Living ready

Every now and then I see a post on
Facebook ominously declaring that we are in the end times.  My reaction is “Of course we are.  We’ve been in the end times since the moment
Jesus ascended.” However, our personal “end time” could come at any
moment.  A comet could come crashing down
down right now and we’d all be in line at the Pearly Gates. Jesus
says:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your
Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had
known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and
would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also
must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you
do not expect him.”  (Matthew 24:42-44)

Whether it is the END TIME or our
personal end time, the message is clear: 
be ready. What do we
do to be ready?  Personally, one thing I
do is say the prayer of confession before takeoff and landing every time I
fly…just in case!
There are two reasons to be
ready.  One is to avoid hellfire and
damnation.  The other is to live into the
promise that is Christ Jesus — eternal life in His presence.
After almost 8 years in Honduras. what
I have learned is that being ready is not saying a particular prayer or going
to church every Sunday.  Being ready is
about how you live your life every day. 
Soon after I moved to Honduras, I asked a Honduran pastor, “How is it
that the poor who suffer so much, with no end in sight, have such a profound
faith?”  He answered me immediately,
“It’s because we set our sights on the next life.”  I realized, despite my faith, I and many
Americans set our sights on this life. 
Our measures of success and security are job titles, the neighborhood we
live in, the car we drive, our school, the size of our investment portfolio… But,
when you set your sights on the next life, everything
changes. 
Hondurans know that they are totally dependent on God.  In our independent, self-sufficient, do-it-yourself
culture, does that make you feel a little itchy?  The Hondurans give everything over to
God.  The country is one of the poorest
in the western hemisphere and the government corruption is mind boggling.  If you ask a Honduran how those conditions
might change, they smile and shrug, “God knows.”  It is not fatalism, or complacency, it is
trust. When they talk about a future event, even meeting for lunch the next
day, they say, “Si Dios permite!”  If God
permits!  And as far as I can tell, they
rarely try to do God’s job for Him.  Have
you ever done that?  “Don’t worry, God, I
got this!  I’ll let you know if I need
help!” Or, do you ever lay out the solution for Him?  “Dear Lord, here is the situation so please
first do this, then this… or…you could do that…either way works for me. Amen.” (Personally, I hope God has a sense of humor!)
The Hondurans walk in the
Spirit.  And they want you to join them.  Last year during Holy Week, Dony, a staff
member, received tragic news.  His father
had been murdered for no apparent reason. 
The morning after the wake, Suzy, our founder, and I were in my car on
the main street waiting for the funeral procession to start.  Dony came
over and leaned into the car to talk.  Suddenly an older man, slightly
drunk and reeking of alcohol, came up.  He tearfully told us his
story. He has no family, his mother abandoned him when he was young. 
He thinks God might love him but he
isn’t sure.  Sometimes he wants to “leave this world…”  but he is
afraid of death.  He is even more afraid
of not being loved. Dony, on his way to his father’s funeral, began sharing the
Good News with this man, assuring him that Jesus loves him and will never leave
him.  At the worst moment in his life, Dony was evangelizing.  He’s ready.
 Hondurans help people who
need help.  If you are trying to back out
of a parking spot or parallel park, a man (or boy) is always there to help guide
you.  Not for a tip, it’s just what they
do.  I can’t carry anything around the
Children’s Home for more than about 3 steps. 
Someone, even our smallest children, will rush up to help. 
Soon after I got to Honduras, I
impetuously set off with a car full of food to give to the family of a young
woman who worked for us.  We drove 3
hours and stopped at a restaurant.  It
was there I learned that the family lived in some remote area where “taxis
couldn’t go.” Well, I certainly didn’t want to go, at least not in a car full
of women.  So I walked outside onto the
dirt road to look for help. We were right next to a gun store so, not knowing
what else to do, I started explaining my predicament, in fractured Spanish, to
the heavily armed guard.  (Why did I think
that would help?)  Well, the woman behind
the counter heard and rushed over, dialing her phone.  “I know someone who can help you!”  10 minutes later a young man named Israel (!) roared up in a pick up truck.  He
cheerfully loaded all the food, hundreds of pounds of it, into the truck and
off we went.  We drove for an hour and a
half!  All the while he was smiling and
chatting with me.  He knew a little
English and I knew a little Spanish. 
When we arrived, we discovered the house was deep in a ravine.  No problem! Israel loaded the food on his
back and ran up and down the treacherous path until all the food had been
delivered.  As we set off back to the
village, I was so grateful for his help. 
I looked at him and said, “Tu eres mi salva vida!”  (you are my life saver)  He looked puzzled for a second, then smiled
and nodded.  He dropped us off at my car
and drove off with a wave.  The woman in
the gun store called Israel and he came — because someone needed food and they
are always ready to help. (By the way, it wasn’t until I was back in Tegucigalpa
that I realized Salva Vida is the name of their beer.  It was like I had told him, “You are my
Budweiser!”)
Eva

Hondurans are clear about from whom
all blessings flow.  The last team of
2018 came at the end of October.  In
addition to all the other usual activities, they decided they wanted to build a
house in a day for Ernestina, a tiny, homeless, elderly woman in San Buenaventura.  The mayor had given her a minuscule bit of
land way down a dirt road in the mountains behind the Children’s Home.  The only way to get the 
materials to the site was to carry them down and
back up a ravine.
  I was standing in the
woods monitoring the progress when another woman appeared, arms full of wood
that she had gathered for her wood burning stove.
  Eva, too, is impoverished but slightly better
off than Ernestina.
  She put down her
machete and wood and smiled broadly at me.
 
“I am so thankful the Lord is helping Ernestina!  Thank you letting Him use you to bring this miracle
to her.”
  Eva knows where that house came from.  We were thankful to be part of Ernestina’s miracle.


The team realized Ernestina didn’t have a mattress so they gave me the money to buy her one.  I asked Angel, our singing construction worker, if he could help.  No problem!  I gave him the money and the next day, he recruited a friend with a pickup truck.  They went into town, bought the mattress, and then hauled the mattress and box springs to Ernestina’s new house.  Again, because that is what they do.  If they can help, they do…with a smile.

Hondurans live lives of hope.  Jimmy came to us, broken and malnourished,
at 3.  One day I saw him at our school
where he does volunteer work.  He is 19
now.  He was doing his university
homework, playing very complex classical music on his guitar.  His fingers were flying over the strings as
he changed chords and picked a sophisticated pattern.  I asked him how growing up at the Children’s
Home changed his 
life.  “Suzy came and
gave us the possibility to dream and the possibility of having a better
life.  There is a lot of Christian
influence at the 
Children’s Home. They teach us that our lives have a lot of
value.
  It changed the way I dream.  My hope for the future is more than a degree
from university. More than that, it is to influence society positively. More
than changing my life, it is changing
the lives of others in a positive way.
  I
want to give a future to kids who don’t have one now.”
  Through LAMB God has given Jimmy hope…and now he plans
to share that hope with others.

70% of Hondurans live below the
poverty line.  40% live on less than $2 a
day. Unemployment is over 50%.  The
government is so corrupt it makes your teeth hurt.  There is no end in sight for the poor in
Honduras.   And yet, they are always
joyful, ready with a smile, eager to help, full of hope and focused on the Risen Lord.  They know this life is less than a blink of
an eye in the context of eternity but the next life is forever. They are
ready.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be ready…for a
life filled with joy!
5 Things Young Adults Should Know about Serving as a Missionary

5 Things Young Adults Should Know about Serving as a Missionary

We talked with SAMS Missionary April Sylvester currently serving in Zambia to learn what Young Adults should know about serving as a missionary overseas. Here are five things she wants you to know:

1. Some days will be super busy and exciting! Check out this video of what mission is like in Zambia where I mentor students in a Gap Year program.

2. But other days may not be exciting at all, in fact, most days may not be.

Whenever I tell people I live and serve in Zambia, one of the first reactions is always “Wow that must be exciting!” Well yes and no. In my opinion, if we are doing missions well, we are building a life where we live (whether in America or overseas). And building a life means making things normal and doing mundane things. It means building relationships and routines. It means doing things like grocery shopping and paying car insurance bills. Yes, doing those things may look different than in America, but they will be just as routine and mundane. So your life serving overseas will most likely be just as “exciting” as your life at home. But that’s a good thing! It means you’re doing it right.

3. When you build a life where you serve, you will create lasting and meaningful relationships.

Living in a foreign and new place can be a bit intimidating at first. Reaching out to form friendships can even be a bit taxing, but God placed you in a certain place for a reason. He will put people in your path who will help you, love you, and teach you. You will also help, love, and teach them over things like music or food, but even more importantly Jesus. You will talk about deep and sometimes difficult things as you lead others closer to Jesus and grow together in faith.

4. You will miss important things going on at home – especially if you are a young person like me.

Lots of important life events happen in our 20s and 30s. So if you are a young missionary, you just have to know that that is part of the sacrifice of deciding to live a couple thousand dollars worth of a plane ride away from friends and family. I have had to miss countless weddings. Even those of my best friends. I have missed my brother and sister’s graduation and even my grandmother’s funeral. You will want to be back for every one of these landmarks, but with just one trip home per year, you will have to pick and choose. And there will also be unplanned events that you will have to miss…I was in Zambia when my mom suddenly passed away. And while I made it back for her funeral, my heart still breaks thinking that I didn’t get to hug her like the rest of my family on the day of her stroke. Mourning missing life events comes with the territory of saying yes to the call.

5. You will get your hands dirty.

We took a day trip to a small village. It was the first day of evangelism. As we approached two women building a mud house with their bare hands.  As one team member began to ask them questions like “Do you know God? Do you attend church?” another team member noticed their yellow water cans were empty. He picked them up and walked to fill them, returning with sweat pouring down his face, his hands dirty, and water all over his jeans from the containers sloshing. At that moment I realized that is the kind of missionary I wanted to be. It is not uncommon for church service to be 5 hours long and school is notoriously lecture-based. So how many times do we come across someone who is not concerned with words but is willing to get down into the mud of life with us? It means being able to really see people and their needs. Sometimes you will sweat, learn, and love your way towards that goal.

Are you a young adult or know a young adult that is interested in serving cross-culturally? Meet up with SAMS at Urbana 2018 Missions Conference, an eye-opening global missions conference, a sacred space for college and graduate students, faculty, and church leaders to hear God’s call. Register here and drop a comment below to let us know if you will be attending!

April Sylvester

SAMS Missionary to Zambia

April is involved in an outreach ministry to Zambian youth that involves discipleship and mission training. Her home church is Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. Support April here.

House Hunting in Belize

Belize: First Visit

Mission: Find a House

Meeting Friends, Home Searching, and Dreaming

– “What is your favorite part about Belize?”

– “We don’t know. We’ve never been there.”

– “You’re moving there for a year and you’ve never been there?!”

– “Yep!”

We have had the above conversation more than once. More often than not, it would continue with comments about our bravery. I think bravery and faith look similar, but are overlapping ideas. Bravery chooses not to fear; faith chooses to trust. I’m not sure Missy and I are being brave. Rather, I think we are having faith, trusting that our Father has good things in store for our family in Belize. We belive he has good work for us to put our hands to, and rather than experiencing fear, we are full of anticipation.

Fortunately, at least now I have seen Belize! I spent all last week there. The mission on this trip was to find a home in San Ignacio and to get to know the missionaries we will be assisting, David and Mary Beth Alenskis.

San Ignacio, Belize

San Ignacio is around 2 hours west of Belize City. David graciosuly agreed to pick me up from the airport and let me stay at their home all week. It was an adventure from the start with delayed flights, packed customs qeues, and overheating trucks. But though it was dark by the time we arrived home, we made it safe and sound. The first night ‘s meal consisted of Salbute’s from Lupe’s. We’ll talk food on another post, but let me say I will be eating a lot of these.

David and Mary Beth were wonderful hosts. We had many fantastic conversations over shared meals. I am genuinely excited for them to meet Missy and I believe the four of us can be great friends.

They both tapped into their network of friends to try and find us a place to live. We looked at so many places, but by the end of the week, we had a winner!

“Friendship has always belonged to the core of my spiritual journey.” – Henri Nouwen
This little beauty is a 325sf tiny home built with a shipping container as it’s foundation. It has one bedroom, a kitchen and a bath. Missy, Annabelle, and I will live here, sharing the bedroom. The open portion you see is a deck with a fantastic view of the city.  We are so grateful to have found it! It is only a 5 minute walk for Annabelle to get to school. We found much larger (and in some ways nicer) homes outside of town, but our hope is that this is a simple time for us. Missy doesn’t want to drive and we don’t want to have to take a bus to get everywhere.

The owners are going out of their way to be accomodating. I’ve already been receiving updates with photos. They’re even letting Missy and I choose paint colors for the interior and exterior. We feel so blessed to have found this tiny little place. If you know us, you know it is perfect.

I was also able to visit Annabelle’s school. I think she is going to love it!

I’ll leave you with two photos. One of the school and the other a photo I took inside of St. Andrews Anglican Church. We hope to bring ourselves fully to this community, serving, learning and experiencing God in new ways and with new eyes.

You Know My Name

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You know my name!
More than a month ago, Erika had introduced herself to the elderly man sitting across the table from her. We were at the weekly lunch for the houseless and unemployed that our family and Fellows attend on Tuesday afternoons.

“My name is Gus,” the man replied.
Erika asked, “Is that short for anything?”
“Augustine,” he replied.
“Like the saint, Saint Augustine?”

Gus paused, then exclaimed, “You know my name!”

Gus had never met another Augustine, and didn’t know the origin of his name. As Erika told him the story of the great Saint Augustine of Hippo, Gus’s eyes became wet with tears. “I never knew I shared a name with someone like that,” Gus kept saying.

A month later I found myself sitting across from Gus. When he introduced himself as Gus I asked if it was short for Augustine. Again he exclaimed, “You know my name!” I told him about how my wife had sat across from him a month before, and how she had printed out a history of Saint Augustine for him. We’d been hoping to see him again so we could share it with him. I pointed Erika out to him as she sat across the room with Henry.

Gus shared with me the deep pain and isolation he feels from being illiterate. He shared his struggles with alcoholism. He asked me if I knew what it was like to wake up at 3am shaking, sweaty, and needing a can of beer to be able to function. And in truth, I don’t. I don’t know what that is like. The pain and embarrassment in his voice as he shared this with me was so strong. For a while we sat across from each other in silence, both of us holding back tears. After a while Gus said, “I can’t believe you know my name. Can I go talk to your wife? I can’t believe she remembered me.”

Church, we serve the God who knows our name. We serve the God who knit us together in our mother’s womb, the God who loves us more than we can ever know, and as the prophet Isaiah says, “…called you by name, for you are mine.”

This fall during the Go Deep portion of our year, we have walked with our Fellows Tessa and Kieran as they grow more and more in their understanding of the name that God has given them: beloved. Beloved son and beloved daughter. As we study God’s word and serve together, we’ve heard God call out to us by name, and affirm our status as beloved.

In two months we’ll be in Thailand sharing that same message: you are a beloved child of God. Welcome to His family where you are known and remembered. Can you pray for us? Would you consider supporting us financially? Thanks be to Him who calls us by name!

We are currently looking for three more applicants for our third cohort of Agape Year! Do you know a young person (18-20) interested in experiencing a deep dive into discipleship, service, and seeing the Body of Christ at work around the globe? Please pray with us as God leads those He has called by name. Apply by December 15 and receive a $2000 scholarship!

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5 Mission-minded Books to Read

5 Mission-minded Books to Read

Here is a short list of books that focus on mission and other related topics. What mission focused books have you read and recommend? Leave a comment!

 

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness

The Call continues to stand as a classic, reflective work on life’s purpose. Os Guinness goes beyond our surface understanding of God’s call and addresses the fact that God has a specific calling for our individual lives.

Why am I here? What is God’s call in my life? How do I fit God’s call with my own individuality? How should God’s calling affect my career, my plans for the future, my concepts of success?  According to Guinness, “No idea short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose and fulfillment.” With tens of thousands of readers to date, The Call is for all who desire a purposeful, intentional life of faith.

 

Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

Through Gates of Splendor is the true story of five young missionaries who were savagely killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. The story is told through the eyes of Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the young men who was killed. Elisabeth Elliot is also a founding member of SAMS-USA.

 

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Poverty is much more than simply a lack of material resources, and it takes much more than donations and handouts to solve it. When Helping Hurts shows how some alleviation efforts, failing to consider the complexities of poverty, have actually (and unintentionally) done more harm than good.

But it looks ahead. It encourages us to see the dignity in everyone, to empower the materially poor, and to know that we are all uniquely needy—and that God in the gospel is reconciling all things to himself.

Focusing on both North American and Majority World contexts, When Helping Hurts provides proven strategies for effective poverty alleviation, catalyzing the idea that sustainable change comes not from the outside in, but from the inside out.

 

Getting Sent: A relational approach to support raising by Pete Sommer

Raising support is one of the most difficult challenges facing Christians in ministry. Fears of rejection, concerns about biblical validity, feelings of not being deserving, anxiety about limited resources can all block us from obtaining the means to fulfill our calling.

Getting Sent both affirms that God uses the Christian community to send us into ministry and demystifies the process. This down-to-earth handbook offers a clear, biblical perspective, gives step-by-step instructions on how to assemble the tools unique to each person’s support-raising task, explains exactly why people do and don’t give, and much more

 

Waterbuffalo Theology

by Kosuke Koyama

Kosuke Koyama was a Japanese theologian and former missionary to northern Thailand. Waterbuffalo Theology gives a very interesting picture of cross-cultural missions with some of the theological and practical issues that arise in regard to contextualization.