When Michele and I arrived in Belize we learned about the amazing work of God throughout the years here. As newcomers to this ministry, we have jumped into an ever flowing stream of gospel work for Christ’s glory where the past, present and anticipation of the future join together.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Tom and Helen Lacey were the first MTW missionaries to Belize and God used them tremendously for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Beginning in the early 1970’s, they were instrumental in helping start Presbyterian churches, Presbyterian schools and a Presbyterian medical clinic. As we visit these churches and the school where our children now study, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and of the hard work and dedication of the Laceys.
In James 2:14-26 we find the well known discussion of the relationship between faith and works. James gives us an example of how true and living faith ought to (and in fact does) result in good works:
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jam. 2:15-17).
It is interesting that the example he gives has to do with the needy, particularly those who struggle with obtaining sufficient food and clothing. One of the horrible consequences of the COVID-19 crisis has been that many around the world who were on the edge of being able to sustain their families with enough food have been pushed over the precipice into hunger and destitution. I have heard reports of people all over the world going without food. Families in Peru and Columbia have taken to placing a flag in front of their dwellings to signal the government and others that they have run out of provisions. Missionaries in Africa report the widespread sudden lack of resources. The stories could be multiplied on every continent.
MTW in Belize will be partnering with the Presbyterian Church in Belize to find ways to help people who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis – especially those in our churches here. Many have lost their jobs or have had reduced incomes. There are many families that struggle to put food on the table under normal circumstances and this has been a severe setback. People are already low on food and basic needs and things are likely to get worse as the disease spreads. There are also many sick and elderly. The churches haven’t been able to meet so tithes and offerings have come to a halt.
In times of difficulty and suffering Christians have the advantage of being able to go to God’s Word for comfort. The Bible is a treasure trove of truth, light, and blessed comfort for God’s people. Isn’t God incredibly gracious and loving to have provided such riches in His Word?
It is important to learn and meditate on the truths, warnings, promises and exhortations in God’s Word before challenging times arrive. To the degree that we have done that we will be better prepared to meet the “difficult providences” that God brings into our lives. As we remember and meditate on those things during difficulties and trials God will give us direction, wisdom, and comfort – especially by the power of the Holy Spirit working by and with the Word of God in our lives.
But whether remembering truths already contemplated or learning them for the first time, we will be better prepared to go through dark times. With that in mind I would like to list a couple of the many truths that we find in Scripture. In a future post I hope to list a couple more.
Teams are important. As the old expression goes: “No man is an island.” In many arenas of life, we find that working with others is not only a necessity but is part of who we are as social beings and is healthy not only for us as individuals, but also for the greater promotion of the work that we set out to do together. From organizing social events to working together in business to ruling and governing nations – teamwork is important.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him– a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Bahamas, bringing death, destruction, and costly losses in its wake. There is a great need for continued prayer for those affected. May God grant comfort to those who have lost much and may they turn to Christ as the only hope we have in life and in death.
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”
We give thanks to the Lord that MTW will be sending an assessment team there to determine how MTW’s Global Disaster Response can help in the days, months, and possibly years to come. The goal of this work of MTW is not only to aid in physical and emotional help for people who have recently gone through a disaster – an important and critical need – but also that God may open doors for the local churches to offer the hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. God has a way of getting our attention after much suffering and maybe this is an opportunity for people to grapple with eternal life and death issues.
We will all appear before God someday to give account for what we did while here on earth (2 Cor. 5:10). None of us have fulfilled God’s perfect and holy law and so we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23). Thankfully Jesus fulfilled all the righteous requirements of God’s law on behalf of all who are united to Him by faith! Furthermore, He also took the just penalty due to them because of their sin and rebellion by dying an accursed death on the cross as a substitute – thus satisfying God’s justice.
Because God is just and cannot let the guilty go unpunished (Ex. 34:7; Ps. 1:5-6), He sent His Only Son Jesus to die the death of a sinner – even though Jesus didn’t deserve it (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 4:15). Jesus went willingly to the cross so that all who look to Him in faith may have eternal life and be reconciled to the Father (Col. 1:20-22; Jn. 10:17-18).
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
The life of a missionary can often be somewhat nomadic. First, there is the initial move out of one’s home country to the place where the missionary will minister. Typically, missionaries have gone for a term at a time, punctuated by furloughs – also known as “home ministry assignment or HMA”. This can be a lot of moving around! Additionally it is not uncommon for God to move missionaries from one ministry assignment to another – whether in the same nation or in a completely different nation or even language group!
One question people might have is: Where do missionaries live while on home assignment? This is a good question because traditionally the missionary home assignment or furlough can be anywhere from weeks to a whole year! Most missionaries are by no means idle during their home assignment. They are expected to visit their financial supporters and sponsoring churches to give updates on the work on the field, giving glory to our Triune God for bringing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the nations!
Thankfully God provides for His servants, but it is not always easy for the missionary. Sometimes a missionary owns a home back in his or her passport country. But most often not. Some have generous relatives who may offer a place to stay. Others have financial supporters who share their home or open their vacation home for a season. A few churches have what is akin to the traditional parsonage or manse: the missionary house.
The Call family spent most of the month of July packing up, getting things ready to ship to our new ministry in Belize, selling furniture, saying goodbye to friends, sightseeing, and doing ministry.
The first week was really sad because we will miss this great nation of Uruguay and it is always hard to say goodbye. But we threw ourselves into the work, while seeking the Lord at the same time. As the month went on, we learned how to give thanks to God for our time ministering there and for all the fruit that God produced through the ministry of the Word.
God gave Ray the opportunity to preach at our church plant in Montevideo – Iglesia Presbiteriana Salvos por Gracia. It was a blessing to gather together with God’s people there once again! Michele was able to spend time with friends and leaders not only in the Presbyterian churches, but in the evangelical churches at large – other godly women who love the Lord and are serving Him in various ways.
We were pleased to hear that God is raising up leadership for the church plant as they announced their first elder candidate. He and some other men in the church have begun an online radio program, which carries quality content as well as a radio show where they deal with important passages in the Bible. Ray was interviewed and also gave a short devotional.
This trip was also a temporary reuniting with our dog Canela! She is a Boxer and we have had her since she was a very small puppy about four years ago. It was a sad goodbye as we adopted her to a nice family living on a farm out in the country. We hope to see pictures and videos of her enjoying farm life!
As we said goodbye to friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, we
also said goodbye to the city. What a beautiful city it is. We spent a
whole day downtown – mostly in Plaza Independencia and the old part of
the city called Ciudad Vieja. Aside from visiting a museum, walking the
streets, and buying souvenirs, we had a delicious lunch at Mercado del
Puerto – plaza with several indoor and outdoor parillas (grilled meat restaurants). Most of the family ordered the Uruguayan national dish: chivito.
This is a dish with a cut of filet mignon usually piled with lettuce,
tomato, egg, bacon, ham, and possibly other ingredients! The two options
are usually on a plate or in sandwich form. Ray opted for the grilled
lamb – all meat is grilled over embers from an open wood fire.
the Lord bless this city and may its inhabitants, as well as all the
people of Uruguay! And may they all hear the Good News of the Lord Jesus
Christ and be reconciled to God by grace alone, through faith alone, in
A while ago MTW created what we now call regional “hubs” in the U.S. These hubs are arms of MTW located within geographical regions (e.g. West Coast or Midwest). The idea is to have MTW personnel closer to where the people are in order to facilitate church involvement in world missions. This is really important given MTW’s goal that the PCA would send out 1% of its membership onto the missions field. When I first heard this goal a couple of years ago I was skeptical. My “glass is half empty” side kicked in: Where would we find these people? How would our denomination fund these new missionaries? How will our home office be able to keep up with the growth?
Though I don’t know how the Lord will work out all the details, I now believe it is certainly a worthy goal because there are so many around the world who have not had the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel message. There are men, women and children who are perishing apart from Christ. They need to know the Savior. We need more folks to go and share the gospel message.
If I’m not mistaken, it was William Carey (“the father of modern missions”) who said “attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” While we shouldn’t presume God will answer our every request, we do know that He is both powerful and sovereign and that He is at work expanding His Kingdom. In light of that and because of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), this goal of sending out 1% of the PCA as missionaries doesn’t seem insurmountable. My wife Michele was just sharing with me the other day of how she heard Dr. Lloyd Kim (MTW Coordinator) talking about this goal. He spoke of it in terms of revival and said something to the effect that if we are to realize this goal, then we will need to pray for a great revival work of the Holy Spirit. Amen brother Lloyd. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). If we are to see God raise up more laborers, then we must ask Him to both send them and also uphold them once they are sent. It must be a work of God if we are to see the nations reached with the Good News.
What do grocery stores, armored cars, ATM machines and my back patio all have in common? Theft.
Over the course of 2018 we have seen a rise in crime. There were at least three attacks by gangs of armed criminals on armored vehicles transporting money. That is quite an undertaking as each armored truck has two armed men with a car full of armed men following behind. Unfortunately, they were taken by surprise and some of the guards were shot. If my memory serves me well, I do believe that the men recovered, though I imagine that there must be lingering effects from their wounds. Two of the robberies were within five blocks of our home. The first was at a bank on the corner and another took place in the parking lot at the mall – both within broad daylight. Even more striking, the third robbery took place very close to the Uruguayan seat of government – the Palacio Legislativo (Legisltative Palace)!
One of the most tragic crimes took place at a grocery store a few miles away where two men entered a supermarket, robbed it and then shot and killed one of the employees on the way out. The victim was a young mother. Later, the shooter was found by police which ended up in him being shot and killed. A friend of mine had met this young man years ago – an example of what a small world Uruguay can be at times.
Very recently, I have been seeing news of ATM machines being blown to bits so that criminals can steal the cash. Some ATM’s are even equipped with an anti-theft ink system which sprays the money with ink so that it will be recognized – making it hard to spend. Sadly, sometimes the ATM machine is the only one in a small town and it can be difficult for the retired folks living there to withdraw money if the banks decide not to install a new one.
One day last month I woke up and went to the kitchen like normal to turn on the burner so that I could cook up some fried eggs. Eggs are my favorite breakfast. But to my surprise, the flame would not start. I thought that was odd and I eventually had the idea of checking the propane tank just outside the kitchen in the back patio. It was missing. Not only was it missing, but the valve and another empty propane tank were gone. Someone had climbed our roof, descended into our back patio and carried out two propane tanks! They are not easy to lift either! I filed a police report, but nothing much came of it.
As we heard news of these various crimes, we prayed – asking the Lord to be at work. Begging God to change the hearts of the criminals. Praying for healing, comfort and peace for the victims and Continue reading The Rise in Crime→