Just a Family, Sir

The middle-aged man thanked me as I handed him an ice-cold Pepsi and a Gospel tract. He then asked me what church we were with. I said, “No church, sir. We’re just a family that is trying to encourage people to think about where they are going to spend eternity.” He seemed surprised but genuinely grateful, smiled, put the Gospel tract in his pocket, and walked away.

The people that we met at our booth at the Leavenworth County Fair expected us to be part of some church membership/outreach program funded by a church budget. Once they learned that this was a project paid for and staffed by a family, the defenses seemed to crash down. They appeared to truly appreciate it. Through the week many came back each evening, and the conversation deepened, becoming more cordial and open. It was the most incredible opportunity to love our “neighbors” and give them a cup of cold “water” in Jesus’ name (Matthew 10:42).

As the week went on, we would question those we recognized as to whether they had read the tract we gave to them earlier, and most everyone said, “Yes.” We would then dig for a different one and query them to see if they had read the one we were holding. Often, we would ask them if they felt they had passed the good-person test, which was described in the first tract we always handed people. That would open the door for sharing Christ with them without being pushy or offensive. After talking about Jesus with someone who, by their own admission, indicated they were headed for hell, I would often ask them if I had offended them in any way. They always answered, “No.” Our goal was to clearly establish the need of a Savior but not to get someone to pray a quick prayer. The desire was to sow Gospel seed, which would spring up into true, life-changing new birth.

Nathan, my married son, and his wife, Melanie, had initiated the idea of renting a booth at the fair, feeling God’s direction, and he sought my counsel about it. Even though it sounded pretty incredible, I had peace about helping in any way we could. There were many questions about how and what was to be done, but few answers. We could hardly address the questions systematically because we had never done anything like this before. We had no way of knowing where the booth would be located or what kind of traffic there would be. Would people be suspicious or too proud to take a free drink? There were many things to pray about.

The logistics alone were quite staggering – purchasing, cooling, and transporting hundreds of cold drinks for each of five nights and one full day. Normally, as the dad, I have to pray though all of the issues of a project and then make the decisions, but it was wonderful because this time my role was not in leading but rather in undergirding. Nathan, my oldest “arrow,” was the head of this operation. I was greatly blessed to see not only his love for others but also the way the whole family worked together.

It was great to watch the children, young and old, all participating in various ways to make this happen. Nathan, Christopher, and John worked through some scenarios in trying to cool the drinks without having to purchase an iceberg every day. Eventually, they decided to split the drinks between four refrigerators each day and then put them in coolers with ice to take to the fair.

Transporting many extremely heavy coolers was another challenge. They decided to use two vehicles to move everything to the fairgrounds. The boys made multiple trips using a dolly and hand truck to get the coolers from the unloading area to our booth. Again, it was delightful to watch how the children worked “arm in arm.” That is the kind of teamwork that sports can never teach young people.

Since we didn’t know what we would encounter and wondered whether eleven people in front of a booth might be overpowering, I decided that the younger children would stay home with Teri and help as part of the support team. One big job that needed to be done was hand-stamping thousands of tracts with the www.FamiliesforJesus.com website that we would use for follow-up. Jesse, Mary, and Anna spent several hours stamping and repackaging the tracts. Then every night, Teri would have a special time of prayer with Anna, Jesse, and Mary for us and those with whom we were sharing Christ.

Life is short, and even shorter is the time we have with our children. We only have a few years to disciple them and prepare them for life in Christ. Opportunities like we had during the fair week are rare and valuable for all. Striving together with a common mission was a blessing. Because so many people came to our booth, each of us had the opportunity to learn to be more comfortable sharing Jesus when there was only a short amount of time for a conversation. I wonder how long it would take to have the same amount of witnessing experience if it were spread throughout the year.

The gentleman who was manning a booth next to us said he felt what we were doing was fantastic. He related that he had been watching the faces of those we talked to, and he believed many were under deep conviction through what was shared with them. He said he had traveled thousands of miles away from home on a youth mission trip for an experience that didn’t compare with what he saw going on at our booth. He felt most Christian teens think they have to go away somewhere to minister and what a shame that was. He wished he’d had an opportunity like what he was observing.

Youth mission trips are very popular. I know many have been greatly blessed by them. However, I also know mission trips are quite expensive, especially when the benefit is for just one person in a family to have a witnessing or mission-type experience. Unfortunately, while away from their families, some have also begun boy/girl relationships that have been undesirable. When considering a youth mission trip for your children, may I encourage you to pray about whether there might be something better in which all of the family could participate? Perhaps the Lord Jesus might be directing your family to minister together and, as a result, have a far greater impact than sending just one in the family away. Remember the response from the man I mentioned at the beginning when I told him, “We’re just a family”? I’m convinced that there is a far greater witness and power when things of this sort are done as a family.

Families are in shambles these days both in and out of the church. People are amazed when they see a family that is strong and serving together in a spirit of love. If our vision is to be used by the Lord Jesus Christ and serve others as a family, we will have the joy of being used by Him.

What is our purpose in being here and raising a family? Dads, may we each be committed to building arrows that are used for the Lord Jesus Christ. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth” (Psalms 127:4). May we each have a Christ-led family. May we each experience the joy of seeing how powerful the witness of a united family is when we are following the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have more about the fair on our Titus2.com blog.

Scheduling for Priorities and Flexibility

Praying about, planning, and putting together a new schedule for the school year is one of my summer priorities. Our 2006-2007 schedule had been committed to paper for a couple weeks when Steve and I began discussing the children’s request to have school time scheduled to practice their music together. The schedule already allowed for individual instrument practice, music theory, and harmony work – a fairly time-intensive amount of music in the school day. However, as we talked, it was apparent that at this point in our lives, music is a high priority because we are regularly doing a family-music session when we travel and speak. Having the children practicing together would be beneficial not only for them but also for the direction of our ministry.

Scheduling for Important Subjects

We decided to put their already-scheduled fifteen minutes a day of Spanish on hold for this year and cut their writing time from thirty to fifteen minutes. This would then free up thirty minutes in the school schedule for a sibling music practice. I returned to my colored squares and sticky tac for a second time to revise the schedule to reflect the changes Steve and I felt would be good for our children’s school year.

Not long after making the schedule change, Steve and I were talking on our daily, early morning walk. We discussed how great it was to take our once-a-week longer walk on the coolest morning of that hot, August week. We also realized that with school soon starting, our ability to go for a walk based on good weather would soon end. We would return to using Saturday to fit the two-hour walk into a non-school day. As I pondered that, the Lord prompted me to again be flexible with my schedule, using it to meet the particular needs of our family.

Willingness to Be Flexible in Scheduling

I found myself once again pulling my master schedule out of the cupboard for another round of revision. I could postpone my first one-on-one school meeting by forty-five minutes and move my “odds and ends” time from the afternoon into that slot. Then if it was a glorious morning and Steve was available for our long walk, I would available as well. “Odds and ends” time could be skipped for a walk, but my school meetings with each individual child are higher priorities – not bumped unless absolutely necessary.

My schedule is my tool. It is designed to help me accomplish what the Lord Jesus has called me to do. As I work with my schedule, I am setting it up, under Steve’s leadership, for the priorities that have been put in place in our family – for my time and for the children’s time as well. We take into consideration our children’s interests and their possible future needs. Thirteen-year-old Anna came to us and requested that we consider scheduling her science time to study gardening rather than the normal eighth-grade science book. As we prayed and evaluated that part of her school schedule, we decided if she had a gardening focus for science it would be helpful to her both now and in the future.

I can also use my schedule for built-in flexibility. In the case of the morning walks, I know that once a week I would like to start school later than I do on the other days. In order to accomplish that desire, I needed to place a low-priority activity in the morning that could be skipped for the walk when I choose to do so. Generally, I put the things that are least important for me to accomplish in the afternoon because I know that time is more easily interrupted than our morning school time is. However, for the sake of that walk and talking time with my husband, I made a change in our schedule to make it flexible, practical, and useable.

Another great facet of a schedule is that if the change I instituted does not work out well, I can go back to the way the schedule normally had been, or I can try something entirely different. Having the schedule committed to paper helps me make those changes. I am not trying to remember strictly from my mind the new pieces of the schedule.

This year, fourth-grade Mary will be reading her history, science, and health on her own. She has scheduled time that allows her to read, answer questions, plus take quizzes and tests. Steve and I wonder about her ability to accomplish this without my help. Her older siblings have done well in making the transition to more independent study in these subjects, but we aren’t so sure about Mary. As we discussed this situation, we decided to give her the opportunity to see if she could do it on her own. I made the schedule up this way. However, my schedule is flexible. If, as we begin the school year, it becomes apparent that Mary needs to read her history and science with me, I will rearrange her schedule and my schedule to accommodate that.

A schedule brings a great amount of order, productivity, direction, and peace to a homeschool home. It is my desire to share personal scheduling information with you that will help you envision the practical aspects of how a schedule can work in your family. Perhaps as you get a glimpse into my schedule discussions with Steve and how they affect my schedule making, you will be encouraged to tackle a schedule for your homeschool.

Our book, Managers of Their Homes has much more information on scheduling and includes the Scheduling Kit (colored squares and sticky tac) I mentioned. Daily, we receive testimonies about how this book is being used as a tool to transform families.