Visiting Churches

splitOne of the jobs that we have as missionaries is to visit churches in our home countries. Furlough, Home Assignment, Deputation, Support Raising, Ministry Reporting, etc…

We are privileged to travel to many congregations and fellowship with them. We meet so many fellow members or the Body of Christ. We encourage local leaders and saints. We build up a great army of prayer warriors who back us up. We share with kids about being a missionary and ministry.  We eat with different people and encourage them to take that leap of faith toward ministry at home and abroad.

We recruit short and long term missionaries. We build interest in missions which have long-lasting effects.  Many of my fellow missionaries were first interested in missions because of someone visiting their church and sharing a meal with them. Others started the path toward full-time mission work because of short term mission trips they had taken. 

We see the good and bad in so many congregations. We get to see large and small churches, healthy and dying churches. We can encourage or discourage local leaders. We can promote missions or scare people away from them.

Recently I met with someone who had visited an unhealthy church. He was so judgmental and critical of the leadership there. It struck me in a painful way.  I hope that I never judge the local churches I visit. I hope that I never judge the people I meet.

I also remember a Sunday when the church I was visiting split. I stayed with a family who wasn’t going to church that day or any other day after that. I woke up and went to church. I greeted all involved and tried to encourage and not ask questions.  

We pop in briefly can never know all the circumstances. Even if we try to help fix an issue, we can not know the years of history that have lead to such a problem. We must be careful not to take sides and to pray for all involved. 

The False Teachers among us

I have been working in Africa for more than 10 years. A big goal of mine is to teach the Word of God.  Recently I was in a new region and teaching a conference. I was surprised to hear about all the false teachers in the area.  The attendees of the conference were asking some deep theological questions. They wanted real answers. They shared stories of other preachers and evangelists that had come to town.  How they would collect valuables and money from sick people promising to heal them. They would promise that if they did xyz they would suddenly become rich.

These teachers travelled in big fancy cars and wore expensive suits. They stayed in expensive hotels and ate and nice restaurants. They knew how to speak well and entertain the crowd.  They could raise their voices and jump up and down until people began cheering for them. 

They preachers and teachers make a lot of money from offerings. They preach another Gospel and lie to very sick people.  How can we fight against them? How can we show the lies for what they are?

Be Faithful

Be faithful to your God.  He has called you to serve Him. He has called you to live a holy life. He sent His only Son to die for you. He loves you. He gives you mercy instead of the justice you deserve. He gives you grace.

If you are in full time ministry, be faithful. If you are a pastor, be faithful to that call. If you are an elder in the church, be faithful. If you are a Sunday School Teacher, be faithful.  and the list of ministries goes on and on.  We are faithful when we spend the time needed to prepare for these ministries instead of just “winging it”.  We are faithful when we take our ministries seriously and attempt to minister to the Body of Christ rather than just entertain. We are faithful when we genuinely care for those to whom we are sent to minister rather than just going through the motions.

No matter what your job is, as a Christian we are called to be honest in all our dealings. Be honest in word, in deed, in money, in time, in property, etc…  Be a good steward of what God has given you whether it belongs to you or you are overseeing its use.

Recently I’ve heard of several in ministry who have fallen into sin. Some have mishandled funds. Some have actually stolen church property. Some of had emotional affairs. Some have had physical affairs. Some have lied. Some of been overtaken by pride. Some of taken over a ministry and run it into the ground because they don’t prepare well or manage their help well. 

Some of had difficult situations in life and no one has come to encourage them or to counsel them so they have given up. Some have burned out and left. Some have been pushed out by ungracious boards. Some have not taken time to listen to the needs of those around them, others have ignored truths that are right before them

Oh, how it hurts the Body of Christ. Oh, how it causes immature Christians to fall. Oh, how it hurts the testimony of the entire congregation.  Be careful, be faithful

changes

I sense change is in the air,

the signs are all around me.

But change is not what I must fear,

although I dread it greatly.

Years ago I made a pledge

to go where He would send.

If that should me I leave this land

which I have grown to love so dear

or leave this region, home and friends

to live in a new place,

then I should heed my Saviour’s call

and pack up all my things.

Yet my heart breaks to think of it

as I have settled in this place

I’ve learned the language, the dress,

the culture, the attitudes and needs.

I’ve found a niche in which to serve

that fills a need so great.

Though I trust my God and His plan

it seems counterproductive.

So change is coming, but what it is

I do not yet comprehend.

Will others leave and new ones come

or will I too move on?

Give me peace, Lord.

Give me hope, and comfort in the unknown.

Let me trust Your plan and know it’s best

even when I don’t understand.

Permission to Work

All of us who are missionaries have complicated issues with staying in our host country. Sometimes we have to work carefully as to make sure we don’t break any laws in this country.  We need to apply for visas/permits/papers/permission to live where we live and to do what we do.

images (13)It can mean standing for hours in lines. It can mean dealing with an expensive agent. It can mean trying to fill out forms in a new language and learning complicated government terms. It can mean leaving the country every so often and then re-entering. It can mean finding a national organization to sponsor you. It can mean finding another NGO to work alongside. It can mean taking a job so that you can live and minister on the side.  It means trying to understand a complicated list of requirements. It means supplying these forms in triplicate or more.

This is one of the dreaded times of year(s).  We each must remember the expiration date of our paperwork and take steps to renew it.  Sometimes it means traveling to the place where the nearest immigration office is.  It means lots of prayer and waiting. It is one of those things that puts our faith to the test. We await approval, we wait patiently for the various offices to put their stamp on it. We pray we don’t have to take a quick trip out of the country in the meantime.

Then all of the sudden we hear through the grapevine that the process has changed. For me, it has changed at least 3 times since I began working here.  Where my permit can be processed. How much paperwork I need to file. What office I must go to first. What kind of permit a short term visitor needs.  Always learning, always praying, always trusting.

In her shoes…

If I were in her shoes, I doubt I’d do the same. 

My background is so different, my customs not the same.

If I were in her shoes, I would just call the law, to help with the abuse, the crime, the polygamy, and loss.

But culture has no limits for on how many wives one has

or on the way he beats them and steals food to feed his habit.

The family elders call them and sit them down to talk,

but not too long after that chat, he starts again to hit her.

She runs away to family, in nearby villages

yet, always he will find her and persuade her to return to him.

Her family, though they love her, will also send her back,

for the bride-price has been paid and she belongs to them.

She farms alone to feed her kids, and works a job to help with costs.

He sneaks into the store room and sells flour for but another cup.

There is not punishment for him as he chooses how he lives,

but for her and all their children, the burden is so great.

 

Fast forward several years, to find when he left home,

in search of wealth and fun, while the family enjoyed the calm.

Word came through village gossip, as fast as a wildfire,

he took another wife, who ran a bar and fed him well.

This new wife, was a widow, and her story was well-known.

The deceased has died a long, slow death of AIDS a year ago.

What was he thinking, that new husband?

Why take a wife with AIDS?

Do you not know the consequences of such a choice you’ve made?

 

Meanwhile at home, the peace was nice, no fighting or abuse.

But as the word spread of the choice, my friend began to dread.

When he comes home, what will I do? I do not want him in my bed.

I must refuse and lock him out, no matter what will surely be said.

And after more than two years passed, he did return to his first wife.

He tried to sleep again with her, but she refused completely.

This began more fights and fights, until one dreadful night.

He trapped her in the kitchen and threatened her life with an axe,

not once , nor twice but thrice!

The next day they called the government leaders to help with the abuse.

Their answer: you must divorce him, we cannot do anything else.

So the process began of divorce and no one knew how it would end.

Finally, she had freedom to not be his wife, but the fight began over the land.

she built the house, she farmed the land, she raised the kids, and she fed him.

So they both became stubborn and fought for the land,

he slept in the kitchen and she in the bed.

Finally, he grew tired of the fight and moved back to the second wife

Where he stayed for a couple more years.

Again those at home, were relieved that he’d gone

as peace once again was now known.

 

Fast forward again to not long ago. When the man returned back home.

His second wife grew tired of his laziness and bickering, and kicked him out of her home.

With no place to turn, this parasite returned to his family whom he never cared for.

Wife One, feeds him food, but makes him sleep in a different house.

His kids all have grown and taken over the jobs that a man of the house should do. 

This time now is different, for he is quite sick. In fact there is little hope.

Each month passes by and he grows weaker and weaker. As he sits there, waiting to die.

His “ex” is compassionate, as our Lord would be. And never refuses him food. She cares for him as she would a close relative, and the kids are all there with her too.

He knows that his body is weak and won’t last,

he tells everyone who visits that He made a bad choice

No longer will he drink or abuse them or wander. His choices have come to fruition. 

While he nears his death bed, she continues to serve him

food and a blanket and clean clothes.

Yet, I often wonder, if I were in her shoes

would I have compassion or hatred.