and the desire to see those seeds cultivated!

A Challenge - I remember the first time I visited Romania. I observed some of the most fertile soil I had ever seen. What disappointed me the most was seeing how much land sat barren. Even worse was the number of orchards that had been abandoned over the past 10 years. They were neglected and consequently not bearing fruit. Our lives are no different than these barren fields and orchards. If someone does not take the time to plant the seed, we will never see the harvest. I cannot count how many times I’ve been told by Romanians that they waited 50 years for America to save them. Greeted with open arms, we now have an opportunity to slowly plant seeds within the people of Romania. Like Robert Coleman once said, “If you want a harvest in one year, plant corn; if you want a harvest in 20 years, plant trees; if you want a harvest for eternity, plant people. Obviously, the future of Romania will depend upon the seeds that are planted today. The true hope for Romania lies in the hands of the Romanian’s themselves. Our greatest impact is not to “save” Romania, but rather to empower them to impact their own country. I was honored to team with 43 Americans as we worked alongside 20 plus Romanians in an effort to do just that; empowerment.

Our Romanian Team – I cannot think of a more powerful team to empower than Ovidiu, Adina, Ruben, and Dani. One other thing that consistently stood out yesterday during team testimonies was Ovidiu Patrick. Ovidiu and his team made a huge impression upon the American team. I have no doubt we’ve picked the right team to partner with in the future.

Moving Forward – As we go forward I have very little idea as to what the future holds. What I do know is that God is challenging me to continue to connect American churches and individuals with my friends in Romania. He’s challenging me to facilitate the empowerment of my Romanian brothers and sisters. I’m honored to answer that call. In response to that call I’m going to co-host an interest meeting with Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in July. During this meeting we will discuss the future of our Romanian partnership and determine how we will proceed. I have invited several individuals and churches. If you have any interest in attending or inviting leadership from your church shoot me an email at jonahogg@gmail.com.

Thanks again for following along each week. Seeds are being planted and I can’t wait to see them grow. Until then, aspire to new heights.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Just Bee Cause (A Message from Pastor Ovidiu)

I asked our dear friend and brother Ovidiu Patrick if he would be so kind to guest blog this week to give his thoughts on the recent Pioneer Drive Baptist Church trip to his village. Here are his thougths.

Last year I sold my bees. A pastor friend of mine came to me and asked me to help him and I said I cannot because I am busy with the bees. He said “People are more important than bugs”. Those words followed me until I put people first. Last week something small but miraculous happened to me. In the last four years I was the one sharing the honey from my bees with people from America. This year the team that came from Abilene had no clue that I used to raise bees. Guess what happened? Two separate people in the group offered me a bear full of honey. It was unbelievable.

When you put God first and people as a high priority, God honors you. He honored me in little things, through that small gift of honey and He also honored me in big things through people like those in Abilene, Texas, that impacted the Romanian local community in several places. Lots of children from the orphanage in Gavojdia village were blessed because of their work, more children in the VBS from the Susani surrounding villages were touched with the Gospel and those that served on the House of Joy construction site shocked everybody by how fast Americans build. As a result, on Saturday we had around 250 people that came to touch the walls (people were actually sitting on bricks, little walls on the House of Joy building).

What a great testimony for all the people that saw and heard about what happened to Susani, Romania last week because some people from Abilene were ready to put God first and His priorities for their lives. All they did was indeed a real success spiritually, relationally, materially. The leaders of the group from Pioneer Drive Baptist Church are courageous, hard working people. It was a blessing to be around them, to see how they encourage each other, how they motivate their team. I believe with all of my heart this is the beginning of a huge partnership that we will build one bit at a time.

The vision that God has for this partnership is bright and powerful, it is a saving vision, a joyful vision. The House of Joy wants to bring the joy of salvation to as many people as possible in our generation. Last week, together with our brothers and sisters from Abilene we were able to make a huge step in reaching this goal. The abundant joy will flow.

What a joy it is to hear first hand the impact our mission trip had. Thank you Ovidiu for sharing from your heart. (By the way, I still miss that wonderful honey you and your bees made!) Also, another thank you to our wonderful team for the impact you had and the seeds you planted. Have a blessed week. Aspire to new heights.