Christmas update

Here’s some of what we’ve been doing the past two weeks. SUCH a treat to be with all the stateside Iversons for Christmas…but we missed those that are serving the Lord on different continents!  More updates to come!


And here’s our family’s end of 2011 update letter!

IverUpdate Dec. 2011

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New friends from 3 different continents

Libyans from Africa. Saudi Arabians from the Middle East. Italians from Europe. Taiwanese from Asia.  The world was gathered in our home. And I am so thankful to be a part of it. I met Jesus in it.

As a follow-up to my recent conviction about being moved by the Spirit, I put aside my typical weekly agenda to get ready for a Christmas party for our housemate’s international friends. Amazingly, I didn’t do too much yelling at my children beforehand (they even helped with set-up and we shared a wonderful prayer time for it together in the afternoon!- thanks to the Spirit’s work) and we had a wonderful time with everyone.  We utilized three key universal languages-food, music, and children.  After our meal together, it was pretty amazing to have Muslims gathered around singing songs about Christ, the Savior,’s birth. The Gospel conversations we were able to engage in with each person were even better.  Instead of an “untouchable topic” like it is with many Americans, all the international students were eager to discuss differing views, sharing theirs and asking questions about others. We pray that the doors of hearts have begun to creak open through it all.
I was equally amazed at how eager each person was to interact and play with our kids. Some of them said they are always at the university and don’t see very many children. DJ got to have plastic sword fights with Valentina from Italy, and play iphone video games with “Derick” from Taiwan.  Trinity played musical instruments with her new best friend, Winnie, from Taiwan.  Katy-Grace played “come and get me!!” with Anece from Saudi Arabia. Benjamin befriended Monique , an 8 month old from Libya, whose parents are studying here.

We, including our children, are far richer for having hosted this party. We are challenged and grown as we hear first-hand how one’s religion affects their goals, their lives, and their culture. My children are now talking about flying to the different countries to visit their friends (I showed them on a map where each one lived–how’s that for a built-in homeschool lesson?? Geography 101 based on friends from around the world)

One part of the evening saddened me….When asked if they had made any American friends or been to an American’s home, each person said “no”. These new friends of ours have been here anywhere from 7 mo. to 2 1/2 years. Their most frequent interactions with Americans is with their English teacher in class. I asked Ibraham from Saudi Arabia if they preferred just spending time with other internationals or if they wished they could have relationships with Americans.  He said “No, we wish we could know Americans.  We are here to learn the language and the culture, but the American students are busy with their studies and their lives and we don’t know how to become friends with them.” The nations are 10 minutes away and we are too busy to reach out to them, befriend them, and share the Light of the Gospel with them.

Through these new friends, I have been so convicted…

To truly be a follower of Christ, he said we must obey his words.

This includes “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) The “going” to “all nations” has become so easy for us. We don’t even have to buy a plane ticket.

They are right here.

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Moved

Moved by the Spirit,

he went into the temple courts.

When the parents brought in the child Jesus…

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God..”

Luke 2:27,28

When I read this last week, I was so struck by the “being moved” part.  Because Simeon was willing to be moved by the Holy Spirit, he showed up at the exact right time to be able to witness the Messiah here on earth. He got to hold the tiny form of his body, full of potential and expectation of what he would grow to be and do.

Simeon, who listened to and believed the Holy Spirit (v.25), who was MOVED by Him could claim

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to your people Israel” (Luke 30:29-32)

He received promises fulfilled, witnessed the climax of many expectant years, met and held the baby Lord Jesus on earth, before he would meet Him again in his life to come, all because he was willing to

be moved.

As I read this to my kids, in a frantic attempt to gain some kind of eternal perspective on my stressful, exhausting week, I realized just how UNwilling I was to

be moved by the Spirit.

Oh, I let other things move me-the laundry piling up, the messes to be cleaned, my “daily schedule” hanging on my fridge, my rigid idea of what all should be accomplished in homeschooling, drop-off and pick-up times at preschool, and the constant “to-do” list running through my mind. But being moved by these things, rarely leaves room for

being moved by the Spirit.

I hate to think of all I miss out on when I am moved by my agenda and not by God’s.

sweet hugs from my kids, laughter and giggles, a ministering conversation with my neighbor, a relationship with someone who does not yet know Christ, silent times of prayer and communion with the Father,

I miss out on meeting Jesus.

in all these things

and the thrill of seeing Him work and show up.

So please, Father, forgive my rigidness,

my deaf ears and blind eyes

and make me sensitive and flexible enough

to be moved

by the Spirit.

Christmas for the 10/40 Window…Right in our Living Room

Last month a student from Libya moved into our “porch room”, which provides extra rent money AND an incredible opportunity to share the love and light of the Gospel with someone who would not otherwise hear of Him in his Muslim country. It has been a joy to get to share our culture, our language, and our God with Adnan over the past month and a half.  In a season of life when we can’t be “radical goers” to share the Gospel with the nations, we can be “radical welcomers” to those that are right here in our towns, longing for relationships with Americans so they can learn the culture and the language.

One of the most opportune times for sharing not only the words of the Gospel but also the visuals of the Gospel was through the decorating of our Christmas tree last weekend. Amid the tree continually tipping over (Danny and Adnan worked hard to figure out how to keep it up) Danny got to explain that we put an evergreen tree in our home to remind us of God’s never changing love and care for His people. He told of the lights we place on it, because Jesus is the Light of the World.  Adnan asked questions about  the angels posted around our home- so we shared how they announced the birth of Jesus, sent to save the world from their sins.  In the little nativity scenes we shared about how God chose a humble way to bring Jesus into the world, and that lowly shepherds were sent to worship him AS WELL AS high, wise kings that travelled far to welcome the new King.

I didn’t realize how effective a family tradition could be for sharing the Gospel with someone, and I was so thankful for these habits that become “normal” for us and our children, but are the gateway for sharing the Truth with those of another country, culture, and religion. We pray that this “Advent Activity” creates a true advent in Adnan’s heart to be able to receive the humble King who was sent to save His people.

Please pray with us for him and for all of his friends (mostly Arabs from the 10/40 window) who will be coming to a Christmas party we are hosting this Friday.  May it truly be an Advent experience in their lives.

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Along with this post, I have to add a little advertising plug:

IF YOU LIVE IN THE ORLANDO AREA, and would like the incredible opportunity of being a “radical welcomer” and bringing the Gospel to people from countries where the the Good News is not known, International Friendship Ministries (IFM) is hosting a week-long Christmas conference for international students from all over the country.  They are in desperate need of host families. The students arrive Wed. Dec.21 in the evening, and then are involved in activities coordinated by IFM throughout the week, spend Christmas Eve (afternoon) and Christmas with their host families and then do two more days of sightseeing with their group before leaving on Wednesday morning.  We hosted three girls last year-two from China and one from Korea.  The opportunities to share the Gospel through ALL different means were INCREDIBLE.  It was a free mission trip in the comfort of our own home.  Yes, you may have to sacrifice it “just being your family” but WHAT A UNIQUE CHANCE to bring the Gospel to the nations!!! Last year, God opened so many doors for conversation, the girls LOVED our kids, and even helped us wrap presents until the wee hours of Christmas day (what?!?, I hadn’t taken care of that yet?!?).

PLEASE consider hosting a student or two (all three of our girls were in one room…two shared a double bed and one was on an air mattress….they didn’t care-they were just happy to be with an American host family)

If you want to take advantage of this incredible opportunity please contact Dave Hedburg (the IFM coordinator) at dave@ifmusa.org  or myself, through the blog. I can forward all the information, schedule, and list of students still awaiting host families (there are a TON from China!)  37 STUDENTS STILL NEED PLACES TO STAY!!!

"Our girls" and Benjamin on his first Christmas