A tribute to some of the most radical people we know…

Who is the most radical person you know? I once knew a man who was constantly trying to convince people that he and they should quit their jobs, sell everything they have, and just do evangelism all day, everyday. This was his idea of radical. This was his idea of what he thought Jesus meant when he told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions, give to the poor and follow Jesus (Matt 19:16-22). This was what he thought Jesus’ point was when he told the story of the rich fool who built new store houses to store up all his grain for himself to live on for years to come (Luke 12:13-20). My friend also believed the other way you could be radical for Jesus was to become a missionary.

Was my friend right? We would probably all answer “no”, however many of us may not realize it but we actually do think like this. Many believers only look at people like missionaries or others who have visibly given up a lot as living radical for Jesus. Over the last year as our family has made the huge transition to becoming missionaries we have constantly been reminded of what it means to live radically for Jesus. Believe it or not we have seen that many of the most radical Jesus followers we know are not on the mission field. Rather, from an outside view they look very “normal”. They own a house, car, have good jobs, etc.

What makes them radical? They rightly understand and live out the passages above. They understand that being radical does not mean having nothing; instead Jesus was communicating that we are to make the most of what He gives us for His Kingdom. Over the last two weeks we have been visiting family, friends, and ministry partners in IL and next we will move on to spend time with our home church and other ministry partners in KC. In all this will be a six week trip enjoying fellowship with loved ones and reporting on what God is doing through us and our team of ministry partners.

In this, Betsy and I are reminded that the most radical people we know are those that are being radical right where they are. They open their homes to various church gatherings each week, they work all day and do evangelism in nursing homes when they are done, they risk reprimand and ridicule by holding evangelistic Bible studies at work, they pour themselves into people and ministries in their local church, they work a few extra hours or give up the American dream so they can squeeze as much as possible out of their budget to financially partner with missionaries like us, etc.

In short, many of the most radical people we know live radically under the radar of those around them but certainly not under the radar of the King who delights in them. People often marvel at all we (and other missionaries) have given up but we marvel at the everyday Kingdom focus of our dear brothers and sisters who faithfully give up so much so that joyfully we can partner together to take the good news of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him.

So, this is a special tribute and recognition to the small but very committed people who partner with us – we thank God because YOU are RADICAL!!! Thank you for your inspiration and love!

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One more makes SIX…Pics of Eleanor Joy

I remember shortly after we had Ethan (via c-section due to a failed induction) the surgeon who performed the c-section said that any other children we had would need to be delivered via c-section as well. However, Betsy worked hard at educating herself, and me, and we soon realized that this was not true. What can I say, Betsy is amazing especially at overcoming odds. I can proudly say that Eleanor Joy was Betsy’s third V-BAC and second delivered with no medication. I so admire Betsy’s strength, determination and courage!

Now on to the pictures:
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PHOTOS, Recent Mexico Trip, Celebrating, and Transitions

Mexico

Our N Mexico church planting team. We worked in village EZ the entire year and later added Village CD. a

Our N Mexico church planting team. We worked in village EZ the entire year and later added Village CD. a

The last few weeks have flown by! Our last trip to Villages EZ and CD in N Mexico were terrific! We were blessed to have multiple evangelistic Bible Studies with unbelieving families in Village EZ, had great fellowship around the Word and table with the believers in both villages, played soccer and presented the gospel to the teens/young adults in village EZ, and had a great time doing Bible storying giving a clear gospel presentation to the children! The church in village CD that myself and Garry Weaver have been working on planting together has been doing well and growing, There have been 20+ people at the Sunday gatherings recently. I will not be going back into Mexico until we return to August since we are waiting for the baby which will come any day now and we will be leaving in a few weeks to visit family, friends, and ministry partners in IL and KC (Can’t wait to see everyone and looking forward to spending some time with our home church family – Christ Fellowship KC).

Betsy and I cannot believe how much the kids have grown since coming last August.

Betsy and I cannot believe how much the kids have grown since coming last August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our family plus missionary trainee/good friend, Nati, whom Betsy and I have had the joy of doing some premarital counseling with her and her fiancee.

Our family plus missionary trainee/good friend, Nati, whom Betsy and I have had the joy of doing some premarital counseling with her and her fiancee.

Celebrating

Last week several missionary trainees that we have had the joy of playing a role in their training and mentoring completed their time at the Center for Pioneer Church Planting with several of them making final preparations to go to unreached people groups in Papua New Guinea, South Asia, and the First Nations people in NW Ontario, Canada.

Husbands and wives that completed their 2 year program at the CPCP. It has been a joy to have a role in helping to prepare them for the mission field.

Husbands and wives that completed their 2 year program at the CPCP. It has been a joy to have a role in helping to prepare them for the mission field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The group of missionary in training families that Betsy and I personally mentored over the last year. Terrific group!!!

The group of missionary in training families that Betsy and I personally mentored over the last year. Terrific group!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transitions

The CPCP staff from the recently completed training year

The CPCP staff from the recently completed training year

Of course the big transition we are awaiting is the new baby which will be here any day! On a totally different note regarding transitions, the Director of the Center for Pioneer Church Planting, Steve Best (whom I pastored with in IL seven years ago) has felt called back to pastoral ministry and thus has accepted a position in Florida where he and his wife, Terri, will also be able to direct more care and attention to Terri’s aging father. It has been a joy to serve with Steve again.  As a result, David Sitton will step in as the Director of the CPCP. David has also asked me to not only stay on the CPCP staff for this upcoming training year but I will have more leadership responsibilities in addition to what I was already doing in developing/overseeing the mentoring program. My role in the classroom will also increase as I will be teaching Bible exposition classes as well. I am very excited about this opportunity and about having an experienced pioneer church planter like David having a much larger role in the program.

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Survival training and MX prayer requests

What should you do and what can you expect if you are kidnapped? What types of scams do criminals pull to try to get into your hotel room or take your money in the US and around the world? How do you survive in a remote area if you are stranded due to a plane crash, getting lost, or other unplanned emergency situations?

These were all topics covered last week in our Safety, Security, and Survival for Missionaries class at the Center for Pioneer Church Planting. It was an amazing week of learning and best of all Betsy got to participate with me throughout the entire training. We learned how to identify, avoid, and react to different scams and other ways criminals try harm people around the world. We also learned what to expect and what to do if we were kidnapped by the “bad guys” and how to survive if we were stranded in a remote area due to an emergency situation. The course was taught by Brian Webb of IHS Training and was a great mix of classroom and field training. It was truly an amazing week!

Below are some pics from the field training:

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That is me in my “Immediate Action Shelter”. Essentially it is an oversize garbage bag that one should carry if going remote. You can see I am totally protected from wind, rain, and cold – it got pretty hot in that thing when it was 90+ degrees outside.

 

We learned how to tie four different knots that have great value in building a survival shelter. Betsy is showing off her mastery of these above.

We learned how to tie four different knots that have great value in building a survival shelter. Betsy is showing off her mastery of these above.

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Betsy, myself, and missionary trainee Nati, pose in the lean-to shelter complete with a water catcher that we made. An important part of survival is being prepared with essential equipment one may need. We built all of this with two oversize garbage bags, called Immediate Action Shelters, and some para-chord. Not bad for a few rookies.

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Did you know you can start a fire with a cotton ball and Vaseline? Good things to have along when out in the wilderness.

Ethan, Titus and Nora even got inspired to do their own field survival training. What do you think of their shelter?

Ethan, Titus and Nora even got inspired to do their own field survival training. What do you think of their shelter?

Prayer Requests for our trip to Village EZ this week:
1. This is our last trip to EZ until September so pray our impact for the gospel bears fruit in our absence.
2. Opportunities for gospel proclamation in people’s homes, on the soccer field, and with the children in our VBS.
3. Ability to ministry freely and safely while there and to return home safely.
4. That Betsy does not go into labor while I am gone (she is 38 weeks now)!!!!

A quick praise regarding our church plant in Village CD – There were 16 people there today and there seems to be a solid group of eager believers forming. From a human perspective, more than anything we need more time there with the people – time for more teaching, training, and fellowship. Please pray for myself, my family and Garry & Jan Weaver as we labor together in this endeavor. Please also pray for the believers and “seekers” in Village CD.

 

 

 

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Should all missionaries be tent-makers?

The greatest missionary in the New Testament (NT), the Apostle Paul was a tent-maker by trade and he used this skill for various reasons in his ministry – to fund it financially (Acts 18:3) and to set an example for others in ministry (Acts 20:34-35). Is this the model (supporting oneself, at least partially, through some sort of vocation) that all missionaries are to follow?  Is this a model that Paul used but is not applicable for today? If I were to ask several Christians these questions I would probably get several different well thought answers. So, as one who has had to think extensively about this subject, allow me to share some brief thoughts…

  1. Paul’s working as a tent-maker is only described as a practice of his and not prescribed as something all missionaries must do. In other words, he never mandates it for all missionaries – we only see that he did it and are even given a reason as to why he did (Acts 20:34-35). However, the very fact that Paul saw it as a helpful practice should cause all missionaries to consider the possibility of doing so.
  2. Paul did receive financial support (along with prayer) from other believers/churches (Philippians 4:10-20).
  3. It is unclear if the other missionaries that traveled with Paul or of that day were doing the same thing. In fact, at times it seems like he was helping to support not just his own needs but their needs as well (Act 20:34).
  4. Paul’s trade was transferable and needed wherever he went in the Roman world. This type of trade can be difficult to find today especially if one is going from a highly technological culture like the US to a more primitive culture where skills, services, etc needed are radically different.
  5. Paul operated within a, more or less, monolithic Roman culture. Missionaries today are often crossing cultures therefore they face challenges that Paul never had to such as learning a new language (getting to Spain would have made him deal with this), learning how to survive and function in a radically different culture where one does has to adjust to learn how to do the basic necessities of daily life, etc.
  6. Paul did not have to deal with visas. Why is that important? Many visas that missionaries obtain to gain access into a country do not allow for them to get a job in that country because the government of that country does not want them taking jobs from nationals. Therefore, in many cases even if the missionary wanted to have a job to support himself it would be illegal for him to do so.
  7. Transferring financial support is much easier and safer today than it was back in Paul’s day. In his day, if the Philippian church wanted to send him financial support they would have had to send a messenger to him carrying the money. This would be difficult because they may not know where Paul was at a given time and it would have been dangerous to carry large sums of money on the roads when going to find Paul. Today, of course we have checks or automated giving that can be deposited into a bank account without even leaving one’s living room. If it was this simple and safe back in Paul’s day, perhaps financial contributions to his ministry would have been more plentiful and regular.

Final Thought: Missionaries today should seek to have some kind of “tent-making” trade that they can use in the mission field. They may not always be in position or in the right circumstance to use it but, like Paul, the missionary will have it available to them when the time is right. Even if they cannot supplement their support financially through the skill – due to visa restrictions – it gives the missionary a place and a way to contribute to the community.

For example, in many villages (both indigenous and non-indigenous) in Mexico everyone in the village has a responsibility or a way that they contribute to the village. Of course, this is mainly through their vocation but not always. Thus, it is strange to have the only white person in the village, who they already assume is incredibly wealthy, not “working” or “contributing” to the village. We are tempted to think, “What do you mean not working? They are out evangelizing and preaching everyday!” Before we go there we must think about what a missionary looks like from their eyes – a guy who walks around and talks to people and hangs out with people all day everyday and has so much money that he does not have to “work” at all.

So, let me present a viable option. Missionaries should seek to obtain a skill/service that can be used in a mission context (i.e. missionary dentistry, construction, medical, etc) even if they can never use that skill to support themselves financially. Take missionary dentistry as an example. The missionary can use this skill to open the door to gain access and build relationships/trust with a people group through short term trips to the village. Once the missionary is invited to live among the people group he could have a room in his house dedicated as his “dental office”. The missionary could have set working hours (8a-1p) where he sees patients. If he cannot be be paid with money perhaps they could pay him with fruit, tortillas, etc.

This helps the missionary to fit more naturally into his new culture since he now has a role in the village. It also provides a good context to meet every person in the village in a non-confrontational environment. The missionary can meet a genuine physical need of the people in the village in the name of Christ. It can be strategic in opening up gospel conversations and relationships. In the example above, the missionary can spend afternoons following up with patients from the previous week by going to their houses and praying with them and furthering the relationship. It generates good-will and trust from the people. Finally, it is harder to run someone out of the village or want to harm them (or their family) if they have shown a care for the physical needs of the people and provide a valuable service to the village.

Why take money? Two reasons: 1) It puts a value on the service and helps nationals to understand that the missionary does not have an endless money supply (apart from God)  2) It fights against dependency/unhealthy expectations – nationals depending on the missionary for handouts among many other things.

When considering all of the above, I would propose that all missionaries work to learn a trade that can be transferable across cultures using it whenever possible in whatever “tent-making” way fits the situation.

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Photo recap of our time in Mexico

We had a great time in Mexico this week! One of the highlights was having several villages our teams minister in come together in Village EZ to worship in song, around the Word, and enjoy fellowship around the table together. It was beautiful to see brothers and sisters in Christ from Mexico and the US enjoying our bond in Christ in this way. Below are several pics that tell some of the story of our week. Pray for us as we go to Village CD tomorrow for the second Sunday meeting the church plant there will be having!

Many of the believers in the villages we work in have no other fellowship than the church planting teams because there may not be churches nearby and their is usually only one or two believing families. The goal was to provide some encouragement for them. Of course, we were greatly encouraged to see/be a part of the fellowship.

Many of the believers in the villages we work in have no other fellowship than the church planting teams because there may not be churches nearby and their is usually only one or two believing families. The goal was to provide some encouragement for them. Of course, we were greatly encouraged to see/be a part of the fellowship.

There is something special about table fellowship. It was huge in the ministry of Jesus and the early church. What a joy this was!

There is something special about table fellowship. It was huge in the ministry of Jesus and the early church. What a joy this was!

Tito chopping wood for the fire that the food would be cooked over for the big gathering

Tito chopping wood for the fire that the food would be cooked over for the big gathering

Tito and Nora helping to get the barn ready by  washing benches for the gathering

Tito and Nora helping to get the barn ready by washing benches for the gathering

Getting the barn ready. Why was I sweeping while the boys got to chop wood!?

Getting the barn ready. Why was I sweeping while the boys got to chop wood!?

Ethan working hard chopping wood for the fire that the food was cooked over

Ethan working hard chopping wood for the fire that the food was cooked over

Nora loves animals!

Nora loves animals!

One of the great joys about Mexico for the kids is that you can make a hat or toys out of whatever is laying on the ground.

One of the great joys about Mexico for the kids is that you can make a hat or toys out of whatever is laying on the ground.

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Yes, that is Nora with a goat that was in one family's house. She loved playing with it.

Yes, that is Nora with a goat that was in one family’s house. She loved playing with it.

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Going with JOY! Prayer requests for our church planting trip to Village EZ

Today was the first meeting of the church plant in Village CD on a Sunday! What a perfect day to start meeting as a church on Sundays!!! We are excited to see what the Lord continues to do there.

Tomorrow our whole family along with the rest of our church planting team will go to Village EZ for the week. We will be holding the first ever “conference” for several of the villages that we have church planting teams going to in N MX. We will hold this gathering on Tuesday in Village EZ. This will be a time of worship in song, around the Word and, of course, fellowship around the table. The gathering will be an important time of encouragement for the believers in these villages because most of them do not have any other fellowship except with the church planting teams that come.

You can be praying for:

  • Peaceable travel to and from as well as a peaceable time of ministry while in the village
  • Discipleship opportunities with the believers in the village -especially Mr E
  • More evangelistic relationships for our team
  • Good gospel opportunities in the relationships we do have especially as we speak with people about the movie Courageous if they came to see it last time we were there – and that we would see people saved!
  • Our team’s Spanish ability in understanding and communicating clearly
  • Betsy is 34 weeks pregnant (I know, she is amazing!) so ladies you know the many things to be praying for regarding her :)
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