Archive for the ‘Missions’ category

This Picture Tells It All

September 28, 2010


I did not realize that I had captured this shot until I got back to the states.  Since then, I have been unable to get it off my mind (click on the image to see a larger version).  The expressions are gripping.  Prayerful faith. Confident trust. Transcendent joy. Further back there is expressions of uncertainty, doubt, and despair.  Their gaze is piercing. Their struggle palatable. Their hope profound.

Can Anything Good Come Out of Haiti? Part 3

September 27, 2010

–> Part 1.
–> Part 2.

While in Haiti, I learned some things that made a big impression on me, some of them I want to share with you.  But before I do that, I want to mention that I am giving a 2-part report to my church on my experience in Haiti.  The report has three parts: (1) summary/overview, (2) evaluation/assessment, and (3) recommendations.  The first part was simply a city-by-city walk through of our trip.  The second part was our assessment of (a) the man (Joseph), (b) the message, (c) the mission, and (d) the methods for accomplishing that mission.  Based on the evaluation and assessment, I along with my travel partner, are making several recommendations.  Included in this report was numerous photos and videos taken from my iPhone & camera, some of them you can see in this photo set I’ve created on Flickr.

Part of the recommendations I will be making includes a philosophy of mission for third-world countries like Haiti where poverty is so rampant.  There are so many ways how, as one excellent book puts it, our helping can actually be hurting Haiti.  For instance, one of the unintended consequences of so much outside money coming into Haiti has caused the cost of building materials and produce to increase, making life even harder for Haitians.  So I believe it is vitally important that we think creatively and critically in not only what we do in places like Haiti, but also how we do it.

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Can Anything Good Come Out of Haiti? Part 2

September 23, 2010

–> Part 1.

You know about those emails from pastors or church leaders in another country asking for help?  I get them all the time.  Call me skeptical, but I’m pretty sure that most of them are not legit.  So when I got an email from a pastor in Haiti in town looking for a church, I couldn’t help but feel the skepticism in my heart.  He came in town after the earthquake and was looking for a church to attend with requests for a ride.  We responded to his request, and in a matter of 48 hours, I would meet this Haitian man who quietly and faithfully attended our services for the following three months.

Joseph didn’t say much.  His English was rather broken, his heart even more for his people.  Like most Haitians, he was well-dressed, and every time I approached him, he responded with a quiet hello and bowed head.  I just thought he was here to visit some family (which he was), but soon I came to realize it was so much more.  In the earthquake this past January, Joseph lost nearly everything.  His father, hero, and mentor was killed while in the church building where he invested his life pastoring God’s people.  Joseph’s house was completely destroyed, his wife trapped inside and now medically impaired.  The three-story building in Port-au-Prince where the church and orphanage was located collapsed, killing nine orphan children.  In this building was stored all the Bibles, musical instruments, sound equipment, and teaching materials for all nine churches he had started over the past 15 years.  On top of this, one of the members in the church in Port-au-Prince, a high-ranking government official who funded a large amount of the food supplies for the orphans, was killed in the earthquake, leaving Joseph will a state of desperate need one can only imagine bearing alone.

So a homeless 33 year-old man who just buried his father and sent his wife to a hospital in the Dominican Republic ended up in my city because, as he later told me, the children in his churches “no longer had food to eat”.  He didn’t come to get a handout from our church.  He came looking for a job so that he can bring some money back to feed these children who looked to him as their grandfather. What he did not know was there are no jobs here in our city (that’s another story), and so he was left to attending church at Grace while trusting God for a miracle.

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Can Anything Good Come Out of Haiti? Part 1

September 22, 2010

I’ve been back from Haiti for four days now. It hasn’t been easy to get back into the swing of things, and I’m not sure that it is supposed to after the sights and sounds of being in a third world country.  I have been to numerous countries on short-term mission trips, but going to Haiti was unlike anything I had ever seen.

Restavecs (child slaves) carrying buckets of water on their heads before dawn at 4:30am, some of them looked to be under the age of six.

Tent cities that held twice as many people in a square block than my city does in a square mile. Not just one tent city, but literally everywhere from the mountainous foothills to directly next to the presidential palace.

Fifteen foot mounds of dirt stacked side by side for miles outside Port-au-Prince where 80,000 Haitian bodies were buried after the earthquake.

Families bathing in filth-infested creeks as the only means of hygiene and washing whatever garments they had (most children ran around completely naked).

Building after building pancaked and covered in the ash heap of crumbled concrete in what seems to be a new, permanent reality not only in Port-au-Prince but surrounding cities as well.

Very few smiles shared, even after a hearty wave and warm smile.  Children simply stared back with a hollow look, as though they did not know how to respond to something they rarely ever see.

A country (largely) with no running water, no electricity, no air conditioning, no bathrooms, no computers or internet, no television, and no fat people.

The streets are governed by a single rule of self-preservation (no cops, no speed limit, no lanes, etc.), whether you are a flock of goats running wild or a wild man behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive truck.

You don’t find white flags of surrender hoisted up in Haiti, but you do regularly find tall poles with red, green, and blue flags–the place of satanic worship and voodoo sacrifices.

It is enough to witnesses these things in one city or village in Haiti to make you sleepless, stunned, and overwhelmed by the enormity of their situation. I happened to witnesses all this (and more) in ten cities in five days.

It has been incredibly hard for me to concentrate or have the desire to do much since I have been back.  It is almost as if my body is having random cathartic revolts whether it is an emotional breakdown or fits of fatigue.  In general, there is a melancholic disposition uncharacteristic of my personality that leaves me wondering what the heck just happened to me.

In any case, the question I know people have had about this trip to Haiti is the same question posed about Jesus hometown.  Can anything good come of out Haiti? With all that I mentioned above, with the imago dei being so diminished by a corrupt government and culture of poverty and despair, is there hope for Haiti?

In my next post, I will share with you why I believe the churches I witnessed in Haiti resemble more of NT Christianity than anything I think I have seen in my lifetime, and the reason I am full of hope.

We Have Not Forgotten

September 14, 2010

By the time you read this, I will be en route to Haiti for the rest of the week.  How all this came about is rather remarkable.  Like many of you, we felt an urgent need to minister in Haiti after the earthquake, especially since is located in our backyard (globally).  We had already planned a mission trip to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to work with a church planter who was starting Haitian churches.  However, after the earthquake that mission trip had to be canceled since his work was need more in Haiti than where he was currently serving.

Flights in and out of Haiti were severely limited, and so we were wondering what in the world we could do (other than support the disaster relief efforts through the IMB and Churches Helping Churches).  Within a matter of a couple of weeks, we received an email from a Haitian pastor who recently arrived in our city looking for a church to attend.  We welcomed him to come and join us at Grace, and he spent the next three months with our church family.  We call him “Pastor Joseph.”

Pastor Joseph is a church planter in Haiti who has helped start eight churches and four orphanages with little to no money or outside help.  He did not come to our church asking for money or help the entire time he was with him.  However, the majority of the structures were destroyed, and the primary givers supporting the ministry were killed in the quake.  When he left at the end of May, we were able to take up an offering allowing him to provide temporary housing for orphans as well as food supplies for the needy children they have taken in.  Since then, his own two children have come back with him to the states on with a medical visa due to poor health and malnutrition and is now being cared for by one our families here at Grace.  It has been a wonderful display of the gospel.

So I along with one of our deacons are on our way to meet Pastor Joseph and visit the churches and orphanages he oversees.  It is a quick and demanding vision trip, and we are excited to see what is happening there in Haiti.  Nearly eight months after the quake, it is good to let the Haitians know that they are not forgotten.

Another wonderful providence has been our new acquaintance with Mission of Hope.  They are a mission organization that has been in Haiti for twelve years and have a massive operation (they have served 6 million meals since the quake).  They are currently relocating to Ft. Myers and just this past Friday had the privilege of meeting with their president, Brad Johnson.  Two of their leading executive staff have been attending Grace in recent weeks and are considering what God might have us do together.  Later today we hope to have the opportunity of visiting their headquarters in Haiti and connect with their team as well.

If you read this sometime this week, please pray for us.  We earnestly desire to be an encouragement to our Haitian brothers and sisters and also seeking God’s guidance in how we can have long-term investments among these people living and ministering in a desperate situation.  Thank you!

New Edition of Operation World Coming This October

July 20, 2010

I first caught wind of this while breezing through Twitter updates and confirmed it on Amazon.  Operation World is coming out with a new edition this October.  While I have been grateful for the directional prayer this book has offered in years past, I have become especially fond of it since coming to Grace as I have share with our congregation each week ways to pray for a particular nation and the work of the gospel among the people groups.  It is so important that Christians in the West have a global mindset and guard against myopic vision that we can easily succumb to.  I look forward to picking up this 7th edition of one of the most significant tools for gospel advance in the world today.

Take a Trip . . . to Your City

February 26, 2010

A couple nights ago, I shared with my Twitter friends about a strategy meeting where we are planning a mission trip to our city.  Yes, the city where most of our church members live.  Why, you might ask? Let me give you some reasons why I am compelled by this idea:

1. How many times have you heard of teams going to other cities to partake in service projects or community development where there is ministry to the poor and needy, urban revitalization, caring for children (especially orphans), and education to ethnic minorities?  If we can send teams to do missionary work in other cities to lend credibility to the church’s witness there, then why don’t we bless our own city in a similar way?

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Who Will Go? A Great Commission Plea from the Prince of Preachers

October 26, 2009

Charles Spurgeon spoke of a message “which weighed on him” that should weight heavily on us.  Hear his impassioned plea:

“I plead this day for those who cannot plead for themselves, namely, the great outlying masses of the heathen world.  Our existing pulpits are tolerably well supplied, but we need men who will build on new foundations.  Who will do this?

Are we, as a company of faithful men, clear in our consciences about the heathen?  Millions have never heard the Name of Jesus.  Hundreds of millions have seen a missionary only once in their lives, and know nothing of our King. Shall we let them perish?

Can we go to our beds and sleep, while China, India, Japan, and other nations are being damned?  Are we clear of their blood?  Have they no claim on us?  We ought to put it on this footing–not, ‘Can I prove that I ought to go?’ but, ‘Can I prove that I ought not to go?’

When a man can honestly prove that he ought not to go, then he is clear, but not else.  What answer do you give, my brethren?  I put it to you man by man.  I am not raising a question among you which I have not honestly put to myself.  I have felt that, if some of our leading ministers would go forth, it would have a grand effect in stimulating the churches, and I have honestly asked myself whether I ought to go.  After balancing the whole thing, I feel bound to keep my place, and I think the judgment of most Christians would confirm my decision; but I hope that I would readily, and willingly, and cheerfully go abroad if I did not feel that I ought to remain at home.

Brethren, put yourselves through the same process.  We must have the heathen converted; God has myriads of His elect among them, we must go and search for them somehow or other.  Many difficulties are now removed, all lands are open to us, and distance is almost annihilated.  True, we have not the Pentecostal tongues; but languages are now readily acquired, while the art of printing is a full equivalent for the lost gift.

The dangers incident to missions ought not to keep any true man back, even if they were very great, but they are now reduced to a minimum.  There are hundreds of places where the cross of Christ is unknown, to which we can go without risk.  Who will go?

[ . . .] Surely there is some self-sacrifice among us yet, and some among us who are willing to be exiled for Jesus.  The Mission languishes for want of men.  If the men were forthcoming, the liberality of the Church has provided the supply, and yet there are not men to go.  I shall never feel, brethren, that we, as a band of men, have done our duty until we see our comrades fighting for Jesus in every land in the van of the conflict.  I believe that, if God moves you to go, you will be among the best of missionaries, because you will make the preaching of the gospel the great feature of your work, and that is God’s sure way of power.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon, “Forward!” in An All-Around Ministry (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000), 55-57.

God, give us such hearts that bleed for the peoples who do not know you and tears that plead for your glory to be seen and souls satisfied forever in Jesus.

Tears of the Saints

August 17, 2009

Today marks the 284th anniversary of the birth of William Carey–the father of the modern missions movement. What was true then is still true today.  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few . . .

On Silence and Sinful Prudence

July 28, 2009

The easiest way to avoid persecution and suffering is to be silent for Christ and then come up with justifications to make such silence feel legitimate.

Jesus tells those who are entrusted with His mission in Matt. 10:17-20 two things they can count on: (1) they will be delivered up by men operating as “wolves” and (2) it will be given to them what they should say as those led by the Spirit of God.

Informed Christians might consider the call to “beware of such men” is to avoid them altogether. Don’t live among them or seek to reach them.  We think to ourselves, “After all, what does sheep have in common with wolves?  Aren’t they after us?  Just play it safe.”  This is the opposite of mission and living sent.  It is staying where you are because the comfort and safety you enjoy is of far greater value to you than the glory of Jesus Christ spread by means of suffering for His name.  At this point, one begins to look for the best alternative to mission, as though Jesus makes such a provision in his instructions.  J.C. Ryle, in his Expository Thoughts on Matthew, powerfully addresses this “so-called prudence” in the avoidance of mission:

“The extreme into which most men are liable to fall in the present day is that of silence, cowardice, and letting others alone.  Our so-called prudence is apt to degenerate into a compromising line of conduct, or downright unfaithfulness.  We are only too ready to suppose that it is of no use trying to do good to certain people: we excuse ourselves from efforts to benefit their souls by saying it would be indiscreet, or inexpedient, or would give needless offence, or would even do positive harm.  Let us all watch and be on our guard against this spirit; laziness and the devil are often the true explanation of it.  To give way to it is pleasant to flesh and blood, no doubt, and saves much trouble: but those who give way to it often throw away great opportunities of usefulness (100).”

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The Christian Minister by William Carey

July 2, 2009

This coming Sunday, I will be preaching on a difficult passage from Matthew 10 dealing with being persecuted, hated, and some even killed because of Jesus.  This is hard for several reasons, not the least of which is that we are living in a country where real persecution, hatred, and martyrdom is seldom if ever found.  Additionally, it is tempting to read such passages of Scripture and not feel the weight of what Jesus is saying.  The “hard” passages are not hard because we have so easily dismissed them and made ourselves the exception to what Christ tells us all who follow Him are expected to experience.  Finally, I believe there is has been a wrongful separation of mission from discipleship so that one can be a listener or learner of Christ without be a laborer in the harvest fields or lead in the mission.

In any case, I think William Carey rightly understood the expectations all believers should have when on mission to make Christ known.  Consider these words, which I believe are consistent with the sending of Christ and rather inconsistent with the status-quo that both he faced then and we face today, and may our lives be wrecked by the realities of missional life in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ.

“A Christian minister is a person who in a peculiar sense is ‘not his own’ (1 Cor. 6:19); he is the ‘servant’ of God, and therefore ought to be wholly devoted to him.  By entering on that sacred office he solemnly undertakes to be always engaged, as much as possible, in the Lord’s work, and not to choose his own pleasure, or employment, or pursue the ministry as something that is to subserve his own ends, or interests, or as a kind of bye-work.

He engages to go where God pleases, and to do, or endure what he sees fit to command, or call him to, in the exercise of his function.  He virtually bids farewell to his friends, pleasures, and comforts, and stands in readiness to endure the greatest sufferings in the work of his Lord, and Master.

It is inconsistent for ministers to please themselves with thoughts of a numerous auditory, cordial friends, a civilized country, legal protection, affluence, splendour, or even a competency.  The slights, and hatred of men, and even pretended friends, gloomy prisons, and tortures, the society of barbarians of uncouth speech, miserable accommodations in wretched wildernesses, hunger, and thirst, nakedness, weariness, and painfulness, hard word, and but little worldly encouragement, should be the objects of their expectation.” (emphasis mine)

– William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use the Means for the Conversion of the Heathens

Our Truest Interest, The Exaltation of the Messiah’s Kingdom

June 13, 2009

Over the past week, I have been reading over William Carey’s Enquiry as provided in Daniel Webber’s Wiliam Carey and the Missionary Vision. Carey’s short but very significant piece in church history is once again landing on me with conviction, especially as it relates to the mission of the church.  Toward the close of his argument for the duty of all Christians to promote the advance of Christ’s kingdom, he adds this illustration:

When a trading company have obtained their charter they usually go to its utmost limits; and their stocks, their ships, their officers, and men are so chosen, and regulated, as to be likely to answer their purpose; but they do not stop here, for encouraged by the prospect of success, they use every effort, cast their bread upon the waters, cultivate friendship with every one from whose information they expect the least advantage. They cross the widest and most tempestuous seas, and encounter the most unfavourable climates; they introduce themselves into the most barbarous nations, and sometimes undergo the most affecting hardships; their minds continue in a state of anxiety, and suspense, and a longer delay than usual in the arrival of their vessels agitates them with a thousand changeful thoughts, and foreboding apprehensions, which continue till the rich returns are safe arrived in port. But why these fears? Whence all these disquietudes, and this labour? Is it not because their souls enter into the spirit of the project, and their happiness in a manner depends on its success? Christians are a body whose truest interest lies in the exaltation of the Messiah’s kingdom. Their charter is very extensive, their encouragements exceeding great, and the returns promised infinitely superior to all the gains of the most lucrative fellowship. Let then every one in his station consider himself as bound to act with all his might, and in every possible way for God (emphasis mine).

It is tragic, is it not, that we have to use illustrations of secular organizations with exceedingly trivial enterprises as a standard that ought to be of those identified with the church of Jesus Christ.  We have a far greater mission–one that is guaranteed to be accomplished–that should cause us to risk all, go hard, and employ every lawful means in the spirit of being sent and spent for the advancement of the Church Jesus promised to build.

May the spirit of Carey that provoked such an Enquiry then be alive in the hearts of those who are entrusted with the same mission and message he was so faithful to live and proclaim.

A Life of Constant Devotedness to God

April 9, 2009

I’ve been working on a sermon focusing on the work of prayer in living on mission (from Matthew 9:35-10:4), and there’s no better example I can think of than the life of David Brainerd.  Over the past couple of days, I have been reading over his journal, and I wanted to share with you some excerpts where he expresses his passion for God and the “conversion of the heathen” as a result of God enlarging and warming his heart through earnest, pleading prayer.

Consider these journal excerpts of a life of “constant devotedness to God.”

“After this, in he vacancy, before I went to tarry at the college, it pleased God to visit my soul with clearer manifestations of Himself and His grace. I was spending some time in prayer and self-examination, when the Lord by His grace so shined into my heart that I enjoyed full assurance of His favor, for that time; and my soul was unspeakably refreshed with divine and heavenly enjoyments” (71).

“One day I remember in particular, I walked to a considerable distance from the college, in the fields alone at noon, and in prayer found such unspeakable sweetness and delight in God that I thought, if I must continue still in this evil world, I wanted always to be there, to behold God’s glory.  My soul dearly loved all mankind, and longed exceedingly that they should enjoy what I enjoyed.  It seemed to be a little resemblance of heaven” (72).

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Jesus – Missionary Par Excellence

December 14, 2008

“The Lord of the Scriptures is a missionary God who not only reaches out and gathers the lost but also sends his servants, and particularly his beloved Son, to achieve his gracious saving purposes.  As many have rightly observed, the most important mission in the Scriptures is the missio deiJesus Christ is the ‘missionary’ par excellence: the basic and foundational missions is his.  He has been sent by the Father to effect forgiveness and salvation, especially through his death and resurrection (Luke 4:18-19; 24:46-47), and then to announce it to Jews and Gentiles alike.  In fulfillment of the Servant’s role his task is to bring (or, perhaps, be) God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.”

– Andreas J. Kostenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity), 269 (italics original, bold-faced mine).

Kostenberger on the Church’s Mission in the 21st Century

October 8, 2008

Andreas Kostenberger, on his blog (which is also available in Spanish!), recently shared twelve theses for the church’s mission in the 21st century.  Often when we hear of the church’s mission, it is couched in a pragmatic discussion, focusing on methodology to the neglect of theological reflection.  Kostenberger’s excellent theses, I believe, should serve as contours in future missiological study and practice. Here are his theses:

(1)   The church’s mission-in both belief and practice-should be grounded in the biblical theology of mission.

(2)   Reflection on the church’s mission should be predicated upon the affirmation of the full and sole authority of Scripture.

(3)   The church’s mission should be conceived primarily in terms of the church’s faithfulness and responsiveness to the missionary mandate given by the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture.

(4)   The church’s understanding of its mission should be hermeneutically sound.

(5)   The church’s mission is to be conceived ultimately in theocentric rather than anthropocentric terms.

(6)   The church’s mission, properly and biblically conceived, is to be trinitarian in its orientation, but not at the expense of neglecting the distinct roles of the three persons within the Godhead.

(7)   The contemporary context of the church’s mission, while important, ought not to override the church’s commitment to the authority of Scripture, its need to be grounded in the biblical theology of mission, and the understanding of its task in terms of faithfulness to the gospel.

(8)   The church is the God-ordained agent of his mission in this world today.

(9)   The way in which the kingdom of God is extended in this world today is through regenerate believers acting out their Christian faith in their God-assigned spheres of life: the church, their families, their workplace, the societies in which they live (Eph 5:18-6:9; 1 Pet 2:13-3:7).

(10)  There is no true lasting social transformation apart from personal conversion through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

(11)  Human organization does not necessarily entail a lack of acknowledgment of God and his initiative in mission.

(12)  The church’s task today is to nurture, renew, and plant churches composed of a spiritually regenerate membership and constituted in keeping with the biblical teaching regarding church leadership.

I would love to see a discussion started on these twelve theses.  Kostenberger has recently written some excellent works, including Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: The Trinity in John’s Gospel (which I am currently reading).  I encourage you to check out Kostenberger’s works.  My hope is that we could see a more robust commitment to ecclesiology wedded to an unrelenting resolve in missiology that is grounded in a theocentric vision where God’s glory is the goal.

Take a moment and read the entire article.  It will be well worth your time.