Category Archives: Missionary Musings

From the Archives: Why God Led Me Away From Volunteering

Originally written June 5, 2015

In early April the Lord told me to do something really strange…step away from every volunteering ministry

This was weird since this was a wonderful way of connecting with the unsaved, and sharing the Gospel. The Lord’s allow me to have an impact on many lives through these ministries for the cause of Christ. And to be honest I still loved doing it.

However realizing the Lord knows what’s best for me more than I do [1] my focus began to revolve around studying and writing instead of active ministry. That was fun for a few days but soon I found myself getting bored.

My first response to this boredom was going online and looking for any new volunteering opportunities in the area, then I remembered God was leading me away from this.

After a week of this different philosophy my frustration was building and I began asking the Lord to open a door of opportunity instead of trying to force it open myself.

God answered in an incredible way

On June 17th I will be on my way to Chittagong, Bangladesh to teach two classes on behalf of Piedmont International University.

The first is an overview of Christology that uses forty Biblical events to describe the Bible’s big story. The second class is an Introduction to Classic Christian Literature which interestingly will be using films on major Christian books since we don’t have time to read them.

In late April when I was asked to teach this class [2] immediately it became clear why God wanted me to step aside from everything else…He was calling me deeper

That’s the thing about God, He loves to open huge amazing doors for us if we let Him.

The problem is we (I) are totally focused on our own strength, and end up pushing with all of our might against a much smaller door (but one we are just sure is God’s Will).

Because God loves us and wants us to choose Him willingly He will give us what’s behind that door.  But He knows they won’t satisfy because the door we walk through is too safe.

Drew Dyck in his book “Yawning at Tigers” (awesome book by the way) describes our choosing safety over God’s Will using the illustration of a lagoon at a resort, and the actual ocean

The problem really wasn’t what was in the lagoon. Its what wasn’t. There were no waves, no spray from the surf, no tides, no coral reefs, no danger, no depths. It wasn’t the ocean (pg.20, par.3)

If the ocean is like God, the lagoon is a poor, but useful replacement. It’s domesticated Christianity. It’s engagement with a letter deity (pg.20, par.5)

In a thousand little ways, we’ve chosen the comfort of the shallows over life in the deep (pg. 21, par.3)

As I prepare for Bangladesh I’m dealing with some conflicting emotions. Part of me would prefer to teach kindergarteners English instead of flying to a foreign Country and teaching Theology, but at the same time I know thats a door that I would have opened instead of God.

And it’s the safe little lagoon.

We can be thankful that God knows deep inside each of us is a craving for something deeper than the average life. And therefore He calls quietly but urgently for us to follow Him into the deeper water.

Editors Note: Soon after that call to deeper water, the Lord led me to Saint Vincent 🙂

When Your House is a Refuge

A friend came over last Friday to spend the long Easter weekend (Friday through Monday) with me, and speak at the church Sunday. Most of the time when friends come to visit I take them around Barrouallie to explain my burden for the people, and we get involved in daily ministry together.

But instead of a time of activity….

The Easter holiday was a time of rest

Those four days became an opportunity to encourage one another

  1. With rest
  2. fellowship
  3. Good food
  4. and lots of coffee!

Ministry has a way of wearing you down with spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This is why it’s necessary to take a break for rest and relaxation from time to time. Usually this calls for a place of refuge or reset where you can just be away from everyone else for a few days. For my friend that place of refuge was my house!

I used to question the importance of these breaks, after all there is still work to do! But then I realized it’s hard to minister when your exhausted.

In the past I used to go to America once a year for two-weeks every Christmas. This wasn’t an extended time away, but it allowed me to go through a time of rest and renewal. That usually involved being incredibly lazy for two or three days catching up on my rest, and then starting the work of strategic planning. By day ten I was refreshed, and ready to go back at it!

Of course not all of us can go to America…..

So we go to Barrouallie (the next best thing)!

During the weekend we went through the same basic cycle

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Drink Coffee
  • Talk about life
  • Repeat

I know that sounds incredibly boring and lazy, but for someone used to hustling from one ministry event to another, this is EXACTLY what they need!

The Greek New Testament has a word καταφεύγω (katapheugó) that we translate as “refuge” but is better translated “run to refuge.” The basic idea is a place where you can run for safety or rest. In the Christian life we all need to have a καταφεύγω to run to in times of stress or exhaustion. A place where we can refocus our eyes on the Savior, and draw closer to Him.

Last weekend reminded me how much my friend and I truly needed a time of rest. And it also reminded me there are countless men who need a refuge that offers food, coffee, rest, and encouragement from the Word of God. May the Lord help me keep my door open for those who long for a refuge.

What Happens When the Music Ends

The Lord has given me a great love for Saint Vincent and the people of SVG so I prefer being here to America! But there are a few things about Saint Vincent (and Barrouallie in particular) that make me angry.

Not angry at the people…..

But angry about how Satan has deceived the people.

And at the top of the list that make me angry is Vincentians love of a party culture.

Like everywhere else, the people of SVG are always looking for an excuse to have a party. Of course during that party their life is filled with happiness! But that happiness does not last. The next day they are left depressed (and usually without any money) waiting for the next party.

The sad truth is once the music ends (the party is over) they are in a much worse state than before.

I was recently reminded of that painful truth because Covid mandates have recently been removed here, which opens the door for parties. Over the Easter weekend on Saturday a huge dance party event was held for young adults and teens in a nearby facility.

Then on Sunday videos started coming in (none of which I have watched, or want to watch)

  1. Of a girl passed out on the floor while a young man dances over her with his pants down
  2. Of another girl rubbing against a young man who has exposed his penis
  3. And of another who was so drunk, her friends had to lead her along by the hand so she wouldn’t fall down

As horrific as these videos are, the truly sad thing is things like that have been happening for many years, long before smart-phones allowed them to be recorded and shared. Generations of people have learned the happiness of sin is gone once the music stops.

The Biblical response to this lie of Satan isn’t to remind them of what happens when the music ends (they are aware of that)…..

It is to show them Christ is sweeter than the world.

It is only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that true happiness can come into a life. He is source of our peace, courage, wisdom, and joy. It is because of Him we can display Godliness in the greatest trial. His strength is what helps us in our weakest moment.

Of course this doesn’t mean the Christian life is always enjoyable. In fact, the life of sin is guaranteed to be more fun because those who serve the Lord will be attacked by Satan. However in that suffering there will be a true satisfaction that comes from the presence of God. One that doesn’t rely on alcohol, music, or emotion.

What those in the party culture must understand is the world cannot make you truly happy. This happens as Believers approach them after the music ends not with an attitude of condemnation, but love that proclaims the mercy and grace of God.

In a few months carnival will come to Saint Vincent for the first time in three years (it’s been shut down for two years because of Covid). My heart already aches for what will take place in July. At the same time I am thankful that God opens the door for the Gospel to be shared when the music ends.

Rum is not the Problem!

This morning I went to visit some friends, and almost immediately noticed Jamie (not his real name) had a very sizeable wound under his right eye.

The wound itself broke my heart, but what bothered me more was I knew exactly how it happened……

He had become drunk, and face-down on the ground.

Jamie is a very hard worker, but he’s absolutely addicted to strong rum that can be purchased here cheaply (a small bottle is about seven East Caribbean dollars). Most of the time Jamie is running errands for the owners of local shops who instead of giving him money, give bottles of rum. Because he has a learning disability, it’s easier for people to take advantage of Jamie by giving shots of rum instead of money, so he often goes a day without eating.

Even more heartbreaking the community of Barrouallie is filled with Jamie’s.

These individuals may not struggle mentally like Jamie does, but just like him, their lives revolve around strong rum.

Which brings up the question… do we reach people like Jamie?

The first step is understanding rum is not their problem

I visit with Jamie’s mother almost every week so we can pray, and read Scripture together. As you can imagine her heart breaks seeing the affect alcohol has on her son just like me. This pain leads her to confront her son almost daily about not drinking. Occasionally Jamie will stop drinking for a short-period of time (a few weeks) but soon he’s back to spending most of his day at the rum shop.

The point is telling someone to stop drinking is not enough because rum is not the problem!

The HEART is the problem!

The reason Jamie (and so many others) are enslaved by rum is their hearts are far away from God. Even if they DID stop drinking successfully, that won’t change their filthy heart! So instead of focusing on the rum (a symptom of the sin problem) we must focus on their heart relationship with God. Only the Gospel of Christ can truly break their cycle of addiction.

Reaching the Jamie’s of this world isn’t about telling them “stop it!” but about explaining the truths of Scripture in a loving way. Recently I began cooking for Jamie a few times a week. Eventually those meals will lead a time when we can read Scripture and discuss the Gospel on my front porch. Pray for me as I continue to build a stronger relationship with Jamie, and point him to my Saviour.

Because once someone has drank from the fountain of living waters, rum isn’t good enough anymore.

Missions is Remembering the Truth…..

We used to have a visitation team that would go out every Sunday afternoon visiting senior saints. Because they couldn’t physically come to church, we “brought church to them” by singing older gospel songs, sharing from the word, and encouraging their hearts with fellowship.

All of them loved our visits because not many people came to see them, but one was particularly excited when we came. Everyone called her “granny” (not her real name).

She became so excited about our visits she wanted to see us more often!

Because this wasn’t possible (our list of saints to visit keeps us from visiting each one every week) I promised to come see her personally. And so, in early 2017 I started visiting granny on Thursday mornings. We’ve been doing that consistently over the last five years, except for an extended time she spent outside of Barrouallie during the pandemic.

Thursday mornings with Granny have been a great blessing to my heart as she excitedly shared stories of her childhood, read Scripture, and sang some of the older Gospel hymns….and many Sundays I brought her to church (possibly the highlight of her week).

But the pandemic changed that…..

When Covid was strong I told Granny I couldn’t bring her to church because she was almost eighty, and had breathing problems (asthma). Sadly since that day in 2020 she hasn’t come to church. Not because of protocols, but her health and strength has taken a downturn during the pandemic. She used to walk up the steps to her house after church without much of a problem, now it takes all of her strength to come off the porch.

Worse than her physical weakness is Granny’s mental weakness.

During the pandemic she began to forget more and more, then recently she started to adamantly tell me things occurred that never happened! This loss of mental focus is probably due to the fact that she doesn’t leave the house.

It is frustrating to see a woman who a few years ago pre-pandemic had an incredibly strong mind struggle to understand what she said a few moments ago……

But she still knows the truth!

Last week I wrote a short devotional (you can read it here) about my visit with Granny last week. She was angry because being home was incredibly boring, and she wanted to go to church. To brighten her mood I spent lots of time singing older hymns with her. It was amazing to see the smile on her face as I started in on one of her favorite hymns (I know her favorites), and two or three words in, she joined me without missing a single word!

I will miss the Thursday mornings discussing Scripture with Granny on the porch when her mind is strong. But as this dear saint nears the end of her journey I will enjoy Thursday mornings reminding her of the truth she’s temporarily forgotten.

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