In this post, we are giving a photo collage of what online learning looks like at Presbyterian Day School, Cristo Rey, Belize. I hope you enjoy these pictures! We are looking for prayer and financial partners to be a part of the PDS team. You have heard of child sponsorship programs–well PDS is looking for a team to sponsor the teachers’ salaries. The desire is to keep the cost of education within the reach of all village families who are motivated to see their children receive an academically sound, Christ-centered education. But that means that tuition is not high enough to cover the teachers salaries. Would you consider prayer and/or giving?
Please let me know if you would like to be part of a data base to receive regular updates on the school. We would love to see individuals and even schools adopting a teacher!
Does God answer prayer? Absolutely, yes, as both the Bible and our experience tells us. We know from history that serious prayer often or possibly always precedes great revivals. In the Old Testament Daniel was even led to pray and fast as he saw the date approaching for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy–God had promised to bring the people of Israel back to their land after 70 years, and even this promised event was carried out on the prayers of faithful Daniel.
We are longing to see a great work of the Holy Spirit in our ministry and to that end, we believe that prayer is the vital ingredient. Ray and I first committed to praying together each morning back in 2011, when we came to the end of ourselves in the ministry. We saw experientially that we can accomplish nothing apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until 2018 that we actually developed a system for our intercessory prayer. Although we prayed with passion each morning, the reality was that some important matters slipped our minds, and other prayers became repetitive. Not only that, many answers to prayer that we received went unnoticed because we had forgotten what we had prayed for and in the process we lost the opportunity to thank God and strengthen our faith.
So we began using a system, and as we’ve used it these past two years, we would not want to go back. Our prayers are more focused and deeper and we love getting to write down the answers to many of them. I am going to describe what we do in this blog post, in hopes that it might inspire you, our reader, in your own prayer life.
Throughout the decades of my Christian walk, I have always seen and heard about keeping a prayer journal, but had concerns about it being confusing or unwieldly. We haven’t found that to be the case but it did take some trial and error to figure out how to make it serve our needs. What we have done is taken each day of the week and divided it into a category. Here are our categories: Sunday–revival and holiness; Monday–relatives; Tuesday–our church members and raising up church leadership; Wednesday–our children and grandchild; Thursday–nonbelievers; Friday–friends and missionary co-workers; Saturday–missions. I purchased a blank, lined journal and I found that each of these categories really only need about a page with a few notes to remind us who to pray for.
In addition to the weekly categories, we have a section for immediate needs. This is our longest section. I write in dark blue for petitions and in orange for answers to prayer. It is organized by date. I find sometimes an answer to a prayer comes and I realize I never wrote the prayer request down, as not all of them make it on paper. That is okay, I take my orange pen, write down the date and the thanksgiving to God. In this way I can quickly go back and see what wonderful provisions God has given over the preceding weeks and months, and also to pray afresh for any petitions that are still awaiting an answer. This has been a great blessing, to look back and see how God has been at work. Many times He gives a yes answer, and other times a resounding no. We are thankful we have a heavenly Father who doesn’t always give us what we ask for, because He is so much wiser than we are.
A newer but still beloved part of our system is the prayer calendar. So each day we have our topic based on the day of the week, we have whatever immediate petitions to bring before God’s throne, and then we pray for the day of the month in our prayer calendars. Right now we go through the Belize prayer calendar, the Uruguay prayer calendar, a calendar for the missionaries in our region, and then the Mission to the World prayer calendar. Prayer calendars are a wonderful way to remember to pray for what is important to us! I made a folder, as you can see in the photos, to keep our prayer calendars together in one spot. In the past I have hung a prayer calendar up in the kitchen as well, to focus my prayers during meal preparations. I would highly recommend using prayer calendars for powerful intercessory prayer. You are welcome to follow the links for the three I have provided, or find others as well. If you have a favorite missionary you follow, I would encourage you to ask them to make a prayer calendar for their country. The one I did for Uruguay is in a format that can be used over and over, month in and month out. It is a great way to be focused on praying for a country, or people group, or ministry.
The last method is one that I have been using since 2016 as a way to use stray moments in my day for intercessory prayer. I have a group of 3×5 cards that I try to take with me so that if I am out walking or waiting in the car, or if I have a few extra minutes in the day, I can use them productively. I have a card for Ray and each of my children and my grandchild, and a few other cards for things very important to me. I change them out about once a year, so I primarily put longer term prayer requests, and verses that I want to pray for each person. After a while, so many prayers get answered, and there are other newer ones to take their place, so eventually I have to make new ones. I also keep any verses I am memorizing in my card envelope.
I can think of no ministry as important in our world today than that of intercessory prayer. I hope some of these ideas might inspire you as you develop and refine your own system. In this blog post I focused on making a system for personal or family intercessory prayer. Of course, there is an important corporate aspect to intercessory prayer and we should seek to pray also with our brothers and sisters in the church and take part with enthusiasm in the pastor’s prayer during the worship service. There is nothing like hearing our brothers and sisters talk to the Lord to stimulate our own prayers, and when 3 or 5 or 10 or 200 of us are all in agreement in prayer there is even more power.
We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school.
What if I told you there was an outreach project that would meet the twin goals of economic development and the growth of the church and it’s only catch was that it’s work would be slow and steady over the course of decades? What if I told you the Presbyterian denomination has been involved in such an outreach for the past 44 years? When Tom and Helen Lacey came here in the early 1970s, they set about planting churches, continuing the work that began with a Mexican evangelist, to begin a new Presbyterian denomination in northern Belize.
They could see that healthy churches need elders, pastor, deacons, and church members who are knowledgeable of the Bible, strong in character, and economically stable. And we can be thankful that they had great wisdom and foresight.
Each of these schools has their own story. Each one is impacting their community for Christ. Today, however, I would like to focus on the very first school that the Laceys began, Presbyterian Day School (PDS). I hope in future blog posts to highlight some of the other schools as well. PDS is special, and not just because it was the first, nor simply because three of our children attend the school. It has the unique distinction of being the only Presbyterian school not to receive government funding. What this means practically is that while they have freedom in what they teach, they also struggle with funding. Each of their teachers see their work first as a ministry, to the point at which they make a salary just over half that of the other teachers in the country. In short, the school needs financial help.
In 1980, just 4 years after the Laceys began PDS, missionary Dorothy Mayer left her teaching job in South Dakota to come help teach. She is still here, helping to teach and do administration. One of her former students, Isaias Botes, has since taken over from her as principal. He in turn is principal over a few teachers that he taught as a teacher at PDS. I think it would be safe to say that Presbyterian Day School has exceeded the dreams and expectations that the Laceys originally held for it. The school has been a backbone in the two villages it serves, Cristo Rey and Patchakan. The Presbyterian churches in these villages have grown and been strengthened by bringing in families from the community. The impact of PDS has gone far beyond just these two villages.
Many of the teachers from all the various Presbyterian schools themselves attended PDS; three of the principals in the Presbyterian schools are PDS graduates as is the general manager of the Presbyterian schools. Several of the pastors and elders in the Presbyterian churches started out there as well. In addition, the list of graduates includes doctors, nurses and government officials that are serving all over the country. Although the villages have been historically poor and undeveloped, PDS has played an important role in the economic development of the area.
PDS continues to have an important role in these two villages in northern Belize. These precious little ones that start at PDS as four-year olds are the future of the church and the community. We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school. That way, the cost of tuition stays affordable for all the children in the community.
We would love to see individuals commit to monthly giving. We would also love to see some Christian schools develop a “sister school” sort of partnership as well. This is because we know that Christian schools in the U.S. and the families that support them are also passionate about Christian education. Could you begin by praying that the Presbyterian Day School of Cristo Rey, Belize, would become fully funded?
And second, would you consider if God might be calling you to help out with the need, either by giving monthly or one time? And lastly, would you consider sharing this need with others that you know who have a passion for economic development or Christian education? Thank you.
A little over a dozen of us gathered in the front yard of one of the church members on a Wednesday night to bring our praise, thanksgiving and supplication together before our mighty God. We had the chance to hear the prayers of young and old alike. We had the opportunity to agree together. As some of the older members prayed, you could hear their many years of walking with God instructing the younger ones among us what it is like to walk with God intimately. It is hard to think of a greater blessing than uniting with God’s people and praying for the salvation of souls and for the needs of the saints. This memory is from a church meeting we had this past summer, in between shut downs. The cases have started rising again here in Belize, and so the church prayer meetings have been temporarily put on hold.
Like many of you, I do not like to hear about Covid 19 rearing its ugly head again. I am sad for the families who are or will be facing serious illness, knowing it may be hitting close to home at any time. As a Christian it also grieves my heart when the meetings of the church have to be altered or in some cases cancelled, making it hard to have the kind of fellowship with God and with one another that is so vital to our walk with God. And yet, Covid 19 did in no way take our all powerful God by surprise. He is sovereign over all things. As Hannah prays in I Samuel 2:6-8:
“The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory.”
It is wise to focus on doing our part to curb the virus. I am thankful for our governments and international health communities taking their God-given role seriously, trying to figure out how to protect lives and economies from the threat of Covid. But it is the fool indeed that doesn’t acknowledge the God who is control of this virus, seeking to repent and turn from our blindness, from our arrogance in believing that we were in control of our lives in 2020. I heard someone this week compare the Covid crisis in the churches to the exile that the Jews experienced in the Old Testament. God punished His people for their idolatry by sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them into captivity, away from the promised Land. Likewise we as Christians have had our God given means of grace, in the worship service, the Lord’s supper, the church prayer meeting, significantly altered. God’s people in the Old Testament never again worshiped idols. What will our response be to this trial that God has allowed? Will we turn in repentance? Will we seek His face with all our heart? Or will we fritter away hours of our time on social media, getting angry at whoever disagrees with our position on face masks?
When we first faced shut down, my husband and I committed to spending some of our extra time making sure our morning prayer time got a solid block of time. But some mornings we discovered that we had dug into that time by talking about the latest controversy we had seen on Facebook the night before. Some mornings we didn’t end up praying at all. In the moment, it seemed like we really needed to talk it over. But as we saw a pattern emerging, we realized that for us, we needed to take a step back from so much social media. In fact, we were getting side tracked from God’s mission. There is a real spiritual battle and we as Chrstians are in the middle. Satan would love us to be a distracted church.
All manner of trials, including this pandemic, provide a merciful opportunity for human beings to hit the pause button and consider our spiritual state. We will all stand before a holy God to face judgement one day. The pandemic reminds us that that day may come sooner than we imagined. Are we ready? Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can face that day by the covering of His blood. Are we living like we have been redeemed, excited at God’s grace that has been poured out upon us? Or are we living just like the world, trying to distract ourselves with banal pleasures? Make no mistake, it takes work to keep our focus on eternal things, as the world, the flesh and the devil are conspiring against it.
As I close, I want to loop back to the story of the prayer meeting that I started with. We may or may not have the opportunity to attend the church prayer meeting during this pandemic. But one thing that is certain–we all have the opportunity to pray. Intercessory prayer is hard work, and make no mistake, it takes faith and it takes discipline. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to make an impact in the kingdom. We arrived here in Belize in February ready to get to work. The setbacks from Covid have at times been frustrating. But the reality is, we can still pray. We know the pandemic is in God’s hands, and we also know that faithfulness to God requires that we develop a strong prayer life. So, on the one hand Covid is a genuine setback, but on the other hand, it has the potential to be the beginnings of a great revival that God can use to extend His kingdom to all parts of the world. It is easy to grow weary during this difficult time, as I can attest. But let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
There has been a lot of controversy in our church circles during the past few years about the role of women in the Church. We hear it said that women’s gifts have not been valued, and that we need to usher in a new era where the church finally frees women to do valuable and worthwhile ministry. When I first started hearing the rumbling of these complaints I’ll admit I was confused, since in most the churches I have been in, women were already playing such a vital role, particularly in the hidden roles of service, helps and working with children – roles that Jesus assures us are among the most important in His kingdom.
We leave to start our new life and ministry in Belize in just 5 days. How do we feel? Excited, nervous, hopeful, scared. Mostly, we just can’t wait to get going! We have been busy packing and preparing. January was full with Ray going to a training on church revitalization and all of us going to an MTW ReConnect conference, as well as presenting our ministry and preaching and of course, packing!
In all of this preparation, the most important part is prayer. There is a spiritual battle raging in this world, for the hearts and minds of the 7.7 billion souls on this planet many of whom do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Who are on the front lines? Not primarily the missionaries who are spreading the good news about Jesus, but those who are on their knees in prayer!
We can tell you from experience that we will be feeling this spiritual battle. Please pray for our protection as we enter into our new ministry. Also we would like to encourage you to pray daily for Belize. Our team has a prayer calendar for the month of February that contains one short prayer request for the ministry of MTW in Belize for each day. It is a great way to help you pray specifically and regularly for the ministry. It is a great way to be on the front lines of extending God’s kingdom in the nation of Belize. Would you be willing to print it out and pray through it each day?
Many of us know the powerful story of Monica, a Godly woman from the third century who was grieved that her son was living a wild life of rebellion against God and part of religious sect. She prayed day and night for her son, Augustine. Only after many years were her prayers answered, and her son not only converted to Christianity, but indeed became one of the most influential fathers of the Christian church.
Mothers like Monica inspire modern mothers, as we witness the rise of secularism and the struggles of life in this evil world, and are often brought to our knees as well for the souls of our children. Christian mothers all around the world share the same hopes and fears, and indeed, we seek the face of our Savior to protect our little ones. It can be challenging, however, to remain consistent, motivated and disciplined, or even at times it can be a challenge to know what to pray!
The national director of Uruguay, Lourdes, organized this prayer group with leaders of some local groups in Montevideo. We were inspired by some teaching on leading prayer, and then spent time ourselves praying together. These women are burdened with many of the same things that burden mothers in the US–children who have walked away from the faith, anti-biblical teachings on sexuality being promoted in schools and the rise of secularism. The difference in Uruguay is that the church is much smaller and Christian children often grow up feeling isolated in their faith. Lourdes is a teacher in a public high school and mentioned that she is the only Christian teacher in her school. Moms In Prayer chapters in the US are often based around a school–Christian mothers in the school band together to pray for their children and the school. In Uruguay, it would be hard indeed to find a group of Christian mothers to pray together in a school. For this reason, most Moms In Prayer groups in Uruguay are based in the church, rather than the school.
It was so encouraging for me to pray with this tiny group of mothers because I believe the only hope for the future of the church in Uruguay will come through prayer. One of the women mentioned to me that she and a friend have been fasting and praying for Uruguay. This brings me real hope and joy. Prayer is what is needed to prepare the soil for a Gospel harvest. Please pray with me that the Moms In Prayer ministry would grow and expand, that many mothers would delight to meet weekly to pray for their children and schools, both in Uruguay and all over the world.
Were you in church last Sunday? We all face the temptation to take Sunday worship for granted. It can feel at times like a tradition, even something we do without giving it much thought. Many Christians will admit that they haven’t made it to church in a while. Others will acknowledge that they don’t currently have a church. Maybe it is a sunny Sunday morning and the beach is calling, or a rainy day and it is hard to get moving. Perhaps the kids have a sports event. Whatever the reason, it can seem like a challenge to make church a priority. But how often do we think of the bigger picture, how our participation in the worship service exalts the God of the universe?
This past month we had the blessing of worshipping in a couple of churches in Montevideo. As our all-night flight reminded us, Uruguay is far from the U.S. In fact, this Uruguayan city is the southern most capital city in the Americas, being roughly the same latitude as Kansas, but in the southern hemisphere. And just like whatever city you call home, there are Christians from a variety of denominations and traditions setting aside Sunday to worship the Triune God. The same is true of every country that has a Christian church all over the world both today and throughout the past 2000 years.
I was particularly moved during one worship service in which a visiting pastor from Brazil was preaching. He spoke in Portuguese, and our Brazilian missionary colleague translated into Spanish. That morning the Word of God spoke powerfully to me as I heard it preached. And it was just this past May that we had the opportunity to travel to Belize and found ourselves worshiping with the Belizean believers. We sat under the preaching of a local pastor in a morning service and an elder at an evening service. The evening sermon in particular spoke powerfully to the trials in my life. In fact, you or I could go to any country in the world on a Sunday and, as long as the sermon is given or translated into a language we understand, it will speak to us just as powerfully as the sermon given in our home church. Our Great and Mighty God works through the preaching of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit in every nation on earth!
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John has a vision where he sees a multi-cultural church service from the end of the age. He describes it like this: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'” (Rev. 7:9-10). This powerful scene is from the end of the age when there will be worshipers from every part of the world uniting as a group to honor and adore the God of all creation. This is the goal of missions and the consummation of all things. Christianity doesn’t belong to one country, one continent or one language but to all peoples.
There is very real sense in which, on a smaller scale, this verse is being lived out every single Sunday, in all parts of the world. During this one 24 hour period, each and every week, believers are meeting together to worship and to be encouraged in the Word. Some churches are large, others are tiny. Some meet out in the open and include among their members powerful political leaders. Others meet in fear and in secret hoping not be found out by the government. What unites them? Worship of the Triune God. On this one day each week, God is hearing from His people all over the world. Each and every week, there is a foretaste of that day in the future when we will be united all together. Sure, now, this Sunday, we will be separated by geography, by language, by denomination and even by the age in which we live. But whether we gather with fifteen believers or 1500, we are still gathered with a multitude giving God the worship due His name. On that day in the future our numbers will be larger. There will be believers from each age from the time of Adam and Eve. There will be peoples from every tribe – even tribes that only number in the thousands. There will be people with strange languages and different customs. There will be people whose nations were once at war with one another, now united.
There is a real sense that when we meet each Sunday, we are privileged to be joining the chorus of voices that also meet that very day all over the world. We are making a joyful noise to our God as we remember with our singing, our prayers and our sermons, that He is the Creator and we are the creature (Ps. 95:6-7; Ps. 100). We have the privilege to do this every single Sunday. We don’t have to check our calendars and see which day we might be able to squeeze the service in. No, this has been the command and custom of all churches since the Apostles.
We are united with all believers even if we aren’t with them in the same room. And this is also why so many churches remember to lift up the persecuted church in their pastoral prayer each Lord’s Day. We remember our brothers and sisters that meet as they are commanded to do, and yet they do so in fear and concern. We may fight against the temptation to get a couple more hours of sleep or to be there in body but with thoughts that are far away. They fight against the temptation to stay away for fear of another bombing or a police raid. But for them just like us, this our privilege to give our God the sacrifice of worship that is due His name and it is our honor to be part of this great cloud of witnesses (Rom. 12:1-3; Heb. 11 & Heb. 12:1-3). And when we meet, we are not just joining in with our group of 50 or 200. We are joining in with the literally millions of Christians who are meeting on this very same day in a worship service that is both shockingly similar to ours and also strange and foreign, testifying to the greatness of our God.
So whether you were or were not in church last Sunday, as this Sunday approaches, may you allow these considerations to shape your decision about what priority the worship service will have in your life. Worshiping God with every tongue, tribe and nation is not something that will be reserved just for that day when the new heavens and earth is ushered in, but in a very real sense is happening here and now every week,
What does it take to see success in missions? Is it mostly a matter of learning the right techniques for stimulating a church planting network? Or maybe it is a matter of learning the language and culture like a native? Should we focus on servant leadership and loving our neighbor or should we just faithfully preach God’s Word? Continue reading Spiritual Warfare in Missions→