Showing posts with label missionary life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label missionary life. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 9

Guayaquil De Mis Amores

193 years ago Guayaquil gained her independence from Spain. October 9 is Guayaquil Day. View some historical and current photos of the city where my wife and I have lived and served for 27 years.

Sunday, September 15

Consejos prácticos para un siervo del Señor

1. Guarda celosamente su tiempo diario a solas con el Señor. No deje que otros asuntos tengan prioridad sobre su relación personal con Cristo.

2. No empequeñezcas a otras personas.

3. Viva con el 80% de lo que gana.

4. No descuide los “clavos de la herradura”
            “Por falta de un clavo se perdió la herradura
            Por falta de la herradura se perdió el caballo
            Por falta del caballo se perdió el jinete
            Por falta del jinete se perdió la batalla
            Por falta de la batalla se perdió el reino
            Y todo por la falta de un clavo.”

5. Guardar el sábado es uno de los 10 Mandamientos de Dios. (Ex. 20:8-11)

6. No endeudarse. Regale dinero, pero no haga préstamos de su dinero. Igualmente, no pidas dinero por prestado. Si ahora estás en deuda su prioridad es salir de esa deuda. (Rom. 13:8)

7. Examinadlo todo; retened lo bueno. (I Tes. 5:21)

8. Tenga en claro la misión que el Señor tiene para tu vida y entrégate de lleno a ella. (Mat.6:33)

9. Comunica continuamente con tu “tribu.”

10. Sea transparente y honesto en todo. Tus hermanos perdonarán tus faltas confesadas, pero no el orgullo de tu deshonestidad y el tratar de ocultar las cosas.

11. Lidera con fe y optimismo.

12. Siempre esté leyendo un libro. Lea también libros fuera de tu zona de comodidad para entender otras perspectivas. Lee diferentes tipos y géneros de libros para ampliar tus conocimientos.

13. La educación, la capacitación, y la preparación es algo continua durante toda la vida.

14. Menos es más. Más es menos.

15. Aprenda a escuchar a los demás. Dios nos dio dos oídos y una boca para escuchar el doble de lo que hablamos. Muchas veces el mejor regalo que podemos dar a alguien es nuestro oído y tiempo para escucharles. 90% de consejería es escuchar a la otra persona atentamente.

16.Reconoce y aprecia la labor y esfuerzo de los demás.

17. Escoja tus batallas sabiamente; no podrás combatirlas todas.

18. Cuídate de los tres “D” del diablo: desánimo, distracción, división.

19. Las personas son más importantes que nuestros programas o estructuras.

20. Transforma tu vocabulario con frases mágicas de una a cuatro palabras: perdóname, me equivoqué, tienes la razón, hiciste un buen trabajo, ¿qué te parece? gracias, por favor, ¿cuál es tu opinión? Lo hiciste bien, tenga la bondad, ¿puedo ayudarte? Quiero entenderlo de tu perspectiva.

21. Aprenda a callar hasta poder decir algo constructivo o edificante. (Col. 4:6)

22. Aprenda a escuchar y a obedecer a la voz de Dios. Si él puede hablar por una asna (Num.22:28), también nos puede hablar por muchos medios a nuestro alrededor: Su Palabra, la naturaleza, un libro, esa voz quieta en nuestra alma, la boca de otra persona, la música, un sueño, etc. (Juan 10:27)

23. Charles Swindoll dijo, "Estoy convencido que la vida es 10% lo que me sucede y 90% como reacciono a lo que me sucede."  Mi actitud frente a lo que me ocurre en la vida es más importante que los mismos hechos que me suceden. Muchas veces uno no puede controlar lo que le vaya a pasar en la vida, pero sí puede decidir cómo va a reaccionar a lo que le sucede en la vida.

Monday, August 19

Teleamigo is 20 years old

Teleamigo is an evangelistic counseling and prayer ministry which we helped begin back in August 1993. Last night Teleamigo celebrated her 20th anniversary. Literally thousands upon thousands of people have been touched and lives changed by this volunteer ministry that uses prayer and counseling to reach people for Christ. There are so many people to thank. So many whose lives, love, and offerings have gone into making Teleamigo a ministry that has impacted over 3-million people who have made contact through one or another of the different levels of ministry.

As my wife and I participated in the anniversary celebration, I couldn't help but reflect on all the people whose lives have been part of Teleamigo over the past twenty years. It was noted that at least three different sister ministries are today the "grandchildren" of Teleamigo. Each of these three have gone on to specialize in areas of helping people that go beyond what Teleamigo is able to offer. The leaders of these other ministries all "cut their teeth" with Teleamigo and today continue to impact people's lives with the love of Christ.

Jesus assured his disciples in John 14:12 "The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." How true!

Over the past fourteen years the "five loaves and two fish" offered to the Lord on August 3, 1993 have been abundantly blessed by Jesus Christ. What began as something so small and insignificant, has touched the lives of over 3-million people:

Untold thousands have been helped...
tens of thousands prayed over...
marriages saved...
babies born instead of aborted...
the abused forgiving those who have hurt them...
alcohol and drug addicts loved and ministered to...
families restored and reconciled...
the hopeless encouraged...
and yes, hundreds accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.

Only eternity will show the full impact this tiny ministry operating on a shoe-string budget has had on the lives of so many who live here in Guayaquil. To God be the Glory.

While the below video has been out now for several years, it is a good summary of what God continues to do through this ministry. Thanks for viewing and especially for praying for Teleamigo as she begins her 21st year of ministry.



To read past articles in this blog about Teleamigo, type in the word "teleamigo" at the top of the page in the search box.

Sunday, July 7

IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG



Curtis Sergeant was the first to introduce me to the concept of IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG: If You Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing, You’ll Keep Getting What You’ve Been Getting.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results. Also, if you just do the same thing you have been doing but do more of it, you will probably get the same thing you have been getting, just more of it. So, if you are dissatisfied with the current results, then you need to consider altering your approach or changing the methodology that is currently being used. Constant ruthless evaluation is an important habit if you are seeking maximum effectiveness. Never be satisfied with the status quo. Always seek to improve...
I have found this advise to be so true. We get stuck in our ruts and just keep ploughing away hoping somehow that if we just do more of it and work harder at it we will somehow get the desired results. Even when something is obviously not working, we have the tendency to not change what we are doing.

My experience has been that nothing seems to work for very long. It seems we are always in a state of transition. What may have worked well three months ago is no longer as relevant. Those "perfect materials" were perfect for about two weeks, today something else is needed. Those we thought were our "superstar church planters" have moved on to something else. Once again we are back to square one asking the Lord of the Harvest for God-called laborers.

We want a plan, a program, a tried and proven formula that keeps on working year after year. Yet ministry (the world for that matter!) doesn't seem to operate this way. The IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG idea reminds me WHAT we do and HOW we do things matters. We need to constantly evaluate and measure what is working and make needed changes.

Thursday, July 4

Pindal Medical Missions Trip

from Guy Muse on Vimeo.


Highlights from our June 21-28, 2013 medical missions trip to Pindal, Ecuador in the southern province of Loja.

Friday, June 21

Does God Have "To Do" Lists?

The past few weeks have been frustrating. For every item I am able to cross off on my "To Do" list, 2-3 more are added. Calls needing to be made, reports overdue, projects awaiting attention, documents needing translation, individuals needing counseling, materials needing to be reworked, follow-up visits that should have been taken care of weeks ago, banking and financial matters needing attention yesterday, etc.

In the past fourteen days, I have only been able to cross off fourteen items total out of 40+ things needing attention yesterday. That averages to one item accomplished per day!

Why am I getting so little accomplished these days? I can answer that with one word. INTERRUPTIONS. And what is the definition of interruptions? PEOPLE!

People calling. People needing help. People asking favors. People dropping by the house. Meetings...requests...office/paperwork. Endless correspondence where you respond to an email and there are two more that pop up in the inbox while answering! Night and day, it never lets up. When is one supposed to get around to doing "our stuff" when everybody else's stuff is taking up all our time?

But...

What if God also has "to do" lists? What if God has on his list today for Juán to call me and see about our getting together for coffee at 2:15 this afternoon and talk about his problems?

When I seriously pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..." am I not in effect saying, "Lord, your "to do" list has priority. Your agenda today takes precedence over my own." While meeting Juán at 2:15 may not be on my list, I would be foolish to blow off meeting Juan at 2:15 if he is on God's list.

I am reminded of a Mark Batterson quote I once came across,
One of my mottos is "ministry happens." I think that at least 90% of the ministry that happens in the gospels is spontaneous. Jesus was headed from one place to another and an opportunity would present itself. Jesus was willing to get off the beaten path and take the road less traveled. He didn't see them as detours or dead ends. Too often we mistake human interruptions for divine appointments. --from a Mark Batterson message entitled "Wild Goose Chase."
For people like myself who are geared toward intentional ministry and "to do" lists, the above thought is a needed reminder. Am I too busy to take time for someone interrupting "my ministry?" Am I so geared towards that 10% intentional ministry that I overlook the 90% God sets in my path daily?

Wednesday, May 1

Teleamigo: Guayaquil, Ecuador

Built upon the foundation of prayer, the Teleamigo Counseling Center in Guayaquil, Ecuador has been used to reach over 2.5 million people in the past decade.


Wednesday, March 27

A shift in our missionary role


My wife and I arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador as missionaries in December of 1987. In those early missionary days we labored at the center of where "the action" was taking place. We were in high demand by the churches, associations, and Ecuador Baptist Convention and all their related institutions and programs. A lot of our time was spent attending all the different meetings of both our own denominational work, as well as the events and programs of other evangelical denominations. I served on various denominational boards, committees, and task forces. Our advice and opinions were respected and listened to. We were constantly called upon to preach, teach, administer, counsel, train, and coordinate ministries, institutions, and strategy. Each of us wore multiple ministerial hats. All of us were responsible for carrying out an assortment of assignments, often in areas we were not particularly gifted in, but "someone" had to fill those shoes, so we took on these tasks as well. Our phone rang incessantly. Rare were the days when we had an entire evening to ourselves without someone in our home, someone dropping by to chat, or the phone ringing day and night.

Over the years, all of the above has continued to decrease to, what is today, a mere trickle of what it was 20 years ago. Has the work diminished? Not at all. In fact far more is happening now on multiple levels than anyone could have ever imagined. But our personal influence and role has diminished from what it once was. Probably to be fair, a better description would be our influence and role has changed. While we are certainly still loved and respected by our Ecuadorian brethren, the things we used to do--as "principal actors on stage"--are now being done by those we poured ourselves into years ago. The very men/women/youth we taught, counseled, trained, and encouraged have taken our place. They are the ones now that others call upon, serve in "important" capacities, speak, teach, train, travel, lead, preach, etc.

One of the hardest missions lessons is the one John the Baptist must have also struggled with: "He must increase; but I must decrease." Someone once defined missionary success as working oneself out of a job.

But actually saying these words is a lot easier than living with the consequences of someone else now doing and filling the roles one used to have. We too want to be needed, sought after, consulted, and called upon. In fact, instead of the phone ringing in the evenings with yet another crisis for us to solve, we now can sit most nights quietly reading a book without interruption.

As I reflect back over the years of all the assignments, responsibilities, tasks, and roles we have played; ALL, without exception, are today in the hands of nationals who are doing an excellent job.

So what are we still doing here if we have successfully worked ourselves out of all our jobs?

The task is far from completed. With only 7-10% of the population in Ecuador followers of Christ, much remains to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our region of the world.

What I sense is most needed is not more missionaries continuing to come from other parts of the world to Ecuador, but rather a shift in role existing missionaries play.

We must begin to see ourselves more in the apostolic role of encouragers, enablers, equippers, trainers, motivators, connectors, and coordinators who are principally engaged in mobilizing God's people into the ripe harvest fields--not as fun as front line stuff, but necessary!

While there will always be room for the first generation apostolic church planter who goes into unreached/under-reached territory to proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, and leave a NT ekklesia; in the later stages of a ripe harvest field (like Ecuador) we best serve the King by shifting our focus to helping the church see what remains to be done, how to accomplish the task, provide tools and training, and mobilize to lead hundreds of laborers to bring in the harvest God is giving.

Another way of understanding this role change is to explain it this way: I can feel great about spending 30-40 hours a week directly engaged in proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples, baptizing 15-20 and hopefully planting 1-2 churches in a year's time...or, I can spend that same time modeling, training, mobilizing several hundred others to do the same things, and at the end of the year see the Kingdom grow by dozens of churches and hundreds of baptisms and scores of new disciples also equipped to going out and making even more disciples.

In the first role we are the primary actors on stage. Everyone sees us, needs us, and looks to us for direction. In the second we are behind the scenes and the ones "seen" are those we are coaching. The difference in the way we understand our apostolic/missionary role is between planting a church, and being an instrument in the Spirit's hands for dozens of churches planted all over the region.

What do you think? As usual, your thoughts and observations are welcome.

Saturday, February 9

Is there such a thing as "called to full-time ministry?"


I am getting ready to go to camp tomorrow to speak to 200 youth on the subject of God's call to full-time ministry. Most of those listening to me tomorrow will certainly consider me--the missionary--to be somebody in full-time ministry. But I would argue the point that people like me are actually one step removed from full-time ministry! Most of my day revolves around other believers. Those who actually live, work, and study out in the secular world are potentially in a much better position to engage in meaningful ministry.

Jesus did not call us to remove ourselves from the world, but to be salt and light in the midst of the world.  Many of us so-called "full-time" ministers spend little time in the real world for which Christ died.

I agree with what Dale Losch writes, "The dichotomous notion that religious work is ministry and secular work is not has been very harmful. Speaking of the tragic disconnect between the world and the church, author Dorothy Sayers lamented: How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of life!"

What I hope to share tomorrow with the youth is that where they live, work, study, and play is the most strategic place of ministry for any follower of Jesus. We must be intentional in all the relationships the Lord has allowed us to have. And realize that 'making disciples' where we are is our full-time job, but that doesn't mean we have to leave our secular job to do so!

Earlier this week I had coffee with a young man who is a medical student. He "gets this" about as well as anybody I have met in a long time.  During the week he has started a cell group at the university with his fellow medical students, has a house church in his home, and on weekends travels to a neighboring town for a new church plant with the rural poor. In his mind he is a full-time minister of the Gospel. I couldn't agree more.

Just imagine if all of Jesus' followers were actively engaged in making disciples where they lived, worked, studied, and played?  I believe that was the way it was in the first century where every one of Jesus followers was part of his called-out, chosen people, royal priesthood, part of his holy nation, and a people belonging to God, that all of us together might declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)

Monday, February 4

What missionaries wish they had known before going overseas*


*I wish I had had more realistic expectations.

-Answer from Mike in West Africa...
 
I could make a similar comparison to marriage. Many girls and young women have unrealistic ideas about the romantic bliss found in marriage and never see the problems or day-to-day hard effort needed to really make a marriage work. Missions is no different. In most missionary presentations,you hear about all the victories and what great things the Lord is doing. I think that is for two reasons. First, missionaries are trying to recruit people into the work, so they strongly emphasize the positive side. Second, most people, and maybe especially missionaries, don't want to be vulnerable and reveal that they have problems. This is not helped by the fact that church people want to put missionaries on a pedestal as super spiritual for being willing to sacrifice "all" and live under harsh conditions. So it is important to talk with missionaries one-on-one so you may be able to hear their struggles as well as their victories.

Another common fallacy is that the "heathen" are crying out for someone to tell them the gospel. There may be the rare exception (in Papua New Guinea, one tribe did build a church in anticipation of the missionaries coming to tell them the Good News), but in general, the "heathen" are blinded just like the Jews. They are not searching for God and are living deceived in the darkness of their blinded condition. One will most commonly find indifference to the message, and at worst, there will be downright opposition.

I am often amused by missionaries who have the idea they are going overseas to do a great work for Jesus. First of all, we are participating in the work that God is already doing. This is well-explained in the workbook Experiencing God. Of course, all your friends here will tell you what a great and wonderful thing you are doing. Then WHAM! You come face to face overseas with all your inadequacies and weaknesses. You realize how much you are actually going to have to depend on God to see something accomplished. Many missionaries when confronted with the reality of living in a foreign culture and the time needed to impact the people simply become discouraged, turn around and come home. It is only when we realize that we are totally dependent on God and wait on Him and work with Him that we finally see some beautiful fruit.

I wish I had known how difficult missions really is.

-Answer from Tim, who has been a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators since 1974, serving in Cameroon and the United States...
 
I would have gotten more cross-cultural training, especially focused on the culture to which I was going. I would have taken more time in language learning. But most of all, I needed realistic expectations. Working in a foreign field is the same as being in a war. I know. I've fought in both and the similarities are striking. There is not much glorious about warfare. It may look exciting on TV or in the movies, but in the trenches it's real life, and people get hurt and die. It's a lot of hard work, sloshing thru the rice paddies. It stinks. And the enemy has ambushes everywhere. Often you can't tell the enemy from the friendly. And your friends get injured and killed. It hurts.

The culture won't make a bit of sense and you'll even resent the people sometimes, or think how ridiculous they do things. But you will learn how to live there. You'll learn new cultural cues and you'll begin to see how they do make sense in your new culture. And in the learning, you'll grow to love the people. So learn to laugh at yourself!

Don't give up! When you go, determine that you're going to stay. It's like God meant marriage to be. It won't always be easy, but make it work! Don't expect the other person to change. Change as you need to. And there's probably no better environment to promote change in us than working in another culture.
 
I wish I had known language learning & missy relationships.

-Answer from Mike in West Africa, who is translating the Bible with WEC International.
 
Language learning is a long process. Most North Americans have never learned a language and do not understand the time, work, and patience needed. Even some missionaries don't see the importance of learning the language.

Most adults do not know how to handle the humiliation of learning a new language, of having people give them confused stares, just outright laughing at them, or becoming angry because you are in their country and can't speak the language. Many people in my language school suffered from loss of identity and inferiority. These were well-educated people who had been successful in their occupations back home. Now they were learning language full-time and couldn't understand why they were having such a hard time when they did so well in their home occupations. They didn't understand that learning a language is a completely different animal than making good grades in history or nursing. Being "smart" does not guarantee that you will automatically find learning language easy.

Never assume that you and your colleagues are going to be one big happy family. Generally you cannot choose who you are going to work with and no one is going to hit it off with everybody. So you may find that your colleagues have different interests and backgrounds that you cannot relate to well. You may find that they do things that are quite irritating to you. You may find some of your colleagues to be quite carnal, having major problems with anger, critical spirit, gossiping, etc. Good relationships take a lot of time and effort. I would say that it is just as important, if not more so, to spend time "bonding" with your colleagues as well as bonding with the nationals.
 
I wish I had learned about spiritual warfare.

-Answer from Tim, who has been a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators since 1974, serving in Cameroon and the United States.
 
I wish I had known more about my relationship to God and about spiritual warfare. One book every Christian should read is Victory Over The Darkness by Neil Anderson. This will help you understand and recognize spiritual warfare. Wherever you're living right now, you're in the middle of a battle. We need to understand the nature of that battle so that we can be victorious over our enemy. When we cross over into another culture, where satan has built his strongholds for centuries and where cultural cues vary, the battle looks different. However, our victory over the powers of darkness is still in Christ.

We all have much to learn in this life, and much of what God has to teach you, you'll only learn by going where He leads. So do some good thorough preparation, and then GO. Don't ever think you've got to be totally prepared before you go, or you'll never go.
 
I wish I had known how difficult long-term fruit really is.

-Answer from John McVay, who wrote the following after serving one year in western Europe.
 
On a short-term you may go to a responsive area and see numerous decisions for Christ. But among less responsive people-groups, missionaries often struggle with spiritual infertility. Sometimes those who make a decision may not follow through. On a short-term you saw people pray for salvation and then you were back on the plane. But as a missionary you may discover that this "convert" no longer even wants to see you.

If you want to see people saved, you need to spend time with non-Christians. But we were amazed at how much of our time was tied up in fellowship with other missionaries, people in the church, other national pastors, and friends who visited. We started to ask, "When was the last time we saw a non-Christian?" Then God led us to make contact with a pre-Christian every day. As part of this we invited families over for dinner once a week. Though few outsiders would come to a church meeting, no one turned down a dinner invitation!

Missions is sometimes a huge challenge. During our darkest days I would read Hebrews 11 aloud twice a day and pray for the faith to keep going. One day I continued into the next chapter and read Hebrews 12:11 "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful." I wondered if the Lord was disciplining me. Had I been disobedient? Then I read Hebrews 12:7 "Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons." Then I saw it. The hardship is something that God brought into my life. Then I reread verse 11 and exchanged the word discipline for hardship. "No hardship seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Like a good marriage, effective missions takes work. But it's worth every bit of it, too.
 
I wish I had known more about myself and being patient.

-Answer from Bethany who is serving in the Middle East with the Assemblies of God.
 
Here are my pearls:
  • Boredom is real. I heard that before I came, but I have found extreme periods of down time that I used to fill so easily. The first two months or so in a new place are the hardest as you establish new friendships and a new pattern of life.
  • Knowing yourself is very important. I have been stretched a phenomenal amount, especially in the first months of my assignment. If you have skeletons in the closet, God will bring them to light. Be willing to deal with them as they come up; don't push them away. God needs to break you to use you.
  • Be teachable and be a lifelong learner. It's easy to just depend on your ability to "figure it out once you get there," as firsthand knowledge may seem more dependable than book knowledge and theories. It's not true. Know before you go.
  • It takes time to ease into the structure. At home, I had lots of energy to fill my day from early morning to late at night. On the field it seems I tire so quickly. Realize that being stretched physically, emotionally, spiritually, and facing a new culture, language, living situation, etc. wears you out. It's okay to slow down. Being a missionary is not about being superhuman and accomplishing a long list each day. Some days all you'll accomplish is a trip to the grocery store or a government office. It's about trust and obedience and hearing the Master's voice.

  • I wish I had known how nationals view the economic status of missionaries.

    -Answer from Mike in West Africa, who is translating the Bible with WEC International.
     
    To me, my standard of living is drastically lower in a developing country. But no matter what level one lives at, the fact remains that you will always be considered wealthy in the eyes of the nationals. And in fact, you are wealthy. In our local currency $2,000 US dollars would equal a million, so almost all the missionaries are "millionaires" here. And even if you find it hard to live on the support you receive from back home, you still had enough to pay a ticket to come here, whereas your everyday national could never pay a plane ticket to visit another country.

    Also, one encounters the common idea that it is the duty of those with more money to distribute it to help others. So the nationals will never look at someone who has more money than them and lives at a higher level than them, and drives a car, as someone who is making a sacrifice. Don’t expect to be congratulated or thanked for the sacrifices you made to come. Americans in particular (and I speak as one) seem to have the idea that we must be constantly affirmed. Better get over that before heading overseas.

    Another fallacy is that nationals should applaud that you have "sacrificed all" to bring them good news about Jesus. The reality is that they probably won't give a hoot! Many missionaries go with the idea that they should be "appreciated" by the nationals for the sacrifices they have made. And of course we cannot serve God if we are not appreciated! Pray to be humbled now, before going out and being humbled overseas. Of course, depending on your job (doctor, nurse, well-digger), you might be better received than just a general evangelist. Or if you come to work a specific job by the church, they will be more appreciative than non-Christians. But I guarantee there will always come a time when you will feel that you are not "appreciated" (whether by the church, the heathen, or even your own colleagues).
     
    I wish I knew how to deal with conflict.

    Answer from Paul in CA who has served in Uganda and Rawanda for two years.

    When you want a job you usually put on your best for your prospective employer, like a first date, you hide all the bad and accentuate the positive. Unfortunately, I discovered after two failed attempts to work with missions agencies, this not a good way to "get married" to a sending organization.

    Just like my former wife and several bosses, I fell in love too fast, accentuated my and their positive points, and didn’t ask the critical question "How do they fight through a problem?" Neglect to do this and you will get seriously hurt.

    When you know how a spouse, boss, friend, co-worker, pastor, or mission agency resolves conflict you will know your chances of being able to have a long term relationship with them. Nice Christians who resort to threats, gossip, slander, lawsuits, giving the silent treatment, bullying etc. don’t tell you up front this is how they deal with conflict. You have to know them well before you commit to a long-term relationship. So find out how they fight before you sign up.

    _____________________________________________
    *Reprinted from Ask A Missionary website which seeks to answer the common questions posed by people considering missions service overseas. The above is taken from the article,  "What missionaries wish they had known before they first went?"

    Sunday, January 6

    More favorite missions quotes

    "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." -William Carey

    "The Indian is making an amazing discovery, namely that Christianity and Jesus are not the same--that they may have Jesus without the system that has been built up around Him in the West." -E. Stanley Jones


    "Christians don't tell lies, they just go to church and sing them." -A.W. Tozer

    "It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to China. With these facts before you and with the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home." -J. Hudson Taylor

    "If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king." -Charles H. Spurgeon

    "We talk of the second coming, half the world has never heard of the first." -Oswald J. Smith

    "If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel? The present uneven distribution of Christians and opportunities to hear the gospel of Christ will continue on unchanged." -C. Gordon Olson

    "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't." -John Piper

    "We who have Christ's eternal life need to throw away our own lives." -George Verwer

    "Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell." -C.T. Studd

    "'Not called!' did you say? Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face -- whose mercy you have professed to obey -- and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world." -William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army

    "When I get to China, I will have no claim on any one for anything. My claim will be alone in God and I must learn before I leave England to move men through God by prayer alone" -J. Hudson Taylor

    "The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity." -Mike Stachura

    "Someone asked, ʻWill the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?' It is more a question with me whether we--who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not--can be saved." -Charles Spurgeon

    "I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God; first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done." -Hudson Taylor

    "The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed." -Hudson Taylor

    "Sympathy is no substitute for action." -David Livingstone

    "It is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world." -Charles H. Spurgeon

    “Facebook proves the very fact that is it a lie that ʻwe do not have enough timeʼ to be gathered for prayer in the name of world missions.” -Unknown

    The Chinese have a proverb: If two men feed a horse, it will lose weight; if two men keep a boat, it will soon leak. What is everybodys job is nobodys job. If every Christian is a missionary, missionary work is bound to suffer. It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary. -J. Herbert Kane

    --------------------------
    Many of the above quotes were found at World Christian Quotes, Assembled and Adapted by Mark Struck. 

    Wednesday, December 26

    Thinking like a missionary

    Ernest Goodman wrote a while back a great post worth sharing entitled If you thought like a missionary...

    The word “church” would conjure images of people, not buildings.

    Your plans for the year would be limited only by your creativity, not your available funds. You’d have a plan for what happens after you’re gone (a plan that could be implemented tomorrow).

    You’d worry more about getting things right than being right. You’d know that every decision you make along the way has far-reaching implications for the work. Missionaries think about the long-term strategic consequences of decisions like establishing elders too soon, dividing up families for Bible study, and growing one large church vs. starting several smaller ones.

    Church planting would be more than just starting a church and being its pastor; it would entail discipling indigenous leaders and pastoring through them.

    You’d exegete your cultural context, not consume it. What you learn would inform what you do, because indigeneity would be a goal of your work.

    You would love your city, but never quite feel comfortable in it. Something would always remind you that you are a stranger, pilgrim, and at best, an acceptable outsider.

    Your church would understand that it’s only a part of what God is doing around the world. There’s a lot to learn from believers of other times and in other contexts. Global involvement cannot wait until local work is mature.

    Your team would spend more time listening to the Holy Spirit than listening to you.

    Your family’s active involvement would be vital to your ministry. Missionaries, at least the ones that last, include their spouse and children in building redemptive relationships.

    The people you’re ministering to would have your mobile phone number. The real one.

    Your stories would be current, first-person, and self-depreciating.

    You would be keenly aware of the depth of your inadequacy, the dangers of the spiritual reality, and the blessing of God’s gracious provision.

    You should become a missionary.

    Wednesday, December 19

    Say that again? Things people say to missionaries


    I bet y'all eat a lot of Mexican food down there in Ecuador.  Nope, we only eat Mexican food when we're in Texas (or go out to one of the two expensive Mexican restaurants in our city.) In Ecuador we eat Ecuadorian food. You ought to try some, it's very delicious!

    When are you guys coming back home?  You mean, when will we be going back home to Ecuador?  Home is less a place, and more wherever it is that we are together as a family.

    How do you talk to people when they don't speak English, or do they speak English down there?  You have to learn their language. In our case, that would be Spanish. Language and cultural adaptation are two of the toughest hurdles for most cross-cultural missionaries. 

    Can you share a 5-minute testimony in our Wednesday night service? I would love to share in your church, but wish it was more than 5-minutes. It is hard to summarize three years of experiences in a meaningful way, and share what the Lord has laid on my heart, but I will give it my best shot. Five minutes is better than nothing at all.

    Will your kids be going overseas with you?  Are you offering to keep them with you while we are gone for three years? [smile] Yes, they will be going with us. We believe God calls families, not just moms and dads. Our kids are just as much a part of our mission as we are.

    Right now our church is doing other things and can't take on any new committments at this time. You do understand, don't you?  No, I really don't, but what else can I say.

    [Closely related]: Our church is committed to the building campaign and for now missions giving is on hold. Once this is paid for we can look at some ministry options with you. Can you get back with us in a couple of years?   Thanks, but no thanks. Just hearing from you that 'missions giving is on hold' for something else, confirms for me we are not reading the same Bible and not a good partnership match. As I walk away, I am quoting Luke 9:5 to myself, "wherever people don't welcome you, leave that town and shake the dust off your feet as a warning to them."

    We aren't doing missions because our church is into other things right now.  Are those "other things" keeping you from obeying what Jesus Christ has commanded? If so, maybe those other things are what need discarding.

    Why are you down there in Ecuador when there are so many lost and needy people right here at home?  Yes, there are lost and needy people wherever we go, but the Great Commission is not only about our Jerusalem, but also about being his witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.  What makes you so sure I am the one in disobedience?

    Our dollars are needed right here at home. Those people are just 'reaping what they have sown.'  I understand where you are coming from, but before jumping to conclusions, why not come down and spend a week seeing first hand the plight of 'those people', and then decide where it is you want to invest all those dollars you think should be kept 'at home.' My experience is those who speak the loudest on keeping money at home, neither give to help those at home--or anywhere else for that matter!

    ---------------------
    NOTE: All the above (along with their variations) are real things that have been said to us on more than one occasion. We share them, not to embarrass, but hopefully to help the reader see things from our perspective. Not all missionaries view these things in the same way. What I have shared above are just my reactions to some of these statements that have been repeated to us over the years.

    Saturday, December 15

    25 years in Ecuador and what God is teaching us through our mango tree

    Twenty-five years ago today, December 15, we stepped off the plane in Guayaquil to begin our missionary service in the country of Ecuador.  A good portion of those years have been spent--as Evelyn Underhill says,
    *conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, to do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing over these verbs has kept us in perpetual unrest. We too easily forget that none of these have any ultimate significance except as they are transcended in the fundamental verb, to be. It is in being--not wanting, having, or doing--that we find our essence and purpose in life and true service to God.
     
    In our back yard is a medium size mango tree. Every December the tree bears fruit. Not just a few mangoes, but year after year it RAINS MANGOES! It always amazes me that this happens without my having done anything to bring about this harvest (I am a terrible gardener!) My only contribution is to pick up  the fallen fruit.

    No matter how much I may fret, work, strategize, and even pray during the entire year, there is absolutely nothing I am doing myself to make this tree bear its annual harvest of mangoes.
    "And he will be like a tree which yields its fruit in its season." --Psalm 1
    As the Psalmist says, a tree cannot help but bear fruit in its proper season.  Our mango tree may want a lot of things, even wish things were different. The tree may not be content with what it has to show for its years of service. It may not like the idea of where it is located out back where it is out-of-sight. It may even try to do more on its own to somehow bring about a greater mango harvest for the glory of God. But, of course, all these are foolish strivings.

    God himself commands that we are to cease striving, be still, let go, relax and know that HE IS GOD. (Psalm 46:10)

    The only thing for a tree to do is to be the tree God created it to be.  What I am learning after 25 years of gardening on the mission field is that trees bear fruit in their season regardless of all the fussing, fretting, and fighting I may try to do to hasten in the harvest.  It makes more spiritual sense to do what God commanded and cease striving, slow down, chill out, [try to] be still, let go, release to God, relax and simply BE that mango tree hidden in the back yard.  Galatians 6:9 promises we shall indeed reap in due time if we do not grow weary and do not lose heart in doing good.

    This Christmas Season let us keep in mind Jesus left his home, his comfort zone, his Glory to be the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:36) -- a sacrifice for sinners, not exactly the most appealing role for the Son of God. Yet who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

    We too want to continue to be obedient to our Master and Lord. Twenty-five years is a milestone, but it is not the end of the journey. As you pray for us, the Muses in Ecuador, pray we would continue to be His faithful mango trees who in due season bear fruit. The Christmas gift we desire from you is to take the time and NOT CEASE to pray for Guy, Linda, Joshua, and Anna the prayer Paul prayed for the Colossian believers:
    • that we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
    • that we may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
    • that we please Him in all respects
    • that we would bear fruit in every good work
    • that we would increase in the knowledge of God
    • that we would be strengthened with all power for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience
    • that we would joyously give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  

    ---------------------------------
    * "We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual--even on the religious plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to be: and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life."
    --The Spiritual Life, by Evelyn Underhill, pg.20-21

    Tuesday, December 11

    Discipleship questions worth pondering

    Fellow missionary Miguel Labrador on his thought-provoking blog God Directed Deviations asks some very pertinent questions related to evangelism and discipleship.  If we are going to seriously engage in making disciples of the nations, each of Miguel's questions deserves attention.
     
    Which of the following challenges you? Are there any you would like to comment upon? Which questions are you going to spend some time with praying about?  I'll share my list, if you'll share yours! 
     
    -------------------------
     
    1. Can a person be a disciple and not yet a believer in Jesus, a “Christian.”
     
    2. Can you disciple an unbeliever?
     
    3. When someone becomes a believer or Christian, can we consider them as a “disciple made?”
     
    4. Are we supposed to be determining when others believe?
     
    5. If we focused on Making Disciples instead of conversions, would that make any practical difference?
     
    6. How did biblical messengers of God’s Gospel determine when others believed.
     
    7. Someone asks you, “How can I follow this Jesus that you follow?” What do you say, and what will you do?
     
    8. Is Making Disciples, “The” Mission of The Church?
     
    9. Are we to obey the teaching component of the Great Commission, or are we to step out of the way and let Jesus (or the Spirit) teach others directly?
     
    10. When does programing or bringing structure to discipleship get in the way of God’s desire to disciple others directly? Examples?
     
    11. If the making of disciples, or discipleship requires that we teach others to observe/obey ALL that Jesus commanded, then wouldn’t that take a considerable amount of time? Are we relieved of our responsibility to teach when we have taught all of those commandments?

    Sunday, December 9

    We have left our homes and followed You


    Twenty-six years ago today, Linda and I were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board, SBC as missionaries to Ecuador (today known as the International Mission Board, or IMB.)

    I can still remember how stressed I was that entire day because the bulletin listed us as going to Ecuador as Mass Media Specialists. I had insisted throughout the appointment process that we be appointed as Music/Mass Media missionaries. I can't help but smile, that 26 years later, we are still dealing with title issues and roles. I never have quite accepted any title or role assigned me yet!

    I have often reflected on Jesus response to Peter in Luke 18,
    "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." And He [JESUS] said... "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."
    These words were the text of the message preached by Keith Parks at our appointment service. Most of us focus on the last part that promises we will receive "many times as much" for the little we might sacrifice along the way. But there is no skipping over the high cost entailed in leaving behind those people, houses, etc. in order to fulfill God's calling. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.

    Don't get me wrong, we aren't regretting for a moment our choice. I can't imagine our lives any differently! I wouldn't trade what we have lived and experienced these past 26 years with anybody on earth! But anniversaries are a time to reflect on God's goodness and faithfulness. I don't believe He is quite finished with us yet. And I can't help but believe the best days are yet ahead!

    Some of the questions going around in my head these days are:
    • has it been worth it?
    • are we really making a difference overseas?
    • have we really made any kind of lasting, significant contribution?
    • is it time to move on and do something else?
    • is the work better or worse off for our being there?
    • have we been faithful?
    • is it time to return to the USA?
    • does God have more for us to do here before relieving us of this responsibility?
    • how do we balance of obeying God's call with the needs of our children and aging parents?
    I share these thoughts as a means of expressing how important praying for missionaries is. We are people just like everyone else. We need your prayers, words of encouragement, and support (a la Lottie Moon Christmas Offering!)

    Before William Carey, the "Father of the Modern Missionary Movement" went to India, he said to the little society of believers sending him, "I will go down the mine, if you will all hold the ropes for me."

    Will you continue to hold the ropes for us?



    Click on the above images to zoom and see better the program and people we were appointed with.

    Thursday, December 6

    Favorite missions quotes

     
    The command has been to ʻgo,ʼ but we have stayed—in body, gifts, prayer and influence. He has asked us to be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth. But 99% of Christians have kept puttering around in the homeland." -Robert Savage, missionary to Ecuador

    "While vast continents are shrouded in darkness the burden of proof lies upon you to show that the circumstances in which God has placed you were meant by God to keep you out of the foreign mission field." -Ion Keith-Falconer

    "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." -Jim Elliot, missionary martyr, Ecuador

    "I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done for China. I don't know who it was. It must have been a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing and God looked down and saw Gladys Aylward. And God said, "Well, she's willing." -Gladys Aylward

    "Only as the church fulfills her missionary obligation does she justify her existence." -Unknown

    "And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted." -Nate Saint, missionary martyr, Ecuador

    "Young man, sit down: when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine." -said to a young William Carey (who, thankfully, did not listen)

    "The Bible is not the basis of missions; missions is the basis of the Bible." -Ralph Winter, U.S. Center for World Mission

    "The mission of the church is missions." -Unknown

    "As long as there are millions destitute of the Word of God and knowledge of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for me to devote time and energy to those who have both." -J. L. Ewen

    "We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God." -John Stott

    "The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time." -Carl F. H. Henry

    "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies." -J. Hudson Taylor

    "Prayer needs no passport, visa or work permit. There is no such thing as a 'closed country' as far as prayer is concerned...much of the history of mission could be written in terms of God moving in response to persistent prayer." -Stephan Gaukroger

    "You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving." -Amy Carmichael, missionary to India

    "He must increase, but I must decrease." -John the Baptist

    "Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world." -(Howard Snyder. Liberating the Church. 1983:11)

    "Let my heart be broken with the things that break God's heart." -Bob Pierce, World Vision founder

    "I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third places and teaching the fourth." -James O. Fraser

    “God had only one Son and he made that Son a missionary.” -David Livingstone

    "If you found a cure for cancer, wouldn't it be inconceivable to hide it from the rest of mankind? How much more inconceivable to keep silent the cure from the eternal wages of death." -Dave Davidson

    "Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is—where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge." -Robert C. Shannon

    --------------------------
    Many of the above quotes were found at World Christian Quotes, Assembled and Adapted by Mark Struck. 

    Friday, November 23

    I cannot be silent - Lottie Moon of China



    Who was Lottie Moon?

    Lottie Moon - the namesake of the international missions offering - has become something of a legend to us. But in her time Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today's missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so her people group could know Jesus.

    Why was the "Lottie Moon Christmas Offering" named for this early China missionary? Throughout her career, Lottie Moon wrote numerous letters home, urging Southern Baptists to greater missions involvement and support. One of those letters triggered Southern Baptists' first Christmas offering for international missions - enough to send three new missionaries to China.

    Lottie served 39 years as a missionary, mostly in China's Shantung province. She taught in a girls' school and often made trips into China's interior to share the good news with women and girls. Lottie frequently wrote letters to the United States, detailing Chinese culture, missionary life and the great physical and spiritual needs of the Chinese people. Additionally, she challenged Southern Baptists to go to China or give so that others could go. By 1888, Southern Baptist women had organized and helped collect $3,315 to send workers needed in China. Lottie died aboard a ship in the Japanese harbor of Köbe on Dec. 24, 1912. She was 72 years old.

    In 1918, Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after the woman who had urged them to start it. Dec. 24, 2012, will mark 100 years since the death of Lottie Moon. The final day of Week of Prayer (Dec. 2-9) is dedicated to Lottie Moon, a portrait of obedience who influenced thousands to follow her, going just as boldly, obediently and sacrificially.

    For several years now, my wife and I have set aside a percentage every month that we give to this missions offering.  Will you pray and ask the Lord how much He would lead you to give to this offering so that His Name might be known amongst the nations?  Like Lottie Moon, we cannot be silent.

    Monday, November 12

    Why everyone is NOT a missionary

    Herbert Kane writes, "The Chinese have a proverb: If two men feed a horse, it will lose weight; if two men keep a boat, it will soon leak. What is everybodys job is nobodys job. If every Christian is a missionary, missionary work is bound to suffer. It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary."
     
    One of the common misconceptions about missions is that all believers are missionaries. It continues to be stated so often that few question the validity of this oft quoted misconception making the rounds from our pulpits and missions conferences.  I truly wish it were true, but frequent repetition does not make it so.  I personally believe we need to correct the language we are using and stop calling all believers missionaries. Gordon Olson says it well when he states:
    "If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel?"
     

    The Great Commission is taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem. This is where we live. It is where most of our time, efforts and ministry are centered. But Holy Spirit empowered believers are likewise charged to be His witnesses to their Judea, Samaria, and, yes: the ends of the earth--the nations.
     
    When we begin to move beyond our Jerusalem and seek to engage our Judea, Samaria, and the nations--then, we become misionaries--the sent ones that we are meant to be.
     
    I believe Jesus intent was for us to be fully engaged in all four regional dimensions of the Great Commission. Too many have deceived themselves into believing they "aren't called to missions."  Really? It would seem the burden of proof would be more on the side of our being NOT CALLED to engage the nations. For too long, disciples of Christ have excused themselves from doing what Jesus commanded simply because they have chosen to live a life to their own pleasing. It has nothing to do with anything God might be asking of us and His call on our lives.
     
    When we lose sight of just how serious our Lord was about Acts 1:8 we run the risk the disobedient Jerusalem church ran into in Acts 8:1
    "And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria...those who had been scattered went about preaching the word..."
    It took some serious persecution allowed by the Lord himself to get them to obey, and engage their Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth. In our present imbalance of uneven distribution of Christians, do we not think the same could again happen today? Just how serious was our Lord when He commanded us to "make disciples of the nations?"
     
    So everyone may indeed NOT be a missionary, but it is my belief that we should deliberately seek to do everything in our power to make sure we ARE missionaries.
     

    Tuesday, October 23

    Pindal Medical Missions Trip



    A short video of last week's medical missions trip to Pindal in Loja Province of Ecuador (see previous blog entry.)

    Thanks be to the Lord for all He did last week to the honor of his Name.

    Also thanks to the wonderful team the Lord put together for this trip: Shelby and Frances, Wray, Geoff and Teresa, Hank, Dee, César, Daniel, Xavier, Manuel, Elcie, David, and myself.