"I have but one passion - it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can most be used in winning souls for Christ."

Monday, April 19, 2010

God Takes Care of His Children

As a young "rookie" missionary, I am trying to learn everything I can about mission work. One drawback about the way that my life has unfolded is that I was not pursuing a life as a missionary until after college, two years into the youth ministry that the Lord had led me into up to that point. Thus, I haven't had the advantage of studying missions and cross-cultural ministries at the university level. While I say this is a drawback, I don't mean to imply that it is some sort of "planning error" on God's part. Rather, we are learning from our own experiences, interaction with other missionaries, and independent study. I wanted to share a bit of this with all of you.

Independent studies - I am so grateful to God for Amazon.com producing digital reading through Kindle books. When we flew down here in January, I had to limit the number of books I could bring because of airline weight limits (I think my carry-on was actually heavier than my suitcase). While any thorough study of a subject should include a wide reading selection of several different authors, I would be confident enough to say that when it comes to biblical missions theology, one need read nothing more than John Piper's "Let the Nations Be Glad". It provides such a comprehensive view of biblical passages on the spread of the gospel as to make additional reading superfluous. I recommend it to anyone preparing for the mission field or wanting a biblical overview of missions. And I'm not even finished with it yet!

Interaction with other missionaries - We've had the opportunity to meet and work with several different missionaries here and we want to learn everything we can from them - to learn from both their successes and their mistakes. Some missionaries see their responsibility as providing people with homes, food, clothes, and generally a better life. Others see their responsibility as evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. Still others see their responsibility as caring for and raising orphans and serving those whom nobody else is reaching. We are learning from all of them.

Our own experiences - We certainly are learning from everything the Lord is taking us through. I want to share one of these lessons with all of you. This was actually what prompted me to write all of this in the first place.

The longer we're here, the more painfully evident it becomes that we are rare. What I mean is that there are not many other missionaries our age nor at our stage in life. I constantly find myself wondering what the problem is and how we could be used to encourage more young couples to get involved in missions at the beginning of their lives while they have so much time left to learn and grow. One of the problems, I have come to believe, is fear. "What if we people don't support us? What kind of things will we have to give up in order to serve God? What if we can't learn another language?" May I share what we have seen and are learning?

First of all, in order to surrender your life to missions, yes, I believe you must be willing to give up some things. But if you have an eternal perspective, that really won't be difficult. To give up earthly possessions or riches for eternal rewards and riches is not a sacrifice by any stretch of the imagination. As Jim Elliot so aptly said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

BUT! Having said all of that, let me tell you what we have learned on this side of the equation. God takes care of His children!

While we are willing to give up anything to follow God's will for us, we are finding that often we don't have to. The Lord always provides everything we need and even abundantly more, even to things we don't need. For example, the question about learning the language: When I started studying Spanish because I felt the Lord was leading me to Mexico, I was able within 8 months to speak well enough to preach and witness one-on-one. When we moved here in January, everyone was asking how well Abby would pick up on Spanish. Well she is! I keep hearing from the ladies in the church that Abby is learning Spanish rapidissimo (super fast!). Ricardo tells us, "Every day your Spanish is better." The question of financial provision: While our financial support is slightly up or down every month, we have all the money we need at the time. In a month where money seems low, we find we have fewer expenses or someone gives us a special gift. In a month where it's high, we find ourselves taking a 2,000+ mile two-week adventure or we find an opportunity to give the extra money away to meet someone else's need. That's why we want to share with everyone - God takes care of His children.

In addition, God gives us opportunities we couldn't even imagine. One happened yesterday. Two of the men that we serve with in Jesus Loves You Baptist Church work at a golf course. So they offered to take Brad and me golfing after the morning service. So we drove 6 kilometers north of town to Playa Mujeres and stepped onto the most beautiful golf course I've ever seen! I didn't realize they worked at Greg Norman's signature golf course, designed by himself. We played for 5 hours, 13 holes, with the clubs the course usually rents out to tourists, riding two golf carts - all for free! I played horribly. But I just kept riding around the course admiring the beauty and thinking about how the Lord blesses us and beyond. I'm telling you all, God takes care of His children! Oh and even the 6-foot crocodile in the fairway of the 18th hole didn't bother us :o)

If there is anyone reading this who feels the Lord leading them to the mission field or into a situation where you feel you might be financially unstable, please hear our testimony. Take the risk! Follow God. Prove your faith with your actions. Test God. There is only one time in the Bible where we are told to test God and it is in relation to finances (tithing specifically). Be encouraged and watch God open the floodgates of blessing from heaven. He always takes care of His children!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chiapas Trip - April Update

Hey everyone,
The last month has sure been a busy one for us. We arrive at the middle of April exhausted, yet very blessed at the same time - a feeling I'm sure many people in ministry can identify with!

The month of March began with our trip back to the States for the Global Impact Celebration at Millbrook Baptist Church, one of our supporting churches, in Aiken, SC. That week was certainly one of the most refreshing and encouraging times we've had since beginning the process of getting onto the mission field in October of 2008. Its only equal would be Cornerstone's Missions Conference in 2009, but Abby and I weren't able to attend that together. 

In my last post, I wrote "Abby and I will get to minister with the young married's class throughout the conference." But after being there, I'm not sure if that was the case or not. I certainly hope that we were able to minister to them, but I must say that it was they who were a ministry to us. We not only spent a good amount of time with them as a group, but also individually with several different couples within the class. And at the end of the week, they presented us with an enormous amount of gifts, ministry supplies, and financial support that help us for a long time to come! We can't thank them enough and are grateful to God for people like them who support and care for us.

We then returned to Mexico, this time with Abby's brother, Bradley. He is coming down here to work with us for several months because he believes that the Lord is also leading him to be a full-time missionary. It has been really neat already to see him seek the Lord's will and begin being involved in the ministry. He has a real heart for children and a desire to meet the needs of people around us in any way he can. I know that the Lord will use him in a mighty way. Please keep him in your prayers as you pray for us too, that he'll keep picking up the language and being able to impact others.

Just a side note: The Lord orchestrated one of His special "coincidences" in our lives on our trip back. This requires a lot more information and a little more waiting, but we will certainly share the amazing details of this unfolding story later.

The week we got back, we immediately had a group from Oklahoma come to work with us for a week. The group of about 10 people comprised a youth pastor, several teenagers, and another adult sponsor. We kept busy with doing village evangelism, gospel films, one-on-one witnessing, blowing up balloons, feeding children, and handing out tracts during the week. Then we took the last day to drive south, relax, visit a beach, and go snorkeling. It was a neat time to meet new people and see them involved in missions work. 

After the group left we had a few days to pack before our two-week trip to Chiapas. This trip had several purposes. 1. Vicki's spring break for Easter weekend gave us the perfect chance to drive to Chiapas to visit her grandparents (Devora's family) who live in Chiapas. 2. Knowing that Abby, Brad, and I are here to see Mexico and learn the needs of the different areas, Ricardo and Devora wanted to give us the grand tour of Mexico's poorest state so that we could conocer those places. 3. Salvador ChiƱas, a.k.a."the Crazy Doc", of Oaxaca had been in Cancun and needed a ride back to his work area in Chiapas. 4. Several Mexican missionaries who live and work in Chiapas were holding a series of youth and children's meetings in various mountain villages, so we went along to give away backpacks filled with gifts. The trip was very long and at times very hard, but we were able to learn a lot along the way and see some beautiful sights, too. This trip also requires a lot more information that I'll leave for more in-depth individual posts.

So now we're back in Cancun, catching our breath and waiting for the next time to go-go-go! We never know when it will be...