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Amy and Blake Justice with their daughters, Molly, Heather and Gracie, will soon leave their
church home at Boone United Methodist for extended mission work in Germany.
Submitted Photo

Originally published: 2013-07-02 14:50:56
Last modified: 2013-07-02 14:51:41

Church cultivates responsiveness

by Sherrie Norris

One of the hardest tasks of churches is to cultivate responsiveness to God's spirit, wrote Jason Byassee, senior pastor of Boone United Methodist Church in a recent note to his congregation. "God stays the same. We don't. We have to move into ever greater degrees of faithfulness."

For example, Byassee said, every few years his congregation at BUMC has helped start a new community of faith. 

"In the mid-1990s, it was our own contemporary service -- risky for the time," he said. "In the late '90s, it was the church's monumental move to its current location at New Market Boulevard." 

In early 2000, Byassee said, it was the launch of FaithBridge UMC in Blowing Rock and La Esmirna Metodista in Patzibal, Guatemala. 

"In the late 2000, it was our own uber-contemporary Crossroads service and our merger with Blackburn's Chapel in Todd. We have muscle memory around innovation," he said. And God's work is never done. 

"Now, we're about due to throw off a new faith community or two -- again," he said. 

"The thing is, we don't often talk about this gift of innovation," Byassee said. "We don't speak of ourselves as a launching, founding, innovative congregation. But we are. When it comes to launching churches, we are all action and no talk."

The latest opportunity for BUMC is the call of Blake and Amy Justice and their family to the mission field. 

"The Justices are uprooting their family from Boone, selling their house, leaving a community where they have extended family and moving to a new place," Byassee said. "All because God has called them."

Byassee said that in their willingness to respond to the call, the Justice family will be using their gifts as educators and in health care provision to help build excitement for Jesus to lead in a foreign place.

"Boone is a great mission-sending town," he said. "This is our church's opportunity to join in with that adventure."

Byassee describes Blake Justice as having a "frenetic energy that comes from a live wire to the Holy Spirit and testimony to his studies as an athletic trainer."

Amy, he said, has a deep patience and joyful attentiveness about her, and their daughters, Gracie, Heather and Molly, "have a fierce and tender openness about them."

Molly gave witness in the church recently, Byassee said, "to the fact that she had asked Jesus into her heart."

That prayer wasn't enough, he said. 

"She wanted the microphone," he said. 

It's easy to see, Byassee said, that the Justice family isn't in in for public praise. 

"Amy says her hope is not for attention or praise for her or her family," he said. "It's that others will see their example and do likewise." 

Blake and Amy will be going with Teach Beyond, a missionary-sending institution for educators. They will be teaching at the Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany (near Freiburg), a school with the purpose of teaching missionary children. 

"Parents of these 280 missionary kids are serving in over 50 countries all over the world," he said. "In other words, without the Justices and BFA, hundreds of missionary endeavors around the world would come to an end, since missionaries, like the rest of us, prize the education of their children."

One difficulty of the Justices' specific call is where they are going -- Germany, where the church is 1,000 years old and declining fast. 

"If they were going to help starving children in the emerging world, they would have tapped into a well of support already," Byassee said. "If they were going to a risky place where Christianity is forbidden, they would tap into another kind of support. But Germany?"

This is where we need to think more carefully, the family's pastor said. 

"Missionaries helping the most vulnerable of the world's poor have their kids in school in Germany. Others preaching the gospel at risk of life and limb have their kids in school in Germany."

For the church to support the Justice family, Byassee said, "Means we can support a wide variety of missionaries at the same time."

As if that were not enough, he pointed out, in her spare time, Amy will be leading teacher workshops in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

"These are terribly fragile countries, filled with gifted people dragged down by institutions and leaders who have failed catastrophically," he said. "The CAR and DRC need countless hours of patient rebuilding from servants like the Justices."

This is not the first time that BUMC has sent someone to foreign fields. 

"A family from our church ventured to Eastern Europe some years back to translate scripture for a people without a bible in their language," Byassee said. "We support countless others through our support of our denomination's various mission efforts." 

The Justices, like those before them, he said, "have come from among us, responded to our preaching and served and led us and our neighbors and kids," he said. "Now, they go forth in our name."

Realizing part of the family's challenge is their need to raise "lots of money," Byassee said, "It's what you'd expect from a people following Jesus," quoting the scripture -- "Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 

Now, neither do the Justices, he said. "They're in good company." 

The Justice family is excited about supporting the ministries of so many different families and witnessing and sharing in God's work around the world.

"The legacy we hope to leave with our children, as well as our church, is that God can and will use you, with all your gifts as well as your faults and scars, if you allow him," said Amy Justice. "We also hope to offer courage to our children and church to step out in faith when they feel a call, or stand and face whatever they fear. There is great peace in the shadow of God's wing."

As the second family from Boone, including two Appalachian State University alumni from First Baptist Church of Boone, The Justice family members are "proud to be representing such a faithful community with a commitment to education," they said.

"We also met two other ASU alums who work with TeachBeyond at our training last summer," Amy said. "That makes six ASU alumni involved in educational missions, that we know of and five at BFA, alone. The sixth is was in Hungary, but is now on assignment here in the states."   

Among the "practical challenges," the Justices anticipate, include finding a new rhythm to their everyday life and maintaining the balance between family and ministry. "It will also be hard to teach, nurture and disciple the kids at BFA -- without overstepping our bounds," Amy said.

The Justice family hopes to arrive in Germany during the month of August for their two-year commitment of service. "We are still raising support," Amy said, "and we are open to staying longer if the Lord wants us there." 

To keep track of their new adventure, find them on Facebook at Justice Family with TeachBeyond.

To offer financial support for the Justice family's mission work, call the church office at (828) 264-6090 or send donations to 471 New Market Blvd. in Boone, NC 28607, with "Justice Family" noted on check.