"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."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

August 2012 Newsletter

August 2012
"It is exciting to think something so vital to the life and health of a Christian - which was practically inaccessible due to distance, illiteracy, and poverty - can now, with the efforts of a few dedicated workers, be brought to where people live so believers can grow."- Kevin Zwart, AIM Mozambique(on the TEE program)

After months of prayer...
...and correspondence, we have accepted our first assignment within AIM's Southern Region. We will spend our first 3+ years in Mokhotlong, Lesotho assisting a program called Theological Education by Extension (TEE).

In partnership with GEM...
...AIM began a program in Lesotho for educating national pastors and missionaries who are already involved in the work of the ministry. These men have neither the time nor the money to go to a Bible college or seminary to further their understanding of the Bible. Through this program, a group of trained missionaries is able to bring theological education to the pastors as they minister in their area. Jonathan will be serving as the TEE coordinator for eastern Lesotho, under the leadership of Ntate Joseph Mpakaneane in western Lesotho. During our time in Mokhotlong, Jonathan will continue his online seminary studies with Liberty, though initially we will focus solely on adjusting to our new language and culture. 

A New Foreign Language
While English is considered a national language in Lesotho, the common language there is called Sesotho. Given that the TEE program is taught in Sesotho, our family will be working to learn this language in order to effectively communicate with the Basotho people. After our three-week-long Africa Based Orientation in Kenya, we will move initially to the capital of Lesotho (Maseru) where we will spend somewhere from four to six months working under Ntate Joseph, learning the program and language. Following that, we will be moving into Mokhotlong to begin our work there. As mission work is all about reaching people, we hope to be able to develop relationships within our town quickly and minister to all whom the Lord sends our way! 

The city of Mokhotlong...
...we are told is much smaller than a large city yet more advanced than a rural village. It has fairly reliable electricity, running water, and internet access. The area is extremely mountainous with moderate to cool temperatures year-round. We have seen many pictures of this region and are very excited about moving there.

Over the past two months...
...our support has more than doubled! We are still working hard to have all of our finances arranged to leave in January of 2013. We have been very encouraged as we watch many of God's people stand up and commit to supporting the work He is doing in Africa. According to our records, we have over 68% of our monthly support pledged and about 54% of our outgoing expenses have already been sent in. Between Jonathan working full time and studying through Liberty, we have been meeting with families here in South Carolina to share with them our plans for the ministry. When Jonathan completes his first semester on the 18th of this month, he will have more free time to meet with the few other churches we have connections with here in Aiken. We are excited to already have a buyer for our car when we leave as well as for much of our furniture. It feels great to have very little holding us back now!

Please be praying...
...that the rest of our support will continue coming in and that we will be able to leave in January. God has been faithful to us and all of our needs are being met. We are continually surprised by the way God moves upon people's hearts. Several of the families that have committed to support us have contacted us on their own initiative, wanting to be involved in our lives. We have been able to see families commit very sacrificial gifts and we pray that the Lord will repay them according to their generosity. We have been humbled at the outpouring of support and love and prayer that we are receiving.

Kyle is growing...
...faster than we could have imagined. I had to close by telling you about him, because he is just the biggest blessing that the Lord has given us. He makes every day so joyful and happy! Being away from him is the hardest part of Jonathan working every week at Chick-fil-A. He is the happiest little boy we have ever known and we thank the Lord for him every day! So, from all of us, lots of love to all of you and thank you for your ministry in our lives. May the Lord bless and keep you!

- Jonathan, Abby & Kyle St.Clair
(803) 645-0822

June 2012 Newsletter

June 2012
"Are you a Christian? Then you have some part to play in making Jesus known. It may be in another part of the world or it may not. You need to find out how and where God is leading you."
- Duane Elmer

Living Cross-Culturally... 
...is a challenge that most people won't have to face in their lives. Yet, in our ever-shrinking world, more and more people are finding themselves coming into contact with other cultures, whether through business connections, ministry opportunities, or the immigration of people to our home country. How, then, can we Christians use these opportunities to spread the gospel?

Passing It On
As part of our Outbound training, Abby and I have been reading through a number of books assigned to us by AIM. One of those books has been especially insightful and we wanted to pass along some of the truths we've been learning, in hopes that you may be able to pray for us more specifically and maybe even to aid you when your own life crosses with an unfamiliar culture. The book is called "Cross-Cultural Connections" by Duane Elmer.

Right, Wrong and Different
Culture typically defines the way things are done. Each time a person encounters someone who does things differently than themselves, he tends to label the other person's actions in one of these ways - right, wrong, or different. Often, we see our way as the right way and the other person's way as the wrong way. One of the great challenges of living in a new culture is being able to discern what things are right, what things are wrong, and what things are merely different. As more experience is gained living in a host culture, the lines we draw of right and wrong practices will likely include more labels of "different" and fewer labels of "right" or "wrong". We must be careful, however, that we never label as merely different something that God has explicitly labeled right or wrong. In our particular ministry - theological education - it will be critical for us to have wisdom in identifying cultural differences in light of biblical standards. Please pray that we will faithfully teach God's Word and rightly apply its truths to the cultures we will be living in! 

As the author stated...
"If we treat everything as right and wrong, we do a great disservice to the human diversity God has placed in his creation. If we treat everything as a cultural difference, we do a great disservice to the God who authored an uncompromising word of truth."

Our family plans...
...are continuing forward. During the past months, we have been making phone calls and visiting with families and friends whom the Lord has connected us to, sharing our plans for ministry in Africa and praying for the Lord to prompt hearts to join our support team. We have been very encouraged by the response of God's people. Each week at church, it seems, we have people I sing with in choir asking how our fund-raising is going and church members saying that the Lord has led them to help support us financially. Since our last letter, we've updated our numbers in the chart below. We are now at about 22% of our monthly support and have 34% of our one-time expenses already sent in. In addition, three churches and twelve families have committed to help us and are praying about how much the Lord would have them contribute. Please pray that the Lord will continue to provide. We trust that we will; He has always proven faithful!

Also this month...
...I have been accepted to study at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. My desire to teach in a seminary or Bible college in Africa required that I get my master's degree from an accredited seminary. I also needed to be able to complete my studies fully online, as I won't be able to take block classes on campus in the US. I will be studying for a Master of Divinity in Missiology. Of course, this will be a big expense for us and we are planning our personal budget now to provide for the costs. We are committed not to take on any student loans or debt. I feel this is the most responsible way to manage things and we have faith that God can stretch our finances as long as we honor Him in our stewardship. Also, I'm very excited to be able to study at the same school my father graduated from!

Thank you all...
...for your prayers. Once you've read this, would you take a small bit of time to email us back? We would love to hear of any news in your lives and know how we may continue to pray for you. We pray that you are each growing in your walk with the Lord. We pray that the Lord is preparing you for whatever ministry He has in your future. And we pray that the Lord will knit our hearts together during this time of preparation as we all look forward to the work that we will be a part of in Africa - wherever He sends us on that vast continent! God bless you all, dear friends.

- Jonathan, Abby & Kyle St.Clair
(803) 645-0822

April 2012 Newsletter

April 2012

"Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality."
- A.W. Tozer

...are often difficult for us to discuss in our culture. Maybe it's because of the high level of privacy that we Americans have worked into our lives. Maybe it's because of our own pride, not wanting our income to be compared or contrasted to that of our peers. But the fact is, we all need money in order to live. So rather than to shirk speaking about money, we thought we would take this newsletter to explain the financial aspect of our ministry.

Why Raise Support?
Africa Inland Mission is a faith-based missions organization. Unlike denominational mission boards, AIM and each of its members has no guaranteed income. All of our finances are received from churches, organizations, or individuals on a month-to-month basis, as the Lord prompts their hearts. This requires us to rely on God in a very practical way every month and allows us to have a more personal partnership with each of our supporting friends. Our desire is to develop a relationship of mutual encouragement, love, and prayer with every member of our support team.

Our Monthly Budget
One of the biggest advantages of serving with a group that has been ministering in Africa for over a hundred years is having the experience and knowledge of the various costs that will be required. As with anyone who desires to be a good steward of their God-given resources, we wanted to have the accountability of a financially sound institution to validate that our money is being used wisely and efficiently. So that all of you may see this as well, we will explain in this letter the breakdown of our monthly budget and also share with you an update of our current support pledges. 

Each month...
...our income will be divided into nine different categories, as shown in this graph. Those categories cover (from largest to smallest) salary, health insurance, U.S. administration, retirement, housing, social security, ministry expenses, home assignment, and international administration.

Over the past month...
...God has already begun to raise up our support team. Since being appointed with AIM last month, we have had six families commit to support us monthly. Three of those families also helped to support us during our ministry in Mexico and three of them are new supporting families. For any who didn't see our last letter, our support target that AIM has set for us is $4576 per month and outgoing expenses total $35989. Below is a chart which will show how much of our targets have been pledged by faith already.

What motivates us...
...is the same thing that motivated the apostle Paul. As he wrote to the Philippian believers, he expressed his gladness that they had the opportunity to give again to meet his needs in the ministry. He wrote, "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit." We want to present our ministry to you as an opportunity to sow material seed and reap spiritual fruit. We want you to be able to share in the great rewards we will one day receive as we meet the many Africans who will be reached with the gospel as a result of our investment in native pastors and missionaries.

Our support team...
...is coming together out of those who will pray, those who will give monthly, and those who are giving one-time gifts. We thank each and every one of you who is contributing to our ministry in these ways. If the Lord is leading you to be a part of our team, please contact us at the information below. We would love to partner with you for the glory of God in this world!

- Jonathan, Abby & Kyle St.Clair
(803) 645-0822

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March Newsletter

Unreached People Groups...
...comprise 2.84 billion of the world's population - 41.1% of all humanity. On the continent of Africa alone, there remain 976 individual unreached/least reached people groups - 28.2% of its population.* How can these people ever be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ? The best answer, we have come to believe, is through native missionaries.
* Information gathered from Operation World and the Joshua Project

"Unlike the Western missionary, the native missionary can preach, teach, and evangelize without being blocked by most of the barriers that confront Western missionaries."

- K.P. Yohannan

What Can Westerners Do?
The challenges facing Africa today are great indeed. In addition to the countless economic, governmental, and health concerns, Africa faces a deep, spiritual need. While evangelical movements have succeeded in adding many numbers of people who claim Christianity, they have most often failed in the area that Jesus emphasized in the Great Commission - making disciples. The result of this neglect is an African church permeated with non-Christian traditions. "Thorough repentance and renunciation of sin and the works of darkness are often lacking, and many Christians are not free from the influence of witchcraft and evil spirits."* For this reason, we believe that the greatest thing we can contribute to the cause of Christ in Africa is that which they have so little access to - theological education.

Africa Inland Mission
On August 17, 1895, Peter Cameron Scott led a team of seven missionaries into Africa, founding four mission stations in Kenya which would grow into the Africa Inland Mission. Scott's burden was to establish a string of mission stations from the continent's east coast to Lake Chad in the interior and to spread the light of the gospel to the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. A quick glance at a map of evangelicals in Africa will show to what a great degree Scott's vision has affected the continent he gave his life for.

Our Ministry...
...will be to invest our time into the lives of young Africans who feel called of God to return to their people as pastors and missionaries, fully equipped for the work of the ministry. As need dictates, we will be heading towards a teaching ministry and beginning our time in Kenya. This region is strategically vital in reaching all of Africa, as national ministry students have been coming to Kenya from many different parts of the continent. Through faithful exposition of the Word and sound theological instruction, my desire is to fan the flames of passion for God's truth that He has started in these dear students and to join with them in ministry as we work together to see "Christ-Centered Churches Among All African Peoples!"

Our Support Team...
...is the most important part of our ministry plans. We cannot do this on our own. It will require a great deal of prayer, a significant amount of sacrifice, and the resources of God's people to make this ministry possible. Over the course of this year, we will be working to raise up a team of individuals and churches who will uphold us in prayer through our many spiritual battles and give financially to supply our living, working, and traveling expenses. Our support target that AIM has set for us is $4576 per month and outgoing expenses totaling $35969. It is always a matter of faith to trust God to provide when we see the numbers on paper. But God's work will never lack resources. So we look forward to seeing the miraculous ways in which He will provide for us. Our target departure date is the beginning of January 2013. To reach this date, we will need to have 100% of our support raised by December 1st.

Would you consider...
...joining our team? God will be doing great things through this ministry in Africa. We have the privilege of taking part in that. I want each of you to share in that blessing as well. As our pastor has often said, "Little is much when God is in it." We will be in contact with you in the coming months. You may also contact us through the information below. God bless you all and keep Africa in your prayers!

- Jonathan, Abby & Kyle St.Clair
(803) 645-0822

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Ministry Plans

Dear family and friends,

At this point last year, we were at a very similar place, but with very different directions. Last year, we were on the way to Candidate Week with Operation: Mobilization without any specific leading on where God would place in the world. This year, we are on the way to Candidate Week with Africa Inland Mission (AIM) with plans to move to Kenya and teach in a Bible college, training national pastors and missionaries to reach Africa.

On February 13-18, Abby, Kyle and I will be driving to Atlanta to meet with AIM's US staff for a final week of interviews, training, and ministry. If we are accepted by AIM, we will begin the process of raising a support team again and leave for Africa as soon as the Lord provides.

This past year has been a very trying time for us, in one sense. God's timing is not our own and it can be difficult to wait on the Lord. We have tried to faithfully pursue every door that the Lord opens to us. During times when God closes doors, we have sometimes felt like we're getting nowhere. So we just wait, pray, seek wisdom, and pursue the next open door God presents.

At the same time, this past year has been one of great joy for us. I could not put into words how much Kyle has changed our lives. I'm sure every parent remembers feeling this way. Every day we live with him is full of joy and laughter. Abby and I have both said that before Kyle, we loved each other wholly, as deeply as we knew how. But having Kyle has deepened the level of love that we possess. We love him more than we thought we could. Not only do I love Kyle more, but I love Abby in a greater way than before. And I appreciate her so much more as well. I'd seen her be a wonderful wife, sweet homemaker, faithful companion and partner in ministry; but now I'm seeing what a great mother and caregiver she is as well. So our life is happier than ever. Even more, we can see God's purpose in keeping us here in the States when we wanted to be overseas instead. He has given us this time to learn to be good parents and set a foundation for the rest of life with our children.

To give you a brief rundown of the past year, we went to our Candidate Week at OM and at the end of that week they decided not to accept us. We've never been given any specific reason why they decided so, but we just took it as from the Lord that He had some other plan for us. The following week, we went to Cornerstone for Missions Conference and spent time with Paul and Leah Manyara about their ministry at Moffat Bible College. After some discussion with them and much time in prayer, we contacted Moffat about our desire to move to Kenya and join in their ministry. For three months, we were in contact with the Manyaras, the academic dean, and the principal. They said that they would love to have us come, so we then contacted AIM and began applying to serve with them. We've been in that process since September and are now in the final application stage with them. After Candidate Week, we are planning to go to Cornerstone's Missions Conference again.

During our time here in Aiken, I've begun seminary classes and am working towards a Masters Degree in Theology. After I complete that I plan to study further for a Master of Divinity degree. I am learning much and thoroughly enjoying my classes. I know that everything I am learning will further equip me to teach at Moffat and aid me in any other ministry the Lord presents us with. The Lord also provided for us to pay the entire cost for my classes upfront, without going into debt or making monthly payments. I have also been involved in the music ministry here at Millbrook, our other supporting church, by singing in choir, praise team, special music, and occasionally playing in the orchestra. Abby has volunteered to be the director of the young girls ministry (GA's) and has been doing an excellent job, from everything I am hearing. It has been nice to be involved in the ministry here, even while waiting for the Lord to direct us elsewhere.

To all of our Cornerstone friends, we are so looking forward to seeing you again. We also plan to stay for some extra time apart from the conference and would like to get together with as many of you individually as we can. Lord-willing, we will be making plans for moving to Africa by then and we would love to sit down and share with you personally more details on what we will be doing. We've been away from Cornerstone for a long time now and I can't tell you how much we miss our church family there.

As we go to Candidate Week, the cost for our time there will be $1500, which we have been trying to save up for out of our past month's support money. If any of you feel led of God to help us with that cost, our monthly support is still being sent through Cornerstone and you may send any gifts to them with a separate note designating it for our support.

God bless you all as you continue in faithfulness to Him. We love you and can't wait to catch up with you soon!

- Jonathan, Abby & Kyle St.Clair