Darrel and Gail Voth

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


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On love alone

I watched both performances of Painted Sky Opera‘s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors this weekend to see Lily in her role as a dancing shepherd.

The pivotal moment in the show is when the impoverished mother, who has stolen some of the kings’ gold is told by one of the kings to keep it because, “The child we seek doesn’t need our gold. On love, on love alone He will build His kingdom.” She then returns the gold because she too has awaited this king all her life and has nothing to give but to return her stolen gold. Then her crippled son offers his crutch as a gift and is miraculously healed. He then travels to give the baby king his crutch himself.

Then this week’s advent reading from Matthew 2:10-11, had me imagine the next part of the story with little Amahl among them… “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh…” and a worn-out, little crutch.

Oh holy night… When he appeared, the soul felt its worth.

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The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby, 2018

As I took in the show again last night and reflected on it this morning, I felt an undergirding theme of tension. The device for a playwright would be tension and resolution… but I’m not so sure there was as clear a resolution as we’d like to believe for Mary and Joseph… hear me out on this… Yes, the long-awaited Messiah had just been born, and yet in a lot of ways his birth ushered in a new age of waiting. As we now await the second advent of God, we cooperate and participate in its coming, totally dependent yet with a very active and crucial role to play.

My bullet-point synopsis…

Tension:

  • How we deal with the injustice that is, versus the justice we desire to come.
  • Between “angry” Mary who pushes for justice and “unhappy” Joesph who just wants to make the best of it.
  • God who seems aloof but who has joined us in our suffering… an almighty God who seems to depend a whole lot on us.

Resolution:

  • The only resolution offered to Mary and Joseph is the repeated call, “Don’t be afraid,” as they wait to see what God will do… and when… and how…
  • As Mary and Joseph work through the tension toward a resolution, now “loving” Mary and “happy” Joseph learn to trust God and each other within the crazy circumstances thrust upon them.
  • God moves in secret, working in mysterious cooperation with us in our chaos and confusion, to bring about a deliverance of love and mercy.

This show is entertaining and makes for good musical theatre, but when approached with an open, searching heart, I think there are so many things one can hear as they meditate with God about it. Head out there and see this show, even if it means a road trip. Its unique exploration of the Christmas story is valuable. Find ticket deals and more info on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Get a peek at the playbill


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Silence.

Every fall, I spend a weekend at a Benedictine abbey near Hulbert, Okla. with some friends. I go to spend some time with Jesus and he always meets me there. We arrive Friday afternoon and are greeted by the guest master, Fr. Bachmann. They pray eight times a day and we’re welcome to sit in the cathedral and follow along (in latin). The monastery is perpetually under construction (monks build things to last, are in no hurry and have no interest in short cuts). We join them for their meals—taken in silence. Silence is the connecting thread that anchors the weekend.

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The experience of silence has always been rich—until this year. This time, I felt the silence in a new way. It just felt quiet… empty. And yet, God was there with me still. In a way I can’t quite articulate, I felt the presence of God in the chilled, empty, quiet spaces of the abbey. The empty wasn’t barren but felt more like waiting—God and I waiting together, sitting quiet and still. For what, I don’t know, but I do know that I’m not alone in the empty silence.

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Can you relate to this? Leave a comment about your experience with silence and God.

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Pineapples from strawberry plants

All available home staff here at Beautiful Feet in OKC gather each weekday morning for prayer and scripture reading together. Yesterday we read in part from Luke 3, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

It spawned an open-hearted conversation among those of us who were gathered for prayer. What is my fruit? What’s my place?

Those in the world with the least access to the gospel are the most neglected by the missions effort. Clearly, we need more courageously obedient people to move into an unreached people group long-term to make disciples of Jesus. But in our zeal to call the American church to embrace a global vision, we’ve left a wake of wounded Christians who have received the message that God’s going to cut them off and dispose of them because they aren’t “fruitful.”

“Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire…” Strong words from John the Baptist, that wild desert-dwelling prophet screaming for repentance. At least, that’s the picture I was always given of him… But what else is going on?

Here’s Darrel’s unauthorized paraphrase from that passage:

So you’re Israelites—Jews—big deal. Turn from the direction of religious status and point yourselves toward fruitful living. The people responded, aghast, “What should we do?!” “Whatever your station in life, just be good, decent people!” John tirelessly and boldly proclaimed the good news that the promised One of God was coming to gather in his people—which had little to do with right religion, and much to do with right living.

As missions mobilizers, how often have we attempted to push people into an idealized role we’ve created instead of taking the time to honor each person as the image of God with a unique contribution to the mission of God? Every mobilizer is a steward of the innate value of each person they come into contact with.

So… fruit…

Let’s say that the “fruit” of being a disciple-maker among an unreached people group is a pineapple. And as mobilizers, we gather every plant we can convince to come with us, and we tell them how important pineapples are and how long it takes to grow even just one pineapple and how desirable it is to produce a pineapple and here’s how you be a pineapple plant… now, go! God has sent all of you pineapple-makers into the world!

And we send them out, mostly strawberry plants and one pineapple… And no matter how hard they try, all they can seem to produce is strawberries. Strawberry after strawberry, blooming, growing and laid aside as a failure, left to rot and waste away. And they know they’re failing because look at that other plant—they make pineapples like it’s no trouble at all.

What if we took the time to figure out not only how to identify pineapple plants but also how to help all the other plants how to be who they are created to be? The kingdom of God needs every person God has created to be exactly who they’ve been created to be—that is the fruit God is after! If God’s made you to bear strawberries, that’s all God ever wants from you! If you’re made to flower, then flower in full confidence of God’s loving pride in your beautiful blooms.

But here’s the reality: There is no one-way to live and minister in an unreached people group—it needs all types of people! And you know what else? Those living and ministering in unreached people groups can’t do it without people here doing what they do… In order for Beautiful Feet to realize its mission of sending disciple-makers into unreached people groups, we absolutely need people who give the needed funds and they are part of the organization. We need people here to manage those finances, get the mail and answer the phone—we couldn’t function without them. We need people to help others discern their path as they follow Jesus. We need people to manage technology and communication. We need people to help prepare people for ministry. We need people to provide care and connection for those living across the globe. We need people burdened by compassion who will offer hospitality and prayer. We need people with long vision, people with attention for details, people with burning passion, people with contagious peace… you get it, right?

The kingdom of God needs you. The real, deep You which bears the image of the Creator. It may take a fair amount of work on our part to discern who I am and further work to value who I am and more work to cultivate who I am… It’s not easy. It takes time. It takes acceptance—why don’t we like who we’ve been made to be? It takes practice, to value myself, to value others, and to be genuine. But in the end, there’s no greater end than to be who and what you are because God is the one who made you.


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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 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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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 his journey holds in the next five 🙂

Godspeed, my friend.