“I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” These words of Nehemiah, addressed to those who were opposing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, have encouraged us more than once in our Kingdom work.
The enemy is so determined to defeat the work of God’s people that he will use any tactic possible. He will use people, often even God’s own people, to discourage us. He will use situations and stories to incite fear to make us reluctant to go somewhere or to speak to someone or to do something risky and yet important. This should not surprise as, as the enemy used the very same tactics with our Lord Jesus. We are also warned in the Scriptures that we are at war, not with people, but with powers and principalities of darkness in the heavenly places. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he may devour. So, we are not ignorant of his efforts.
We find our courage and determination to press on by focussing on Jesus who who was made a little lower than the angels, who took on the form of a slave and came in the likeness of humanity, who was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin, who endured shame, humiliation, betrayal, desertion, and crucifixion…all for the joy that was set before Him…the joy of knowing that His labour was not in vain. That through His sacrificial suffering and death, many would be reconciled to God the Father through faith in Him.
This past week, Louise and I trained a number of potential disciple makers in the Diocese of Natal. The first two days was focussed on the first of the four modules in the LEAD Program training, Strategy. The attendees were mostly clergy and lay leaders. We were so encouraged to hear this group say that, while they have heard about discipleship for years and have even attended various courses on the subject, this was the first time they felt we had given them the tool they needed to do the work!
They were so excited about the material that they decided they want to translate it into their own language, Zulu, so that they can teach many more people how to make disciples! We will be sending them the Xhosa and English versions this week so that they can strike while the iron is still hot!
The second group was mostly made up of lay leaders. For this training we teamed up with Trevor and Estelle, our team members from Growing the Church, as it was the first time we would be teaching this material. We had heard quite a bit about Rooted in Jesus and it is used in many African countries, but we have never been trained to teach it. Estelle worked out a three day program and gave us a few sections to teach and to lead. The training is divided up into teaching sessions, workshops, and practical sessions and everyone participates. It was a lot of fun and the group really enjoyed it. At the end, each participant had an opportunity to say how the course had touched them personally and what they were going to do about it! Watch out Natal!
Once again we were reminded that we are engaged in a great work…that in spite of the many distractions, disappointments, and discouragements that the enemy hurls at us ever so often, we must be determined to press on…because we really do live for Christ and for Christ alone. Jesus faced what He faced because of the joy that was set before Him…the joy of knowing that many would come to the Father because of His labour. By His grace and His aid, we can do the same.
We are engaged in a a great work…we cannot come down.
In my previous blog entry I gave an abbreviated account of some of what I did during my seven-month assignment to the Solomon Islands. I returned home to the USA three months ago and set about transitioning to the “next thing.” As I transition, I thought it would be useful to readers of SAMS’ blog to learn about what I will be doing next, and more importantly, why the SAMS Bridger program has been such a helpful component of my discernment process. I should add that I am in no way under compulsion by SAMS staff to write this blog entry. The opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own, but I hope that they will be an encouragement to SAMS staff and supporters.
Shortly after returning to the USA I married my long-time friend Kyria. You can read about her life and work on her blog. The two of us met as volunteers at Uncommon Grounds Cafe in 2010. Since then Kyria has been serving as a long-term missionary with Mission to the World (MTW) in West Africa helping with Bible translation research, and in the United States receiving training at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. As of our marriage we have begun transitioning into the MTW family as a married couple. We don’t know where God is calling us to specifically, but we have expressed our willingness to serve in a majority Muslim context. We hope to combine our diverse gifts and experiences and return to international work sometime in 2019. Over the next year we will be exploring potential field locations and continuing to raise support. You can partner with us by giving by following this link (please note: for security reasons our number shows up, 13703, and not our names).
Kyria and I in Crete meeting with MTW international workers.
How has the SAMS Bridger program helped prepare me for the road ahead?
Before Kyria and I were going to get married, we knew we would be facing roughly seven months apart as she conducted literacy research for her Master’s thesis. I set about thinking of ways to utilize the time to get myself some further training and experience working internationally. I had finished my MAR from Trinity School for Ministry, and had several years experience working with faith-based non-profits in the USA, but I only had short-term experience serving internationally. That’s when I was reminded of the SAMS Bridger program.
The Bridger program was recommended to me by a former colleague whose son was a Bridger. As I looked into it, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for:
- Instead of a short-term trip, the Bridger program offers highly flexible opportunities ranging from 1 month to one year. This allowed me, with some advanced planning, to schedule an internship during the time my fiance was away.
- SAMS Bridger program involves mentoring for individuals seeking to explore missionary service as a vocation. This was a very big draw for me. My Bridger mentoring experience taught me a lot about team dynamics, met and unmet expectations, and the daily challenges of international life. I formed close relationships with my teammate/mentors that will last for a lifetime.
- My Bridger experience was highly personalized–through conversations with my mentors before arriving in-country we found work that would utilize some of my previous skills and experiences. I also had opportunities to try new things such as preaching and teaching cross-culturally. Every Bridger will have have a uniquely designed missionary experience.
Beyond these program qualities, God’s providence was evident throughout my whole experience–from Bridger training, to support-raising, arrival in country, and returning home–God’s plan was continually confirmed in my being sent and my coming home. God raised up supporters. God kept me safe. God gave me the strength to preach, teach, and live. I may be transitioning out of the SAMS community, but I will never forget the experiences I had as a SAMS Bridger in the Solomon Islands, nor the genuine relationships I formed with SAMS staff. Moving forward Kyria and I hope to collaborate with SAMS workers wherever it is possible.
Who is the SAMS Bridger program for?
In the 9th chapter of Matthew we are told that Jesus went throughout the towns and villages, full of compassion, preaching good news and healing the sick. He told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”(9:37b-38). If you are considering longer term missionary service, or if you have considered it in the past, then this is a program for you. Don’t let money be a worry that keeps you from pursuing a God gifted vocation. I think this is a program especially suited for college age (in between semesters), recent grads, graduate students, or even second-vocation adults. If you are interested in learning more about the program from me, or if you are a Bridger raising support looking for advice, don’t hesitate to email! You can also contact the Bridger program coordinator directly.
Picture a classroom. What do you envision? Are there desks arranged in neat rows? Is there a chalkboard or smart board on the front wall? Maybe you picture the students rushing down the hallways lined with lockers as they make their way from class to class. When we visualize a teacher we may think of these typical elements. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and although they may not be in a common classroom, many of your SAMS Missionaries are teachers! Take a look at some of your SAMS Missionaries using their teaching skills in the mission field:
April Sylvester is a mentor for students who are in a gap year program in Zambia. April teaches a variety of subjects including swimming, yoga, photography, and computer skills.
Veronica Flowers is the headmistress of Holy Trinity bilingual school in La Ceiba, Honduras. She is engaged in bringing a wholistic Christian education to the children in the area.
Johann and Louise Vanderbijl serve in the province of Southern Africa where they are teaching disciples to make disciples through a series of trainings. Thus far they have trained over 400 people!
Janine LeGrand teaches people in the Diocese of Masindi-Kitara in Uganda and the surrounding rural area about health and nutrition. Here she teaches a group how to make a nutritious dish that includes the moringa plant.
For the last five years Drs. Brain and Judith Taylor taught health education to those in the rural areas of Myanmar. Because of their teaching, one student was able to properly diagnose his neighbor with early symptoms of leprosy, and in result was able to get him the proper care.
These are just a few SAMS Missionaries that teach in the mission field. You can meet more here! Whether it is through swimming, spelling, discipleship making, or nutrition, your SAMS Missionaries seek to bring the transforming love of Jesus Christ to all the students they educate. Maybe take the time to tell your SAMS Missionary that you appreciate what they do as educators. Leave a comment, or email them: firstname.lastname@example.org (e.g. email@example.com).
Are you a teacher? If so, know you are appreciated and the Lord has given you an important gift so that you may be an influence in someone’s life. How are you bringing the love of Christ to others you teach? Maybe you have not considered using your teaching skills in the mission field. Ask the Lord how you can use your gift whether it is at home or abroad.
Discover more about becoming a SAMS missionary here.
Featured image: Louise Vanderbijl teaching the Mother’s Union sewing skills in Gambella, Ethiopia.
Easter! The season that puts all the other liturgical seasons in order. Just think, no Easter, no Christmas! No going back to hear His stories and lessons that He taught. When someone says “The Reason for the Season,” it really is more than the birth of Jesus (though that is what they mean), the real reason is in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead! As we continue to observe this Easter Season, be sure and give thanks to our Lord for not giving up on the world!
The Bible only makes sense when we understand that God had a plan all along for the salvation of those who would believe in His son, Jesus. When we make that connection, we begin to live a life that is different from the rest of the world. For we know that we worship a God who desires to be intimate with us.
Reading the Bible is like reading a love letter left behind from the Lover to the Beloved. As we read the Bible, we get in touch with the one who made us; who desires to be with us in all aspects of our life. The good, the bad, and the ugly! So often we forget.
Just as the disciples forgot what Jesus told them about him being crucified and then in three days would rise, we too, forget; oh so often, that He is alive and desires us to be with Him.
So remember! He’s Alive!
by former SAMS Missionary, Joe Rhodes