The McRae Family Update (8/24/20)

Hello everyone, it’s been quite some time! In our last update, we left you right at the end of our 2019-2020 school year, before our summer break officially began. Thank you for your patience! Although our silence has been long, our time here in Florida has been anything but quiet. And though I had hoped to write this update a couple of weeks ago, our past month has been a whirlwind. Here’s what’s been happening.

What’s new?

We moved!

If you’ve kept up with our blogs, you’ll know that this has been a long time coming, but we finally found a location that’s a little bit closer to our work and we were able to upgrade from a 1 bedroom apartment to 2 (which is like paradise for us at this point, also, our new address will be located on our “contact” page). This new change has been greatly desired, but unfortunately the moving date ended up falling in our first two weeks of school, and more specifically, during the week that I was teaching 6 hours on Genesis for the first time. While I was working during the day and spending nights studying for Genesis, Samantha was juggling Benaiah and the majority of the packing (she’s a champ!) It’s been a very stressful month, but God is gracious and things are moving along well now.

School of Biblical Studies

Before our summer began, the Emmaus Staff held our annual planning meeting where we assigned the next school year’s teaching assignments. Our goal for the teaching staff is that each teacher will slowly begin building a “library” of books from the Bible that they’ve taught two or three times over the years. This helps the overall knowledge base of the staff grow and allows us to be more flexible with our book assignments. In the past two years, I’ve generally taught the same books for our School of Biblical Studies, but this year I’m expanding my teaching library and have picked up a number of new books, so much of the summer has been spent in fresh preparation for this new teaching challenge

As with everything else, COVID has caused a lot of disruption in our typical School preparations. To be frank, we were expecting to receive little or no interest in our 10-month school program. But as usual, God surprised us and we received 6 students for our 2020-21 school year!

*Please note that social distancing protocol is enforced in our program, though students are allowed to remove their masks while seated.

COVID has made circumstances a bit awkward and challenging at times, but the students of this school year have a clear determination to know God through His Word, which always breathes life and energy in our work here with Emmaus.

We’re also gearing up to start our other yearly programs; the Narrative Series and our new Night School program. Both of these programs are less intensive than our 10-month school, and are more accessible to larger groups of people. So far, we’re seeing great numbers from those who have signed up for these programs, even amidst all the chaos this year has thrown into the mix of our lives. People are still hungry for God’s Word!

What Now? // Prayer Requests

Aside from the normal school classes, Samantha and I are going to be working on settling into our new home over the next couple of weeks, and I’ll also be starting preparations for the next books that I teach while continuing my part-time work doing lawn-care for a local church.

As for prayer requests, we ask for prayers concerning out new home, that it would continue to be a blessing for our family as we adjust. We also would love prayer concerning our ongoing support raising efforts. We’re well aware that this has been an incredibly difficult season for many who’ve been left without jobs or income. We truly consider ourselves very fortunate to have been little affected by this reality up to this point, though at times it can be a major source of anxiety for us, since we rely so heavily on the support of our friends and loved ones. We’re praying that the grace for this season will continue not only for ourselves, but those who have been most affected by these circumstances.

As always, thank you for your continued support. And if you would like to consider making a donation towards our mission, you may do so here:

With our love and blessings, The McRaes

The McRae Family Update

Hello dearest friends and family. Thank you once again for your patience as it has become increasingly evident that our family blog is moving towards a bi-monthly existence. We appreciate all of your continued attention and support and we hope you are are doing well amidst the seemingly ever-present chaos of 2020!

What’s New?
School has ended! As of the month of May, the students of the Emmaus School of Biblical Studies 2020, have graduated! It was truly bitter sweet to have witnessed the culmination of a great year with wonderful students, but to have our celebration somewhat hindered by the necessary protocols in response to COVID19. As you can see below, we were able to meet in person at the last, but not without taking precautionary measures.
At least it made for a cool band pic. We’re really proud of this group!

What’s next for Emmaus?
For our ministry, the first thing we like to do after each school year is ask ourselves, “How can we make this ministry better?” That means that our summers are primarily focused on improving existing programs and polishing our curriculum. Aside from that, it’s also a time where we can begin studying for next year’s lectures and work on raising more individual support.

As some exciting news, we’re also building the structure of a new program that we’re planning to “pilot” this upcoming year, the “Emmaus Night Course” (we’re working on the title).  Basically, this will function as an intermediary program of sorts, between our 14 week Biblical Narrative Series and our 10 month School of Biblical Studies. This program is designed for graduates of our Narrative Series who want to continue going deeper with their Bible study but can’t necessarily commit to the our 10 month school. It’s still in the planning phase, but we’re very excited to be adding yet another avenue of accessibility for learners who want to know God through His Word!

What’s next for the McRae Family?
This summer is a bit unique for our family in a couple different ways. First, Samantha and I have decided not to renew our current lease (which ends mid August) in favor of finding a larger living space. One bedroom is becoming increasingly difficult for us. This means that we have two months to pack up our stuff, find a new and affordable living arrangement, and move. We have a few options in the works, but would appreciate all prayer!

Second, I (Jacob) will be starting off our next school by teaching through the book of Genesis for the first time. For many reasons, I find this to be a daunting challenge, but one that I’m very excited about. So, much of the summer will be spent studying for this book. Here’s a sample of the books I’ve been perusing so far:

Though I’m only at the beginning of my preparations of Genesis, I’ve already been thoroughly enjoying the process!

Prayer Requests
1. Moving. This is definitely the greatest point of anxiety in our lives right now.
2. Emmaus. There are a number of new challenges arising this coming year, and between studying for new books and creating curriculum for new programs, it can feel a bit overwhelming. We would also appreciate prayer for wisdom and guidance as we prepare for the upcoming school amidst the continuing COVID19 situation.
3. Fundraising. As always, Samantha and I are working towards building our financial support base. Currently, I’m working part time at a local church on their facilities team to help supplement. While aspects of doing that are enjoyable, we’d love the freedom to focus our full attentions on Emmaus.

We love you all, and thank you for your continued support!

-The McRae Family

Obligatory Benaiah Pictures:

The McRae Family Update (5/6/20)

Friends, family, supporters, we hope this month of May finds you well! Like most of you (I’m assuming) we have been spending most of our days looking out of windows, hoping things will go back to normal soon. But if you’re anything like me, it might be a relief to hear about something other than COVID-19 for once. That being said, I also don’t want to skip over an opportunity to encourage those of you who may feel stuck somewhere between disappointment and despair. If that’s you, I’d like to direct you to our previous blog on The Doctrine of Disappointment. (I’d also love for you to reach out to us through our contact page!).

We also wanted to take a moment to extend our sincerest thanks and gratitude toward all of you. With the various difficulties and trials that we are all facing right now, Samantha and I were incredibly humbled and touched by the generosity that has been shown us this past month. Where we expected to experience a loss of support, we experienced an increase. We have truly felt the love! You all are amazing!

What’s been going on?
Aside from dealing with the same things all of you are probably dealing with, things have been going well here with us and our work for Emmaus Bible Ministries.  While things have certainly looked different, we’ve been plugging right along with classes through Zoom.

Picture of our students during their recent class on Hebrews

Speaking of classes, I recently taught through 1st John for our school, the last book I’ll be teaching this school year. It’s a great book to study as we begin wrapping up the school year for these students because it’s a book of assurance for believers. As a former student, I can testify to the wonderful problem of having a ton of new Bible information swimming around in my head, and this book does a fantastic job of summarizing deep theology in simple statements. For a six chapter book, 1st John has an incredible amount to say on things like the doctrine of God, sin, salvation, Christology, the Holy Spirit, and even eschatology!

What’s next?
Right now we’re getting ready to head into our final weeks of class with Revelation, followed by graduation for our students. As Student Coordinator of Emmaus, my current job has been to focus on processing applications for next year’s school, starting in August. This is always one of the most exciting processes, seeing other’s get ready for a life-changing year in God’s Word. (Cue the promo video!)

Prayer Requests
COVID has not come without its struggles for our community. One of our students recently suffered the loss of their father as a victim to the virus. Obviously, this type of loss would be indescribably difficult on it’s own, but the process of grieving and experiencing comfort from those around you has been greatly hindered through all of this. Please keep our students and staff in your prayers.
It’s also that time of year again, and Samantha and I are looking at the end of our lease coming up soon! We’re desperately trying to find an affordable upgrade to our living space in the remaining time we have left. There are couple things we’d like to ask for prayer on. 1. Either an increase in our monthly support or to find an affordable alternative living space 2. Some favor and guidance in trying to navigate this process amidst the additional obstacles that COVID has put up.

We love you all,

The McRae Family

The Doctrine of Disappointment

If you were to look through the Old Testament, you’d be hard pressed to find a prophet whose life didn’t end in overwhelming disappointment. There’s Isaiah for one, who, in the midst of his calling (Isaiah 6) asks of the Lord, “How long?” In other words, how long was he supposed to cry out as a prophet to his people? The Lord answered, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant…and the Lord removes people far away.” Destruction and exile. (Not to mention Jewish tradition, which holds that Isaiah was eventually murdered, sawn in half by Judah’s King, Manasseh).

The list goes on from there: Jeremiah, whose ministry consisted of hardship and ridicule, and finally the destruction of his home and exile. Habakkuk, who was told to wait patiently as the Lord brought the Babylonians down on his people. Ezekiel, whose ministry was supposed to be that of a priest in the temple of Jerusalem, but instead it consisted of a life marked by exile in Babylon and the death of his wife. Disappointment.

But this type of story is no stranger even to the New Testament. Recently, I had the opportunity to teach 2nd Timothy in our School of Biblical Studies. This book is the last letter we have from the apostle Paul, a man whose life has marked the church in ways innumerable. If you read 2nd Timothy, you’ll quickly realize that Paul’s life doesn’t end happily, surrounded by friends and family in a comfortable bed. He’s alone, in a prison cell, deserted by those he loved (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:6, 10-16), and would be eventually beheaded by Nero.

If at this point you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, well their lives were quite different than mine!” (as I often like to do), I would direct you to another passage that Paul wrote in 2nd Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” How am I doing so far in convincing you to follow Christ?

Here’s the twist, in the last recorded words we have from Paul to his “beloved child” Timothy, he includes this fun little message, “share in the suffering.” Consider for a moment that you are wasting away in a prison cell, far from home, deserted by friends and family after you have devoted the last 30 years to faithful service to the Lord. What would your final words be to your loved ones? “Don’t do what I did!” comes to my mind. “Stay safe and keep a low profile,” or perhaps even, “It wasn’t worth it.” And yet, Paul has found reason to believe that the very best option for the person he potentially loves most in the world at that point is to share in the very same sufferings and hardships that he had (Of which there were many! For a more complete list of Paul’s hardships, see 2nd Corinthians 11:23-29). Share in it Timothy. What kind of faith would you need to have in something to wish Paul’s end on your own child? What kind of hope must he have had?

Paul knew that following Jesus, and the general nature of this world would often lead to earthly disappointment, pain, suffering. It’s unavoidable. As the great, Dread-Pirate-Roberts Wesley once said, “Life is pain, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

At this point, some might say, it’s simply a lack of eternal perspective that causes us to feel pain at life’s hurts. But I would argue otherwise. In John 11 we see Jesus come to the tomb of his friend Lazarus, where he also encounters Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Upon seeing them in their distress, we get the verse that’s famous for its length, “Jesus wept.” Why? Surely if anyone had a correct amount of eternal perspective, it was him? Surely he knew that all he had to do was raise Lazarus from the dead (which he did) and all would be well again? And yet, I think, Jesus himself was grieved by the loss that is felt in this world. There’s something about what is temporary in this life that makes our hearts cry out for the eternal.

As one of my good friends once philosophized, “It’s interesting for a world that has never known something eternal to long for something that is.” The author of Ecclesiastes will say “..he (God) has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” If something about this life doesn’t sit right with you, you’re on the right track. There’s a solid Scriptural foundation for the doctrine of disappointment, one need only look to the Psalms to see it written on nearly every page. The world can’t offer our hearts comfort that will not eventually pass, or cisterns that will never run dry. It was never meant to.

Grief is one of life’s greatest obstacles and it will drive most of us to tears and hard questions. The Bible has no problems with that. In fact, I would go so far as to say, it encourages it. There is much that can be said of the joys available in this life, the love that can be felt, and it should be said! But disappointment is a Biblical emotion that finds its roots in the very act of God creating humanity in His image. He feels disappointment too, and He’s even now making things right. In times like this, where the world is in chaos amidst COVID-19 and deaths of loved ones, the Spirit of God is at work, bringing glimpses of the eternal into our temporary world. It’s our job to walk in step with the Spirit when the world around us is broken, bearing its gifts as we go: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Like the early Prophets and Paul, we are not without an anchor for our hope, and our desires for that which does not disappoint will not go unanswered if we put our faith in the one who was, and is, and is to come. Our Savior, Jesus!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new

Rev. 21:3-5

Come, Lord Jesus!

– Jacob McRae

McRae Family Update (COVID-19 Edition)

Hello everyone, we hope all is well with you amidst all that has happened surrounding COVID-19! It goes without saying that these past couple of weeks have been quite abnormal in many ways. I had planned to write our next update in a few weeks, once I had finished teaching 1 and 2 Timothy for our School, but the circumstances made us feel as though we should send out a quick update for our supporters.

Firstly, we’re ok! In light of the information that’s recently been given by the CDC, advising groups no larger than ten to meet, we decided to extend our students’ Spring Break for the time being. This means that Samantha, Benaiah, and I have adopted the “social distancing” lifestyle for now and are spending most of our time at home, with occasional family outings to play with Benaiah outside.

What I’ve found interesting, as maybe some of you have as well, is that in some ways this practice of social distancing has been a blessing. I, for one, have been greatly enjoying the chance to spend more time with Samantha and Benaiah! It has also served to bring myself and my friends closer in a way, now that we have to put that extra step of effort into meeting our social needs as human beings during a time of social deprivation.

Conversely, as many of you have again probably felt, COVID-19 has reached areas of our lives we never thought we’d have to worry about. It had never occurred to me that when people feel like the world is ending, the first things to go would include toilet paper and diapers. This is especially interesting, since I feel like if we all continued buying the amount of toilet paper and diapers that we usually buy and need, we would all still have toilet paper and diapers…but alas…

One way that I’ve found strength in this time is to increase my life of prayer. I think there’s much to take from Jesus’ example in “seeking lonely places to pray” (Luke 5:16). Sometimes a lonely place is what we need.

Here are some things we’d like to ask you to pray for in this unique time:
1. Toilet paper and diapers
2. As some of you probably know, Samantha and I have been unable to reach our monthly support goal that would allow us to work for Emmaus full time. Because of this, we’ve had to pick up some extra work to help supplement our income. Both of us have side jobs with churches, which have mainly disappeared because how COVID-19 has developed, (as maybe some of you have also experienced!). For the immediate month we are ok, but should the situation take too long to change, we could be in a bit of a financial bind.
3. Community is deeply important to our School here. For some of our out-of-state students, Emmaus is the only real community they have. We’ve been working on ways to stay socially active from a distance and how to continue with the school year as planned, but obviously things would work out best if we could once again operate face-to-face. Please keep our students and ministry in your prayers!
4. The end of our lease is coming! Ahh! As things stand, we can’t afford to move, and our efforts to look around have been greatly hindered by quarantine. It’s not always been very awesome living with Benaiah in a one-bedroom apartment and we’d love to be able to upgrade to 2 rooms!

If you’d like to set up a one-time or recurring donation, click here!

If all else fails in lifting your spirits, here’s a laughing Benaiah with sock hands.