Thursday, July 20, 2017
My front porch...
A cup of hot tea...
And the bells.
As I meet with my Saviour in prayer and in His Word, the stillness of the moment is interrupted.
First one neighbor to my left. Then another to my right. Then behind. Then across the street. They ring them for several minutes, and with every new tinkling my heart breaks.
First it breaks for sadness for my neighbors.
Then it breaks for sadness for my Saviour.
Then it breaks... for me.
I imagine the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers each day has the same effect to missionaries serving in Muslim countries.
The ringing starts as early as 5 AM and continues throughout the morning. It will be repeated again in the evening.
They are ringing the bells to wake up their gods.
The gods that cannot hear...
The gods that cannot help...
The gods that bind a people in darkness and hopelessness.
My heart breaks for them to know the one true God who loves them and gave His Son to save them.
My heart breaks for my Saviour because He deserves their adoration and praise, and yet He is not receiving it.
And my heart breaks for me...
I see their dedication.
I see their faithfulness to false gods.
And I am ashamed.
I am ashamed every time I rush through prayer... and they spend several minutes ringing bells.
They do it in bondage and fear and the hopes of earning a better standing in the next life.
What is my motive?
My debt was paid for me...
I have liberty...
I have a living Saviour who loves me...
I can call out to Him and He hears and answers!
Closeness and intimacy.
They should call me to my knees. They should draw me to His throne. They should drive me to faithfulness and worship and praise.
I hate them. And yet as they ring I hear my Saviour call out...
"Call out to me. You need no bells. I hear you clearly. I am not sleeping. I am waiting for you."
Bells. So I sit out on the front porch and hear the bells that remind me how precious the Bible in my lap is and how priceless my time with my Saviour is.
Friday, July 7, 2017
- Step 1—Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Notice who’s supposed to approach whom. It is the offended person. He goes alone to confront the offender—a private meeting. We’re talking about offenses in a church context. Both are believers.
- Step 2—If that person will not make peace, the next step is necessary. Notice again who takes witnesses with him: the offended person. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. This way, there is a little more pressure for the offending person to get things right.
- Step 3—If the offender is stubborn and will not make peace with his Christian brother, the next step comes into play: And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:15-17).
- Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).
- Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (Galatians 6:1-3).
- Gladly and with singing. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing (Psalm 100:2).
- Trusting God to lead us. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Humbly and purely. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7).
- Tithing and giving. Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase (Proverbs 3:9).
- Following Christ. Jesus said, If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour (John 12:26).
- In spirit, and praying for the people to whom we minister. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers (Romans 1:9).
- Selflessly serving others. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
- Patiently joyful and trusting through trials. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).
- Asking God for wisdom. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
Thursday, July 6, 2017
You invite fellow missionaries over and plan an adventure!
OK, so I invited them over to teach them how to steal, pick locks, and plunder. Let me explain.
Holidays like the Fourth of July can be tough for missionaries. No fireworks. No familiar decorations in the stores and no large family cookouts.
Many missionaries make the best of what they have. Their family dons the red, white, and blue. Mom finds a way to make a red, white, and blue dessert. They grill a hamburger if they can. And they pray to thank God for His goodness on America.
Many missionaries live quite a distance from other missionaries, so they celebrate quietly as a family.
What does our family do? We have chosen to reach out to other missionaries from around the valley and invite them to celebrate with us. Some of them have to travel long distances to get to our home, so we try to make it worth their trip.
The first year we hosted this event, we had confetti poppers filled with treats and played a trivia/charades/Pictionary style game to earn the right to pop the confetti poppers.
We could not host the Fourth of July party in 2015 because of the national disaster we had here. It also fell on a church day, but we we were all so busy with disaster relief work that it would not have worked on any day of the week. We missed getting together with them. In 2016 our family was on furlough. Again, we missed this special event with our friends.
It's 2017 and our family refused to miss another year. We longed to see our friends smiling, laughing, and enjoying fellowship around the goodness of God for our country.
Once again we planned a special day that I hope they will remember for a long time.
Here is what we did:
Food:Everyone pitched in on the food. We had barbecue sandwiches, potato salad, fruit, veggies with dip, corn on the cob, cole slaw, chips and dip, fried apple pies, and no-bake cookies. Since everyone pitched in on the food, no one was overwhelmed with preparation.
Devotion:Yes, missionaries treasure any time we get to fellowship around God's Word. The devotion was wonderful! We are thankful to be Americans, but we also long to see God exalted in our host country.
The Games:For the younger children we set up a play room. One of the moms of two of the younger children helped me set this room up. Toy train, Hot Wheels cars, a road floor mat, Tinker Toys, a puzzle, balloons, and more.
Game #1Red, White, and "You"
About half the people were given white clothes pins to wear on their shirts. If they said the word "you," someone without a clothes pin could steal their clothes pin. If they kept the clothes pin throughout the game time, they got 5 points. (Limit one clothes pin per person)
Game #2Oh Say Can You See?
I had hidden red clothes pins around the house. If they found one, they got 5 points. (Limit one clothes pin per person)
Game #3Wear Oh Wear?
If they wore red, white, and blue, they got 5 points. It had to be clothing, not accessories, nail polish, or undergarments.
Have you ever heard of the escape/breakout rooms that are so popular in the States right now? We created our own version. Instead of locking people in the rooms, we locked our little dog MoMo in a room with a combination lock on the door. (Everybody loves our sweet dog, MoMo. She was good motivation to rescue her from her prison.)
Here was the story line:
We divided the missionaries into three groups. I set up three rooms with all the exact same clues. I also included some distractions that had nothing to do with the game just to make it a little tougher.
The three groups went to their assigned rooms and began working feverishly to solve the clues. There were eight clues total. They had to have all eight clues in order to get the combination.
Here are the clues:
The winning team members all received 5 points each.
We tallied the points up from all the games. The winner received a basket full of American goodies that everyone pitched in and donated. Ranch mix, chili powder, banana nut muffin mix, nutmeg, a Yankee candle, Bath and Body Works lotion, and much more!
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Wow! I really had my handful this month! Europe is a large region, and while they aren't abundant missionaries I was able to locate a couple in most places and interview some of those. I was able to talk to people in Spain, France, Romania, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Italy & Croatia. While we have all heard these country names before, the truth is most people know very little about them and most definitely understand ministering there.
They all have their own unique differences but I have definitely found many common threads that run throughout Europe. Economies vary, some places will be extremely modern and educated while others are only attempting to catch up to the Europe First World norm. Croatia endured a brutal war with Yugoslavia in the 90s that they are still desperately trying to recover. Many are jobless and have left the country for work. And those that remain many times work and are never paid. In Bulgaria, there is a large gypsy population that the missionary works with there. Bulgaria is a poor country but the people work hard to appear that they have more. In Spain they love to party. In France they are very family oriented. Spending as much time with family, enjoying life and food.
None of the countries, save maybe Romania, are full of dedicated believers in any religious sector but all are deeply affected by their Historcial form of religion that weaves its threads of doubt, fear and feelings of spirituality throughout their hearts and minds. Most have claimed either Catholicism or Orthodox as the counties religion on paper, while most say Atheism is the religion of the day. In the Netherlands only 17% even claimed believing in God at all!
Another heart breaking statistic that they all have in common is that only 1% or less of all the countries follow Bible believing Christianity. What a great mission field! Every country is dealing with people that take years of sowing the gospel seed before they even consider taking a step of belief. In Spain, Mrs. Kaiser mentioned that Catholics in their area need to here the gospel 50 times to understand the gospel. Did you notice she said, understand the gospel not choose to believe the gospel. It can be so difficult for people from Biblical Christian backgrounds to even grasp this thought but it is definitely true. Those that have been inundated with false doctrine for years can be at a loss to understand the simplicity and the new truths that the gospel presents. They are truly perplexed by these new things that are so drastically different than everything they have heard from a child.
Try to think of a truth that you have believed since a child. Something that is commonly accepted by most everyone around you. Something that in your mind has been proven and is completely believable. Let's say the earth is round. Can you imagine a foreigner coming to your town and trying to convince you that it wasn't. It would take a lot of evidence and discussion for you to even consider such a thought and you would be highly skeptical. I recall years of witnessing in Asia, when you would share anything from the Bible people would just stare at you in perplexity; not indignant, not indifferent, not argumentative, just simply perplexed by these new words and thoughts. Now people in Europe may get a different attitude of response when they share the truth but the lack of understanding is the same.
What a great challenge to us Christians, worldwide, to be consistent faithful wittness' to those who need us to go the extra mile.
Isn't that the essence of Christianity. Someone who would care enough to consistently share the Love of Christ no matter whether it was accepted, understood or appreciated. Sometimes we are so quick to clear our conscience that we have tried once or twice to share the gospel with someone. However we are also so quick to forget how much was invested in our own salvation. Most accepted Christ after hearing the gospel many many times. Even if you were saved as a child, how many Bible stories did you hear from parents, how many Sunday schools did you attend and sermons did you listen to before accepting Christ!
I discussed with the ladies how long they generally had to witness to someone to see them come to salvation. The average numbers between all the countries was 5-10 years. You can see how the fight against discouragement would be strong. The fight for each soul is a mighty battle. It was mentioned multiple times to me that Europe is known as the "graveyard of missionaries" Many missionaries have lost the battle with discouragement. This a great reminder for us to faithfully lift up our missionaries in our prayers and allow the Lord to lead us in how we can encourage those who are seeking out the one lamb.
The Netherlands, Italy and Croatia rated in with the least amount of missionaries. The ladies said there would be between 11-20. While France, Spain and Romania claim to have between 20-50. Keep in mine there is at least 20-25 other countries in Europe that I wasn't even able to get in contact with. Most have very few missionaries serving there.
I asked the ladies what was one of their greatest struggles ministering where they are. The biggest response was dealing with the Catholic Church, Orthodox or Charismatics. Some of those situations are just getting the people to overcome the teachings of these religions but in Romania it is even a step beyond. The Romanian Orthodox clergy actively tells lies about the Baptist Churches. Trying to scare their people with crazy and immoral stories they have fabricated about the Baptist Church and telling them that the biggest sin is leaving the church. This is obviously an obstacle to overcome. Thankfully we know that we fight not against flesh and blood. The devil is the one that connives the plans to attack the church and hinder the spreading of the gospel. Thankfully we serve a God who is Omnipotent and can give victory over all.
The second most used answer about their biggest struggle was dealing with the apathy of the regligious and the atheistic. So many have become harden and calloused to anything religious and show no feeling towards things of Christ. It can be a definite battle witnessing consistently and getting very little response. If you see some spark of interest, it spurs you on to faithfully share the truth but when you are dismissed regularly it can cause all kinds of doubts and discouragement. I remember our first few years on the mission field, this was a perplexing topic in our hearts. Serving in heathen countries and countries over-run with false religion tests all you believe and your faith in the Bible.
Thankfully if you allow it, God will use this to further confirm and convince you of the truth of the Bible no matter where you find yourself in this world!
And the truth that the Lord concreted in my heart was the fact that,
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. 4:12
When you doubt everything you see and everything you know, you can have faith in Gods Word. And when those around react to Gods word like they don't care, don't believe and wish you would just go away, you can count on this promise!
God IS working in their hearts!
Many times this may be the only thing that keeps missionaries going. Because faith in others, conversions nor joys of success will give you the same endurance as believing in Gods constant Omniscient working in EVERY SINGLE person's heart, including our own.
Also Mrs. Susan Abbot mentioned one struggle being the time it takes to make the relationships needed to witness to people in France. It takes a lot of time and patience to forge friendships with the French people. Which is one of the reasons people use so many different forms of outreach. Many of the ladies mentioned doing VBS, English classes, bible studies, tract distribution and camps as outreach in their areas. In Italy, Mrs. Rice, said they have a weekly booth in their market where they pass out tracts. In the Netherlands, street preaching is often done. Mrs. Susan Abbet in France said she has joined a craft club to meet some ladies and her children are involved in some sports teams, where they are able to meet and witness to other young people.
All of the missionaries I spoke to have either started a church where they are and seen some people saved or are working in a local church where they are. What a blessing to see that amidst all the difficulties these faithful servants and their families have seen victory in Christ in these challenging areas. Please continue to uplift them in prayer as they serve with their families in Europe. Pray for patience. Pray for wisdom. And also pray for national leadership. I was told by at least one lady that all the churches in the country were missionary led because of lack of male national leadership. It is a big need and a big prayer request.
Kessler children- Bulgaria
Thursday, June 15, 2017
And I love to share about our field!
But sometimes they ask questions that are difficult to answer. They seem like simple questions, but in fact they are quite complicated and have a "long story" explanation.
Take, for example, this simple question:
"How long does it take you to get to church?"
Of course the person who asks this question is expecting me to give a simple time answer ( hours and/or minutes.)
If you are wanting a simple answer, the best I can do is to tell you it takes us anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half... and there have been a couple of occasions where we never made it there at all.
For those who enjoy the "long story," just keep reading.
Here is how it works in a third-world country: We must have plan A, plan B, plan C... and so on. And it isn't necessary to go in alphabetical order either. Our family has found life more exciting when we skip to plan F and come back to plan D if plan F fails. It keeps things lively and fresh.