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→
“I want to see snow! When can we see snow?” Snow has been a hot topic of conversation in our house during the first three months of our one year Home Ministry Assignment (HMA). Continue reading Family Update→
Three weeks ago our family set foot in beautiful California. After four years in Uruguay, we have just begun our year long home ministry assignment (HMA). Praise God that we made it! We are living with Michele’s parents in Orange County, California for the first few months.
What if the children in Christian families today would grow up to live lives of radical obedience to Christ? How would that change the world in which we live? What would it be like if these children had a passion to share Jesus with their friends at school? When our baby was born with health problems two years ago and I was with him in the hospital, I became reacquainted with the ministry of Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch). This is a ministry devoted to getting moms together for the purpose of praying for their children and their children’s schools. Many of you may be familiar with the ministry. For those who aren’t, Tim Challies does a great job describing it on his blog, here. For me, I was feeling helpless to fix our baby’s health problems, and helpless with some of the struggles my children who were at home without me were experiencing. It was a time for me to remember that we serve a loving and powerful God who cares more about our children than we do, and who is eager to answer the prayers of His people. Continue reading Praying for the Children→
It was early afternoon and our thirteen year old son and his classmates heard a series of gunshots (turned out to be 18 in all). Right away the administration moved all the students into an upstairs classroom, away from the street. Continue reading Starting High School→
We had been visiting from church to church, on the road and far from home for several months. We were in South Carolina. Sunday morning arrived, and we did not have a church to speak at, and is our custom, we planned to visit a local Presbyterian church. No one at the church knew we were coming, but we were happy to just be refreshed and worship with God’s people.
After service, one of our children struck up a friendship with another girl. This girl invited us to her home for lunch, and then went to ask her parents. Continue reading Simple Hospitality→