Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Swinging a New Direction...

Enjoying a warmer winter day with my friend, Sherry

After years of praying and training and trusting the Lord to direct my steps, as of February 16, I am an official member of New Tribes Mission!

Perhaps I should back up just a tad… Things have changed a lot for me since returning to the NTM training center in Missouri. As you all know, I came back to study linguistics. After a couple of weeks, I was really struggling, and it became clear that I don't have a high aptitude for linguistics. After praying and seeking counsel, I withdrew from the program.

So what's next? In talking with the staff here, they asked me to consider serving as the director's administrative assistant. After more prayer and counsel :), I decided to become a member of New Tribes Mission and commit to serving here at the training center through May. I am praying about the future--whether God would have me serve here long term or if He has something else.

I am taking a short trip to California this month. And, Lord willing, I will return there in the summer and do some traveling--sharing what the Lord is doing in me and through NTM. I look forward to seeing many of you then!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 2009

I can’t believe the date is now 2009! It seems like just yesterday I was graduating high school and agonizing over which college to attend. That was 9 years ago! I’m starting to feel old. :) It’s pretty crazy to look back over the last 9 years and see what has transpired in my life; it’s not the road I would have imagined, but then God is the one directing my steps regardless of the plans I make (Proverbs 16:9).

My road is taking another turn that I didn’t plan when I began my training with New Tribes Mission. I officially graduated from the MTC (Missionary Training Center) on December 19th; however, I am headed back to Missouri in a couple of days after spending Christmas break here at my parents’ house in Texas. This last semester I became more interested in further study in linguistics; the MTC offers a course which includes roughly 5 months of study in Missouri and then a 7 week practicum in Oklahoma. There are limited spaces, and although the program was full in August, the Lord opened up a spot for me in November. After praying and seeking counsel, I decided to take the spot. So the plan is to be in Missouri until May and then, Lord willing, spend the summer in Atascadero, CA. Towards the end of August, I will head to Oklahoma for the 7 week Cherokee practicum, which puts me finishing the training some time in October.

What will the next step be after that? I am asking myself the same question. :) Will you continue to pray with me for direction for the future? I am open to whatever the Lord might have—whether it’s a “support” ministry or a tribal church planting ministry. I would truly appreciate your prayers for patience, wisdom and steadfast faith as I continue to seek the Lord and His will for my life.

I trust this finds you all looking forward to what God wants to do in and through you in the coming year! In a time when many things seem uncertain, it’s a comfort to know that God is in control, and we can trust Him—regardless of the circumstances.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
Colossians 1:9-12

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summer 2008

Just wanted to give a short update on what's been going on with me this summer. I arrived here in Atascadero, California, in time for my church's annual service in the park. It was crazy running around and saying hello to everyone after being gone for one year—crazy but FUN! My dad was with me, and my brother and his girlfriend came down from the Bay Area; it was great spending time with family. We all missed my mom, though!

I have spent the last month and a half working and catching up with LOTS of people. I told someone the other day that all I've done since I arrived is EAT and TALK. There are worse things! I have really enjoyed reconnecting with everyone. I've enjoyed it so much the time has flown by… I can't believe it's already mid July.

God was faithful to provide a job for me. I've been working for a company called SevnOne; it's owned by a couple of guys from my church (Atascadero Bible Church). These guys have a heart to reach youth through extreme sports and the arts, and this year they started a camp to do just that. They needed someone to take care of last-minute details and purchases, and I needed a job, so we're all happy!

I know I have mentioned my trip to the Czech Republic. I can't believe it's just around the corner! There are eight of us on the team; we will partner with a Czech church to run a week-long English camp. You will probably remember I took a similar trip two years ago, and I'm excited to return and reconnect with some of my students and (of course) meet new people. We return August 5th, and shortly after I will head back to Missouri for my final semester at the Missionary Training Center.

I would love it if you would join our team in prayer for the next two weeks in the Czech Republic; here are some specifics:

**Pray for safe travels.

**Pray we would display the love of Christ in our interactions with each other and with the Czechs.

**Pray God would open the hearts of the Czech people to the message of Christ and His gospel.

I'll post an update (and pictures, of course) when we get back! :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Flies!

Wow, I can't believe I've really completed two semesters at the Missionary Training Center (MTC)! It seems like just yesterday I was packing up and leaving California. I recall the difficulties of adjusting to a new place yet again--wondering if ROACH, Missouri, could ever feel like home. :) I am pleased to say that it was hard to leave the MTC; our semester ended one week ago, and looking back, God granted me some special friendships and taught me a great deal about myself and who I am because of Him. Of course, that comes with a growing awareness of who I am apart from Him... and it's not pretty. It just makes me all the more grateful for His love, patience and faithfulness!

I am currently at my parents' house in El Paso, Texas. My plan is to arrive in California late next week; I will spend the summer there--working (Lord willing!) and enjoying time at my church in Atascadero. If God wills, I will be joining a team from my church on a trip to the Czech Republic towards the end of July. You all may remember I was part of a team that went to Czech during the summer of 2006, and I am excited about returning and being part of an English camp once again!

I plan to return to Missouri in the fall for my final semester at the MTC. Lord willing, I will complete the training with New Tribes Mission by December of this year, and we'll see where God takes me from there! :)

Scroll down for LOTS of pictures! :)

Snapshots of Spring

More Pics - Spring '08

I have plenty of room; come and visit me! Ha, ha... Just kidding!

Sarah and I did work detail together...

Enjoying some time on a boat with friends (Renae here)...


The lake...

Renae and Kevin

Dress up with Renae :)

Learning about the sounds that make up languages in Phonetics class

Getting into the Missouri culture :)

In our Health and Wellness class, I learned to take blood pressure and give a shot!

Raul and Melanie Salaverria - teachers from my MK school in Mexico

An outing to Springfield--shopping and Olive Garden! :)

Surprise birthday party for Mel

Some guys in our class built a very impressive cabin in the woods!

Renae and me at the "jungle camp" cabin

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring 2008

Jim and Connie Turek... a staff couple who have really blessed me this semester.

Good friends - Micah and Kristy Goulart (with adorable little Sofia!)

Valdecio and Suzy Da Silva (staff)... I enjoy watching American Idol with them! :)

With my friend, Sherry... That was one stubborn lid on those artichokes!

God has blessed me with getting to know Melanie this semester; I so enjoy her friendship...

With Renae at her graduation; she's now working in the child care dept., so I haven't lost her yet!

Rebekah, Melanie and Candace

Beth and Melanie

Our worship band
Mel and I take band practice very seriously! :)

Grammar - Sorry this picture isn't very clear, but at least it gives you an idea of what I'm doing!

Grammar homework - Analyzing languages and then charting... and charting... AHHH!!!

Yes, that is me soldering! Tech Tips taught us about living in a remote location--solar panels, wiring, water filtration, etc. I understood a few things along the way. :)

My poor lab partner, Valerie

Helping with "Jesus Loves Me" at "Rowdy Worship Night at New Tribes" :)


I know it's been a while... This semester has been busy! I'm learning more about languages (in Phonetics and Grammar classes), which has been challenging... and fun... sometimes. :) I continue to meet with Lisa; I pray that she will be drawn closer to our Father through our time together. Switching gears... I enjoyed housesitting for a staff friend for almost two months. Now--that may not seem like a big deal, but remember... That means a shower and a washer/dryer INSIDE! :) Thank you, Lord, for little blessings!
I am giving a 10 minute "speech" tomorrow, and I thought I would just post it here... It's a little rough, but it will give you some idea of what God has been showing me these past months. I know it's kinda long, so if words aren't your bag, scroll up for some pictures. :)

Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to share with you. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Esther Irwin, and I am training to be a missionary with New Tribes Mission. I have spent the last 10 months or so in Missouri, taking all kinds of classes—some spiritual in nature and others more hands on (like Tech Tips where I learned about soldering and solar panels and wiring). For those of you that know me well, you know that was a real stretch! But God is good, and He is always faithful to teach me things that I wouldn’t choose to learn on my own.

It’s hard to look at all I’ve learned and choose something to share with you all. Sometimes I feel that the busyness of classes and life in Missouri distracts me from what is most important—and that is cultivating my personal relationship with God. I get caught up with classes and the work program and local outreach and maintaining friendships… On and on it goes. And I find myself losing focus—even losing motivation at times.

I was really challenged in one of our chapels when our speaker talked about having an undivided heart. I was reminded (yet again!) that the reason I get off track and discouraged is because the affections of my heart are being pulled in a million directions. This morning I want to talk about fixing my affection on Christ and the truths of His Word.

In one of our classes, we were given this list of questions; they were called “x-ray” questions because answering them honestly gives a pretty accurate reflection of your heart. I just want to read them for you.

i) What am I preoccupied with?
ii) What is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night?
iii) How would I complete this statement: "If only _____________, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure"?
iv) What do I want to preserve or avoid?
v) Where do I put my trust?
vi) What do I fear?
vii) When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?
viii) Is there something I desire so much that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?

Those are some pretty scary questions in my opinion. And answering them showed me how misguided my affections are. Do I truly desire to know God and obey Him above all else? Or am I being driven by other things—pleasing my friends, being entertained, checking off my “To Do” list?

When I think about an undivided heart, the first person that comes to mind is the apostle Paul. I have been studying Philippians this last semester, and it has been so challenging. Throughout the book, Paul’s desire to know Christ above all else is so evident. In chapter one, he says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In chapter three, he says, “But whatever was to my profit I consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” He goes on in chapter three to talk about life as if it were a race for a prize. He uses words like “straining” and “pressing on”; he wanted to run with urgency and with a clear purpose out in front—to know Christ and to be obedient to His instructions.

I like the word picture that Paul uses—that of a runner. I try to put myself in that position; I’m running in a race—not one of those in a stadium where you go around and around… but more of a cross-country race, maybe like a triathlon. I can’t see the finish line. I find myself in difficult circumstances; maybe the swimming or the biking isn’t my strong suit. I’m thirsty and exhausted, and at times I feel like quitting. I can’t see the path to the end, and I can’t imagine how I will make it… What am I going to do? Give up? Or will I keep going—one step at a time, remembering my training and focusing on what I know to be true? That perseverance and discipline will draw me closer and closer to the prize at the finish line?

I want to pause for a second and talk a little bit about those difficult circumstances and how they can affect me. Probably one of the most trying things for me this past year has been trusting God to show me what direction I should go in the future. I don’t have a really clear picture yet of how God wants to use me to reach tribal people with the gospel. I know that I want to be involved in the task, but the HOW eludes me… I think God is trying to show me that I need to simply trust Him day by day. I need to focus on one thing: knowing Him and abiding in His Word. As I walk with Him, He will be faithful to guide me in His timing.

Resting and not being anxious is a real struggle for me. Again, going back to Philippians, chapter four says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

One thing that struck me about these verses is that they say the PEACE of God will GUARD your HEARTS and MINDS. I know it’s kind of funny, but I really started getting this image of a Roman centurion (holding a spear, of course) standing outside my heart and mind—only allowing that which is true and right to enter and fighting off all the rest.

Chapter four goes on to tell us to think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, etc. And Paul tells us, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

There’s that PEACE thing again. I can’t help but notice that PEACE is directly tied in to what we dwell on and what we do. When we dwell on truth and reject lies, and when we put into practice that which God has commanded, we will experience peace—the peace of walking in fellowship with our Father.

I am so grateful for who God is; His character doesn’t change. In the midst of my struggles and my discouragements, He is constant. He is good, loving, faithful, patient… It is my prayer that I will be steadfastly fixed to those truths—no matter what circumstances I find myself in. And that, like Paul, I will run the race with an undivided heart—running to know Christ, but not JUST to know Him—also to be a “doer” of His Word.

Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Christmas 2007 - El Paso, TX

My baby, Alaska :)

The fam

Mom (left) and her friend, Mary

Proof that men DO work in the kitchen occasionally... :)

Colombian breakfast!

My bro, Art

We went to the Sun Bowl--where Oregon destroyed USF...

Can't ya see I'm tryin' to work here? ;)

Dad and Alaska are buds while I'm away...