Words

In the chaos of the world these days, I have been struggling to find words to convey my thoughts and emotions in appropriate ways that don’t alienate that who may disagree with my progressive spiritual and political views.  As I thought about this earlier this morning, I remembered a email folder named favorites where I put items from my devotional sources that really speak to me.  I receive emails from at least 4 sources every day.  Recently, I haven’t read them as faithfully as I should but maybe this idea that came to me this morning will help me to revive this habit.  I am going to start posting links to these quotes and devotional materials on a regular basis on a new section of this site called “Spiritual/Devotional Favorites”.  Since my words don’t seem to be coming to me as often now, I hope these quotes inspire all of you, as well as me, to more fully embrace the spiritual habits that help us to live in God more fully.

May you feel and recognize God moving in your life today and always!

John

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God IS with Us (A Christmas Card from the Lages)

xmas20162We will not be spending the holidays this year with all of you whom we love in the states, but we will not be alone. Instead we will be here in Guatemala where God calls us to be. Our hearts and our thoughts are with you but also with those here who have so little but teach us so much about how much more important relationships are than things. This Christmas season, I am reminded that God IS with us…always…through the good times and the bad. God loves us…always! God is LOVE always. God called Jesus to be our example of how to live in obedience to God, to show us how one person can change this world through love for all those around him! It’s amazing when you think about it.

Our lives and our prayers are similar to yours in many ways. Here are some of the things that have been in our prayers this year.

Changes in work/school

  • A new school for John and awesome PSAT scores.
  • Many improvements in the accounting/financials at Salud y Paz through Jan’s gifts and             graces.
  • Creation and implementation of a new pharmacy system for me

Governmental changes

  • How do we as citizens find meaningful and positive ways to support our president                      when so many of his values and ideas violate our Christian principles?
    • – Racism
    • – Sexism
    • – Greed
    • – Lack of a moral compass
    • We pray for our country and our world.

Faith

  • How do we live out God’s vision for our lives?
  • Are we where we are supposed to be…today?

Health

  • John was bitten by a dog in November. With more than a little effort from a number of           people, he received the needed treatment.

Life

  • Patients and employees of Salud y Paz
  • Life changing events experienced by those we love including death and sickness
  • The people of Guatemala and their government
  • The people of the U.S. and their government
  • The blessing of sharing the mission experience with my family in Guatemala

We love you and we miss you all!

We pray that you may feel and recognize God moving in your life today and always!

You…are loved!
You…are blessed!
You…are a child of God!
God…IS…with us!
Merry Christmas!
Jan, John Edmund and John Lage, Jr.

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The Gift

This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter with some minor additions near the end.

Christmas is nearly here.  That period of the Christian calendar when we celebrate and remember those moments when God’s sent the world the gift of Jesus, his son.  I spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus, about what his “becoming human” meant and what it means for us today. I think about what he knew about God’s plan for his life…and when he knew it…and how he came to know it.  Was it crystal clear to him because he was God’s son or did his “becoming human” mean that he had to go through the same processes of discernment and experience the same struggle to understand what God was asking of him as we do?  I think about what God’s purpose in sending Jesus really was?  Was it, as so many believe, so he could become the ultimate human sacrifice and pay our debt to God for our sins against God?  Was it, through his words and deeds to give us an example of how we should live, of how we should treat others, to show us how difficult it can be to live our lives as God would want us to? I don’t have all the answers to these questions and I find that my answers don’t always match up with what the authors of the Bible wrote.  To some, that qualifies me as a heretic and non-believer. To others, I am a searcher for truth in my journey through life.  To me, I am a follower of Christ trying to understand and live out all that this means.

As a part of its budget process, the leaders at Christ UMC recently asked us a number of questions about our mission, its purpose and what value we provide.  These are good and appropriate questions, but can also be very difficult questions to answer especially as we serve in primarily administrative roles.  Some of them are as hard to answer as my never ending questions about Jesus. In the past two months, I have had the privilege of “being present” for at least three events which helped me to understand more about an incredible gift of “being present” that we give and that we receive serving as missionaries. The first event was turning over the keys to a new house (that Salud y Paz built with the help of hundreds of donors and volunteers including us) to a lady who is a battered wife, who has 6 children at home, who was living in a single shack of about 9×9 feet with a dirt floor and an open fire, while her husband slept in his mother’s more sturdy and sheltered house a few yards away.  Their pride and excitement in their new home was obvious.  They dressed in their best clothes and served those of us who were blessed to be there a meal.  The second event was the opportunity to take the wife of our operations director to the hospital for her radiation treatment while he attended the Guatemalan equivalent of high school graduation for their oldest son.  Spending time with God thinking about what she must be feeling during this long day away from those .The third was the celebration of the 15th anniversary of Salud y Paz. This was celebrated with and in the community of Camanchaj where our main clinic is located.  My thoughts turned to all those thousands of people who had been helped by the organization in that 15 years.  Thinking about these three events continues to touch me deeply, reminding me that for those involved, receiving a home, a ride or medical care can be a life-changing experience.  An experience that that is only possible because others chose to “be present” in their lives and in their country.  I think Jesus tried to teach us the importance of the gift of “being present” as a key ingredient to living a God-centered life. He attended weddings, shared meals, lived life and served those around him in so many ways.  Jan, John Edmund and I would like to thank each of you for your continued “presence” in our lives through your financial support , your hugs (both physical and long distance) and your prayers.  Without your “presence” in our lives, we couldn’t “be present” here.  Merry Christmas!

May you feel and recognize God moving in your life today and always!

John

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Returning to the US for a visit. Are you ready, Michigan – Indiana – Rochester?

We will be returning to the US for a visit on Tuesday, July 26.  We will spend a day in Rochester and then will go to spend some long awaited time with our families in Michigan and Indiana for about a week.  We plan to return to Rochester on August 4 and will be there until August 18th.  We are eager to see as many of you as possible during our visit.  We will be in church on the 7th and the 14th.  If you’d like to make some plans to see us, let us know.

We owe all of you an apology for our lack of written communication during this most recent stretch in Guatemala.  The last seven months have easily been the busiest that we have had since arriving in Guatemala.   We have clearly been doing God’s work, working closely with those around us to meet some important milestones while also facing some situations that have weighed very heavily on our hearts. Much of what we could have said would have escalated tensions within relationships that are critical to the Salud y Paz ministry that we support here.  So we chose not to share.

The high points include the CUMC team trip in January where 500 hundred patients were seen during a week of work dedicated to serving God and the Guatemalan people. Semana Santa (Holy Week) was a favorite for us again this year. Jan and I worked on the pharmacy system (more about this later) during most of the days during Holy Week and still got to see many of the native traditions at night and on Good Friday.
IMG_3917The week following Semana Santa, we took a visa renewal trip to Chiapas, Mexico.  We stayed in the the towns of San Cristobal del Casas and Palenque.  Palenque is home to an extensive Mayan site that is 5% uncovered.  Although it was in the high 90’s in the jungle,
we really enjoyed our trip there with our young friends Hannah and Max.  You haven’t
lived until you’ve spent better than 13 hours each way in a public Guatemalan microbus with these two.  We laughed lots, occasionally slept and Pakal-ed incessantly.  Pakal was the most famous of the rulers in Palenque and we used his name to loudly call to each other and as the basis for a huge number of puns.  We took a modern boat trip one morning down a famous canyon where where we saw crocodiles, spider monkeys and coatimundi.  That afternoon we visited a well-known series of waterfalls and pools naturally tinted bright blue.  The scenery was breathtaking.

 
13615020_10206958007973690_3194047286161281280_nJohn Edmund is doing well, one of his highlights was his first chicken bus ride, shown here.  Another is the new computer he built when we were home last December.  He is eager to experience all those ‘F’ things he loves most in the US…friends, family, food and let’s be honest, most importantly…

           Fast internet.

 

Our work life has been busy and exciting too.  Jan has worked hard with other members of the administrative staff to improve the financial accounts and banking processes.  She was able to celebrate the closing of the books at the end of one month when for the first time since we have been here, the person who reconciles the bank accounts had no additional questions for her.  As for me, the pharmacy system I had been working on for almost a year went live in May.  It has been a real success, providing some important benefits to the organization almost from its very first moments.  If you ask me about it when you see me, I’ll try not to get too carried away with the stories.

When it comes to the hard moments that I can talk about, a fairly large number of our closest friends here have left Guatemala or moved to other parts of Guatemala.  These include Hannah, Laura, and Max from the United States and our Guatemalan doctor friend Susy De Paz, her husband David Cruz, and their kids, Isabela, Susan, and Jose.  We played cards and video games together, made music together, worked and worshiped together as well as loved, laughed and learned together. We miss them all so much.

Luckily we will see most of them soon.  Laura and Hannah are coming to my parents house in Greencastle, Indiana to see us a week from Tuesday and we are planning to visit Dr. Susy and David in Xela, Guatemala’s second largest city when we return here.

Through the good and the bad, we have been buoyed up by your prayers, your support and best wishes.  God has been with us through it all, continuing, , as always, to be our Rock and our Foundation.

May you feel and recognize God moving in your life, today and always!

Jan, John Edmund and John Lage, Jr.

 

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A new year

Atitlan Riverbed

By the time you read this, we will be back in Guatemala after a precious visit with friends and family for most of the holiday season.  The CUMC team will be here for their 12th year of mission with the people of Guatemala and Project Salud y Paz.  It will be an exciting and busy time.  The joy and honor of hosting the CUMC team has been something we’ve looked forward to and it is very important to share God’s call for us with this team.  Please, keep the CUMC team in your prayers as they once again serve the Guatemalan people. Pray that they can clearly see God’s vision for each of them in their individual lives through this trip. I know that it can happen!

We are nearing the end of our first year here in Guatemala and it feels like we have only just begun.  We are deeply grateful for all of you who have been supporting us with your thoughts, prayers and gifts. We are blessed.  Please keep us in your prayers as we follow God’s call on our journey here.  Pray that we continue to see, hear, feel and know God’s guidance in our service throughout this second year.  There is so much that we can accomplish with God’s and your help.  If you are called to donate to the Lage Family Mission, there are two easy ways to do so.  You can donate online through the General Board of Global Ministries. Here is the link: https://secure3.convio.net/gbgm/site/SPageNavigator/gbgm_donate.html?type=1001&project=982465  Click on the drop down menu to highlight John and Janice Lage and enter your donation.  There is also an option for a recurring donation should you be called to use it.

Another way to donate is by mail. Please put “Lage Family Mission” in the memo line of your check and send it to: Christ United Methodist Church, 400 5th Avenue SW, Rochester, MN 55902.  They will pass it on to us. Thank you for your support in all you do!  We truly feel your thoughts and prayers.

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Seeds

I am a plant person these days.  I love to help nurture plants from seed to sprout to mature flowering plant.  The truth is a seed doesn’t look like much but it is a miracle waiting to happen.  The products of seeds feed us, shelter us, provide us with building materials, clean our air, surround us with beauty and do so much more.

I often talk of telling the stories of our faith as planting seeds.  In the case of your faith story, you plant the seed and walk away, rarely, if ever, knowing the impact you might have on those who hear or read it.  Our web site spiritualjourneystoday.org is one of the seeds that my family and I have planted.  I am in the process of making some changes to it because it hasn’t exactly grown into a place where hordes of other people are storming the doors to tell their stories.

That had been my vision for the site.

As I went in to start on some of the changes, the statistics graph on the right side of the page caught my eye.  The number of people looking at the site was up as it usually is on the day or two after a new blog entry.  I glanced through the stats and noticed that yesterday, people from three countries (USA, Guatemala, Brasil) had viewed the new post.

That prompted me to remember that the stats can also be done for an entire year.  I opened the page to view the stats and to my amazement discovered that people from 64 different countries had viewed the site this year.  God is great!  Imagine that, people from every continent but Antarctica had visited the site!  As always, God finds miraculous ways to spread the word of his love and goodness that go far beyond our visions and dreams!

May you feel and recognize God moving in your life today and always!

And plant some seeds today…

Tell someone about the times when you saw God working in your life!

John

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Another Prayer Request – Santa Catarina Pinula

Much of the El Cambray neighborhood of Santa Catarina Pinula was buried under a landslide late Thursday night.  This town is on the outskirts of Guatemala City and is about 45 miles away as the crow flies from Panajachel, where we live.  More than 30 people are confirmed dead and as many as 600 are believed missing.  After a dry rainy season, September has been very wet as is the norm here.  Please keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Living here brings us constant reminders that we do not know how long we will journey on this earth.  Our faith in the existence of a loving and gracious God who loves and cares for all of his children at all times, no matter the circumstance helps us through  episodes such as this when no answer to the question “Why?” is sufficient.

May each person touched by this disaster feel and recognize the healing touch of God, today and always.

John

 

Story and pictures

Map

 

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Prayer Request for Steve and Jeani Driscoll

I would like to ask each person who reads this, to keep Steve and Jeani Driscoll, in your prayers in the coming days.  Steve is receiving a kidney tomorrow after a two year wait.  Steve and Jeani are the folks who now make their home in our house in Rochester.  I am convinced that God put them into our path at a time where we could provide mutual benefit to each other.

Steve and Jeani, thanks for all you have done for us.  God bless and keep you through the coming days!  You remain in our thoughts and prayers each day!

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Brief Thoughts on September 11

I just read the Upper Room devotional for today.  I highly recommend that you read it.
September 11th was a day that changed my life and some of my habits. It initially just made me angry as it did so many others. Eventually it made me stop and think about all of the tragic and abusive actions that are done in God’s name under the guise of religion in its many forms, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. After 9/11, I stopped watching violence-based shows that seemed to portray this violence as normal. It is NOT and we must try to give the world that message. God is love and love can indeed conquer all. If we all share God’s love with others every day, we can and will overcome the violence that haunts our society.
The Upper Room and Inward/Outward are the two devotional sources that I read consistently.  Each emails a daily devotional message/meditation to you for free when you subscribe.  If you decide to subscribe, please consider a donation to these organizations to help them cover their operational costs.
May you feel and recognize God’s movements in your life today and always!
John
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Christ United Methodist Church Update – August 23, 2015

We want to tell you how happy we are to be here with you, how thankful we are for this opportunity to speak to you and how grateful we are to the staff and congregation of this church for the many amazing ways that you continue to support us in this mission that God has called us into.
The next thing I want to do is to tell you that I have never received such clear and well thought out goals for a message when I have been asked to speak in a church setting. Responding to Pastor Elizabeth’s thoughts for this message challenged and stretched us. We grew as we learned and interacted with others to help think through our answers. Her questions show me that God’s spirit moves within her. As your representatives in Guatemala we are ever grateful for her personal and public support. I pray that she continues to answer God’s call to serve here for many years to come.
We received Elizabeth’s thought provoking questions concerning what we have learned about discipleship, ourselves and the power of grace just over a month ago and we have been discussing them ever since. Our first thoughts were “How we will ever meet these expectations ?” In many ways, the answer to Elizabeth’s question about discipleship and the process that it took to arrive at the answer are one and the same. I feel that this process is based upon what I know of our United Methodist roots. It is also the very same process we used as we determined that we would answer God’s call to serve in Guatemala.

1. We put our faith in God and trust that God will guide and protect us. 

2. We remind ourselves that God is Love.

3. We remember Jesus’ great commandments from Matthew 22 37-39

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all       your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 

4. We pray…and listen carefully for God’s answers.

5. We talk with mentors and friends whom we love and respect. God often speaks through these people.

6. We use the Wesleyan quadrilateral of Scripture, reason, tradition and experience to evaluate our interpretation of God’s answers.

7. Then…We act.

In February of this year, we moved to Guatemala to help a small non-profit called International Hands in Service. Project Salud y Paz is a joint project of International Hands in Service along with the global United Methodist church and the Guatemalan National Primitive Evangelical Methodist Church. Project Salud y Paz runs clinics in 3 locations in Guatemala using a single Guatemalan staff of doctors, dentists, lab techs, pharmacy and registration staff. Without the presence of our United Methodist sponsored clinics in these areas, many people would go completely without modern healthcare. We run a small school in Camanchaj for pre-K K and first grade to help Mayan children prepare to succeed in Guatemalan government schools. Many of these kids speak only one of the 22 Mayan dialects still used in Guatemala today. The school provides them with 65% of their daily caloric needs, medical and dental services as well as an education that includes nutrition, dental hygiene, and traditional subjects including the Spanish they need. In addition, we host around 30 short term mission teams a year who serve in the areas of medicine, surgery, dental, optical, and construction. We are a UMC advance project and truthfully our organization is seeking funding and support for our on-going operations as well as for a major building project to expand our primary clinic facility in Camanchaj, in the central highlands of Guatemala. We will build a new two story clinic building and convert the current clinic into a Regional Surgery Center. The primary roles that Jan, John Edmund and I perform are to provide administrative support in a wide variety of tasks. Specific tasks at this time for Jan include banking and accounting work, handling donations of all sorts including supplies and pharmaceuticals, and helping to design better processes and procedures for our short term mission teams. John Edmund has recently started to provide a great deal of computer services support to the staff including designing and implementing a way to easily access a particularly difficult printer. My tasks include designing and building a computerized pharmacy inventory control system, being one of two primary drivers for the volunteer staff and performing project management tasks for the clinic construction project.

Answering God’s call to serve in Guatemala has been and continues to be an incredible experience in so many ways.

In true David Letterman style, here’s my top 10 list of things that tell you God is always beside you as you become a UM volunteer in mission in Guatemala.

1. Getting up the courage to tell your wife that you believe you are being called as a family to Guatemala while leaving behind the best job and salary you ever had to become a volunteer in mission, and then finding out that she will actually consider going.

2. Setting a deadline for booking airline tickets 3 weeks ahead of your flight, picking an airline, finding out on the day of the deadline they don’t transport pets, giving up in despair after hours of frustration, getting a message from another airline about frequent flyer miles at 9:30 pm, finding out that you’re only a few thousand miles short of getting free tickets, finding out that there are actually 3 award seats available; paying less than $200 so you can use miles for all 3 tickets, finishing the booking process with less than an hour to go before your deadline.

3. Finding out that your church, family, friends, and relatives will actually donate their time, resources, and money to help you answer God’s call, we are about two thirds of the way to our 2015 fundraising goal

4. Thinking you have your house in Rochester rented, finding out less than four weeks before you leave that the deal won’t happen, that same week, having a family from your church who is in need of good housing call a pastor who knows about the rental opportunity, finding out that this family has been mentoring your son while volunteering next to him at church, being able to meet their needs while providing us with storage space, having that family help you pack, then having them offer to let you stay in your own basement during your visits to Rochester

5. Taking your cat to the airport, having an airline gate agent spend 5 minutes looking grumpily at his computer screen, getting nervous and irritated about him taking so long, having him ask you if you would like to exchange your 3 leg, 45 minute between flights in Chicago and Miami schedule for a direct flight to miami with a 3.5 hour layover so you can relax a little and get something to eat while you’re there

6. Staying in Guatemala for an extra week in October 2014 to find housing, finding a place and saying that you’d like to rent it starting in February, contacting the land lord in January only to find his current renters have decided to stay until may or june, frantically contacting everyone you know in Guatemala that has real estate connections, having the same Guatemalan realtor tell you 3 or 4 times in the next two weeks that they think they have a place only to remind them that you have a cat and then be told that each rental won’t take a cat, having the same realtor call you 8 days before you leave and tell you they found something that does take a cat, booking it, having second thoughts on the day you arrive when you walk down the dark alley that leads to the apartment, opening the iron gate to discover a sanctuary that you almost immediately recognize as home

7. Installing a water filter in a remote location in the central highlands of Guatemala and while you are watching another team member do some of the work, having a 4 year old Mayan boy come up and hold your hand for several minutes, causing you to realize that you are just where God wanted you at that moment

8. Fitting eyeglasses on a withdrawn, shy and quiet 4 or 5 year old Guatemalan girl with very bad eyes, finding out in the following weeks that she has blossomed into an outgoing normal enthusiastic 5 year old because she can now see

9. Spending more time every day with your family without driving each other crazy, working side by side with your wife and son in Guatemala, teaching your son some of the things you would want him to know about faith, about life and about working in a professional team environment, having your executive director support you in this process even when things don’t go as well as you’d like

10. Recognizing that not only are we in mission as this church representatives to the underserved Mayan people in Guatemala but that when talking to you about what we do, we are in mission to this church as well.

I want to stress that we believe each and every person is called by the God who created us and walks with us every step of our lives. We fully understand that not everyone is called to Guatemala , but there is plenty of God’s work to be done here in Rochester and everywhere else in the world. The experiences listed above have reinforced our belief that God is with us each step of every day, with us in all things big and small. If you trust in God and answer God’s call, God can do amazing things in and with your life that you wouldn’t have believed were possible. Thank you for the opportunity to tell you some of the many ways that God has worked in our lives over the past few months.

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