Saturday, October 19, 2013


This is good-bye "until we meet again" at least for now. We are leaving in the morning for Africa!!! Finally, after years of preparation and God's stirring on our hearts, we have come to the departure moment. It is very exciting and very unbelievable. I almost feel like it is all a dream and I will wake up in my old home, in Tennessee, in my old bed.

Adah helping in the packing process
We have learned so much during orientation and feel closer to God and closer to our personal call to Africa. We are excited to meet to the locals and begin settling down in our temporary home while we find a more permanent place to stay. I want to thank everyone who helped to get us here: those who prayed, those who partnered financially, those who supported and encouraged us, those donated time to help us, those who donated other gifts that have meant so much to us. You are all a part of our team - TEAM SPANN! So, let's go team!

This has to make it through the airport tomorrow.
Having said all of that, I must say we will be offline for a while until we get settled. I hope to at least post some random words and pictures sometime between now and then to let you know we arrived safely. Otherwise, feel free to look us up on Facebook. Please pray for our travels, for Adah, and for our luggage to make it. Thanks again!!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Commissioning Service

On Thursday morning we were officially declared to be field staff (even though we have been to language school). Our paperwork was transferred to the chief of operations in a formal service before the staff at headquarters at MAF. It was a touching service that made everything feel surreal for us. Here are some photos we would like to share.
Our Human Resources manager introduced each family.
This family is going to DRC as well.
Here we are posing for photos after receiving a prayer journal.
Our CFO giving an encouraging speech
Our entire class of 9 families...and 17.9 children

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Box of Quinoa

We are down to the last days in the United States (2 days)... Oh...My...Goodness! There has been so much preparation to get us to this point. One of the recommendations for reading was a book called "Expert Expat." In the book it talks about what happens when your cultural shock hits. You pretty much have a breakdown over something and then you realize your life is totally and completely different. It happens to everyone and for each person, something different triggers it, and each person reacts differently. The book goes on to talk about different things to do to help ease this transition. Things like bringing along some favorite items, a Christmas tree, family photo albums, and other things that will make your new place feel more like home to you.

For us, the concept of "home" has been a of late. For the past 2 years we have not stayed in any one place for any substantial period of time. Sure, in each place we lived we had certain photos hanging on the wall, certain knickknacks that we enjoyed looking at, and family books sitting on the shelf. But if one of those items were to disappear (or get packed up for Africa 6 months ahead of time), we were not going to feel like we were not at home in the place we were staying.

I am now counting down the days (Did I mention 2 days? 2...Days...Seriously...2...) before we leave and all I can think of is if I am going to forget something. There is going to be some item that I am going to want to have 3 months down the road and I am not going to have it. Not only will I lack this said item, I am going to realize I cannot go out and buy this item at Wal-Mart. Not only will I be at a loss as to a way to obtain this item, I am going to feel like I don't belong because I am missing it. No big deal (in words) because it happens to everyone. I am simply in a mindset right now attempting to prepare myself by searching my head for any possible item I am going to want in the future. This is much harder than it sounds! Kevin and I have lived a fairly simplistic and quite mobile lifestyle for so long, I don't even know what I am missing.

This is where things have become silly for me. I have been scouring the internet, searching for this missing "item." Pinterest, Zulily, Amazon, ebay, Craigslist. Is the item a pastry cutter? Well, no, I usually use a fork quite well. Is this item a personalized set of coasters? Well, no, we never use coasters and let's be honest, we won't use ice either! Is this item a Color Wonders set for Adah? Well, I highly doubt she will even use that for a few years. I have even attempted to talk Kevin into paying for an extra piece of luggage and paying for the international extra luggage fees, just so we will have room to take this magical item that I. MUST. HAVE. TO. SURVIVE.

What is this magical item you ask? I have come to believe it is a box of quinoa.

At least for now. Maybe tomorrow it will be another package of pepperoni. But anyway. My silly head is telling me that I must pack a box of quinoa, because if I get to Africa and I cannot eat quinoa, I am going to feel homesick (even though we don't eat it that often). I hope you all are now laughing at the absurdity of the situation, because I am laughing at myself!

Tune in over the next week or so to find out if I did buy the box of quinoi...or suitcase...or pepperoni...I haven't decided yet.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Orientation Training...Bridges

Did you know that the Muslim faith of Islam is one of the fastest growing religions right now? Did you know technically, we are all Muslims? The Arabic word Muslim means "one who submits to God," therefore we are Muslims, through Christ! There is a lot of fear and hostility that strikes someone when you mention the word Muslim. And the media does a great job of promoting our fears by placing all Muslims in a negative light, as radicals, or fundamentalist, etc - it is just good business. And how are we to teach a Muslim about Jesus if we allow our fears to separate us from them? MAF understands this concern and has put us through a basic Islamic training called "Bridges" because we are learning how to build a "bridge" and form a friendship with a Muslim, rather than preaching AT one. Considering this culture is very much about relationship building, it is very important to know about the Muslim culture so that you can relate to them.

At the beginning of this training, we all talked about what we thought we knew about the Islamic religion. It was very sad to say that 99% of our information came from the news and hardly any of us had taken the initiative to learn the truth about their culture. I am included in that percent! Not only was most of our information lacking, but a lot of it was misinterpreted hearsay! Did you know Muslims believe Christ was born of a virgin and that He was sent by God? Did you know their holy book (the Qur'an) instructs them to follow the Psalms of David, the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and (most) of the Gospel?

The training took us through the history of the religion as well as discussing a lot of their beliefs and rituals. Using all of this information, we learned there are surprisingly quite a few similarities in our religions. Drawing on our similarities, it gave us many examples on how to break the ice into "bridging" a connection. Once you have a connection, it becomes easier to talk more freely and openly, which will hopefully lead to more opportunities to discuss Jesus.

One of the biggest reality checks for me was when the Muslims in the video talked about what they knew of the Christian culture. Since they also get all of their information from the news and movies, they are just as misinformed about us! Chew on this: when we call Jesus the Son of God, they take this literally. So they believe we are Pagans because we worship the half-god Jesus who was born because God had a physical relationship with Mary. Oh my! They also think we as Christians are polytheists (meaning we worship multiple gods), because of our belief in the Trinity. They are under the misconception that our Trinity includes God, Jesus, and Mary.

One of the things that I appreciated the most were the testimonies from people who were once Muslims and then converted to Christianity. Their testimonies were powerful and their desire to look beyond their own faith was because of their own personal strength. When talking to the person who introduced them to Christianity, there were two main characteristics: a desire and perseverance to connect, and a desire to share their knowledge of Jesus. That's it. No judging, no condemnation, no finger pointing or accusations, just being an ambassador of Christ through relationship building.

*If you are looking for more information on how to share Jesus with a Muslim, I would be happy to share some of our sources.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Orientation Training...Marriage/Relationship Seminar

MAF's policy is that family is your first ministry. Boy do I ever agree with that! On top of that, your home life effects your field life. If something isn't right at home and you go fly, don't you think the distractions will affect your mindset? So, we spent two days talking about our family in a training with a counselor/coach. We approached different aspects of marriage such as listening, communication, conflict, sex, children, and we even threw in a few jokes! This training was very helpful in so many ways.

The training began with a discussion on conflict and why humans have conflict. It sums up to how everyone interprets information. All information is fed into our minds and the information either meets our wants/needs or it does not. So that data is interpreted as either positive (meeting our wants/needs) or negative (does not meet our wants/needs). So what are our wants/needs? Everyone has the basics: food, air, water, shelter, and safety. But beyond that are things like companionship, joy, trust, self-expression, affection, stability, etc. And each person has a different list of things that are important to them. The first step is to realize what those wants/needs are and make sure that your spouse is helping to meet those needs. 

Building on this foundation, we began to talk about listening styles and nonviolent communication. I have to admit that the nonviolent communication was difficult. It has nothing to do with physical contact but the use of violent (judgmental) language when communicating. For example: "This room is a mess and you kids are driving me nuts!" When in reality, the kids did not make you crazy by forcing that emotion on you. They way you interpret their actions is completely up to you. A more accurate and nonviolent form of communication would be something like: "When I see your toys scattered around the living room, I feel irritated, because I am needing order. Would you be willing to come inside and put your things away?" In general, it is very hard to discern emotions from verbs when it comes to words you frequently use to describe how you think you feel. Talking like this takes a lot of practice but it does make communication better when you can talk to someone free of judgment and harsh language.

The next part of the training was the "taboo" subject of sex in marriage. Even typing it out makes me blush! But it is an important topic in order to help a marriage grow stronger. We discussed the different levels of affection and how everyone has different ideas and opinions. We were then given an opportunity to discuss these categories as a couple and the counselor was available for one-on-one time if we had any questions. 

From there, we transitioned into the topic of parenting. Let's just say this was on everyone's mind! I have come to believe that everyone questions their own parenting skills and we were definitely one of them. There were so many questions but we were provided with new ways to parent as well as many resources on communicating with your children. We talked about everything from parenting styles and disciple to different ways to talk to your children about difficult subjects.  We even talked about how to do family meetings and goals!

Overall, this training was not long enough! Everyone had so many questions and there was just not enough time. We had a lot of fun and told a lot of jokes. Our counselor made the training interesting and helped us nurture a positive environment to help our marriage grow. Kind of like a booster shot to keep us healthy...without the needles...or the flu like side-effects...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Orientation Training...Emotional Health

Being a missionary can be tough on a person emotionally and MAF understands this. As part of our training, we got to sit down in a group setting with a Christian counselor and coach. It was so much fun to openly discuss some of these issues with our counselor since he made it so interesting. Discussing things about depression, desolation, and anxiety are pretty tough issues in general, but mix in how it relates to field work and you could have some serious issues on hand.

The first part of the training dealt with depression. We discussed many symptoms and how to take notice of these things. We also talked about why people get depressed from a Christian stand point and why medications are sometimes an appropriate solution. Considering my prior background (late teen years until pre-pregnancy) with depression, I really appreciated his Biblical view on mental health.

The next part talked about the difference in spiritual desolation vs. depression. There is a huge difference! Spiritual desolation is an experience of your soul that is part of your spiritual growth. Because some people can confuse this with clinical depression, we discussed ways to interpret the differences and realize no one is at fault.

In the third part of the training, we discussed anxiety (and/or worry). These symptoms are a bit different from depression in that the thoughts consume, and begin to affect you physically. Anxiety can eventually cause impairment in a social setting and lead to bigger physiological issues later is left unnoticed and untreated. The most important part of this training in my opinion was how to recognize these issues in children.

After discussing these heavy topics, we talked a lot on why they exist from both a scientific and a Biblical standpoint. All of the information made sense to me! Then, we took the time to determine how to address the issues. I won't go into all the details but will sum it up by saying that MAF has a lot of resources in place to help us if there are any issues. We even have a whole department dedicated to the care of us as MAF staff! This training really made me appreciate the steps MAF goes through to keep their missionaries healthy mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I know I can say no other job I have had in the past has involved so much preparation or given us this many ways to keep up our mental health!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Orientation Training...Personal Training

I really struggled with coming up with a subject title for this series of classes. The official title was "Living a Life Worthy of the Lord" and it was broken up into three parts. A part on spiritually living, a part on relationally living, and a part on personally living. The guest speakers were a missionary couple who had spent most of their 40 year marriage with their personal ministry which helps to take care of missionaries. You could say they are a little like a missionary version of Dr. Phil who teach people how to take care of themselves spiritually. Their own testimonies of faith are an encouragement!

The part on spiritually living drew on the verse Colossians 1:9-14. This verse talks about how we should pray. We were told that the men are the SOUL providers for the their family. Their duty is to feed their family's soul with love and encouragement as well as Bible time. We never realized how important Bible time as a family could be until they showed us an example of how to have spiritual time together. It was beautiful, heartwarming, and intimate. Afterwards, we were given our own Bible verse and were asked to get together as a couple and study the verse together. Afterwards, we were to pray together. It was very encouraging and definitely made Kevin and me feel closer. I think this was my favorite part of the training!

The part on relationally living talked about how we relate to others. So often in our lives we feel "wronged" or "hurt" by someone else. This leaves a whole in us that can only be filled by forgiveness. But, it is important for us to learn what true forgiveness is, otherwise, we can hurt more than one person. Let's say I were to get in a fight with my best friend. My husband suffers because he is friends with her husband. Their children suffer because they are friends with Adah. Then, I am no longer the only person who feels "wronged" or "hurt" but my family now feels this way towards me. It is a trickle down effect and is can tear people up physically, mentally, and spiritually. So we first learned what true forgiveness is and is not. I think the hardest lesson to understand for people is that forgiveness ultimately comes from God, not man.

The final part was on personally living. Sometimes in our lives we need to seek God and the best way to do that is to focus on a Christ like character in our personal lives. For example, humility, self-control, patience, love, joy, etc. This was a very soul searching process, especially as we did this as a couple. I have to be honest and say that this was a very raw moment for our marriage and I shed quite a few tears. Intentional living is very hard but it helps to bring you closer to God. Don't believe me? Ask God for humility and see what happens!

Overall, the training really helped to build strength in our family as well as how our family relates to others. It also helped us to see how important our prayer partners are in our lives.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Orientation Training...Ethnic Church Visit

One of our assignments for Orientation Training was to visit a church of a different culture and language from us, and of a different culture than one we had visited, or will serve in. The idea was for us to get out of our comfort zone so we turn to God and reflect on any feelings, good, bad or indifferent about being in a new environment. And also to challenge our view of what "church" is and what part it plays in feeding us spiritually. It is an excellent project! I would even recommend for you to stretch yourself and try and find an ethnic church in your area.

Anyway, we chose to go to the Maranatha Romanian Church of God. Just as a precaution, I looked up some information on the Romanian culture. It was suggested that a woman not reach out to shake a man's hand, but to wait for him to extend his hand first; when in a private conversation, it is considered rude to place your hands in your pockets; and women typically wear a head scarf while in a church building and make certain their legs are covered underneath their skirts. I was very glad I had read this information prior to our visit!

Upon arriving at the church, I noticed that the congregation was segregated by gender. The women and children were on the right side and the men were on the left. After mentioning this to Kevin (who was initially oblivious to this), we parted ways. Adah and I took a seat and had almost a whole row of chairs to ourselves. After a few minutes, I noticed a young man speaking to Kevin. A few more minutes later, the young man handed Kevin an electronic device. Then, a young lady brought me one as well. It was a small receiver with some headphones. As I put the headphones in my ears, I heard English! I was so excited to hear the meaning of what they were singing. They had the songs on Power point, and we did notice quite a few similarities when compared to French, but the perfect translations were much better!

The service began with a song. After the song, we all prayed, with everyone kneeling on the ground, the women facing forward, and the men facing backward. The only exceptions were the elderly who just sat in their chairs. When everyone prayed, the prayed aloud. You could hear so much passion in their voices. This lasted about 10 minutes before everyone stood up again and sang another song. Once the song was over, we all sat down and a man walked up to the front and said a few words and invited us to all kneel again for prayer. This was repeated several times, only to be broken by a young woman singing, then later, some of the children played musical instruments. It was so beautiful to see and hear so many prayers. I only wish each prayer could have been translated.

After the first hour, Adah began to grow weary of her own toys and not being permitted to roam the aisles.  I got up and took her to the bathroom to check her diaper and give her a minute to stretch. During this time, people were walking in and filling more and more seats. What started as a room of about 20 people slowly filled to around 60 people. As more people entered, the prayers became more fervent and more loud. Unfortunately, Adah became more anxious and more tired. During the next hour, I had to walk out one more time to allow her to burn off some energy. I could only hold her still for so long while trying to enjoy everything going on around me, and unfortunately Kevin couldn't do much to help out this time.

Then one of the men came forward and began to preach about the things God had laid on his heart. I didn't get to enjoy the sermon since Adah decided that throwing her toys to the toy-less children behind her was much more fun and had long since ripped out the headphones. Unfortunately, the grandmother behind us did not appreciate that and admonished me and Adah in Romanian and sat Adah's toys in her bag at the end of the aisle. Oops!

Overall, I enjoyed the three hour service that took me out of my usual comfort zone. The music touched my heart and the prayers filled my soul. Even though the only person who spoke English was the translator, many people shook our hands and greeted us afterwards. They were very polite and glad we came.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Orientation Training...Spiritual Warfare

The longer I am with MAF, the more I appreciate all they do for their staff! Last Friday, Kevin and I began our Orientation Training. To say that the training we are currently in is thorough would be an understatement. Over the next few days, I thought that I could share just a little bit of information on each of the topics we are covering. I would have to write a book on each subject in order to cover a small portion of all the things we talk about. Since I don't have time, and there are plenty of books already on the subjects, I will just highlight some of the key points of our training and how it relates to us in the field.

The first two days of training were on the subject of Spiritual Warfare. I have to be honest, growing up, I was not informed of the havoc that demons could play in a Christians life. I was taught that once you were saved, all you had to do was sit back and wait for the rewards of eternity* (*not really, but that is how I felt about my level of naivety concerning the demonic world.) There is so much that goes on in real life that we often chalk it up being a coincidence or maybe we just didn't get enough sleep. So many times I have heard stories about supernatural things from missionaries and I thought they were selling their stories to rack in the big bucks* (again, not really, but I though it sounded catchy.)

There is nothing I can say right now to convince you to believe in the presence of evil and the power it can have over you, even if you are a Christian. But I do invite you to read, study, and pray about it yourself. While Kevin and I were during our Ministry Partnership phase, we experienced things that made us realize how foolish we were. Since then, our experiences have only increased and will continue to increase as we get closer to the field. Satan and his demons are real and they would prefer one less missionary out in the field. Keeping that in mind, MAF understood that and trained us on what we can do to protect ourselves (the Spann family) here and now.

What does that look like exactly? I am not going to go into a whole lot of detail about what that means. There is not enough space to sum up the years of research our speaker did or his list of references. But, in a few words, if our enemy did not make sin look so enticing, we wouldn't do it. So we could bemoan over the fact of how sinful we are, how corrupt we are, but this also points to how gracious, loving and forgiving Christ is. If we are firmly rooted in Christ, and His authority, and biblical truth, we have already gained major ground in the battle. If you do want some additional information on the topic, I invite you to email me and I can provide you with some our resources.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Adah's September Diary

Back by popular demand...ADAH!!!

My daddy is a busy guy! He works in the hangar an awful lot. The other day, mama took me to visit him at work. It was fun running around and screaming to listen to my voice echo.
As much fun as that was, I like to play dress up...with other people's shoes. Hey! A girl can dream of a closet full of shoes...even if it is her parent's shoes she envisions.

Some days I like to occupy my free time by cruising around the sidewalk.
On the other days that I like fresh air, I just go for a simple walk with my Ya-Ya (pink lovey toy). Of course it is very hard to sneak her out of the house. I don't understand why mama won't let Ya-Ya play outside.
When I have a little bit of free time, I enjoy playing in the sandbox. I like to fill up empty stuff with sand. It is a very import job and I take it very seriously.
When I get bored with the calm days, I like to dress up for a night out. For this adventure, mama's shoes match my purse (mama's make-up bag) so well!
But no matter what, at the end of the day, I always have my daddy!