Darrel and Gail Voth

Directors of Mobilization, Beautiful Feet Missionary Training and Sending, Choctaw, Oklahoma


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What do I value?

There are times when it feels like we do tons of work and don’t see any payoff.

We held a retreat here recently called Mountain Feet Weekend. We promoted it, invited people personally, asked others to invite people, traveled, plastered it across social media and ended up with three registrations. Sometimes, for the same amount of work, we have 10 people. The same is true of Beautiful Feet Boot Camp.

Now, this can get discouraging. It can feel like all your work, effort, energy and best ideas are pointless and if that’s the case, then what am I even doing with my life?

It’s easily believed and evidenced, but it’s not the truth! Time after time, whatever happens is exactly what needed to happen.

Here’s one example…

There was a woman at the retreat this weekend who heard Gail teach in a Perspectives class two years ago and later came to a very poorly attended event here on our campus. We didn’t even know her or have any other contact with her in those two years. Last month, I went to a small missions luncheon in a city two hours from here and gave a general invitation to the group to come and invite others to the retreat. I got very little feedback at the time and figured nothing had come from it. Except that this woman had been in Gail’s Perspectives class and at some point, gotten involved in missions in her church which hosts the missions luncheon that she attended and where she picked up a postcard for the retreat. Three points of contact, all of which were invisible to us at the time.

As I was thanking her before she left on Sunday, both of us were holding back tears. Something significant had taken place for her. I don’t even know what it was specifically—it’s between she and God—but I witnessed it.

The parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin came to my mind… is it really all worth it just for that one? I believe it is. The thing is, both the sheep and the coin were a matter of status—self-worth was driving the hunt. But the next story Jesus told was of the lost son—the intrinsic value of the son was driving the father’s search of the horizon for the silhouette of his son returning home.

There’s another difference in those stories that I’d never noticed before: The first two searches which were driven by status were anxiety-ridden, but the father waited for his son expectantly but patiently. Though it must have been agonizing, he wasn’t frantic.

Each person who comes our way is eternally valuable. Each one has their own story and unique place in the world. We respect that and are honored to be here for them, whenever and however they come. The other two people in at the retreat had interesting backstories and promising futures that are “blog-worthy” as well, but I just chose one, not to diminish the value of the others, just because this is the one that came out of my fingers onto the keyboard today.

This job is not about our success, it’s about the value of others. When we get that backwards, we begin to feel anxious and unsuccessful. But when we notice the Spirit’s gentle reminders of God’s work that God is doing (not us), we can relax, be present and play our part in peace and freedom. And that’s when we notice the successes. Over and over, quietly and without fail, God’s purpose is being accomplished.

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March: In like a lion, out like a lion

The old saying is that if March weather comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb. Well, life has been blowing pretty steady all the way through March!

Gail saved up some money to visit a close friend in Orlando for a weekend, only to come home and make a quick trip up to Kansas to visit her ailing father. He’s had a Parkinson’s diagnosis for many years and is currently in a nursing home. He’d been asking to see his kids, which he normally wouldn’t do, so she was able to go visit and spend some time with him and her mother. It’s pretty tough and is very difficult for Gail to be away from her mom as she goes through this. Her dad is now on hospice care and we’re all taking things day-by-day.

Soon after, our neighbor, friend, and the father-in-law of the Beautiful Feet Executive Director passed away. He had been having health complications for months from multiple fronts. He was family to four of our staff, but was a grandfather figure and friend to all the rest of us. Such a great man. Most of the community was available for his last few days and final hours as he transitioned into the final stage of life. A very heart-wrenching blessing.

This campus has seen births and deaths and everything in-between and the loving presence of God holds everything.

 

A few family updates

Noah was able to work another show with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma at their little theater in the Plaza District. He’s doing well, making good connections and enjoying the work. His homeschool schedule allows him flexible work hours as well.

Lily participated in a week-long dance camp, has one of the leads as Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical Jr., and has begun a babysitting job. She is so busy, but works very hard at balancing her busy life.

Gail and Darrel are finishing up classes from HeartPaths OKC. Gail has to plan a retreat as her final project for her first year and Darrel, who is completing the final year, has a paper and presentation to complete before graduation in May. It’s been pretty difficult to keep up with the workload in addition to the regular family and ministry responsibilities. Prayers for energy, focus, and balance are greatly appreciated!

When you have a lot going on, it’s important to take a break. Gail and Darrel were able to get away for a couple days to a retreat center. There was plenty of quiet space which we mostly used for conversation.

 

Thank you

In times of overwhelming schedules, we remember the sacrifice, prayers, and love of so many who enable us to be here. God bless you all!


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February: Strategy & Community

Mobi values, vision, mission

We’re beginning to lead the mobilization team through a strategic planning process. We began with identifying values and vision this month. We’ll need to finalize those two statements and begin working on mission. Once that’s completed, we’ll establish goals and a plan to help make those goals a reality. It’s not an easy process, but it is rewarding. Everyone has a full schedule—especially Gail and I—but we’ll keep chipping away at this a half day at a time.

Our desire is to help root these things in us as individual team members, but also for this department and its place in serving the vision and mission of Beautiful Feet.

Tulsa Mission Movement

A group of churches have joined forces and committed together to reach 100 unreached people groups by the year 2040. Each month, they have a luncheon for area people to gather and hear a story or new developments. Myself and two others staff members made the two-hour drive up there to hear from some people doing organic disciple-making movement work right here in Oklahoma City. I think I’ll return next month to hear more and to announce our upcoming retreat in April. I’m really proud of what we made together as a team with this retreat. Visit our webpage about Mountain Feet Weekend and consider joining us, would you, please?

Convergence Community

After the founders of Beautiful Feet resigned in January of 2016, we continued attending the church gathering there at Joe’s Addiction on Sundays. We’d already begun to reduce our time commitments there, but as the year went on, I gradually realized that I was living with my two feet in two different canoes and I needed to chose one. Our call has always been to unreached people groups, so while the choice of canoes was obvious, it didn’t make it any easier.

I stopped attending church at Joe’s in January of 2017 and we spent much 2017 without a church home, visiting places here and there occasionally and relied on our prayer groups, retreats and Christian community to see us through this strange new space. We’ve never gone so long without a church to call our own. Now we’ve begun attending what is a little difficult to define, but is fitting us well it seems. It’s not exactly a house church, but it’s not exactly a church-church. It has some qualities of a small group, but is certainly more than that. There is a pastor, but the format is more conversational. It’s inclusive, Christ-centered, community-oriented and contemplative. God has really been using what we discuss there on Sunday evenings during Lent to help carry me through the week. Authentic, healthy community is so vital and we’re so thankful for what we have. Thanks for being a part of it!


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Persistence.

It was nearly five years ago. We were in Beautiful Feet Boot Camp having just quit my job, sold our home and moved away from our friends and family. As the brand new directors of mobilization for Beautiful Feet, we’d gotten a call from a family who wanted to tour campus. They had a son in high school who was convinced he was going to be a missionary as soon as he graduated. It was summer and he’d just completed his sophomore year.

We waited in the office for them to arrive, greeted them, showed them around, listened to the young man’s dreams, gave them some advice and encouragement and then sent them on their way.

I put that young man on a plane to the other side of the world last night. So much has happened since our first meeting. In addition to his love of Christ and passion for the kingdom, he’s grown in humility, honed his patience and his ability to listen to the Spirit of God. I’ve gotten to know his good qualities and his not-as-good aspects. And I’ve grown to love him.

Five years of walking alongside this man as an encourager, advisor and friend and I’m looking forward to seeing what this journey holds inPe the next five.

Godspeed, my friend.


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Ashes to ashes stardust to stardust…

The Lenten season isn’t something I was taught about and consequently, I’ve always looked on from the outside. I would see people giving up something they really enjoy for 40 days, then fail or cheat and explain it away. I heard about repentance and the bankrupt human condition. I heard sorrow, tears, anguish, defeat, shame. You can see how my viewpoint never really encouraged me into the practice!

Last year, during this time, I was going through The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and was encouraged to go through the season, with special focus on Holy Week, and to just be with Christ in his journey.

That focal shift was the key. Get my eyes off me and onto Christ. Christ’s lenten journey is full of love. Are there tears, disappointment, agony? Yes to all, but even so, it’s not about defeat and shame—love shines through it all.

So this year, I was really feeling drawn into the season in a fresh way and I began looking for an Ash Wednesday service to attend. I’ve received the ashes before, so when I approached this time, I was surprised by the words, “Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust, you belong to God.”

Seemed weird, a bit hokey and I didn’t know what it meant… but it was all part of a bigger communication from God for me that day. The following poem by Jan Richardson called, “Blessing the Dust” was in the program that night:

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

Did you see this part? “This is the hour we are marked by what has made it through the burning.” That’s what God pointed out to me. The process of burning is harsh but purifying. Again, my focus had been off. The process is for good. The result is not in the ashes but in what’s made it through the burning. I found myself embracing the burning, asking for more, yearning for the junk to be burned away and the treasure to be revealed. I went to bed that night with those thoughts in my heart and the ashes still on my forehead.

When I got up in the morning and faced the bathroom mirror, I was again surprised. There it was, there in the ashes, a tiny but brilliant blue shimmer… they’d mixed a shimmer compound in with the ashes. I felt loved, special and valued by my Creator. This is Lent: amidst the pain and all the ups and downs, we have Love. Promise. Presence.


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January update

Christmas in January

Christmas season was extra busy this year with Lily playing the part of Scrooge’s sister, Fan, in Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s production of A Christmas Carol. Noah also worked the show as a crew member, filling in on spotlights as needed. Darrel’s family was able to come down and spend a couple days here at Beautiful Feet. Our family lives simply in a small space, but we also have guestrooms, a large kitchen, dining hall and other community space available for us to host friends and family when they visit. We made a weekend trip to Kansas this month and enjoyed a holiday gathering with Gail’s family. Even though we live far from our family, we’re so lucky to be close enough to drive up for a visit.

A visit from friends

Another visit we’d been really looking forward to was from some friends who’ve moved to Cambodia. We try and talk regularly with them via FaceTime, but there’s just no substitute for being together in person. If you have a real interest in international orphan care, we’d love to introduce you to this couple along with some friends who in Liberia. We are so grateful to know and work with such amazing people.

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

One last thing to mention from January is that Gail has begun serving with the OKC Perspectives coordinating team as a grader. This class is a great on-ramp into missions thinking and involvement. It provides a solid foundation, a broad view and ways for anyone to begin to personally orient their lives toward the growing kingdom of God in all creation.


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The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby

My Christmas present was dinner and a show with my wife tonight. following is my review of the show and my musing on what I heard in this re-imagined telling of such a familiar story. We’re so used to a sanitized and gentrified Christmas story, but this was human and real, where even a life of faith gets messy and confusing.

TheUnusualTaleOfMaryAndJosephsBaby

 

We began our evening with the always-delicious food at Thai Kitchen, followed by a smooth and tasty latte from Junction Coffee because we got to the Civic Center early, and finally the reason we were out at all tonight after such a busy day: to experience the musical, “The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby.”

River & Rail Theatre Company out of Knoxville brought this little gem of a show to the quaint Freede Little Theatre in OKC. The creative director, Joshua Peterson, who introduced the show, and the writers, Don Chaffer of Waterdeep and Chris Cragin-Day are all Oklahoma Baptist University alumni.

The cast of four (Drew Drake as Joseph, Ellen Nikbakht as Mary, Hannah Jones as Elizabeth/ensemble and Brady Moldrup as Benjamin/ensemble) and the five accompanying musicians (Rachel Parton, music director and player of more instruments than I can name or recognize; Wade Jenkins, percussion; Cameron Mizell, guitar; Travetta Johnson, keys; Xzavian Wrushen, bass) did a remarkable job performing the entire show on stage, no curtains, all just right out there in the open.

Drake and Nikbakht worked wonderfully together, Jones was fantastic in the supporting roles she played and Moldrup was brilliantly comedic. The set was simple and flexible, no extras, just the story. And what a story!

The characters of Mary and Joseph had actual personality. You know, like quirks and flaws and such—things we almost never allow them. There were actually several elements you wouldn’t expect at a Christmas show: silliness, some light cursing, a marriage relationship in the holy family that includes sexuality and strife, and a God who’s there, but somehow doesn’t quite seem like he is. But all the unexpectedness didn’t derail the show’s purpose, it kept it right on track, making the incarnation more accessible, more…incarnational.

The relationship between Joseph and Mary was very relatable: their power struggle; their faith and failures; their learning how to work together while listening to God and trying to figure out how to respond; how they would repeatedly get up on their pedestal, only to be humbled again and thus enabled to take their next steps together.

The other element of this show that really grabbed me was the reality of paradox in living a life of faith:

  • God’s messages are so clear; so why can’t we agree on our response?
  • Even after God shows up, we’re left asking, “What are we supposed to do now?”
  • Our great deliverance won’t be coming through great power—not power as we’ve ever understood it before.
  • God seems so distant—even when he’s right there with us.

But in all the paradox, we’re not left in confusion. we’re left with the clear message, “Fear not!”

There was so much of this telling of the Christmas story that was imagined, yet so much truth.

Tickets (Nov. 30–Dec. 3)