Monday, July 31, 2017

A Living Altar

Rachel Elwood, Director of Communications
A Living Altar
In 1952, Queen Elizabeth came to the throne of Great Britain, Singin’ in the Rain was a hit film, gas was only 20 cents a gallon, and Beverly Lewis was appointed as a missionary to the Texas/Mexico Border field. In 2017, she is celebrating an astonishing 60 years of missionary service to five countries.

Beverly was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1929, and continued to call Portland home throughout her years in Latin America. Raised in a Christian family, Beverly was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit at an early age and became interested in missions in high school when she heard a missionary from Bolivia speak and share a slide presentation. She attended Cascade College in Portland to major in education and minor in Spanish and history. She later earned a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University (California) in 1983.

Beverly used her gift of teaching in every place she served, focusing on equipping church leaders. Her resume includes teaching at Taylor Institute on the Texas/Mexico border; teaching and serving in administration at Berea Bible Institute in Bolivia; and founding Wesley Evangelical Seminary, which later became part of Bolivian Evangelical University. In Argentina, where she spent most of the 1980s, Beverly designed a plan for training pastoral students, later doing a similar project in Paraguay.

In Bolivia, where she spent most of her years of service, she was also involved in radio ministry, working with the national church in preparing programs that were broadcast all over the country. She also trained Bolivians in camping ministries, producing one of many enduring legacies—today, thousands of children, young people, and adults enjoy camping ministries throughout Bolivia.

Beverly officially retired in 1995 and remained in the U.S. for five years to care for her mother. In 2000, she returned to Bolivia to teach at BEU. She wanted to do what she loved most—invest in young people in Latin America. Since 2009, she has been based in Paraguay, where she is the director at Wesley Bible Institute in Asunción, preparing leaders for World Gospel Church of Paraguay. After moving to the U.S. this summer, she will continue to teach theological classes online.

“I first responded to a mention in a slide that if someone doesn’t go to teach these people, they’ll not have the opportunity to learn,” Beverly said. “On each field, there has been an urgent need for a teacher; He opened the door for me to go. I love the promise of 2 Corinthians 9:8, ‘His grace abounds, and He generously provides what I need.’” 

ACT: What retirement? Even into her 80s, Beverly is active in Christian service. Are you in or approaching those “sunset” years? Pray that God will help you find ways to minister to others during your retirement.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Adventure of Altar Living

Amanda Hoogkamp, Missionary, Bolivia

Adventure of Altar Living
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  ~ J. R. R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

This quote reminds me of what it means to put your life on God’s altar. There is no knowing what God is going to use or when; He often takes a piece of my life and uses it in ways that I never could have dreamed of. 

One of these instances was during my first two years in Bolivia. I felt God calling me to Bolivia to work with the El Alfarero (The Potter) University Student Center as a counselor. However, I could not start counseling right away because I needed to understand the language and culture better, so I volunteered wherever I could. 

I began working in the café that served the students; making coffees and smoothies and serving food was my day-to-day living. It was an adventure. I had never worked in anything like that before. (I didn’t even like coffee at the time; although, that is a different story now!)

Then they asked if I could help in the onsite library that was used by students, counselors, and the public. Sure, I thought; I love books. As I started working, I realized that maybe God had a different plan. You see, I not only love books but also libraries. My family has a personal library in our house, and my mom had worked in a library for many years. I used to go in and help her with cataloging and shelving. It turned out that I knew more about running a library than most of those who were working in the one at El Alfarero.  

By the second year, I was working on updating the library and dealing with issues that had been there since the library first opened. God took my life experiences—ones I never thought would be used on the field—and swept them up into His plans. I had placed my life and experiences on His altar, and He took off what He wanted to use. 
What does God want you to place on His altar? Are you allowing yourself to be swept off into His great adventure?

GO: Is fear or uncertainty holding you back from the adventure God has for you? WGM is here to help you find your place in God’s Great Commission. Contact to get started! 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sacred Space in a School Infirmary

We use milestones collected in our hearts and minds to construct altars of remembrance. Sometimes we find ourselves building them in a most unlikely place.

One morning while working at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, we were shocked to receive a phone call telling us our son, Chris, had a seizure in PE class at his boarding school. We quickly handed over duties, packed a bag, and started out on the long drive to be with Chris.

Upon arrival at the school infirmary, our hearts ached to see the many bumps and bruises and a cut from his fall against a wire fence and then down onto the ground. Chris was started on medication and needed to be monitored through the night. The nurse invited us to stay in the infirmary with him. After a late supper, we settled in for the night.

I was startled awake as my spirit cried vehemently within me, “I am so disappointed in you, God! I trusted you to protect my son. I am very disappointed!” God joined my heart-space conversation. “I can handle your disappointment, but I have a question for you. Do you trust Me?”

“I do trust You, but I am disappointed.”

“Do you trust Me?” I felt Him gently ask. 

“I think I trust You. Why do You ask? You know the answer better than I.”

“For what lies ahead for you and your family, for where I am leading you next, you MUST know if you trust Me. Do you trust Me?”

I invited God’s Spirit to reveal what was in my heart. I saw incomplete trust. “Oh, God, I do trust You. Increase my faith to trust You more. Holy Spirit, always remind me that I know I trust God. Whatever comes my way, I trust you, God.”

Suddenly, within that room, my heart space became sacred ground and a holy quiet filled my being. Using every bump on my son’s body as building stones, along with other mental stones from experiences past, I constructed an altar of remembrance in worship to God, whom I trust.

In the years since building that altar in the school infirmary, I have often gone to that sacred heart space to worship the God I trust. He was right. I needed to know that I know that I trust Him.

PRAY: What building stones can you gather from your memories and experiences to build an altar of remembrance to the Lord? Being intentional to remain aware of these moments will strengthen your faith, allowing you to take greater steps of trust in the Lord. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Two Altars

Nathan Metz, Missionary, Uganda

Nathan Metz and his two oldest children kneel on the altar he made out of an old church pew.“That one is for the men. This for the women. Those two smaller ones, the children.”

Dusk was just minutes away, and we had a muddy van ride ahead; it was time to get going, you might say. I didn’t take time to soak in the vision to my right. We moved along the path through the marsh, returning the same way we’d wandered in about an hour ago. 

I saw the tarps the first time when they were on my left, but I thought nothing of them. They appeared to be covering rocks—flat on the top with little jars and vessels tucked in around the base. As a new missionary, I knew very little about this place, just enough to feel fear. I trusted our pastors—a couple Kenyans and a few Ugandans—assuming they knew what they were doing since they were acting like guides. 

They picked up the pace, so I followed suit. One turned to me as we scrambled back to our van, “Those altars, they are for sacrifice,” she whispered from the corner of her mouth while she glanced quickly over my shoulder back in the direction from which we had come. She then gathered her dress and turned with a small wave of the hand to keep me close.

Several years earlier, I stumbled across an altar of a very different kind. This altar has a story that began with a wedding. Floyd was a young man who waited nervously at the front of a small chapel in central Indiana. His fiancé, Alberta, stepped happily down the aisle in a beautiful white gown. 

Over 50 years later, a pew from that wedding chapel was strapped in the back of a red pickup while my father and I sketched out a plan to give the wood a second life. We kept the beautiful curves and notable features of the pew in plain view while thoughtfully piecing together something functional and strong. When finished, it looked like a altar. Its old pew shape still trimmed the sides and the top on the right and left. 

While we were building, we knelt together, holding the top before it was fastened while we marked and measured and tried to get the spacing and angle comfortably correct. We used strong door hinges underneath to keep it from buckling, and we supported the whole thing firmly against the floor with our attempt at hidden feet. It ended up at my house. I prayed there many times.

There is no mistaking the vast difference between these two altars—one meant for evil, another meant for good. However, with all their differences, I find the similarities quite fascinating. Both altars are cared for as designated, sacred places. Both are intended to connect humanity with the supernatural. In both cases, humans approach the altar with sincerity, most always confident and expectant. I suspect Elijah saw this, too, on Mount Carmel as he faced the prophets of Baal. Two altars—vast in difference, striking in similarity.

In my ministry, I desire to see the lost come to the altar and seek the Lord in prayer. Yet, there is a great work that must occur before any man or woman comes to the altar of God. Before we kneel at a new altar, we must leave the one we’ve been using. A battle over the soul begins every time a person kneels at the altar of God before they’ve left their other altars. In the marshes of Uganda, in the twilight of that memorable day, I realized that my work in missions was somewhere between two altars—the death and the second life.

PRAY: The chains that keep people from a life of freedom in Christ can be blatantly obvious or hidden and secret. Pray for Nathan and others involved in sharing this message of freedom, that the power of Jesus will reach past the barriers that keep people from Him. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Building My Altar

Kelly Hallahan, Missionary, Uganda

Building My Altar
It’s just two hours until my deadline. The girls are needy. The boys are playing video games. And this topic of building an altar in the midst of chaos is all too relevant. As a missionary, wife, and mom of four children, the demands on my time are many and urgent. I don’t know what you face today, but I am sure the needs around you are urgent as well. We all need to build altars and meet with God; but, it isn’t easy. I want to share three things I am learning about building an altar.

1. God knows my frame. He understands the demands on my time and how many times I have been up in the night with a needy baby. There are days when I don’t have 20 minutes to sit by myself and “do my devotions.” But on those days, He reminds me that just a glance from my eyes ravishes His heart (see Song of Songs 4:9). It’s the attitude of my heart that matters. My desire to be alone with Him is a pleasing offering even when actually being alone with Him cannot happen. This is the altar of desire.

2. God accepts my living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). As I cook, clean, and care for my family and neighbors, I can worship God. Everything that is done in love can be turned into worship. My motives are not always pure, and sometimes I serve with a spirit of resentment. When the cry of my heart is “for You…for You…for You…,” this is the altar of diligence.

3. God delights in my neediness. I don’t like asking for help. My American independence is a hindrance to my spiritual growth. He loves to meet my needs. And whenever I call out to Him in poverty of spirit or body, He comes (see Matthew 5:3); He fills me. This is the altar of dependence—it’s one of His favorite places to meet me. My prayer today is that we will build an altar wherever we are in the world and meet with the living God. He created us to bear fruit for His kingdom, and, without Him, we can do nothing.

ACT: Start small in building an “altar-making” space into your life. Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual or stay up 10 minutes later, and find a quiet place to be with God.