Missions is not Taking Gods Grace for Granted

This week the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines began to take stronger measures to control the growth of the Covid Delta Variant. I completely agree with these measures, since this virus can affect so many people.

God has been incredibly gracious to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. If the Delta variant reached into the communities, it would prove disastrous since we are a very small Country. There would be few places to hide.

Currently most islands around us like Barbados, Trinidad, St. Lucia, and Grenada are all locked down, and under extreme measures to control the spread of Covid. Meanwhile Vincentians have no curfew or lockdown, and few safety measures in place.

This freedom is a blessing for which we should praise God! My concern though is the people are taking Gods protection for granted.

In February when the Covid numbers were very high, everyone took their safety and health seriously. But since then things have become more and more relaxed.

In a way it’s as if the people don’t believe God will do anything to them.

This is a very serious problem!

Scripture teaches us the grace and protection of God is meant to draw us towards repentance instead of taking advantage of Him. The Lord is patient with us because He doesn’t want anyone to experience the penalty of sin. However, those who ignore the repeated warnings have only themselves to blame when His judgement comes.

Reverence for God worships His grace, but also knows that grace will not last forever.

Thursday night I encouraged a group of Christian friends to “take their safety seriously” because we will experience community spread of the Delta-variant eventually.

Flights from the US are coming in every Saturday, and though the Vincentian government is doing an excellent job with quarantine, it only takes one individual with Covid to start a serious problem.

This doesn’t mean everyone should get the vaccine like I have

It does mean that we should prepare for the day when Gods grace will be temporarily removed.

Missions is Knowing My Job isn’t to Bring Fruit

I have a small stack of tracts on my bookshelf. They are the final remnants of the 2,000 tracts that were ordered last October.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pass out those tracts, yet there has been no fruit from it (that I know of).

This isn’t to say that people don’t take the tracts, most do! But rarely have they led to an opportunity to share the Gospel, and there have been no decisions to accept Christ.

To be honest the lack of fruit gets me down sometimes. It makes me feel as if the entire work of ministry relies upon me. So if I don’t accomplish the work, it won’t get done.

But thats not true!

It isn’t my job to bring fruit….thats Gods job

My job is to faithfully do the work, even if I don’t see any fruit

It is incredibly important that I realise my job is to consistently obey God. Otherwise, anytime things don’t work out perfectly Satan can tell me that I’ve “failed’ , and I will believe it. Even worse. I will endeavour to do the work of God in my own strength instead of His!

On the other hand, when I understand faithfulness is my job, I can do it with confidence!

  1. So I put on my hat and sunglasses
  2. Pass out tracts in the community, and engage with Vincentians
  3. And return with a sweat-soaked shirt, but an understanding I’ve done my job

Ministry is throwing the seed of the Gospel far and wide, knowing that God the Father will bring fruit.

Missions is Dealing With the Root Problem

Friday morning I sat on the porch with a mother who was incredibly frustrated by an adult son who has struggled for years with an addiction to alcohol. With pain in her voice, she shared the fear that her son would face the same fate as her own father and brother, to die from the physical affects of alcoholism.

My heart broke for this mother, but I also realised she was approaching things the wrong way.

Because of past experiences in her family, this mother was entirely focused on getting her son to stop drinking. In her mind if he didn’t drink anymore, the problem would be fixed.

But drinking was not her sons problem….

A Sinful heart is

On her porch Friday I explained that its important for us to deal with the “root problem” which is his sinful heart (he does not yet know Christ). Once this young mans heart is right with God, then the outer issues such as alcoholism will be changed. But if you focus on the drinking, he could stop that, and still have a sinful heart.

To put it another way, the outer issues such as drinking, profanity, or rebellion are symptoms of the true problem (a wicked heart)

For true change to come we must deal with the problem not the symptoms.

I am eternally grateful for a college professor who used an illustration in class that drove this point home. A teenage girl used to come home from school every day depressed because kids made fun of her. She would lock herself in her room, and eat two bags of Doritos every day. Her father decided this had to stop, and told her “don’t eat Doritos for two hours every day!”

Obviously this is ridiculous because the Doritos weren’t the problem. The problem was this teenagers increasing loneliness and depression. In the same way even if this son did stop drinking, the real problem isn’t dealt with.

As Christians we must do the hard work of helping individuals make sense of their lives with the Word of God. And a big part of this work is understanding its never about the Doritos.

Missions is Doing Your Cultural Homework

One day after getting out of quarantine, I went to visit some friends at a local shop. After asking about my time in America, and commenting on how fat I got, we got caught up on recent news.

For around a half-hour many of the more controversial issues in the US were discussed.

  1. The Covid Delta Variant
  2. Vaccinations
  3. The need for quarantine before entering a country
  4. And Afghanistan

I won’t go into detail about my views on each 1. Instead I want to highlight the fact that people in foreign countries love to discuss current events in America. I’ve had MANY political discussions leading up the the recent presidential election in the streets of Barrouallie!

These conversations about what’s going in the United States shows me just how much what goes on in America affects other Countries….

And it also challenges me to do my cultural homework

In 2008 I was with a group of American missionaries in an Australian coffee shop. As we were talking an Aussie asked if we were American, then proceeded to tell us who to vote for, and why. That was one of my first experiences like that so it kind of surprised me. But as those conversations continued, I realised it was important to not only have a stance on controversial issues, but be able to defend them.

Sunday I finished the audible version of “Faultlines” by Voddie Baucham. I had read the kindle version of the book, but enjoyed the audible version better because it allowed me to listen to chapters more than once.

Throughout the book, you realise Baucham is someone who has done his homework. He understands Critical Race Theory 2 better than almost anyone who holds to the view! In a spirit of love and humility, Baucham takes apart the arguments for CRT, and shows just how damaging this view is.

This calm and technical discussion of the problem is very different than the way we (myself included) usually deal with controversial issues. We share “hot takes” that are taken as fact without any proof, then anyone who disagrees with us is mis-represented.

This is not standing for the truth friends…..

This is laziness!

It’s easy to send a tweet or Facebook post about a controversial issue, it’s hard to clearly explain and defend your viewpoint sitting across the table from someone who disagrees.

Yes we should stand for the truth, and call out sin. But have a foundation of Scripture, and clear understanding instead of personal opinion.

  1. Those who are interested in my views can contact me directly
  2. The cultural issue he challenges in the book

Missions is Seeing the Grace of God

Thursday night I was pretty busy after prayer meeting driving members to separate communities on the other side of Barrouallie, and then driving a family who were walking back over the hill.

I pulled in front of the church and turned off the car, only to realise that I didn’t pull up far enough.

I turned the key to start the engine….and it wouldn’t turn over.

I ended up having some friends give me a jump start in the morning, but thought it was odd since there was no reason for the battery to be dead. We ended up starting the battery and letting the car run for about ten minutes.

After that I turned it off, and tried to start the car again….

Nothing happened

A bit of research that afternoon revealed that it was problem with my alternator since the battery itself wouldn’t hold a charge.

To be honest, situations like this are frustrating because my car is such an essential ministry tool. But the Lord did bless me in the tough situation.

  1. I broke down in front of the church instead of on the road in the middle of the night
  2. A friend who I trust was able to diagnose the problem with my alternator
  3. A replacement alternator can be purchased in town for a reasonable price (I will get it Monday)
  4. And the same friend who found the problem, will be able to replace my alternator for a cheap price
  5. The Lord even supplied someone who will give me a ride to get the part tomorrow morning!

The Lord does not promise us that hardship won’t come. But He does promise to give grace in that hard time. It may not always be easy to see the grace of God, but we can rest in the fact that His protecting hand always cares for us.

Missions is Being Angry for the Right Reasons

Ephesians 4:26 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”

People in Barrouallie don’t see me angry a lot, because it takes a lot to make me angry. But they saw me angry Friday.

And thats okay….

Because it was something worth getting angry over.

Occasionally I bring some balls from America for children in the community to play with. It gives them something constructive to do, and helps build relationships.

Friday afternoon a little boy was happily playing with a ball when a teenager playing soccer nearby decided to take ball from him.

Seeing the little boy in tears because a teenager took his ball is something worth getting angry over

After we got the ball back, he went back to waiting for his soccer game. When he saw me approaching and calling his name, he immediately jumped up and ran a safe distance away.

There was not yelling or vulgar language

But I made very clear to him that taking a ball from a little boy didn’t make him a man. I went as far as to challenge him to take the ball out of my hand if he was man enough (he wasn’t).

Anger should not be a constant characteristic of our lives. But on ocassion, anger explained in calm terms and a controlled spirit is necessary to confront sin.

The reason this boy habitually took balls from little children is nobody did anything about it. A lady shouted at him to give the ball back, but never actually got up to make him do so. She then told me it was my fault because I shouldn’t have brought the balls anyways! Because nobody stood up and called it wrong, he just kept doing it.

The Lord reminded me Friday that I could have given the boy a break (he was a teenager after all!) but sometimes somebody needs to stand up and say “this is wrong.”

Missions is Taking Care of Yourself So You Can Care for Others

Since returning from the medical furlough, I’ve tried to make “self-care” a part of my daily ministry.

Self-care is basically what it sounds like, taking care of yourself! For me, it means making my own physical fitness a priority.

My self-care habits include things like

  1. One or two (usually two) brief naps a day
  2. Constantly wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes
  3. Eating healthy meals
  4. And setting aside time each day for relaxation

These and other habits are important because I’ve learned ministry cannot be done at 100% if I am not at 100%

The months leading up to my medical furlough was a painful reminder of this. The lack of proper eyesight affected my energy greatly since lots of my bodies strength went into helping me see. I had a desire to do the work, but lacked the energy to accomplish it.

It is possible to minister when you’re at about 75% or 80% physically, but it simply isn’t effective.

More than that….

Lack fo self-care damages ministry

I came back to the States beat up not only physically, but mentally, and emotionally because of my cataracts. Looking back, I can see this issue came because I didn’t take care of myself (my eyes particularly).

During my time home I re-committed myself not only to spiritual health, but personal health. Which means eating right, wearing my sunglasses, and making sure I get enough rest.

Because in order to help others, sometimes I need to take care of John first.

Missions is an Open Bible

Backpacks are a pretty common part of daily life in Barrouallie since you do lots of walking, and have to carry things with you.

Mine usually has the following items

  1. A book
  2. A notebook for journaling Scripture
  3. My Kindle
  4. And my carrying around bible

The carrying around Bible is a smaller one (the one above is my study bible) used in ministry during the day. Using a Bible on your phone is more convenient, but I’ve found a physical copy is much better when ministering to people. I like to turn the passage so it faces them directly, then they can read along with me.

My carrying around Bible has proved very useful in not only sharing the Gospel, but sharing devotional thoughts, and answering questions. Some people have begun asking me questions about Scripture as I pass by because they know that I carry a Bible in my bag.

The true reason why I carry a Bible however is because thats what God uses to transform lives….

And Satan hates it.

Monday I sat down in front of church with a man and we read through Psalms 91 together. A gentleman was sitting on some steps nearby, and asked me to speak louder so that he could hear. As we read and discussed, he nodded his head in agreement with what we were saying.

The same man stopped me the next day and after some small talk, started asking me questions about the Bible. It soon became clear that instead of agreeing with Scripture, he felt the Bible was a useless book.

During our conversation he told me

  1. The Bible had no facts in it
  2. The people in it never existed
  3. It was actually written by King James
  4. And the white man (his words) took the black mans story, then wrote the Bible so that they could control the blacks

Many times as we talked for about an hour he told me “I don’t want to talk about that (my open bible), I want to talk about facts.”

Now I have no animosity towards him, and the truth is, he wasn’t angry with me. But throughout the hour-long conversation, his goal was to get me to stop using the Bible.

And each time I refused….

Because if the Bible isn’t my foundation, then my own opinion is

Satan hates the Bible with a passion because it’s the Word of God. So he wants to draw us away from it. This isn’t normally done through false doctrine or complete rejection of Scripture, but using our own ideas and opinions instead of Scripture.

This is why ministry of every kind in my humble opinion must be done with an open Bible.

Though he didn’t say it this way, the man in our conversation was constantly telling me to “close the Bible” and give him “facts” (my opinion). But I reused because he wasn’t the one who wanted a closed Bible, it was Satan.

Missions is truly helping the poor

In April shortly after the La Soufrière volcano erupted, I was cleaning in front of the church one day, and heard a woman begin walking up the street shouting very loudly. At first I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but as she came closer I recognised the same words were being repeated over and over again.

“I’m hungry!”

She was an evacuee staying in a nearby resource centre who got in trouble for leaving without permission, and going to get a bag of bread. Her words actually haunted me because I knew many of the people in Barrouallie were saying the same thing.

They may not be shouting it in the middle of the road…

But they were still hungry

Lack of consistent day to day jobs means parents (usually the father) try to do enough odd jobs in order to buy food for that day. Vincentians aren’t malnourished, but getting money for the food can be a struggle.

The initial response to this problem is feeding everyone we possibly can, but that actually creates more problems .

In 2014, Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert wrote a book called “When helping hurts.” It is without a doubt the best book I’ve read on the subject of poverty. Their main point is that relief should equip the poor to do work, instead of building dependence.

Relief can easily become a vicious cycle were individuals come for help whenever there is a need. Obviously in a time of great need we should help, but this can become a habit so when a financial need arises instead of trying to meet it themselves, they come to us. In extreme cases, this creates a sense of entitlement where individuals feel the deserve relief, and are upset if they don’t receive it.

Instead of creating a cycle that makes us their “saviour”, relief should be a reward for their effort.

This morning I met with an older man who asks for money every time he sees me. Because he spends all of his money on rum, I refuse to do so. Friday I made a deal with him, if he sat down and read through a psalm with me, I would give him a bag of rice (enough for one meal).

He was standing at my gate early this morning ready for his bag of rice! But after I reminded him of our deal, we went down to the church, and spent some time reading through Psalm 91 which describes Gods as our refuge, and stronghold. At the end I explained how God would meet his needs if he gave the Lord control of his life.

He left very happy (with a bag of rice) and promised to be back next Monday to study another Psalm (and get more rice)

Later this morning I gave some money to three men at a local shop so they could buy chicken to enjoy for supper later that day. In return they promised to help me burn a huge pile of brush in my backyard (we cut back some bushes recently).

In this way the relief encourages and builds them up. Because this isn’t simply charity, but recognising hard work that they are doing for me.

It is true that in times of extreme need we give relief……

But most of the time what people truly need is a reward after a job well done

Sometimes God Makes You Wait

Last Saturday I returned from the States to Saint Vincent at the conclusion of my medical furlough. The trip itself was actually incredibly easy! The only time I waited was for thirty-minutes before my flight left Miami for SVG.

The easy trip also reminded me how hard it used to be to travel from home to SVG!

Today American Airlines does all of the flights. In past years however, no US airlines went into SVG. So instead American Airlines would bring me to another island, and from there I would catch an island airline for the trip to SVG.

Being at the other island didn’t bother me, but other issues at that airport made things frustrating.

  1. They would not let you inside The air-conditioned airport till the afternoon, so you spend hours outside in the sun
  2. You had to get all your luggage (both checked bags and carry ons) then keep them till the airline allowed you to re-check them
  3. The airlines at this particular island had an incredibly strict policy about baggage weight. Not only did the checked bags have to be under 50 pounds (extra bags were not allowed) but our carry on couldn’t be more than 20 pounds!

The most frustrating thing about that airport though was the planes never being on time.

I can remember the first time flying with the island airline to SVG. My flight was boarding in about half an hour, and over the intercom they gave an announcement that another flight had been delayed. Passengers on that flight were told that they would get more information at 8:30

A lady on the delayed flight started getting very upset and shouting. The louder she got, the more passengers on it started agreeing with her. Around a half-hour later, they announced a flight for HER DESTINATION was now boarding!

About ten minutes after that an announcement came to say MY FLIGHT had been delayed, and more information would come at 8:30. I leaned over to a friend who was flying over with with me, and whispered, “they gave her our plane!”

Though I can laugh about that experience now, it was pretty frustrating in the moment. Yet the Lord used this experience especially to teach me patience.

One of the greatest blessings of life today is we live in an “instant society” where almost anything can be obtained in a few minutes. This is an incredible blessing, but at the same time it’s a curse. When we DO have to wait, it often feels like the end of the world.

A huge issue with the instant society is we expect God to work “instantly”, or on our schedule. And when He doesn’t we become bitter.

This is why the Lord often makes us wait…..

These waiting experiences teach us patience, and remind us that Gods the one truly in control. They also often reveal the sinful attitudes of our hearts that need to be dealt with.

And more than anything, they remind us that God doesn’t work according to our schedule.

Missions Teaches Me God Shows Up in My Darkest Moment

Friday morning my bags were packed, weighed, and standing in the garage waiting for my flight to Saint Vincent. I went to have coffee with a missionary friend excited about boarding a plane and going back to the Caribbean early Saturday morning.

There was just one thing left

A negative Covid test

For obvious reasons that I totally understand, the St. Vincent Government requires a negative Covid test before entering the country. This test, referred to as a PCR, takes twenty-four to forty-eight hours to complete. This test must be taken no more than three days before leaving.

Thursday morning I took the test, and began checking my email, as well as the clinics website for my test results.

When they weren’t there by 12:00 Friday afternoon I started getting nervous…..

When they weren’t there by 6:00 Friday evening I got really scared.

in hindsight, it would have been better for me to go to a clinic that guaranteed results within 24-hours. By Friday evening there was nothing I could could do about that however. Before going to bed that evening I made plans with my parents to go to the airport at the regular time, and if the PCR wasn’t there, reschedule the flight for next Saturday since the SVG flight only happens once a week.

I woke up early Saturday with a pretty bad attitude to be honest that didn’t have a lot of faith. After checking the email for results (there were none) I decided to check the clinics website one last time.

To my incredible joy, it came in during the night!

I personally believe the Lord allowed me to use a clinic that didn’t guarantee 24-hour results (though I definitely will use one next time). He did this to give me yet another illustration of His redemption.

The Lord takes great joy in redeeming us in our darkest moments, when we have given up hope. This way the glory is given only to Him, because we ourselves have lost faith.”

I’m reminded of the disciples when Christ sent them out onto the sea while He prayed. During the night, a huge storm came up that threatened to kill them, then in the early morning Christ came walking to them.

The disciples thought they had already died and said “it is a ghost!” But then they heard the voice of the Saviour saying “it is I, be not afraid.”

I’m also reminded of another storm Jesus calmed for the disciples. Then He turned to them and asked “where is your faith?”

It is sometimes the Will of God that we endure setbacks, and we should be prepared for them. But I was reminded (and convicted) yesterday morning on the way to the airport that its in the darkest moments God shows up.

And we should be looking for Him.

Rediscovering Fellowship

One of the things I miss during the medical furlough is the cooler evening hours. Actually it isn’t the cooler weather that’s missed, but what happens in Barrouallie when the sun starts to set.

Around 6:00 every night, people will start either putting chairs out in front of their house, or going to one of the public areas like a park. By 6:30 the whole community is filled with people sitting around talking bout their day.

There isn’t a lot of serious conversation going on in the evening. Pretty much just small talk about the weather, current events, and whats going on in your life. Yet it develops strong relationships as you spend day after day just spending time together.

This gathering every evening makes the me think about fellowship.

Fellowship for a Believer should mean spending extended periods of time during the week with other Christians. The busyness of life makes this incredibly difficult, so we enjoy fellowship with one another during church services.

This is better than nothing……

But fellowship should be something we do more than twice a week.

One thing I love about the Vincentian culture is it makes time with friends a priority. There will always be more tasks to accomplish, but they will set those aside, in order to spend time with friends. Because the Vincentians know that having strong relationships is more important.

The thing about fellowship is it has to be a conscious choice

  1. You choose to take the initiative in developing relationships
  2. You choose to set aside time for that relationship to grow
  3. You choose to enjoy the quiet moments of “small talk”
  4. You choose to share more and more or yourself over time

For many of us we only have time for a Sunday or Wednesday fellowship because so much is going on. But others choose that fellowship because its easier, or safer.

As someone who has experienced both let me tell you….

Twice a week fellowship is a poor replacement for daily fellowship.

Grace for the New Day

One of the most beautiful things about Saint Vincent is their sunsets. Almost every night I can turn towards the sky around 6:30 in the evening, and taking a breathtaking picture. One of the best spots is in a community just over the hill called “Peters Hope.”

The sunsets do more than just give something beautiful to look at though….

They remind me that God gives grace for each day

Scripture teaches us that Gods mercy is “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). If the Lord tarries, we will be blessed by God with a new day to serve Him.

This gives hope every day, but especially on those days when we fail the Lord.

On Easter Sunday morning 2017, we had a sunrise service at our church. While walking to that service the sun actually began to rise early, creating an incredible sight.

That sunrise was especially meaningful to me because I’d had a rough week. Everything just seemed to be going wrong. Seeing that sunrise was Gods way of saying to me, “yes you made some mistakes, but today is a new opportunity to serve me.” (Editors note: The mistakes didn’t deal with sins, just foolish decisions).

When we fall (and we will) Satan wants to cripple us with shame. A feeling of embarrassment that keeps us from ever trying to serve the Lord again. But God calls us to pick ourselves up, and try again.

The Lord never called us to be perfect, but He did call us to be Faithful.

So we must allow even our failures to draw us closer to God

  1. Own your failure (don’t sugar-coat it)
  2. Confess any sin that needs to be confessed
  3. Repent (turn from) sinful habits, and make things right if necessary
  4. Turn to the Lord for restoration
  5. And move forward

May the Lord never allow the failures of the past to affect our present service

Becoming “Mr. John”

In the summer of 2015 I came to Saint Vincent for a short-term ministry (which ended up going for six years!). A major goal when I arrived was beginning to develop relationships with Vincentians in the community of Barrouallie.

About a month after I arrived, two boys from the neighbourhood came to visit. They probably came out of curiosity, but enjoyed some water, a Bible story, and even a few games on my tablet.

I looked forward to seeing them many more times….

But they never came again.

I was confused by this, and later on asked one of the other kids what happened to them. “Oh their mom went to jail” one of them said calmly.

One of the saddest things I’ve seen many times on the mission-field is a Child’s loss of innocence. By this I mean they don’t have the structured or protected environment that comes from a healthy family.

Most of the men don’t care for their children (which makes them gutless cowards), and the moms spend their time caring for the younger children. This means the other brothers and sisters can pretty much do their own thing.

The response of Believers to this challenge is to become what I call “spiritual parents.” Ones who enter into the lives of children at a young age, and help mentor or disciple them. This takes lots of patience and attention, but can reap great benefits.

In the early years of ministry in SVG, I kept an eye out for children who were in need.

  1. Maybe they didn’t have lots of friends
  2. Perhaps they weren’t gifted in the same way as others
  3. Maybe they just needed some extra attention

When the Lord laid a child on my heart, I did my best to come alongside him (they were almost always boys), and just guide him in the right way. It didn’t always work out perfectly, but the Lord was glorified.

One by one those children started calling me “Mr. John.” Actually they didn’t say it, its more like they screamed it whenever they saw me 🙂

Today if you walk the streets of Barrouallie, you will hear me called by many names. But one of the most common is Mr. John, and it’s usually shouted by a crowd of kids.

I am honoured to have that title. Because it is a testimony of children who I have been able to pour my heart into for the Gospel of Christ

Coming Back Stronger

This time next week, I will have arrived in St. Vincent, completed quarantine, and travelled back to the community of Barrouallie. In preparation for Saturdays flight I’ve begun the process for leaving……

  1. Pack my bags
  2. Weigh my bags
  3. And set out my traditional super-man shirt to wear while traveling

Another part of that process is an excitement about returning to the field.

The truth is, I could have left three weeks earlier, and the original plan was for the medical furlough to only take five weeks. But the Lord knew I needed the extra time to focus on Him.

The Christian life isn’t for the faint of heart, its daily warfare. And while we never stop fighting, it’s a good thing to step back from activity, and rededicate ourselves to the Lord. Taking this time may look like laziness but it it isn’t.

Because it’s those times of rest and rededication that help us come back stronger.

Racism is a Heart Problem, Not a Skin Problem

As one of the few white people in my community (I’m usually the only one) I’ve had lots of conversations with Vincentian friends about racism.

And had some fun experiences because of my whiteness as well

A few weeks after coming to Barrouallie I was walking down the road, and a man called me over. He smiled and said, “why is a white man walking up and down my street?” For the first few months the name “white man” stuck, not because they were being racist, but because they didn’t know my name. Today they all call me John.

Experiences have shown me that racism does indeed exist

But what some people call racism, isn’t racism.

Racism is an attitude that looks upon other people groups as less important than you, this is sin pure and simple. Yet, there is a growing belief that racism is something inherent that all white people are born with. Because we (white people) experience privileges other people groups may not experience, we are therefore racist.

Let me be very clear about this…..

Racism has to do with my heart, not my skin colour

Over the last six-years, the Lord has helped me live in unity with my Vincentian brothers and sisters. This has nothing to do with my being “anti-racist” or becoming more “inclusive”. I just treated them with respect and dignity as image-bearers, and they did the same for me.

It’s a joy to see how the people of Barrouallie “look out for me” because I “look out for them”

  1. Last year I suffered from a severe stomach virus so we couldn’t have church. The next day many people from the community asked what had happened.
  2. Another time I got sick, and had three separate friends to come by, and see how I was doing
  3. A few months ago my car hood wouldn’t latch properly. Three people came by to tell me it wasn’t closed, and then a neighbour helped me fix it
  4. Another day I left a car door open (still not sure how that happened). A friend came down, and told me it was open….nothing was taken
  5. And a few years ago I went home for Christmas and let a young man in the community drive my car while I was gone. The week after I got back a woman motioned me over and whispered “I saw somebody else driving your car!”

The point is it’s possible for people from other races to live in harmony

You just treat them with dignity and respect

And it helps if you’re part of the same family 🙂

There is no easy fix for racism friends, but I can tell you the starting point is your heart instead of your skin colour.

A Stone in Their Shoe

As a missionary in Australia, I read the book “Tactics” by Greg Koukl, and absolutely loved it. In my opinion, it is one of the best books on how to understand the beliefs of others, and share the Gospel.

one of my favourite principles in his book is called “the stone in the shoe.”

He explains it this way

here is my own more modest goal. I want to put a stone in his shoe. All I want to do is give him something worth thinking about. I want him to hobble away on a nugget of truth that annoys him in a good way, something he can’t simply ignore because it continues to poke at him.

Koukl in this article rightly speaks against Believers trying to “close the sale (bring Salvation) as soon as possible.” Of course, when someone is open to hearing the Gospel, or the Holy Spirit leads us to, we should definitely share the whole Gospel.

However, most conversations on the mission field has shown me its better to “put a stone in their shoe” so to speak.

Give them a Biblical truth that the Holy Spirit can then use to bring conviction.

I recently told a story that reminded me of this truth. The Lord allowed me to be involved in a conversational English group in Australia at the local library. In this group there were buddhists, muslims, agnostics, catholics, and a baptist minister 🙂

The first week I was there they asked me what I did, and I explained my work as a missionary. For weeks I waited for the moment to put a stone in their shoe…give a biblical truth that would make them stop and think.

Finally one Wednesday morning we were discussing church attendance if I remember correctly, and led by the Holy Spirit I said “you know, I hate religion.”

That was it

About ten minutes later we went home, and I asked the Lord to bring that up again next week if it was His will.

We’d barely started the next week when a woman who I believe was saved turned to me and said. “John you said something last week I didn’t think a minister would say!”

Then in a public library I had the privilege of explaining the difference of a works-based relationship with God, and accepting Christ as your Saviour.

Satan loves to tell us that we have to share everything at once (and the person MUST get saved) or our attempt at evangelism is a failure. Nothing is farther from the truth. The Holy Spirit can use just one Biblical truth to lead someone to repentance.

It is not my job to convict people, thats the Holy Spirits job

My job is to faithfully share what God has said…..one rock at a time

A Bridge of Balls

Thursday afternoon I began looking for balls that I could deflate, and put in my luggage for the return trip to SVG.

Now to some of you a football or soccer ball may seem unimportant….

But they are actually priceless ministry tools.

One of the first lessons I learned as a missionary is relationships are incredibly important. These relationships are what I like to call “Gospel bridges.” The goal of this bridge isn’t to share the Gospel right away (though I’m willing to do that), but to connect with an individual, and develop a true friendship with them. Over time, the Lord will give “God moments” that can then be used to share the Gospel in a direct way.

The thing about Gospel Bridges is they aren’t “one size fits all.”

  1. A Gospel Bridge can be giving someone a job, and paying them well
  2. It can be a bowl of rice and chicken
  3. It can be a listening ear, and kind words
  4. It can be a ride to the grocery store
  5. Or it can be an afternoon playing at the park

Of course you cannot build bridges with everyone (I wish I could!)

So you have keep your spiritual eyes open….

The Lord often brings individuals into our lives who are struggling, or open to the Gospel. It’s our responsibility to notice those people when they come, and then begin building a bridge.

God allowed me to begin building a Gospel Bridge with a man in the community a few years ago. It began with his washing a neighbours car, and me jokingly asking if he would wash mine. A few Saturdays later, we negotiated a weekly price, and I officially became his client.

Since that time we’ve had many conversations about the Lord, many counselling sessions on my porch, and Bible reading sessions. Today he faithfully attends church, and isn’t saved yet to my knowledge, but the Lords working on his heart.

These kind of bridges aren’t easy

  1. They take lots of time and energy
  2. Satan will attack you, as well as the individual
  3. And you have to be very patient

But it’s worth the work.

There is a brother and sister who live across the road from me. We had a good relationship going before my cataracts slowed daily ministry down considerably. Because of that and the time away because of the medical furlough, now that ministry needs to be rebuilt with playtime, and Bible stories.

May the Lord help me search for hungry hearts, and do whatever it takes to build a Gospel Bridge towards them.

When God Takes Your Dream

Last Saturday was special for me since it marked six-years since the first time I came to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on August 14, 2015. This picture of coffee on a motel rooms porch will always remind me that God opens, and closes doors of ministry.

Originally I came to the Country of Australia as a missionary, and served there for six years. At the end of that term I returned to the States in order to raise additional support, and begin the application for a permanent visa.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for missionaries to gain visas into Australia and other countries. This is understandable because some groups (not missionaries) come in under religious visas that are fairly easy to obtain. Upon arriving, they immediately took advantage of every Government benefit. Because of this, the Immigration department of Australia passed a law saying all immigrants must gain a permanent-residency visa through an immigration lawyer.

Part of this process was proving to the Government that you were filling a needed job that wasn’t currently filled by Australian workers.

During my application process, it became clear that gaining a full-time visa as a missionary would be very difficult.

  1. Because there were already missionaries inside the country
  2. And because missionaries weren’t necessarily viewed as important workers

As the process went on, the thought occurred to me that God may be closing the door of ministry to Australia. I refused to believe this though, and kept trying harder to get the visa process completed.

Finally after working on the visa for over a year with little results, I realised it wasn’t Gods Will for me to return. It was hard giving up something I worked so hard for (the return to Australia), but I knew it was the right thing to do

For a few months it was pretty difficult searching for the door that God had opened after closing the door to Australia, but everything fell through.

I began contacting friends in other fields to see if they needed short-term help. One of those was to a pastor friend in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. He responded to my email by saying there had been a ministry opening, but that had been filled.

I sent him a follow up email a few weeks later asking to contact me if there was any openings. He responded by saying there was nothing at the time, but he’d be on the lookout.

About 2:00 that afternoon I checked my email, and noticed that he had sent another response. I opened it and read the words “something has just come up.”

A missionary in SVG had recently begun having heart problems (it beat too fast) and needed someone to fill in for six-months while he got surgery in the States. A few weeks later I was filling in for him! Upon his return, I worked alongside him, and continued the work up to this day.

That cup of coffee reminds me not to hold my dreams or plans too tightly

It was difficult giving up on a return to Australia because that was the dram and goal of my heart. But when I finally let go of that, and submitted to the Lords Will, He gave me something better.

Missions is Taking a Break, So You Can Come Back Stronger

In just over two weeks (August 28) I will return to Saint Vincent. I’m incredibly excited about this, and have entered my “anxious energy” stage, which will soon be followed by my “pacing back and forth like a tiger in a cage stage.”

This is a good thing because it shows Gods has given me a great burden to serve in SVG. And though America is my home, it’s no longer the place where I “feel at home.”

The desire to leave is growing steadily because my eye surgeries got finished much faster than expected. The surgeon did the first one nine days after seeing me, and the second seven days after that. Truthfully I could have left already!

But there are important reasons why the Lord gave me extra time in the States

  1. So I could spend time with family
  2. To work on College Classes
  3. To reconnect with friends

And the most important reason is so I could come back stronger.

The Truth is, I didn’t just need a break because of the cataracts. I needed a time to unplug from day to day ministry in order to refocus on the Lord, and evaluate my personal life, as well as ministry. It’s possible to do this while on the field, but quite difficult because of the distractions.

The Lords reminded me recently breaks from ministry are a very important part of ministry……

Because you come back stronger.

  1. Someone who has identified, and removed unhealthy habits
  2. Someone who is focused in their ministry (doesn’t try to do everything)
  3. Someone who embraces physical, as well as spiritual health
  4. Someone who approaches ministry with a renewed energy

The funny thing is in my mind breaks from ministry are bad things because taking a step back for rededication and evaluation doesn’t involve lots of “activity.” However that short-time away amplifies the strength of future ministry.

The Lord through this experience has reminded me breaks from ministry need to become a greater part of my daily life. So with His help, I’ll find ways to take a step back while on the field.

Because it’s better to take a step back and refocus every once in a while, than to burn our completely

God Wants You!

Last weekend I was back in Winston Salem. North Carolina. The town that I called home since the age of twelve. Just for nostalgia, we drove by the house I grew up in, and took a picture.

A flood of memories come back as I think about that house, but one stands out above all the rest.

One Sunday night in 1992, Dr. Wayne Fulton, pastor of my church was preaching on the need for men and women to take a stand for God. If memory serves me correctly, he referred to the well-known quote. by Charles Spurgeon. “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

As he preached the Holy Spirit challenged me to become one of those people who were completely committed to God.

My response to God was absolutely not!

As a child I struggled with whats commonly called “low self-esteem.” The truth is I was just more introverted (which is fine) but I bought into a lie of Satan that God couldn’t use someone like me. So when God challenged me to serve Him (what later became a call to missions), I told Him to find somebody who has more ability.

I can remember having an argument with God all the way home about why He couldn’t use me. Of course I knew that wasn’t true, the fact was obeying god scared me, and I didn’t want to leave my “comfort zone.”

About an hour after getting home I went into my our patio, knelt beside a whicker chair, and gave God control of my life.

Since then, the Lord has done many incredible things through me. And I’ve seen over and over again success in the eyes of God isn’t based on our ability, but our submission to Him.

The point is we often see missionaries or pastors who never get weak, or struggle in any way. So it’s easy to step back and let the truly “gifted people” do the work.

Nothing is farther from the truth…..

My friend God has an incredible plan for your life, and wants to do amazing things through you. He WANTS to use YOU!

Give Him control….you won’t regret it

We All Need a “West Virginia House”

For the last three-weeks, I’ve been staying with my parents at the small house that dad was born and raised in. It is a time of rest, while making memories with family.

it also involves lots of staring at a computer

In September classes begin for the Fall semester at Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean. I’m excited to teach two classes that semester. One on Eschatology, and another on the Major Prophets (covering Isaiah through Daniel).

Because cataracts hindered my eyesight, I couldn’t do serious work on it till my second eye surgery was completed on July 15. I’m incredibly grateful basic Eschatology notes that gave a starting point, but there was still much left to do.

We pulled onto my parents property that we lovingly call “the West Virginia House” on July 21. Since that time, I completed notes for Eschatology covering 141 pages with 120 study questions. And with the Lord help, by Sunday the Major Prophets notes covering 180 chapters of Scripture will be done (I am at 155).

This amount of work is a testament to the power of a quiet place free of distractions, and a season of study.

Because my parents only spend a few months a year in West Virginia, the internet is incredibly slow, and you only get the most basic tv channels. This is frustrating when we are used to fast internet, and lots of entertainment. But when there are big jobs to do (like put together college classes), it’s ideal.

The longer I’ve spent in the “West Virginia House” the more I appreciate the quiet moments that can be used for study. Moments that you rarely get in the fast paced ministry life.

In three weeks I will return to Saint Vincent, and excitedly jump back into day to day ministry. But every once in a while I’ll catch my breath, and fondly remember the “West Virginia house”. And the Lord is reminding me during this season that there needs to be a “West Virginia House” in SVG. A place that emphasises quiet study instead of constant activity.

Rejoicing in the Valley

Yesterday morning I sat down at a kitchen table, and for the first time in over a month, had devotions from an actual Bible. For some this may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it was an incredible blessing.

Many of you know that in March, I began to have serious eyesight issues because of cataracts in both eyes (with my left being more severe). As time passed, my eyes continued to degenerate, till in mid-May reading my Bible was almost impossible.

Because of the greater medical technology in America I after prayer decided to take a medical furlough at the end of June instead of getting the surgery done in Saint Vincent. While this was definitely the right decision to make, it meant putting up with blurred eyesight for a long time.

Over time, the frustration of not being able to do things I was used to doing (like reading my Bible) grew and grew. I finally reached the breaking point, and allowed the quiet anger about my situation to become discouragement and depression……

That was three weeks before the flight!

Thankfully the Lord convicted me of my self-pity, and I submitted to a life with massive cataracts (though it was frustrating).

God through the Holy Spirit brought verses to mind that helped me submit to the frustrating situation. One that was particularly encouraging was Jeremiah 29:5

Jeremiah 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;

Jeremiah here is speaking to Jews who were in Babylonian captivity. Many of them were frustrated by their lack of freedom, and would later try to escape Babylons control with the power of Egypt. Jeremiah though encourages them to do something different….

He tells them to submit in captivity

Instead of trying to escape the situation that they hated, they were encouraged to continue there long-term. As they flourished in a painful situation, the Lord promised to give peace.

The application is to stop fighting the plan of God. There is no way that we can escape it anyways! Instead of looking for a way out, the Lord calls us to humbly accept the trial that comes from His hand. Because we know the Lord who brought us in, will bring us out.

For me personally that verse meant accepting both the good times, and bad times from God. It’s amazing how we praise God on the mountaintop, but have a terrible attitude in the valley isn’t it? But as we commit ourselves to consistent service in the valley, God will do a great work.

I can honestly say living with severe cataracts wasn’t enjoyable, but I thank God for it. Because its in the valley that He drew me closer to Himself.

When Snack Cakes are a Luxury

In about four days I will board a plane in Saint Vincent, and early Sunday morning, arrive in Richmond Virginia.

the interesting thing is though I am excited about being home, a big part of me doesn’t want to go.

Please understand that doesn’t mean I don’t love America. But SVG has been my home for so long, believe it or not, America feels strange!

Having said that, there is one thing I miss about America….convenience

In the States you can get just about anything that you need at a local store thats about fifteen minutes away. Whereas in Saint Vincent (and on most mission fields) you just can’t get many things.

For instance, in late February my iPhone battery died. In America thats an easy fix since you can get a new one tomorrow from Amazon, or go to any number of stores. In my case, a proper replacement battery was never found. I’m sure there were some individuals who had one, but no phone technician in Kingstown could find one.

Though this lack of convenience is frustrating at times, it’s actually a blessing. Because it shows just how many things we enjoy in life that are actually “luxuries”, or things we could live without.

When I first came here, there were certain things from America I truly missed

  1. Pepsi and Coke (they are expensive here, so only an occasional treat)
  2. and high quality American coffee (they do have Folgers and Maxwell House here, but I am admittedly a “coffee snob’

At first I really missed things like this since they were a habitual part of my life

And then something strange happened…..

I didn’t want them anymore!

Now I still like soft drinks, and good coffee. But my desire for them grew weaker. And over time I learned that I could actually live without them!

when most things in life are luxuries we learn to live without them, and we also greatly enjoy them when they are experienced

While going through the relief barrels that were sent from the States, I set aside two different things for some children who visit for Bible stories.

  1. The first was a box of crayons and colouring books
  2. The second was a box of “little Debbie snack cakes”

now to be honest these items would be appreciated by a child in the States, but it wouldn’t really bring a lot of excitement

for the Vincentian children who had never eaten something like that, it was a treasure!

In the end I’m thankful that the Lord has helped me leave behind some conveniences of home. Because now they can be appreciated more.

As I prepare for a medical furlough I’m planning to greatly enjoy the luxuries that America provides. But at the same time, those luxuries will lead to thankfulness and praise to the God who provides them.

Missions is embracing Rest

Last week this time I was getting ready to visit a local clinic, and get my second vaccine shot.

I don’t share that to start a big debate over whether or not a person should be vaccinated. It’s my opinion you should be for your safety and others, but the point of this post is what happened AFTER the shot.

I fully expected to feel awful the day of the shot, so didn’t plan much afterwards. I ended up getting home around 2:00, and spent most of the day in bed after that.

Following that day of rest I woke up Wednesday sore, but with good energy, It felt great to have strength during the day that helped me catch up on what wasn’t finished Tuesday.

Then Thursday came

I woke up not feeling too great, but was able to get stuff done that morning. But around 2:00 though my whole body started hurting! So I ended up spending much of that day in the bed or resting as well.

Thursday really frustrated me because I wanted to do work, but my body just wouldn’t co-operate. Yet looking back on it, I believe it was Gods way of teaching me a lesson.

I love being busy, which is not a bad thing. However, it’s easy to begin worshipping my work, In other words, i find my identity (happiness) in how much is accomplished during that day. When productivity becomes something that I worship instead of God. It is a problem.

So the Lord gave me two days last week with little work accomplished.

As the frustration faded Thursday afternoon, the Lord reminded me that effectiveness or “getting things done” wasn’t something to be worshipped. Instead it was a form of worship to God.

This makes all the difference because my identity and happiness doesn’t have to be found in how much I accomplished that day. Instead it’s found in the cross of Christ, and Gods placing His righteousness to my account.

This doesn’t mean I should sit around and do nothing all day. It does mean that God in His grace gives me days of rest. And those restful moments come because the work of Salvation doesn’t rely on me.

Thankfully my body is back at full-strength and I’m slowly but surely catching up on unfinished tasks. But I’m grateful that even if the to-do list is never finished, I will still be Gods child.

A Testimony of Peace

Things have been incredibly stressful for individuals here since the volcanic eruptions began.

Anxiety is heightened for those who live in communities like mine who are already struggling with poverty before the eruptions began. However, the greatest anxiety is for those who are displaced from “red zone” areas.

One of the sister-churches of Tabernacle Baptist is in the area of Fits-Hughes, which is very close to Chateaubelair, where the volcanic eruptions did serious damage with ashes.

At this time it isn’t possible to travel there by vehicle, and the area itself is viewed as “unliveable” because of the amount of ashes on the ground. It will probably take six to seven months before individuals can move back in comfortably.

A Believer from the church in Fits-Hughes came by a few Sundays ago to make sure we were having services. He told me that he’d be back yesterday. Sure enough, he showed up before church, so we were able to have some fellowship together.

I was struck by the calmness and peace in this mans heart, which was remarkable considering he had to leave not only his home. but his livelihood since he was a farmer.

Again and again in our conversation he thanked the Lord for His goodness, and expressed a desire to serve Him in good and bad situations. We were also blessed by a short testimony of Gods goodness during a praise time during the service.

More than anything, this mans life and attitude was marked by a peace. A peace n a very stressful situation that can only come from God.

As I thought about his testimony yesterday, my mind was reminded a Christians life should be marked by peace

There will of course be experiences of emotion or anxiety, but for the most part, the Holy Spirit gives to us a calmness in a crisis. This peace is an incredible blessing since it loudly proclaims the Gospel through a transformed life.

This peace is also in contrast to the world, that is filled with anger and frustration.

last Wednesday afternoon I took some short-term missionaries from Campden Park down to my side of the island. Driving past the church, we saw two women standing near each other in the road loudly shouting and cursing. In a small way, this illustrates the sinful response to pressure or stress.

Life is frustrating and heaps great amounts of anxiety upon our hearts. This is why we must turn to the Lord with our burdens. When we give everything back to God with an open hand, He fill our hearts with a peace.

A peace that shines brightly in the world of anger and bitterness.

Giving What They Really Need

As April comes to a close, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities that the Lord has given to minister in a practical way to the people of Barrouallie and surrounding villages since the eruption on April 9.

There is still a definite need for immediate help through relief packages, and bottled water 1. But slowly but surely, it is time to transition into a deeper ministry.

by this I don’t mean providing food isn’t important (it obviously is). But there Is a deeper need than just physical relief.

that is a need for discipleship.

By using the phrase “discipleship” I am referring to evangelism (bringing them to Christ), teaching of Scripture, and sending them out to do the work themselves. I referenced this idea in a post last week you can find here.

Its incredibly important to understand that a persons greatest need is for discipleship. Someone who will listen to their needs, explain the Gospel, and lead them to Salvation.

But its even more important to understand people crave this kind of relationship in their hearts.

The Lord has opened the door for me to have lots of conversations about the Gospel, and what the Bible teaches during this time of crisis.

Along the way I’ve realised what people want far more than a bag of food, or a case of water

A listening ear…..

Attentive eyes….

And Gods truth

Again this doesn’t mean the food isn’t important. It means long after that food is gone, a true friend who will give Godly counsel is far more important.

So we keep giving out relief to those in need. But understand taking the time to sit down, understand their need, and minister to it with an open Bible is more important in the long run.

  1. You can’t currently drink the water

How Quickly We Forget God

Sunday morning we had our first service at Church since the eruptions of La Soufrière began. Since a lot had happened since our last meeting, I gave an opportunity to share some testimonies.

one lady referenced an experience the day after the initial eruption on April 9 when the ashes caused everything to grow dark as night at 5:00 in the afternoon. She said that the Lord in that moment reminded her of sin 1, and she prayed in tears with her son.

I am incredibly thankful that God used experience like this to get the attention of this woman and her son, along with others.

Yet as the ashes are cleaned up, and things start getting back to normal, it seems as if many individuals are already beginning to forget God again.

This isn’t surprising since Satan does not want us to focus on God at all. So as quickly as possible, he brings crisis situations that “distract us from the Lord.”

In a deeper sense, God is forgotten because we aren’t experiencing the big “God moments.”

a “God moment” is something huge like the ashes blocking out sunlight that bring fear or anxiety into our lives. These moments are good because they lead to repentance. The problem is, God does not choose to speak to us regularly through moments like this.

The Lord chooses instead to speak to us as we read and study His Word on a daily basis.

Scripture teaches that as we meditate on the Bible, the Holy Spirit will reveal Gods truth to us. The important thing is that we must constantly be looking back at the Lord.

The world is filled with distractions that take our mind off God, so we must continue gazing at His truth throughout the day.

In situations like the volcano eruptions, many people come back to Church, and recommit themselves to God. This is wonderful of course! But it is often motivated by a “God moment” or their emotions. Sadly they soon lose sight of God, and fall away again.

The only way to end this cycle is to see God daily…..

This begins by proclaiming Gods truth to others through devotionals, bible studies, or a biblical reasoning ministry that answers questions. But the goal is for individuals to have a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with God where they look EVERY DAY into His word.

My heart breaks to see friends slowly lose sight of Gods power and love for them. But in the end I can only point them towards their true need.

They and they alone get to choose the closeness of their relationship with God.

  1. She wasn’t coming to church,. Or reading her bible

Being Thankful for Gods Daily Mercy

La Soufrière’s eruptions have definitely brought a time of crisis to SVG. Yet, even in that crisis, there are things to praise God for.

Today I am especially thankful for Gods daily mercies

A daily mercy is Gods blessing upon our lives that we don’t really recognise. Often it’s something that has been there for so long, that blessing is taken for granted.

There are countless daily blessing the Lord provides, but the eruptions have focused my mind on one in particular…..

Running water

Because the water supplies in Saint Vincent come from natural rivers, individuals were encouraged to fill up barrels or bottles before the eruptions took place. This is because the sulphuric ash would contaminate the water system.

The general idea was we would be without water for one or two days. Instead because of the magnitude of the eruptions, we were without water for a week!

There were occasions when the water would come on for a brief time in the morning or evening. Also one day the water was on from the morning till late afternoon. For the most part however, the water was not running.

as you can imagine, the lack of water caused many problems. Especially because this made cleaning the house, and washing clothes difficult. There was a greater need for these jobs of course since the ashes got on your clothes, and in your house.

The lack of water also caused me to realise just how much I used it! Its funny how I didn’t think about how many things use water till it was no longer there.

Friday morning, at around the same time the original eruption occurred, the water was turned back on. I cannot describe to you the joy that filled my heart to see water coming out of the tap again!

This experience has reminded me that many of the things that we take for granted such as water, electricity, or vehicles that run properly are forms of God’s mercy and grace upon our lives.

It’s sometimes difficult to be thankful for those items since they are so readily available. So God in His sovereignty removes them temporarily so we appreciate them more.

I definitely didn’t enjoy being without running water for a week 1. But I am thankful for the experience, because it reminded me of Gods daily mercy upon my life.

  1. Thankfully I had a large water barrel filled so did have water. It had to be used carefully though

The God of Short-Term and Long-Term Relief

The eruptions of La Soufrière have brought a great crisis upon the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Particularly for those in the “red zone” where the ash and damage of buildings makes it unlivable.

At the same time, Soufrière’s eruptions have brought blessings upon our lives! One of the greatest is seeing God provide for our needs in absolutely amazing ways.

Since the original eruption on April 9, I have received a gift of $1,000, along with another $1,000 coming, and yesterday got a check for $500 1. This doesn’t count the gifts that are sent directly to Baptist Mid-Missions without my knowledge.

These and other funds will provide short-term help:

  1. Through relief packages
  2. Bottled water
  3. Replenishing of the food bank at a Church in Kingstown park
  4. And establishing smaller food banks in other Churches for those not in the Kingstown area

This is reason enough to praise God, but the Lord has also provided for what I would refer to as long-term help.

the road to recovery is going to be very long for those in the “red zone” areas. It will take many months before things will return to a form of normalcy. Because of this. There’s also a need for larger amounts of food and goods that can be set aside for future use.

The provision of long-term help is far more difficult because it costs more money, and there needs to be a large amount of goods.

it’s amazing to see how the Lord has not only met our need for short-term relief, but also the need for relief in the long term.

I could list many long-term blessings. But let me just share one.

A friend from my home Church in the States called a few Saturdays ago to ask about the possibility of sending some barrels. I was incredibly grateful, and gave him the information for a shipping agency that could help.

In my mind, I could see them sending two or three barrels……

He called back Saturday to say they are planning to send TEN!

These and other experiences are wonderful reminders that the Lord is indeed still at work.

He may not provide the way I want Him too…..

But He will provide

And His way is always best

  1. All of these funds are sent through Baptist Mid Missions, and are put into Vincentian Pastors hands to fund a food bank in SVG.

Missions is…not just relief work

Since the first eruption of La Soufrière, my schedule has been thrown off. normal ministries centred on evangelism or discipleship. Ministries after the eruption involved cleaning, distributing relief, and transporting needed items.

While we are very far from recovered from the volcanic eruptions 1, things have thankfully calmed down in Barrouallie to the extent that life is beginning to return to normal.

While I’m very thankful for “boots on the ground” ministry that involved practical things like delivering goods, and clearing yards. I’m excited for the opportunity to return to my Scripture based ministry of Evangelism and Discipleship (or reach and teach).

This may seem strange since the very practical ministries during the crisis following the initial eruptions had a deep impact upon the lives of individuals.

But the “reaching and teaching” is more important because individuals are dealing with their eternal destiny.

experiencing a natural disaster like the eruptions of La Soufrière is an important reminder of our weakness when compared to God. It also makes individuals think about their eternal destiny following death.

In these moments God has individuals attention. And while it’s incredibly important to make sure their physical needs are met, it’s more important to clearly explain the Gospel.

  1. Because things cannot bring happiness
  2. Because sin always destroys our lives
  3. Because their true need is to be saved for eternity
  4. And because Salvation brings the hope the world never can

This is important to remember because I’m spending lots of time these days doing relief work, which does glorify God.

But I am not called to meet the physical needs of others…..

I’m called to lead them to Christ, and train them to reach others.

Obviously this doesn’t mean I don’t overlook financial needs. But filling their belly with food is not as important as placing their faith in Christ

So I happily feed the needy…..

But make sure my goal is a transformed heart instead of a full belly.

  1. We actually still have them, experienced the thirty-first this morning

Missions is…helping those who you can

A blessing of the volcano eruptions is it has highlighted the need for financial help in many areas of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Poverty is a huge issue in many of our communities even without a natural disaster, so now more are needy than ever before.

The generosity of friends and local Churches has allowed me to begin meeting the needs of those in the community. Twenty bags of food were distributed over the weekend, and I’ll distribute another fifteen this afternoon. Along with this, I’m in the process of distributing thirty cases of bottled water.

The Lord has also provided funds from the US that will fund a food bank in Kingstown, and barrels that will arrive from the States in coming months.

While I am encouraged by the opportunity to give, its discouraging because the need is so great.

For every family that receives a bag of food relief, there are three or four families who need it!

The sad truth is you cannot help everyone. So while doing your best to meet everyones needs, it’s necessary to emphasise help on a small group of people.

As a missionary my primary responsibility is to those who attend Tabernacle Baptist Church. So relief is given first to members of the Church, as well as those who attend faithfully.

That’s actually the easy decision

The hard choice is what to do with the relief thats left over…

I’ve thought and prayed over that question a lot. For me personally the answer is those who are in the greatest need.

These are individuals who I would define as being in the “greatest need”

  1. Shut in’s: Older saints who cannot leave the house, and are often forgotten
  2. Families with lots of children (three or four)
  3. Single mothers
  4. And those men who are looking for work, but cannot find any

This doesn’t mean of course that you don’t help others when they ask for it. While delivering water yesterday two families who weren’t on my list asked for some, and I gave it to them with a smile. But there must be an emphasis of help with individual families.

There are four families who live near a church member. Over time, I’ve developed a relationship with them, and the Lord has really placed a burden upon my heart for these families at this time.

This burden led me to help them in practical ways….

  1. Like filling bottles with water, and delivering it to them when they didn’t have any
  2. Giving out bags of food
  3. And checking in to see how things are going every day

There is also a woman who is in GREAT financial need in the community who the Lord placed upon my heart. I’ve been able to provide bread, groceries, food, and even ripe bananas to her.

There’s another single mother near me who has very little, and is struggling to make ends meet. The Lord let me help her with money for her stove-gas when it went out Friday, and groceries Monday.

I do realise there are a huge number in need. And if I could, I would minister to every one of them individually. But because that isn’t possible, I minister to those the Lord places upon my heart

Missions is….seeing Gods Protection in the storm

Sunday evening the volcano erupted for what I believe is the thirtieth time since the eruptions began. It’s kind of hard to tell since they are smaller now, and often come in the early morning.

By the looks of it, I could tell that this eruption was a big one. Possibly one of the biggest yet. It was a bit discouraging since things were beginning to get back to normal.

About fifteen minutes after the eruption a huge cloud of ashes began descending on the community. It made for a very strange and eerie sight.

About a half-hour later it was very dark, which is usual here for 6:30. Part of me worried that there would be a lot of cleanup to accomplish the next morning.

Instead this is what I found

To be fair, this picture was taken at 11:30 yesterday morning after a work crew had come by to scrape the road clean.

Thankfully the wind was strong Sunday, and the huge cloud of ashes instead of falling on us was carried out to sea. Its my understanding that a lot of it fell on Barbados.

Though there is still a long road of recovery ahead of us at SVG, Sunday was an important reminder that things could be worse.

When we think about the protection of God, many of us think about the Lord protecting us from the tough experiences of life. This is definitely a way that He protects us, but not the only way.

One of the most common ways God protects us in a trial is not by removing the trial itself, but giving us grace within that trial.

This protection is harder to see because Satan wants us to focus on the pain or hardship instead of God goodness. However, Scripture is clear that Gods with us in the storm. We just have to look harder than usual sometimes.

I honestly wish the protection of God would always be clear as the wind blowing a cloud of ashes out to sea.

But the daily protection of God usually comes in more subtle ways……..

So we have to look closer, and trust His goodness even when the cannot see His presence.

And if we look hard enough….we will see the Lord blowing the ashes away.

Missions is….doing the job right

The last few days I’ve been going to bed early, and sleeping in late. That has something to do with feeling as if I’ve been run over by a truck!

Sunday cleanup began following the volcano’s eruption Friday morning. Since then a huge part of my time has been spent shovelling ashes either from the church, or my own yard.

Sunday was actually the hardest day since there was a very heavy ash fall from Saturday, and it then rained that morning. The consistency of the ash became like mud which was not only hard to shovel, but incredibly slippery.

The physical work is at the same time exciting and exhausting. Exciting because most of my work is usually either mental, or social (interacting with others). The exhausting part is self-explanatory 🙂

Much of my ministry now revolves around clearing and cleaning instead of visitation or teaching since people stay home, and going to their houses makes cleaning harder for them. So I keep in touch through text messages, and phone calls.

To be honest, cleaning and shovelling ash isn’t what comes to mind when I think of “ministry.” Yet I’ve learned that doing hard or frustrating jobs well is a great testimony for Christ.

Cleaning ash takes time, and is very frustrating:

  1. It tends to kick up dust
  2. You end up covered in ashes
  3. And often you need to do it again a few hours later!

At the same time, doing these frustrating jobs well is a ministry because people see your hard work.

Tuesday morning I had lots of hard work to accomplish since the church roof was swept of Monday afternoon. This left lots of wet and heavy ashes on the ground that had to be scraped up with a shovel, put into a bucket, and transferred to the church yard.

While I was doing this, a man came by and offered to sweep the front yard of the church for a small fee. I promised to pay him, and went back to my work, only for him to declare ten minutes later that he was “finished.” As you can imagine, he didn’t do a good job at all, but because I promised money he got paid something for it.

Yesterday morning I did the front yard spending over an hour on what he did in ten minutes. Honestly it will have to be done again this morning, but that doesn’t matter because people noticed my work

Of course I don’t always work hard, like everyone else I have my lazy moments. The point is that ministry involves having a “work ethic.” And part of that is doing the hard or difficult work the right way.

  1. Taking your time
  2. Going above and beyond 1
  3. And having a positive attitude

I’m still feeling the affects of this weeks work (lots of Advil) but those short-term aches and pains are worth a testimony of hard work done the right way.

  1. I swept the church neighbours yard to keep the ash out of ours

Missions is….remembering God is bigger than you

I’ve had lots of interesting experiences since the La Soufrière volcano erupted on Friday. But the most exciting, and memorable for me came Saturday evening.

I was sitting at home working on my computer when things started to become dark. Not just dark, but incredibly dark! I eventually went outside and video-called my parents so that they could see just how dark (and cold) it had become outside. About fifteen minutes later, the darkness had passed.

in talking with friends, this passing darkness was either an eruption, or a large cloud of ashes that literally blocked out the sun. Its my understanding Barbados had a similar experience shortly afterwards.

I wasn’t really frightened standing out on my porch, but it was definitely an eerie experience to see such darkness in the afternoon.

in that moment I felt small and insignificant

Which is believe is the point

The Lord sometimes brings what I call “God moments” into our lives. These are moments that remind us of His immense power, and our weakness. These moments are necessary in life because we can very easily become arrogant and self-reliant instead of depending upon Him.

I recently finished reading Job in my devotions, and was again struck by his pride and arrogance towards God. Because the Lord was not doing things the way he wanted things to be done, Job questioned his love and justice. Repeatedly in the book he challenged God to show up and “defend Himself.” Promising that the Lord would have to admit Job’s way was right.

When God finally showed up, Jobs attitude completely changed….

The Lord asked rapid-fire questions beginning with Job 38 about His creation and animals. These questions left no doubt about Gods power, and more importantly, Job’s weakness.

By Job 40:3-5 he is sufficiently humbled, but God continues His questioning till the beginning of chapter 42.

Job’s response after God’s done speaking is absolutely marvellous

Job 42:5-6. 5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Why does Job repent in dust and ashes?

Because he sees God!

Now a God moment is obviously not the same as the Lord directly questioning us. But just like Job understands his smallness or weakness compared to God, these moments help us see how weak we are.

Things like the sun being hidden by ashes makes you remember how majestic God is, and how much you need His grace daily.

Saturdays experience led me to begin seeking out other “God moments” in my life. They may not be as significant as darkness, but these are the Lords way of taking our eyes off circumstances, and putting our attention on Him where it belongs.

May the Lord help us daily seek reminders of His greatness. And understand the free parking spot in town, or the deluge of ashes should both bring a heartfelt worship.

Missions is…Listening to the Warning

As I write this on April 13, conditions outside are like the Sahara desert. Any car driving by creates huge clouds, and we’ve had more than a few “dust storms.”

Only this isn’t dust….it’s volcanic ash

Since January, the La Soufrière volcano has been showing signs of increased activity. This led the government to encourage individuals on both extreme ends of the island to prepare for evacuation.

Things calmed down in February and people began to relax. But in recent weeks there was talked to increased danger at the volcano. Again individuals in danger zones were encouraged to prepare themselves.

Last Thursday morning the threat level of the volcano itself was raised, and those in dangerous areas were encouraged to prepare for evacuation. This was followed by an order to evacuate on Thursday afternoon around 4:00.

I had talked to Vincentian friends leading up this this evacuation about how to prepare (my area didn’t need to evacuate). Most told me just to have some food and water set aside, and in a few days things would be okay. This belief was based on the last eruption of the volcano in 1979 that brought a small amount of ashes.

when the first eruption hit around 9:00 Friday morning many people (myself included) stopped to take photos of the large mushroom cloud. Saturday morning I opened the door to see everything covered by ash, which looked surprisingly like snowfall.

I spent much of Sunday cleaning the church and my yard of ashes. And then yesterday morning things were somewhat back to normal with people out in the road doing their business.

Then came the two eruptions this morning

Thankfully we are safe with water that was turned on this morning, and electricity. However, in talking with many Vincentians, I have heard the same phrase.

“This is much worse than 1979”

And if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear another statement

We weren’t ready

many people expecting things to be just like they were in 79, did not take the threat seriously enough. Honestly I wasn’t prepared for the amount of ash experienced, and how many days we were going to be without water. Friday I spent much of the day using water for cleaning and other purposes, expecting it to come back on Sunday instead of Tuesday.

The Lord reminded me through this how many times we as individuals don’t take the warnings of God seriously. The Lord warns us about our sinful actions, but we put off repentance, believing the Lord will continue to care for us. Thankfully He often does show mercy, but in Love, the Lord sometimes shows us we should have listened to the warning.

I’m thankful for this experience because it brings some excitement to my life. But more importantly, its an important reminder to listen to Gods patient warnings.

La Soufrière Update

Below is the text of brief email update I am sending this afternoon to prayer partners. Thanks for your continued prayers at this time

April 9, 2021

Dearest Friends,

In January we received word that La Soufrière, the volcano in Saint Vincent, displayed increased activity. This brought a danger of its erupting for the first time since 1979.

Since that time things thankfully calmed down with the volcano. Though those close to it were encouraged to remain cautious, the threat level was lowered.

Yesterday (April 8) those on the other side of the island were told to prepare themselves for evacuation because of increased activity, and the warning level was raised. This was followed by a evacuation order at 4:30 Thursday afternoon.

Thankfully, most individuals from the danger zones were transported safely by boat or van to safer areas, with many coming to Barrouallie where I’m located. This morning at approximately 8:50, the volcano erupted. This resulted in a large amount of ash going two-miles into the sky, with little actual lava (an article can be found here).

It’s currently about 4:30 in the afternoon, and the ash has resulted in limited visibility, but little has accumulated on the ground. Currently the greatest concern in our community is that the ash will continue to settle on the ground, making breathing difficult, and keeping everyone inside.

I’m incredibly grateful for the mercy and grace of God as we have experienced this volcanic eruption. I can hear people talking to each other walking up and down the road while writing this update, which is blessing considering how serious the situation would be if the eruption had resulted in more lava.

I’m also thankful that the Lord has continued to protect myself, and others in Barrouallie during this time.

Please pray with me in the coming days:

  1. For those who may still need to be evacuated from danger areas
  2. Continued protection from the ash, particularly for those who have breathing problems
  3. That the ash can clear in coming days
  4. For the safe return of those evacuated from their homes
  5. There will be little or no damage to homes from the volcano
  6. For those who may not have adequate shelter from the ashes
  7. And that Vincentians would see their need of Christ in this crisis.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

John Wilburn

Missions is…Checking In

This morning I took this picture from my porch at about 7:00. It was significant because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come outside of the house this morning, much less take a picture.

The La Soufrière volcano began showing signs yesterday of an imminent eruption which would bring large clouds of volcanic ash into the community. This would keep everyone inside of course, since the air itself would be toxic and harmful.

Though the volcanic activity is stressful, I’m thankful for it, because it reminded me about the importance of “checking in” on people.

Life gets incredibly busy for all of us. Because of this, we don’t take the time to slow down, and contact friends or loved ones as often as we should. Usually there needs to be an important reason to get in touch with somebody through a phone call, or personal visit. In reality, just calling to check on someone to make sure they’re okay is an incredibly loving act

A blessing of any crisis is that it forces us to check in on those we love….

but the question is, why does it take a crisis?

I spent a lot of time on my phone last night checking on friends, and making trips to ensure they had what they needed. Of course this was an absolutely necessary thing since the volcano could erupt at any time. At the same time this kind of ministry would be needed in times when there isn’t a crisis as well.

So why don’t we check in on one another?

I can think of a few reasons

  1. We are too busy with our own tasks
  2. We wait till there’s something important to tell them
  3. Or we just don’t think about their needs at all

Sadly I believe the last reason is one of the biggest ones

We often forget about those around us who are in need, or may require some extra help. We only remember them when something huge comes up like a volcanic eruption. But it’s incredibly easy after that just to drift back into not thinking about them.

The Lord used last night to remind me one of the most powerful forms of ministry is just a simple phone call to make sure someones okay.

This call is meaningful in a crisis, but its even more powerful when there isn’t one….

When you just call because the Holy Spirit brought them to your mind.

May the Lord help us remember an encouraging text message, phone call, or visit isn’t an intrusiuon. Checking is an incredibly loving act.

Missions is….Dealing with Your Quiet Anger

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing, or sharing on Facebook lately. The reason for this is my phone started giving me problems on February 26, refusing to charge since the battery had gone bad.

Last week was incredibly frustrating since fixing an iPhone here is difficult because they cannot find parts.

My frustration level was already high after spending three hours in Kingstown waiting for them to find a part, and then another three hours last Tuesday while they tried to fix it without a new battery.

By 2:00 the phone was charging properly and I excitedly started checking my text messages, only to see it drop 40% of its battery life in ten minutes. So back to the store I went!

The frustration level reached its climax when I emailed the store the next day asking for an update on the phone, and received no reply. So I took ANOTHER trip into town Thursday, and was told they were just too busy to respond to my email.

Thankfully the Lord worked things out as they sold me another iPhone exactly like mine at a drastically reduced price (less than $200 US). So twelve days after my phone died, it was fixed. But it was pretty difficult to “keep my cool” during that time.

Life is bound to bring some frustrating or annoying moments, it is in those moments that God reveals whats resides in our heart.

This experience for me was a reminder of my impatience, and quiet anger.

The Lord has created me as someone who is ambitious, and emphasises activity. This is a good thing because it helps me get lots done in a short amount of time, but it’s also a curse since waiting makes me angry.

This doesn’t result in violent open anger, but quiet anger revealed by exasperated sighs 1.

The thing about quiet anger is it isn’t as obvious. But the bad attitude can lead to bitterness, self-pity, and lack of motivation. Most importantly the quiet anger focuses my attention only on my problem.

the point is while I was calm and polite on the outside, I was raging on the inside

Frustration is a part of life of course, but the Lords will is that we deal with our frustration in a Biblical way. Because the quiet anger can often be just as damaging as the violent.

it took a while for me to get over the frustration of my phone being fixed when it wasn’t. I spent a few days doing very little other than feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t till Friday that the Lord graciously allowed me to see just how toxic my quiet anger is.

It took twelve days but I brought home TWO phones. The second will barely hold a charge, but thats okay, its main use is for parts. As I texted away on my new phone yesterday I thanked the Lord for once again shining a light on my quiet anger, and helping me understand your attitude makes a huge difference.

  1. My frustrated sigh is so common, my nieces and nephew refer to it as an Uncle John sigh

Missions is….risking failure

A very big part of missions is going to others with the gospel, but while “gong to them”, there is also a need to “draw them to yourself.” This is best done through weekly ministries the emphasise evangelism, and discipleship.

Finding a proper balance between outreach “or going to them” and ministry “or drawing them to yourself” is difficult. It’s easy to become so focused on ministries or programs that they become an end in themselves. The goal is to get a crowd of people, instead of reaching them with Gods truth.

A ministry focus also emphasises reaching physical or cultural needs above their spiritual ones. I have absolutely no problem meeting the physical needs of those in my community, yet their greatest need is to accept Christ as their Saviour.

At the same time it’s also easy to keep emphasising outreach above ministry because a program takes lots of planning, and hard work. There’s going to be a high risk level with a ministry as well, particularly in the beginning, so that failure is a big possibility.

Recently I realised that I wasn’t doing a very good job of “bringing them to me”, so a new ministry had to be created.

This is mostly because most of my ministries were based in schools or the prison system, both of which have been shut down because of Covid. Some new programs would need to begin even though those ministries will soon open up.

After prayer and some planning, I came up with two ideas:

  1. A reading help ministry for children
  2. And a computer tutoring ministry for adults, that teaches basic computer skills

Both of these ministries meet a specific need in the community, and emphasise being with one or two individuals at a time. This gives good opportunities for relationship development and sharing Christ.

the interesting thing is though I knew this needed to be done for a long time, I held off on starting the ministries

The reason for this is the risk and failure level of starting something new frightened me

As I planned the launch on these ministries, this fear had to be faced head-on. The greatest tool that the God gave me in fighting this battle is knowing “failure is not the end of the world.”

Of course nobody likes to fail because it brings shame and humiliation

But those failures are used by God to teach us important lessons, and reveal things we need to work on. That may not be enjoyable in the moment, but the growth that comes as a result is worth it. Our failures also reveal our need for God, and draw us closer to Him.

Taking a step of faith is difficult, but its better to live a life of risk that glories God than to live of life of comfort that dishonors Him.

Missions is….wasted days

Yesterday morning I went into Kingstown looking for someone who could replace the battery in my iPhone, which died on Friday. The battery had been giving me trouble for a while, so it wasn’t surprising that this happened.

Getting proper parts for apple phones is difficult here since they need to be shipped from the States. Covid along with other things delays these shipments, so it isn’t uncommon to have to check a few places before finding someone who has it

Around 8:30 yesterday morning I asked a local repair shop if they had a battery for my phone. They didn’t, so an employee called their boss on the phone, who asked me to come back at 12:00.

Suddenly I had a big decision to make….

Do I wait around three hours to see if he can find a part? Or do I come back another day?

Because he asked me to come back at 12:00, I decided to spend the time in town, in hopes that my phone could get fixed.

after running errands, doing sermon-prep, reading, and taking a walk it was finally 12:00. I excitedly went back to the store, hoping to get my iPhone battery.

The employee took one look at me, and called the boss…..

She said “well the man came back”, which is never a good sign

Long story short, he wasn’t able to get the part in time, and asked me to come back today.

I left the store pretty frustrated:

  1. My phone still wasn’t fixed
  2. I’d spent a lot longer time in town than expected
  3. The rest of the day would be spent trying to catch up on the things I was supposed to be doing in Barrouallie during the three-hour wait

Sometimes life brings very unproductive days, or as I like to call them “wasted days.” The truth is these days aren’t exactly wasted but instead you don’t get the things done that you planned to finish. These days are always frustrating, but particularly so when its something outside of your control like my situation yesterday,.

That frustration is a natural and human thing 1. But its how we respond to those frustrations that make a big difference.

  1. You can be bitter for the rest of the day
  2. You can give up and feel sorry for yourself since not much can be accomplished anyways
  3. Or you can accept that situation as the Will of God

Scripture is clear that sometimes our plans are not Gods plans. It may be my plan to get my phone fixed in an hour, and then be back home by 10:30. But Gods plan may be for me to get home at 1:30.

When my plan doesn’t match Gods then the attitude of my heart is revealed.

Will I submit to a wasted day because it is Gods Will? Or will I be angry because the Lord didn’t do things “my way”?

submission to the God’s Will when it’s not the same as ours is hard. But we can do it because whatever God brings into our lives is best

He will never give me a stone when I ask for bread

He will never give me a snake when I ask for an egg

EVERYTHING God brings into my life is for my own benefit

So I submit to the frustrating days spent in town while rejoicing in the productive days, because both come from the loving hand of God.

Around 10:00 this morning I will go back to the cell-phone repair shop and pray the battery can be replaced. Even if it isn’t though, and I have to come back tomorrow, thats okay.

Because that experience is the Will of God

  1. Nobody likes to wait for three hours

Missions is….giving up Convenience

As a missionary there are times when I rely on forms of technology far too much. And this addiction to technology is definitely most evident with my iPhone.

My iPhone 6s is something that I use for everything, admittedly too much. So when it started acting up on Friday afternoon my initial response was panic.

I walked into the house Friday and plugged the phone into a charger while making lunch. A while later I checked the phone, and found it had only gone up a few percentage points, which was strange. After thirty minutes, the percentage had actually gone down!

Frantically, I tried using other cords, but the result was the same. My phone would go up a few percentage points, and then start dropping. By 6:00 Friday night it refused to charge at all.

The problem is probably my phone battery that needs to be replaced. I’m planning to go to get it fixed Monday morning.

Friday did give me flashbacks to when my iPhone died in 2016….and reminded me of a worst case scenario.

I may be without a smartphone!

in 2016 my beloved iPhone 4 gave up the ghost. At the time, I didn’t have funds to buy a new phone, and bringing one from the states isn’t worth the money. Customs would tax me the price of the phone itself once it got here.

So for months I used a block phone

  1. No Facebook app
  2. No twitter
  3. No WhatsApp
  4. No easy texting

At first, this was absolutely awful for me. I would instinctively reach into my pocket in moments of boredom, only to realise my iPhone was no longer usable. The interesting thing is after a while I got used to using a block phone.

I was able to return to the States for a visit in early 2017 and purchase my iPhone 7, but the time without a smartphone was not as painful as I imagined it would be after a few weeks.

My addiction to a smartphone reveals a pretty nasty truth about myself and others….

We worship the convenience technology

Smartphones along with other forms of technology have put a wealth of information at our fingertips. Thanks for 3G, or LTE data packages we can do an amazing amount of tasks within seconds. Yet that convenience instead doesn’t give us more time.

Cal Newport in his excellent book “Digital Minimalism”. Points out that our technology, and smartphones along with social media apps especially, are designed to draw more of our time instead of create more free time.

Yes we are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time with technology. But that same technology demands more and more of our time.

In 2016, the loss of my iPhone had a dramatic affect on me because it made communicating harder. Yet I over time realised the less convenient life was in a way better because less of my time was spent staring at a screen.

Friday night I had to ask myself a serious question….

What if my iPhone isn’t fixable?

Can I go back to living without a smartphone? A life without convenience?

The truth is I believe my phone can be fixed easily, should be up and running in a few days. But my experience in 2016 showed me it was indeed possible to live without the convenience of a smartphone. And Friday reminded me that the Lord desires I be willing to embrace that life again.

Missions is….not Hitting the Snooze Button

One item of technology here I rely upon probably too heavily is “Amazon Alexa.” I use her to play music, read audiobooks, or amplify the sound from my computer while watching a movie. One of the most important jobs of Alexa though is getting me up in the morning.

I’m unfortunately one of those people who likes to hit the snooze button on their alarm most mornings. I tell myself that it will only be hit one time, but it almost never works out that way.

  1. I’ll hit the snooze button three of four times
  2. Wake up incredibly late
  3. Then run around the house trying to make up for lost time

the beauty of having an alarm on my Alexa is it gets progressively louder, and you must get it’s attention by saying “Alexa….stop”, or “Alexa….snooze”.

Occasionally I would say snooze instead of stop, but usually by time I got out of bed, walked into the room, and got her attention, my body was awake enough to turn on the coffee pot.

A few weeks ago I learned something very interesting….

If I spoke loudly, Alexa could hear me while lying in bed!

no longer would I have to get up and ask her to stop. I would just have to say “Alexa snooze” from the comfort of my warm bed, and turn back over.

And so my hitting the snooze button “just one time” began again…and again it didn’t end with one time

My point here isn’t that we shouldn’t get a good nights sleep. Instead an illustration of how easy it is to choose laziness 1 over God’s Will.

The Lord has a calling for each one of our lives. That calling requires hard work, and self-discipline, as well as consistency or faithfulness. The choices of life though complex can be broken down into two paths…..

We can choose laziness, or we can choose discipline

The problem is that our hearts sinful-nature will choose laziness by habit. We will always tell Alexa to snooze from the warmth of our bed instead of getting up like God would want us to.

I realise this is a basic illustration, but it describes a profound truth because the smallest choices we make develop habits within our lives.

Every time I choose to snooze instead of getting up my “laziness habit” becomes stronger….

Every time I make myself get out of bed and start the day properly my “discipline habit” becomes stronger

This is why hitting the snooze button is such a big deal.

Far too often we don’t pay attention to the choices we make (and choose laziness by default). But a life spent hitting the “snooze alarm” will wake up far too late, and mourn the time that has been wasted.

  1. Or my will

Missions is……letting them choose Jesus

Almost every morning I go through the community passing out tracts, and engaging some small talk. The Lord uses these morning walks to sometimes answer questions about Scripture, or share the Gospel.

Along the way there are two cousins named JJ and Azzi who enjoy listening to Bible stories, and excitedly not only read my tracts, but save them up to read later.

During my stories with them, I explain the Gospel as saying “sorry, please, and thank you” to God. Sorry is confessing our sin, and inability to enter heaven because we are sinners. Please is believing that Jesus died for our sins, and placing our faith in Him, asking Christ to save us. Thank you refers a life of submission to Christ.

I would tell them if they ever wanted to know how they can say “sorry, please, and thank you” to God, then ask me whenever we aren’t having a Bible story. And I’d show them from the Bible how they could be saved.’

Last week Azzi stopped me after I handed him a tract, and expressed interest in knowing how he could be saved. I showed him some Bible verses going along with “sorry, please, and thank you” 1. Then ended with Revelation 3:20, behold I stand at the door and knock.

In the past I would always follow this verse up by asking, “is God knocking on your heart right now? And if the answer was yes, ask if they wanted to accept Christ

I didn’t do that with Azzi though….

Instead I told him when he was ready to accept Christ as his Saviour, let me know.

now it would have been incredibly easy to lead him in a sinners prayer on his steps that morning. But I didn’t because experience has taught me many individuals, and children especially, will say yes and pray just because they respect me. That isn’t a conscious decision on their part, but just something to make me happy, therefore they aren’t truly saved.

This week his cousin JJ asked me to show her from the Bible how to be saved. She seems to be closer to salvation than Azzi, but again I asked her to tell me when she was ready.

This may seem cruel, but there is a method to my madness.

Salvation must be a choice

Often we try to take on the role of the Holy Spirt by convicting individuals, and drawing them towards the Lord. There is nothing wrong with confronting sin obviously, but true conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God.

The dangerous thing about me trying to take up the role of the Holy Spirit is often I will try to persuade individuals with my own arguments. While there is a place for apologetics of course, Scripture is what God uses. Therefore, my job as an Christian is to clearly teach the Word of God, and allow the Holy Spirit draw them to Christ.

It is frustrating to see children so close to accepting Christ, but not quite ready to take the step of faith. The temptation is to help them along the way, but its much better to making the Gospel clear each day.

Slowly but surely as I explain “sorry, please, and thank you” to adults and children, the Holy Spirit is beginning to draw them closer to Christ. And my heart longs for the day that Azzi and JJ along with many other Vincentians choose Christ.

  1. romans 3:23, romans 6:23, romans 10:9-10, romans 10:13

Missions is…giving away your jolly ranchers

Once a year I will bring in some barrels around Christmas time since they cost less to clear from customs. Besides my American coffee, the most important item is multiple five-pound bags of jolly ranchers candy.

While I like jolly ranchers, they aren’t really for me. Instead they are rewards for children who come to church, or work with me during the week. They’re also given out to adults along with Bible tracts

This year I brought fewer bags than usual, knowing that I’d start running out sooner. This led to a pretty important choice:

Do I give out less and make it last longer? Or give them out generously and run out faster?

Interestingly, my first thought was to give out as few jolly ranchers as possible so my stash could last longer .

In other words, I was greedy

Think about that for a minute……

I was selfishly hoarding candy!

You may be wondering “why would he be greedy about giving away candy?” And there’s actually a very good reason for that. You can’t get jolly ranchers here 1.

Isn’t it amazing how generous we are with things that can easily be replaced, and how greedy we are with something that we cannot replace?

thankfully the Lord convicted me of my ridiculous candy-hoarding habit, and I began giving out my jolly rancher stash generously. It will be gone soon, but thats okay, other local candies can replace them.

The Lord reminded me through this experience just how important it is to have a spirit of generosity towards others. An attitude that gives willingly and abundantly to those who deserve it.

This spirit of generosity searches for those who have a genuine need, honours those who are doing the right thing, and encourages those who may not have as much as others.

In a more basic sense this generosity understands God wants us to willingly give away everything….even our jolly ranchers! It is the one thing that we cling tightly to with a closed fist that He will lovingly ask for.

  1. Technically you can, but the ones sold here are very old, and not good quality at all

Missions is….explaining sin doesn’t stay sweet

Editors note: This post goes along with one that I wrote yesterday about going to the unsaved instead of expecting them to come to us. It’s true we go to them, but we must not allow them to stay the same way

Saturday night I stood in a road near my house and watched a man who clearly had too much to drink. He got up on a small wall separating a building and an individual’s yard, and I shouted out for him to be careful. He did walk along with the wall without a problem, and then prepared to jump.

I surely thought he would jump to the yard on the right hand side since the ground was much softer than concrete…

He didn’t

I watched in fear as he tried to jump to a small landing on the building only to miss badly, push off from the wall, and fall to the steps below. I immediately ran over to make sure that he was okay, and thanked the Lord he hadn’t suffered any broken bones.

the truly sad thing is I asked him about Sunday, and he didn’t remember any of that happening.

It breaks my heart that see many Vincentians like this man who drink strong rum and water for most of the day, and then are completely drunk at night. This eventually becomes a cycle where they rely on alcohol for their happiness.

It’s true that rum brings a feeling of happiness since your cares or worries are forgotten, but in the end it destroys you. As a friend who used to drink a lot explains “you keep chasing the happiness of that first drink.”

The real problem is things in this world such as alcohol and money cannot make you happy. They were never truly meant to bring happiness. This is only found in Christ.

Last week I began reading Look and Live a very interesting book written by Matt Papa. The books main focus is Christ and the Gospels the only thing that can truly bring happiness.

Here is my favourite quote from the book so far:

“The Triune God is the only thing large enough, and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship. Anything else will break your heart”

So in the end, alcoholism is not a physical or mental problem, it is a spiritual problem.

Individuals make rum their source of happiness, and it breaks their heart. The answer isn’t for them to stop drinking, but see that Christ is sweeter than anything the world offers.

Only Those who place their faith in Christ’s Salvation will truly have hope.

Recently I have been praying with a believer whose sister since early February has been deteriorating physically with what ended up being stage four cancer. It brought great sorrow to see her strong sibling go through great pain, and stop eating. But there was hope because that sister knew Christ.

Saturday afternoon she called me to say that her sister had gone home to be with the Lord. Visiting with other church members, it was amazing to notice the calmness and strength of this Christian woman had. She knew in her heart that her sister would be seen again in Heaven.

Yesterday morning she told me that her sisters last words before becoming too weak to talk was “Jesus take me now.” This woman who placed her hope in Christ faced death not with fear, but rejoicing.

The world offers many idols that offer sweetness at first, but become bitter soon. As Believers we must go to the lost encouraging them to throw away their worthless idols, and drink from the Gospel of Christ, which is the only thing that will satisfy.

Missions is…going to them

I was walking by what is commonly called a “rum shop” in the community Tuesday morning when a man called out “pastor!”, and invited me to come in.

A “rum shop” is a small store that sells a number of items. However, it’s most popular item is rum, hence the name. Its common to see men and women spend much of the day sitting in these shops drinking strong rum mixed with water.

As you can imagine, trying to share the Gospel with someone at a rum shop is difficult.

  1. They are usually blasting music filled with profanity
  2. Their language is filled with profanity and blasphemy
  3. Since they have been drinking, outbursts of anger or rage are common
  4. They enjoy attacking my beliefs
  5. And things are done in a very disorganised way 1

A part of me didn’t want to walk into the rum shop Tuesday. But I passed out tracts, and tried to share from the Bible, as profanity blasted from a nearby speaker. Finally because it was too distracting I promised to come back at a better time.

I continue to visit those rum shops though because it’s a Christians responsibility to go to the world instead of expecting the world to come to them

the great commission clearly states that the disciples, along with ourselves, are to “go and make disciples.” The idea here is we don’t wait for them to come to us, but approach them ourselves with the Gospel.

This is because Satan has blinded their eyes to Gods truth, and wants to keep them from church 2. The greater motivation however is the Gospel in which Christ came to me in my own sinfulness. The Lord didn’t wait till I had “cleaned myself up” before coming, but came to me in my sin with the Gospel.

In the same way, christians must go to the unsaved.

For me personally there is a greater reason for sharing at places like a rum shop….

it keeps me from believing in my mind subconsciously, or acting as if I am better than them.

The truth of the matter is we are all sinners desperately in need of God’s help. Till the Lord takes me to Heaven, I will daily struggle with my own sin-nature.

Now my rebellion against God isn’t the same as others, but the Lord doesn’t have different levels of sinner. Instead He proclaims all of us “fall short of the glory of God. 3. Though I don’t believe those other individuals are worse sinners than me in my heart, my actions may speak this message very loudly.

To be honest it can be frustrating when individuals willingly choose sin over the church. Thursday night during prayer meeting a group of men sat on a set of steps directly across the road from where my vehicle was parked. Instead of coming in, they sat there listening to music 4, smoking weed, and cursing. Last night after the evening service I passed a large group of men just up the road from us drinking and listening to music while the service was going on.

Some righteous anger and frustration is right in a situation like this. But it should be anger towards Satan who blinded the minds of these men instead of the men themselves. And this anger motivates me to come where they are with the Gospel instead of developing a heart of bitterness towards them.

  1. They enjoy asking dozens of questions at a time
  2. 2 Corinthians 4:4
  3. Romans 3:23
  4. They did turn it down during the service

Missions is….Building Your Mind and Body

Friday I began listening to the audiobook version of a biography on the life of Theodore Roosevelt. The biographer emphasised a very important conversation in his life that I believe has a great impact upon how we should live.

At a young age Roosevelt had an incredibly strong mind because he was constantly reading, and had a photographic memory. His body however was weak because of many ailments such as asthma, at an early age he seemed to be almost constantly sick.

At around the age of eight, Roosevelts father told him that he, “had the mind, but he had to build the body.”

That conversation was the turning point of his life. From that point, he began to exercise himself physically as strongly as he exercised himself mentally. Any kind of physical activity was embraced with a passion 1.

The immediate application should be clear

We spend far too much time training our minds, and far too little time training our bodies.

To apply this thought directly to my life, much of what I do at home can be viewed as “study” 2 and can be done either hunched over a book, or looking at a screen. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but when my body or physical strength is neglected, it keeps me from doing the work of God properly.

To put it simply….it doesn’t how much I desire to serve the Lord if I don’t have the energy to serve Him.

The appropriate response to this isn’t to stop building the mind through study, but to build the body as well as the mind through physical activity.

The specific application instead of a regimented exercise program would be to get outside!

there are plenty of adventures to be experienced that will stretch us physically as well as mentally. But we must unplug ourselves from electronics, and take the time to build our body along with our mind.

So let me encourage you my friend to build your body:

  1. Take a walk
  2. Swim in the ocean 3
  3. Play a game
  4. Explore the woods
  5. Examine nature

At first this will be difficult since your body isn’t used to strenuous activity. But given time and effort your strong mind will be paired with an equally strong body.

  1. He took up boxing, wrestling, swimming, rowing, ice-skating, and hunting among other things
  2. Bible reading, sermon prep, writing
  3. If its nearby
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