Category Archives: SVG Missionary

The Curse of a Safe Mission Field

By now most of you have heard about John Allen Chau, a Christian who attempted to evangelize the Sentineleze people with the Gospel, but was martyred.

Much has been written about his actions (I personally feel not going with a team or doing proper planning was a mistake) but the coverage of his death reveals an interesting truth.

Our mission fields have become safe 

In early days of missions, there was a danger whenever a missionary traveled to the field:

  1.  There was a great possibility of dying on the long journey by sea to the field
  2. There often wasn’t a possibility of furlough…missionaries were known to bring their caskets with them on the first voyage
  3. The people wouldn’t be as open to the Gospel 
  4. And without modern medicine many died on the field because of sickness

Today however I can text my parents every morning, and live in a mission field where people love to read tracts!

Please understand I’m incredibly grateful for the advances that have made it easier to reach the lost with the Gospel.  But this also sometimes can make missions “too easy”

  • It’s easy to begin relying on our own wisdom or strength 
  • It’s easy to never really exercise faith
  • It’s easy to neglect the disciplines of daily Bible study and prayer 
  • It’s easy to stay where it’s “comfortable” ministry wise

The answer isn’t taking risks like John Chau did, but using our safe mission field for God’s glory by taking steps of faith as He leads. 

Because Missions is never meant to be safe.

When You Can’t See Fruit

As a Missionary I know God emphasizes faithfulness (or consistency) over fruit, but that doesn’t mean lack of fruit isn’t depressing.

the Lord allowed me to go through two discouraging moments last week.  The first was a service that almost nobody attended (we had sickness, people traveling out of town, and members out of the Country), the second was no children coming to Bible Club that afternoon.

On days like that it’s easy to become angry at the people who don’t come, or retreat into self pity…but both of those responses overlook an important point.

God is the one who brings the increase

to explain it very simply

  1. My job is to continue working diligently, and trust God to do the rest
  2. It’s Gods job to do a work in hearts

In a way I believe those moments of discouragement are tools that God uses to test our faith in Him.  Will we try to “fix the problem” or believe the Lord  is still in control of the situation?

AS SOMEONE WHO LEARNED THE HARD WAY YOU CANNOT PRODUCE MINISTRY FRUIT BY WORKING HARDER, LET ME ENCOURAGE YOU TO SIMPLY TRUST GOD WHEN PEOPLE DON’T COME.

BECAUSE THOSE WHO RELY ON HIM WILL BEAR “MUCH FRUIT.”

Yesterday a boy came to Bible Club very excited to show me his new Bible.  Last year we started using a chart listing the books of the Bible, and I have a standing challenge for anybody who could name every book of the Old Testament without any help.  When the time came for our challenge he was almost beside himself, “Mr. John I can do it!”  He then proceeded to list them all by memory (okay I helped with Habakuk).

the thing about ministry (and life) is sometimes we cannot clearly see God working, but even in the most discouraging moments we know he is still producing fruit.

Why Ministry Should Be Boring

About three weeks ago a slight change was made in  Bible Club that’s made a significant difference.
I made it boring…
Now the truth is I didn’t make Bible Club “boring” at all, instead I made it a lot more effective! However, in the eyes of some children, it is definitely less interesting.

The change was moving away from childrens storybooks such as the Jesus Storybook Bible, and Jesus Calling for a study of the book of Mark using my Bible.

While these children’s books are used by God (my copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible is literally falling apart) I felt the Lord leading me to make the change.

  1. Because they only share basic truths of Scripture
  2. Often the kids pay more attention to the picture than the actual story
  3. And most importantly they were drawn by the book instead of Scripture

 

There definitely isn’t anything wrong with using ministry tools, but they must always be used the STRENGTHEN the teaching of Scripture.  The moment kids started caring more about seeing the pictures than the lesson I knew it was time for a change.

The Lord has blessed since Bible Club started revolving around a study of Mark because I’m usually teaching a few at a time (two or three) instead of a large group which made things difficult.  So instead of one very large group I’m able to reach three or four small ones in a direct way…but often they will find things “boring.”

The kids usually pay very close attention at first, but at the five-minute-mark, some start getting distracted, which is usually followed by loud sighs, asking how much longer it will last, starting a conversation with friends, or leaving altogether.  In those moments part of me wants to grab their attention with a book or ministry tool, but the Lord reminds me a “boring ministry” that relies on Scripture instead of entertainment impacts hearts.

Yesterday three boys came for a story.  one on the end was more interested in putting on the temporary tattoos in his package of cookies than listening to me and decided to go home early.  The one on the other end didn’t listen very well either.  But the one in the middle locked eyes with me and never looked away as I talked about the leper who came to Jesus for healing (Mark 1:40-43) and the sinfulness of our own hearts.

We as Christians need to offer more boring ministries today….ones that just share Scripture without the bells and whistles.  Because for every person who zones out or plays with their sticker, the Holy Spirit will one to repentance.

How Paperwork Challenges Missions

We had already been to this office before, now two months deep into becoming residents in our new home country. We had already been turned down on numerous occasions. But this time I arrived well-prepared, complete with proof of an eye exam, my passport, copies of my visa, extra passport photos, my resident ID card, and my US driver’s license. That’s when I heard the sentence that my foreign ears had already begun to understand.  “Sir, all of your paperwork looks fine, but you are missing one thing.”

I couldn’t help but smile while reading that paragraph from Gene Lee’s “Abiding in Christ is the only way to survive cross-cultural transition this morning” because I’ve been in the same situation (and heard the same sentence more than once.

Sadly one of the biggest challenges to missions today is paperwork.  Please understand I don’t blame the Government agencies (they are just doing their job) but the individuals, businesses, and yes even religious groups that took advantage of residency or immigration laws.  However the constantly changing laws can become a source of frustration for missions work.

Specifically the new laws and their paperwork affect Missions in two ways:

  1. You will hear something different every time you try to apply or come to the office (sometimes from people in the same office)
  2. And there will constantly be a new form to be filled out
  3. situations like this make it VERY EASY to get angry

Last Fall I was going through an application process that would help me serve the Lord effectively in St. Vincent.  I came with the necessary paperwork (including a letter sent by fedex) but was told additional documentation would be needed.  By the time that had been mailed (three-weeks) I was told they couldn’t see me for at least two more.  That was mildly frustrating, especially after receiving a call two days before my appointment asking me to fill out another 10 pages of paperwork.

Finally I came in with all the necessary documentation but was declined…their reason was the letter I brought in the summer was now too old.

The same letter I handed them five-weeks earlier 🙂

Often we think about challenges on the mission field in terms of spiritual warfare:

  1. Sharing the Gospel with the unsaved
  2. Planting new Churches
  3. Correcting the wrong doctrine of cults

There are classes pertaining to these and other “big challenges” but nobody in Bible College teaches us how to respond when they ask for “one more meaningless piece of paper

And that’s why Satan loves to use it so much.

May God help us all understand it often isn’t the huge challenges of life that make us quit, but the small daily frustrations.

Using Personal Time for Discipleship

When thinking of the word “discipleship” I get the idea of two people in deep discussion with a Bible, and coffee (if they are lucky.)  However this view overlooks the many opportunities for Discipleship we have in the daily experiences of life.

Mark Dever in his book “discipling” gave a very interesting thought about using personal time to train or find new leaders

 

On those occasions when my wife asks me to go the grocery store, I typically break into a cold sweat for fear of getting the wrong thing (my issues, not hers!), and so I often bring a brother with me. That way, we can spend intentional time together, and he can share the blame.

 

I’m pretty sure they didn’t discuss Theology while comparing different kinds of dressing, but being together gave an opportunity to share how God was working, and how they could pray for one another.

 

The Lord is slowly beginning to help me seek teachable moments with others in this personal time instead of Bible Study.  Not because we shouldn’t have Bible Studies of course, but it opens greater doors.  
The thing is no child would come over to have a Bible study with me…but they love to do things with me.  And its during that shared personal time the Gospel is shared.

 

Last Saturday I FINALLY got around to washing my car (it was in very bad shape) and instead of doing it myself asked two of my best Bible Club students to help me.  After being washed twice, rinsed, and dried off I took them on a ride to the next village and back.  Then we sat down on my porch and ate pringles potato chips while reviewing what we learned in Bible Club about God.

While eating pringles and sitting on my porch doesn’t fit into what we normally view as Discipleship trust me when i say that it is.  Those boys will vividly remember that car ride, those snacks, and discussing the Holiness of God.

Another blessing of using personal time for Discipleship is the Holy Spirit opens the door for some amazing conversations about the Gospel and our need of Christ.

A few weeks ago I was throwing a football around with some of the kids and jokingly said “boy I’m good at this!”  A little girl immediately shot back “but you aren’t as good as God Mr. John” (I had to agree).  Many conversations like this have taken place because personal time has been spent just being with young people.

Of course I look forward to the day when one on one Bible studies can begin.  But until that day I’m happy eating pringles on the porch, and explaining that God loves us more than we could ever know.

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