For the latest blog post, here are some thoughts that have been recently shared with me by a missionary serving in a closed country in Southeast Asia. His name and country are omitted in order to maintain a low online profile. The thoughts that he put together are something that he is living out personally.
There are many aspects to being a foreign missionary. One could focalize on the aspects of preparation, financial support, or biblical education. However, I have found that one of the keys to success on the foreign mission field is simply the power to endure.
There may not be stonings, beatings, or beheadings, but there are many inconveniences—heat, humidity, travel issues, communication issues, threats, bugs, beds, food, sickness, diarrhea, loneliness, poor hygiene, etc. The reason there are fewer and fewer missionaries from America is simply because most do not want to make this decision to endure.
The reason that the Philippines is sending the most missionaries to the world is that they are not leaving behind "personal comforts." In many cases, going to another mission field might be an upgrade to their existent life.
Each generation in America since World War II has become softer and more indulgent. The Americans won World War II for many reasons; but one of them was that the soldiers fighting were raised during the Great Depression in America. They were able to suffer the deprivations of war and endure because they had very little when they were young.
American Christians have been blessed of God greatly; however, instead of becoming good "soldiers for Christ" to reach the world, we have become mostly interested in conveniences, pleasure, careers, and accumulation of wealth for "retirement.”
Paul said that he endured all these things to be able to console others and to see people saved.
• There is a personal decision for one to be saved. There is a personal decision to be baptized. There is a personal decision to be faithful and serve God.
• Then there is a personal decision to endure suffering for His glory, as He suffered for us.
This past week, I went through one of those rites of passage as a parent, dropping off a daughter at college. As any parent who has gone through this event, my wife and I were filled with mixed emotions—sad for her moving out of the house and into a college dorm down in Florida, but yet, excited for her as she launches forward into learning more about her specific field of study.
As I walked through the halls of the college, I, of course, also had to go down memory lane. I had flashbacks of my teachers, classes, and of the practical principles that I learned during my time at college. All of it played a part, whether big or small, in preparing me for my path in missions. Although it is true that you learn much of ministry outside the classroom, it definitely does not diminish what you gain inside the classroom.
My thoughts also did go to all of those other Bible colleges that are in or preparing to commence all around the world. These places of study may be much smaller than what we have in the United States, may have less students, may have fewer options on courses to study, but the intent is the same—train and prepare people for the purpose of ministry in service to the LORD.
Missionaries in the various regions have established Bible institutes, Bible seminaries, and the like in order to raise up the next generation of leaders. Across Southeast Asia, there are Bible institutes in places like Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere that are doing just that. In the South Pacific men and women are taking classes on leadership, Bible, ministry, and evangelism in places like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Samoa.
The importance of education and training is a universal truth. For success in missions, it requires that national men and women are properly trained in knowledge and use of the Word of God. It is these folks who are going to lead the music programs at the churches, teach the children about the historical events as described in the Bible, and lead their fellow countrymen to Christ. This doesn’t just happen!
Here in the United States, we want qualified men as our pastors who can study out a passage of Scripture, understand its context, its culture, and its content. We have no desire for a man who has not been trained properly on hermeneutics and theology. Those overseas deserve no less!
Among the many stories that I can share, let me highlight two in particular. In New Zealand, missionary Robert Rutta has been leading a Bible institute where people can go more in-depth on the study of the Word of God. They are taught principles of music and song leading as well as the principles of good preaching (just to name two of the available classes). What a joy it has been for Bob Rutta to see the growth and development of the men as they “sink their teeth into” a passage of Scripture and bring out points to emphasize in a sermon! At first, they were all shy and hesitant to preach. Now, they are eager and excited. This is something that will be a tremendous benefit both in the church there in Dunedin, New Zealand, but elsewhere as God may lead them.
In Thailand, men from various villages and hill tribes gather together to be taught subjects ranging from New Testament Survey to Eschatology and everything in between. Many of these men have little formal education but are soaking up the things offered in the Bible classes and institute. It has raised the level of teaching that then happens in their village churches. The roll-on effect is huge. Helping educate the pastors and teachers is helping the church attendees understand more, which in turn helps them to live out Scripture more in their daily lives.
Missions is not just preaching and evangelism and church planting. It also includes the establishment of seminaries, colleges, and institutes to help propel national believers into being better equipped and trained for God’s service. Rejoice that this is happening!
A few weeks ago, our BIMI Leadership and Field Directors all gathered together for our annual leadership meeting. During this meeting, we discussed plans for the upcoming year, tackled some of the issues that need addressing, and then swapped stories of what is happening among our missionaries around the world.
It was such a blessing and encouragement to hear how the LORD has been working so mightily and noticeably in the hearts of men and women all over. Oftentimes, as we go through the day-to-day of life, we fail to see the big picture impact that is being made for the cause of the Gospel. However, a time of reflection such as what we were doing at the Directors’ Meeting helps us to see that much is being accomplished!
In the past year, our BIMI missionaries reported a collective total of over thirty-five thousand people who have made a profession of faith in Christ! What a tremendous blessing in knowing that lives are being changed for eternity! BIMI does not focus or report on specific numbers because the mission agency is not concerned about numbers. Yet, like the story in the New Testament about the feeding of the five thousand (which we know that there were more than that present!) or like the day of Pentecost where about three thousand people came to understand salvation in Jesus, we may not focus on the accurate number but that doesn’t mean that we can’t report the good news of God working in lives and them responding to Him!
Each of those thirty-five thousand souls represents the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. They represent the hard work of missionaries being used as vessels fit for the Master’s use. For many of these lives, there are amazing stories that could be told of the grace and goodness of God to show His love and desire for a relationship with Him.
In my specific part of the world, Southeast Asia, there were approximately 1,000 people who made professions of faith. Considering that the vast majority of people in my region primarily follow Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam, those who responded to the Gospel have made courageous choices to turn their backs on rituals, religion, idolatry, and even in many ways their very own culture. Praise God for the power of the Gospel!
Coupled with those who have made a response to the call of the Gospel, there are many who have made that next step in following the LORD in believer’s baptism. Approximately 5,000 people made that conscious decision to identify with the Savior through the symbolic picture of water baptism. For many, this step would not be an easy one. Across the world, there are many cultures that actively ramp up their opposition, pressure, and even violence upon a believer when he/she is baptized. The meaning of baptism is still the same all over the world, but I would dare say that the significance of getting baptized is different. Some are ostracized by family. Some lose their friendships. Others face pressures at work. Yet, even knowing that this is going to come, many still advance forward to the waters of baptism.
The Great Commission commands us to go out and evangelize, baptize, and make disciples. This happens, without a doubt, in connection with the local church. The New Testament example in Acts and the Epistles shows that God uses local assemblies. The more that can be started—the better! More people can be reached, taught, and discipled. Our missionaries have reported over 400 new churches that have been established in the past year. That is nearly the equivalent of one new church a day! This is news to rejoice in! This means that there are national men who are stepping up to lead these new congregations. Men and women are being trained to do the work of ministry in teaching, evangelism, and service. This highlights the amount of Bible seminaries and schools that are established by missionaries all over the world to help educate and equip folks for the advancement of church work.
When I started my blog, I dubbed it “Take a Sip,” making an allusion to the verse in Proverbs 25:25, As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. As you can see, there is much good news happening from across the world. There is more than enough for you to take a sip. You can guzzle it all down!
I consider it a privilege to be in missions. There will always be more that needs to be done. There will always be a need for more laborers on the foreign field. Yet, for just a moment, soak in the fact that God is doing great things through our BIMI missionaries. Drink up!
As the world continues to struggle under the impact of the coronavirus, we have seen a lot of far-reaching repercussions that impact the missionaries and their ministries such as what happened here in the US. Many churches overseas were asked and in some places told by their national governments and authorities to close as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the virus. Naturally, this had an impact on the services and outreaches of these churches.
Along with churches closing, many other things followed suit such as businesses, factories, and tourist spots. Yet, probably the most dramatic was the closing of borders! Countries were either going into lockdown and severely restricting or outright banning the entrance of foreigners, or they were mandating that travelers be quarantined for two weeks at their own expense before being able to come in. As a result of these rules, international travel almost came to a screeching halt. People didn’t want to travel; and thus, the airlines began limiting the flights that they would provide. Some airlines completely stopped flying internationally completely.
While these measures were done with the best of intentions under the guise of protection, it created a lot of problems and difficulties for many. Missionaries were definitely affected by all of this. For many who happened to be in the USA at the time the pandemic hit, they were now not able to fly back to their homes and ministries overseas. Flights were being cancelled at a rapid rate. If one were able to purchase a ticket for a flight, the cost and expenses of being quarantined at a hotel upon landing were exorbitant.
In addition to all of those difficulties, many nations slowed down dramatically the processing of visas necessary to remain in-country or to be able to re-enter if away. Missionaries were finding that their visas were getting close to the expiration date and that there was going to be a long wait until the proper government offices would be working on them again. Without the necessary paperwork granting the permission to stay, they were forced to leave the nation.
Currently, at the time of this post, there are eight BIMI Southeast Asia and South Pacific missionary families who are displaced. There are those who cannot get back to their places of service such as Fiji, Australia, or India. Weeks have spread into months, and they are simply stuck. Some families who were planning on leaving for the foreign field for the first time in order to begin their mission work are unable to do so.
Despite the natural frustration that enters because of these setbacks, these families are not wallowing in self-pity. Instead of being able to serve the LORD overseas currently, they are going to bide their time serving the LORD here in the US. Some have become very active helpers and workers in their local sending churches. They have been able to preach, teach, lead singing, or do the work of evangelism. If they are going to be here, they might as well stay busy! Thankfully, this has led to life-changing results.
One missionary family frustratingly stuck here in the US while helping with one of the outreach ministries of his local church was able to lead a young man to Christ! As the missionary was sharing with me the story about this young man’s new found faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, he stated that he clearly recognized that if he had been overseas, he could not have had a part in helping lead this man to Christ!
Another missionary family that should have been overseas has now been able to preach and assist with a camp out in Montana. The LORD is really working and there has been spiritual fruit that they have seen and been a part of.
How exciting that no matter where we are in the world we can be a part of God’s plan of reaching and ministering to others! The missionaries want to be in their countries of service. Although at this time they cannot, thankfully, that does not stop them from being used of the LORD to make a difference for eternity.
As we have endured the lengths of the pandemic, one thing that has risen to the surface has been a strain across the United States in the lives of many about the ways to deal with the pandemic. As of the time of this writing, 32 states across the country have mandated rules about wearing face masks when out in public. This, of course, has led to many debating the merits of the masks. This argument has even spilled into the church as Christians passionately share their opinions over the matter. Churches that require masks are finding Christians adamantly refusing to come to the worship services because of that regulation. Other churches that don’t require masks or practice social distancing are seen by some as reckless and inconsiderate of the health needs of the congregation.
Considering this, I recently was having a discussion with a Pakistani national pastor about the impact of the pandemic in his country. Due to the lack of good, reliable medical care and resources, the national and local governments have tried to minimize the spread of the virus. To limit the spread, the government made the decision to close most things like businesses, churches, factories, and hotels. This has had a dramatic as well as problematic effect on many Pakistani families because much of the population are daily wage earners. They depend on being paid at the end of each day in order to pay for their food and supplies. As the weeks and months of the pandemic continue, the problem has become much greater. There is more poverty and hunger happening amongst the people because of the lack of income.
Christians in Pakistan are among those who have been impacted by these conditions. Times are tough for them as well as they struggle without their daily income. As the Pakistani pastor was explaining the situation to me, I asked him about what the mindset of these folks is as they go through this ordeal. What did they think about all that was going on? Did they think that the government was wrong in the decisions and regulations that have been put in place?
Without hesitation, he declared, “Oh no. We don’t even think of it in that light. It does not matter what government is in place or what rules they impose. We believe God is in control of all things and if He desires for us to go through this tough time, then we must do so in faith in Him. It excites us in many ways because we know that these things are signs of Jesus’ return. It makes us look towards the rapture. We are trying to focus on serving and obeying God more and on pleasing Him through this time. No matter the struggles we face, we want to live in faith and represent Him well.”
Wow! What an encouragement it was to me to hear him say that! Here it was, believers enduring a difficult time because of the pandemic. The rules imposed by the government created tremendous hardship for families. Yet, rather than rise in anger or dive into division over their situation, their hearts were turned to the LORD, making sure they were faithfully living and obeying Him.
Caught “in limbo” . . . Life on pause . . . Stuck in a holding pattern . . . Walking in The Valley of In Between . . .
A valley seems a strange place to be penning this blog post, but this is where you will find most missionary families this summer. These brothers and sisters in Christ are currently facing new challenges either on their field of service or here in the United States or even in a different country altogether. During this COVID crisis, they are uncertain and unsettled, and they need our prayers.
Who are they—these “nomads of the pandemic”? They are children separated from beloved pets, toys, friends, and grandparents. They are mothers missing their own kitchens and churches and photo albums. They are fathers navigating cancelled flights and changing departure dates. They are large families in small spaces. They are preachers without pulpits and ministers without meetings. They are furlough waiters, longing for hugs and hamburgers. They are deputation completers, enduring the “final goodbyes” on an endless loop. They are burden bearers.
The Valley of In Between can be a lonely and discouraging place—I know because I’m here myself, watching, waiting, and clinging to hope. This global pandemic is indeed a valley for many of us, and yet, even in a valley, there is no “height, nor depth” that separates us from the love of Christ (Romans 8: 39)! As the prophet Habakkuk declared, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” No matter what . . .
As I dwelt on this thought, the Lord brought to my mind an article I wrote about Habakkuk 3:18, over 8 years ago:
“We can put our trust in God to take care of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING we place before that “yet” in our lives!
In Habakkuk 1:5, the Lord tells His prophet, “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.” God has plans for us that we would not even believe!
Isaiah 55:8–9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We may not be able to see why certain things are happening in our lives or why certain things are the way they are, but God is ever working.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil.” Whatever you are going through; whatever you THINK you MIGHT have to go through, God is with you! He is a God Who faithfully keeps His promises, and He has promised us in His Word, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
And He IS with us! Even in “The Valley of In Between.”
There may be much that we do not know or have the answers to, but God knows every doubt and concern of our hearts. A friend of mine recently shared this beautiful thought: “Rest tonight knowing whatever is on your mind is in God’s hands.”
God has taught me much on the journey of missions and motherhood. I close out this blog with great anticipation for what lies ahead. I look forward to the next season of my life, when, Lord willing, I will be on the other side of the world! It may be this summer, or this fall, or even the beginning of next year, but “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Psalm 138:8).
With the impact of COVID-19 still affecting life in both the United States and around the world, everyone is adjusting to the new realities. Social distancing has become part of the regular vernacular of most of society. Aren’t you tired of hearing that word?
Churches here in the United States and in many other countries have resumed meeting once again, albeit with lots of restrictions and rules. There are still regulations in place by many government officials requiring people to wear masks when they attend services, restrictions about how many people can be in the building at once, and numerous other things that are hard to keep up with! How many of us have made the statement “We wish things would just go back to normal!” But do we really want that? Haven’t there been some really great things that have occurred and learned from this time of pandemic?
As churches were forced to do their services online, it immediately caused pastors and missionaries alike to learn how to broadcast over the internet. Some definitely struggled with this aspect of bringing their services online. Pastors and missionaries alike worked hard to take what equipment they had (iPad, phones, cameras) and present the best broadcast that they could. It was a lot of work and definitely caused great frustration! I know some missionaries that felt like they were far behind the curve, and it took a lot of effort (and money!) to catch up to what was needed. They then preached into a camera, hoping to minister to their congregations.
But then something else started happening! Not only were there the regular church folks that would sit and watch the services from home, but there were also non-church folks watching too! I heard reports from missionaries in Australia, India, Thailand, and numerous other locales that would share how their viewing numbers dramatically increased greater than what they should have when you consider the size of their congregations. Yes, I am sure that some people from back home like friends and family (hi Dad and Mom!) began watching the services, but there were also many who were going online to check out what goes on in the church.
In a place like Thailand, walking into a Christian church is a big deal. Buddhism is the predominant religion and faith practice of Thais, and so it is a counter-cultural move to attend a service. There is a cultural pressure that is present, and this greatly hinders people from just checking out a service. But with the online services, they were able to finally peek in and see what goes on and actually see and hear for themselves the message being presented. In India, there were viewers from all over the world checking out some of our BIMI missionaries’ online services. Folks from Saudi Arabia were watching those Indian church services and consequently contacted the missionary about knowing more. Another missionary in Australia shares about a lady in Bali, Indonesia, who has watched online video lessons and has now reached out with questions.
The reach of the church into homes that occurred was incredible. I would think that many churches even here in the United States could probably echo this sentiment. Some people may say that this was just a short-term trend and that people would only sit and watch out of boredom. I have heard some argue that this was just a byproduct of people being locked into their house and not able to get out due to the restrictions. Thusly, they began channel surfing on the internet in places like Vimeo and Facebook and were at that place where they would watch anything. Even if that were the case, cannot the Holy Spirit work in hearts?! Isn’t this what has happened for years with Christian radio? An unsaved person stumbles across a Christian radio station and the next thing you know, they are under conviction by the Holy Spirit. Countless stories of this happening have been told. The medium being used has changed from the airwaves to the internet, but the results are similar. In fact, one BIMI missionary has declared that he has been able to lead more people to Christ during this pandemic time than ever before in the ten years of his ministry! Some of that was a direct byproduct of his church’s online presence.
Why would we shut down our live streams now that in-person services have resumed? Why not continue to broadcast our services with the prayer that future people may watch the services, hear the proclamation of the Word of God, and hopefully truly listen and see their need. Even if a few people check it out down the road in the future, aren’t we glad that they did? The pandemic has forced many churches both here and abroad to start going online. This has been used greatly for the glory of God and the proclamation of the Gospel. Why not continue what COVID-19 has started?
In my role as the BIMI Southeast Asia Director, I am focused on what God is doing all across Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Over my six years in this position, I have learned so much about the 35 countries that are found in my region of emphasis. If I am going to promote the countries as viable places of overseas ministry when I travel to mission conferences or Bible colleges or Christians schools, I need to know about these countries. I need to know their cultures, their religions, the statistics, their demographic makeup—the various things that make each of these countries unique.
As a result of learning about all of these important details about the nations, it has definitely increased my burden for God to work and move in the hearts of the people living overseas. It has added to my prayer list for the LORD to call forth more laborers to serve and proclaim Christ.
Southeast Asia has a number of nations where it is extremely difficult for missionaries to enter to do the work of evangelization and Gospel ministry, if at all. Missiologists have crafted phrases like closed access, limited access, or creative access to describe such countries. Church and Christian activity may be greatly restricted or even outright illegal. It is easy to think that since these countries are closed there would not be much happening in light of the Great Commission to reach people with the good news of the Gospel. Yet, nothing could be more wrong!
Recently, I heard news from people living in Vietnam of the way the LORD is working in hearts of that closed country. Churches are being planted and Vietnamese men are being trained to lead the way. Most importantly, people of all ages are getting saved. Early in June, an 88-year-old Vietnamese woman sat and listened as someone shared with her the truth of eternal life in Christ. Afterwards, she responded by putting her faith in the Saviour. In mid-June, four adults responded to the presentation of the Gospel after a Christian, who visited their home to simply check on someone in the house who had recently suffered an illness, shared about Jesus Christ. In late June, as a Christian woman was teaching an English and Bible class to a group of children, a young boy approached that teacher afterwards to ask how he can become a Christian.
Although some countries like Vietnam may be closed, the Gospel is going forth, and hearts are being transformed, and lives are being changed in Christ! Praise the LORD for the boldness of those Christians to step up and share their faith and the truths of the Word of God, even when it is difficult and challenging!
When the pandemic hit the United States and churches all across the nation were forced to close their doors and head towards online services, there were ripple effects that impacted missions and missionaries. With churches trying to find their footing on how to conduct services for an online audience, as well as adjusting to the new rhythm of ministering using technology, many pastors had to make the difficult decision to either cancel or postpone scheduled mission conferences. Amongst those who are involved with missions, the months of March and April are known as “Mission Conference Season.” It is the prime time for missionaries on deputation to get into church meetings and present their burden for serving the Lord in the place that He has called them. During this time, the missionary family typically sees an increase in their level of financial support as churches decide to partner with them in the work. With no meetings, this tremendously slows down the deputation process.
Practically, whenever a missionary goes to a church, he also would normally receive an offering or financial gift from the church. The money received helps them continue on the road going from church to church. Those offerings are critically important to sustain these families during this time. Typically, they have no other means of income, as they have quit their secular jobs and do the work of deputation full time. No meetings equals no income. For families at the beginning stages of deputation, this hurts even more so since they do not yet have enough financial monthly support coming in to them that covers their expenses and bills.
Thankfully, we serve a God who is Jehovah-Jirah. He is the God who provides. This time that would seemingly be bleak has turned into a time for glorifying and praising the LORD. In my role as Field Director for those families wanting to serve in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, I have five families who are on deputation. Only one of these families is at full support, meaning that four of these families were going to be very negatively impacted by the cancellation of meetings. We all began to pray. And we watched God work!
Randomly, a phone call would come in to the BIMI office, and someone would inquire about helping give a financial gift to any missionary in need. I would provide the name of one of my families, and they would be blessed with an offering that “came out of nowhere.” The families had no connection to these missionary families, but they just wanted to help. In one week’s time, I received three such phone calls. The amount of money given ranged from a couple hundred dollars all the way up to a couple thousand dollars. The LORD provided through these unknown people! Or a supporting church of one of the missionaries would send in money way above and beyond their normal level of support. The church noted that they knew that these would be lean times, and thus, they wanted to be a blessing and assist financially. The LORD provided through these churches.
A missionary family shared with me the story that they attended a church service on one of the first weeks that churches were allowed to host services again. At this church, where only 25 people were in attendance, a financial gift of $1,000 was generously given to the missionary. The LORD provided for their immediate needs!
There are many more stories from the recent weeks that could be told of way the LORD has provided. It is a great reminder about the goodness and love of God. When difficult times come, the LORD is ever faithful to provide what is needed at the exact time necessary! The LORD still provides!
The United States is going through a moment of serious reflection about race relations. The recent protests happening all across America are causing people to confront the topic of racism and the various ways that it affects everyday life.
In the response to these recent incidents, speakers in the pulpit of many churches have been expressing that the problem of racism is a byproduct of the ultimate problem—our sinful nature. By the way, allow me to interject and state that according to the Bible, there is only one race—And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26).
The solution for this problem of our sinful nature, then, is Jesus. When someone enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ as Saviour, besides having his sin forgiven, he also then has the Holy Spirit living within him. The Holy Spirit is going to work to transform a man’s heart and thinking so that he would manifest actions of love, peace, and gentleness towards others, regardless of their skin color. The love of Christ is for all men.
Whenever I minister overseas, I typically am the minority ethnicity. There have been places that I have gone in which I am the first white person that some have ever seen! Poor them, since they are framing their perspective of what white people look like based on seeing me! Being in places where the majority of people do not look like me and recognizing that they see life through a completely different perspective and lens from me has helped me to catch a tiny and extremely limited glimpse of what someone may go through being a minority. And it is very uncomfortable!
Yet, what I also quickly realize is that no matter where you go—people are people! People like to laugh. People warm up to a smile. People love whenever someone takes an interest in them. It is not an incredibly difficult recipe! Bridging the gap between cultures and ethnicities is very doable.
And, it is happening! All the time! Missionaries do it all the time! They head overseas to some country and find themselves as the minority. They interact with different cultures, different skin colors, and different thinking all the time; yet, rather than give up, they try to figure out how to break down the barriers. They are motivated by a love of Christ to show love to these folks. They are going to try to understand their different ways and customs. They are going to be very tolerant of how they perceive life. All so that they can get to a place where they have the opportunity to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. It is not easy. There are moments of frustration that definitely arise. But, because Jesus loves them and they need to know His love and what He has done for them, the effort can never cease. We have to continue onward.
As you pray for the Lord to work in the hearts of people within the United States, may you also pray for your missionaries as they are trying to break in different cultures in locations all across this world. May we also learn from missionaries about how to interact with people who look different and have a different culture from us. It is critically important as we strive to be ministers of the Gospel.
As I was reading Philippians recently, once again, a verse I have known and read for well over 20 years popped out at me. Folks are talking about these uncertain times. I disagree. We are only uncertain of the things we cannot control. Since we cannot control anything, of course, we will feel uncertain. Now, ponder that for just a moment. While you ponder, consider Philippians 1:6 Being confident in this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
What in this life can we be confident in outside of Jesus Christ? Death and taxes are about the most cliché things of which we could say that we are certain. What we are uncertain of is tomorrow. God doesn’t give us tomorrow. God gives us right now. This moment in time. The very time you have right now as you’re reading this. Moreover, you are not guaranteed to finish reading it and I’m not guaranteed to finish writing it.
Of what can we be certain? As a child of God, we can be certain of a great many things. We can be certain of the words that were written in God’s Word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Everything written in God’s Word gives us the certainty we have in the world of uncertainty that we live in. Once again I must say, we are only uncertain of the things we cannot control, and we cannot control anything. Ask yourself this question, what do you truly control? Do you control the beating of your heart? Do you regulate your body temperature? Can you control the rising and setting of the sun and moon? Can you control the tides? Can you control nature? What can you control? I would submit to you today that we cannot control anything, and therefore, in just human logic, it is ridiculous to worry. Even more so because the Bible tells us not to worry.
Matthew 6:25–34 — Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Consider the words of Jesus in verse 25. He says I’m talking to you, hear what I have to say. Take no thought for your life. In other words, don’t worry about your life. He goes on to discuss the fowls of the air—you know—the birds. He mentions the lilies that they don’t work or they don’t make clothes for themselves. He asked if they were not better than the birds and the flowers. God has everything under control. Nothing has ever taken God by surprise and nothing ever will take Him by surprise. Everything that is happening in our world today is happening because God has allowed it to happen. We must remember that it is because of sin that we have the issues in our world. God is not to blame for the ills of mankind. Man is to blame. Man turned away from God—not the other way around.
Listen, if you are worried over the virus that is plaguing our world today, if you are worried about where your next meal will come from, let me encourage you in this. If you are a child of God, He will not let you starve. He has promised to give you food and raiment (clothing). Have any of you starved to death? If you are reading this, then no! If God thinks to make sure the birds He created have food and a place to sleep, and if you have trusted Him as your Savior rather than your works, then remember, Jesus said that you are much better than the birds God feeds and He will feed you too!
Whenever a missionary sits down to type up his latest prayer letter and ministry update, there is a pondering about what to include in it. For the missionaries who write a letter to send out to their supporting churches, they have to figure out what specific details should they highlight. Some ministries have so much going on that they have to pick and choose their best stories! Other ministries also have a lot going on, but it doesn’t make for exciting reading. There are routines in ministry that missionaries have going on week after week, but one can only highlight it so many times within the letters over the years. The missionary strains to come up with headline worthy material that fills up his pages, lest people think wrongly about his ministry.
In my 20 years of writing prayer letters and reading prayer letters, there is typically one paragraph that never gets included in a missionary report. Missionaries will never write the truth about when they are really struggling or going through hard times in ministry. Everyone goes through them! There is no one in ministry who does not feel discouraged or disappointed in what is going on in the work that he is doing. Missionaries experience this very same thing! There are frustrations that build when they deal with aspects of culture they just never understand. They try to break into their village or community, praying and planning all the while for God to do something great to allow for inroads into speaking with people. Yet, nothing happens. Maybe it is when they become disheartened when their families are really struggling, being far away from those whom they love. Moments of doubt creep in about whether they are putting ministry over family. With little to no growth in the ministry, they wonder if they have lost their effectiveness. Every one of them goes through this, but never write about it. They want to keep up the appearance that everything is great and that the LORD is working and blessing at all times.
May I encourage you to read the prayer letters and ministry updates of your missionaries? Don’t just read and pray about what is written, but also pray about that paragraph that is not included. Pray for God to send them some encouragement for when they are down. Pray that the Holy Spirit will remind them of a verse of Scripture or will fill their minds with truths about God when discouraged. Pray they will have the courage to share with someone with whom they can help minister to when they are down in the dumps.
You may never read about it happening in their ministry. But trust me; it’s there!
Does hauling heavy luggage across airports with as many books and papers as possible sound familiar? What about ordering curriculum months ahead in order to allow time for it to be shipped across the world, waiting for it to make it onto a small plane when any team member comes up into the bush, then getting it about five miles over a mountain? Or when stateside, ordering next school year’s materials in advance and sending some in a container with other missionaries’ supplies, hoping to get it later when in the city for a supply-buying trip? Whatever your specific logistical challenges, I am sure you all have your own stories you could relate. Some we could cry over, and some we could laugh about.
We are finishing our fourth year of homeschooling. I am by no means an expert. Each year, each month, or even each minute can bring a new challenge. However, God has proven faithful to help us as we pray for wisdom. I am glad for James 1:5, which says, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Verses 2–4 of James 1 are also applicable: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Our first three years of homeschooling were all outside of the United States, our passport country. We started in Kiribati then moved to Papua New Guinea. My husband, Sam, made school desks after we had been in the village for a while. The national pastor and his wife asked me if one of his daughters could join in our schooling as well, even though English was her third language. I taught her for about two years, so I had four children to keep up with in the mornings. I worked as a nurse in the clinic one day a week, so we had a lighter school day on Saturday mornings until Sam started teaching them for me on the days I worked. His teaching them one day a week helped me out as well as them.
We had a nice summer break while traveling around in the States to our supporting churches on furlough and then we started the next school year off in a travel trailer. We were able to catch up on some really interesting field trips. When it got too cold for that, we moved into a mobile home on my parents’ land until we left to go back to the field in January. We made it home to the bush in February, cleaned, and set up the schoolroom. It was nice to be settled again with our personal desks and everything set up. Then, about three weeks later, Sam found out he had to leave with our two boys because their visas were not renewed in time, even though we are all under Sam’s work permit, which was already renewed. Bethany and I stayed, thinking they would probably be back in about three weeks. During that week, we heard about impending borders closings due to Covid-19, so we took the next, and last, available chopper flight out, making it to Australia three days before the border closed. I only took a backpack out, but managed to bring Leland’s K5 papers and our Kindle. Sam had a laptop with him. We are now still in Australia, awaiting the visas and borders to reopen and doing what ministry we can while here and keeping up with school the best we can.
Discontentment is a temptation as I see photos of other families at home with their things, their piano, and their yard. However, the Lord is teaching me to be content in any situation I am in and to be creative and rely on the Lord for strength and grace. He is helping me enjoy my children and maintain a positive atmosphere.
At home in the village, we have satellite internet, but since it is slow, we use hard-copy curriculum. Now, the tables are turned, and we do not have most of our curriculum, however, we have faster internet, so I have been able to use resources online. Our math has a digital pack we have been able to use, and we use our Kindle for our third grader’s reading and for some books that I read aloud to our children. A friend loaned us some books to use. Sam went to the office store and got us some supplies. Another missionary family stuck here has given us some ideas, and other friends have shared resources online. Our third grader completed a standardized test online. So the Lord has provided our needs.
I have been encouraged by our curriculum that living internationally in itself is a good education for our children. We dive deeper into things that they enjoy. While we work hard at education and do not “goof off,” we are not bogging them down too early with things like parts of speech. We are usually done with school by lunchtime and leave the afternoon for play. We are all learning together. We can cook together, learning measurements. We can learn how long something is in meters, feet, or yards. We are developing an enjoyment for reading and listening to reading, a love for learning, and a love for God’s people. Our kids are active, so we get outside when we can and try to keep them busy. We observe nature and they have nature sketchbooks. We research things together. We enjoy learning. We sometimes get wet and muddy. We have been memorizing more Bible verses and hymns. “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.” The world is our classroom.
So, homeschooling families abroad, be encouraged! The world is your classroom, and you have unique opportunities living overseas to help give a well-rounded education. Is it difficult at times? Definitely. But, it gives our children the opportunity to see that our faith is real, no matter with what situations we are faced, grounding them in stability as well as flexibility no matter what place we are calling “home” at the time.
Missionary Mary Beth Snyder
46 Moses Ln.
Verona, VA 24482
After walking down the halls of the BIMI Home Office, a young missionary sits in Candidate School. The images of the people continue to resonate in his mind. It is for these individual souls for whom Christ died that we surrender our lives to preach the Gospel—those who are lost and blind, and those who are looking for hope.
Once such person is Litia, known to most people as Nana, who grew up Methodist and eventually married a Catholic man. She was born on the small island of Rabi in Fiji with a population of only 2,000 people. Litia was sprinkled as a baby as so many other island people have been.
She told me, “I was an average Catholic woman who tried to observe and take part in the rituals of the church. I always believed that I would be going to purgatory if I wasn’t a good Catholic following the rules of the church.”
In July 2017, she was invited to an evangelistic meeting with Dr. W.L. Smith, where she heard the Gospel for the first time. After receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, she said, “My life changed instantly.”
Sometime after her salvation, Litia got a call from some of the ladies at the Catholic church. They asked, “What have we done to offend you? Why have you stopped coming to church?” With joy in her heart, Litia replied, “You haven’t offended me; I have found the truth and if you come to my house, I will tell you all about it.”
What a joy and blessing to see the change Jesus made in the life of a sinner! Litia now has a peace . . . which passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
We are seven weeks into social isolation here in Australia, just as in the USA and around the world. We are still encouraged to exercise, so I continue to go to the local mall and walk six circuits five days per weekday.
Recently, I also had an errand to pick up a forgotten item at the grocery store and was behind a couple with a young child at the checkout. Many folks seem to be leaving the children at home these days and we are not supposed to get closer than the marks on the floor to the previous customer. However, I could not help but hear part of a conversation with the checkout lady.
Outside the store, I asked the man if they had recently moved to our area. I gave him one of our church tracts and invited them to attend in the future when we are again allowed to have public services.
We struck up a conversation and the man wanted to know why I had decided to talk to him. I explained that it seemed they were new to the area by some of the conversation with the checkout lady, and I was right. They are new to our area and were very impressed that a pastor would speak to them in our present circumstances. I feel they will attend with us sometime in the future.
When Jenny and I started deputation, we were pretty naïve about what to expect. We were told to be sure not to think that every church we went in would take us on for support. We were told that we are not there to gain support but rather to be a blessing. We were told that God has already raised our support and that it is not our job to do that but rather to be a blessing to the pastor and the people. How true those words are and even after 18 months of deputation—with a short break due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic!
Today, I would like to just try to be an encouragement to whoever reads this and if by some means, I can encourage you with the words keep on keeping on. I first heard those words in a message while in my first youth group Sunday school class in Dallas, Texas, even before I was a teenager. If I remember correctly, my teacher was out so my class was mixed in with the youth group. I was excited because I wanted to be in the same class as my brother. That aside, keep on keeping on are four words that have stuck with me and I have never forgotten them. I do not remember the lesson exactly for it was those four words that struck a chord with me and have been permanently etched on my heart. Have I always adhered to it? Certainly not. Have I always kept on keeping on? Absolutely not. But, for the time that God has loaned to me on this earth, I strive to keep on keeping on. However, for what? Keep on keeping on for whom? Myself? My wife? My marriage? While those three are worthwhile to keep on keeping on, they are not the main thing we should keep on keeping on about.
What should we keep on keeping on about? I would say the main thing is the cause of Christ. Are we not here to proclaim His message to the world? Are we not here to show others through our testimonies as well as our words and how we live that the cause of Christ is first and foremost? It matters not the way churches, pastors, or the members of the churches we are in treat us. It matters not that our display tables are not visited. It matters not that many times we are not given the time of day by the members or even the pastor. What does matter is what we do with the time that we have been given. What does matter is how we act when in the presence of men.
One of my many faults that my wife and family would agree with is that as a child, teenager, young adult, and even into my adult years, I have sought to be the center of attention. I have sought acceptance from pastors, Sunday school teachers, co-workers, supervisors, and the like. Even on deputation, there have been times when I wanted to be noticed. If Jenny and I were supposed to sing, have I always gone up to do it in the Spirit of the Lord? No. Have I always preached with the Power of God on my life and the message? No. And why? It is because of my flesh, because of my humanity, and because of my pride that got in the way and squashed and quenched the Holy Spirit. If I can encourage you who are missionaries on deputation, if I can encourage you who are missionaries on the field, if I can encourage you who are directors of the missionaries on the fields in which men and women are serving, if I can encourage you who are pastors seeking to make a difference in the lives of those to whom you are preaching, if I can encourage you who are wives serving alongside your husbands in whatever ministry he has been called, then let me encourage you in this. No matter the cost, no matter the price, no matter the indifference that we are dealt—keep on keeping on. Paul said, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
We must remember it is not we whom we are promoting. It is Jesus Christ. It is not our goals for the field that we are promoting. It is Jesus Christ. It is not the support we are trying so hard to raise. It is Jesus Christ Whom we must lift up, if I will but remember the words of Jesus Christ when He said in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Whom am I seeking to lift up? Me or Christ? If I can be an encouragement to each of you who is reading this, I must remember it is not my own that I should seek. It is not my ability as a preacher, missionary, or a pastor that I should seek to promote. It is Jesus Christ that I want to lift up, and it must be a conscious effort on my part to do just this. If I stray but a little, and eventually I do, what I try to do on my own will fail.
If I may encourage you with just four words, they would be keep on keeping on.
Southeast Asia Director
Steven & Christy Maldoff
Read more about the Maldoffs. He may be contacted through the BIMI office at (423) 344-5050.