La Soufrière Update

Below is the text of brief email update I am sending this afternoon to prayer partners. Thanks for your continued prayers at this time

April 9, 2021

Dearest Friends,

In January we received word that La Soufrière, the volcano in Saint Vincent, displayed increased activity. This brought a danger of its erupting for the first time since 1979.

Since that time things thankfully calmed down with the volcano. Though those close to it were encouraged to remain cautious, the threat level was lowered.

Yesterday (April 8) those on the other side of the island were told to prepare themselves for evacuation because of increased activity, and the warning level was raised. This was followed by a evacuation order at 4:30 Thursday afternoon.

Thankfully, most individuals from the danger zones were transported safely by boat or van to safer areas, with many coming to Barrouallie where I’m located. This morning at approximately 8:50, the volcano erupted. This resulted in a large amount of ash going two-miles into the sky, with little actual lava (an article can be found here).

It’s currently about 4:30 in the afternoon, and the ash has resulted in limited visibility, but little has accumulated on the ground. Currently the greatest concern in our community is that the ash will continue to settle on the ground, making breathing difficult, and keeping everyone inside.

I’m incredibly grateful for the mercy and grace of God as we have experienced this volcanic eruption. I can hear people talking to each other walking up and down the road while writing this update, which is blessing considering how serious the situation would be if the eruption had resulted in more lava.

I’m also thankful that the Lord has continued to protect myself, and others in Barrouallie during this time.

Please pray with me in the coming days:

  1. For those who may still need to be evacuated from danger areas
  2. Continued protection from the ash, particularly for those who have breathing problems
  3. That the ash can clear in coming days
  4. For the safe return of those evacuated from their homes
  5. There will be little or no damage to homes from the volcano
  6. For those who may not have adequate shelter from the ashes
  7. And that Vincentians would see their need of Christ in this crisis.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

John Wilburn

Missions is…Checking In

This morning I took this picture from my porch at about 7:00. It was significant because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come outside of the house this morning, much less take a picture.

The La Soufrière volcano began showing signs yesterday of an imminent eruption which would bring large clouds of volcanic ash into the community. This would keep everyone inside of course, since the air itself would be toxic and harmful.

Though the volcanic activity is stressful, I’m thankful for it, because it reminded me about the importance of “checking in” on people.

Life gets incredibly busy for all of us. Because of this, we don’t take the time to slow down, and contact friends or loved ones as often as we should. Usually there needs to be an important reason to get in touch with somebody through a phone call, or personal visit. In reality, just calling to check on someone to make sure they’re okay is an incredibly loving act

A blessing of any crisis is that it forces us to check in on those we love….

but the question is, why does it take a crisis?

I spent a lot of time on my phone last night checking on friends, and making trips to ensure they had what they needed. Of course this was an absolutely necessary thing since the volcano could erupt at any time. At the same time this kind of ministry would be needed in times when there isn’t a crisis as well.

So why don’t we check in on one another?

I can think of a few reasons

  1. We are too busy with our own tasks
  2. We wait till there’s something important to tell them
  3. Or we just don’t think about their needs at all

Sadly I believe the last reason is one of the biggest ones

We often forget about those around us who are in need, or may require some extra help. We only remember them when something huge comes up like a volcanic eruption. But it’s incredibly easy after that just to drift back into not thinking about them.

The Lord used last night to remind me one of the most powerful forms of ministry is just a simple phone call to make sure someones okay.

This call is meaningful in a crisis, but its even more powerful when there isn’t one….

When you just call because the Holy Spirit brought them to your mind.

May the Lord help us remember an encouraging text message, phone call, or visit isn’t an intrusiuon. Checking is an incredibly loving act.

Missions is….Dealing with Your Quiet Anger

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing, or sharing on Facebook lately. The reason for this is my phone started giving me problems on February 26, refusing to charge since the battery had gone bad.

Last week was incredibly frustrating since fixing an iPhone here is difficult because they cannot find parts.

My frustration level was already high after spending three hours in Kingstown waiting for them to find a part, and then another three hours last Tuesday while they tried to fix it without a new battery.

By 2:00 the phone was charging properly and I excitedly started checking my text messages, only to see it drop 40% of its battery life in ten minutes. So back to the store I went!

The frustration level reached its climax when I emailed the store the next day asking for an update on the phone, and received no reply. So I took ANOTHER trip into town Thursday, and was told they were just too busy to respond to my email.

Thankfully the Lord worked things out as they sold me another iPhone exactly like mine at a drastically reduced price (less than $200 US). So twelve days after my phone died, it was fixed. But it was pretty difficult to “keep my cool” during that time.

Life is bound to bring some frustrating or annoying moments, it is in those moments that God reveals whats resides in our heart.

This experience for me was a reminder of my impatience, and quiet anger.

The Lord has created me as someone who is ambitious, and emphasises activity. This is a good thing because it helps me get lots done in a short amount of time, but it’s also a curse since waiting makes me angry.

This doesn’t result in violent open anger, but quiet anger revealed by exasperated sighs 1.

The thing about quiet anger is it isn’t as obvious. But the bad attitude can lead to bitterness, self-pity, and lack of motivation. Most importantly the quiet anger focuses my attention only on my problem.

the point is while I was calm and polite on the outside, I was raging on the inside

Frustration is a part of life of course, but the Lords will is that we deal with our frustration in a Biblical way. Because the quiet anger can often be just as damaging as the violent.

it took a while for me to get over the frustration of my phone being fixed when it wasn’t. I spent a few days doing very little other than feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t till Friday that the Lord graciously allowed me to see just how toxic my quiet anger is.

It took twelve days but I brought home TWO phones. The second will barely hold a charge, but thats okay, its main use is for parts. As I texted away on my new phone yesterday I thanked the Lord for once again shining a light on my quiet anger, and helping me understand your attitude makes a huge difference.

  1. My frustrated sigh is so common, my nieces and nephew refer to it as an Uncle John sigh

Missions is….risking failure

A very big part of missions is going to others with the gospel, but while “gong to them”, there is also a need to “draw them to yourself.” This is best done through weekly ministries the emphasise evangelism, and discipleship.

Finding a proper balance between outreach “or going to them” and ministry “or drawing them to yourself” is difficult. It’s easy to become so focused on ministries or programs that they become an end in themselves. The goal is to get a crowd of people, instead of reaching them with Gods truth.

A ministry focus also emphasises reaching physical or cultural needs above their spiritual ones. I have absolutely no problem meeting the physical needs of those in my community, yet their greatest need is to accept Christ as their Saviour.

At the same time it’s also easy to keep emphasising outreach above ministry because a program takes lots of planning, and hard work. There’s going to be a high risk level with a ministry as well, particularly in the beginning, so that failure is a big possibility.

Recently I realised that I wasn’t doing a very good job of “bringing them to me”, so a new ministry had to be created.

This is mostly because most of my ministries were based in schools or the prison system, both of which have been shut down because of Covid. Some new programs would need to begin even though those ministries will soon open up.

After prayer and some planning, I came up with two ideas:

  1. A reading help ministry for children
  2. And a computer tutoring ministry for adults, that teaches basic computer skills

Both of these ministries meet a specific need in the community, and emphasise being with one or two individuals at a time. This gives good opportunities for relationship development and sharing Christ.

the interesting thing is though I knew this needed to be done for a long time, I held off on starting the ministries

The reason for this is the risk and failure level of starting something new frightened me

As I planned the launch on these ministries, this fear had to be faced head-on. The greatest tool that the God gave me in fighting this battle is knowing “failure is not the end of the world.”

Of course nobody likes to fail because it brings shame and humiliation

But those failures are used by God to teach us important lessons, and reveal things we need to work on. That may not be enjoyable in the moment, but the growth that comes as a result is worth it. Our failures also reveal our need for God, and draw us closer to Him.

Taking a step of faith is difficult, but its better to live a life of risk that glories God than to live of life of comfort that dishonors Him.

Missions is….wasted days

Yesterday morning I went into Kingstown looking for someone who could replace the battery in my iPhone, which died on Friday. The battery had been giving me trouble for a while, so it wasn’t surprising that this happened.

Getting proper parts for apple phones is difficult here since they need to be shipped from the States. Covid along with other things delays these shipments, so it isn’t uncommon to have to check a few places before finding someone who has it

Around 8:30 yesterday morning I asked a local repair shop if they had a battery for my phone. They didn’t, so an employee called their boss on the phone, who asked me to come back at 12:00.

Suddenly I had a big decision to make….

Do I wait around three hours to see if he can find a part? Or do I come back another day?

Because he asked me to come back at 12:00, I decided to spend the time in town, in hopes that my phone could get fixed.

after running errands, doing sermon-prep, reading, and taking a walk it was finally 12:00. I excitedly went back to the store, hoping to get my iPhone battery.

The employee took one look at me, and called the boss…..

She said “well the man came back”, which is never a good sign

Long story short, he wasn’t able to get the part in time, and asked me to come back today.

I left the store pretty frustrated:

  1. My phone still wasn’t fixed
  2. I’d spent a lot longer time in town than expected
  3. The rest of the day would be spent trying to catch up on the things I was supposed to be doing in Barrouallie during the three-hour wait

Sometimes life brings very unproductive days, or as I like to call them “wasted days.” The truth is these days aren’t exactly wasted but instead you don’t get the things done that you planned to finish. These days are always frustrating, but particularly so when its something outside of your control like my situation yesterday,.

That frustration is a natural and human thing 1. But its how we respond to those frustrations that make a big difference.

  1. You can be bitter for the rest of the day
  2. You can give up and feel sorry for yourself since not much can be accomplished anyways
  3. Or you can accept that situation as the Will of God

Scripture is clear that sometimes our plans are not Gods plans. It may be my plan to get my phone fixed in an hour, and then be back home by 10:30. But Gods plan may be for me to get home at 1:30.

When my plan doesn’t match Gods then the attitude of my heart is revealed.

Will I submit to a wasted day because it is Gods Will? Or will I be angry because the Lord didn’t do things “my way”?

submission to the God’s Will when it’s not the same as ours is hard. But we can do it because whatever God brings into our lives is best

He will never give me a stone when I ask for bread

He will never give me a snake when I ask for an egg

EVERYTHING God brings into my life is for my own benefit

So I submit to the frustrating days spent in town while rejoicing in the productive days, because both come from the loving hand of God.

Around 10:00 this morning I will go back to the cell-phone repair shop and pray the battery can be replaced. Even if it isn’t though, and I have to come back tomorrow, thats okay.

Because that experience is the Will of God

  1. Nobody likes to wait for three hours