Friday, August 11, 2017

At last!

Long time, no blog!  But the good part of letting some time pass is that I have some news to share with you!  After months of waiting, we are in the process as I type for me to officially begin my post as assistant to EE EuroMENA!  

There have been many behind-the-scenes prayers and God-stories that I won't share in this particular blog.  To be honest, I don't think I'm even aware of all of them!  But one thing I am aware of is how the Lord uses our circumstances to make us into who He wants us to be.  It seems like the delays have had many purposes.  For one, they remind me that I'm not in charge, keeping me in a place of trust and openness to do things differently than expected or planned.  

And this is a very good thing because the plan has changed!  I'll share more details in my next newsletter; but rather than being based in Switzerland, I'll now be based in the US and traveling within Europe and other locations at key points throughout the year.  This will allow me to be more efficient and cost-effective and seems to be the way that God is leading and opening doors.

I'm thankful for a God who guides our prayers, speaks through His Word, and uses a body of others to provide counsel.  I'm also thankful to be joining a team who exemplify the strength of unity and grace to me.  You can be praying for wisdom and understanding as I tackle a few new projects which I'll be working on till I meet with the team in early October.  

And if you're in a season of waiting, may the Everlasting God guide your prayers and give you counsel in whichever ways He chooses.  

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.  Genesis 21:33


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Facing a Task Unfinished


Last week, I attended the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) Provincial Assembly in Wheaton, IL along with several other SAMS missionaries and 1400 Anglicans!  While it made for some very long days, I have to say that I was so encouraged in so many ways.  The theme of "Mission on our Doorstep" addressed needs and opportunities both locally and globally.

That's a lot of Anglicans!

I'm not sure about you, but sometimes I find the state of the world--and even the church--to be demoralizing.  There are so many people with so many real needs--addicted, broken (relationships/families), persecuted, refugees, hungry, poor, marginalized/outcast, forgotten, sick, dying, confused, foreigner...the list goes on.  Sometimes the needs are so overwhelming, the temptation is to throw up our hands and do nothing because will our small efforts really make a difference?

But what is so beautiful and ingenious about God's design of His Church is that it is a Body, made of many members.  I was reminded of that and the strength that we have when we are surrounded by and connected to a body of believers under Christ's lordship.  As I sat in on workshops and plenary sessions and met people at meals, I was so encouraged to see different ministries that are addressing these needs and making a difference.  So, maybe I can't meet every need that exists, but I'm a part of a larger Body who is!




One of my favorite hymn re-makes: "Facing A Task Unfinished"

http://www.gettymusic.com/facing-a-task-unfinished/

This takes some pressure off, but equally begs the questions, "What's my role?"  Until Jesus returns, there will always be unfinished tasks and unmet needs.  May we seek Him to know how we can join what He is doing through the Church to meet these needs.  May we always share His heart to know Him and make Him known, for Him to be exalted in the nations and on the earth.  



Archbishop Foley invited longtime friend Louie Giglio who exhorted us  from Psalm 46:
 God will be exalted in the nations and on the earth.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Opportunity Knocks

In case you're unaware, today is World Refugee Day, with the purpose to raise awareness about the global crisis of refugees as well as to encourage advocacy and helping those in need.  Unfortunately, the word "refugee" has become more of a political term and stirs up heated emotions, which sometimes diverts from the true issue at hand: millions (over 65!) of people are living in such hostile, desperate, or un-livable conditions that they must leave their homelands.

Image result for door and europe
"Doors of Europe" Taken from Peter Carlsson's blog
://petecarlsson.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/doors-of-europe/

Interestingly, it's the poorer and less developed countries who welcome the most.  Maybe because they know what it feels like?  I can't imagine...  On several occasions, I've chosen to leave my homeland.  It hasn't been easy, but I've always had the choice, as well as the choice to return.  I'm so blessed and thankful to have been born in a nation that values freedom.


Turkey is overwhelmed as they welcome refugees who were rejected in Greece
(taken from telegraph.co.uk)
While the intolerance and brutalities are atrocious, we often don't have to look far to see how God can bring something good out of a bad situation.  Since EE works directly with churches, I've gotten to glimpse some of the ways that the Church in Europe has responded to the situation.  One of the members of our leadership team is a pastor who has outreaches for many, including refugees to Switzerland.  Another attends a church in Germany that welcomes refugees and was able to befriend an Iraqi who wanted to "know God."  And despite the poverty and effects of war, the workers in Ukraine reach out to the Crimean Tatar (Muslim) refugees.

This is another reason that evangelism, in my opinion, is so important in Europe right now. For the Europeans, yes, but also for those who have come from countries with no other Christian witness!  It's amazing that such an unfortunate and tragic situation has actually created opportunity for people from closed countries (not open to the Gospel) to go to open countries where they are able to hear the Gospel.  


Donate
Taken from UN's webpage

It encourages me to see the Church respond because as Christians, we adore and worship the God whose Gospel--or good message that He put into action--is "the power of God for salvation..." (Rom 15:1).  This word salvation does apply to a future salvation from damnation, thank God; but its primary definition from the Greek is "deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation" and "deliverance from the molestation from enemies."* Since a refugee is "a person who has been forced to flee their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster" (Oxford Dictionary), by definition, they are ripe for God's gracious gift of salvation.

It helps, though humbles me, to remember the rest of this verse, that this gift of salvation is "to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" because it reminds me that I myself should be an outsider of God's kingdom.  It's by His sheer grace and act of love that I get to be included because He's a God who has rescued me from danger.  

As the Church prays for God's "kingdom to come, [His] will to be done," may we embrace the doors of opportunity to bring His kingdom to earth and participate with Him in this crisis of a situation, not just for the refugees, but for the nations who are trying to help. 

*Greek definitions accessible through www.blueletterbible.org

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Magnolias and Meetings

This morning is the first time I've joined the monthly VP calls.  Thankfully I'm on Eastern Standard Time and got to start at 8AM instead of midnight like those in Fiji did!  I set up my computer on my window seat, which gives me an immediate view of the magnolia tree right outside my room.  I love this time of year watching the magnolias bloom, but I learned something new today: they open up very quickly...or at least this one did!



In the course of an hour, I watched this flower which had only slighted budded open into full bloom! Perhaps the rain sped things up, but I really couldn't believe my eyes.  And I suppose it was quite appropriate as the VP's and leadership team were reviewing plans and resources to help assist national directors with their growing countries.  Obviously, not everything in life will develop or grow as speedily as the magnolia outside my window, but there are conditions and care that will facilitate growth.

On a more somber note, it also reminds me that everything on earth is temporary, relatively speaking.  Whether you tune into the news or just get out of bed, death haunts us in literal and metaphorical forms, confronting us at times with uncertainties and unpredictability. This morning's magnolia almost puts action to this sober reality that is confirmed in the book of Isaiah: "The grass withers, the flower fades..." reinforcing the need to bring the Good News to every person.

Thankfully, when Christ is our Lord and our source of Hope and true Life, we have security and stability that people, things, and plans of this world are unable to offer us.  And while death is a reality, it isn't final.  Jesus has power to resurrect.  He gets the last word.  To complete the sentence, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever." (Isaiah 40:8)


Thursday, May 18, 2017

It's a Small World

It's really good to be here in Asheville with passionate leaders from around the world.  The last time we sat around a table together was in Indonesia last August as the (6 out of 7 new) VP's gathered today after the Congress of Nations.

Thai Food Together

The week has been intense, but very good.  I arrived Monday late morning and have snuck away from a few of the meetings to meet individually with some of the more experienced staff to help answer the slew of questions I have.  The past few weeks, I've picked up more and more responsibilities, somewhat to prep for this week; and the more I get assigned, the more I realize I have to learn!  That's an ongoing prayer request, for wisdom and understanding, for all of us.

The meetings have been extremely insightful for me, and it's a real privilege to hear all that the Lord is doing around the world, which seems a lot smaller when we're all joined together despite the different cultures and languages represented.  I'm excited for tonight's meetings as the VP's will each share with the board about what is happening in their particular areas. (Hope to share more later).

Of course, we don't only talk of all the successes, but the challenges as well.  As we were reminded in a session on Master Planning this morning, conflict and misunderstanding are the result of differing assumptions; so communication is vital for clarity.  Also, mission points us in the right direction while vision motivates and inspires.  Just a couple of nuggets from today. :)

Tom Reviewing Master Planning

We would all appreciate your prayers as these final two days are the longest.  Thank you!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Risky Business

 "The moment they saw Him they worshiped Him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally."  (Matt 28:17)

In light of the Easter season upon us, I've been reading the accounts of both Jesus' death and resurrection.  Jesus has risen from the dead, presented Himself to Mary and several other women, and now the 11 disciples see Him face-to-face, and the above statement is how the Message records their response.

Of course, we know that wasn't the end of the story and that Jesus' death was intentional, prophetic, and even powerful as it served as the required sacrifice needed to cover the payment for sin, once and for all, to restore us back to Him.  That His resurrection brought the power to bring life into what is dead.  



But imagine having given up everything to follow Jesus only to watch the religious people who had given up nothing and challenged His divinity have Him killed.  And instead of defending Himself or God, He suffers a brutal death right along with common criminals and goes into a grave, leaving them abandoned and scared.  Disappointment doesn't seem to capture how I imagine those who had risked everything for Jesus must have felt.

But the disciples had a choice: to give themselves back to Jesus with reverence, obedience, and respect or to keep their distance because of doubt.   The original Greek is to waver, the same word when Peter started walking on water but then fell.  

I wonder where you or I have been disappointed by Jesus.  We may deny such a thought because we know that Jesus doesn't disappoint, but our own expectations of who we expect Jesus to be and what He should do for us certainly can just like they did for His disciples when He walked the earth.  And so when He tells us to "meet Him in Galilee" so to speak, to trust Him again, we have that same choice.  Will we offer ourselves to Him as our worship, or will we waver because we're trusting in our own abilities or simply don't want to risk being disappointed again?

Perhaps it would help us to remember that Jesus doesn't empower us for our own individual comfort and success in life, that our following Him isn't for us alone.  This whole scene is actually the background for the Great Commission where Jesus' next move is to verbally transfer His own power and responsibility to carry God's salvation plan to those who follow after Him as His disciples.  So I think it's worth contemplating these things and considering if our God who gave up His very life is willing to trust us with this crucial role, will we trust Him in our everyday lives as well as with this call?

  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Don't Need Jesus

I was asked to speak at an event this past weekend for homeschooling parents about evangelizing teenagers.   Since far too much time has passed since my own high school years, my only "qualifications" are that I taught teenagers the past 3 years and have a teenage nephew.  Clearly not the expert!  But since the starting point that we teach in XEE is to connect and relate to others, it seemed like a good place to start is to consider the teenage life and mind.

Dot and I had some convo/role plays about learning to connect with others with Chloe and Audrey.  They're both high school students who are enthusiastic to share the Gospel. Note: the flowers were Audrey's idea, but brought back memories to Fiji! 🌼

One point we talked about is that many teens, whether they've grown up in church or not, may not recognize their need for Jesus.  And I'd say this is not limited to teenagers, but could hold true for all ages and all cultures. It's something I have encountered with Europeans, particularly the French who pride themselves in secularism.  Perhaps it's because Jesus is associated with the Church and religion, which hasn't always prevailed in the teachings of Jesus.  Perhaps it's because many associate Him with a 2000+-year old historical figure that has zero relevance to the 21st century.



That's where I get hopeful and even excited because as the approaching Easter season is supposed to remind us, Jesus is alive and oh-so-relevant.  A teen (or anyone) may deny their need for Jesus, but they may be better able to acknowledge their need for emotional or physical healing.  Because Jesus is Healer, He heals emotions, bodies, and spirits.  So, actually who Jesus is and what He does meets their needs after all.  Perhaps they need counsel for a tough decision or relationship or even counseling to help through some pain or confusion.  Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.  Maybe they live with loneliness and just need a friend.  Jesus is Friend.  In fact, He befriended the outcasts, despised, and "bad people" most of the time!  Or they may need someone who can stick around after dealing with a failed friendship, relationship, or even parent who has left.  Jesus is the Faithful One. 





The point is as humans--teen or not--we may not think we need Jesus when in actuality, that's exactly who we need.  We just don't know it because we've relegated Him to a figure from an ancient text rather than the God-With-Us, one of His other names.  The reality is that His Holy Spirit lives inside of those who do recognize their need for Jesus; so we have access to Him directly but also through others who are filled with His Spirit!  



Perhaps a real challenge is first getting to know Jesus in the fullness of who He is for ourselves so that we can share Him with others.  Then the Gospel is more than an awkward conversation, but the Good News that it truly is: Jesus did die over 2000 years ago to pay the price for every wrong thing we and others have done.  But now Jesus is alive and relates to us right where we are to restore us back to the One who created us to be whole and fulfilled.  

Jesus does meet our needs emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Right here, right now, and one day forever.  Let's recognize the real need for Jesus that is there for all life stages because of our common human state; and let's share Him with others.  We all need Jesus.