Dear friends, family and supporters,
Greetings from the Midwest of the United States! Our second son, James, was born this week, and as parents of two wonderful boys we could not be happier! Mary Beth’s pregnancy made it to a whopping 39 weeks, at which point her doctor recommended an induction, and for good reason: he was so big! Both mother and child are doing well, trying to rest, and get this new phase of life off to a great start.
While James’s arrival is bringing about so much change in our own family’s life at the moment, we should also add that he was born at the precise moment that our ministry as missionaries is undergoing an enormous shift. I’ll explain below, but first I encourage you to watch this little video that we put together (with the help of SAMS-USA President and Mission Director Stewart Wicker) that will explain what the next few months and years will likely hold for us in ministry:
In brief, Mary Beth and I have been sensing for some time that the Lord may be calling us to a ministry that is more focused on theological education and leadership development in the context of the Majority World, and not only on pastoral ministry in a parish setting. There is a tremendous need around the world for this targeted kind of ministry, one we often experienced in Belize (a country that currently has no formal seminary for training clergy for any denomination), and one that is often repeated when we speak with other missionaries and leaders in the Majority World. Having consulted with theological educators from around the Anglican Communion—from Myanmar to Chile, from Kenya to Mexico, from Indonesia to Egypt—the answer to the question, “What should our next steps be?” was clear: if I wish to train others to become leaders in the church, I should pursue a higher level of expertise in the things of God, a path that would take me to a research doctoral degree in theology, i.e. a PhD.
So, with the support of SAMS and the bishops to whom we are accountable, we began a process of formal enquiries and grueling applications (GRE included!) that have led us to Wycliffe College, an orthodox, evangelical Anglican theological college affiliated with the University of Toronto, currently ranked in the top twenty universities globally for the study of theology and religion. In the end, I accepted Wycliffe’s offer to join their PhD program as a full-time student with an emphasis in Historical Theology, a discipline that straddles both Church History and Systematic Theology. My courses and research over the next 4–6 years will supervised by the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, himself a former missionary, and one of the world’s leading Anglican experts on the Reformation, pneumatology, ecclesiology, and the history of biblical interpretation. I am very blessed and excited to be working with him, and with many of the other members of faculty at Wycliffe College and more broadly with the Toronto School of Theology.
Just to be clear: Mary Beth, our sons and I are still missionaries with SAMS, and we plan to be for many years! We are not leaving ministry at all, but we are beginning a season of what SAMS calls an “Educational Ministry Assignment,” a time of preparation for another kind of future ministry wherever in the world the Lord may call us. This means that we will soon be leaving our pastoral ministry in Belize to others, clearing the way for God to do new and amazing things through the people with whom we have been laboring, into whose lives we have been pouring ourselves. We are very torn up about leaving … it has been driving us crazy to think that we will be leaving a people and a place that mean so much to us, but we believe that this is where the Lord is leading, and where he leads we will follow.
At this time, there is much that we need from you as supporters of our ministry. First, please pray for us during this time of transition. There are so many things going on right now: because of COVID-19 we have not been able to cross the border into Canada, nor have we been able to return to Belize to pack up and say goodbye. We will need to be able to do both things as soon as possible, so please pray that the Lord makes a way for that to happen. I have begun the fall term online, which is not an ideal way to pursue graduate studies, but even the possibility of this approach would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. Please pray that my studies go well, that we can say goodbye to our home in Belize, and that we find a new home in Toronto very, very soon. And please pray for our churches and schools, lay leaders and Bishop in Belize as together they all grapple with this transition as well.
Second, since we are continuing as full-time SAMS missionaries and plan on going back on the mission field as soon as I finish this program, we are urging you to continue giving to our ministry, or to begin giving as the Lord would lead you. With these new horizons in view, our budget is only increasing. In addition to the tremendous deductible we will likely have to cover because of Mary Beth’s labor and delivery, we are also looking at moving to downtown Toronto as a family of four, and we project that expenses will be far above what they were for us in Belize. And although both Wycliffe and SAMS have both been very generous in their willingness to offer me some scholarship funds towards Wycliffe’s annual school tuition and fees, our family will still be covering well over half of these educational expenses out of our own pocket. Even if our missionary account won’t cover the international tuition rates for Wycliffe (and we don’t expect it to), your one-time and regular gifts will help us retain our salaries and make it possible for us to rent a modest apartment, feed our family, and raise our children without compromising either our dedication to this season of preparation or our determination to return to the mission field once we are prepared. To sum up: we desperately need your financial support, and we ask that you begin, continue, or increase your giving to our ministry as the Lord leads you.
And because we believe that the Lord has led us to this point in ministry by using precisely your gestures of support as his sacred instruments for sustaining our efforts and holding us accountable to his purpose, we want to thank you again for everything that you have already done. We would like to be able to thank you more personally, and to share our plans with you in greater depth than this post (or video) could possibly manage. Please contact us, and let us know if we can chat on the phone (or Zoom, or any number of other platforms). If you’re lucky, James might even be awake and showing his cuteness for the camera! And stay tuned for changes on this website: we will be updating our context very soon, although with everything going on (I know, I know, COVID-19 can become such an excuse!) it may be a few days or weeks before it’s all sorted out. But be ready for these new horizons to begin to appear in your view as well as ours.
May the Lord richly bless you all. We will be in touch again soon!