Monday, May 31, 2010

Ovidiu and Adina Patrick – Following His Game Plan

“Hello from Romania! As the pastor of Susani Baptist Church I want to thank you for joining me and my wife Adina as we serve our community and those around us. Please allow me to share with you about my family. God allowed me to meet Adina while I was in seminary in Oradea and in the last year of school we got married. Since then, God has blessed us with a great marriage of 6 ½ years. I have a degree in theology and my wife Adina has a degree in social work. Since July 2007 she works as a social worker in a small city hall one mile away from our home. Every Sunday I preach the Word of God twice, once in Susani village and in the afternoon I preach in Lugoj city, 13 miles away from Susani. We are excited about our church in Susani and the efforts our members are making to reach our community. We are also happy about our new ministry in Lugoj. We have started a Bible Study group where we have young people that come to study and to have fellowship with our team. We love helping people and show them the love of Christ. For those that will join us in Romania soon we cannot wait to see you. For those that are not coming we pray you will visit us soon.” - Ovidiu Patrick

As I reflect upon the years I’ve known Ovidiu and Adina many things come to mind. The first thing I think of is a great team. All good teams have a game plan for their opponent. However, it is usually the ones that are most capable of taking the circumstances they face and altering their game plan that come out winners. Ovidiu and Adina exemplify what it means to allow God to be in control when it comes to making a “game plan” for their life and ministry. Ovidiu has served as pastor of a small Romania village by the name of Susani since graduating from seminary close to five years ago. Early in his career Ovidiu and his wife Adina decided to remain in Susani long-term in an effort to reach the youth and adults of this village and a number of surrounding villages. All too often these remote villages are forgotten by missionaries and local believers. Ovidiu is young, educated, and trustworthy, all of which are characteristics necessary to pastor a large church in Romania. However, Ovidiu and Adina feel God has called them to serve via the remote villages, not the large cities.

Through VBS, camps, weekly prayer meetings, and now short-term mission teams, Ovidiu and Adina are reaching hundreds of children in these remote villages. And, by reaching these children, they are also paving the way for their parent’s salvation. Are there consequences to this decision? Absolutely. Are they greater than the consequences of not following His will? Absolutely not. John F. Kennedy observed, “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

As Kacee and I were toiling with the idea of moving to Romania a friend made this statement, “When God’s will is for something to happen, it is going to happen, with you or without you. If you are not willing to help make it happen, He will find someone that is willing. The people He is calling you to serve will not suffer due to your lack of commitment; however, you will!” Thank you, Ovidiu and Adina for your willingness to follow His “game plan” and teaching all of us to be receptive to His will for us.

Ovidiu once sent me an email containing the following verse, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10. What a joy it is to partner with such Godly servants. See you soon good friend. See you soon.

Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves. Only such a larger purpose can inspire us to heights we know we could never reach on our own. For each of us the real purpose is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why. But, nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose. Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service. - Os Guiness

One thing about me that you will soon learn is that I’m a huge NASCAR fan. Make fun if you want, but NASCAR is not just for your “redneck” father anymore. It is a modern day sport that I find entertaining. Anyhow, my reasoning for loving the sport is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make. One of my favorite NASCAR personalities is Daryl Waltrip or DW as he is affectionately known by race fans. DW is the lead analyst for Fox and considered to be a strong Christian. During a recent race DW was asked how dedicated a driver was to winning. He said, “The difference between dedication and commitment is very small. When you sit down for breakfast and have bacon and eggs the chicken is dedicated but the pig is committed.”

So, my question to you is, “are you dedicated or are you committed to your role in our trip?” Are you counting the days until our trip? My dad always told me the most important thing in life is to do something you enjoy doing. I cannot think of anything else I would rather do than introduce my new friends to my old friends in Romania.

Ask yourself today, “Am I the chicken or am I the pig.” I’m a Hogg! Have a blessed Sunday. Aspire to new heights.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quality time

If you’ve read my blog in the past, I apologize for reposting an old blog. However, I felt it was very relevant to our upcoming trip.

Some of my most memorable moments in Romania were in the villages, most notably Susani. Susani was our home away from home. I don’t have an exact population count on Susani and I’m pretty sure the census won’t make it over, but my best estimate is approximately 300 residents. I haven’t been able to find a good source of information on Susani on the internet. Let’s just say Bing, Google, and Wikipedia do not recognize this little village. However, I’ve been told a number of stories that I’m sure have been passed down from generation to generation. If my memory serves me right artifacts have been found that date back to 25 B.C. I’m not sure we truly know what history is!

As I’ve said before, this village is home to two of my closest friends Daniel Olariu and Ovidiu Patrick. Daniel is a local farmer, business man, and jack of all trades. Ovidiu is the local pastor. Visiting Susani is like taking a step back in time. There is not a single paved road in the village. Residents live in small homes with a large garden out back. The coolest thing is seeing the livestock grazing in the fields nearby, open range. I promise you it is one of the prettiest sights you will ever see.I still remember spending a few days in Susani during our first winter in Romania. Traditionally Romanians return to their family roots in the village following the first freeze to process meat for the coming year. We processed the animals the old fashioned way. I will save you the details (and pictures) but it pretty much involves an axe, knife, a tree and rope. At the end of the day they have a bucket full of meat to either be smoked or salted that will last the year.Romanians are event oriented and this is definitely an event for the ages. Everyone returns to the villages and they have a large feast. Kacee and I were fortunate enough to “enjoy” this feast. We had pan fried liver and lungs, brain, pork, bread, and pickles. Kacee and I mostly had pork and bread. I did try the lungs and liver but I have had brain before and I chose not to try it again. This is where I tell you that it is offensive in most cultures if you refuse to eat food they’ve prepared!Most people would get wrapped up in this process and how archaic or uncivil it is, as well as how unpleasant the brains, liver, and lungs were. But if you truly look beyond what we would consider different you find yourself a culture steeped with tradition and appreciation for quality time together. This was one of the first things I grew to appreciate about Romania and still miss to this day. All too often I find myself consumed with speed and productivity. We miss so many opportunities in life for fellowship and relationship building.

No doubt one does not have to travel to a village half-way around the world to experience these things. But a quick visit is refreshing and reminds me of how important quality time with friends and family should be. I hope you will enjoy this quality time as well. Aspire to new heights.

Friday, May 28, 2010

More than a partner

I’ll never forget the first time I met Ovidiu and Adina. Kacee and I had been living in Romania probably no more than two months. Our good friend Daniel invited us to a Romanian wedding. What a cultural experience. I’m not much of a wedding guy! (other than my own, of course!) Therefore my opinion may be a bit off regarding this experience. However, I do recall a service that took several hours (and we didn’t understand any of it). Anyhow, after a lengthy ceremony we joined close family and friends for a reception. This was a little more to my liking. Over the next three to four hours we ate and ate and ate. Just when you thought you could not eat any more, they brought out the cake! Anyhow, I digress.

As we entered the reception Daniel sat me and Kacee across from Ovidiu and Adina and said, “Sit here, they know English!” The rest as they say is history. We struck up an immediate friendship. For those of you that know Ovidiu and Adina you will agree with me that you cannot help but be drawn to this wonderful Christian family. For those that do not, I hope you soon find out.

Ovidiu serves as the pastor for the Baptist church in Susani. He is a loving shepherd for his people. What sets Ovidiu and Adina apart from all the others is the fact that they are so committed to the future of the young people of Romania. On more than one occasion they have gathered via van and bus over 300 youth from numerous surrounding villages. Now if one truly believes that the future of Romania is the young people, how could you not want to partner with Ovidiu and Adina?

Aspire to new heights!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Power of Prayer

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

One of the greatest blessings our ministry and trip can receive is prayer. I’m so grateful to know that each trip participant has a prayer partner praying behind the scenes for our trip. I’m also blessed to know that a group will be gathering tonight to lift our trip up in prayer. I wanted to take a few minutes to list a few specific requests in hopes that you will add them to your prayer list.

  1. Safe Travel – Pray for save travel to and from the airport and Abilene. Pray for a safe flight. Pray for our travel in Hungary and Romania.
  2. Volcano – We are all aware of the volcano situation in Iceland and what impact it can have on our travels. Pray for a good West Texas wind to push the ash cloud North!
  3. Weather – Pray for good weather leading up to our trip so that the foundation for the House of Joy will be completed. Pray for good weather during our trip so that we will be able to continue construction and so we will be able to build relationships with the children as we spend time with them outdoors.
  4. In Country Team – Lift up our in country hosts. Pray for Ovidiu, Adina, Ruben, Danny, Delia, and our many volunteers, partners, and translators.
  5. Trip Leaders – Pray for Jon, Todd, and Nathan as they continue to finalize details for the trip and lead the team during our time in Romania as well.
  6. Pastors – Lift up Pastor Stan and Pastor Ovidiu as they share His word on a daily basis, both as our team leaders, and at local churches each night.
  7. Health and Rest – Pray for the physical and mental health of each team member. Pray that everyone will remain healthy and strong and that jet lag and different food types will not have a bearing on anyone’s health.
  8. Orphanage – Lift up the children we will be working with at the orphanage. Pray they will see the face of Jesus in each team member. Pray for their future. Also lift up the staff and volunteers that work to make life easier for these children.
  9. Susani – Lift up the village of Susani. Pray for His word to spread through the members of this community. Pray they will go forth from this village and be witnesses throughout Romania and other countries as well. Pray they will be receptive to our work and adopt it as their own.
  10. Longevity of Ministry – Pray that the seeds planted during this trip will be long lasting. Pray for the House of Joy community center and the impact it will have for years to come. Pray for those that will be left behind to continue the ministry. Pray for the future of the orphanage and the children we will be serving in the orphanage.
  11. Ministry Partners – Pray for our existing ministry partners in Romania and the US. Pray that God will continue to bring forth individuals and churches willing to serve in Romania.

For additional information on Romania and ways to pray for our host country visit the following link (Pray for Romania).

Thank you for joining us on this journey. Aspire to new heights.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Making Connections

There is no truer statement than “Hindsight is always 20-20.” Looking back over the past 10 years and the relationships God has blessed us with fully confirm this statement. I’ve already shared with you in previous posts about my first two visits to Romania. However, it was not until my third visit that several key relationships would be established that are still playing a role in our lives today.

Upon my return from Romania as an intern I decided I wanted to go back to school and complete my doctorate. During that time I really wanted to return to Romania and conduct my dissertation research on Romanian agriculture. Through a friend of a friend I met a man by the name of Mike Attaway. Mike was an agricultural missionary and he was actually going on a trip to Romania during Spring Break. I decided to go on this trip with Mike. Sparing you many of the details, this was where I first met Daniel Olariu and the first time I visited Susani.

These relationships might have seemed similar to all other relationships. However, three years later Daniel assisted me in finding a teaching job in Romania. Daniel also served as our guardian angel while we lived in Romania. Most important of all, Daniel exposed us to Susani (and introduced us to Ovidiu and Adina, more on that another day). Susani became our home away from home. The people of this great village adopted me and Kacee and treated us like natives. Now some five years later I finally have the chance to return the favor. I cannot wait to see so many familiar faces. I’m so excited to be returning to work with the children of Susani and to partner with the natives of Susani in building the House of Joy community center.

I’m thankful for those of you that are joining us on this adventure. I’m thankful for those of you that have also helped financially. I’m especially thankful for those of you that have committed to pray for this ministry.

Aspire to new heights.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just Jon

“God has provided each of us with certain capabilities and opportunities. He is aware, of course, of our environmental obstacles and roadblocks – for example, the problems we have faced in our family life. He knows our inherent weaknesses and the circumstances that are beyond our control. But at the same time, God wants us to use what we have at our disposal. He wants us to develop our capacities and use them to the fullest.”
– Gene Getz

This quote really resonates with me, especially as I reflect upon the numerous mission experiences I’ve had. You see, one of the things I like the most about missions is that you can be whoever you want to be (within reason of course)! It is a little like the guy who always stays at a Holiday Inn. He is capable of so much more just because of where he spent the night. Going on a mission trip gives you the opportunity to be the person you want to be.

Now before you scoff, give me a chance to defend myself. I’m not telling you to go on a mission trip and impersonate a doctor. What I am telling you is that your slate is clean. Even though our slate is always clean with Jesus, we sometime operate as though it is not. But on a mission trip we are free of all our past. You can use your past as a guidepost rather than a hitching post!

What I really love is the fact that I’m Jon, the guy that flew across the ocean to spend a week serving when I’m on a mission trip. I’m not Jon the salesman. I’m not Jon the guy who forgot to use his blinker and cut you off. I’m not Jon the guy who should have spent more nights in the library when he was in college instead of hanging with friends. I’m not Jon the guy who chose to watch T.V. instead of have my quiet time. I’m just Jon, a servant of Christ.

However, it should not stop there. My hope is the person I become while on mission is not some counterfeit person; rather I hope this is the person I truly desire to be, the person God created me to be. With that in mind I try to take that person home with me and be that person back home as well. It is a challenge to maintain, especially when life gets back in full swing. We have a family to take care of, a job to tend to, and no doubt our personal vices (golf, football, T.V.) pulling at us from different directions. Regardless of who you are when you get on the plane to fly to Romania and regardless of whom you become when you return home, I truly hope you will ask God to show you who He wants you to be. Maybe He will use this trip to mold you into that person. That’s my prayer. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A passion secured

My first trip to Romania no doubt made me fall in love with this country. It was not until my second trip that I actually developed a passion for my second home. I decided to return to Romania the summer of 2000 to serve as an intern at an orphan camp. Writing this blog brings back so many memories. Camp Lapusna as it was called was a good three hour bus ride from civilization. This old camp at the top of some mountain was originally a youth summer camp during communism. We were so happy to get one warm shower a week. Usually we walked to the river where we would jump in the water, get out, apply soap, and jump back in to remove the soap. The water was so cold it would take your breath away.

Every experience I’ve had working with orphans, regardless of the country, has been a wonderful experience. However, the two experiences that stand out the most involved living with the children 24/7. The first was this particular experience in Camp Lapusna. The other was in Latvia. Sure you may build relationships with kids teaching VBS half a day or even a full day, but the true relationships come from sharing meals with the kids, tucking them in bed at night, and spending all your free time with them.

Oh the memories of Camp Lapusna. How could I forget the Water Nazi, stepping on a viper, or living off peanut butter and crackers! I still remember riding a bus from the Budapest airport to camp. It took close to 15 hours on a long and winding road. I remember sneaking into my room so not to wake my roommates. Even better, I remember waking (with jet lag) to all 15 of my roommates staring at me as they tried to figure out who I was!

But the memory than stands out the most was something that revolved around a key hole. You see, each morning the staff and interns would meet for prayer before everyone else was up. During this time we would pray for the children individually by name. Our meeting room was connected to one of the sleeping quarters for the children. And unbeknownst to us the children would take turns looking through the key hole of the door and watch us pray. Little did we know the impact this simple act of faith would have on a room full of children.

Don’t you agree with me that every child, or every person for that matter, deserves to be prayed for by name? I hope you will join me in praying for them. Aspire to new heights.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Chance Encounter

If you’ve read my blog in the past or if you’ve gone back over some of my older posts you’ve probably heard me quote my wife more than once. I’m proud of my wife and I’m proud to have shared so many wonderful experiences with her the past nine years (as of Wednesday to be exact). We have a lot of similarities and many differences. She balances me out. At times she’s the roots and I’m the wings of our relationship. At times it is the other way around.

I’ll never forget one of the most profound things she ever said; “Sometimes God takes us one place just to get us to another.” This should be our mission statement. During the nine years of our marriage we have lived in Lubbock, Houston, and Romania. That may not seem like much to you but we have had three stints in Lubbock, one in Houston and one in Romania. This does not count several moves in Lubbock and several in Romania. This means a lot of moving and a lot of “homes” or houses rather. Home to most of us is where our family is, where we reside day-in and day-out. Some say, “Home is where the heart is.” The question is; can your heart be in two places at once? Romania has to be a place where I “left my heart.” In preparation for an upcoming trip to Romania in June I’ve reflected a lot about what has drawn me to this country for the past 10 years. During this self discovery I found my trip notes from the very first trip I took to Romania in March 1999. As a side note, I’m not sure I’ve ever thanked my dad for taking me to Romania with him. Knowing he is the only self proclaimed follower of my blog I can give a shout out to him and say thank you for exposing me to this wonderful country. Isn’t it amazing how one small experience in our life will shape our decisions from that point forward?

If my memory serves me right I don’t think I even knew where Romania was before this trip in 1999. I’m not even sure I knew Romania was a country (geography was not my strong suit). Now this country I’d never heard of before has become the place I think about daily. My thoughts, prayers, hopes and dreams may not revolve around Romania, but they definitely go there often. After reviewing my notes I’m reminded why. I spent the very first day in this country in a dilapidated orphanage with 100 plus kids that had absolutely no hope or promise. I spent the entire week with six of the most spiritual men I’ve ever known. Their wisdom and spiritual maturity still guide me today.

Many would argue my passion is less about Romania and more about Romania being the first country I ever took a mission trip. There may be a hint of truth to this statement but I still believe it is about the country. Honestly it probably isn’t the country itself, but rather the people from this country. Some of my best friends are Romanian. Others may not be Romanian but I met them in Romania. As I take the next few weeks to share with you my aspirations for Romania I hope you catch a glimpse of the oversized hearts my friends in Romania have. I love them as though they were family. To me they are! For those of you that are travelling with me to Romania in June I hope you will one day share my enthusiasm. For those that are not, I hope you will follow along and join us the next trip! Until then, aspire to new heights.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Beginnings

Your computer is not playing tricks on you. Today is May 19, 2010, and the last time I blogged was May 18, 2010. I guess you could say I’ve taken a yearlong sabbatical from blogging. To say I didn’t have anything to blog about would be far from true. Much has happened the last 365 days. I’m not even going to focus on that. I don’t want to dwell on the past. I’d rather focus on the future. I’m excited about the future, primarily my upcoming trip to Romania June 5-15 with Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. I want to spend the next few weeks talking about Romania and why I have such a heart for this wonderful country. Most of my blogs will be directed at those joining me on the trip. However, I hope others will follow along as well. Who knows, maybe you will join us on the next trip. My hope is that I’ll be able to continue writing blogs during our trip. Then upon our return I might actually keep blogging. Who knows! None-the-less, I hope you aspire to new heights. I know I’ve been challenged the past 365 days to do that very thing. I hope you join me.