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2012 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I’m pretty happy with it. I am inspired to finish my book in 2013—once I awake from zombie mode because of the recent birth of my baby girl! Yes, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation going on around the Joannes household right now, but there are glimpses of deep inspiration as well. I hope to draw on that inspiration to create a book that satisfies your craving for unique missionary stories.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

EMMANUEL IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY

This is a blog originally published by my wife, Lorna, in December, 2011. Her writing is always so touching and inspiring because she writes from a deep place of honesty and transparency. I am honored to give you a window into her heart.

See original blog here, by Lorna Joannes @lornajoannes

Two Christmas’s ago, David and I went to the United States to celebrate with his family. We had a wonderful time. That same year, earlier in 2009, we were able to set up three more underground Bible training centers, but we suffered a lot of difficulty in China—from persecution to sickness, and near death experiences. It was also that same year that we published the inspiring Ako Ay Pilipino coffee table book, which took only 13 weeks from conceptualization to publishing. When December came, we were exhausted.

Most of us have experienced it: after a big project is finished—a big success or accomplishment obtained—everything slows down, and your adrenaline plunges. The physical tiredness combined with emotional exhaustion was very real. I felt broken inside and was not ready to go back to the mission field.

I knew that we were on the right track, but questions lingered in my mind. “I know this is what we are supposed to do, but is God really with me?” I wondered. “Are you with me, God?” We often ask these kinds of questions, especially when there are serious challenges along the path of the journey. They are valid questions. God knows the frailty of humankind, and He understands the questions that comes from deep within a man or woman. It is okay. He is not offended.

After weeks of speaking at churches and fund raising around America, a friend invited to us to go to her church. In only a few days we would return to China. We decided to attend.

We met the pastor and people in leadership before the service, where there were about 300 people, but we did not know anyone beside the friend who invited us. The worship was great. The presence of the Lord was there. Suddenly, just before the worship ended, they called us to the front to pray for us. It was very encouraging. People we have never met before were praying for us. As the prayer ended, a lady came up to me. I was surprised as she held my hand and put a gold ring on my right ring finger. She said, “This is my ring, made of broken jewelry, with my name engraved on it. The Lord told me to give it to you.” I looked down and saw the word “Manuela”. She continued, “My name is taken from the word Emmanuel, which means God is with us. God wants to tell you that He is with you, and He has never left you. He told me to give you this ring to remind you of this promise”.

As I stood in front of the 300 people present, I began crying. It was a heavenly moment, a confirmation that God’s presence was given to me. I knew in my heart that He was always there, but to hear a confirmation of the exact answer to my questions earlier that day was mind blowing.

That day, God gave me a promise ring. I’ve never seen Manuela again. I have never been able to get ahold of her. I know it is not easy to give a precious ring to someone you have never met before. I felt like she was an angel sent to comfort me, to remind me of what Emmanuel really means, and to confirm God’s promises so that we could continue our journey. To this day, I am still wearing the ring. Wherever you are, dear sister, I am so thankful for your obedience.

As you read this blog, it is about 10 days before Christmas, and only 16 days before the start of 2012. You might also have similar questions and wonderings going on in your mind. Or you may be facing some struggles like David and I were. They are normal. Wherever you are at this point, hold on to the promises enclosed in this name: Emmanuel.

As you evaluate this whole year that has sped by—as you see your accomplishments and areas that need improvement—remember one thing: Emmanuel. God is always with you. He was with you in the past, He’s in every detail of your future, and He knows whatever you are undergoing at present.

In the Chinese underground Church, it is common to greet one another or say goodbye with these words, 以马内利 (yi ma nei li), which means Emmanuel. They understand the power of the abiding presence of God in everyday life. May it be so in our lives as well.

Because of this word, Christmas exists. God chose to come down to be with us, because He knows that it is too difficult to live in this imperfect world alone. We need a companion, we need Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Invest now.

See original blog here, by Lorna Joannes @lornajoannes

I GUESS I COULD BE ANYWHERE

As the early morning sunlight splinters through closed roller blinds, at the groggy cusp of awakening—eyelids blinking and squinting away the bright—I often awake, wondering where I am.

A mental map slowly emerges, of Asian city streets, of twists and turns through alleyways and neighborhoods. “Jinse Boulevard to Beijing Road,” I mull over in my mind. “Down to First Ring Road, which turns to Yi Er Yi Street. Maybe I’ll head over to Salvador’s Coffee on Wen Hua Alley.” But I haven’t lived at that address for years. I am not in Kunming city. I am not even in China.

The lines of geography shift on canvas, yellow lines on white Google Maps, dotted with hotspot district locations.

Hotel.
Village.
Coffee Shop.
Noodle shop.
Point of interest.

Gail Gardner Way curves like a snake through wild West Arizona streets—most likely old horse trails. “Straight at the intersection of Iron Springs, veer left, Starbucks on hill. I’ll grab a coffee and a blog,” I think to myself as I lay in bed, half awake, morning glory buried in my eyes. But I am not in Prescott. Apart from my short seven month Stateside stint, I haven’t lived in America in well over a decade.

“Where am I?”

Then the rhythms of ongoing construction begin. A circular saw penetrates the chaotic silence, a hammer, the hum of an overhead skyscraper crane. Someone yells to his buddy in Tagalog, which brings me back to present reality. “Oh, that’s right. I’m in Manila.”

The map coordinates rearrange.

Aurora Boulevard.
Gateway Mall.
EDSA.

But I could be anywhere. The thousands of days spent traversing Asian terrain and culture have led me from city to village, borders to continents. In some time or place, I have been there. Everywhere. But when the contours of map overlays shift so randomly, I often feel like I am nowhere.

“Where am I?” Or an even deeper, more obscure missionary question, “Where is home?”

It’s an anomaly worth considering.

But there is no home for me. Beside the home that is my wife, I am a tourist. I am a sojourner. I am in transit.

I am foreign. It defines me.

Death Cab For cutie says, “When you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, then it’s time to go and define your destination. There’s so many different place to call home.”

That’s the loss we feel as missionaries. Or is that the deeper transcendent notion of all Christians? That we are just passing through, on our way from here to there, going home?

I’m not homesick for America, or China, or the Philippines. I am not overly consumed with wanderlust—that comes with the territory as a missionary. I think I am just sick for my true home.

I love the geography of my Christian life. I love how I am able to switch between maps, cities and continents. And I do feel that even in the confusion of present cares and concerns, that little tug—that dissatisfaction, even—God is reaching out to take my hand, and lead me on the journey toward my true home.