How often do plans get changed?
Why are we surprised?
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Yet when it comes to plans any change can be so hard to accept. Recently, there was a bush trip planned. Brett and Katelyn were so excited to follow up with a village they had shared at previously. About two and a half hours into the trip, their car broke down. They wanted to press on but were advised to turn back so the car could be repaired and they could be safe. They obliged. But it wasn’t until they arrived in town after being towed in and got the news that the issue with the car was serious that they accepted the change and were thankful they’d turned back. The next day they got word that the national partner they were going to work with had a baby that morning. We don’t always know why plans change, but we can rest assured that God is not surprised. His ways are higher than our ways. May we trust him at all times in all ways!
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Our family was all dressed and ready for church. We got in our car, ready to drive to our morning place of worship, when behold, our car wouldn’t start. At the very same time that my husband was trying to figure out why our car wouldn’t start, I was receiving a WhatsApp message from my Muslim friend, Sarah*, asking how I was doing. This friend of mine lives in a different country than I, but we used to live in the same location. I RARELY receive messages from her unless I have initiated first. This is particular morning I find this unusual. It’s also unusual that our brand-new Toyota Fortuner car is not starting.
We have learned to see God is all of our circumstances. “All things work together for good to those who love God” says Romans 8:28. So I immediately start wondering what this means for our morning – this message from my friend, and our car not allowing us to go to church. Our university son who just happens to be with us mentions watching a sermon on TV. We turn it on and the pastor ‘just happens’ to be preaching on Mark 5 – the story of the lady who has had bleeding for 12 years, and how she reached out her hand to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. THIS IS THE STORY I HAVE SHARED WITH SARAH ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. Sarah has had bleeding, infertility, and many miscarriages the last few years, and she longs to get pregnant. I have encouraged her to “reach out to Jesus” just as the lady in this story. I have even given her a Bible in her own language, Urdu, and she has been reading the Bible.
Is this coincidence that we are kept from church, that I have received a message from Sarah at the exact time, and that this pastor is preaching the exact story which Sarah knows well? Could it be that God is showing me right now to pray for her, to share the story to her again, and to spend my morning reaching out to her instead of going to church? I believe my purpose on this Sunday morning is doing just that: connecting with Sarah.
I then share this happening with Sarah, and I remind her of Jesus’ love for her. Will you pray for Sarah right now? She is searching for truth. Jesus is her truth. Pray that she would reach out for His hem, and receive the truth into her heart. Also pray that Jesus would do a miracle for her – and allow her to conceive a child. Jesus wants her to be His child, and He can also give her her own child. This is my prayer.
Making disciples is a journey. It takes each believer along a learning curve that is continually ebbing, flowing and growing. The vastness of strategies, ideas, trainings and books that offer suggestions for what’s best can be overwhelming. In the midst of all these amazing ideas and tools, one truth remains, the plumb line, the best strategy, the Word of God. As missionaries and national partners go out proclaiming the gospel and seeking to make disciples it’s important to take many things into consideration including context, reproducibility, longevity and end goal. It’s also just as important to know “what’s next”. Each time a new relationship is formed or a group meets, the missionary or national partner, every believer, should ask themselves, “what’s next?”
In Fort Dauphin and the surrounding bush villages much thought, discussion and planning has gone into this process of making disciples. There is continuing discussion on best practices and consideration for what needs to change. Two years ago a group consisting of the six leaders over Antandroy and Antanosy work met together. Recently, another group of leaders over these same two regions met. This time there were 30 leaders. The gospel is spreading. Disciples are making disciples. Workers and leaders alike are rising up. As you pray for this work to continue, don’t forget to ask yourself, “What’s Next?”
This sounds like an unusual title, and an unusual prayer request, but this is exactly what we ask you to do for us. In Exodus 17 the Bible tells of how Joshua and his army were victorious over the Amalekites only when Aaron and Hur supported his hands. When Moses’ hands dropped down, the Israelites would be defeated, but they were victorious when his hands were held up. This is a model for us in prayer. This past weekend, March 10th and 11th, our two families who work in Pretoria (see the two men on the far left and far right) did a very intensive discipleship training at a church in the Durban area. More than 60 people were trained with “tools” in how to be “a disciple who makes disciples”. Luke 10:2 says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, PRAY to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers” – and this is what we need you now to do…PRAY. These individuals have been trained now to go into the harvest with their testimonies and the gospel of Jesus. Will you support their/our hands through prayer? Satan HATES what we do when we teach followers how to share the gospel, and he loves to cause trials or distractions to stop us/others from doing what God has called us to do. PLEASE pray for boldness, courage, and for much fruit to result for God’s kingdom.
Storms come whether you are ready for them or not! In life these storms can take on many forms: sickness, stress, loss, and chaos. How do you respond when life brings you a storm? We’ve been in the rainy season here in northern Madagascar for the last few months and it has been a good one. However, we’ve had several storms come through our area as well. Through the lightening and thunder we get the glorious rain. That made me think about the storms of life, even through the chaos we can come out the other side to “glorious rain” as long as we trust in the One who can calm those storms. My prayer is that those we walk beside each day, those we teach, those we share His story with, and us as well, would come to hold tight to Him through the storms of life. May each of us hold tight to His promises and comfort shared in His Word. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
Recently, Adam made a trip to the capitol, Antananarivo, to visit the seminary and convention leaders. As he was at the seminary he was able to see a handful of students from the South of Madagascar. As he was reporting back to me on the visit and as I later saw the picture of some of the students I was so encouraged.
Sometimes we forget how the Lord has worked and moved in the lives of the nationals when they go away to pursue theological studies. May we reflect and remember all the Lord has done and may we pray as Paul in Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God is doing a mighty work among the people of South Madagascar. Would you remember them in your prayers and agree with me that he who began a good work in each of them will bring it to completion?
Recently some of our missionaries visited a new “squatter camp” called Killarny, which is located just outside the beautiful suburbs of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A “squatter camp” is what is known as a settlement with shacks made of wood, cardboard, tin and other scrap material, where whole families live in a single shack, the size of a garden shed. Most of these people have come from all over Zimbabwe in hope of a better life near the city, and hopefully a job. These few missionaries, along with the partnership of the local Baptist Church, went into this settlement in order to do a “food distribution” to those who are starving. We gave out mealie meal, oil, salt, soy products, beans and tuna chunks. But even more important we went in with the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of the 150 people were only hoping to get some nourishment, but we also fed them the word of God, and gave them the hope of salvation which only comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Will you pray for Killarny, and for the local church who is reaching out to them, that much fruit would come from the teaching times in this community? The “harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…so pray” says Luke 10:2. Pray that many would come into God’s Kingdom through the outreach in this community.
The people were all smiling as they came out to greet the missionaries driving into their cactus lined village. The national partner arriving with the missionaries made introductions as they all sat down on the woven mats laid over the dirt. The nationals and missionaries exchanged proper greetings. The missionaries asked, “Do you want to hear about Jesus Christ and sing a song to God?”
“Yes!” the villagers responded.
“What song do you know?”
“We don’t know any songs to sing to God. Teach us.”
The missionaries proceeded to teach them a song along with the gospel. A few people showed interest in following Jesus.
Within a few months, as the national partner continued visiting and sharing with the people, many came to Christ. They were hungry for more stories from the Scriptures and insights into how to follow Jesus.
The missionaries were able to visit every once in a while, but the national partner was key in meeting with the villagers regularly. The time came for the new converts to follow in baptism. In the deserts of South Madagascar water is scarce. Finding a water hole deep enough to baptize is a huge challenge. On this day, the villagers and missionaries walked 10 miles to get to the ocean and back. The lead missionary, along with a few volunteers from Louisiana, stood on the shore surrounded by the new converts and modeled how to baptize. After a little more teaching and verification that the people understood what this step in their faith meant, the leaders of the village took each new convert one by one and baptized them! The people from the village sang praises to God and celebrated with a meal on the beach; rejoicing in this step of obedience in their new found faith.
Teachings continued and the new converts gained more and more understanding of the Scriptures. After some time the missionaries were asked to come back and teach about taking the Lord’s Supper. The people were all smiling again as they came out to greet the missionaries driving into their village. The missionaries had permission to set up a tent and stay for the night. They got the tent up and began fellowshipping with the people. Some women missionaries were cooking with the women in the cooking house. The missionary kids were teaching the village children how to play hop scotch and the men were sitting and beginning to discuss the steps to take the Lord’s Supper, described by the Scriptures. It was an incredible experience to be a part of these milestones in the lives of new Christians who had no preconceived ideas of what these actions should look like. From the time they confessed Christ as their Lord and Savior and learned songs to sing to praise him, to following him in baptism and then learning what it means to remember the Lord through taking the Lord’s Supper, the missionaries were determined to teach them to do everything based upon what the Scriptures say.
Pray the people in the village of Amby will grow in their faith according to the Scriptures. Pray they will weigh every action in light of the Scriptures and that they will be able to stand firm in the midst of persecution and temptation. Pray for the people in the church to grow stronger in their faith and be diligent in sharing the gospel with their neighbors.
If the answer is YES, then you might be feeling like this tree, all alone, at high tide! Sometimes doing what is right and following the truths outlined in the Bible, can leave you standing all alone. I know for our national brothers and sisters, following Christ and His teachings, can leave them either physically or emotionally alone. Our prayer is that even in the midst of many people, they would feel the sweet presence of the Lord. That they can find encouragement and support through His Word, His people, and others that may come into their life. Our prayer is that they would never feel alone, but stand firmly planted in Christ! “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Swaziland is new territory for our family. My husband was given a new role that includes strategy for reaching the people of Swaziland with the gospel. There are presently NO IMB personnel working among the Swazi. We have made several recent visits to Swaziland to determine God’s plan regarding the spiritual needs of the people living there. We have surveyed the lost and the found. We have met with pastors, churches, and leaders of the Baptist Convention of Swaziland. Here is what we have discovered_
There are 21 Baptist Churches in Swaziland.
There are 12 pastors for the 21 churches.
They are hungry for education in evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.
There is great confusion spiritually, as a nation.
There are many churches, many faiths, few truths.
People are dying with AIDS, Swazi has the highest HIV rate in the world, and the people are dying without Jesus.
There are orphans being raised in Africa Traditional Religion which does not equate to eternal life with Christ Jesus. Swazi has the highest orphan rate in the world.
We will be holding a church planting conference Nov 26-Dec 4. Will you pray for us as we try to equip the local church?
We are also looking for US churches to partner with national Baptist churches to provide ongoing CP training. Could it be that your church could commit to coming 3-4 times per year to encourage and train a group of Swazi believers?
Currently, we have one US church, Ridgecrest Baptist, MO that has committed to this task. We cannot do it alone, will you PRAY?