Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Missionary Christmas

Last week, David and I were at a missions conference in Fayetteville, NC. While the entire conference was very refreshing, I want to focus on the gifts that the church people lavished on us. The church we were at was 40 years old and had never had a missions conference before. They decided they would like to have Christmas for the missionaries who would be there, and each of us received a wish list to fill out several weeks in advance. Honestly, David and I sat looking at the sheet of paper trying to decide what to include on our list. We didn't want to seem greedy or selfish, but the missions pastor had said to give plenty of options so that the church members could shop. We wrote things down thinking, "well, we probably won't get this, but you never know, so we'll write it down anyway."

Let me tell you, we were blown out of the water by this church's generosity. There were four of us missionary families and each of us had a designated table on the stage in front of the church for our gifts. One of the pastors led the congregation in singing "Joy to the World" and while we sang, anybody who had a gift was to walk up and place it on the appropriate table. I could not believe how many people walked up to the front of the church carrying STACKS of gifts.

We were called up front to open our gifts in front of the church, and each family's table was piled with gifts. As we opened box after box after box, I could only shake my head in disbelief. Every single thing we had asked for and more was on that table. I'm talking big ticket items too, like a digital camcorder and a printer and a very nice felt Bible story set I've been wanting to take to Brazil. There were sports coats for David, Pampered Chef stone bakeware for me, nice sets of towels, gift cards, cash and on and on. An anonymous note from a 12-year-old boy had a $20 bill taped to it. In the note he wrote that he had bought something for each of the missionaries, but couldn't find something for us. He thought we might like to have lunch on him instead. I thought, "Wow, a 12-year-old boy bought presents for all the missionaries? That is so awesome!" So even the kids were involved in our shower of gifts.

We went home with the back seat of our car packed tight with all of our gifts. It was almost embarrassing because there was so much stuff. We've tried really hard not to live up to the term "moochinary", so in a way, it was a humbling thing to walk out of that church with all the gifts we got. I know many people gave out of the abundance of their finances, but I know other people gave sacrificially and I hope they know we don't take what they did for granted. Believe me, these days more often than not, missionaries are treated as pests or nuisances. "They just want our money" is the attitude that some churches and pastors have. Yes, we need money to do the work God has called us to do in Brazil. "Oh great, another missionary presentation tonight." We are EXCITED to tell you about how God is working through our lives and we want to share that with you!

We were blessed and encouraged by this display of love from people we didn't even know. Did I tell you that most of these presents were purchased before anybody in that church had even laid eyes on us? Being a full-time missionary is great. It really is. But there are times when it's challenging and disheartening. I try not to look for the praise of men, but when God reveals Himself through the generosity of His people, I am blessed.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Breakfast This Morning

A Light in the Darkness
Al Braca was a beam of hope for people trapped on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center Tower 1.

...Reports trickled in from friends and acquaintances. Some people on the 105th floor had made a last call or sent a final e-mail to a loved one saying that "a man" was leading people in prayer. A few referred to Al by name. The Bracas learned that Al had indeed been ministering to people during the attack. When he realized that they were all trapped in the building and would not be able to escape, Al shared the gospel with a group of 50 co-workers and led them in prayer.
This news came as no surprise to Jeannie. For years, she and Al had been praying for the salvation of these men and women. According to Jeannie, Al hated his job; he couldn’t stand the environment. It was a world so completely out of touch with his Christian values. But he wouldn’t quit. He was convinced that God wanted him to stay there, to be a light in the darkness. To that end, Al freely shared his faith with his co-workers, many of whom sarcastically nicknamed him "The Rev."
"They mocked him," Jeannie recalls, "but when horrible things happened in their lives, they always asked Al for prayer."
He prayed with them and shared the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For the entire article click here

Sharon and I are at a missions conference in Fayetville, NC. The pastoral staff invited us missionaries to breakfast. The time was very encouraging. This story of this man was mentioned and the pastor made a wonderful observation! He affirmed that the most beautiful part of this story was this man's obedience with the gospel. You might say - well what about the the fact many were saved? Well, honestly we do not know if many, much less any were genuinely saved. What we do know is that our Sovereign Lord is responsible for salvation and He has called us to be obedient with the gospel as John says: "I am a voice..."

2 Tim 2:24-25
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth..."