Devotional Thought from Sarah (Ephesians 1:13)

I just wanted to share this short devotional thought from Sarah on this Monday morning:

“We were discussing this verse last night as a family and I was struck with it’s beauty! All that is needed for eternal life is hearing and belief. God seals us with His Spirit when there is true belief. He calls us His own. True belief will evidence itself in our lives because of the Spirit living within. There is no work involved to become His child. No religious activity confirms our stand with God. It is simply hearing and believing His truth, and we are sealed!”

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Donations, Giving, and Support

Over the past couple of weeks, some have asked how they can give in support of our ministry. The easiest way to give is by going to our website and clicking on the “Donate” tab (Click Here To Be Directed to the Pacific Rim Missions Giving Portal). To set up monthly donations you will need to create an account. Otherwise, for one-time donations you can either click on the “Quick Give” tab or set up an account. When making your selection of the fund you wish to give to, be sure to choose: “Missionary Support Fund-Valiantes”

For other giving options, please visit our “Support” page (Click Here) on our website.

Over this past year, it has been amazing to see God providing for our family’s needs. God really takes good care of His children. When we set out on this journey last September, I knew God would meet our needs, but now I can look back and see how He actually did it! And in so many ways (not just financially, but also in physical, spiritual, practical, and emotional ways), God has provided far above anything we could have ever asked for or thought of!

During this Christmas Season, I want to express our gratitude for all those of you who have invested in our lives over the course of this past year. Many of you reading this are the very ones God used to encourage us or meet a specific need. You may never know (this side of eternity) the impact you made, but please know we are humbled and thankful for your sacrifice and ministry to our family!

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think… unto Him be glory…” – Ephesians 3:20-21

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LAUNCH! – Haven of Grace Seminary Website

We are excited to announce the launch of the Haven of Grace Seminary Website! Check it out at havenofgraceph.org

We trust that this informative, interactive site will afford potential students the opportunity to learn more about the seminary, the degree programs offered, and the financial costs. Prospective students are even able to apply online through our website.

This is one more step toward the official launch of the seminary in June 2019!

Haven of Grace Website Screenshot

Birth of a Book (Part 3)

In the first two posts of “Birth of a Book” (Part 1 & Part 2), I outlined some of the formative influences in my life which impacted my book, God Gives More Grace. I also detailed a bit of the process of bringing the book to life from a simple sermon from James 4 all the way to a 230+ page manuscript. In this final installment, I wanted to share how I connected with my publisher, and how God answered a very specific prayer.

While working on my dissertation, I always had (in the back of my mind) the ultimate goal of seeing the work published. Honestly, it was for this reason I spent more time in preparation of the manuscript than I would have needed to otherwise.

While defending my dissertation before the committee in March 2017, I asked the men what they thought about the manuscript. After assuring me that it was good, I pressed a bit further wanting to find out their honest opinions on whether the manuscript was publish worthy. They strongly encouraged me to make every attempt to find a publisher for the book, stating that it could be a tremendous resource for believers today. In our discussions, one of the men passed along the contact information of a fellow seminary student who also worked for Regular Baptist Press.

Over the next number of months I did not really concern myself with attempting to find a publisher for the book. In addition to getting ready for graduation in May (2017), our family was in the middle of a major transition. In the summer of 2017 I accepted the call to serve as the Director of Haven of Grace Seminary in the Philippines. During that summer, and into the fall I transitioned from the pastorate of Emmanuel Baptist Church (Millville, PA) to raising support for the work God had called us to. During this period of transition I took a solo trip to the Philippines, and then our family took a three week survey trip there from the middle of August into September.

Needless to say, during this time, there was very little opportunity to work on a book proposal. Now, if you are unfamiliar with how publishing works (as I wasn’t a year or so ago), there aren’t any legitimate traditional publishers (to my knowledge) that allow you to simply send over your completed manuscript to them for review. Every publisher (and literary agent for that matter) first wants to see a “book proposal.” Although agents and publishers vary in what they are looking for, a book proposal generally includes:

  1. Your query letter – This is the initial letter you send to the literary agent or publisher trying to capture their attention–most agents and publishers don’t read past the query letter itself.
  2. A One-Page Sell Sheet – This basically gives an extremely brief overview of your book (i.e. the title, word count, tagline, what the “back cover paragraph” might look like, as well as your abbreviated biography).
  3. In-Depth Biography and Description of the book – This provides more detailed biographical information, in addition to a more in-depth description of the book.
  4. Chapter Outline – In this section the author writes a one-paragraph summary of each chapter making sure to highlight the main points and flow of the book. Since my book is 17 chapters long, I had to craft 17 stunning paragraphs communicating the contents of the book.
  5. Market Analysis, Competitive Analysis, & Marketing Plan – The author is to “pitch” his book and explain why it will succeed among the thousands of books published each year that flounder on the marketplace. He also notes other books on the market that are similar to his, what makes his book unique, and how he will be able to help his book succeed (with the platform he has already established).
  6. Three Sample Chapters – Finally, the author submits three sample chapters for their review. Generally these chapters include the introduction, along with two chapters of the author’s choosing.

Preparing a book proposal is a daunting task in and of itself, but by the late summer and early fall I was able to craft my book proposal, and send it out to a select number of literary agents and publishers. In total, I emailed my proposal to about a dozen literary agents or publishers from the summer of 2017 into the spring of 2018. Some may wonder, why would you send your manuscript to a literary agent anyway? Why not just send it to a publisher? Well, the way traditional publishing works today, many publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts or book proposals. So, for many publishing houses, the only way to get them to even look at your proposal is to go through a literary agent. For the most part, if you are accepted with a literary agent, your book will be published. Literary agents will only accept a work they have a good hunch will land with a publisher. They only get paid if the book gets published.

So, when I sent my first proposal out to a literary agent, I impatiently waited to hear back. Most agencies and publishers tell you not to expect to hear back from them for at least 8 weeks. If you don’t hear back from them after 12-16 weeks you can assume that they are not interested in your book. Amazingly, after sending out my first book proposal, I heard from the agent within 24 hours. In his response, he said that my proposal, and specifically the topic of my book, caught his attention, but unfortunately he was not taking on any new projects and therefore would not be able to represent my book. That email was a mixed bag. Even though I was disappointed not to have connected with a literary agent that I thought fit me pretty well, I was encouraged to know that the topic of my book generated some interest, and he liked my proposal.

But after sending a couple more proposals out, and then hearing back from one agent in particular, I began to recognize the need to establish and broaden my platform. It was at this point it became apparent that breaking into the book scene was not going to be easy.

Although not impossible, it is extremely difficult for a first time author to find a traditional publisher for their book. If you don’t think so, just ask anyone who has written a book and tried to get it published! Now, an author can, of course, go the self-publishing route, but that was something I wanted to avoid, if at all possible. There are some limited benefits to self-publishing, but for me, I really wanted to go the traditional publishing route. The main reasons were: 1. The ability of a traditional publisher to market my work. 2. The resources a publishing house possesses to prepare the work for publication (i.e. editors, graphic artists, promotional team etc.). 3. The external affirmation that the work was capable of standing on its own merits.

So, by the first part of 2018, I  still had only sent my book proposal to 8 or 9 publishing houses or literary agents, but from everything I had read (reinforced by the responses I received), I knew landing with a publisher was going to take a work of God. One blogger noted that 90% of proposals are rejected before the publisher gets to the end of the query letter, and 98% are rejected by the end of the first chapter. A minuscule percentage make it through the first battery of tests only to fall before the weekly “board meeting” where all the potential new manuscripts are “pitched.” If it survives the first meeting, it then goes through another, more in-depth analysis to determine whether it will be a worthwhile investment for the publisher. Once all of the data has been collected, and editors and publishers get a chance to review the manuscript, the book makes it to a second, final board meeting where its fate will be decided. If the book is still standing after this meeting, a contract is offered to the author, and the book begins its long journey toward publication. I share a bit of this process to highlight some of the hurdles in landing with a publisher. Although a person’s chances in getting published are better than one in a million, when you are in the middle of the process, the prospects appear pretty dim.

In spite of the odds stacked against a first-time author’s book, however, God continued to burden my heart with this desire to see God Gives More Grace published. I really could not explain it, but there was this burning desire that just wouldn’t go away. So, in January, I began praying earnestly that, if it was the Lord’s will, my book would land with a publisher. In February 2018, I sent an email to David Gunn, the fellow seminary student who worked at Regular Baptist Press. From the time I first received his contact information in March 2017 to the point I sent him my book proposal, David was promoted as Director of the Press. Of course, after sending my proposal, I had to just wait. Yet, God continued to constantly bring my book to my mind and heart. I prayed for God to open the doors that only He could open. Our family began to pray together that the book would be published. Sometime in late February, I began praying that the Lord would answer our prayers and that I would specifically hear some positive news about my book before April 1.

As the end of March approached, our family continued to pray. This year, Easter Sunday was on April 1, so when Thursday, March 29 came and went (without hearing any news), I admit, I was feeling a bit dejected. I thought, “No one is going to send a response on Good Friday, and the likelihood of hearing something over Easter weekend was slim to none.” So, I resigned myself to accepting the fact that God’s response to this specific request was either, “Wait,” or “No,” and that God would give me grace for either answer. But, to my great surprise, on Saturday, March 31, I heard an email alert notification on my phone. Now, I have three or four main email addresses I use, and all but one come into the same inbox. That particular inbox has almost 30,000 unread messages and I probably receive a dozen (primarily junk) emails every day. But the other email address is used exclusively for ministry, and is completely junk-free. And when I heard my phone ding, I could tell I received an message in my ministry email inbox. As I offered one final prayer to the Lord, I checked my phone and saw an email from David Gunn. After offering a warm greeting I read the words, “I am pleased to report…” It was at this point I knew God had answered our prayers. David said that the New Products Committee had conducted their initial review and was very interested in publishing my book. He said, even though they were not yet at the point of officially committing to the project (it would have to go through an additional cost-profitability analysis), the prospects were very good. At this stage I was instructed to send the full manuscript… and then I had to wait… again. From the end of March, I waited until the early part of August before hearing anything further. Four months seems like a long time when you are waiting. But, in the early part of August, I received the official word that Regular Baptist Press wanted to publish God Gives More Grace. I received the contract, and in our travels out West, I was able to sign the contract at the Regular Baptist Press Headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

This journey has highlighted God’s goodness, His answers to the prayers of His children, and ultimately His grace in my life. I look forward to the publication of God Gives More Grace, and pray that as a result believers will be strengthened as we seek after and enjoy the grace of God.

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Happy Thanksgiving from the Valiantes

There is much to be thankful to the Lord for this Thanksgiving holiday. Our family is thankful for God’s constant care for us, His provisions, and His abundant grace. I am so thankful for Sarah and our wonderful children, as well as the time we can spend with Sarah’s entire family this year. The Lord has been very good to us! We hope you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Birth of a Book (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this post I gave a bit of my background leading up to the writing of my book, God Gives More Grace. It certainly has been a long, and winding road. In this post, I hope to share a bit of the process of writing the book itself. In the final part I will explain how I connected with my publisher (Regular Baptist Press), and how God answered a very specific prayer!

The origins of my book can be traced back to 2005, when I started preaching a series of messages through the book of James to the teens at Lighthouse Baptist Church. The series consisted of 32 messages and took over a year to finish. When we came to James 4:5-10, I remember being struck by the simplicity and importance of this single text in regard to the grace of God. Just this past week I looked back at my sermon notes from this passage, and found that what I preached to the teens at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sunday School over a decade ago has the same exact layout and divisions as my 200+ page book. The simplicity, yet depth of Scripture always amazes me.

The study in James 4 left a lasting impact upon my life and ministry. I found that I would often direct people to this passage when helping them deal with various issues and struggles in life. Inevitably, whenever I would counsel an individual or couple, sooner or later we made our way to this passage. When we think about the struggles we face in life, it is the grace of God we need most. So, this text and God’s grace was constantly on my heart and mind.

As I progressed through my graduate studies, first completing a Master of Arts in 2012, and then beginning work on my doctoral studies, I was well aware of the dissertation project that loomed on the horizon. When I began thinking about what subject I wanted to invest endless hours of study on, the passage from James 4 on God’s grace was the very first one to come to mind. To my surprise, when I presented this topic to my advisor in the doctoral program, he accepted it without any modifications. That is a miracle in and of itself!

So, as I was nearing the completion of my course work for the doctor of ministry degree through Clarks Summit University, I began work on my dissertation in earnest. During the end of 2015, and throughout much of 2016 I spent countless hours writing my dissertation. Sometimes I would write during the day; sometimes inspiration would strike in the middle of the night. But, by October 2016 I held a completed manuscript in my hands. I turned the document into my “first reader” on my dissertation committee who read through the manuscript and made corrections and offered suggestions. By March 2017 (just two months before graduation), I sat in a room on the campus of Clarks Summit University prepared to spend the next 3 hours defending my dissertation.

At the end of my defense, Dr. Gardoski and Dr. Slusser asked me to make a couple of modifications to the text, but said I had passed through with flying colors. During my defense, I wanted to find out what they really thought about the manuscript. I asked, “So, what do you think about my dissertation?” They both agreed, “Its good.” But I wanted to make sure I was getting their honest opinion. I asked, “So, what do you REALLY think about my dissertation? Do you think it is publish worthy?” And they both said that they felt like I had a good writing style, and that the work would be a valuable resource for the church. In the meeting, Dr. Gardoski passed along the contact information of a fellow Clarks Summit University student who worked at Regular Baptist Press. This of course would come into play almost a year later. To find out more about that, stay tuned for Part 3!

 

Birth of a Book (Part 1)

For some time I have wanted to write a post with some details about how my book, God Gives More Grace, came into being. I am excited about its upcoming Spring release. The publication of this work serves as a constant reminder to me of God’s goodness and guidance in my life, as well as His providence over the years.

I guess, as with any good story, we should probably start at the beginning. I will be the first to admit that I never would have imagined that I would write a book, much less write a book that someone would want to publish! To start with, as a child, I had difficulty reading. I remember learning to read in 1st Grade with my teacher, Mr. Palmer. Mr. Palmer was a fun teacher. He had a moose with gold, silver, and bronze medals draped over its antlers hanging on the wall in his classroom. Students were permitted to wear the medals when they scored well on a test, or did something commendable. It was in Mr. Palmer’s class that I first learned to read.

However, reading was not a skill that came easily for me. Throughout elementary school, I had trouble reading. I could not read very smoothly out loud (something I still have to work very hard at), and frankly I did not enjoy reading all that much. While in 4th grade, my lack of ability concerned my teachers enough to send me to a reading specialist for a few hours during school each week. Though this helped, I assume, I never considered myself to be a strong reader, and English was always my least favorite subject. When people asked me which subjects I liked the best, English was always on the bottom of the list. I liked History, Science and Math–in that order. English came a distance fourth. I really don’t remember much of the instruction in my English classes. I am certain though, a lot rubbed off on me, and over the years I began to gain a better feel for what constituted good writing, but honestly, I could never tell you why the writing was good or bad. I think my public school education helped me appreciate the art of language. But, by the time I finished my sophomore year of high school, I would not have been able to pick out a noun, verb, or adjective in a sentence. And forget about adverbs, participles, or infinitives. I didn’t know anything about English grammar. And this is where my time in a Christian School really helped.

If the public school system emphasized the “art”of language, Christian schools seemed to emphasize the “science” of language. I was totally unprepared for my 11th Grade English class in a Christian school. For a guy who did not know what a verb was, looking at a diagram of a sentence (something I have never seen in my life) was like staring at a foreign language. I had no idea what they were talking about. While everyone else in the class was pumping out diagrams, I was stuck trying to figure out what a verb was. It made for an interesting year. I am thankful for the help (and patience) of my 11th Grade English teacher, Mrs. Skogen.

So, attending both a public and a Christian school gave me an appreciation for the art and science of language. But, even if my understanding of English had grown, my enjoyment of it had not. I was extremely glad once I made it through my first year of college (and got all of the freshman liberal arts courses out of the way) so I would not have to take another English course for the rest of my life. What I did not realize is that over the course of the next decade, God would use professors to help refine my writing. I remember one professor in particular. I was taking a course on the History of American Evangelicalism (I believe), and I had a paper I was working on throughout the semester. Though I may not have appreciated it at the time, my professor not only had a deep theological mind, he was also a stickler for English. He, probably more than any other professor, constantly challenged me to be “clear and concise” in my writing. Even after I had re-written a section, he would tear my writing apart and remind me to be “clear and concise.” And what was amazing–when I saw the red markings all over the page, I began to see what he was talking about. Even though it was not designated as an English class, I probably learned more about the importance of writing in a clear, concise manner in that single class than in a dozen years of English.

Looking back, I am grateful for the teachers who have invested in my life over the years. Though not always appreciated, their labors were not in vain. In the next part of my book’s journey I will explain how the idea for this book formed and a bit of the writing process. Stay tuned!

Things are Flying!

There has been a flurry of activity the past couple of weeks on a lot of different fronts. Things are really starting to fly!

For about a month I have been working on the material for the course on Hermeneutics (Interpretation of Scripture) that I will be teaching at the seminary. I have loved the time of study and preparation. I have written about 50 pages of the syllabus. By the end, I hope the syllabus will be between 115-130 pages. So, even though I am not quite half way through, things are progressing nicely. Once I finish I plan to make sure I am prepped for my course on Greek Grammar 1 & 2, and then will start work on Systematic Theology 1 (although this likely will not be until the beginning of 2019).

In addition to the course material for the seminary we are also working to set up the Haven of Grace Seminary website. We have made tremendous progress within just the past two weeks, and are excited about the launch. Our hope is to have the website up and running by the end of this month! We are thankful for the guys who are helping us get it ready.

Finally, my excitement about the upcoming release of my book, God Gives More Grace, continues to grow. In talking with David Gunn, the director of Regular Baptist Press, we decided to have a page (or two) of endorsements at the beginning of the book. In the last week or so I have been in contact with 11 men I really respect asking if they might review my book (and if they feel comfortable), offer their endorsements. I have already heard a positive response from 9 of them and am just waiting on 2 more to get back with me.

These are indeed exciting times! Also, here is a peek at our updated prayer card. We finally have our little sweetie on it.

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For the Glory of God!

It has been just over a month since we had the chance to visit Westside Baptist Church (Eugene, OR), but the memory of a living and vibrant church remains.  This is a ministry that is passionate about worshiping and serving the Savior, led by a pastor (Pastor Kaminski) and staff whose love for the Lord is infectious. As I have said before, one of the greatest joys of this season of our lives has been in getting to know other believers, and fellow ministers who are living their lives for the glory of God. IMG_4620Our family spends time at the end of each day (at least the end of most days), and we talk about a passage of Scripture, work on Scripture memorization, or read a family devotional, before singing a song and praying together. Recently we began a “Question Box.” Well, technically, as Micah pointed out, it is really a “Question Cylinder” since it is a small round can with a lid. But in our question box, we encourage our kids to ask a question about God, or the Bible, or something they are wondering about. So, one of the questions was, “Why did God make people?” That is a great question! As we think about Scripture, the answer is very clear. God made people for His glory. Revelation 4:11 declares: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Everything exists and remains for God’s pleasure (or according to His will). Think about that–everything that exists (“all things”) is here simply because God wants them to be here. That includes the stars and planets, the fish and mammals, the world and universe, and everything in them. But understand, God did not flippantly create this world, or you or me. God has a plan for everything He has made. Revelation 4:11 ultimately tells us what that plan is, as it expresses how we are meant to respond to the Creator God. It gives us the words “glory and honor and power.” As a part of God’s creation, you are to give Him glory, bring Him honor and acknowledge His power.

So, how are you doing in living out the reason for your existence? When we talked with our children we noted that many people live for so much less than the glory of God. Simply living to acquire wealth, provide for your family, look ahead to retirement, pursue pleasure, watch TV, or cheer for “your” team will not only leave you empty, but it keeps you from fulfilling the grand purpose for which God made you. We are created and exist for so much more. Lasting fulfillment will only come as we live our lives for the glory of God!IMG_4624