Category Archives: Adventures of JB

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.

Spiritual Effectiveness takes Physical Fitness

A few months ago I was visiting a friend and she said with a smile “your getting fat!” That didn’t really bother me since I thought she was just kidding, but in the weeks afterwards many of my Vincentian friends began saying the same thing!

To clarify, I’m now what I personally call “island fat” which means I’ve gained five to seven pounds. This is definitely heavier than I was, but not unhealthy, and still much less than I weighed in the States.

At the same time, those added pounds showed I hadn’t been taking proper care of my body recently

  1. I was eating too much junk food
  2. Not eating at the right times (would skip meals and eat too much later)
  3. Had gotten into the habit of drinking too many sugary soft drinks
  4. And most importantly, got away from visitation

Before the coronavirus shut things down I had a nice schedule to ministry in Barrouallie. A big part of that was a daily walk to pass out tracts, and share the Gospel. This also gave opportunities to get some much needed exercise since there many hills in the community. After things were shut down and my schedule was changed I sadly became lazy when it came to visitation, or passing out tracts.

Thankfully the Lord convicted me about this…but I’ve found those extra pounds makes visitation very difficult 🙂

Yesterday morning was particularly frustrating as I slowly walked up the road to my house with aching legs. The Lord used that pain and anger to remind me of a very important truth.

Spiritual effectiveness is directly connected to our Physical fitness

By this I mean a body that isn’t properly cared for will impact the way you serve Christ. Lately I’ve noticed some other ways that my added pounds have affected ministry in Barrouallie.

  • Lack of proper nutrition brings “brain fog” or lack ability to focus
  • My energy would crash in the afternoons
  • Lack of physical and mental endurance
  • My body would become incredibly lethargic after 6:00, not willing to do anything
  • And of course lots of work was left undone

At first I tried to overcome those issues by “working harder” but as you can imagine, lack of physical health meant the energy wasn’t there to match my desire.

This realization led not only to some exercise for weight loss, but a renewed understanding that physical energy is needed to do the Lord’s work. And that kind of physical energy comes by taking care of your body.

I’ve begun reclaiming fitness and energy with the following principles

Don’t fill your body with Junk! (self-explanatory)

Don’t let weariness or pain keep you from doing the Lords work; Visitation will be easier one the pounds are off

Schedule strategic cat-naps during the day (10 to 15 minutes)

Embrace core-work (sit-ups, crunches) again

And you can never drink enough water

Though this lessons a painful one (literally!) I’m thankful for the Lord’s reminder you cannot be effective for the Gospel and lazy physically at the same time.

Discipline in Organized Chaos

Between Bible Club (at Church) and park Bible Club (shorter and more evangelistic) I try to have a brief game-time. This usually consists of an organized game that everybody can play together

The truth is I struggle with game-time because it doesn’t directly teach Scripture, and it’s a lot harder to control 🙂

The “organized chaos” of game-time used to go like this

  1. I explain the rules and they play properly for a few minutes
  2. One of the boys begins playing football (soccer) with it
  3. This devolves into a game of soccer with the boys who refuse to share with anyone else
  4. Once order has been restored, we go a few other minutes before children begin to complain the other team has an unfair advantage.
  5. This is followed by loudly calling out “you see!” every time they win and pouting with tears
  6. Often things towards the end turn into free-play that inevitably ends in more tears and a skinned kneee or arm

So why allow game-time to continue?

Because it allows me to bring structure into the chaos

The thing is it doesn’t take a lot to bring structure into chaos. You just have to have rules, and implement them.

Oh and you have to be a heartless jerk

While I’m a kind-hearted person during game-time I go into full-fledged “jerk mode”

  1. If you play football instead of the proper game you sit down and watch everyone else play
  2. If you say complain more than once about not being fair you can go home instead of playing
  3. Every “you-see!” is met with a time out, and I have no compassion whatsoever for your fake tears
  4. And while “Dr. John” is sympathetic to game-time injuries, I won’t tolerate too much craziness during free play

In a sense the children are used to getting their way (through complaint, tears, or refusal to listen) and because following through with rules is exhausting (trust me I know) they usually get what they want.

Which is why game-time is such an important part of ministry…there must be an area where they are told “no” regardless of how much they whine, complain, or throw a temper tantrum.

Of course that is a place to be filled by their parents, but for now I as a spiritual parent must fill it.

Down the road from the Church is a park where I go for a very short-time to share Bible stories each day. I used to spend a lot of time there, but it is an extremely “toxic environment” with children fighting, cursing each other, and showing little respect for others.

The reason for this is they don’t have anyone who tells them no.

There is a lady there whose supposed to keep control, but she never interacts with them at all. She sits in one spot and shouts to stop if they kick a ball or fight too much, other than that there are no rules.

Sadly in much of society children are in environments like this left to rule themselves. And because of this a part of ministry is creating a place where children are told lovingly but firmly “no”

Why Social-Media is My Social-Life

Jared Wilson wrote an excellent article Monday called “how to fall in ministry.” Within it one paragraph hit me hard

Almost every one of the pastors I’ve known personally who lost their ministries to moral failings would say later that they had no real friends. Nobody knew them. This has implications for accountability and also general emotional wellbeing. Not every lonely pastor falls morally, but they are all vulnerable to it.

Jared Wilson “How to Fall in Ministry”

I completely agree with this statement…..Which is why I have to work hard on having a social-life

But doing this is difficult when you are a single missionary

Please understand I’m not feeling sorry for myself, or looking for self-pity. God has given me strong relationships with Vincentian Believers as well as unbelievers I’m thankful for.

However those in ministry know the importance of having someone who is also in the ministry who understands what you’re going through.

The thing that really hit me as I read the article Monday (and that paragraph) was being alone didn’t really bother me anymore. I had become accustomed to internalizing or dealing with my struggles without sharing them with anyone else as if it was healthy. But it wasn’t!

to keep myself from burning out ministry wise, I’m endeavoring to create a social-life using digital tools

  1. Such as direct texting with my family and closest friends through iPhone or Whattsap
  2. Relaunch my blog (yes again!) as a journaling tool to share the good, and bad experiences on the mission field
  3. Strategically use Facebook to connect about what God’s doing
  4. And email more to prayer supporters both ministry, and personal prayer requests

Again let me clarify this isn’t John feeling sorry for himself…God has put me in a unique situation for His Glory as a single missionary. But I must be careful to not let that blessing be used as a tool of Satan.

Ministry Must Have a Purpose

For more days than I would like last year my confession went something like this. “Lord forgive me for not accomplishing your plans for me yesterday.” It seemed as if no matter how hard I tried, there was an amazing amount of things that didn’t get accomplished, and should have been

My day usually begins with an early morning dog walk around the block. In those quiet moments I like to thank God for the blessings of the day before, confess how I had failed Him, and look forward to the new day.

That prayer led to some examination and I realized much of my life was “random.” By that I mean there wasn’t exactly a plan on how to accomplish the list of tasks God had given, so they were easily pushed out by the “tyranny of the urgent.”

So by the end of the day I was exhausted by all the things I had been doing…but few of them actually fit with God’s purposes. In other words Satan had succeeded in (once again) distracting me from God’s work

These days and early morning confession reminded me all the task lists in the world are useless without a purpose

For 2019 the Lord has led me to embrace the word “reaching” as my purpose or “mission.” In practice this would mean:

  1. Going to people instead of expecting them to come to me
  2. Developing deeper relationships with those in Barrouallie, which can open the door for evangelism and discipleship
  3. Investing myself in Church-based programs that bring people into services
  4. And emphasizing one on one Bible studies

The beauty of having a purpose is in the busyness of a day I can stop and ask “am I reaching people?”  

That simple question helps me refocus my energies.

Like many of you I used the word “busy” to explain success in the past.

This isn’t a bad thing because God definitely wants us to be involved in His work, however when being busy is the target you can easily be spread too thin. Also experience teaches us its better to do a few things well than ten things very quickly.

A purpose that comes from God allows me to make being “effective” my goal

which is a much better target

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