Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sharp Darts of Longing Love

The key to relationships in ministry
By Nathan Metz, Missionary, Uganda
April-June 2015

Sharp Darts of Longing Love: The key to relationships in ministry
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember what I’m about to share with you. Shortly after we arrived in Uganda, I was discussing my family with a local man. He said, “Your mother. What does she do in America?”

I told him that she has a degree in marriage and family counseling, which is something she used frequently in her role as a pastor’s wife. He squinted his eyes with curiosity.

“What?” I asked, “Don’t you have counselors here?”

He shook his head and replied, “We are all counselors.”

As we continued speaking, I realized that my understanding and expectations of relationships and community fell far short of his. Africans have earned a worldwide reputation for being a community-minded people. Now that I live among them, I can tell you that the reputation is well deserved. My friend concluded our conversation with a note of encouragement, “You will find that friendships come quite naturally to us.”

I remember times during our preparation to leave the States when I considered the “ice” that would need to be broken here in Uganda so that I could begin developing relationships. What I had failed to consider was that Ugandans would desire a relationship with me even more than I with them. In fact, I have found that if there is a wrench in the relationship growth, I am usually the one who put it there! So I’ve begun asking myself the question: If up to me, how do I move this friendship forward?

This morning I was reading from a book that referred to the distance between man and God as a “cloud of unknowing.” The author challenged his readers to “beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love.”

What a great example for our relationship with God and man. A “cloud of unknowing” hangs in our communities like a heavy curtain, slowing or stopping our attempts to come together in friendship.

We wonder: “What will they think of me?” or “What if I accidentally offend them?” In our unknowing, we can choose to become isolated from anyone different from us or we can muster up the courage to beat on that thick cloud with a sharp dart of longing love. May we all choose courageous love.

ACT: Is there a people group you are called to reach out to, but have fallen short of developing meaningful relationships? This month, pray that God will give you the courageous love you need, and then ask your new friend to coffee.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Prayer Calendar: June 28-30, 2015

Getting caught up in our own fears and insecurities can sometimes prevent us from taking steps to have real relationships with others. 

June 28–30: Pray that God will give you “courageous love” to reach out with Christ’s love to someone today. 

Read Nathan Metz's reflections on building friendships in Uganda, Sharp Darts of Longing Love

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Becoming Again: Incarnation and Language Learning

An excerpt from: 

Becoming Again: Incarnation and Language Learning

The key to language learning in ministry
By Andy Bowen, Missionary, Paraguay
April-June 2015

My students had been studying the Guaraní language with me in Escobar, Paraguay, for about five months. One afternoon, they went as a family to the grocery store in the nearby town of Paraguarí, taking their children—Micah and his two younger sisters. As they moved up and down the aisles, Micah caught sight of a disabled man and, like most 5-year-olds, started asking his parents questions. The conversation turned to heaven, which they had talked about a few days before. His parents, missionaries with Serving In Mission, reminded their son that in heaven there would be no sickness, no pain, and no sadness. With astonishing speed typical of little boys, Micah’s mind made a connection, and he looked up hopefully into the eyes of his dad and suggested, “And no more Spanish?”

Do you feel the pain behind his question? In the year that he had been in Paraguay, Micah had had many opportunities to regret that Spanish was a part of his new life. When playing with the kids in his neighborhood, he often felt that he was on the outside—missing a lot of the conversation, feeling foolish and disconnected. Even a 5-year-old suspects that people laughing at jokes in another language might be referencing him! His little heart had already begun to long for a place and time where language would not divide him from others and where all the words would be clear and would be his to command.

It’s the curse of Babel. God’s antidote to the arrogance of man was to confuse their language. Little will bring you face to face with your own pride like the complete inability to understand and to make yourself understood.

But it’s also the genius of God’s ways. That’s because the fallout from Babel ensured that one day, when God’s people began to take His incomparable good news across cultural barriers, they would be forced to do it humbly. They would have to enter as learners, needy and ignorant, like children starting all over.

For 14 years, I’ve been helping missionaries from Christian organizations learn the Guaraní language. Paraguay’s unique history has preserved not one national language but two—Guaraní, the language of the loose confederation of Indian communities the Spanish conquistadores found when they arrived in the early 1500s; and Spanish, the language of the colonizers. The great majority of Paraguayans today are bilingual, whether or not they actually have any Guaraní ancestry.

Most missionaries working cross-culturally have to learn a new language. Few missionaries study language for less than nine months. For many of these messengers of the gospel, it’s among the most difficult tasks they will ever face in their ministry, and it’s right at the beginning! It’s obvious to us that language learning and missions go hand in hand.
What may be less obvious is why missionaries learn language. Clearly if you can’t communicate, you can’t get around—buy groceries, get your government documents, or find the post office. If you don’t have a language in common with people, you can’t share with them the propositional information—the facts—of the gospel. But it goes far beyond that. If this is all language learning is, then it’s easy to view it as a hurdle that must be jumped so that missionaries can get to the real ministry. They have to get through language study, and then they can start really being missionaries.

The worker who thinks like this misses the key truth that language learning itself is ministry. And more than that, it’s an occasion to become what God has sent her to become—to become incarnate to the people of her host culture. Paul talks about this becoming in 1 Corinthians 9, where he speaks of becoming “all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (9:22 NIV). Paul doesn’t advocate pretending or faking it by putting on a mask. Becoming is hard work. It requires time and effort. “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV). The missionary going through language learning knows exactly what Paul means. It’s a struggle, day in and day out—vocabulary lists and verb conjugations, memorized monologues, and routes through the community to practice and grow.

Meanwhile, life still goes on. Missionaries interact with their neighbors, feeling like fools, inarticulate, not able to present themselves as they long to: as an educated person with experiences, relationships, status, and a life. They start from nothing, rebuilding their world from scratch, learning new names for every single item in it. Their neighbors’ 3-year-olds are better communicators than they are. Children sometimes giggle at the comical things they unintentionally say. The missionary language-learner either learns to laugh at himself or spends every day frustrated by his lack of status and dignity. As missionaries make the effort (and it is an effort!) to learn the language of the heart, a subtle, unspoken, but very powerful message is communicated: “I don’t look down on you. I value your culture. Who you are as a Paraguayan is unique, and it’s worth taking the time to invest in.” So often, Paraguayans, prepared by long experience with foreigners to be considered inferior, are disarmed when the outsider asks admittance to their world in this humble way. And they welcome the stranger in.

ACT: Has someone in your neighborhood or church moved from another culture? Take time this month to get to know them. Ask intentional questions: What’s your favorite color? What’s the common greeting in your culture? What do they like to do for fun? Using their answers, love this person in very practical ways—buy them a small gift in their favorite color, practice greeting them using your new language acquisition, ask to take part in their favorite activity, etc. Be creative and see what God teaches you through this new friendship.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Prayer Calendar: June 21-27, 2015

Learning a new language is often one of the hardest things new missionaries experience in their first years on the mission field. 

June 21–27: Pray that God will grant missionaries in language study extra grace as they learn to communicate in their new “home country.”

Check out Andy Bowen's article Becoming Again to learn more. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Remember Whose Keys You are Holding

An excerpt from...

Remember Whose Keys You Are Holding

By Hubert Harriman, President
April-June 2015

In order for any key to work, it must fit the object of its purpose.
Every household has keys lying around. One of the most exasperating things that happens with them is to forget what they were made for. We’re not certain if someone gave us one for some specific purpose or if those keys just wandered into the house. But there they are—useless until discovered what their purpose is.

When my middle daughter, Maria, was in college, she went to Kenya under the Volunteers In Action program with WGM. As part of that venture, she ended up on the campus of what was then called Kenya Highlands Bible College. Among many activities, she and another VIA girl were asked to take a bundle of keys that had been delegated to “the tomb of the unknown” and try to find where they fit. Someone needed to do it because that’s what keys are made for—to fit a purpose.

It’s amazing to witness how God fits willing Christians to His divine intention. It’s that moment when we know “He made me and prepared me for this.” Unbelievably, He made us an important key to something He wants to accomplish in other peoples’ lives and, in order for any key to work, it must fit the object of its purpose.

God has entrusted each of us with important keys for kingdom work, but all too often, we simply don’t mark it down in our hearts and have long forgotten what use they have. Perhaps someone asked us to pray for an open door of opportunity and we just laid it aside and forgot about it. That key was essential to opening doors, but we didn’t remember—and doors remained shut. Maybe someone shared with us a ministry crisis and asked us to get involved by giving. We felt the need at the time, but we let it slip by—and doors were locked. It might be that the Holy Spirit cut us out as a key to someone’s soul. We heard His voice to use the key—to go and speak a word of hope—and we let it pass—and doors were closed.

To have the right key and not offer it for its intended purpose is sinful. There is too much at stake for us to be holding vital keys and not putting them to their intended use. Jesus said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Oh Christian friend, use them!
Are you trying the wrong doors to find what you want? Remember Whose keys you’re holding! They will work only as they should when used with the right purpose. God knows where you fit! Let Him put your life to His good use.

ACT: If your key to missions involvement has gotten rusty and you’re not quite sure how to get started, WGM can help. Commit to completing the World Go! Manual study.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Prayer Calendar: June 14-20, 2015

Your missions prayer point from the "Keys to Missions" issue this week asks you to ponder a serious question. And then seek God for the answer. Ready to find your key?

Has God given you a key you can use for missions? PRAY for Him to show you the right door.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Lineman By Trade

An excerpt from...

A Lineman by Trade

Communication is a key to creating a support network
By John Neihof, WGM Board Member
April-June 2015

Bill Ryan thought he would simply use his lineman skills on the field. God had bigger ideas.I love investing in missionaries. Successful missionary ministry involves raising a network of champions. Communication is a key to creating that network.

A few years ago, Bill Ryan, WGM missionary to Honduras, was in my public speaking class at Kentucky Mountain Bible College. Bill had been a lineman (constructing and maintaining electric lines) by trade in his home state of Vermont. Bill and Beth sensed God’s call to missions, but Bill’s idea was that he would simply use his lineman and electrical skills to serve Escuela El Sembrador. God had bigger ideas.

The semester had reached the halfway point and it was time for persuasive speeches. I challenged Bill to develop his missionary appeal message as his persuasive speech for the class assignment. I emphasized that he focus on presenting the need for prayer and financial support and seek to raise both from his Bible college classmates. I sweetened the challenge by offering to become his first supporter from the class!

Bill has a natural warmth and sincerity in front of an audience. His speech was very good, and my wife and I kept our promise to become part of the Ryans’ support team.
A year or two later, I was on the road and met up with Bill and Beth at Mooers Camp in upstate New York. Mooers Camp is near the Ryans’ home area in Vermont, and they have a lot of supporters there. It was missionary day, and Bill and Beth were the speakers. Their presentation was fantastic. The camp president, Steve Drown, approached me with a request that I offer the commissioning prayer over Bill and Beth as they headed toward the place of their calling in Honduras. I sensed God’s blessing and anointing as I prayed over this precious couple.

Bill’s stint as an electrician at El Sembrador was successful, but short lived. He and Beth sensed God’s call to church planting in a pioneer work to an indigenous community in La Mosqitia. Bill never saw himself as a public speaker, teacher, or preacher, but that is exactly what he does as a frontier missionary. God put the key, public speaking, in Bill’s hand, and he is crafting and using the key to advance God’s Divine mandate.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Prayer Calendar: June 7-13, 2015

This week's missions prayer point is a request for you. If you are feeling a bit inadequate in your ministry this simple prayer is for you.

PRAY that God will equip you with the tools you need to serve Him.

Communication is a key to creating a support network for you ministry. Read more about this "key" in A Lineman by Trade.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recognizing the Image of God

An excerpt from...

Recognizing the Image of God

The key to respecting others in ministry
By Matt Burke, Missionary, Uganda
April-June 2015

Recognizing the Image of God: The key to respecting others in ministry
It’s amazing how a comment can affect you. When I was a high school student, my principal casually said, “...when you are in college....” I don’t remember the conversation, only that phrase. High school was a struggle for me, and college was just a dream. I wanted to go, but seriously doubted my abilities. But something about the way he said those words spoke volumes to me. He believes in me. And he said it with all of the cool confidence of someone who knows!

This idea of respect is vastly important in ministry—in missions here at home or abroad. We unconsciously convey varying levels of respect to those we interact with every day. If our expectations are low, that might be exactly what we get. But Scripture does not allow us to operate this way. Genesis tells us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27 ESV). How amazing it is that God designed us to be image bearers. All of His creation was good, but when He made humans, His model was Himself!

Of course, as we minister to people, we are confronted with the ugly effects of sin. The image that we see is marred, often beyond recognition. Everywhere we turn, we see people living in poverty and people struggling with addictions and sin cycles. Low self-esteem touches every level of society. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that they bear the image of God, even to the point where we write them off. We engage in practices that create dependency. But that is not the way of Jesus. To a group of fishermen who were caught in a great storm, Jesus asked, “Why are you so afraid?” The implication was you don’t need to be afraid. He expected more from them. Throughout Scripture, we see God and His ministers calling people to a higher level. We see Jesus inviting us to live the abundant life.

This is why we love serving as trainers in Community Health Empowerment in Uganda. CHE is discipleship within impoverished communities. Respect is a central building block of the training as it recognizes the image of God in people who have been written off. It offers hope. It fights to break cycles of dependency. Participants are challenged to view themselves and their communities with God’s eyes. With newfound hope, people are discovering God-given local resources and solutions to the problems they face. The transformation is remarkable and very satisfying. Ministry success hinges on recognizing and respecting the image of God in all people.

PRAY: Pray that Jesus will be lifted up and glorified through Community Health Empowerment initiatives. Pray that national CHE workers will be equipped to reach out to their communities and spread the gospel.