Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Guatemala - GT = Good Times and God Times

First, let me thank each and every one of you who prayed for and gave money for our missions experience in Guatemala. Your sacrifice of time and money contributed to a great work that God is already doing in the area we were privileged to serve. Sondra and I are both grateful and humble that you would invest through us in the work that God is doing in the area of Las Conchas (The Shells) on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Those of you who gave financially, be watching your mailbox soon.

We departed from Nashville on July 4th and took Sondra's mother with us. Sondra's aunt and uncle have been missionaries in Guatemala for nearly 49 years and we went a couple of days early to spend time with them. Sondra's mother traveled well and we arrived rather late on the 4th and got settled in for the night. The next day, we met up with with Sondra's cousin Harvey, and his wife Sharon and the whole lot (notice the NZ way of saying all of us) of us headed to a house down on the coast for a short time of R & R. It was a great getaway for a day playing on the beach, laying in the pool, eating and catching up with family. (This was my first time in Guatemala so it was great to be with family in their setting.)

We headed back to Guatemala City mid-day on the 6th and got to meet up with Melanie, Harvey and Sharon's daughter, and she was delightful. We played a card game, took tea, and enjoyed just all being together. Melanie's new beau was coming by to take her out that evening and was meeting Harvey and Sharon for the first time. I had many things going through my head to mess with her new beau but actually thought it best not be my ornery self.

Friday was an enjoyable time going to see the camp that Betty and Graham have built in Guatemala and is used by many churches and ministries for camps and retreats. It was very meaningful for me to see it after hearing about the many adventures of them buying the property, building the camp, and hosting many groups over the years. We did a quick drive through Antiqua and then headed back home for a short visit and then to have dinner with Harvey and Sharon at Chili's. Harvey is actually kind of a big deal with Chili's in Guatemala. And I will say that the Chili's there are definitely a step up on those here in the States. I also led a Bible study Friday evening at Graham and Betty's church with a group of youth and young (and not so young adults) and it was a great experience to have Graham translate for me. I felt very honored that he would translate for me and actually helped me along. :-) Here is a pic of Betty and Graham and Harvey and Sharon.

Saturday we met up with the rest of the group coming from the States and got settled in to our living quarters for the week. We stayed at a Nazarene Seminary about 25 minutes from the area that we were serving in for the week. Nice accommodations with plenty of hot water and the food was muy bueno! And Sondra and I got to share a room that was filled with 3 bunk beds. A romantic get away! The air temp was very cool and pleasant but the rooms could be a little stuffy so the purchase of a small fan Sunday afternoon at Wal-Mart was a wise choice. (The elevation in Guatemala city is 5000 ft. plus so humidity is not too bad.)

Sunday was attending worship at Shalom Baptist Church which is church that has impacted that area of Guatemala for the Kingdom. It was a good time of celebrating Christ, followed by a lunch on the grounds and then our groups of ministry met with our other team members and translators.

Monday - Thursday were pretty much ministry in the Las Conchas school with VBS for elementary in the morning followed by middle school ministry in the afternoons, food distribution in the town and some worked on the Life Center being built that houses a local church and an education center that will teach job related skills for those who live in the area. Hermitage Hills has had a long standing relationship with Shalom and Las Conchas and it was great to see what God has done through that partnership.

Sondra primarily worked with women in the mornings facilitating a women's Bible study (along with some other ladies) and then doing food distribution in the afternoons. I served in the mornings by helping with recreation, assisting those taking pictures of the elementary children that will be sponsored by people to help provide them a good meal every day that they are in school. The picture here is our child that we sponsored this year.
(This is an incredible ministry of seeing that kids are fed at least 5 times a week with a nutritious meal.) And then each afternoon I shared the gospel with 35 middle school boys. Many of them were completely unchurched but we gave them a copy of scripture and I took a Bible story every day and my translators, Mark and Ivan, did a great job of helping the gospel come alive to these guys everyday. We gave them a chance to respond to the gospel everyday and on Thursday, 8 of those boys gave their life to Christ. It was an honor to be able to help plow some ground, plant some seed and see some harvest. I am grateful for Pastor Carlos, Ivan and Pastor Alvaro who day in and day out share with those in the area the truth of the gospel. We also did recreation with these guys each afternoon and Richard and Barry were great at leading games and a soccer tournament for the guys.

If you are still reading, I am almost done! Hang in there. There were leadership training opportunities Monday and Tuesday night and while others were leading adults, I met with the young adult youth leaders and had a great time with them. We will continue to meet periodically using technology to have ongoing training opportunities. This is a pic of some of the youth leaders.

Thursday night we had a celebration time as a team and Sondra and I met back up with her aunt and uncle and Sondra's mom (we had left her with them for the week while we were doing missions) and did a short visit with Harvey and Sharon again at their home. It was really good to connect with them again. They had stayed with us in the States for a short visit many years ago so reconnecting was much fun.

Friday we headed back to the States and got home very late. All in all it was a great trip and I only hit the highlights and I am sure after Sondra reads this she will say, "Well you missed sharing this and this . . ."





Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chasing and Catching Fireflies

This week, Sondra and I have been blessed to host her cousins and their friends at our home. Noel and Janet are successful "farmers" (livestock and Christmas trees) and their friends, Julian and Nikki (whom we have not met before) are self-employed remodelers (that is my term for what Julian explained) who are all from New Zealand. They are traveling the States visiting Janet and Noel's daughter and son-in-law in NYC and then making their way back to Houston via train and rental car. They were gracious enough to add us into their itinerary and stayed with us two nights. AND IT WAS A BLAST!

On the way back from dinner on Monday evening, the boys and I were driving down a country road close to our house when all of sudden, Julian says, "What is that?" I asked for some clarity as to what "that" meant and he said those little shining lights that keep going on and off.  I looked up and said, "Oh, those are lightning bugs or fireflies." They were both astounded and soon became almost giddy. "You mean those are bugs!?!" I said, "Yep, those are bugs that God made and their butts light up!" We soon pulled over and got out of the vehicle and went about chasing and catching fireflies.

And . . . it was so much fun! Here are three grown men chasing and catching fireflies and loving every bit of the experience. Noel and Julian had never seen fireflies before. Ever. New Zealand (like even many regions here in the States) do not have fireflies. They had never seen them or even heard of them. They were quick to add that they had glow worms in NZed however. Tit for tat. ;-)

And then it hit me while we were chasing and catching fireflies. I had known about fireflies since I was a little boy growing up in Missouri. I had caught hundreds, if not thousands of them, in Mason jars; caught others to pull off their "lights" and make a ring for my finger; and had grown so used to them that I did not even notice them now that I have grown older. And it made me a little sad for myself. Familiarity breeds complacency in me too many times. If I am not careful, I can miss the beauty and wonder of God in His creation. I can miss the beauty and wonder in Sondra; my kids; my neighbors; the people I have the privilege of ministering to and with and serving.

"May I never lose that sense of wonder" is a line from a popular song a few years back by Lee Ann Womack. I like that song and even sing it in my head some times, but still too frequently seem to lose that sense of wonder.

You will find me outside more often at night chasing and catching fireflies. Feel free to join me. I promise we will laugh, remember, make new memories and rejoice. Thanks Noel and Julian for reminding me of the beauty of the wonder.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Support for Missions in Guatemala

Sondra and I are going on a mission trip to Guatemala in July. Here is a letter that we are sending out asking you to pray for our team and to consider supporting us financially. Thanks for praying and considering a financial gift as well.


Dear friends and family,
Paul and I have the opportunity to be a part of a mission trip to Guatemala.  We will be going July 8-15, 2017 with a group from Hermitage Hills Baptist Church.  This is Sondra’s fourth trip to Guatemala and Paul’s first.  Our focus this year is discipleship and training through vacation bible school for children and discipleship and bible study for youth and adults.  In previous years part of our time has been spent on construction, but that is not our focus this time.  The church project in Las Conchas is almost complete, and we actually hope to hold the first service in that location while we are there!  What a celebration this will be!
We are asking that you would consider supporting us in this trip in two possible ways. First, we ask that you pray. Pray for the time of preparation during the next several weeks, for the days that we are away, and for the many incredible things that God will do through this trip. Second, we are committed to pay as much as possible toward the expenses involved, but ask if you might consider supporting us financially.  The total trip will cost approximately $1,100.00 each.   This covers airfare, lodging, meals, insurance and trip supplies.  Many of you know that Paul’s position at LifeWay was eliminated in February. With the uncertainty of our future, we still felt strongly that we should be part of this mission trip when we made the commitment to go to Guatemala. The Lord has graciously called Paul to a place of ministry at Friendship Community Church in Old Hickory, TN and they are very supportive of us continuing with our plans to participate in this trip.   Your gift of support will be tax deductible by donating directly to Hermitage Hills Baptist Church.   Please include “GT Mission trip” on the check or envelope along with our name.  You may mail a check to:
Missions Office
Hermitage Hills Baptist Church
3475 Lebanon Pike
Hermitage, TN 37076

If you would like to give online, go here.  You will want to choose Mission Trip Support from the drop down menu to designate your gift for the trip.  You can put GT Missions/Turner in the comment box. 

Any money that you contribute for this mission trip can only be used for mission expenses incurred for this trip. If we receive more money than is needed or budgeted, it will be held for a year in an account to be used for our next mission trip.  Any unused funds will roll over into the mission account and will then assist others to participate on mission trips.  We sincerely thank you for your encouragement and support.

Sincerely,

Paul and Sondra



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Here We Go!

So many of you have been incredibly faithful to pray for Sondra and me over these past few months. We are humbled and grateful for your prayers on our behalf regarding our next position in ministry. If you have kept up with social media at all then you already know that I accepted a position at Friendship Community Church in Mt. Juliet, TN as Director of Groups and Discipleship. If you are interested in the back story then read on.

Friendship is a church that I have had a relationship with for the past close to 3 years now I guess. Our relationship began when I guest preached at the recommendation of Teresa Snyder who is the children's minister here. I have known Teresa for many years and she was very influential in our daughters' lives as the children's minister at New Hope. Teresa has more energy than the Energizer Bunny has ever thought about for sure. I preached a few other times over the next couple years as they were without a pastor and then last Fall the church called Michael DiMarco as their pastor.

Michael and Hayley and their precious daughter have been friends of ours for the past 12 years or so. We first met them when Shelbi was playing volleyball at DCA and Michael worked with the team. One time at practice Michael and I struck up a conversation and I discovered that he and Hayley were authors and I worked at LifeWay and Michael started lobbying hard. (This is a joke. He was a little more subtle in his approach.) Over the next few years Michael and I fostered a relationship that caused me to lean in and think a little differently. Michael has a unique way of seeing things from a fresh perspective. We did some brainstorming together; he allowed me to help massage some of the things he and Hayley were writing; and he became a friend that I did not always agree with but always walked away challenged and better. We dreamed (might turn out to be a nightmare ;-) about one day getting the opportunity to minister together more directly but put no plans in action to make that happen.

Fast forward to Tuesday, 2/28 of this year about 30 minutes after I walked out of LifeWay for the last time as an employee. Michael and I had scheduled to meet and talk as we did many times in the normal course of life. I had not told Michael that I was no longer at LifeWay and as we talked that day he asked, "So. . . what's new?" I shared that I had just left LifeWay after 24 plus years and was a free agent so to speak. He made a very soft mention about looking for someone to guide groups and discipleship at Friendship and I sort of heard it but was in a bit of shock and grief from the LifeWay departure. He offered nothing other than genuine friendship and pretty much left me alone for the next few weeks.

Over the next fews, God was gracious to provide Sondra and me with so many friends like you who were diligent to encourage us and pray for us. (And you are still doing that for us and we are thankful.) I talked to many different churches over the next few weeks. I sent my resume' to a couple of friends who obviously shared it with many churches because we started hearing from churches from around the country. In all, we heard from over 60 churches in a four week span. It was completely overwhelming quite honestly. I tried to keep up with them via a spreadsheet and know that there are a couple or so that I just missed along the way. The theme that kept coming back through my prayer time was, "Either you trust Me or you don't trust at all." I kept (most of the time) replying, "Help my unbelief."

Two of the opportunities seemed to be "best fit" situations for my desires and skill set and one of them seemed way too easy. And because it seemed easy, I pushed it to the back burner. I kept saying to myself, "this seems too easy and seems to require little faith. No move, very little 'disruption' seemingly, etc." The more I prayed, read Scripture, it seemed that the Lord was leading us to stay here in Nashville, minister in a setting that we already know (to some extent) and to serve alongside a staff that I had already come to know and begun to love. I sent a text to Michael saying, "Were you serious about that role at Friendship? I can't stop thinking and dreaming about what God is doing there now and can do in the future." He answered with a "yep" and we began talking more and even had a dream session and wrote on the white board - "so you know we were serious when the dry erase markers come out."

I started Monday, May 15th. I have much to learn.  I ask you to continue to pray and lift us up. Our girls are delighted that we are staying in Nashville. They seemed to be most worried that we would move out of the house that they did their "growing up teenage years in" and I grossly overstated that. I'm sure they were concerned about some other things as well.

Thank you so much for how you have supported us and lifted us in prayer. We are grateful for the investment that LifeWay made in us for those 24 plus years. So many people there who have helped me become who I am. I will forever be grateful for those years there and excited beyond words for the opportunity to serve at Friendship. Pray that we will be faithful to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and making disciples.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Whatchabeendoing?

These past few weeks have been different to say the least but they have been refreshing in so many ways. After the first couple of weeks of being unemployed, I was ready to get back to being focused on something. And Mondays seemed to be harder than the other days. Not sure why other than I was beginning another week of saying, "Okay God, what's next?"

I attended a couple of men's Bible studies and the encouragement and accountability was most helpful. I asked a couple of guys, who are friends and righteous people, to pray a couple of things specifically for me. I am grateful that I asked them and am even more grateful that they have been faithful to pray for me. I do not want my attitude to become one of bitterness or entitlement and I know that their prayer on my behalf has been honored.

I have talked to many people about potential ministry roles and am grateful for their interest in me. It looks as though God may have revealed our next ministry/job role and I hope to be able to let everyone know that within the next week or so. We are very excited about the opportunity and the people we would be serving alongside. Please continue to pray.

During this "down time" I have been busy around the house. I regularly do laundry and vacuum so that was not an added "opportunity of service around the house", but we have also been wanting to paint, re-tile the bathrooms and put hardwood down in the dining room and kitchen. Those of you that know me well know that I am better at demolition than at repairs so we hired the tile work out to Bo Hagar and they did an AMAZING job. Wilson's dad, Kevin, has been putting the hardwood floor down while I have been "killing him" (his words for me laying the boards too closely to the next row. I keep reminding him that it gives him something legit to gripe about.) Mark and Shelbi came up from Rome this past weekend and Mark was a huge help in the hardwood as well. That boy is strong as an ox and did a great job on the floor as well. Shelbi and Mark both stripped some wallpaper in two of our bathrooms and that was such a HUGE help. I have some more painting to do (pretty much waiting on Sondra to choose the colors she wants) and I am one who actually enjoys painting. We are grateful that the Lord has provided for us to do some needed repairs and updates to the house. We are also soon to put new carpet down. I think the 25 years we got out of the original carpet in the house has served us well.

Sondra has been helping around the house too. As you can imagine, there has been much dust, dirt and grime created and discovered so she and Shelbi did some yeoman's work this past weekend deep cleaning some areas of the house.

Morgan and Wilson are doing well. Wilson is doing a great job in the fast-track nursing program. I cannot imagine doing all that he is doing in such a short time and in doing it so well. He is such a smart guy and incredibly disciplined.

I passed a stress test yesterday after experiencing some odd feelings for me and am proud to announce that my heart and vascular system are strong and healthy. I am blessed with very good health and a couple of recent feelings did not seem right to me but all is well and for that we are thankful.

I have a Half Ironman scheduled in a couple of weeks in FL and am looking to get away with Sondra for a few days. While we are away, we will celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary, do the race and celebrate Mother's Day as well.


Friday, March 3, 2017

I Thank My God . . .

These past few weeks have been different in many ways. Recently I blogged about Take Me to the Edge and how our church is going through a campaign to challenge us to Take Us to the Edge. I shared an illustration about bungee jumping (stepping) and trust, faith and obedience.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, I walked into a meeting knowing that it was a big step in some things that God has been stirring in Sondra and me. Since last summer, we have known that God was doing some things to prepare us for something different than what I was currently doing in ministry. I have talked to a couple of churches over that time and have known that while they were good ministry positions, they were not positions that I was to step into. I also knew that the current position that I was in at LifeWay was probably one that I would not remain in for an extended period of time.

I had hoped to be able to make many more phone calls; have more personal conversations; share a coffee or a workout and be able to tell many more people personally, but time does not really permit me to convey this to each of you personally. On Feb. 2 I was told that my position at LifeWay was being deleted effective Feb. 16 that actually was extended graciously until Feb. 28. The only thing that surprised me was the timing, but not the decision. And . . . if I were in the position to make the call on deleting the position that I was in for the health and viability of the ministry, I would have made the exact same call. It reflects good stewardship and the commitment that LifeWay has to serve the church well. The meeting was incredibly affirming, sad, and God-honoring. It was a little ironic that I walked out of a meeting having lost my job, but feeling so affirmed, valued and loved by a ministry that has been incredible to serve through for 24 plus years.

You might imagine that I have had quite a few different emotions and you would be correct. Most of all I am grateful and sad. To have worked at LifeWay so long has afforded me so many ministry opportunities and to work with and learn from so many great men and women who love Jesus is such a huge blessing! Men and women who have allowed me to learn, make mistakes, walk with them and serve the church alongside. It is because of these people that I am also sad. I am going to miss serving alongside some of the greatest people in the world. People who are not perfect, but people who have a high sense of calling to honor Christ.

I have not experienced feelings of bitterness or a sense of entitlement thinking "How could LifeWay do this to me after I have served there so long?". LifeWay has been incredibly good to me over these last 24 plus years. I had a couple of rough patches along the way that God used to mold and shape me more into the image of Christ.  I will never be one to criticize my experience at LifeWay. Some leaders have been better than others and from all of them, I have learned and grown. I have no regrets. I have been privileged to serve the church through publishing, training and events all produced and sponsored by LifeWay. I have traveled the world; I have been treated way better than I or anyone deserves; and I have been honored to serve the Church and to point people to Christ on a scale that I never dreamed or imagined as a boy growing up in that little Missouri town population 256.

Sondra and I do not know specifically what my role will be moving forward, but we know that it will be good. We are not anxious, scared, hopeless, defeated or despaired. We are waiting and trusting God to show us what is next.

We ask that you pray that we will never let a seed of bitterness into our lives. We ask that you pray that God will help us discern what He most desires for me to do vocationally. We are grateful for each of you and thank you for praying as we only want to follow what God has in store for us. If you are aware of ministry positions that you think I might be a good fit, please feel free to contact me.

The best way to reach me is pturner63@bellsouth.net and 615.403.3138.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Take Me to the Edge

This phrase, "Take Me to the Edge" is a theme for a new campaign at our church, Hermitage Hills. I know that it is a phrase in a worship song sung by some group that our pastor heard a few months ago but I don't know the full story behind it but Poly gave us a short explanation in his message on 2/5.

This phrase, "Take Me to the Edge" is an interesting one to me. Aristotle says, "the mind never thinks without a picture", so the picture I get in my head is an experience that happened almost a year ago when I bungee jumped in New Zealand. It was a cool morning but sunny and beautiful and I was nervous on the ride over to Kawarau Bridge, the home of the original bungee jump. I was trying to play it cool in the van, but I was shaking and not because it was all that cold in the van. I was nervous and even somewhat afraid. (If you know me well, you know that heights are not my forte.) Shelbi, Mark, Wilson and I had already paid for the bungee jump ahead of our trip. It was cheaper that way and I was less likely to not follow through since I already had skin in the game. (A form of self-accountability I guess.)

We arrived at the site, headed towards the registration desk where we signed a myriad of forms that basically said that we acknowledged we were idiots for jumping and that we would not hold the company liable if we died. We did all the briefing, lined up on the bridge (shivered some because it was cold but most of mine was just fear shivers), got fitted for our jump and took our turn. I am pretty sure that Shelbi was the first one to jump that day. I think Wilson went second, then me and finally Mark. I might be wrong with that order, because quite honestly, I was more focused on my experience on the edge than anyone else's. I know that they played some Johnny Cash when we were up there about to jump. I know that the jump is 43m high. I know that I did not want to dip in the river below and quite honestly was not even sure I wanted to jump. When it came my turn, I didn't jump. I just couldn't. In my mind I was going to dive with full abandon like Shelbi, Wilson and Mark did, but I could not. I was on the edge. I had gotten myself to the edge but I could not jump. The operator had his hand on my back and said, "It's your turn." I gave my thumbs up to Sondra and Morgan who were on the observation deck, I think just as nervous as I was, but I could not jump or dive. I just couldn't, but I knew that standing on the edge was only part of the battle for me. So . . . I stepped off the edge and began my fall. Total abandon, but not a head first dive. It was all the courage and surrender I could muster. But it was surrender. I put my trust in that cord wrapped so tightly and so securely around my ankles and I trusted in something because it could be trusted.

Too many times I think too I get caught up in how is this going to look to everyone else around me and miss the joy of surrender. My "jump" was not overly pretty, but it was exhilarating to say the least! And it was one of the best chiropractic adjustments I have ever had with not being on a table!

It reiterated a spiritual lesson for me that God can be trusted. Sondra and I are standing at the edge of some things in our life (and they are good things) and we are trusting Him completely. We are standing on the edge and waiting for the Operator to say, "It's your turn." God is good that way. And He can be trusted. We will keep you updated as the Lord reveals some things to us. Pray that we will continue to trust, discern and follow with abandon.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

E:60 - A Stranger's Gift

I have the privilege of knowing Jimmy Bradford, who is a friend of mine from the Downtown YMCA. I have known Jimmy Bradford for about 15 years and was reminded again this morning of what it looks like when people genuinely care for one another. This story is about 17 minutes long but actually the story is much longer than that. I will tell you that you will want a Kleenex close by as well. It will be time well spent and is a great example of people loving and caring for one another.



Friday, January 13, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (maybe a little late)

Here it is January 13th (Friday the 13th for all of you superstitious folk) and I am finally getting around to another blog entry. It was a great holiday break and I really have no excuse for not blogging, I just didn't. Sometimes I feel like writing and at other times, I don't. It was a season of good times but no writing.

This past year, for those of you who have kept up, has been a good year for the Turners. We enjoyed a family trip to New Zealand with our kids in March (we shared a bunch of pics of that trip). Shelbi and Mark are still in Rome, GA and are doing great. Shelbi took on a new assignment at work as a trainer for new nurses; continuing education for nurses; and got her Masters. Mark still runs WinShape ;-), well at least the operations part of the boys' camp.

Morgan and Wil made a move to Jackson, TN where Wil is pursuing a nursing degree via fast track and Morgan is an enrollment counselor for Union University. They are doing great and we are blessed to be the parents of all these kids. To say we are blessed is really an understatement.

Sondra is working at our church in the financial area as of August. She enjoyed her 5 years at McGavock High School but got the opportunity to do much the same kind of work a little closer to home and in less stress environment. I started year 25 at LifeWay and continue to work with churches providing opportunities for students to share the gospel through construction and church planting. Pretty rewarding work and thankful for the opportunity to serve.

I am including the front and back cover of our Christmas card that we actually sent out after Christmas so it seems fitting that this post come post-New Year as well.

Much love to each of you. We are grateful for each of your investment in our lives.