The Journey is the Destination

I have this picture on my mantle that says, “The journey is the destination.”  As I sit in my chair next to the fire place each morning, sipping my coffee and reading my bible or writing in my journal, before the craziness of the day begins, I often look at that picture and remind myself of the truth of that statement. So much of life is not about achieving, its about being.  Now, I am a task oriented person.  I love a “To Do” list because it gives me goals to focus on for the day and when I can cross something off the list I feel so much satisfaction!  I have even been known to write something on my list that I have already done because crossing it off gives me the drive to tackle the rest (just ask Mark). It’s psychological I’m sure. The ongoing life lesson that God seem to be teaching me is to enjoy the ride! Don’t be so caught up in the details of life that I miss the actual lesson and/or experience He has for me.  Just when I think, “Man I did great learning to trust him more this time around! I think I’ve got this down,” another opportunity to learn trust comes back around to me.  Even in trusting Him, I want to be able to cross it off of my “To Do” list.  I trust God….check.  Tasks can be checked off on a list, but anything that has to do with relationship, simply can not, not ever, because relationships are always growing, always deepening, always changing.  Uh oh there’s that word….CHANGE.  Sometimes I think it must be a four letter word, you know the ones that make you cringe when you hear them, or make you think in your head, “Uh oh did I say that out loud for my kids to hear?”  Change is on the horizon for the Van Denend’s!

We have been settled in Redding now for almost 2 years. We have found our groove in a lot of ways. We love our church, our home, our kids school, Mark’s job, our friendships that seem to finally be developing.  Life was starting to feel “comfortable” and then the curve balls started to fly at us. I mean one after another!  With those curve balls meant change was going to happen. AHHHH, but I hate change!  I’m tired of change! I want some stability in life!

Our life has been constantly changing for the last 5 years!  Change…God haven’t I already crossed this off of my to do list?  Have I not mastered this yet?  “The journey is the destination” rings through my mind.   Let’s recap the change of the last 5 years….Missions school in Mozambique for 3 months, back home to America, pack up 7 months later move to Mozambique, 6 months later go back to America, 2 months later go back to Mozambique, 6 months later go back to America, 9 months in America with multiple moves and 6 weeks of living on the road to California and back, 3 months in Tahoe, move to Redding (6 weeks in one house, then move again to our current house).  All the while caring for my family, being a homeschool mom, speaking at churches and women’s events, preaching with Mark, fundraising, Mark studying and taking exams, directing a school of leadership, trying to find places to live since our current spot was no longer available, yet again, finding vehicles to use since we gave our van away when we moved to Mozambique, OH wait!  Yes I need to remember to actually ENJOY my husband and children, not just survive the day to day because hello I am called to thrive in life, not just survive!  But there’s too much change, so how do I thrive in this?  When I look back at all that we have walked through in the last 5 years, I think, I am exhausted, BUT God!  Truly I know that He was in all of this craziness because NEVER EVER would I have signed up for it on my own! I would never do the things He has asked of us because I couldn’t control the outcome. I literally had zero control over how a lot of situations would turn out for us. The only thing I could always turn to that would never fail me, was to get on my knees and say, “I trust you Jesus,” sometimes over and over and over again with tears streaming down my face, until my mind would align with that truth.  Then I could get back up again and keep going on the journey.

Here I find myself again with opportunities to trust my Jesus. Change is coming for us.  Things are shifting, the ground feels shaky at times, but when I stop trying to stand in my own strength and drop to my knees, somehow it becomes easier.  It’s in that place that I stop striving, that I stop trying to make things happen and as I am still before him I can hear what I need to do.

We have been waiting on God for the right time to start a non-profit organization. I felt God told me we would be doing this down the road when we had first returned from Mozambique in 2014. Since arriving in Redding in 2015 the word I kept getting as I would pray about what I should be “doing” here was, “You need to rest.” REST?  My kids are in school ALL day for the first time in their lives.  I literally have an entire day to myself, 5 days a week,  for the first time in 15 years and you want me to do what? “You need to rest.” I’ll save you all the details, but simply put, I didn’t listen to God’s advice. I plowed ahead and began to find my way in Redding!  I need to be productive!  I need to contribute!  I need to show everyone how valuable I am!  Striving to the point of having a complete emotional breakdown. So after 7 months of fighting God, I finally gave in and chose to obey him. The rest season I would be in from them until the end of 2016 was painful and beautiful all at the same time. And yet, I don’t think it needed to be that painful if I would have listened from the beginning.

By the end of 2016 Mark and I felt it was time to begin pursuing the establishment of our non-profit.  Since then we have been waiting on direction and vision for what it will be.  We feel like we have something to start with and would like to begin the legal process of getting all the paperwork in order!  We feel an urgency to begin and finish before the end of 2017, which at this point would be a miracle.  But we’ve seen God do those from time to time for us, so we are going to jump and trust that He will catch us. In order to complete this we have legal fees to cover (around $6,000) so if you feel led to partner with us in this way we would be happy to talk with you and give you all the details.

We also found out that we have to move out of our house by July 31st so if you would be praying that we would find the perfect house for our family to rent we would be so grateful. Ideally we would love to find a home with a rent to own option so we don’t have to move our family yet again next year when we are eligible to buy. Lots of BIG change is on the horizon for us, so please send us any words of encouragement you have! We could really use it right about now.  We are somewhat discouraged, but hopeful that God has something better for us.  We simply need to trust Him, one step at a time.

Many Blessings,

Mark & Sarah



My Brother, Chabane…

One of the best parts of my recent trip to Mozambique was spending some time with this guy – Chabane.  He and I worked together almost everyday while we lived in Pemba, and he became my friend and brother.  The boys quickly adopted him into our family, shouting his name in sing-song voice whenever he’d appear, and climbing all over him as boys do. Some mornings, the first thing I’d hear was Chabane’s voice calling from outside our door.  I’ve really missed him.

Chabane was in the same Harvest School of Missions that we did as a family in 2012, and he began working with Iris Global in Pemba shortly after, helping with a rural church building project and with the hospital and prison ministries.  He’s a talented, bright, industrious young man who loves Jesus and wants to see his city and his country transformed.  He’s not yet married, in part because he wants to have a house and land of his own in order to raise a family.  But Chabane, like so many young Mozambicans, faces overwhelming odds.  Since I’ve known him, he’s been the lone financial supporter of his family – brothers, cousins, an uncle and aunt.  During the rainy season a couple years ago, he was sleeping in an old donated tent with all of his college/school supplies and important documents, (things that couldn’t get wet), while the rest of the family slept in a small and leaky mud hut, or under a small shade structure where they did their cooking.  Massive rains from a cyclone nearly destroyed the mud hut – just like Anna’s house.  To make matters worse, thieves sliced open his tent with a knife (more like a machete) looking for valuables and destroying the only “dry” place on his property in the process.  So Chabane started buying supplies to build, little by little, all on his own.  That was how things were when I last saw him…

Fast forward 2-1/2 years and Chabane’s situation has gotten more desperate.  After our family left Mozambique, shrinking budgets and fewer foreign workers cost Chabane his job.  With no income, he couldn’t continue his education.  And without a certificate in his (or any) field of study, it’s difficult to find gainful employment in Mozambique.  Through Iris Global, Chabane was able to get a small plot of land with a partially finished house in a nearby village – a house that he and I had worked on years before.  The house had suffered from neglect and vandalism, termites and floods, and needed major work.  So Chabane and his family, (there are now 8 living with him), tore the place down and rebuilt.  It’s a typical two room wattle-and-daub type hut (bamboo lattice filled with rocks, later covered with mud/cement plaster) with a tin roof, and not nearly enough space for everyone.  He also built a small barraca, or shop, using cardboard strapped to bamboo, where they sell small essential items like soap, oil, and rice.  This tiny business is currently the only income for Chabane and the people who depend on him, and it also serves as an additional sleeping quarters.  Cooking in Mozambican villages is typically done outside, usually under a porch roof or separate shade structure to protect the charcoal-fired cook area from the rain.  Unfortunately, Chabane hasn’t had the funds to build his “kitchen”, and the rains are coming soon.

During my whirlwind week in Mozambique last month, I made sure to visit Chabane’s house.  I met his family, toured his house and little plot of land, looked inside the tiny shop, and took photos.  I saw how much they were struggling and I desperately wanted to do something to help my friend.  Having lived there for a time, I knew he would tell me that he wanted (and needed) a job; I felt helpless, knowing that was something I could not give.  But I asked him anyway.  He said: “I need to go to school, but I cannot pay the tuition.  This is the most important thing.  If I cannot finish school, I cannot get my certificate for a job.”  So we talked about school, his dreams, his house.  We talked about life and faith and hope.  And as I listened to Chabane, I was amazed at his trust in God and his resolve to care for his family, no matter his situation, no matter the consequences.  As is often the case in my life, I found myself wanting to be more like my younger brother – more like Chabane.

That day at Chabane’s house, I knew that we had to do something to help him.  So I asked Chabane to give me a list of things that he needed, and an estimate of their costs.  A few days later, the day before Josiah and I left, Chabane and I met for one more time.  He handed me an itemized, neatly formatted list, typed in his best English – much like he used to do when we worked on building projects together.  And it made me miss our time together even more.  His list was short – simple:  school tuition; covered porch/area for cooking; plaster and finish house; finish latrine; and build a fence/wall.  (And of course, he’s praying for a job).  I’m hoping to have some connections that will result in jobs in northern Mozambique in the not too distant future, but Chabane needs help today.  So I’m asking you to pray about helping Chabane and his family.  The total for all repairs and work on his house and land is $3,400; tuition for his school is $155/month; a typical monthly salary where he lives is only about $80-100…

If you’d like to join with us to help Chabane, click the Contribute tab on our website, or contact us for more information.

We are SOOO blessed by everyone who diligently prays for us, sends us notes of encouragement, and supports us financially.  THANK YOU for partnering with us in serving the poor and loving people around the world!

With much love and many blessings – the Van Denend family

It’s Done!!!

Just got word from Chabane (my friend and former assistant) in Mozambique that Anna’s house is done!  Waiting to get some photos to share – but we’re SUPER excited!  THANK YOU to everyone who made this day possible!!!

Many blessings from the Van Denend clan!

Only A Mustard Seed…

One week – what could anyone hope to accomplish in only one week?  That was all the time that Josiah and I had in Mozambique last month, but it was SO good.  To be honest, I was a little worried that one week wouldn’t be enough time; I assumed it would be the last time.  But Daddy God is SO good at taking whatever little bit that we have – once it’s offered up to Him – and making it something far beyond what we could have ever done on our own.  So that’s what we did – we gave our ‘yes’, and watched as our one week was multiplied.  I still cannot believe how much was fit into such a short amount of time, and I’m in the process of writing out what needs to be shared.  But in the meantime, here’s a short list of some of the highlights…


– reconnected with our Mozambican family – confirmed that Anna’s house is getting done, and done well – discovered potential opportunities for new ventures in Mozambique – embraced Anna and gave her new hope – comforted and encouraged friends and missionaries – celebrated – renewed passions – came face to face with extreme poverty, desperation, and sorrow – wept – made some new friends – had some wounds healed –

All of that (and SO much more) in one, little, tiny week.  More to follow on that, and on some dreams and opportunities for what’s ahead…

THANK YOU to everyone who prayed, encouraged, supported and gave to make that one week possible!  You have no idea how profound the impact was and is yet becoming on our family and so many others.

With Much Love and for His glory, the Van Denend family

Excitement is in the Air

Things are buzzing over here at the Van Denend household! The school year is in full swing and the boys are loving being back with their friends and teachers. Isaiah has been released by his doctor to run Cross Country, so his first meet will be on Friday.  Josiah has moved on from the removable boot to an ankle brace and is starting physical therapy to get strong for the basketball season that starts in January! Levi is literally surprising all of us with his daily increase of ability in learning!  It seems as though he is on a moving walkway and he wants to run faster so he just keeps pushing himself harder. God is doing mighty things in his life for sure! He was happy to be the first student chosen for the “Student of the Week” award at his school. He was chosen for his positive and friendly attitude and his determination and diligence to start the new school year well. Caleb, as always, enjoys everything about school. He too has come a long way in his academics in a very short amount of time. Aaron has the hardest time with school. Although he is happy and lively everyday when I pick him up, he still will periodically ask me if he can be homeschooled.

With the boys 2nd year in school off to a great start we are eagerly planning the next Van Denend family missions trip!  My time in Mozambique this summer was absolutely life changing. I feel as though I took something back that the enemy tried to steal from me when we received the news that we would not be able to return to the mission field. My time in Mozambique was a 2 week long family reunion along with remembering why I love foreign missions and that it is a call I will not abandon!

Mama Anna’s house is just about complete so now Mark is heading to Mozambique to make the final payment to the contractor, inspect the work and arrange for the real beds to be made that Anna dreamed of having in her new home. These kinds of projects are “the why” behind Mark choosing architecture as a career. He has a massive heart to see poverty end on the globe and he wants to use his giftings and talents be a blessing to those in need. This project is the first of many that we hope to be a part of in the coming years. We have BIG dreams about what we hope to do in the nation of Haiti in the next couple of years, but God sent us to Mozambique first for a season to learn how to love and give everything away. Our time there was challenging, beautiful, exhausting and wonderful all wrapped up in one. While I was there I had the opportunity to thank Heidi (Co-founder of Iris Global) for the opportunity she gave our family to come and serve with Iris. It was very important for me to have the opportunity to honor the doors she opened to us when she invited our family to come and live there. As my trip was nearing the end (it was the night before I was going to fly out) I was invited to go to “Family Dinner at the Bakers”. It’s a night of lots of people, lots of fellowship, chicken, rice and cabbage and children running around everywhere screaming with joy. It’s holy chaos as the Iris family describes it 🙂  My ride was leaving and I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to talk with Heidi. Just as I was turning to leave I noticed she was by herself. Those of you who know Heidi, know that she is NEVER standing there alone. Someone is always trying to talk to her. I saw my chance and I took it. To be able to simply say, “Thank you” was a powerful thing for me. It was closure. It meant that in my mind I could move on to the next thing God had for me. I was able to close a door to one season of life in missions, so that I could open the next door.

When I returned home I was surprised at the question Josiah came to me with.  “Can I go with dad to Mozambique?”  You see Josiah and I both had a terrifying experience our very first night in Mozambique. It was 100+ degrees with high humidity in our cement block house that night, no electricity, so therefore, no fans and no breeze. IT WAS HOT! We had been traveling over 36 hours so the fatigue was real, but with the heat I just couldn’t sleep. It was then that I had an encounter with an evil spirit of panic and fear. It was the most “real” encounter I have ever had. I literally felt like I was being choked by something. The only thing I knew to do was to get up and pray! So I paced in the dark with my headlamp and prayed and prayed and prayed until I felt the peace of the Lord fall. I climbed back under the mosquito net and got settled into my sweaty, uncomfortable bed and Mark mumbles, “Babe, your prayers are really powerful.” I thought, Good! Because that thing better not ever enter my house again! A few minutes later I heard one of the boys rustling down the hall. It was pitch dark so I shined my flashlight in the hallway so my son could get to my room safely. I was surprised to see Josiah come around the corner. He climbed into bed with us to be safe from the mosquitoes that were buzzing everywhere in our house at that point (and it was malaria season). Josiah was very disoriented and began to describe to us what had happened to him in his room. He described the EXACT encounter I had just had. So in that moment we talked with Josiah again about the power that he has because of Jesus. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive inside of you! You can tell evil spirits like that that they must GO in Jesus name!  Josiah has been raised knowing Jesus, he gave his life to Jesus when he was 3, but this was a different moment for him. This was his moment to decide, “Do you want Jesus?” With tears streaming down his face (he doesn’t cry easily) my son said (age 10), “Jesus I want you! Jesus I want only you!”

So it really shouldn’t be a surprise to me that Josiah has a desire to go back. God has something special for Josiah and I believe for Mark and Josiah to experience together. They will only have 1 week in country, so half the time I had, which means they will be going a million miles an hour with their hair on fire everyday!  But they will be able to move the beds into Anna’s home, visit with her and mourn with her over her son’s death (her son died 4 days after I left) and end their time with a party for her family! A party to celebrate and thank God for the blessing of a safe home for her and her children. A home that many of you helped build because one family matters to God! I was there for the ground breaking and Mark and Josiah will be there to dot the i’s and cross the t’s!  Our time there will be done. We need to finish and move onto what God has for us in Haiti. In addition to that they will get to spend time with all of the boys that were disappointed to see that I came to visit without “the boys and Papa Marcos!” How dare I right?

Would you consider donating to this trip to make it possible for Mark and Josiah to go and finish things up? Mark needs to go October 8-18th due to some projected work that is coming into the firm and so he can see Isaiah star in his first on stage performance as one of the lead roles! So once again time is not on our side to get all the details in place. But God is able! You can click here to make your tax deductible donation online OR if you would like to mail a donation click here. Our goal is to raise $5,000 by Monday so that we can purchase the plane tickets. Thank you for believing in what God is doing through our family! We are so honored to have so many that have loved and supported us along the way. Our journey has not been a typical one, but then again we would find that boring!

Many Blessings,


Another trip to Pemba!

It’s hard to believe that I was just in Mozambique a little over a month ago. The trip took me completely by surprise. The last time I had been on a plane was on New Years Eve 2015. As we were heading home from spending Christmas with our family the strangest thing began to happen to me on the plane. I had never felt this sensation before and it terrified me. My throat began to feel like it had a huge lump in it, I was flooded with emotions and suddenly felt like I just had to be by myself. But I was in a cramped airplane trying to entertain my youngest two boys who were overtired and crabby. I quickly got Mark’s attention and said that I needed him to switch seats with me. If I could just have 5 minutes of my overtired children not needing something maybe I could get through this feeling, whatever this feeling was!  Things didn’t improve so my only recourse was to get to the bathroom.  As I attempted to get back there I was blocked by a not so friendly flight attendant who seemed to be at the end of her own rope. I tried to keep calm as I waited for her to move so I could get to the bathroom. When she was finally able to step aside and let me by I bolted! That moment in the back of the plane in a tiny, closed in bathroom, was the longest few minutes of my life.  If you have ever experienced a panic attack you know how utterly terrifying they are. You quickly find yourself sucked into a downward spiral of shear fear! At that moment I said to myself, “I will never be able to get on an airplane again!”

Those who know me that this is NOT even close to how I respond to hard things. The next 6 months would be some of the darkest months of my life to date. Being trapped in a place of panic, anxiety, depression and fear is never a place that I want to find myself living in again. The story of how I came out of that is for another time. Let’s just say that 6 months after this event I was feeling more like myself again, I was at a place where I could respond to things that happened in life rather than react, I was no longer crippled by fear and anxiety; I was ME!  Even with how great I was feeling, there was no way I was considering getting on an airplane. Let alone getting on an airplane by myself and going back to Mozambique!  But God said it was time for me to go back, it was time for things to be restored.

As has always been the case for us, when God says “GO!” he always, always, always provides and makes a way! This trip would be no different. In just two days time I had ALL the finances that I needed to cover my trip. All of the details lined up so easily and perfectly that everyone involved could not believe it! The trip was so powerful and so healing in so many ways. The biggest thing for me in going was that I wanted to FINALLY see Anna’s house started! We have been working on getting a house built for her for 3 years! And then while I was there, the construction began. Anna and I went to the land and prayed together as we saw the trenches being dug for the foundations. The smile on her face was worth every last day of waiting and travailing to see this happen.


In between visiting Anna, dealing with her son’s life threatening illness and visiting with family some of my most wonderful moments were the ones that I simply sat with the boys who live in the children’s center. All they wanted to know was how big all the boys are now, where is Papa Mark, when will you all come back? The questions went on and on. As I showed them pictures of the boys they couldn’t believe how HUGE they all were. I’ve often wondered what, if any, impact did I have in my year of living in Pemba? Spending time with those boys and seeing on their faces the joy they had as they said, “Remember when you had us over for dinner and we watched a movie? Remember when I would come and play with toys at your house? Remember when you would give me water and cookies?” If they were the only reason I was there; to help them have some positive memories, memories where they felt loved and seen; well I’d say that makes it quite a year! A year of learning how to love the one in front of us!


The lesson of learning that one life matters to God has been a big one for me to get! There is so much need all around us. It can quickly become overwhelming, to the point that it just seems like too much so why should I even try to do anything? Start with the one life that God puts in front of you. For us, in Pemba, that was Anna. It was time to get her house built! We have great news!  The house is nearly done. 3 years of waiting, planning, praying, raising money, dealing with disappointment over delays and the time is finally here! The fact that I got to be there when they began building was mind blowing to me! Only God could have orchestrated that as perfectly as it was. Now that the house is almost done, Mark needs to make one final trip to inspect that the work was done well, make the final payment to the contractor and arrange for the “real beds” to be delivered that Anna dreamed of having one day. To say that we are overjoyed that this day is finally here is a HUGE understatement!

Another surprise that came our way, was that Josiah (our almost 14 yr old) asked if he could go with Mark on this trip. When we had talked about it in the past he didn’t seem too excited about spending 30 hours on a plane for the 7th and 8th time! But God must have something for him because God is clearly moving in Josiah’s heart. We were very happy to say, “YES! You can go on a missions trip with your dad!” Of course his passport was expired so we had to begin rushing things along right away. We fully expect the details for this trip to fall into place just like mine did. We still need to apply for visas, buy plane tickets and get everything organized with his teachers for missing school. But we are moving forward!  *Picture below: Josiah is the tallest one, yes he is taller than his older brother. That’s starting to bug Isaiah just a little bit 🙂



Mark and Josiah plan to leave on October 8th and return on October 18th. If you would like to send financial support for this trip you can click here to give online. Thank  you for your love and support as we continue our family’s journey into simple life, simple faith and simply trusting Jesus.

Many Blessings,




It’s been a loooooonnnnggggg time coming, but it’s finally happening!  We’re so excited to see Anna’s house being built!  Here’s a few photos of the progress, (and a “sketch” of the final goal)…

We’re making plans for Mark to visit Mozambique soon – to see the finished construction, make the final payment to the contractor, get the “real beds” that Anna dreamed she’d have one day, celebrate with Anna and her family, and to bless the new house!

Thank you for partnering with us to bless Anna and her family!

More info, updates, and photos to come…