Lonely Christmas

23 12 2019

lonelychristmas

I still remember back in 2009 during Christmas how my family and I were stuck in Nairobi, Kenya, getting some medical stuff done. We were in the Baptist Guest House there, and although it is very nice accommodations, we had none of our Christmas decorations. We were living out of our bags. We were worried about our son who was having difficulty speaking. We were a long ways away from our home in Tanzania, and we were a long ways away from our family.

We certainly made the most of the time. We had wonderful friends there. Our two older boys made a construction paper Christmas tree that we hung on the wall and decorated. In all of the fun that we had, though, there was still a sense of loneliness.

This experience has made me more sensitive to the needs of our missionaries living overseas. We have families serving in some of the hardest places on earth, and even though they will make the most of the holiday season, they will still miss their family and friends. They will still miss the “stuff” that surrounds Christmas.

I remember missing the food that my mom makes. I remember missing getting to see all of my cousins and grandparents. I remember missing watching The Christmas Story over and over again and laughing at the same places.

This season for our missionaries is a time of conflicting emotions. They feel very called to be where they are, and at the same time many of them long for home. They have chosen to leave their home, friends, and family to follow where God has led them, but during this season, especially, they are keenly aware that leaving everything has consequences.

It can be very difficult for our missionaries to celebrate Christmas while living among a people group where very few, if any, even believe in Jesus.

As a result of all these things put together, many of our missionaries experience a real sense of loneliness during this season.


5 Things That You Can Do To Love Our Missionaries Well During The Christmas Season

  1. Pray for them – This may seem like the pat answer to everything, but it is only that to those who don’t believe in the power of prayer. Pray that our missionaries will experience a wonderful Christmas sensing God’s presence in everything they do.
  2. Email them – Send a missionary you know an email on Christmas morning. If they live on the other side of the globe, this will mean they will still get it on Christmas. Write some encouraging words. Let them know that you are praying for them. Give them a short update on what you are doing for Christmas and ask them what they did.
  3. Skype them – Most of our missionaries have the ability to Skype. Skype them in for a few minutes on Christmas morning just to say, “Merry Christmas!” You might even gather a group up and sing a Christmas carol for them!
  4. Remember their families still at home – Reach out to their families that are not with them to let them know that you are praying for their loved ones who are serving God in another country. Encourage them that you are praying for them as well.
  5. Send them something – Most missionaries can receive at least small things in the mail. Find out their mailing address and send them something. Anything is appreciated! You might send them a new movie or some hot cocoa packets or just some handwritten notes. Make sure you ask them about sending something. Sometimes customs charges our missionaries to pick up a package. This is fine as long as you cover that expense, too.

Don’t forget our missionaries this Christmas season. Have an incredible time with your family, but know that you can really make someone else’s Christmas special by doing one or two simple things.

 





Where Are The Young Men?

18 11 2019

youngmen

As a mission pastor, I get the incredible opportunity to speak to and spend time with many of our missionaries who serve with the International Mission Board. I just had coffee with an incredible man of God serving the Lord in a very difficult place in Southeast Asia.

Usually during any meeting that I have with a missionary, I try to ask them what their greatest needs are. I used to be surprised by the answer I received, but I have now gotten the same answer so many times that it now just saddens me.

When I asked this particular missionary from Southeast Asia what his greatest need is he answered that they need two young men to come and serve with them.

This is the same answer I get all the time now.

I know missionaries who have had open jobs for young men to fill for years now with absolutely no interest.

What is happening? Where are the young men? Why are we having such a difficult time finding young men who would be willing to go serve the Lord by being an international missionary?

This is not just happening internationally, but there is also a shortage of young men willing to plant churches here nationally or even being apart of a church planting team.

I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why young men are not answering the call to missions, but I am going to try list the ones I highly suspect.


6 REASONS WHY YOUNG MEN ARE NOT ANSWERING THE CALL TO MISSIONS

  1. Disobedience – This might seem ridiculously obvious, but I think it needs to be said. Young ladies seem to be answering the call to go, and so I would suspect that God is calling the same amount of young men. If He is, these men are just simply disobeying that call. I certainly don’t believe that every young man is called to go as a missionary or a church planter, but many are!
  2. Lack of Awareness – This is our fault! If we are not teaching the Biblical commands to go, we will not see that fruit. If we are not intentionally making disciples, we will not see obedient disciples made. Our churches need to get serious about intentional disciple making, maybe especially among our boys and young men.
  3. Hindrances – Hebrews 12:1 tells us to cast off any hindrances. These are not necessarily sins in and of themselves. For instance, watching Netflix is not necessarily a sin. Binge watching that gets in the way of impacting the Kingdom of God is sin! Playing video games is not necessarily a sin, but playing them all the time could be. This could apply to almost anything good. We, as humans, have an uncanny ability to take what is good and turn it into something bad.
  4. Sin – Hebrews 12:1 tells us to also cast off sin. I think this verse also implies that we should cast off the feeling of being unworthy as a result of sin as well. The sins that I see as being most prevalent among our young men today are lack of integrity, lack of commitment, and poor time management. There is a reason for the relatively new stereotype of the 30 year old single male living in his parent’s basement.
  5. Pornography – Yes, this is a sin, but I believe it deserves a separate category. The Bible seems to also separate sexual sin into a different category (1 Corinthians 6:18). I first heard this proposed as a reason young men are not going as missionaries at a Passion Conference about 13 years ago in a sermon given by John Piper. It made perfect sense. The actual sin of watching and the corresponding guilt keeps many men unable to walk in the footsteps of Jesus in a day-to-day way, much less going overseas as a missionary. The accessibility of pornography through our phones has given our enemy a great tool to keep many young men from doing anything significant for God.
  6. The American Dream – Our culture and even many, well-meaning Christian parents propagate the myth of the American Dream that is to settle down into a good job with a good home and a nice family. The problem with this is that it is not Biblical. In conservative Christian circles we vehemently oppose the “health & wealth gospel,” yet at the same time we seem to live it and teach it to our children. When the only thing our children are asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” why are we surprised when they grow up selfish and entitled? We should be asking them what they think God wants them to do and supporting them in the way God leads them, even if it means that we must say goodbye to them as they board a plane for long-term missionary service in another country.

SOLUTION

I believe the only solution is disciple making. Our parents need to do it first in the home. Our churches need to have intentional discipleship programs starting at an early age.

We need to get our young men into disciple making groups that hold each other accountable, teach them Biblical principles, and inspire them to charge the gates of Hell for the glory of God.

 

 





Jesus, God’s First Missionary

13 12 2017

jesusgodsfirstmissionaryJesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
John 20:21 CSB

For the most part, followers of Jesus do a good job of trying to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Pastors preach great sermons on the purpose of Jesus’ coming. Choirs sing carols that focus on the incarnation. Every home has a miniature manger scene, and we all read the Luke 2 account of the birth of Jesus before opening presents.

Something is missing, though.

Jesus did not just come to redeem me or my family back to God. He was sent by the Father to redeem every people group.

If I am a follower of Jesus, certainly, I need to be grateful for the Father sending Him to me, but Christmas is now no longer about me! It now serves as an example that I am to be about the business of redeeming those who are lost.

The Father sent Jesus. Now, in the same way, Jesus is sending us. Jesus was and is our atoning sacrifice. His blood covers my sin so that I now stand before God in righteousness. But Jesus was also God’s first missionary in a long line that extends to you and me.

Once we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved (Romans 10:9). We are not then immediately translated to heaven, but physically still remain on earth. The reason we are left is that God in His incredible grace allows us to be His plan to reach the rest of the world.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Christmas is a love-fest on you and your immediate family. Yes, it should remind us of God’s grace and mercy and blessing, but more importantly it should spur us on to sharing the good news of Jesus with those who need to hear it.

5 Ways That You Can Be A Missionary This Christmas…

  1. Consider giving to your church’s world missions offering. Our church takes up the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every December. 100% of the funds collected go straight to the more than 4,000 missionaries serving on the field with the International Mission Board.
  2. Make plates of Christmas goodies or cookies and take them to your neighbors. Place the treats on a dish that needs to be returned. Ask your neighbor how you can pray for them through the Christmas season and invite them to church. When they return the dish to you, follow up on the prayer request.
  3. Just determine in your mind that you are going to intentionally engage people in spiritual conversations over the course of the next few weeks.
  4. Take time to pray for missionaries that you know serving overseas and who will not be able to be with their families on Christmas Day. On December 25th, take a moment and send them an email, letting them know that you are thinking of them. Holidays are especially difficult for our missionaries.
  5. Find someone in your area who is fostering children in their home and offer to help with Christmas gifts, a meal, or finances.




Stress

4 12 2013

stress

I realize that everyone deals with some kind of stress day in and day out. I certainly do not want to minimize that, but there is a phrase out there that I am hearing more and more that makes me chuckle.  Someone describes a stress or problem, and another replies sarcastically, “First-world problems.” I realize that there are real and serious stresses and problems out there, but I believe that the majority of our stresses are “first-world problems.” The idea behind this is that our problem might be not being able to get our email to work correctly (1st world), while someone else’s stress might be putting food on the table for their family or if their baby will die of malaria (3rd world). Perspective is everything, and many times our stresses are self-imposed.

A month ago I was reminded of this topic when we hosted a missionary family from Ecuador at our church. They were in need of a boat motor in order for them to be able to have their own boat so that they could get to the tribes that they are working with. They also, though, needed that motor in case of an emergency. Snake bites, parasites, sicknesses, broken bones – all of these and more are realities that can happen when living in the rain forest, especially when you have a bunch of curious and active children. This boat motor is a simple way that we as a church can reduce the stress of our missionary family on the field. I am happy to report that we were able to raise enough money to more than cover the cost of the motor. The result of this is that we may have just increased the longevity that this family will stay on the field, because of less stress, and therefore increase the work they do for the gospel.

I would like to challenge us all that when we experience stress in our personal life, that we would remember and pray for our missionaries that are constantly living at an increased level of stress. Our missionaries around the world are automatically targets, because of their nationality and skin color. When we lived in Tanzania, we were perceived as the rich, white people, and were therefore targets for robberies. Most people in the US don’t think about going to different ATM’s each time, utilizing counter-surveilance tactics all the time, and carrying a year’s worth of salary in cash on them. This was my life for three years. At the same time, we lived eight hours from where we would consider medical care similar to what we have in the US. One of our biggest times of stress was when our oldest son had a grand mal seizure in our little village.

Our top priority for working with our missionary partners is to come alongside their strategy to see indigenous church planting take place among their people group. Our second priority, but very close to the first one, is to encourage our missionary families. This includes helping all we can to reduce their stress. I fully believe that if we can increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field – we will see an increase in the work of the gospel. A gospel movement among an unreached people group normally does not take place in the short term. It is through long term effort and prayer and perseverance that people are reached, and if we can be apart of helping our missionaries stay long term through encouragement and reducing their stress, then we are going to do that.

 

 





Give Recognition

15 08 2013

recognition

Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work…
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Not too long ago we hosted a couple who are missionaries to a country in Central Asia in our church. I had the opportunity to interview them during the morning worship service. At the conclusion of the interview, I shared the above passage of scripture with our church and asked our congregation to help me honor them. Our church gave them a LONG standing ovation for their service and work for the Lord. It was an incredibly touching moment as I watched as our church gave recognition to these two unsung heroes of the faith. After the clapping died down and we all were seated again, with tears in their eyes, this missionary couple gave all the glory to God and rightly so. I know this couple personally, and I know how humble they are, so they certainly did not expect this outpouring of love. I simply stated that we were doing what the Word of God told us to do.

One of the top reasons for missionaries leaving the field and pastors leaving the ministry is simple burnout. When we lived overseas, our closest Christian, American friends lived more than three hours away. I understand how lonely it can be for our missionaries. It is only on rare occasions that they are able to come together and worship in their heart language with other believers and just talk about everyday things. Paul understood this as well, and that is why, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote this passage of scripture.

Our church has the opportunity to partner with some fantastic missionaries all over the world. Our number one reason for participating in these partnerships is to come alongside them in their work to reach the unreached people group that they are working with. Our second reason for participating in these partnerships is to encourage them and to keep them going strong. I believe that if we can help to increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field, then we can increase the work. I tell all of our short-term teams that are heading out that I want it to be like Christmas morning when you arrive. Our teams going to Central Asia, for instance, will never be able to share the gospel to someone in their own Central Asian heart language, but they can encourage the missionaries that are there and do know the language. In verse 13 of our passage it says to regard them very highly in love. To me, this means that we should encourage them, pray for them continually, remember their birthdays, do something for them on holidays when it gets really lonely, keep up with their children’s lives, email them notes, and even go and visit them just to visit with them. You may be wondering if we actually spend thousands of dollars in airfare just to go and visit our missionaries, and the answer is a resounding yes! Paul tells us that we should regard our missionaries highly.

In light of this scripture, what can you do to encourage our missionaries and ministers and pastors? Can you go on a mission trip to hang out with the missionary kids? Can you write your pastor an encouraging note? Can you send a gift to one of our missionaries on their birthday? God’s plan is not for lone rangers to go out into the mission field and work it by themselves, but to have His church come alongside those who are following Him to the uttermost parts of the earth and participate as co-laborers and encouragers.








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