Monday, August 27, 2007

A letter to our church family

Dear Friends and Family,

We are excited about the direction God has us moving in. Many of you we know well, and have been sharing in this journey with us, while others are part of Grace Chapel, our home church, and only know us through an occasional smile and nod every other Sunday. One way or another, we believe God is calling us to communicate to you the exciting adventure He has us on.

God is calling our entire family to the mission field. Not to the traditional “mission field” that many of you are envisioning right now. Rather, in the original “church of Acts” sense, one with an apostolic vision, meaning, we will be traveling from place to place, spreading the mustard seed of God’s love and the Gospel of Christ. We plan to travel the United States intersecting the lives of the poor and marginalized and spreading the love of Christ to them through acts of love and compassion. Some of these acts may be monetary, such as buying a homeless family lunch, or new sleeping bags, or they may be acts of love such as washing a homeless man’s feet and sharing with him the Good News that God loves him. We plan to go to laundry mats and begin conversations about the love of God. We plan to buy pizzas and approach homeless camps under bridges and talk about our hope in Jesus. Sometimes we may show up in an inner city slum and say nothing at all, just provide the basic necessities that the poor so desperately need. As the old adage goes, “preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words.”

We desperately want to begin His Kingdom now. Our vision is not to go around and get people off the street, but to show people that there is hope, and that they are important and loved. We want the people we come across to know that the loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness that is prevalent in our country today is nothing when compared to His love and His hope.

The details. I am a teacher at Woodburn High School, and I plan to resign at the end of this coming school year. We will sell our house sometime this year and with some of the money left over we plan to purchase a used motor home. We will spend the left over cash from the sale of our house on the people that we intersect. We plan to sell all of our belongings and contribute that money to the same fund. We are also in the process of starting a non-profit organization that will allow people to contribute not only to helping the poor, but also to support us through basic living expenses. We also desire a non-profit organization that will have a board of directors who will keep us accountable and help us maintain the vision God has for us. We are very open to God’s leading, and our itinerary will most definitely change. We plan to leave in July of 2008, and as of now, our trip will take us to around fifteen cities throughout the United States and Canada. We will hopefully be able to find a church, faith community, or faith organization that will support us while we are visiting each city. Our plan is to stay at each of these cities for around ten days. We pray that God will lead us to people who are open to His word and that the Holy Spirit speaks to them through our words and our actions.

We know that this ministry will impact the poor and marginalized throughout the areas we travel to, but we are extremely excited about what this is going to teach us as a couple, as parents, and as a family. With three children Avery (4), Allyson (3) and Eva (1), we will be doing plenty of parenting in a 30ft motor home. Ultimately I pray that this ministry will show our kids what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. We fully understand that although this may be an “adventure,” it will also be filled with times of stress, sadness, fear, and exhaustion, but we also believe that we can rely on God, knowing that Christ carried His cross and through His strength we can pick up ours each day and follow Him.

A lot of details need to be worked out, and a lot of miracles need to occur for our journey to begin. We are sending this letter to you for one major reason, we covet your prayers and desire for our home church to walk along side of us as we move towards obedience in Christ. We would appreciate your prayers for the following things:

1) That the stress of quitting my job and living without income will be over-ridden by God’s ever-reaching sovereignty.

2) To sell our house, this is the key to beginning our ministry, and we are truly relying on God to come through.

3) Someone knowledgeable to either a) walk along side us and guide us as we sell our house “by owner,” or b) have a realtor sell our house for very, very low commission.

4) To find a used motor home at a reasonable price that would not only fit our needs as a family of five, but be in good mechanical condition.

5) For someone who is knowledgeable about the process of starting a non-profit organization (accountant, attorney) to come along side us and guide our decisions.

6) A laptop computer in order to keep in touch with supporters of our ministry and keep records of finances, etc.

7) That we will be able to make contacts with churches, faith communities, or faith organizations that will be supportive of our ministry in each of the cities we plan on visiting.

We thank you for taking the time to read this letter. If you have any comments or any questions for us, please talk to us at Grace Chapel, or email us. If you would like to offer support in any way, or would like to receive email updates along the way, please email at: or


Andy and Serenity Coulombe

Friday, August 24, 2007

Eyes and Ears

One of my biggest struggles and desires thus far in our quest has been to make sure people "get it," that they understand why we are doing it, or better yet, they understand what the gospel is truly saying, and that God is calling them too it as well. I'm coming to the realization that there is nothing that I can say to people, or explain to people that will help them understand. It is actually freeing. To release the grip on my desire to explain things. It is difficult too, it is a selfish desire that people see things my way, not so much that they can experience the freeing power of Christ, rather that we can have a few more people "get it." I have caught myself getting overwhelmingly frustrated with people who don't get it. And then God gently reminds me that for the longest time, I didn't get it either. That is the true nature of the Holy Spirit. He will reveal things to people in His timing. And, sadly, He may never reveal the truth to them either. Conversely, the Spirit may reveal it to them, but for whatever reason they do not listen.

Ezekiel 12:2 says: "They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear."

This is where I can release it. If people, good people, good Christians, ignore what the Holy Spirit is telling them, how could I convince them through talk, through reasoning. I can't, and that is what is so freeing: only the Spirit can guide the hearts of men.

Serenity and I have both come to the realization that many times, God only reveals the true meaning of the Gospel to those who consider themselves true sinners, as Brennan Manning says, "Ragamuffins." We are gradually coming to the realization that GOD DOES NOT NEED US! To some that is offensive, or at least mildly alarming, they say "well, I am inherently good, I am worth something." I believe that God has begun to reveal the Truth to us because we are beginning to understand that we are true ragamuffins, we are true sinners, and we are powerless and ultimately worthless. Would the truth of the gospel really sink into the heart of the [fill in the blank here] who still believes that he has something to offer God? No, he would reject this absurd belief in making himself the least, and taking up his place in the back of the line because he would be too good to be there. Remember, GOD DOES NOT NEED US! This is why people don't get it, God through the Holy Spirit is not calling them, or, they are not listening.

Manning states in his Ragamuffin Gospel "Nothing compares to the kingdom of God. In [the ragamuffin's] eyes its worth is beyond all worth. . . . This is the ragamuffin's secret, which nominal Christians do not understand, but for which martyrs have given their lives. For the sake of the kingdom of God, thousands upon thousands have had their possessions confiscated, homelands seized, and families, careers, and good names sacrificed. The nominal just don't get it. They hear the Word of God, but it does not speak to them interiorly. . . . [they say] You can't pay the rent, cook soup, or puchase a computer with religion. What matters is muscle, intelligence, connections and stronger battalions. The rest is opium for the people. The nominal do not know the secret. The treasure is hidden from their eyes. The values and lifestyle of the ragamuffin rabble are simply incomprehensible."

To so many of our friends and family our coming lifestyle is "incomprehensible."

It is amazing to me how the Spirit works. He (or she, I have read commentary about how the Holy Spirit was spoken and written about in the feminine tense in ancient Greek and Hebrew.) has placed books from authors who have eyes that see and ears that hear the call of Christ into my hands. These books have spoken volumes into my life the past year, and have contributed to the wrestling match between the old way and the new way revealed that is going on in my head. At the risk of sounding as if I steal all of my ideas and thoughts from other authors, let me offer up another addition to this line of thought from the author of The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus:

"Barbarians [those passionately following Christ by picking up their cross each day] hear a call different from that of civilized Christians. We understand clearly that we follow the God who chose the way of the Cross. If Jesus would not avoid the "place of the skull," then we should not be surprised where He might lead us. If even He found Himself sweating blood at Gethsemane, then we should be certain we will stand at crisis moments where all we can do after asking for relief is declare, "Not my will, but Yours." In those moments you may find very few who stand by you to provide you comfort and strength, and strangely enough, you may find far too many trying to reason with you that God would never require so much of anyone. Yet even with all the noise pounding inside your head, you will still clearly hear the voice of Christ and his barbarian call if you listen carefully enough."

I'm listening and I can hear Him calling, and I truly desire for you to listen for it too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Forgive and Forget

In the spring of 1997 I was 19 years old and a sophomore at Oregon State University. I had gone to OSU to study fish and wildlife and earn a degree that would let me play outside all day in the woods. What I ended up with was a lot of painful memories from poor decisions I made. I went very quickly from a naive kid from southern Oregon to a drug user and alcoholic. My life revolved around where I could find my next $50 sack, my next case of beer, and while I was wasted, where I could get laid. I got to the point where I was getting in trouble with the law, and even selling drugs to friends of mine.

An amazing attribute of God is that He never holds you with a tight grip. Kinda like my Dad taught me to hold a golf club "Like you are holding a bird: not so loose that he will fly away, but not so tight you will squeeze his head off."

God has a path for you, but he doesn't force you to do anything. You have to choose to follow, to be obedient. YOU have to make decisions. YOU have to make choices. Like the choice to forgive the people who hurt you.

On March 20th, 1997, the night before I left OSU and transfered to Southern Oregon University, I was hammered again. On multiple drugs and finished with who knows how many beers sitting in my friends house. Now when I say "friends," I don't mean in the real sense. None of these guys would help me move, or would talk about real things, about life. None of them would be there for me when I needed them to be, I knew it, they knew it. They were all I had, and I opened up to them on many levels without them really, truly being a friend. That night I faced rejection. A group of friends who I shared little in common with except who we bought drugs from, told me that I was a loser, that I wasn't worth their friendship. At the same time, God embraced me, literally. I was no longer high or drunk, but I was sober, and I distinctly heard God for the first time in my life: "Andy, you are My child and I love you. Get up and leave this house, you are Mine; this is not the life I have for you." And with that I stood up and left that house on 9th and Harrison. Most of those guys I have never seen again.

That was the moment I believe I became a follower of Christ. Yes, there have been ups and downs, lots of them, but this was the point where I started believing in Christ not because my parents wanted me to, or my friends were at Sunday school, but because I knew He was the Way.

One of my biggest struggles since that day, "the day of my conversion," has been to forgive my friends at OSU, or anybody who has hurt me for that matter. It has only been through my realization that I am a loser, and I am worthless that I can truly forgive others. Without Christ I am nothing. I can do nothing to earn His love, He just loves me because I chose Him. Isn't that amazing. I don't have to go to the right church, or even go to "church" at all. We don't have to go on this trip ministering to the poor to earn God's love, He has already given it to us. If He loves me and has forgiven me, a loser and a sinner, why can't I forgive those who have wronged me.

Recently I realized a truth that has clinched it all for me: Not only does God forgive us, He FORGETS it all too. He isn't sitting up on His throne saying: "I love you guys, and I forgive you of all the things you've done," as He makes marks in His Book of Naughty Deeds like Santa Claus. He has FORGOTTEN! My pea sized brain can't fathom or comprehend. I can definitely forgive those guys at OSU, and I have, but I struggle with forgetting the pain they unleashed.

I am reading Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel. In it he says "Christianity happens when men and women accept with unwavering trust that their sins have not only been forgiven but forgotten, washed away in the blood of the Lamb. . . . . 'A sad Christian is a phony Christian, and a guilty Christian is no Christian at all.'"

A true lover of Christ is someone who is not sad or guilty, but overjoyed that God's love will never be taken away from them - no matter who our friends are, or what we have done with them.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, will come between us and separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:38-39