Category Archives: Throw Back Thursday

From the Archives: French Toast Sticks and Unique Challenges

Originally written July 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to spend five days at the Annual Conference of Baptist Mid Missions [1] in Elyria Ohio. It was an absolutely amazing time that the Lord used to encourage my heart.

  1. Through strong Biblical preaching
  2. Through workshops that gave practical help for challenges Missionaries face
  3. Through fellowship with other Missionaries
  4. And opportunities for short-term ministry placement while the Visa process is completed (this was before coming to Saint Vincent).

What encouraged me more than anything though was the knowledge that other people have struggles like mine

You see Missionaries are “unique people” who therefore face “unique challenges” that few people will understand except for other Missionaries

Unfortunately missionaries have little opportunity to discuss those challenges, and how God helps them since all of the time is spent ministering to others. This becomes a problem because over time Satan can make us (missionaries) believe that we are the only ones who struggle with those challenges.  And of course this leads to our acting as if everything’s fine when it isn’t.

Something like the Annual Conference allows us to step away from work for a few days and become honest about some our needs, which always reveals we aren’t the only ones struggling.

Thursday morning I ate breakfast with some missionary friends from India who had never eaten a “french toast stick” (poor souls). As we finished one of them asked why my return to Australia was delayed and I spent about five minutes giving an answer (Editors note-I could not receive a Permanent Residency Visa in Australia because of changed immigration laws). Once I finished she looked at me and said “that’s exactly what’s happening to us!”.

That simple phrase had an incredible impact because Satan loves to tell me that I’m the ONLY ONE who EVER experienced a delayed return to the mission field…and that’s just not true.

Thinking about that breakfast reminds me of the Prophet Elijah in the Old Testament who in discouragement complained that he was the only one who still stood for God in Israel. God responded by telling Elijah there was there still 7,000 people faithful people in Israel, and soon provided Elisha as a prophet to continue Elijah’s ministry

It is true that most people haven’t gone through the unique challenges I face, but that’s okay, because each of you go through struggles I couldn’t comprehend. We can praise God however that there will always be individuals who can not only understand that challenge, but share how the Lord brought them through it.

From the Archives: Facing My Vincentian Driving Nightmare

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Originally Written January 13, 2016

After being on the island over four months I’ve gotten used to pretty much everything here.  In fact there’s only one part of Barrouallie life that strikes fear into my heart…and that’s the driving.

The good news for me is it’s almost impossible to get lost in St. Vincent since there’s only one main road.  The bad news is that roads are a lot smaller than American ones, and the fact that they are doing construction makes them even smaller!

To be honest I’m getting a lot better at my island driving so most times I can get from one place to another without making a fool of myself.  However if I have to back up (sometimes its necessary to back down a road when another vehicle is approaching)  my driving resembles that of your ninety year old blind grandmother.

Last October the Lord used a simple trip to the grocery store to illustrate just how much driving in St. Vincent affected me.  I went with a friend to get some groceries and his cousin was there so we decided to give him a ride home.  Everything was fine on the way home with our groceries till my friend told me I had to back up a road in order to drop his cousin off.

That ended up being a very humiliating (and frustrating) situation 

From that point on my greatest fear was having to back down or up a road to the point where I would literally pray before turning the van keys “Lord please don’t let anyone be coming down this road!”

Of course sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers for our own good 🙂

Last Sunday afternoon there was a large funeral in town and people quickly ran out of places to park so by the time I went to pick up Church members a very long line of vehicles had parked along the main road. This meant you could barely get one vehicle through at a time.

On the way back things had gotten much worse because a truck had parked the wrong way (facing traffic) so it had to be moved before anybody else was able to do anything.  After lots of arguing in Vicentian, I was forced to back up pretty much blind (being directed by those in the back seat) and reveal to dozens of island people my horrible driving skills.

Now if I had faced a situation like this in October my response would have been to calmly lock the van, and then run for my life!  But Sunday night I was able to keep myself calm in a very stressful situation surrounded by Vincentians critiquing my driving.

What made the difference?

I had done it before.

See I still pray that vehicles won’t be coming when the engine starts, but I’ve also faced my fear of backing down tight roads, and got better at it every time.

There will probably come a day when island driving doesn’t bring stress (probably about twenty years) but I’m incredibly thankful that God forces me to face my worst nightmare.  Because it’s facing it and living that helped me keep calm on Sunday.

Update 12/30/21-Though some of the small village roads still heighten my stress level, I can confirm the fact that the more we face our nightmare, the easier it is to deal with.  

A Tale of Two Marathons

Editors Note: Originally Written November 21, 2014

Last Saturday I officially completed my second marathon. Actually in my opinion this is the only real one since the other ended in disaster.

Pretty much everything you need to know about my first marathon can be found in this picture at the finish line.

  1. The stomach cramps that kept me from standing up straight
  2. An inability stand on my own
  3. The forced smile that tries to cover up the severe pain I’m in

Now compare that with the picture from Saturdays finish line

  1. A real smile
  2. Not overwhelmed by pain
  3. Standing on my own power

A lot of things made the difference between these two finishes. But one of the most important was listening to my body

During the marathon I had the privilege running with one of my training partners who is faster than me [1]. Together we ran the first twenty miles at race pace (very fast), but after that my right leg started cramping.

At this point I had a decision to make. Do I start slowing down a bit and let my friend continue at her fast pace? Or do I try to keep up with her?

Thankfully our running coach reminded us last week about listening to our bodies. So I realized the beginnings of a cramp in the leg were my bodies way of saying. “Okay John you’re running an awesome race but now it’s time to let your partner go because this pace is a little too fast for me.”

So for the last six miles I slowed down and simply ran my own race.

And that’s what made the difference

In the first marathon my body started warning me about pushing too hard but I chose to ignore them. Hence the picture of me doubled over in pain.

In the second I listened..so the last mile was an awesome experience

Instead of people asking if I was okay like first marathon

  1. They cheered me on as I went faster
  2. Gave at least three “aussie aussie aussie” chants which I responded to with a loud “oi oi oi”
  3. And joked with them about just rolling me down the hill

I’m not really sure how it would have finished if I hadn’t listened to my body…but I can guarantee you sprinting and playing to the crowd wouldn’t be involved.

The most important thing that marathon training has taught me about running is this: Don’t chase the rabbits.

There are always people who are faster (rabbits), or better than you in certain situations. And there often will be voice in the back of your head that says “you have to keep up!”

Don’t listen to it…

Just let them go and run your own race

That may mean your pride takes a hit, but it makes the difference between celebrating and collapsing at the finish line.

A Battle Plan for “Look Away Moments”

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As a single missionary I’m well aware that integrity online (as far as what I will or won’t watch) is a very serious issue.  That’s why I have accountability partners, Bible verses to use when temptation comes, and the latest Internet filtering software for all my electronic devices.  It is a little uncomfortable asking my parents to put a password on a new internet filter, but it keeps from much more awkward conversations taking place later.

Having a battle plan against things like pornography is absolutely necessary…yet it’s getting to the point where I need a battle plan for what comes on every night.

I happen to love television drama’s that have long story lines and plenty of action; think something like Lost (in its first three seasons), or 24.  That’s why I loved streaming services like Netflix that allow me to watch my favorite episodes over and over again.  Eventually I got tired of watching those programs though so the search began to find a new favorite action/drama program.

The good news is there’s no shortage of tv shows that fit these requirements 

The bad news is there’s also no shortage of things in those programs that don’t honor God

While these programs don’t show pronographic material the relationships in most of them are patterned after the worlds philosophy that simply uses one person after another for your own benefit.  This subtle message doesn’t destroy as many lives as porn, however in a way it’s more dangerous because people watching it begin to view others (particularly the opposite sex) as people to be used instead of honored.

Apart from that there were “look away moments” where I had to either look away from the screen, or turn it off (including things like profanity and violence).  At first they only came once in a while, but I began to notice look away moments becoming more and more frequent.  While dramas may have more of these then others it’s becoming incredibly difficult to find shows that don’t have look away moments, and in a few years I’m afraid it will be almost impossible.

Because the morality of television is dropping lower and lower in my opinion it’s time for Christians (men in particular) to develop an intense  battle plan against those “look away moments.”  A plan that involves a simple but difficult choice…if it’s not news or sports don’t watch it.   Now I am aware men watch a LOT of sports so this doesn’t seem too difficult, however watching just sports is a conscious choice or commitment to place massive limits on what enters your mind.

This commitment led me to start an experiment Saturday by only allowing myself to watch sports and news for two-weeks, up till now things have gone well and I’ve kept up my end of the bargain except for NCIS last night (old habits die hard).  Lord wiling by the end of those two-weeks it will be a habit so sports will make up 98% of my television viewing.

I’m not doing this today because NCIS is filled with “look away moments” but because the days coming when all our programs will be filled with “look away moments.”   And if we wait till then to start looking away it will be too late.