Why Are You Here?

27 03 2013

Last week, I was privileged to get to go on a mission trip with a wonderful group of college students to Anchorage, Alaska. We have been working there for the last couple of years with a new church plant called True North Church pastored by Brent Williams. Our church also supports a couple that moved there last year named Will and Eryn Cole.  Will is serving as an associate pastor and campus pastor of their recently started second campus. Our purpose in going there was to work on the University of Alaska campus and try to hook college students up with the church and to possibly talk about spiritual issues with them. In order to do this, we hung out at the campus coffee shops, played pingpong, cooked over 800 hamburgers, threw a laundry party, and played frisbee in 25 degree weather.

While on the university campus, we were constantly asked why we were there. It blew people’s minds that we would give up a spring break to head north instead of south to the beaches. There were times that I asked myself that question when heading out in the morning with it still being dark and 0 degrees. This question, though, is exactly what we were waiting for. It gave us the opportunity to let people know that we love them, and that we serve a great God that loves them as well. We cannot report that we had any salvations while we were there, but that is not our job. Our job is to scatter the seeds of the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to regenerate a lost soul. We also go to Alaska, because it is the least-reached state. It is the least-reached state for a number of reasons, but one of them is that the people’s hearts there are very much closed to the message of the cross and the church. It is for this reason that we must continue to go and have hope that one day there will be an abundance of fruit.

Don’t get me wrong, though. True North is definitely seeing fruit! We had the incredible opportunity to be in attendance at the launch of their second campus. They have seen and are continually seeing lives being changed by the power of God. But it is long, hard, and difficult work. Please be in prayer for their church as they continue to reach out to their city of Anchorage. Be looking for an opportunity to join our church in serving there in the future.

Indigenous Tribes

30 09 2012


I am on my way to Colombia again, and I am extremely excited! I love our families that serve there, and I love the people that they are serving. It is extremely difficult work, though. I have had many people question my sanity because of the places that we are traveling, but there is a good reason. The people groups that are left unreached are either a hard-hearted people or very difficult to get to. When Jesus called us to go reach the nations, he did not add an “only if it is safe” clause. The Indigenous Tribes of the Amazon River Basin happen to be both difficult to reach and extremely hard find. Many of them speak Spanish, but their heart language is a little-known tribal language that few outsiders know. The only way to reach them is to travel up the rivers and streams which is expensive and can be dangerous. The environment is hot and humid. There are mosquitoes everywhere. There is disease, hunger, water problems, flooding, etc. On top of all of this, they are very resistant to the gospel. In many cases, they know just enough to know how to refuse you. In every village along the river there is an abandoned Catholic Church. I have heard that the priests show up at the churches a couple of times a year. The rest of the time, the buildings sit empty, rotting in the humid air. In addition to all of this, there is pressure from governments, who have been encouraged by popular anthropologists, to leave these tribes alone, because their culture is being destroyed. Of course, we believe that their culture is already destroyed by sin, and that by sharing with them the love of Jesus, we are allowing them to move toward the perfect culture in which God created them to be.

Please be in prayer for these tribes. Jeff and I will be traveling to visit a couple of villages. One of the strategies that the missionaries have found to be effective is to share Bible stories with the tribes, and we will be doing this during our visit.

Packing for Central Asia

9 05 2012

I’m leaving for a country in Central Asia for a 10-day short-term mission trip in just over a week. Right now my office is full of Walmart bags filled with all kinds of things that we are supposed to take with us. Every time I go on a mission trip, I always ask the missionaries what I can bring them. It is usually one of the first things that I ask, because I remember what it was like when we lived in Tanzania. We had our standard list of things for people to bring to us: Peter Pan Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter, beef jerky, Velveeta, taco seasoning packets, ranch seasoning packets, toys and such for the kids, etc. For the last month I have had a steady stream of people bringing full bags of stuff into my office for us to pack up and take with us. I’m looking at this pile wondering how I’m going to get it all in, but you had better bet that I will!

One of the number one reasons why missionaries leave the field is because of burn-out. It is just downright hard to live in some places. In this country in Central Asia, they are very isolated from other believers and anyone who speaks English. The food is different. The culture is different. There’s no reliable electricity. It’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer with no central heating and air. There is seen little to no spiritual fruit. It is just plain hard. One of my number one goals as a mission pastor is to mobilize our church to be an encouragement to our missionaries whom we have partnerships with. I believe that we increase the work that is done for the gospel if we prolong the service of our missionaries on the field.

I absolutely love showing up on the mission field and seeing our missionary family’s faces light up when we start taking stuff out of the bag. I feel like Santa Claus giving out the toys to all the kids. But, you know, it is not about the stuff. It is really about them knowing that someone cares about them.

I want to encourage you to do all you can to encourage our missionary families. We get so busy with our own lives that we tend to forget about them sacrificing and serving in difficult places. Get to know them personally. Pray for them by name. Send them birthday cards. Go on a short-term mission trip simply to spend time with them and love on them. I promise you that this is the type of thing that God calls gold, silver, and costly stones.

Spring Cleaning

12 03 2012

At the age of 16, J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission in the mid-1800’s, gave his life to Christ. A few months after his conversion he claims that he completely surrendered his life to God, “…no matter what it might be, however trying or however trivial.” Within a few months of this, God impressed upon him that he was to go and serve in China one day. From this point on, he began to do anything and everything to prepare for this calling. He said that he got as many books as he could about China in order to study them. He began to exercise so that he would be in shape for the rigors of mission work. He even went to medical school as a college student, because he read that a way into China was through medical work. He began to share Christ with others, give to the poor, and teach Sunday School classes to prepare.

While attending college, Taylor began to study the various scriptures that talked about the second coming of Christ. He said that he began to see that, “…the coming of the Lord was the great hope of his people, and was always appealed to as the strongest motive for consecration and service, and as the greatest comfort in trial and affliction.” He also learned that we were to be ready at anytime. Because of this, he began to go through his stuff to see if anything was not needed for the advance of the Kingdom. He gave away all of his books that he did not need. He went through all of his clothes and gave away most of them to the poor. Now this is spring cleaning!¬†Listen to what Taylor says: “It has been very helpful to me from time to time through life, as occasion has served, to act again in a similar way; and I have never gone through my house, from basement to attic, with this object in view, without receiving a great accession of spiritual joy and blessing. I believe we are all in danger of accumulating – it may be from thoughtlessness, or from pressure of occupation – things which would be useful to others, while not needed by ourselves, and the retention of which entails loss of blessing.”

The pollen count is high. The grass is needing mowed. The trees are budding. Flowers are popping out of the ground. It is time for spring cleaning!

Would it not be refreshing to take a Saturday, go through your stuff, and get rid of anything that does not matter for the Kingdom of God? How much junk do you have simply taking up space? Are you paying extra for a storage building? What about getting rid of those things and using the extra money saved to give a special mission offering every month? I would challenge you to do this as a family. Use it as an opportunity to teach your kids a valuable lesson, and let them give stuff away as well. If you do a garage sell, pray about using the money made to support you or someone else going on a mission trip. And remember – God loves a cheerful giver!

Excepts taken from “The Call to Service,” in A Retrospect, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, n.d.

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