Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Praying for Us

  • Zach as he finishes this intensive month of helping with the Partnership Development training for our Nigerian colleagues.
  • Christy, that she stays healthy (no malaria), and learns to rest a bit more.
  • Baby, that she will grow strong inside of Christy, and that we have peace about a doctor and where to birth the baby. 
  • For the Scripture engagement team as we prepare to jumpstart new strategies in September when our colleagues have reached their financial need quota.
  • For our Nigerian Missionary Staff (NMS) that they will learn of God’s faithfulness in the next few months to provide their every need, and will be bold in sharing the vision and inviting others to join them financial and prayerfully in mission.
  • That we will have wisdom in our anchor project in our community (read below).

Anchor Project

We have now lived in Hwolshe for two years, having rented the house for three. 
In the Scripture engagement movement in Wycliffe, there is a lack of understanding as to how to use mother tongue Scriptures in multilingual churches in urban areas.  One of our goals is to intentionally visit churches with the hope of sharing with them a vision for using Scripture effectively in the church.  How do we do it?  That is the question we are asking God.  What is God’s heart for these multilingual churches. 

In a recent conversation with a sincere Pastor from our community he shared that English had been chosen by the congregation because they “like” the language, not that they understand it necessarily.   This too, is important, that the language used is prestigious, but not as important as it being a meaningful medium to communicate the message God has for his people.   What is our part in partnering with churches in our community to see this happening? 

The ongoing ministry that happens in our home is welcoming children on a weekly basis.  Christy often leads this with a time of learning phonics and looking at books, followed by a Scripture lesson and Scripture songs (which the children have been writing themselves, another exciting Scripture engagement activity).  Most recently parents have also been in our home for various visits, a meeting that was held a few weeks ago, and most recently the “Beautiful Me” program with mothers and daughters from the community.  There is so much that we can do, but we want to do it with the community, and most importantly, with God’s leading. 

We are a bit overwhelmed as we consider how to continue, what to share in churches, and where God is leading.  Please pray for us.

In My Weakness


Zach has testified that being sick for over a week was a powerful reminder that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Along with weakness comes worry that the reality of today, may become that of tomorrow.  Thoughts of cerebral malaria or an unknown sickness taking over his body, increased his dependence on the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 
He found himself awake one morning around 2am, enjoying God’s presence in a new way as he sensed God singing over him, “In the day I feel your love, and at night, you sing to me” from Psalm 42.   Also during this time God called him back into intimate relationship with himself that Zach had been longing for.  It has been precious to see how this has born fruit in our times with God together.  We don’t ask for sickness, but of all the outcomes of a sickness, this is surely the greatest one, a better understanding of God’s strength and presence with us.

Zach is now back to work with the Nigerian missionaries as they raise support to continue the work God has called him to do.  It is a fruitful and rewarding, though extremely intense time.  Please do continue to pray for them and their families.  For health, good communication, and much joy as they see that God is their Providing God!

Beautiful Me

“You knit me together in my mother’s womb, I am beautifully and wonderfully made.” –Psalm 139

Ten young girls and eight mothers were expected at the “Beautiful Me” event being held at “Auntie Christy’s” in Hwolshe on Friday night.  (Unfortunately our photography was not available to film this monumental event) As usual, the event started a bit late, and Auntie Christy  was wondering if all the planning had been in vain.  However, by 7pm (starting time 5), ten girls and seven mothers had arrived, and  were dancing in a circle playing a game together…probably for the first time.  From all the interviews I’ve held, my Nigerian informants have all stated that mothers and daughters rarely have a gentle, loving relationship that reflects God’s care and mutual concern.  This event was a gentle 3-year unfolding of ideas that met true needs both seen and felt in the Hwolshe community.   Most of these girls began coming to Auntie Christy and Uncle Zaka’s house three years ago when they held a movie night in their home.  They were young, giggly girls then, who have grown into young women. 

To see mother’s and daughters planting flowers to represent a new growth in their relationship and the girls holding hands with their mother’s declaring, “You are beautifully made,” with big smiles on their faces were highlights of the evening.

The participants were challenged through demonstrations, skits, the Bible story of Esther, songs, and testimonies of how to perceive beauty, and how to become inwardly beautiful.   This is hopefully the first of a monthly event where girls and their mothers join hands to walk forward into a brighter future where God ministers to them through each other and where they can see their value in His eyes. 

Around 10am the next morning, after a pancake breakfast and a devotion from Philipians 4:4-8, ten beautiful young women could be seen leaving Auntie Christy and Uncle Zaka’s house with flower pots on their heads. 

Oh, may they grow more in love with Jesus, allowing His beauty to transform them from within. 

A growing baby, a growing love.

I always thought of the “wave” as an activity for a crowd, but these days, the wave is experienced by me and baby, alone on a quiet afternoon when I’ve heeded the warning of my friends to rest.  My heart swells, moved with love for the little being growing in me.  I look at my siblings children and can’t imagine more beautiful small people. Then I consider that I value uniqueness so very much, and our baby will be the unique combination of Zach and myself, designed by the Master, with quirks all his/her own!     

Little one in me, I think of you all day long,
I encourage your kicks, write you a song.
I pray for you because I see the hurt here,
I must entrust you to God, without fear.
He’s allowed you to grow seven months in me,
What a grace, what kind of mother will I be?
“You’ll be great!”  “A wonderful mom!” folks say,
You will change me, when you come on that day.
My identity, my thoughts, my calling will be new,
I cannot promise I’ll be great, but what is true,
I will give you to God, day after day, all your life,
I’ll applaud your efforts in joy and strife,
I will give you what God has give to me,
A love that is from Him, wild and free.
I don’t know what form that love will take,
I don’t know what kind of sacrifice we will make,
But I know it will seem, a drop in a stream,
A overwhelming love in my heart’s eye gleam.

Is this how my God treasures me?
Am I being given new eyes to see,
A mother’s love, one that transforms,
Sheltering another from life’s storms,
Applauding each success,
Expecting the best
“Little one in me, I think of you all day long?
Encouraging my heart, singing me a song?”
Is this how my God thinks of me?

Friday, May 8, 2015

God of contacts!

One of the major requirements all our Nigerian missionary colleagues had to prepare to participate in this training was to get contact information of people—potential ministry partners—they could call to set up appointments.  Imagine that you are in their shoes.  You are asked to get names and phone numbers of forty people that you don’t even know!  You have been calling people and talking to friends asking them to share some contact information for about six weeks and you have only been able to get numbers of about twenty or so people.  Then this morning (Thursday) you are told that if you haven’t yet reached the required forty by 6pm tonight you will not be allowed to continue to the next step of the program (making calls).  How would you feel?  Who would you call to get names and numbers of people you don’t know?  It can start to feel impossible.  But we serve the God of the impossible.  Abraham called God “Jehovah Jireh”, God who provides.  This week we call him “God of Contacts”. 
Here are just three testimonies:


[The following is Zach’s paraphrase of her testimony on Wednesday.  Understand that each night this week we have never gone home before 9pm, often later.] 
Last night I stayed up until about 2:30am.  So when it was time for break, I was feeling very tired.  I thought maybe I would just lie down on a couch and rest.  Then I remembered the lesson we had shared about how to ask for contacts.  I knew I had only about thirty contacts, so I just decided to try to go out and call one or two people for a few minutes.  By the end of the break, God had given me all my contacts!
Praise the God of Contacts with us!


[The following is Zach’s paraphrase of what he shared with me during the lunch break.  Understand again that each night this week we have never gone home before 9pm, often later.] 
Last night when I went home I met my wife.  I was feeling so tired.  Then my wife shared with me that she had found several contacts for me, so now my list of contacts was complete!  At that my tiredness left me and I was just rejoicing!
Praise the God of Contacts with us!



Believe it or not, Jeremiah is getting married on tomorrow.  Perhaps that doesn’t seem so surprising until you realize that he agreed to still fully participate in this thirty-day training, taking only two days leave (today and Monday).  The rest of the thirty days he plans to be present from 7:45am until we close at 9pm.  Talk about a commitment to this ministry!
Yesterday while half of our colleagues were out on an appointment with a potential ministry partner, I asked those who were still here, “Does anyone still need to get more contacts?”  Jeremiah responded, and we went out and sat under a mango tree to make some calls together.
Jeremiah sketched a list of about ten people he knew.  Then he prayed for each of them by name.  Next, he started calling them, following some of the “calling blurbs” that we had received in the training.  One of the first people he called was an “uncle”, an elder in his church.  This uncle was willing to stop what he was doing and start thinking of contacts right then.  He told us to call him back in ten minutes.  We called back in ten minutes and he said we was still working on the list, so he told us to call back again.  Jeremiah finished calling all the other people on the list.  Some were willing to get together contacts, but suggested he call back that evening or the next day.  Finally, he called the other uncle back.
The uncle started listing names and phone numbers.  Jeremiah wrote them, carefully getting all the details we need to know (like what city they live in).  Line and after line the Uncle kept giving names and numbers.  When he was done Jeremiah had the names and numbers of sixteen people in front of him—and he only knew three of them.  After he hung up he smiled, and we started praising God.  Jeremiah just praised God with four simple words “The God of Contacts!”

 Praise the God of Contacts with us!

First week of training

Right now, as I write the post, several of my colleagues are out on their second observation of a real appointment with a potential ministry partner.  I write from the hall where we study, work, pray, worship and eat.  It is hard to believe that we have only been in this room for five days now.  It feels like almost two weeks considering all that we have experienced so far!

Here are some quick praise and prayer items:
  • Praise God that all but one of the trainees has their minimum of forty contacts (all people they don’t know!)
  • Praise God for his encouragement in the first two appointments yesterday—the response of the individuals was very positive and the trainees felt they learned a lot from the experience.
  • Thank God for the sacrifice of two experienced Nigerian missionaries who are teaching us what they know about ministry partner development.  Praise God for how he has faithfully provided for them!   Their stories encourage us!
  • Praise God for a successful first calling night.  It was a bit rough and unexpected things happened in many of the calls—which is just what we wanted because it was a great learning experience.  Also, nine of the ten who were making calls that night have set an appointment for Monday.
  •  Please pray for the people our colleagues will meet for the first time on the Monday appointments—their first ever PD appointments with this new program.  Pray for the wisdom and peace for our colleagues.  Ask God to make these appointments not only good learning opportunities, but that these people will become ministry partners!
  • Pray for the ten to fifteen appointments we hope to make daily.  Pray for God to prepare these peoples hearts to embrace the vision for Bible translation, to encourage our mission, and even to become ministry partners with us through prayer and finances.
  •  Pray for our colleagues as they have many assignments, including memorizing and getting used to making calls and giving appointments.
If you are joining us in praying for this program and have a short message you would like me to share with us here, please just e-mail or text me (my e-mail and phone number are in every e-mail I send)!  I will read it aloud (if I can get a chance in this intense program!)  Thank you so much for praying with us!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nigerian Missionaries!

You can feel the excitement and the tension in the air .   This evening we sit in rows listening to the opening speeches as part of the banquet that kicks off an intense thirty-day program.  For the next thirty days seventeen of us will work together every day Monday to Friday from seven in the morning until nine thirty at night—yes, that’s right, all day long pretty much from waking until sleeping.  We will set aside all other work to focus on only this.  The normal family responsibilities and ministry that we would be doing will be set aside.  Now, you may be wondering, what is so important for seventeen people to give themselves to?
 We are preparing for Discipleship Ministry Partner Development.  We are preparing to mentor and train ourselves to find Nigerian Ministry Partners to join us in this ministry though prayer and finances.

Who are we, the seventeen?  Eleven Nigerian missionary staff, two coaches, three mentors, and one person to keep the details straight.  (I’m one of the mentors)

We are going to be calling people daily arranging to meet with them.  When we meet with them we will share how God has saved us and how we got into the ministry of Bible translation, and about all the exciting things he is doing in the various areas of Bible translation—survey, entho-arts, literacy, linguistics, translation, Scripture engagement, vernacular media services and so forth.  Then each Nigerian missionary will invite the person we are meeting with to become a ministry partner with them, investing in prayer and finances.

How do we feel? Nervous, excited, confused, and hopeful.  All of this is more than we can do by our strength, but we know God can make it work.  So . . .

Please, please, please join us in prayer!  I have been sensing the need for you all to stand with us in prayer more and more over the last six weeks as we prepared for this program.  Somehow until today, I just couldn’t find the time and words (and internet connection) to get this blog post together!

Please pray:
·      For courage
·      For us to learn from God what he wants to teach us
·      For each of us to sense God’s leading and calling to this
·      For six wives (and three fiancées) to feel encouraged and part of this process
·      For boldness for the fellow Christians we meet
·      For this “new idea” of Nigerian-sent missionaries (though it isn’t really new) to be accepted by the Nigerian church
·      For each of us to understand the program enough to be able to teach each other in the process
·      For me specifically as a mentor to have wisdom from God for what I say and do
·      For all of us to feel supported and loved by our whole group as they go through the process.
·      That God will give them hope.
·      That God will provide the finances needed
·      That many will catch the vision and see the need for Bible translation.
·      That God’s people in Nigeria will rise to the challenge of taking ownership of Bible translation in the country.
·      That our faith in God will increase in the challenges and in the successes

Collaboration, vulnerabity and trust

From Tuesday through Thursday, leaders of 24 Bible Translation organizations have gathered to discuss how we can work together more intenti...