Brent and Anna

Brent and Anna Fudge

Proclaiming Jubilee

   

The Calling

Due to the length of time it took for God to get my attention, I must begin with the obstinate and very thick-headed blunders of my situation.

God’s pursuit found me working for reputable Coca-Cola Refreshments. It produces mostly Minute Maid juices and non-carbonated drinks. I was very fortunate to have this job in one of the most dire job markets in the state (Michigan) which is near bottom of the job markets in the country. Ironically so, I felt unsatisfied with my current career path.

It bothers me that my call begins here. I wish to say that I was mature enough to be happy and content wherever I found myself and that, as a Christian, I could be used for the kingdom in all capacities that I found myself in. I wish to say that a mature assessment of skills and opportunities whisked me to this new calling but, alas, I had much to learn and stumble through to reach my current, and continually maturing, status.

I have taken some solace in something my Dad said: “God will give us unsettling feelings, possibly, to prepare us for change.” He, in fact, played a large role in the introduction of my new direction.

An organization called Back2Back Ministries approached him to consider a position in construction work in Haiti. His background in masonry construction and more importantly, his short-term mission experience in Haiti for the past 30 years, made him quite a candidate for their vision for Haiti. He passed on the opportunity but told them that he would forward the information to me because I may be open to the idea. It was at this time that the great earthquake in January of 2010 hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The very next morning I committed to joining my Dad on his next construction trip to Haiti. That commitment set the sails for this new heading. Through the planning of this trip, Dad informed me of this Back2Back Ministries organization that he thought I might be interested in. It wasn’t until we met in Ft. Lauderdale in June that he delivered the packet of information that outlined Back2Back Ministries. This packet included a book called Reckless Faith by Beth Guckenberger, one of the founders of Back2Back Ministries.

The trip itself was a difficult one. This mission team struggled finding full purpose as we bucketed water out of a foundation hole morning after morning and found ourselves ankle deep in a muck that would not be eliminated. Locals badgered us for anything they could see; from work gloves to sunglasses, to the very shovels we were using to repair their church. It took me a couple of weeks to see lessons God was teaching me through this experience. I was glad to be heading back to the states but my struggle continued.

Meanwhile, I read the first few chapters of Beth’s book and found a full life purpose that I had seen before but had long since forgotten. There were things there that I saw that could benefit my life. I hope you can see the selfish motives here. This change in direction began as a self-fulfilling pursuit of bettering my life. God had me looking in the right direction but I was a long way off from seeing with His eyes. This is where Anna’s influence had a significant impact. I came back from the June trip to Haiti much less moved to begin mission work than one would think. I was, though, romanced by the idea of beginning a new adventure that may better use my gifts for the kingdom.

The wives of dreamers have a thankless duty to ground their spouses in a firm reality and Anna aptly questioned my motives for entertaining this idea to head to the mission field. I knew I had to subject these ideas to scrutiny in order to see what would survive on the other side. Eleven years of marriage produces a number of these discussions that have given me high level of respect for my wife’s point of view. She thought I needed to overcome some of my feelings of dissatisfaction toward my current employment before I considered another. I knew she was right but that didn’t mean we needed to bury the whole dream. It was settled that we would spend the month of July in prayer and fasting to listen for God’s direction.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; And he inclined to me and heard my cry." Psalms 40:1

I had full expectations that God would have clear direction for a child who asks, “Where do you want me to go? I am all yours.” There would be no greater joy than if my children looked to me for direction and guidance to set their future in the right direction. I felt like I have never been more ready to listen for my Father’s direction. Toward the end of the month we had so many people praying for us that I was sure God would answer.

As July drew to an end, we received no word from God that differentiated a direction.

Did we miss it?

Was I not praying hard enough?

Does this mean stay or go?

Obviously these and other questions swam in my mind and heart preparing me, unconsciously, for what lay ahead. Anna seemed unwavered by God’s silence. My faith remained but it was taking on some redefinition. I decided to make a call and find out a little more about this organization that had contacted my Dad.

I spoke with Brian Bertke who told me that their interest in Haiti was still developing and they found, from experience at their other site in Mexico, that they valued an individual with a construction background. From the material Dad gave me I knew that they worked with orphanages; Brian filled in a little about some of the details.

It was difficult to get a vibe on where God was leading. Some people put a great importance on feelings, and God works through the feelings that come from passion and direction. But I have found that I need to be very careful when pulling direction from how I feel about something. Having said this, the initial phone call was not enough to find God’s direction for us. I decided to call again and set up a meeting.

Anna and I made a trip to Cincinnati to meet with Brian and Todd Guckenberger, the other founder of Back2Back Ministries. It's difficult to put what transpired into words; through our interaction with Brian and Todd, Anna and I felt a strongly that we need to pay attention to this direction. Back2Back Ministries was organized and attractive. We saw pictures of tool trailers and trucks, a leadership that had direction, and an overarching ideal for changing an orphan’s destructive path. I admit that I was immediately attracted and felt a pull to be involved. I also saw a point that exposed my unorganized habits as a severe detriment to joining this movement; a fear that continues to creep into my thoughts.

Anna and I mark this as a critical point in the path that we are on to follow God’s leading; a point that unified our consideration of this direction. We parted from the meeting with Brian and Todd understanding that our God was not finished with either plan. They were seeking God’s direction for the pursuit in Haiti and we were seeking God’s direction for our future. It seemed possible that the direction may bring us together again but it would take some more consideration and prayer. My struggle with my trip to Haiti two months prior was still fresh in my mind and I can’t say that I was screaming to get back down there.

Anna and I returned to Michigan with these events brewing in the back of our minds. I went back to work for Coca-Cola and Anna started her homeschooling with our three kids. It was business as usual with an ear to the ground for God’s word. A month or two after our meeting with Brian and Todd, Jeremiah Johnson, senior minister at our home church Bangor Church of Christ, proclaimed a month of messages regarding God’s will. These Sunday morning messages provided a better soil for Anna and I to hear what God was trying to say to us; messages such as God’s will is not hidden (scripture tells us exactly what God wants from us), and the poor play an important role in our relationship with God..

It seemed that through the Fall of 2010, God bombarded us with teachings and messages from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University to Sunday School classes on Francis Chan’s Crazy Love and Forgotten God. These messages nurtured an ear for the call. I truly appreciate the staff and leadership of Bangor Church of Christ; the way that God used the entire staff and eldership to prepare our hearts speaks volumes of their commitment to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

In October, amidst these classes, we received an email from Brian inviting us to consider going with Back2Back Ministries on a trip to Haiti. Anna and I discussed the possibility of going and the prospect of this being God’s direction. She was feeling drawn to this calling and I was wisely advised that if God wants me to do something he will also work on my wife's desire for the same direction.

At the beginning of the year 2011, I resolved to make a few personal changes. Changes that needed to happen a long time ago but I should remind you that I’m very thick-headed. I decided that I wanted to read the entire Bible this year. I have grown up in the church listening to the Word and have read it in sections on my own but never cover to cover. I began immediately and it has already changed my perspective on some of my views of God’s nature. The other resolution was to spend some deliberate alone time with God. I have always wanted to find rest and rejuvenation in the presence of our Almighty Father. Jesus got away from the crowds and found rest in His presence. I think that is the key for most wisdom and peace. It provides an avenue to “be still and know” that He is Lord.

On one particular morning, I walked through the forest next to the wooded river near my house in Michigan. The storm that had just past left all the branches full of snow. As I walked puffs of snow fell from overladen branches and the sun began to peek through the blue patches that began to materialize. The beauty played on my emotions and prayer time. I distinctly remember hearing God respond in my thoughts, “How many of my people around the world even have the time to take a walk with me in such beauty?” A thought in which I responded with increased gratefulness. It wasn’t until I went to Sunday School class the next morning that I made a connection that sent chills all over my body.

Jeremiah was using some video material of Francis Chan’s lessons on Forgotten God. Chan told of a time that he spent with God and the parallels with my walk the prior morning were chilling. Chan mentioned that he spends time alone with God by grabbing a muffin and coffee early in the morning and going out to see the sunrise from the California beach. He also heard God within his thoughts. God said, “Look at you with your coffee and your muffin. Aren’t you so cute sitting there. Now get up and take care of my people.” In the middle of this class, Anna and I could hardly contain our excitement about calling that we just heard.

Now, it's time to be careful. Did we really hear the voice of God coming through a video presentation? Was that presentation from Francis Chan written to Brent and Anna Fudge to get them to hear the message God laid out for them? I seriously doubt the latter, but what God did was use a situation in which we were both primed, and changed our hearts to be sold on the direction in which He was leading. It was curious that this occurred a few weeks prior to our trip in February.

By the time the trip came, we were both looking at the feasibility of bringing our family into such an environment. The trip was directed mostly by Tom Osbeck, director for Jesus in Haiti Ministry, a mission that Back2Back Ministries hopes to partner with, and we saw the possibility of serving in Haiti. It wasn't until we boarded the plane home that the reality set in; "This is going to be rough!"

We needed to see the Back2Back Ministries operations in Monterrey, Mexico and we needed to see them as soon as possible. I contacted Brian and we scheduled a time for the following month to do just that. We slipped into a group from the Family Christian Bookstore that was headed to Monterrey and were able to see the operations from a group perspective. After meeting with Todd and Beth again in Monterrey, we committed our family to this pursuit. The struggle was finally over and God revealed His will for our family despite my thick-headedness. Our God is a God of the impossible.



Comments

My compassion child is also from Haiti. Please pray for her, too. I chose a child from Haiti bauscee I also have a friend, Dawn, who worked as a missionary in Haiti for many years. She is a musician and works with children teaching them to sing and play instruments. She was just recently moved by the IMB to the Dominican Republic to help with all the Haitian refugees who have moved across the border. She is safe, but she has lost many friends, including the pastor that she worked with for 17 years. She hopes to go to Haiti on a first responder team but is not sure when. I know it will be hard for her to go back. Please pray for her too.

 


I just want to take the time out to say, I respect you and commend your family for what your doing. This is awesome, just knowing that you make a difference. Reading about your experience is inspiring, I was raised in Mexico City and lived through an earth quake. I was a little girl and I will never forget the whole experience.
So this story is home to me. I just want to say will stay im my prayers and make a commitment to myself to help and donate what I can. You give me hope and inspiration on just being kind to others and everything is possible through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Brent, I was looking for my cousin Jon's facebook page this morning when I found your ministry website. I would love to connect with you and Anna and your children and learn more about your ministry. Please send me your e-mail address.

 


 








 




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