Thursday, March 20, 2014

Planting Missionary Seeds

by Joy Jensen

When I was growing up, occasionally a missionary would visit our congregation and give a presentation about mission work in a foreign land. I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in those far away places! When I was 9 or 10 years old I had to write a paragraph for a school assignment about what my life would be like in 20 years. I stated that I wanted to marry a missionary and have 3 or 4 children. Little did I know that there was a young man my age, in another congregation about an hour away, with similar ideas.

Skip forward a few years… That young man and I met and married. We both loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him together.  During our wedding ceremony, this passage was read “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge…” (Ruth 1:16).  I was willing to follow him wherever he decided to go, but in all of our pre-marriage discussions, I do not recall discussing mission work specifically

Several months after our wedding, George decided to attend the East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions. During those two years, we sat at the feet of seasoned missionaries such as Bill Nicks, Rod Rutherford, and Ed Jones. Their wives also taught classes for the student wives. Those seeds of mission work, planted early in our hearts and minds so many years ago, were being watered. 

After graduation, our work for the next 19 years revolved around domestic missions; however, the thought of foreign mission work continued to germinate in our hearts. Various opportunities arose for George to make short-term trips to foreign mission points. Desiring to broaden our children’s exposure to the church outside of the U.S., he would in turn take one of them with him. In 2005, our family of six made a month-long trip to India. George and I began to have some discussions about “what ifs….” and foreign mission work.

In 2006 our family took a month-long trip to Malawi, where we worked with Ed and Lina Crookshank, another seasoned missionary couple. There was no denying it - those mission seeds planted in our childhood hearts had sprouted! After numerous family discussions (our four children were ages 13 - 17 at the time), we made the decision to move to Africa. Through what we believe to be God’s providence, we chose Tanzania, East Africa, where we arrived April 17th, 2007. We labored there for the next five years.

Are you considering foreign mission work? Thanks to those seasoned missionaries in our lives, as well as our own experiences, we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are a few thoughts for your consideration:

Before You Decide to Go
  • Take Spiritual Inventory. None of us have “arrived” spiritually. We all have growing to do. But there should be some level of spiritual maturity in place BEFORE entering the mission field.  Untold damage has been done to the Lord’s church because of sinful behavior on the part of foreign missionaries, including drinking, smoking, bribery, sexual misconduct, immodesty, etc. Wise elderships will do their best to choose spiritually mature people with honorable reputations.
  • Marital and Family Stability. The mission field is no place to work out marriage difficulties or to “cure” a troubled teen. If there are family problems, they will only be magnified on the mission field. 
  • Research. Proper investigation is imperative before you commit to a specific location. If at all possible, do not move your family to a place, sight unseen. That’s not always possible, but with today’s relative ease of travel, it will be money well spent.  Short-term campaigns rarely give a complete depiction of people or day-to-day life. Will you be joining other missionaries? What do you know about them? Have you spent time with them? Of course, agreement on doctrinal issues is a must, but differing views, from mission methodology to child training, can inhibit a harmonious working relationship.
Before You Go
  • Cover Your Bases. Many details must be addressed when moving to a foreign country - passports, invitation letters, resident permits, travel details, medical coverage, etc. Don’t rely on one person for your information, as this could result in costly consequences. Even missionaries already in the field can inadvertently give misinformation.
  • Pace Yourself. The months prior to departure are often exhausting. Frequent road trips, visits to many different and unfamiliar congregations, packing up familiar belongings - these can take a toll on your family. Take time for rest along the way. Your children are going to pick up your “vibes” about how you deal with these stresses, which are relatively minor, compared to the ones you will face once your feet hit foreign soil. Try to keep from running yourselves ragged right before you leave!
  • Cook From Scratch. If you don’t already know how, learn now! Many missionary wives have learned the hard way. If you are able to make some delicious meals without boxed or processed ingredients BEFORE you go, the adjustment will come much easier. If there are picky eaters in the family, it’s time to change. Eating is a vital part of socializing with locals and refusal to eat their food will most certainly offend. 
  • Educate. The more you learn about your destination, the easier your adjustment will be.  Learn about its geography and culture. If another language is spoken in your host country, begin to learn the language, and continue learning after your arrival. 
When You Arrive
  • Be Flexible. Life will rarely happen as you expect it to. Your electricity may be cut off at the most inconvenient times, you might run out of water, you will hurry to arrive somewhere on time, only to sit and wait…and wait. Your patience will be tested again and again. Remember: how you react to difficult situations will affect the entire family.
  • Adapt. Remember that you are a guest in another country. The locals will have different ways of doing things, including habits that seem rude or disgusting to you. The more you can accept their way (without violating the Scriptures, of course) of doing things and avoid thinking that your ways are superior, the better adjusted your family will be. 
  • Don’t Be Paranoid. You cannot expect to move into a third world environment and live exactly like the local people. Reasonable precautions must be taken for your health and safety; however, neither can you be paranoid. Germaphobic missionaries are miserable missionaries!
  • Keep a Sense of Humor.  Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. You may be faced with bugs in your food and in your bed, unwelcomed critters in your house, and gecko droppings in the most unwanted places! You will make cultural faux pas and linguistic blunders. Learn, laugh and live. 
When You Return
  • Be Aware. Reverse culture shock is very real. There are many wonderful blessings that come from living in another culture, but it’s important to realize that family members may be impacted in different ways; returning home is not always easy.  Also be aware that the foreign missionary “bug” gets in your blood! 
  • Connect. Stay connected to brethren, even after you leave. Also, most people do not comprehend how much you can miss your “other home”, especially if you lived in a third world environment. Connecting with other missionaries who can relate to your experiences will help. 

When was the last time you encouraged a young person to be a missionary? You may never know the impact that a few encouraging words can have on the heart of a child! I am so thankful for the experiences I have had thus far. My life has been made richer because of it.  Most importantly, I pray that we have made an eternal impact in the lives of many. 

Suggested Reading:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Are Your Children Ready To Be Missionaries?

by Betty Jackson

There was a discussion between a teacher and a father (also a teacher) concerning homeschooling in which the teacher insisted that our children ought to attend public school to be missionaries, rather than being schooled at home. The young father replied, “My children are not ready to be missionaries.”

This article is not to defend homeschooling per se, nor to agree with the public school teacher. What it is about is whether young children can be held accountable as missionaries in their circle of associations. It would be better to realize that every Christian is a missionary, with the Great Commission having been given by our Lord and Commander-In-Chief, Jesus Christ.

However, it may be overwhelming to young children to place them in the role of missionary. While we need to consider them as “missionaries in training,” requiring certain behaviors, we do need to realize, because of their tender ages, we must be careful. The development of all that it takes to be a faithful Christian, including teaching others in our communities or abroad, is a process. The focus needs to be upon building the faith of children, leading them to responsible Christian adulthood. “How can that be done?” one may ask.

Parental tasks of making a living, keeping the health department away from a cluttered house, and running here and there with so many extra curricular activities often leave fathers and mothers exhausted. Yet, the command to “train children the way they should go” is always hovering over minds as weary bodies fall into bed at the end of full days. In weariness, some may even wonder “Does anyone want my job!” 

There are so many every day distractions that hinder good training of our children. It is comforting to know that the instructions of Deuteronomy 6:7-9 involve daily life. While a formal devotional during the week is a good thing, little will be accomplished by that if all the rest of life revolves around the temporal. Our lives ought to be saturated with a wholehearted love for our Heavenly Father, humble gratefulness for Jesus’ sacrifice, and appreciation for the Holy Spirit’s provision of the Holy Scriptures. We must rise up, walk in the way, and lay down with conversation revolving around our own mission of serving God. Everything we do ought to be done in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17). As Alfred Edersheim worded it, “ the spiritual nothing is secular.” Solomon stated that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). Our light must shine all the time! (Matthew 5:16.) If we compartmentalize our lives, we may risk becoming only Sunday Christians.

Specific challenges must be faced head on in our modern media-driven world. Nearly every nature program will propagandize the theory of evolution. Visit the Grand Canyon and you are bound to hear about the evolutionary ideas behind the explanation for the Canyon. Most science curricula are filled with it as well.

The National Science Teachers Association makes no apology for contradicting a biblical view of the origin of the universe and human beings. They claim there is no scientific evidence for Special Creation. Yet they say, there is evidence for evolution, and “...evolution is a unifying concept for science.” Further they affirm that, “Scientific disciplines with a historical component, such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology, cannot be taught with integrity if evolution is not emphasized.”

Humanist John Dunphy arrogantly wrote, "I am convinced that the battle for humankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers that correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being...The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and new -- the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent with the promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of 'love thy neighbor' will finally be achieved."

In his book Already Gone, Ken Ham statistically showed that faith in the integrity of the Bible of young people has been compromised or destroyed because of their inability to harmonize the Bible with so-called science. Compatibility between the biblical account of a young earth and that of pseudo-science concerning the age of the earth doesn’t exist. Being taught that science proves that the earth is billions of years old in contrast to the history recorded in the Bible is devastating. Without the armor to deflect these false ideas, both parents and children are affected. 

 Over fifteen years ago, there was a young boy in my Bible class who believed the earth was billions of years old, in spite of my best efforts to show him the evidence otherwise. My lessons titled Reasoning to Believe, showed the weaknesses in the dating methods, and other proofs that our earth cannot be as old as is claimed by the atheistic community.

Atheism is a militant effort to dismiss God through hocus-pocus dating methods to find billions of years. Theistic evolution is likewise a malignant scheme to destroy confidence in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. We cannot slumber. We need the whole armor of God with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, truth, and righteousness, to take the offensive, contending for the faith of our children.

What can busy parents do? First, realize that the most important missionary work that you have to do is training your children and protecting their budding faith. Second, you need the weapons to learn how to combat the errors to which they are exposed. One such tool is Truth Be Told available from Apologetics Press. Some homeschools have used this book as a part of their school curriculum. I urge you to purchase a copy. It handles some of the common claims by atheists on a level youngsters can understand.

You may be thinking that I was disingenuous by stating this was not a defense of homeschooling. While I am pro-homeschooling in most situations, my real point is this: It is dangerous out there! We must protect our children by training them, and strengthening them to meet the battles for faith they will face, regardless of where they are educated.

No, children are not ready to be missionaries. They can be good examples, inviting their friends to Bible class and worship. They may even be able to discuss some biblical themes with them. But they are not ready to strike out on their own into the wilderness of the ferocious atheistic, humanist beast. They need training to learn how to reason and identify error with the intelligence the God of heaven has given them. They must receive the education of sound teaching to learn how to do that.

Resources and Recommended Reading

Dunphy, John. 2009. The Book That Started It All.

Edersheim Alfred. 1947. The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmeans Publishing Company. Vol. II, p. 247.

Jackson, Jason. Evaluating Evolution in Plain English.

Jackson, Wayne. The Age of The Earth.

NSTA Position Statement. The Teaching of Evolution. 

See Apologetics Press for the book Truth Be Told, and for a number of other materials that are useful to parents for teaching their children:

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Are You a Missionary Wife?

by Jill Jackson

Some members of our local congregations are engaged in mission work . . . in their homes. Their mission—to save the souls of the men they married. Perhaps a friend taught them the gospel and they embraced it, but their spouses weren’t so receptive. Maybe they willingly entered into marriage with nonbelievers.

Some of these women have spouses that create no “obstacles.” On some level, they value it’s importance to her and support her, but they’re not interested personally. Some husbands may want their children to go to church, and share the faith of their mothers, despite not wanting it for themselves. On the other side of the spectrum, some are antagonistic and make it very difficult for their wives to be faithful. Under any circumstances, a Christian married to a non-Christian experiences hardships.
They are unable to talk about spiritual things with the person that matters the most. They can’t share a zeal for serving Christ. They can’t pray together. There is a missing element to their intimacy because they lack a spiritual connection. They have no comfort in the thought of separation because as things stand, they will not spend eternity together. Often there’s even an inability to spend time with Christian friends because of their spouses’ lack of receptiveness. Life can be lonely. 

Religious discussions explode into conflicts. Guilt is a constant companion. Choosing to go to church and serving God becomes “choosing not to be with me.” Many, after choosing the good and right thing, return home and get the “what for” or spend the rest of the day getting the cold shoulder. Life can be combative. 
Many who have children worry about the impact of living in a spiritually divided home. They fear their children will be subject to religious hostility. They recognize they will not get the guidance and spiritual influence they need from a spiritually broken home. They fear they will not choose to serve God. Life can be worrisome. 

Clearly these “mission workers” have struggles and heartaches, but the Bible provides a soul winning formula of hope. “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:1-4).

Peter instructs Christian women to respect the authority of their husbands. Despite the fact many were unmoved by the gospel, or worse, rebelled against it, they were encouraged to focus on their conduct and not that of their spouses. Respectful and pure conduct does not include brow-beating, nagging, or manipulating. Rather the avenue of hope for winning a spouse to Christ is through actions that don’t involve words. Too often words turn combative. When the mouth stays closed, hostility is disarmed, and the opportunity to lead by behavior comes to fruition. 

Peter emphasizes the need to focus on inner beauty—the heart—which God values. Her spirit, the inner disposition which reveals itself through daily actions, should be gentle and quiet. Gentle means controlled in her actions and emotions. Quietness is a quality of imperishable beauty, a characteristic not associated with pushiness, nagging or being selfishly aggressive. The influence of one faithfully striving to live like Christ has the power to make its mark on the heart of others. This adorning of the heart can soften the hardest of hearts in a way that even the most heartfelt words could never achieve. 

If you are involved in this mission work, I want to encourage you not to lose sight of your most valuable asset—YOU. When Jason and I recently flew to Tennessee to attend the FHU lectureship, I listened to the flight attendants go through their safety information before we took off. When it comes to those little masks “in case the cabin loses air pressure,” they instruct parents to put their mask on FIRST, and THEN assist their children. 

When married to an unbeliever, you need to remember to save yourself first—then save your spouse. Just because one is “saved” today, doesn’t mean she will be “saved” if she chooses to quit living according to the Scriptures. You’re currently living on an island of higher ground than your mate. Think of it as if you’re standing on a table, and he is standing next to you on the ground. The reality is, it’s going to be a whole lot easier for him to pull you down, than it’s going to be for you to pull him up. You can’t lose sight of your own soul and where you want to spend eternity. If you fall from grace (Galatians 5:4), there’s little hope of him fulfilling the requirements to accept God’s grace. Consider five ways you can save yourself first.

"Save yourself first" by getting in the word. Every day needs to have a time for structured, spiritual focus. The word is a necessity for sustaining the soul. Bible study needs to be as valuable as the air you breathe (Matthew 4:4, James 1:25, 1 Peter 2:2-3).

"Save yourself first" by petitioning the Father. One who is married to a non-Christian is susceptible to being weakened by her spouse. Because of this, there should be a great effort made to be in constant commune with God. Share with him your heart’s desire, and lean on him for comfort and support, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). 

Save yourself first” by cultivating deep relationships with your Christian family. You need a support system. Many times, because of the hostility of one’s spouse the majority of close friends end up being outside of the church. This can make the believer even more vulnerable to losing her soul, because bad companions can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33)! You need to hold fast to your spiritual lifeline. Maybe you can’t invite someone over for dinner because of your husband’s hostility, but perhaps you can have someone over when he is at work or meet a friend for lunch. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).You need to find at least a few people you can be real with. You need people who can encourage you, give you wise counsel, and pray for you.

“Save yourself first” by being as active as you can. Attend every service possible. Granted, there are some situations so volatile that attending one service a week may be all one can do without embarking on World War III, but some become content with this as opposed to truly trying to peacefully pursue more time with the saints. 

“Save yourself first” by keeping your emotions in check. Some signed on for this mission work when they walked down the aisle. Maybe they did so because they believed their spouses would come around in time . . . or maybe they accepted that they may never come around and were convinced they could be okay with that. In some circumstances, time creates “game changers” and the Christian spouse struggles emotionally, and spiritually with the decision they made. Though they may love their husbands very much, they find they’re no longer content being married to individuals who do not share their faith. Perhaps this change of heart is a result of having children, or maturing spiritually. Whatever the cause, they can create expectations of their spouses they didn’t have upon marrying them. 

The nonbeliever says, “Hey, you knew who I was when you married me.” There is a valid truth to be made in such a statement. While one can certainly strive, hope, and lead by behavior because of a desire to save her spouse, she must also be mindful of the fine line that high emotions can cause her to cross. Recognize that crossing this line may add to the friction in your home. Because of this, there should be an extra effort made to focus on all the good things—the things that made you fall in love with your husband. 

Truly love your spouse by making him feel valued as he is, and in so doing, you may be the “game changer” for his eternal state. May God bless you as you strive to live by the principles found in 1 Peter.  

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Wayne. Should a Christian Marry Outside the Faith?

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What Is Your Mission Statement?

Dear sisters,

Every dedicated Christian holds the Lord's teaching in Matthew 6:33 as the primary mission statement. Projects of less importance come under or support that goal.

Our Commander in Chief, gave us our orders in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Our obligation in the Lord's army is not to conquer nations (Eph. 6:12), but to win the hearts of others for Christ.

Women of Hope will provide several articles during the month of March on the work of women as ambassadors of Christ.

Jill Jackson's article addresses wives who are missionaries in their homes. 

Let us know if you find these articles helpful.

May the Lord bless you as you seek the lost for Jesus.

With hope and love,

Betty Jackson

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