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Monday, May 28, 2012

Before I Go...

Dear Friends,

I just want y'all to know how very touched Dan and I have been by all the kind notes and comments that have come our way since our big announcement last week. Please know that we have read every word of every message and we have been so deeply encouraged and blessed.

Many of you have asked for more details on supporting us financially. If you're interested in this, you can sign up as a one-time or recurring donor on the Friends of SixtyFeet site.

Friends of SixtyFeet is our ministry's operational fund and covers everything from staff salaries and health insurance to paperclips for our office. Basically, it's all the stuff that's not very exciting to donate towards but is essential to the execution of our mission. And although we work off of a very tight and detailed budget, all of our operational expenses are currently paid out of one account -- so there's no need to designate your gift. It will get to where it needs to go.

If you or your church are interested in partnering with SixtyFeet in this capacity, please reach out to Dan for detailed information on our 2013 budget. He's got it and he'll be happy to share it. Or even meet with you in person if possible.

And finally -- if you're interested in continuing to follow along with us after this blog goes private (tomorrow night), please click the "register" link on the homepage -- just trust me, you'll see it tomorrow -- to request access. I'll soon be blogging about my upcoming trip to Uganda and Dan will write frequently about our work and life in ministry.

Thanks and blessings, friends. I'll see you on the other side!
Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Big Announcement -- And Our Last Post

In order to give some context to our “Big Announcement,” let me first share a story...

Years ago, Dan and I served a refugee community ministry in the southwest corner of Atlanta. It’s a simple little operation run by a precious couple, named Bennett and Idong Ekandem.

To say that we “served” this ministry is probably a strong word. Our little family of four would occasionally hop in our Audi and make the 35 minute trek to the apartment community in Clarkston, GA which represents one of the largest refugee communities in the world. Once on property, Dan and I would deliver a few bags of groceries, drop off some of our unwanted junk to various residents and leave a little money with Bennett and his wife.

Our entire family loved the Ekandem family and especially Bennett, whom we affectionately dubbed “Big Bennett.” The man was literally bursting at the seams with Christ’s love and his joy was infectious. I’d never met anyone quite like Big Bennett and I thought it was so nice that such a happy, humble, quiet servant had landed this refugee-ministry job that suited him so well.

We’d probably been acquainted with the refugee ministry for 6 or 7 months when I learned a shocking piece of information: Big Bennett hadn’t always been a quiet, humble servant living in a refugee community. He was a trained and highly educated architect whose name is associated with some of the most prominent buildings in downtown Atlanta. He felt the call to serve full-time in refugee ministry, and Big Bennett up and walked away from it all -- from the money, the prestige, the entire lifestyle.

In short, Jesus approached him and said “come, follow me.” And immediately, Bennett did.

What what?? I was flabbergasted by this discovery... he left a promising, lucrative, high-powered career to move to Clarkston, GA and serve a refugee community? Why would someone who was able to “make it” in the corporate world walk away for ministry work? Couldn’t he just volunteer on the weekends or something?

I know how ignorant all of this must make me sound. Please understand that at this time in my life, such a move made absolutely no sense in my economy. I remember turning Bennett’s story over and over in my mind and fearfully considering... what if, one day, God called Dan and me to do something similar? Could we really do it? Or more accurately, would we do it?

I pushed the question out of my mind because it didn’t seem too pressing or probable. Dan and I plugged along with our lives and did all the regular stuff. He worked hard as a software developer and I did the same as a stay-at-home-mom. In 2009 we added a third baby to our brood.

But in early 2010, everything changed. The Lord opened our eyes to a desperate need in the world. He broke our hearts for imprisoned children. Almost instantly, the entire course of our life was altered. Suddenly, what had been sacred and important was not such a big deal. What had been gain, we now counted as loss. We saw everything differently.

When we started SixtyFeet in early 2010, we had no idea that the Lord would grow and expand the ministry so exponentially and so quickly. For the last two years, we’ve juggled the work of SixtyFeet with our “real lives.” Dan and the other board members have essentially balanced two full-time jobs and frequent travel to Africa. The SixtyFeet wives and our amazing volunteers have filled in wherever possible.

But the ministry has now grown to the point that we just can’t effectively run a multi-faceted, international ministry without some full-time staff in the US. Dan and I have prayed and fasted and looked at this situation from every possible angle and with consideration to every possible scenario and it’s clear: we’re the ones who are called to go and do this thing.

We've decided to pull a Big Bennett. We've inquired of the Lord, we've counted the costs and we're prepared to respond in obedience.

Dan is transitioning out of his job by the end of this calendar year in order to run SixtyFeet full-time. For us, this is exciting and awesome -- but also scary. This is uncharted territory and, although we're confident in Christ's provision for us, this is a risk. Dan is leaving his nice, secure job to run a young, international ministry. This has several implications:

1. We are officially a ministry and missionary family – which means we’re officially raising support. We do have financial backing from the SixtyFeet board and from our own church, but in order to fully fund the SixtyFeet operational fund, known as Friends of SixtyFeet, we need additional supporters.

The mission of SixtyFeet is beautifully and fully funded through The Cupcake Kids, monthly film showings and the generous donations we receive throughout the year. Now, our greatest need is for staff to execute on the mission. The SixtyFeet board and our little church plant cannot shoulder the full operational cost of this work -- so we’re seeking individuals, churches, foundations and corporations with a heart for unique, international mission work to partner with us financially.

We need monthly, quarterly, annual and one-time donors to align with us. Please prayerfully consider aligning with us in this way and email Dan at danowens at sixtyfeet dot org for more information. Whenever possible, Dan will be happy to sit with you, face to face, to show you our new film and to discuss the ministry and specific staffing and operational needs.

2. Even more importantly, we need a team of people who will commit to pray for us. When someone once asked Charles Spurgeon the secret of his success, he simply replied "My people pray for me." It’s a jungle out there and as we step out in faith, Dan and I need prayer coverage for our ministry work, for our marriage, for our family and for life in general. If you’re interested in coming alongside us in this capacity, please email me at shellyowens at sixtyfeet dot org.

3. I’m taking a step back from SixtyFeet work and assuming a more behind-the-scenes role. If this seems counter-intuitive to you, I get that. I mean, Dan enters into full-time ministry work and now I’m backing away?

When Dan initially decided to make this move, I first assumed that my role would be the exact opposite. I’m an experienced fundraiser with extensive non-profit experience... I figured I’d be hanging up my homeschool hat and hitting the road with my husband to help build this ministry and raise support. But the Lord has clearly confirmed that my role will be anything but.

My family is on the brink of some major lifestyle changes and at this time, the best way for me to support SixtyFeet is by supporting my husband, loving my children and managing my home. I’m not backing away altogether and I’ll still be very involved in the work of our ministry – but mostly by sticking behind the scenes.

4. In keeping with the point above... the Crazy Blog is going private. Y’all, it’s sad (it really is so, so sad for me because I have loved this space!!) but it’s true. I just cannot continue to dedicate the time and attention required for public blogging.

The next time you visit this page, it will be password protected and access will be restricted to family, friends and those who serve on our financial and prayer support teams. This is necessary, due to the sensitive nature of the work we do and also frankly, because the public blogging world has just worn me out this year. Remember?

If you fall into one of those aforementioned categories and would like to continue to keeping up with Team Owens and follow along with our ministry work, you can register for our private blog at this same web address in about one week.

Thank you so very much to everyone who has followed along with our Crazy journey over the last few years. I was sifting through some old blog posts and pictures last night and I've got to admit, I got a little teary-eyed. For me, this is the end of an era.

If you’ve been reading from the very beginning, you’ve watched some amazing stuff unfold... and to God be all the glory. He's taken us in directions we never could have imagined and our story is really His story. He’s the author and perfecter of our faith and our lives. Dan and I are truly blessed to serve in His courts.

And that's a wrap. We love y'all dearly and we are thankful for you. 

Gratefully in His Service,
Dan & Shelly

Monday, May 7, 2012

Headed Out

I'm blogging here tonight... come see me!

With the Cupcake Kids season drawing to a close, our family is headed to the beach for some R & R -- thanks to the generous gift of a dear friend.

But check back with me next Sunday night. I (finally) have a major announcement from the Owens family...