Category Archives: Missionary Musings

Feeding the Body before the Soul

A few weeks ago I shared with you a burden for a friend Jamie (not his real name) who struggles greatly with an addiction to alcohol. You can read more about his needs by clicking here.

As I shared a few weeks ago, one of the saddest things about Jamie’s alcoholism is it’s enabled by other people. He is constantly doing work for people in the community (usually rum shop owners) and instead of money or food, they pay him with shots of rum.

There is a responsibility on Jamie’s part of course because he wants the rum more than food or money, this is why he does jobs for the rum shop owners! However it’s still incredibly sad to see him penniless and starving at the end of the day with no food at home.

The truth is Jamie just needs someone who can give him some guidance…..

This means I must meet both his spiritual, and physical needs.

And in most cases his physical needs should be met first!

This definitely doesn’t mean that Jamie’s lack of food is more important than his eternal soul. Obviously living with Christ for eternity is a far better than a full belly. Yet the most pressing need in his life that moment is taking away his hunger pains. And it’s as I meet his most important immediate need that his heart will be ready to hear the Gospel.

Often in ministry (and missions especially) relationships must be developed over time in order for evangelism and discipleship to take place. Giving someone a tract or a gospel witness can be done quickly, but the deeper one on one process of evangelism takes lots of time.

And few things build a bridge into someone’s life more than taking their own needs seriously

  1. By buying them medication
  2. Bringing a bag of essential foods (flour, sugar, rice)
  3. Making them a meal
  4. Checking in on them to see how things are doing
  5. And just being there when times are rough

To use an illustration, evangelism is often like planting a garden. It is possible to simply put a seed into the ground and get a crop. But in most cases growth takes things like watering, weeding, cutting back other plants that take it’s nutrients, and fertilizing the soil. In the same way “loving on people” encourages the soil that has already received the Gospel.

Honestly we probably feed the body and the soul at the same time. But and emphasis on feeding the body (meeting their own needs) creates an openness to Christ.

So over sandwiches, pork chops, hamburgers and hot dogs, or fried chicken I’ll explain the Gospel to Jamie. And as his physical hunger is met, he will realize it’s his soul that’s truly starving.

A Frugal Generosity

Ministry takes money!!!

There is no getting past this because they expenses of daily ministry (fuel, ministry material, etc) and needs of those around you are definitely going to add up. This is why I’ve had to put a lot of though and prayer into a philosophy of money that’s called “frugal generosity.”

The basic idea goes like this……

I live frugally (simply) myself, so that I can give generously to others

Practically this means I save as much money as possible by being frugal (I prefer that to the word cheap)! Then the savings are organized in a lockbox since I deal mostly with cash. As needs arise for friends or church members the Lord leads me to help, I give out of the savings.

The Lord has greatly used those savings as a ministry to help others! Recently I was able to:

  1. Purchase a plane ticked for a friend who couldn’t afford it on his own
  2. Pay for a church member to have an infected tooth removed
  3. Give out groceries to two family’s without food
  4. And bring a friend to the house for Easter weekend for a time of relaxation

The important thing isn’t the giving though

It is the frugality so that I’m able to give

Living in an area where there isn’t a lot of work means many people have great financial needs. Obviously there are too many for me to reach every one of them, but the Lord has burdened me for those who are struggling (particularly close friends, or strong believers). Commonly individuals in great need will approach me to ask for some help (a few dollars, a bag of sugar, a bag of rice).

So my frugality isn’t just about saving money, its goal is to make sure I have something to put in the hands of the needy.

This basic way of living allows my money to become a tool in the hands of the Lord. For many, money is used for their own comfort, but frugality uses money to share the Love of Christ. Obviously this doesn’t mean I cannot have nice things and take care of myself, or I have to help everyone (I can’t). But frugal generosity ensures that money isn’t all about me.

It’s about those who have very little.

The focus of this post isn’t to make myself look good or ask for pity. It is to encourage others to embrace the frugal life, so that they can give away in a generous way.

Defusing the Bomb

Image taken from a post entitled “stop being so angry” at https://hassemanmarketing.com/

Last Saturday a man living close to me was having a really bad day

I believe that stress, and lack of money led him to spend the day smoking marijuana and drinking rum. This led to some bizarre actions (He would openly weep about the lack of money one moment, and respond in anger the next).

Saturday evening I heard a commotion outside and saw him standing in the middle of the road. At almost the same moment, a friend came down tell the neighbor to leave my dog alone (I later learned he had been hitting my dog who was securely leashed with a stick). Things calmed down, and then the man came out again loudly cursing me (he claimed my dog bit him, which didn’t happen) and the friend.

My friend responded by coming back down ready to physically attack him…..

thankfully I got out the gate before that happened.

As I approached the neighbor he started to immediately calm down. Within a few moments he apologized for how he acted, and asked me to forgive him.

This experience was a vivid reminder that many of us are walking time bombs!

All of us experience stress in life. Normally that stress is at a manageable level, but occasionally the stress of life begins to overwhelm us. Slowly but surely we become more and more burdened, like a rubber band that has been stretched too tight. And like that rubber band, eventually we will have to snap!

Interestingly, it’s usually a small thing that causes an explosion. My dog can peep his head just over the wall surrounding my house (but not bite anybody). I honestly believe in his inebriated state my neighbor THOUGHT the dog had bitten him, and began hitting the dog with a stick to defend himself. It’s also possible he was just trying to play with the dog. But a small thing may have become violent if I hadn’t come to intervene.

Which is why God calls us to defuse the bomb!

The temptation in situations like this to respond with anger or hostility. But that only makes the situation worse! God only gets the glory as we enter into that volatile situation, and bring peace

  1. With a calm (but firm) voice
  2. By separating the individuals (I asked my friend to walk away in order to calm the situation)
  3. By finding out exactly what is making them so angry, and empathizing
  4. By apologizing for what took place (if possible)
  5. And by asking them to help calm the situation

Most of all defusing the bomb illustrates the Gospel which brings peace into chaos!

I was angry when I walked out of my gate Saturday since the neighbor had been acting foolish all day, but by the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit calmed my heart as I walked across the road. So as I walked down the steps towards him it wasn’t with a shouting voice, but one filled with concern.

It was amazing how the peace I displayed affected him….

  1. He immediately put down the cutlass he was carrying (I don’t believe he would do anything with it).
  2. Kept repeating the words “your my friend”
  3. and held his hand out for me to shake (in that moment I didn’t shake it, but made clear I cared about him)
  4. He then told me there would be no more trouble, and left

Later some friends told me the situation went from rage to calmness because I acted like Christ. I’m not sure about that, but know the catalyst of that change was the Holy Spirit’s peace in my heart. As Colossians 3:15 says, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” When the peace of the Holy Spirit controls our lives (we rest in God’s sovereignty) we not only keep from being bombs ourselves, but defuse those around us.

Adding to The Family

Last month a boy and his mother had to move out of their home in the area because the rent was too high. They ended up staying temporarily with a friend while organizing money for a new rental property.

The son is a sweet boy I will call “Billy.” He is very good natured, but also incredibly shy, and speaks with a very quiet voice. When he started coming to church with my friend on Sunday nights I wanted to find a way to minister to him. We met a few times at the house for bible lessons, but his being shy made conversation difficult.

Finally Thursday I invited him to come play with some other friends from the neighborhood the next day (we occasionally have “sports days” on Friday so kids can learn to play as a team. He was VERY excited about doing this with them tomorrow.

The other children were less than enthused….

Not because they didn’t like him, but because they didn’t KNOW him.

Since sports days are about learning to work with others I informed them there were two options. Option A let him come and play with them, or Option B stay home. Understandably they chose Option A 🙂

After starting things Friday I went to get Billy. He spent a few minutes off by himself. but then started to play with the other kids. Of course after a while they were playing together as if they’d known each other for years. After sports he sat down alongside them to feast on mangoes from a nearby tree. One of the kids told me they had to make a kite out of sticks, a plastic bag, and thread for school Monday. I offered to help them make the kites, and she immediately said “bring Billy.”

That’s the moment I knew he was accepted

We all built kites yesterday, and were even able to practice flying them at the local park (while trying out the playground equipment). I finally walked Billy home around 3:00 with a huge smile on his face.

What probably drew me to Billy is he’s like me as a child; quiet, shy, and introverted…..

Someone who just needs a friend.

A big part of the Christian life (and missions in general) is finding that individual who needs a friend, inviting them into the family, and making sure that they are accepted. This process sadly can’t involve every child who needs friendship, but it can bring in an as many as possible.

This afternoon Billy asked me if Jamie (not his real name) could come to our reading help ministry. I promised to let him come once I’d go permission from his mother.

May the family keep expanding!

Nehemiah 1:6 Prayer Is Desperate

After turning from his sin (1:4) and focusing on the character of God (1:5), Nehemiah begs God for His presence and help in a time of need. It’s clear from the words of 1:6 that he was dependent only on God for help.

Crisis situations or “breaking points” like Nehemiah experienced are used by God to draw into a special kind of prayer…desperate prayer

The thing is, our prayer life usually wouldn’t be defined by the word “desperate”

  1. We almost never set aside a time specifically for it
  2. When we do, it’s incredibly random because we don’t have a purpose or plan in our prayer
  3. We find ourselves very easily distracted
  4. And five minutes can seem like an hour

Desperate prayer on the other hand is characterized by an intense focus on God, and an unwillingness to quit praying before an answer comes

The source of this desperation is our inability to fix a problem on our own. Sadly, it’s only we have been broken by God (all our strength taken away) that we turn to prayer. But the prayer of someone who has been broken by God brings great glory to Him.

“How is God glorified by desperate prayer?” you might ask

As noted above, there are two big ways.

Desperate Prayer Focuses on God

This is a different kind of focus that we see in 1:5 where Nehemiah thought about the characteristics of God. We see in this verse a “begging” of God for His power and presence in the life of Nehemiah.

Specifically he begs God to have open eyes. This may seem strange because God obviously sees and knows everything that goes on in the world, nothing surprises Him. What Nehemiah refers to here is the blessing and help of God. He’s begging God to give strength and help in a time of need. Secondly Nehemiah asks God to have an open ear. This refers to Gods heeding his prayer, or responding to his cries for help.

Through this desperate begging we hear Nehemiah clearly say, “Lord I need you!”

And this is the heart of desperate prayer

Passive prayer says “Lord it would be great if you can help me, but if not I can take care of things myself.” We may not actually say that, but our actions do. How many times do we pray once or twice about something, and then try to fix it ourselves? Desperate prayer knows that apart from God there is no hope.

which leads to our second point

Desperate Prayer is Unwilling to Quit Praying before the Answer Comes

The words “day and night” mean the prayer of Nehemiah was constant. Now he wasn’t able to literally pray twenty-four hours a day, but the need of Jerusalem was constantly on his mind. And Nehemiah was committed to praying until God answered.

often the crisis situations of life are used by God to “test us” and see how long we will wait. Desperate prayer knows that there could be quicker fixes to the problems of life. But apart from Gods help, we have no hope.

Few things bring God greater Glory than a child who will cling to Him in prayer like Ruth did to Naomi. Who like Jacob will “not let go until you bless me.”

This prayer may take a long time to answer, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

I can remember being in a very bad traffic accident (my only one) after College. Standing on the side of the road looking at two totaled vehicles, I said with my lips what my heart was crying out. “Lord I can’t fix this.”

Out of all the prayers that God hears, I believe one of the most precious cries out “Lord I can’t fix this!” And refuses to quit until He does

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