the past year
Author: Emma Jones
Well, a lot has happened since my last post!
Last year we really grew into our community. We found good support systems and friendships and made even deeper connections at our church. We also got all settled into our house and got it decorated enough to truly feel like a home.
In 2020, Covid only changed things slightly for us. We both still went into work everyday and carried on our jobs as normal. We got to spend time with family and had two gorgeous sibling's weddings last year.
Brandon's spring semester at GCU was cut short in person, but he finished it online. He took two classes online over summer and then returned to school part time on campus and part time online for the fall semester. In December, Brandon graduated from GCU with his bachelor's in Christian Studies with an emphasis in Global Ministry, not to mention he did it Magna Cum Laude! (My degree is in Educational Studies)
It feels so good to be able to say that we both completed our bachelor's degrees. It's something we initially saw as a burden or a roadblock to our path to PNG, that God has shown us was the right thing to pursue.
In regards to training, we officially started training twice a week beginning in January. The first thing we are studying is Melanesian Pidgin/Tok Pisin. We are currently working our way to the first language check which deems you 25% fluent and takes roughly 80 hours of work to get there. As of today, we are about 25% of the way to the first check, so don't ask us to say anything beyond basic sentences! (Though we can tell you the story of the Three Little Pigs entirely in Pidgin)
Learning Pidgin has been both fun and confusing. It's a simple language, but learning any language takes lots of time and practice. We both still work full time, so we try our best to squeeze thirty minutes to an hour of training into our evenings after we get home from work and in between Bible studies and other commitments. It feels like homework and isn't always the most exciting thing, but seeing progress being made and knowing how valuable this knowledge is has been a reward in itself.
In what feels like the biggest news... we're having a baby!!!
Our ideal plan was always to try to have one baby before we go to PNG and after Brandon had graduated. And God has blessed us and heard our desire! I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and due in July with a baby BOY! It feels surreal and we are so excited for this new phase of our lives. God's design for life is so intricate and awe inspiring.
As we continue on this exciting journey, we ask for prayer regarding the health and safety of our baby boy, the progress of our training, and the process of beginning to fundraise and get church support.
Where we are at
Author: Emma Jones
It's been a while since an update, but our lives somehow turned into being constantly "busy". There are very few days now where we don't have a list of things to accomplish and get done. This season of life is both exciting and discouraging. It’s exciting because we can look back and see that we made the decision to pursue this in 2017 and we’re still working towards the same goal. The discouraging part has been realizing how long all of this takes. We knew at the beginning that we were a minimum of four years out due to graduating college. I graduated early and Brandon is graduating a semester early, but there is still so much to be done. We both have full time jobs and looking ahead we realize that somehow we’re going to have to manage completing our training and beginning to fundraise. There is no definitive answer on how long all of that will take. It could be an quick six months or it could be three years. That has been one of the most challenging parts of all of this for me because I am a planner through and through.
Over the past year or so, Brandon and I have grown in so many ways both individually and together. Watching Brandon learn and grow in his Bible classes has been amazing. Suddenly in the past year his ability to lead, preach, evangelize, and love others burst forth abundantly. It is so encouraging to see his passion in sharing the gospel and to know that one day (Lord willing) he will help lead a village to Christ. We also were able to buy our first home in September! God has blessed us so abundantly in all of our endeavors throughout our relationship. I never would have imagined achieving all of this. Our relationship has also grown tremendously. As we grow and change as people, we’ve had to learn how to communicate about everything and understand how the other person is feeling. One thing that is such a blessing is that we always seem to be on the same page about everything.
Since we got married so young, we struggled for a while to find a good community. We didn’t quite fit in with college groups or with young professionals or with married couples with kids. It still is a weird place to be in. We are married, own a home, are in college, and are 20 and 21 years old. Thankfully, we’ve found a good balance of community around us as we are able to relate to so many different groups of people. We are a part of a college/young adult Bible study that Brandon leads, a small group at our church made up of some older married couples and young professionals, and we enjoy attending the marriage nights at our church where we get to meet other married couples and get wise advice from those married 20 years or more.
The next steps for us involve Brandon graduating at the end of this year and us figuring out a way to start training while maintaining a source of income as we begin to fundraise. We ask for your prayers that we may find a sending church soon. We love where we are at currently, but we realize that not every church has the same focus for their missions and outreach. Please pray that if one door closes, another one will open soon.
Its gets closer every day
Author: Emma Jones
Every day our hearts long to be spreading the news of the gospel in the Finisterre Mountains. We have always planned on taking a short-term trip to visit Papua New Guinea before we moved there, but if timing never worked we were okay with skipping it. Between school and work for the both of us, we have set our sights on taking a trip next summer in 2020! Even though that is a year away, it is so much closer than our goal of moving there in 2022 or 2023!
When Brandon and I move to PNG, we plan on doing video updates and vlogs of some of our time overseas to update our supporters and to allow everyone to feel included in the process. The goal would be that our supporters are familiar with how things are going and would even be able to connect names with faces and share about our mission with others.
It amazes us daily how much God continues to bless us during this period of our lives. Sometimes it is discouraging to think about how long it will be until we get to truly begin the work God has placed on our hearts. In the meantime, Brandon has discovered he has an amazing gift of getting people to open up to him. At every job he has had, he tells me about the conversations he has with his coworkers about religion and theology. He has been able to talk to people who believe in nothing, who believe in the universe, who believe in God, and who don't know what they believe. Somehow he can casually get people to trust him and to open up about their true beliefs extremely easily! It blows my mind and I am grateful to be with someone who has such a talent for that because I do not possess the same skill.
Please pray for our motivation in this time of waiting and as we continue to work towards our goal of sharing the gospel!
Our source of motivation
Author: Emma Jones
We haven't done too many updates recently because honestly, we're still at about the same point in our training. (A measly 5% trained) However, A LOT has happened in the last months. Namely, WE GOT MARRIED! (100% the best decision we ever made)
We've been married for about three months and God has continued to prove how amazingly he provides for us. He has blessed us with amazing opportunities and has allowed us to be able to continue to trust him in all areas of our lives. Our day to day lives consist of a lot of work, homework, and nights spent watching The Office. Thankfully, I am all set to graduate this August! We're ready for our days to get a little easier, but honestly we are reveling in this stage of life. We know that we will look back fondly on our days of eating ramen for dinner. Also, we got a cat! His name is Jim. I think Brandon finally gave in to me asking about a cat because he felt bad that he's at work so long.
Brandon also started leading our Bible study last summer. We meet every Saturday night and have dinner together and study God's word intently. It has been amazing to watch him grow as a teacher and to help us all learn more about what the Bible actually says. This will definitely be great practice for when he one day teaches the Word of God to a tribe in New Guinea! His classes as GCU have been teaching him so much and it amazes he how much knowledge he has gained in just under 2 years. We also love the community our Bible study provides and have made amazing friendships.
As for Papua New Guinea, our hearts are still there. It is always our end goal and when we plan anything about our future, it always revolves around when we will go. I am itching to go visit as soon as we can! Hopefully, we will find a time soon that we can fundraise for a trip to go visit our future home and see some friends. We thank God everyday for this calling he has placed on our hearts. It will not be easy in any sense, but living in a pretty jungle is sure gonna help. (please don't remind me about the bugs)
We hope to jump into training a little more over summer. Once we're both graduated from school, training will be our main priority. With everything going on now, it's a little hard to squeeze it in. We also want to make sure that we are fully invested in the content and are able to soak in every bit of information.
So, that's our little life update! I hope to do more posts soon as my homework lightens up over the next few months. We ask that you keep the hearts of the people in the tribes of Papua New Guinea in your prayers.
what we've been doing
Author: Emma Carpenter
Let me start out by saying these past few months have been crazy...
Brandon and I both finished our fist year of college! Brandon got great grades and learned so much in all of his Bible classes. He managed to fit all of his notes from his Old Testament Survey class and his New Testament Survey class into one notebook that we hope to use for years to come. Also, I now know more about education and children then I ever thought I would. We're both excited to know that what we are learning will be useful for us in the future and we can't wait to put it to use. I'm hoping that this summer Brandon can start teaching me some of the Bible information that he has learned as I continue my education classes through the summer.
So far, Brandon has had the opportunity to speak a couple of times at Sun Valley Tempe's high school group on Sunday evenings. This has been such a blessing and he has been able to practice his public speaking while connecting with the students there. We are grateful that the staff feels like they can trust Brandon to speak to students who were his peers just over a year ago and we are trusting God that this is beneficial for everyone. I absolutely love watching him speak and I hope that I am always there to support him and encourage him before and after he speaks.
Brandon's job has been going well and God has surely blessed us financially. We have a little less than 6 months until the wedding and we are very optimistic for what's to come. Other big news is that I got hired at Starbucks! The best part about this is that Starbucks can help me pay for my college classes through ASU! This is a huge burden taken off of our shoulders financially and God once again has shown his provision.
We are also learning to understand the depth of God's love for us. After we chose to live a life together that solely honors God and his will, God has given us support and blessings greater than we would have imagined. We are over halfway through our engagement and we hope that these last few months fly by. God has been teaching us patience through this time and we are excited to reap the benefit.
At the end of February, after I had been living in my new apartment for only 3 weeks, the unit above mine flooded. They had to do extensive repairs in my unit so I had to move all of my stuff out. Two weeks at home quickly turned into two months and about about 10 weeks later, I was finally able to move back in! But, as luck would have it, one week after moving back in, there was another flood and now I am back at home again with the hope that two weeks will be two weeks.
Preaching to Possible Supporters
Author: Emma Carpenter
This past week, Brandon and I got the opportunity to attend a Sunday service at Maricopa Community Church. Joey Tartaglia was going to speak and give an update on Finisterre Vision and we were told that Brandon could have a portion of time to speak during the service! Maricopa Community Church supported Joey and Brooke Tartaglia since they first started working towards PNG and then into the formation of Finisterre Vision. Since we are a part of Finisterre Vision's progress, it was perfect to be at the church for the update on this week.
Brandon worked hard to prepare what he was going to speak. Every time that I told him he was going to do great, he shrugged it off and said, "It's God not me". We prayed all this last week that God would speak through Brandon and his message and that the hearts of the church members would be open. God sure answered our prayers!
When we arrived at the church, and Brandon woke me up from my car nap, we were excited to see the small church building. We arrived about thirty minutes before the service was set to start so we sat in on the last few minutes of Sunday school. It was so amazing to hear the wisdom and knowledge that these people had about the Bible. The church attendants leaned towards the older side, so everyone was excited to see new and young faces! We were instantly greeted with hugs and smiles and got to sit up front with the pastor's wife and Joey during the service.
The service opened with worship, prayers and praises, requests, and acknowledging the new attendants. Much to our, and the members of the church's, surprise, there were about ten new people! But as everyone introduced themselves, it became funny to explain that they were all our family members and friends here to support Brandon for this great opportunity.
The pastor, Steve Adamson, then took a few minutes to open the service and introduce Joey. At this point, the nerves were finally starting to hit Brandon! Joey gave an update on the current missionaries out in PNG, the new people in training, and the need for a new logistics team. He played a video that the current missionaries put together that details their experience of their first few years out in the field (button below). Joey then introduced Brandon as being in training and it was time for him to speak.
Brandon walked up to the podium and introduced himself and me (it was fun being Brandon's fiancé all morning). Embarrassingly enough for me, Brandon did all this and made eye contact with me the exact moment that I went to take a picture! (see first photo) The message that Brandon prepared to speak was on prayer. This seemed perfect for the occasion because it was clear that this was a church full of prayer-minded people! He spoke about the parable in Luke 11 of the persistent friend, which is in Jesus' teachings on prayer. Then, he followed that with the example in Exodus 32 where Moses pleads with God and changes his mind. Brandon related all of this with the overarching message that persistent prayer gets an answer from God. He then asked that the church would pray for us and our journey on this mission.
At the end of the service, Brandon and I, along with Joey, were asked to stand at the front of the building so that people could come say hi and meet us. We have never felt so much love and excitement from people that we had just met! Every face we met was full of smiles and congratulations about our coming marriage and career in missions! There is no doubt that we would be welcome back into that church at any time in the future. There is the potential for this church to become a supporting church for PNG, but all Brandon and I ask is for prayer. We know that the Lord will take care of the rest and we want people to partner with us until then.
After the service, we were welcomed into the home of the pastor and his wife and were able to eat lunch with them. It was fun to be able to talk theology and life with such wise people. Brandon and I hope that we get the opportunity to do all of this again in the future! As Brandon's first time delivering a message in a church, it went amazing! I can't wait to see how the Lord develops this skill in Brandon in preparation for PNG.
What's Happening now
Author: Emma Carpenter
As January ends and February begins, our lives continue to change. Brandon dove head first into a new semester at GCU full of great Bible classes, new friends, and awesome learning opportunities. During this time I'm continuing to get through my education classes and learning things I never expected about the educational process. It has been so exciting for both of us to be able to take the information we are learning in class and directly apply it to our future. Brandon has also been taking very organized notes and is excited that he will be able to use them in PNG.
Brandon also just passed his commercial drone licensing test! He found a way to take his extensive knowledge of drones, photography, and videography and use them as a way to make money. With his commercial license, he can now legally fly his drone for profit instead of just for fun. So far he has been able to use this for real-estate purposes, business marketing, and 3D landscape mapping. We can't wait to see where this new opportunity takes him. (check out his business website below)
This week I just moved into an apartment in Tempe. As much as I love being at home with my parents and dogs, I am so excited to be able to experience the responsibility of living away from home and with a roommate. I will also end up saving lots of gas due to the mere 6.5 mile distance from my apartment to Brandon's house instead of the 20 mile distance house-to-house that we've driven hundreds of times.
Wedding planning has also started! It's so great to be able to plan the day that we get to start our life together with our friends and family. Even though it is still many months away, I can't help but look at Pinterest in my spare time! Brandon and I know exactly how many days it is until we get married and are counting down everyday. (287 today)
We are excited to continue down the road of positive change and are glad that we have so many wonderful people to share it with.
what does training mean?
Author: Emma Carpenter
Brandon and I have been "training" since September of 2017. Usually, this process would be a few months/year of full-time studying, learning, and relationship building. However, since we are both still in school and will be for a while, our training looks a bit different than other PNG missionaries in the past.
Currently, we train with Finisterre Vision once every few weeks. During this time, we work to complete some of the courses that are on our list of what is required by Finisterre Vision. Right now we are working on some of the more general topic courses that cover things such as teaching and ministry as a whole. These classes will eventually become more focused and specific to PNG and the word there. We also have a large list of required reading that goes with the classes that we are trying to complete. We even have been reading a book together outside of any classes or requirements and we're finding that it's a great way to connect and grow together. Our goal is to continue reading together as often as we can.
At the beginning of December, our good friend, Amelia, left America to start her journey to Papua New Guinea! We had the opportunity to work with Amelia as she completed her training here in Arizona. She is 19 and is from South Africa and she became such a great companion over the past few months. It was so encouraging for Brandon and I to talk with someone as young as we are, with views and goals so similar. Amelia's spirit lights up any room and it's easy to see why God has called her to this line of ministry. She will be a great friend and asset for when we begin the process of leaving for ourselves. We're so grateful that Amelia has the opportunity to go to PNG so soon, but also realize that it is best for us to wait until we are ready too. God's planning and timing is always perfect.
I will continue to post updates of the training process and the material we learn as time goes on! Please feel free to follow the links below to learn more about both Finisterre Vision and Amelia!
The start of something great
Author: Emma Carpenter
As of December 2nd... WE ARE ENGAGED!!!
Brandon and I (Emma-the author of probably all of our future blog posts) can officially talk about our future without saying boyfriend/girlfriend. We have known that we would eventually get married since very early in our relationship. Brandon likes to make fun of the fact that about one month into our relationship I made him promise to a marriage pact- that if both of us were single when we were 30, we would marry each other. That sounds a little crazy now, but neither of us thought it was weird then!
I have never been as comfortable with someone as I am with Brandon. We always were able to openly talk about the future for ourselves and eventually those talks shifted into our future together. It was just about 6 months into our relationship that we decided that we were going to commit ten years of our lives together to live in a tribe in Papua New Guinea. Again, this didn't seem that crazy at the time!
A little bit about our engagement:
Brandon had given me a two month time frame of when we might get engaged. Little did I know that two days into that time frame I would wake up to Brandon in my room at 6am! (Luckily I had happened to clean my room the night before) As I was half asleep in bed, Brandon told me to put on something nice and then walked out of my room. Apparently the fact that I wasn't confused or freaking out as to why he was in my room was weird.
Fast forward to 6:30am and we arrived at Denny's and sat at a table with roses on it and I ate my heart-shaped pancake. Afterwards, we got in the car and he started driving. And he kept driving. For 2 hours!! At this point I knew what was happening but was still kind of confused and excited. Eventually, we stopped in Sedona at the church on the hill and all of the sudden Brandon was down on one knee! He handed his phone to strangers and had them record it too! Of course I said yes and cried and I still smile every time I look down.
We are so excited to take this step because it means that people can now see that our goals are concrete plans and not just dreams. Follow us on Instagram and follow our blog for updates on training, personal matters, and eventually our ministry abroad!
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