From Fear to Faith
Zoilo, an 87-year-old Spaniard, couldn’t imagine that God loved him. Though he grew up believing in God, Zoilo’s faith echoed the experience of many of his generation who were required to attend church—it was based in fear.
Imagine living in a village so isolated that there is no electricity, no running water, and limited medical care. The only institution is the local church, yet despite the stability it offers, the anxiety it produces is even greater. This was life for millions of Spaniards a mere 40 years ago. And this worldview is a reality that the MTW Spain church-planting team takes into account as they build relationships with men and women who are skeptical of church.
I recall my youth in church was one of constant fear," said Zoilo. "I feared I would fail to obey God or the commands of the Church. I recall a feeling of pollution in everything I did and touched."
Maria, a stylish 70-year-old woman who has gotten to know the MTW team, echoed a similar thought. "I have lived two lives," she explained. "The first half knew only isolation, fear, and the Church. It was like the Middle Ages. Then, boom, the modern world arrived."
A unique challenge
The lasting effects of a legalistic church background combined with the atheism that younger generations embrace poses a unique challenge for the MTW team. Many younger people in Spain have abandoned religion and instead focus on their careers or simply having a good life.
People over 40 resent the Church for the bitter treatment they received growing up, and those under 40 reject those religious traditions because they see no connection to real life," said Robert Tanzie, an MTW missionary who has served in Spain since 2008. Tanzie recalled his friend Javier admitting, "I wish I could believe. I just can’t."
But there is good news. For many, the political and religious freedom of the last few decades has opened their hearts to the freeing grace of God. Despite the hardened, stony ground of this post- Christian nation, the MTW Spain team has launched or re-launched seven churches. They’ve also expanded MTW’s work, offering training and resources to over 20 churches throughout the country. And most importantly, they have helped people like Zoilo move from fear to faith in a loving God.
A few years ago Zoilo discovered God’s relentless love for him through Redeemer Cathedral, one of the Anglican churches that the MTW team has formed a relationship with. Zoilo is now a regular at Tanzie’s weekly Bible study and an active church member.
"I learned how much God loves me!" said Zoilo. "Who could imagine that God loves me? I now know that this is true, and only want to give Him thanks for his gift of Jesus."
Shattered by Love
at Casa Hogar
By Jesse Miller
A child plops onto my lap. He gazes
up at me, his irises glimmer, and he
pokes a finger at my Coke. My nod
signifies permission and thirst forces
the drink to his lips. The last sip drips
onto his tongue. He glances up at me
and passes me the bottle. Innocence greets me in his eyes.
nestles his face into my neck and his heart pounds against my
chest. Love binds me to him. Language severs us and miles
attempt to disconnect us, but love compels us to forget barriers.
We sacrifice pride for vulnerability in this moment. Nobody
sees, nobody judges, and nobody feels the force of love that
binds our differences.
I was 16 when my parents first mentioned going to Acapulco with my
church. I was living a charade, a
bitter contradiction. Inside, I felt
hopeless, hardened, stubborn,
cold. Outside, I pretended that
I was happy, that I knew who
God was, all for the sake of fitting
in at my Christian school and not
embarrassing my family.
I figured that I
might as well go to sunny Mexico, where part of my family was from.
That would make me a good person right?
A few months later when I arrived
in Acapulco, I found myself startled
by the state of the city. As our massive bus wound through mountains and down the bustling coast,
we passed poverty-stricken slums then four-star hotels, destitution
and then luxury. Upon reaching Casa Hogar, I started to question
what I had signed up for. I don’t know what I was expecting, but
it wasn’t the bland concrete buildings and antiquated wrought
iron fences. I wasn’t expecting life-sucking heat that drains the
life from your bones. Most of all, I wasn’t expecting a swarm of
children to rush up to the gate, their inquisitive faces examining
our group, waiting for us to walk into this run-down place that
they called home. The second I walked through that gate, I was
captured by the arms of several overjoyed children. I recall asking
myself, “What have I done to deserve this?” I didn’t quite know
the feeling; I couldn’t quite find the words.
And then I felt it.
That was the moment my life changed. The restrictive pain of a
Jesus-deprived life was shattered and a new brokenness entered,
the brokenness of one who has seen the conditions of this world,
who has walked among the least of these, who must never be
the same again, who understands that only love can heal it.
No longer alone
We are reassured by the Word of God that we are never alone,
never abandoned when He promises, “I will not leave you as
orphans, I will come to you” (John 14:18). I was alone before
I came to Casa Hogar; at least that is what the darkness
desperately wanted me to believe. And that is what these
children were, that was their physical reality. They were
abandoned by those who were supposed to love them most.
Some were beaten. Some were starved. Some were neglected.
I will never be able to understand the pain that the children
of Casa Hogar have experienced. They have understood
destitution, hurt, and loss, yet they give so freely and generously. They love so vividly. They move with energy. They
welcome with open arms. Two years ago, I couldn’t bring
myself to do any of those things. I look back at my life and
it seems like another existence. There is only life before Casa
Hogar and life after. Life before Jesus, and life after. I have
now seen brokenness and I have been broken. However, I
am not chained nor deflated by it. I am freed by it. Therefore I live with a passion. Jesus came to me. He did not
leave me an orphan. He made me His own. He has instilled
an ever-growing conviction in me to love others in their
brokenness as he loved me.
I am ready to no longer be safe. I am ready to give up
comfort. I am ready to answer the call to live in pursuit of
ever-flowing, circumstance-ignoring, unadulterated love.
I found that in Acapulco. I no longer see the kids at Casa
Hogar as orphans, as I once believed I would. I see them as
mine, as He sees me as His.
I no longer see beauty as merely beauty, nor brokenness as
merely brokenness, for I have seen the beauty that springs
from despair. Without Jesus we are broken and with Him
we become beautiful in that very brokenness, for nothing of
ourselves is good divorced from Him. And yet with Him,
the work of our hands, the seemingly insignificant deeds
our hearts provide through Him, can create community, can
forge a love that echoes through eternity and into the home
our hearts were made for.
Jesse Miller has traveled to Acapulco with Orangewood
Presbyterian Church regularly since her first trip in 2012.
She is currently a freshman at Seminole State College.
Finding Jesus in Ukraine
My Journey from Atheist to Missionary
By: Olya Powell
I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, in
1976, which at the time was part of
the Soviet Union.
I grew up in a typical
Soviet atheist family. My parents
didn’t baptize me as a child, which
was the regular tradition even for
unbelievers—a “just in case” thing.
I grew up not thinking
about God and
faith. My parents
taught me to behave
well and I was a
“good girl;” cigarettes,
alcohol, drugs, and
the dance clubs didn’t
interest me. I looked
“right” from the outside.
After the Soviet Union
became “in fashion” in
our country. I would
visit an Orthodox church sometimes, but not for a service–
just to feel the atmosphere. I was even baptized in the
Orthodox Church when I was 18, but it didn’t have
meaning to me. I just wanted to be like other people
and feel like “now God knows about me.”
In the summer of 1996, my friends invited me to go to the
beach with Americans. It was my first time meeting real Christians.
That day I met Doug Shepherd (MTW missionary), a few
American students, and other Ukrainian believers. We had a
fun time and I decided I wanted to be around them more often
because their attitude toward life and love of one another was so
different from anything I had ever seen. I started attending
Bible studies regularly. In February 1997 I accepted my
Savior and in May of 1997 I became a member of Odessa
Since I accepted Jesus, my relationship with God has really
grown. Initially, it wasn’t easy for me to see my real sins and
how much I needed Him, but as I got to know God more
deeply, I could see my need for Christ more clearly and
started to see growth.
I began working with MTW missionaries
in Odessa in 2000 as the southern Ukraine
team’s financial administrator. In 2008 I
decided to move to L’viv to help the L’viv
team plant a new Presbyterian church. I
have been here now for seven years and
I love living and working here.
One of the most wonderful parts of the
last seven years was getting to meet, know,
and marry my husband, Jon, an MTW
missionary. I moved to L’viv single, trusting
God with this,
knowing that if
He had someone
for me, then He
would lead me
right to him. And
He definitely did!
We were married
in August 2011.
The last three and a half years has been a very joyful time for me,
as Jon and I have gotten to know one another more deeply and
serve God together in L’viv. I am very thankful for God’s work in
my life and am eager to see how God will use me in the future.
"The Band" of Madagascar
MTW missionaries Rebe & Bryan McReynolds and Jed & Elly Schoepp are taking the gospel to the Sakalava people, a tribe who has literally never heard. The breakthrough came when a group local musicians began putting the newly-translated Scriptures into song. Here is a video of the band singing the Genesis song, Zagnahary Misy Marigny (Truly God Exists). Read "Sharing Lyrics from the Heart" for the full story. » View the video
Sharing Lyrics of the Heart
By: Rebe Mcreynolds
Learning to live in the village requires us
to take notice of what is happening with
our neighbors, the life of their community,
and the rhythm of their responsibilities.
Our first week in Nosy Be, Madagascar,
we met “The Band,” a group of incredibly
talented local musicians (and fishermen)
whom God had strategically placed in our lives. With an old,
worn out guitar, a few handmade percussion instruments, and
voices that evoke emotion, they sang out their stories with all
their souls. We quickly bonded through a love for music, and
our relationship grew as we became increasingly interested in
learning more about one another’s stories. But God was up
to something much greater than we could have hoped
for or imagined.
Our quaint fishing village sits on a small
island off the northwest coast of Madagascar.
The Sakalava people spend their days farming rice,
raising livestock, and fishing the waters of the Indian Ocean.
We arrived here two years ago, on a team committed to learning
the local language and culture, creatively seeking ways to plant
seeds of the gospel in a place that has not yet heard.
The Band members Ladis,
Matis, and Edme increasingly
began visiting our home. Ladis
delighted in sharing with us
the lyrics of a new song he
had recently written, and after
plucking away a few chords and
tuning up weathered instruments,
The Band would sing
that left us eager
for more. As we sat
watching them write and compose these songs, the Lord put
it in our hearts to ask if they would be willing to create
songs from Scripture. I remember my husband Bryan
saying, “Imagine giving them newly translated
Scripture from Genesis, the full account of Creation,
and having them put it to Sakalava rhythms and
tones.” Our hearts were stirring within us—
this was the Holy Spirit’s work.
During this time, a
team of translators
had formed and was
working through the
Old Testament, which meant that we could easily obtain
Genesis in the Sakalava dialect. We gathered the Sakalava
words of the Creation account in Genesis 1–2 and were ready
to offer them to our friends. We weren’t sure how The Band
would react and had doubts about whether they would agree
to the idea, but we were hopeful. Bryan sat down and began
to talk with them about creating a song from the Bible, and to
our delight they were interested. Bryan then began to share the
story of the beginning of the world as it is written in Genesis.
All ears were tuned in, eyes were wide, and minds were engaged
as the account unfolded in their heart language.
Time to tell the people
One year passed. We were growing in our language abilities, a
network of relationships had been established, and our team
was ready to begin organized ministry. It was time to tell the
Sakalava people God’s beautiful love story in their heart language.
What did that mean? How would we do it? We decided
to start with “The Gathering,” a plan that would bring our
Sakalava neighbors together to hear the stories of the Bible.
As we journeyed across
the humid, jungle terrain
to our first gathering place, we saw the familiar
faces of friends and neighbors coming to find out what
stories we had to tell. Steadily, the group grew from 20
to 50 until more than 100 of our friends were gathered
together. Our hearts were bubbling up inside, a feeling of
unknown adventure was on the horizon, and our plans
were being piloted.
In the dirt, under mango
trees, we laid out traditional
grass mats where
everyone gathered, placed
a basket of fresh bananas
in the center, and began.
The Band came prepared
to share the “Genesis Scripture Song,” and together we sang the
words from the Bible accompanied by a traditional tune created by
The Band. The full story of Creation was told that day, including a
dramatic reading and concluding with this challenge: This week, as you are busy with your lives,
cooking, cleaning, going to the rice fields,
and fishing, think about this world we live
in. God created it and said it was very good.
In what ways is that still true? In what ways
has our world become not good? Why?
Taking it to the streets
Last night The Band came over and we all sat under the stars as
they practiced their songs in preparation for a concert on the other
side of the island. They’ve now created 11 songs from Scripture,
and are becoming popular across the island. Their songs are
now being played on a local radio station. The band members
increasingly want to know more about the God we love and serve
and have said, “Since we began creating songs from Scripture, we
have noticed changes in our lives. We want to do what is good
The Gatherings continue, and
together with our team and The
Band, we are experiencing the
joy of scattering gospel seeds
and the beginnings of what we
pray will grow into a thriving,
Sakalava church plant.
Watch a video of The Band playing their
Genesis song at vimeo.com/123923394
Jimmy is a native Cambodian who came to faith in Christ and is now leading other college students in MTW's dorm ministry. Watch this interview with Jimmy to hear his story in his own words. » View the video
Cambodian church provides
much-needed student housing
while cultivating Christian leaders.
In Cambodia buckets crackle with fire in front of people’s homes filled with "spirit money" burnt as an offering to ancestors. The fire holds a family’s hope that the dead will be appeased and bring good fortune to their living relatives.
But Kosal’s mom was not experiencing good fortune—she was sick. And she was convinced that Kosal’s evangelistic visit to the village had angered the spirits.
Corey Young, MTW missionary in Phnom Penh, said Kosal takes enthusiasm for his Christian faith to extraordinary heights. Kosal came from his rural village to the city to attend university and moved into dorms hosted by Gospel Commission Fellowship (GCF), one of the first churches MTW missionaries partnered with in Phnom Penh. Shortly thereafter Kosal became a Christian, bursting with eagerness to share his faith.
"On his own initiative, Kosal organized a small group to go to his Buddhist village and share the gospel," said Young. For the trip, Kosal prepared special food and songs and enlisted a national believer to share the gospel.
His mom was sick during the visit, and afterward her health worsened. Kosal’s family blamed him. They said he had angered the spirits with his belief in Jesus. When Kosal’s mom came to Phnom Penh for medical treatment, the church and MTW team provided financial assistance for a Christian medical clinic and a room in the church where she could stay. Her health improved, and before she
returned to her village Young was able to pray with her. The
support Kosal received from the body of Christ encouraged
his growing faith. And the church community was encouraged by
Kosal’s report a month later: "My family is not angry at
me and my mom is praying on her own."
Preparing the next generation
With 50 percent of Cambodia’s population under age 25,
students—the majority of whom are Buddhist—move to
Phnom Penh in vast numbers each year to attend university.
Since universities don’t provide housing, students arriving
from the countryside often face deplorable living conditions.
Churches seized this opportunity by opening dorms to
welcome students, provide safe places to live, and minister
to the next generation of Cambodian leaders.
"You feel like you are at a crossroads with the future," said
Young. Because the Khmer Rouge decimated the population of
Cambodia in the 1970s, Young explained that calling these students
the leaders of the future is not just a cliché, it’s a reality.
"We have a great opportunity to be part of what God is doing in
pushing back the darkness and bringing more light—in the
workplace, in the government sector, and in people’s homes."
A native Cambodian, nicknamed "Jimmy," who moved to
Phnom Penh four years ago for university, is one of those future
leaders in the Cambodian Church. Right now Jimmy serves in
the men’s dorm operated by GCF. Located above the church’s
worship space and housed in a former brothel, the dorm hosts
over 60 men. "Most of the students here do not believe in Jesus
yet …," said Jimmy. "I heard the gospel because someone told
me. It is my pleasure to have the students here and show them
who Jesus is and why we believe in Him."
Jimmy’s heart for students arose out of his own story of coming
to faith. "I was a person who was very selfish, had hatred inside
my heart, jealous … [I was] so bad. No love," Jimmy confessed.
"When I first came to the church … I was loved by them even
though they were not my relatives or my friends …," he said. "It
changed me day by day. Two years after that I got baptized. I realized
God is real and He is true …."
Ministering in the dorm, Jimmy said he can relate to the students
because he has been right where they are. He shares words
of encouragement from the Scriptures during the dorm’s weekly
Bible study and fellowship gatherings. "I was touched by the
words of God and I know that many people will be touched by
the words through the Holy Spirit."
The eagerness of new believers to share their faith and get involved
with the local church amazed Emily Whitley, another MTW missionary
who works at the GCF women’s dorm. "College is a time
when you may give yourself a ‘free pass’ to not be involved with
the local church. [These students] feel the opposite. They make
such an effort," she said. Going to nearby slums, traveling to villages,
and working with short-term teams, the students continually
impress Whitley with their maturity. "They want to discover
their gifts and use them for the church," she said.
Although they may have never imagined it, these future leaders
are already being used by God to take the gospel message to
their families and people
across Cambodia. "I never
[thought] that one day I
would become a pastor. But I
just devote myself to God,"
Jimmy said. "And what God’s
will is, I will follow."
Watch the full interview with Jimmy on Vimeo.
Update 06/01/15: We just received word that Kosal’s mom passed away. Though she will have an outwardly Buddhist funeral, she did become a Christian prior to her death so there is reason to rejoice. Please pray for Kosal and the family.
By Dr. Lloyd Kim
How do you discern simply having a bad week
from being spiritually attacked? Right before
some very important meetings, I caught a cold—the kind of cold
that has you in bed for a couple of days with fever and chills. It
was also during a time when we were wrestling with some escalating
situations on different fields.
I had also found out from my
wife that our youngest child, who is 9, was crying again because
she missed her life in Cambodia. Was it all just a coincidence?
During that week we were welcoming about 25 new missionaries
to MTW. Several of our CMTW (Committee on Mission to the
World) members were there and our chairman gave a charge to
these new missionaries. He began his charge by telling them that
they now have a target on their backs and will be the subject of
spiritual attack. The passage he read was from Ephesians 6:10–20
describing the need to put on the full armor of God. Two things
struck me from his message: (1) the reality of the enemy and his
desire to distract, discourage, and destroy God’s people; and (2) the
hope we have in the gospel as the foundation of the armor of God.
The reminder was timely, not only for the new missionaries, but
for me as well. As the apostle Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle
against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
Interestingly enough, I had a restless night soon after because of a
bad dream. In the dream these strange people were attacking me
and my family. We all had guns and were shooting back at these
enemies. When I awoke, my heart was still pounding. I couldn’t
help but make a connection with the dream and being attacked
by the evil one, so I prayed for God’s protection over our family.
When I shared this with my wife in the morning, she laughed and
reminded me that I had a Nerf battle with my kids the night before
and that maybe I carried that battle into my dreams … hmmm?
Would you pray for God’s protection over these new missionaries
and our MTW family as we engage in God’s kingdom work?
The 5 Types of Stress Every Missionary Faces
By Chery Flores
The DAR debriefing retreat I attended last week was a wonderful time with 36 other missionaries and 25 children to consider the common joys, challenges and stresses we face serving cross culturally. I left very encouraged, more relaxed about how I'm adapting to life in the States, and with some new tools to help me take good care of myself.
Three topics we discussed really grabbed my attention: Stress, transitions, and identity. We talked about five categories of stress that missionaries face. When we made a comprehensive list of the stress experienced by my group, I was sobered by how much stress missionaries experience on a daily and cumulative basis. I gained a renewed appreciation for how much stress I've experienced living in Spain (even though I really enjoy being there). I realized my attitude has been "just do it" (common to all missionaries) and I've failed to appreciate how accumulated stress impacted me.
Below are the five main categories of cross-cultural stress, followed by some of the specific stressors in each category that have affected those in my group.
1. Situational Factors: Dirt everywhere; pollution; earthquakes; team conflict; heat and humidity; leadership problems; constant turnover of teammates; changes in leadership structure; government bureaucracy; being hassled at road checkpoints; corruption/lack of integrity; spouse's workload; unable to form close friendships; loss of relational/emotional support; poor heating; frozen water pipes; isolation and loneliness.
2. Daily Hassles: Communication challenges; language learning; crowded public transportation; changing schedules and plans; no hot water; constant interruptions; filtering water; bike stolen; adjusting to local babysitters; not being "one of them;" being a minority; beggars everywhere; parenting difficulties; always more to do than time allows; everything takes longer; shopping; car repairs; daily life tasks; noisy living environment.
3. Life Events: Missing birth of grandchildren; death of parents and family members; moving overseas with 6-month-old; miscarriage; pregnancy; children moving on; moving many times; residency renewal issues; adjusting to new city, home, language, and culture; changing friendships; no stable place to stay when in USA; major illness; surgery; move from city to village.
4. Traumatic Events: Confronting thief in my home; near fatal accidents; seeing fatal accidents; chronic poverty we can't escape; not being with my sister when she almost died; marriage issues; feeling non-supported by our church; protecting children from dangerous local events; unplanned return to U.S. due to terrorism or residency issues; struggling with cultural adaptation; "American-ness" affects work with nationals; mass exodus of teammates.
5. Personality/Gender: Living in a male-dominated culture as a woman; being an extroverted woman in a culture where women are to be silent; living in fatalistic culture; perfectionism; struggling with being performance driven; trying to live up to expectations of adopted culture; questions about singleness; an extrovert working alone; confronting American stereotypes; need for more down time; private personality in a very nosy culture; being a control freak.
As I listened to these stressors being read out loud, I was a bit overwhelmed as I considered how much stress we deal with as missionaries. As a group, we were amazed and almost speechless when we saw the degree of stress that accompanies missionary life.
I so appreciate the continued prayers of friends and supporters during my HMA (Home Missionary Assignment), as I dedicate time to reflect upon the joys, challenges, and stresses I've experienced during the past seven years. In addition to the stressor categories I mentioned above, I was reminded that I've gone through six transitions since June 2008. My reaction was, "No wonder I've been feeling so tired!" I left the retreat recognizing that one reason God brought me back on an unscheduled furlough is to have time to rest and renew my energy, to reflect upon and process my missionary journey thus far, and to prepare for my return to Spain, which, Lord willing, will be this fall.
Chery Flores is an MTW missionary serving in Spain.
Hope for the Scattered South Sudanese Refugees Find Hope in Uganda
By Phil Mobley
The Rev. James Bab was already on foreign soil in late 2013 on the day he became a refugee. In the middle of December, civil war came to his homeland of South Sudan when conflict broke out between the president and a political rival. Bab was visiting Uganda when the shooting started.
Unable to return home and aware that his family was imperiled, he soon received tragic news from friends in the network of six churches he helped plant in South Sudan. As he wrote in January of 2014: "As a church [we have] lost many beloved brothers and sisters, [which] means we have orphans, widows, and widowers." Since then, three of the congregations have managed to continue meeting despite the conflict, but the others have been scattered. Also dispersed was a group of 60 pastors Bab had been mentoring in the town of Bentiu, several of whom were killed.
The young nation of South Sudan, founded only in 2011, had devolved into ethnic warfare between the Dinka and the Nuer, two of the country's largest traditional groups. Many thousands have been killed since the fighting began, with many hundreds of thousands displaced.
A clean and clear theology
Though not at home, Bab was among friends in Uganda. One of them was Don McNeill, part of the MTW team in Kampala, the nation's capital. The team's primary emphasis has been providing theological training to pastors and church planters like Bab, which they do in partnership with Westminster Theological College (WTC). (See the sidebar at the end of this story for more on MTW's theological training efforts in Uganda.) McNeill first met Bab in 2007 and knew him throughout Bab's Bible college days.
When Bab first arrived at WTC, he—like many others before and since—had a Bible, but no other books or teaching resources. He had very little historical or doctrinal knowledge to guide his interpretation of the Bible. He also barely spoke English, which meant he was learning language alongside theology. "Don and the team taught us very clean and clear biblical theology," Bab said. "They generously gave us books and Kindles."
The training was invaluable to Bab as he returned to South Sudan in 2011 where he planted churches and trained pastors. And his relationship with the MTW team proved fruitful in crisis when the team was able to supply financing and logistical assistance to get his family out of South Sudan in the spring of 2014. The reunited family now lives at the Kiryandongo U.N. refugee settlement in Uganda.
Crisis with kingdom opportunities
According to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 140,000 South Sudanese refugees were in Uganda as of January, a figure that is expected to double by year's end. Bab and MTW have been diligent in seizing the kingdom opportunity afforded by this crisis. As he had done before, Bab planted a church—this time among the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. With some financial assistance from MTW and various individuals, the church put up walls and a tin-sheet roof. At the same time, they worked together to bring more people safely to Uganda.
In April of 2014, MTW Compassion funds helped provide travel costs and border fees for 99 refugees from Juba, the South Sudan capital. Most of them were particularly vulnerable: widows and orphans, the sick and disabled. Their arrival on a Sunday via a fleet of large vans they called "taxis" touched off celebratory worship. More joined them in September, again financed by donations coordinated by MTW and believers in Kampala, who also helped provide clothing. Bab continues to raise money to bring even more taxis full of his countrymen to safety.
A fruitful sojourn
Led in part by the theological perspective he gained at WTC, Bab sees God's sovereignty at work at Kiryandongo, despite the horror of civil war and ethnic strife. In fact he even reminded friends in a series of text messages that we should not be surprised to see such events, since Jesus Himself warned us they would come in Matthew 24. "When my family was caught in war-torn South Sudan, I felt bad, but my motto is 'God is in control'—and He actually is! My faith was strengthened. When they came out, I praised God for His protection."
Bab also sees God's hand in the mix of people who, though all South Sudanese, come from different places and are different colors. "Galatians 3:28 says that in Christ we are one," Bab said. "I am now connected with many people I did not dream I would meet." Their joy and unity has not gone unnoticed among the U.N. workers at the camp, who initially marveled at the uplifted countenance of people forced from their homes and carrying precious little with them.
During their sojourn as refugees, Bab has not lost sight of the possibilities for this latest church plant. His vision goes far beyond the refugee camp, and it is borne of the simplest of strategies. "My aim is to let the people I meet know Jesus and be saved—like me!" he said. "Then those who are saved will serve God and teach others everywhere they go."
"James is still training pastors," said his old instructor Don McNeill. "After the war, there will be even more people trained to carry on church-planting work." McNeill and Steven Edging, MTW missionary and coordinator for the South Sudanese relief project, have also taught in the camp.
All three men long to see the gospel multiply in South Sudan. For now, they wait and learn. It is not yet safe to return, though they pray that it will be soon. Then the band of refugees will "scatter" anew, this time not to flee from war, but to sow seeds. Both James Bab and Don McNeill have seen enough to trust in God to make them grow.
You can help South Sudanese refugees by making a donation to MTW's South Sudanese Refugee Project.
The Importance of Theological Training |
MTW focuses on theological training at Westminster Theological College (WTC) in Uganda and through dozens of independent pastoral training centers initiated and coordinated by African leaders, many of them former graduates of WTC.
Missionary Don McNeill and Bruce Sinclair, MTW Uganda team leader, teach at some of these centers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Jeff Borden, MTW missionary and MINTS International Seminary coordinator for Africa, has seen an explosive interest in the MINTS study center paradigm, reaching pastors who don't have the opportunity to study at residential schools.
According to McNeill, who taught at WTC from 2007-2011, this type of training can be a slow process, particularly because many African pastors do not initially see the need. After all, their congregations are growing rapidly as the Holy Spirit brings new believers. But McNeill has seen great benefit come to these newly trained leaders. Many beginning students approach Christianity legalistically; learning more about the doctrines of grace proves corrective and liberating in their understanding of justification and sanctification.
McNeill also has seen theological training manifest itself in practical attitudinal and behavioral changes. "Many students believed that working in the fields was beneath the dignity of an educated person," he explained. "We teach them about the dignity of all labor before God, and many come to an understanding that manual labor is as sacred as preaching a sermon."
McNeill is encouraged to see leaders impacted by truth. "God uses solid biblical teaching to reach His people," said McNeill. "Very often, as the leadership goes, so goes the church."
"Hope for the Scattered" is the cover story for the 2015 Spring/Summer issue of Network magazine. Magazine copies available free of charge upon request. Email email@example.com.
Assessment Team Heads to Nepal
Our Global Disaster Response ministry deploys an Advanced Needs Assessment (ANAT) team to Nepal Monday, May 4 to arrive in Nepal May 5. The goal of the team is to meet with national partners and visit churches in Nepal's Emmanuel Church network to assess the needs and develop a course of action for further response.
The assessment team is going in response to the 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, April 25, 2015. As of this writing, more than 7,000 have lost their lives and thousands more are injured and homeless.
Our national partners are experiencing the devastating effects of the earthquake firsthand. Seventeen people died while gathered for worship in one of the Emmanuel network churches. (Nepal churches worship on Saturday.) In total 23 believers involved with MTW partner churches have died. Many more have lost their homes. One partner church, though significantly damaged itself, has become a temporarily shelter for 150 community members who've lost their homes. Those seeking shelter there are sleeping within the walls of the church compound (which also houses a Bible school, children's home, widow's home, and home for widows) though they are sleeping outdoors due to the constant threat of aftershocks.
Our Global Disaster Response efforts are always coordinated in connection with the local church, making MTW unique. All donations will have a direct impact on MTW partner communities. The assessment team will look at the best ways to provide for these partner church communities to help them rebuild and heal from the devastating impact of a disaster
We are asking for help in three ways: First and foremost-pray for MTW's national partners and their congregations in Nepal. Then consider an
online donation to help meet critical needs in the wake of this disaster. And finally, share a bulletin insert and PowerPoint slide in church this Sunday (available at www.mtw.org/disaster.
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Ebola Follow Up
By John Sexton
The American news is so fickle! We have heard virtually nothing about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa for many weeks. However, the epidemic still has been present there. The good news is the number of Ebola cases is decreasing.
In fact, there is a possible vaccine for it now, but it cannot be tested due to the decreasing numbers of cases. The bad news is that Ebola is now present in West Africa and will probably periodically crop up in the future. We are taking advantage of the interest in preventing Ebola to teach general health concepts in these countries.
Last March, Hugh Davis and I taught students from a West Africa seminary to be health teachers. I was also able to return in September and give them further training in Ebola prevention. In the U.S. in February I was able to meet with church leaders from the region. During these meetings, the leaders shared how the students trained in September have taught in a variety of settings. They have plans to do health and evangelism outreach to 25 towns. This will be a mixture of Ebola teaching, general health teaching, and evangelism. I will be joining them in the next few weeks as they reach out to five of these towns.
It is such a delight to see these churches have such a spiritual zeal and also a zeal for helping those they meet throughout their communities. In addition to the above projects, I was able to go to a "new" country and train their church planters to be health teachers. Their goal is to offer help to all throughout their country. They also would like to have a course on "Serving in the Community" which we have taught in a neighboring country. I am praying that another missionary living in this area will teach it with me, enabling more duplicating of ministry.
Pray the outreach of the national Church that the listeners will take the health teaching to heart, and that God's word will also penetrate their hearts.
John Sexton is an MTW missionary and nurse practitioner. If you're a health educator and want to learn more about volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Is Reality?
By Kathleen Shumate
Jonathan and I have begun to feel the stirrings of homesickness. Everyday life (especially with kids) has its routines and doesn't allow for a lot of sitting around and contemplating. You just do it. Of course you speak Chinese if you go out in public. Of course you walk half a mile to the market in the alleyway to get the best deal on vegetables. Of course you breathe in the heady scent of cherry blossoms and revel in the shocking green of spring, and also earn a dozen or so mosquito bites whenever you step outside.
Of course we provide entertainment to dozens of people on the MRT (metro), either because we are wearing only one layer of clothing in the winter, or because the baby is toppling over from belly laughing at an impromptu game of peekaboo.
Of course. But then I remember the old "of courses," and I recall that life is a little different now. Mainly I miss the friends and churches we love, but I even feel a yearning for things I never thought were special, like driving to H.E.B. to buy whatever groceries we crave. It's in those moments that it hits me: we moved to a new country. What on earth? What were we thinking??
It's not that I don't like it here. I love our new home with all my heart, not because I have a naïve view of it, but because God made this land and people and they are lovely. It's ok to feel the paradox of loving two places, without forgetting our previous home of decades. Thankfully we can keep up with our loved ones from a distance, but I know that what used to be home to us will never be the same. People will move, or move on, and our lives will not intertwine in exactly the same way. We'll miss their special times and they'll miss ours.
The good thing about this tension is that it forces me to face Reality, the Reality that's so easy to forget when we are comfortable: We aren't meant to spend our lives honing a system of maximum pleasure and comfort. We are meant to spend our very selves for God's kingdom. We are here not because we have calculated that settling in Taiwan will give us the best possible life. We are here in answer to God's call: as beggars who have been given bread, eager to share this bread with anyone we can, in a place where most people are living and dying without Christ. We are here to be a small part of God's plan, watching in awe as He expands His kingdom to include every tribe, every tongue, every nation.
Kathleen Shumate and her husband Jonathan are serving with MTW at Christ's College in Taiwan. You can follow Kathleen on her blog at www.adventurersarewe.com/blog.
Why Missions Is a Big Deal
By Ben Johnson
The word of God is powerful.
As a missionary who is in the process of trying to convince fellow followers of Jesus Christ that missions is important, there are times when it feels like I'm jumping up and down, waiving my arms around like a fool, and screaming at the top of my lungs, "Hey everyone, getting the gospel to the nations is a big deal!!!"
But my words feel so powerless. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people listening. But I just cannot come up with the words to explain how earth-changing the task of missions really is.
So I'm going to let God do the speaking.
Let's start with Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 12:1-3 ESV)
Thousands of years after this promise was first given, we can see much of its fruit. God gave Abraham a son, Isaac. That son's family eventually ended up in Egypt where they became slaves and were delivered by the hand of God. The world watched as God, in is loving power, guided His people through the desert and placed them in a land that was his gift to them. In that land the nation of Israel and the temple in Jerusalem became the center for the worship of the living God. If the world wanted to know who created them, who gave His rich blessings to those who followed him, and who would bring salvation, they looked to Israel to show them.
The world was blessed by Israel's ministry.
But God wasn't done. It was from within the people of Israel that God raised up a Savior, Jesus the Messiah. He lived, died, and rose again to bring salvation and blessing to all His people. And before He left this earth, He sent his disciples out, not just to the Jewish people, but to all the nations of the earth. Salvation was for everyone who would call on the name of the Lord.
Through Jesus Christ, the family of Abraham grows. It expands beyond national boundaries and ethnic lines. And as it expands, it brings the message of light and life wherever it finds darkness and death. Abraham and the faith he displayed continue to be a blessing to people throughout the globe today.
But what did this involve for Abraham? What did God call him to do? What was his job? Was it his responsibility to make sure he had a son? No. In fact, he tried having a son his own way and it lead to pain and suffering.
Was it Abraham's job to multiply his family and bring them back to the land God showed him? Nope.
Did Abraham orchestrate the events of history so that the Messiah would be born in Israel, deliver his people, and then give the news of this great gift to the world? Not a chance.
God called Abraham to do one thing:
He told him to leave his family and set out to a place God would show him. While this was no small thing for Abraham, it was all God wanted of him at the time.
But that one thing showed God and the world something far bigger. Abraham believed what God told him. He believed that God would give him a son, a nation, and a Savior. The day he told his household to pack up was the day he proved his faith by his action.
Those of us who follow Jesus today are in the same situation. God isn't calling us to convert the entire world. But he does ask us to do something.
God has called the Johnson family to move to Thailand. How is he calling you to move? Where is he calling you to go? What is your piece of the missions puzzle? What task has our Lord given to you so that the world would know Jesus Christ and experience the same blessing as Abraham?
When you've taken that step in faith, stand back and watch God bless the world!
The Johnsons are itinerating to go to Thailand with MTW. You can follow them at www.johnsonfamilymission.com.
Sept. 22-Oct 2, 2015
2015 Disaster Response Training Events:
October 20-25, 2015 in Tennessee