Ron McKeon: A Life in the Path of Jonah, Job, & Mary

“Where there is a will, there is a way”- especially if it is the will of God. Ron McKeon, SAMS missionary with his wife Debby since 2008, was not one to accept tragic circumstances as an excuse not to follow God’s call. As we wrap up our focus on perseverance this Advent with our SAMS theme “Keep Calm and #CarryOnAdvent,” we would be amiss not to give tribute to a minister of the Gospel who persistently gave witness on Earth to the glory of his “Lord, Savior, and Friend,” until he went home to God on September 28, 2019.

Ron speaks to Portuguese parishioners in 2006.

At the time of his passing, many of our Society were together at the New Wineskins Conference in North Carolina. During the announcements before Eucharist on Sunday morning, New Wineskins Director Jenny Noyes recapped Ron’s call to ministry powerfully while sharing the sad news of his death: “[Ron] was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2003, and they removed his tongue and thought he couldn’t eat or talk again through the mouth. But God had called him to be a preacher, and he obeyed- not only did he learn how to eat and swallow, not only did he learn how to talk and how to be able to be heard and understood without a tongue- but He was ordained and God called him and Debby to Brazil- where he learned Portuguese.”

Filled to overflowing with God’s love by the Holy Spirit, Ron and Debby engaged in ministry in Brazil initially through short term trips, year after year. They stayed with a different church family each time so as to build genuine relationships. Ron engaged in preaching and pastoral care of clergy and laity, magnetically engaging youth with the love of God after church services. Debby trained children’s ministry teachers with Portuguese translations of the program Godly Play, empowering them to raise up other teachers. In 2015, Ron and Debby became full-time missionaries and moved to Brazil. Ron and Debby dedicated themselves to helping the Anglican churches in João Pessoa grow spiritually, numerically and missionally–especially through equipping Brazilian leaders for ministry.

Debby trains children’s ministry teachers in the Portuguese translations of Godly Play,
“Na Presença do Pai.”

Ron McKeon’s life could be described as a path in the footsteps of several biblical figures. Ron’s daughter Anna reflects on his life, and the road he travelled to ordination: “I always thought he portrayed a bit of Jonah- he would switch jobs searching for the right one yet he always knew that God was calling him to go to seminary and become a priest, but he didn’t think he was the right person for the job. God was calling him to ministry and kept sending ‘whales’ until he finally said- okay, I will go into ministry. He had some Job in him too- his brother died in the World Trade Center attacks, and then a year later his mother passed away, and then four months later he got tongue cancer. But, like Job, he was never angry, he didn’t say ‘oh, forget God.’”

Far from it! The saving grace of God, as well as a second chance to serve Him on earth, joyfully propelled Ron not only to remember God, but also to share worshipfully the love of God with the people of João Pessoa, Brazil.

This time of year, Christians are likely to hear or read the Angel Gabriel’s consolation to the Virgin Mary regarding the first Advent of our Lord Jesus. “How will this be?” she asked. “Nothing is impossible with God,” the angel said. Armed with the knowledge of the Spirit’s miraculous favor upon her and her cousin Elizabeth, Mary carried our Lord, Savior, and friend in the womb, persevering in the face of social disgrace. Her betrothed, Joseph, also placed his confidence in God, caring for Mary and the Holy Child in Bethlehem and as refugees in Egypt. Ron likely heard a similar message from God- nothing is impossible with Him. Ron’s miraculous ability to taste food, to talk and be understood in spite of new speech impediments astounded doctors and medical students. It was impossible. Well, God specializes in “the impossible.”

The relational depth of Ron and Debby’s ministry was evident in the love and care they received back from the Brazilian church community, the Anglican Diocese of João Pessoa, as Ron fought an aggressive cancer. His family shared how this church community “surrounded this ‘couple of Christ’ with love, support, and assistance with the cultural uniqueness of Brazilian daily life. And so, as Ron’s days grew short, this special form of Brazilian love and support grew to immense importance for both him and Debby.” Over Ron’s last few weeks the clergy of the diocese held an around the clock prayer vigil by his bedside.

SAMS Mission Director Stewart Wicker passed on a story from Diocesan Bishop Marcio Meira of Brazil of Ron’s perseverance in spite of devastating setbacks in the weeks before his death. “It was made clear to Ron that he would not ever speak again. So when Bishop Marcio went to visit him, he was surprised to see that Ron had a guitar since he had never seen Ron play one. Ron was able to communicate to the bishop that he had just picked it up because if he was never to preach again, he would learn the guitar to praise the Lord in order to continue his ministry there.” Ron carried on the hope of the Gospel to the very end of his life- he never took his limitations as an excuse not to give witness to the greatness of God. He continues to worship God in heaven, joyfully anticipating with us the day when Christ will make all things new.

How did Ron never give up? How did he maintain hope after losing his brother, his mother, his tongue, and finally his voice? He learned that his identity was not in the fulfillment of his plans and hopes, but as a servant “hidden with Christ in God.” While giving the missionary testimony at New Wineskins Global Mission Conference 2013 (which you can view here), Ron concluded:

“The unexpected is God’s plan for my life. Only with a life hidden with Christ in God can Debby and I put all that we possess, even our very lives at risk, to serve God alongside our brothers and sisters wherever we are sent, that all may have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of peace and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

#CarryOnAdvent: Latin Americans’ Unrelenting Call to the Nations

In our recent Advent letter (contact us to request a copy if you haven’t gotten one yet!), SAMS shared about the explosive growth of the Latin American mission movement. Since 1987, the number of Latino missionaries has expanded from 1,350 to over 27,000 serving in 160 countries!

By God’s grace, Anglicans have also engaged in this mission movement. We praise God for the roles SAMS missionaries have played in this growth through persistent prayer and discipleship. Your Society’s vision is to see the movement continue to grow and thrive.

To that end, SAMS has begun to partner with the Church Mission Society (CMS), a sister missionary society in the UK.  Interestingly, CMS counts the famous abolitionist William Wilberforce among its founders back in 1799.  SAMS founder Allen Gardiner sought a partnership with CMS in 1842 which did not come to fruition at the time, but in recent decades efforts have coalesced to work “better together.”  In fact in the USA, the CMS-USA branch here merged into SAMS-USA.  And across the pond the SAMS in the UK merged into CMS-UK. Consequently, today SAMS-USA is forging a partnership with CMS-UK’s Mission Development Manager for Latin America, Paul Tester.  In Lima, Peru, Paul is leading the formation of a network among Anglicans to catalyze mission from Latin America to the rest of the world.

SAMS Founder Allen Gardiner

Above: Paul Tester with Veronica Calatayud (far right), part of the leadership of “El Buen Pastor” Anglican Church in Buenos Aires. The church supports people in global mission in many ways, including prayerfully and financially. Noemi Vallejos, from the same congregation, is the woman in the center who is shortly heading to Thailand to work in mission mobilization together with her husband Julio. We are seeking to join in with what God is already doing.

The vision CMS-UK and SAMS-USA share in the formation of this network is to encourage the development of the locally-led mission movement. This movement will continue to grow Anglican mission in, to, and from Latin America. The church is recognizing its prophetic call to mission beyond its own culture and context. We seek to fan the flame.

In September, CMS sent Paul to connect personally with our Society and the many SAMS missionaries at the New Wineskins for Global Mission Conference–appropriately themed “Better Together.” SAMS is excited about this partnership pressing further into our global vision encouraging the “whole church to share with the whole person the whole Gospel throughout the whole world.”

Persistent Prayer

Prayer has undergirded the explosive growth of the Latin American mission movement.  In response to our Lord’s command in Matthew 9:38, consider setting a reminder on your phone for 9:38 AM or PM to ask God to send out even more Latin American missionaries to join other global workers sharing the love of His Son Jesus with all nations.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 9:38 NIV

Map Above: SAMS and CMS both started in Great Britain, and have given their names to “sister societies” around the world as other places have developed their own missionary sending movements. Will God lead Latin Americans to form the next sister society?

#CarryOnAdvent: Come alongside the Global South through theological education

SAMS-USA Board Vice Chairman John Macdonald details an exciting opportunity for those gifted and trained for theological education to serve God. SAMS is pleased to #CarryOnAdvent by sending missionaries who will equip leaders in the global church to carry on the Good News of Christ’s coming kingdom to all.

A Unique and Fulfilling Opportunity

In the midst of unprecedented renewal and revival, the Christian faith is spreading at a rapid pace in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
At the same time, the vast majority of Christian leaders, whether they be ordained or lay, have not received adequate theological education.
SAMS-USA is engaged in a program to recruit faculty with post-graduate degrees to teach in select theological colleges around the world in order to help with this problem.

  • Do you have a post-graduate degree in theology, biblical studies, or ministry that is underutilized?
  • Are you on a teaching faculty and are considering where to spend your sabbatical?
  • Are you retired from teaching and are looking for a way to offer your knowledge and experience?

What is the need?

The need for good, orthodox theological education in the Global South is becoming more and more critical with each passing year. We can rejoice that renewal and revival is taking place in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and other places around the world. Yet the result is that Christian leadership, grounded in biblical orthodoxy, is acutely needed.

What is the answer?

How is it then that theological education can be improved in those areas of the world where the Church is growing at a rapid pace? The answer lies in recruiting and providing qualified faculty to teach in various Anglican theological institutions around the world. Some of these colleges are in the process of becoming accredited by their own country’s ministry or department of education, and they urgently need doctoral-level faculty in order to be accredited and given degree-granting status. There are other equipping institutions where teachers with master’s degrees are being requested.

Where is the need?

There is a need for theological educators in established schools, schools expanding programs, and newly formed schools across the globe.

What are the next steps?

I am interested.
Through SAMS-USA (The Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders), a program is being launched to recruit and prepare possible candidates for these overseas positions whether it be for one year, two years, or longer. While the candidate would need to raise support for their transportation, monthly stipend, and benefits (including health insurance and retirement plans through SAMS), the expectation is that the host institution would provide housing and other amenities thus reducing the amount of financial support needed.
The length of service is based on the candidate’s availability, whether it be for a single term or for one or two years—or more. After attending a Crossroads Conference sponsored by SAMS-USA and meeting the requirements for missionary service, the candidate and spouse (if applicable) will receive support-raising preparation, two weeks of pre-field orientation and other necessary training that will all be provided by SAMS-USA.

Is God calling you?

For further information, please contact:
Denise Cox, Associate Director
DeniseCox@sams-usa.org
(724)266-0669
www.sams-usa.org
OR
The Rev. Canon Dr. John A. Macdonald
Vice Chair, SAMS-USA
Associate Professor Emeritus of Mission and Evangelism
Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA 15003
JohnMacdonald@sams-usa.org

#CarryOnAdvent: Empowering Workers for Christ in Uganda

My dear friends in Christ, greetings to you all. I just want to let you know that on December 4, 2019, I will be heading to Uganda for a mission trip through our organization Teach Men to Fish. SAMS, the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, is sending me as a Bridger Missionary. I will continue to reach out to the young men and women in the rural area of Mityana whom we have been training with construction skills to become independent and live a decent life. Additionally, we will teach them spiritual values that make us human for God’s glory.

Our spiritual theme for the youth this year is about generosity, compassion, and God’s love for his people. Through our ministry, we are sponsoring the renovation of a maternity facility which is in very bad shape. As we give the apprentices skills, they are also giving back to their own community for the renovation process, to show how God’s love and compassion can be shared with others and, in the long run, build His kingdom. During that period, we will be launching a sustainability program for the youth, for which men from Christ Church in Denver, Colorado campaigned to buy a cinder block/paver making machine. We will buy the machine locally in Uganda, and the launching will be on January 6, 2020. So we are appealing to anyone of you who might have friends or missionaries in Uganda to come and join us in Mityana at the main Namukozi cathedral. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about what our ministry does to empower these young women and men. Let me know if you would like to be part of it and I will send you all the details.
Please, we request your prayers for this undertaking, but we trust in the Almighty who is already ahead of us.
Amen
Patrick Lutalo
Founder of Teach Men to Fish
www.teachmentofish.com

#CarryOnAdvent: ROYAL MISSION

During WWII, the British Crown created a royal image with the text “Keep Calm and Carry On” to encourage the people to press on through a dark time. Our Heavenly King is also calling us to persevere and carry on His mission.

Why #CarryOnAdvent? Advent is a season of past and present waiting – we remember how the Israelites waited for the Messiah and the Magi sought for a King who came as a baby, and we ourselves practice waiting with hope for the second coming of King Jesus. How is God teaching you to wait in joy or lament for Him to make all things new? How is He calling you to carry on His message of hope, whether through persevering yourself or raising up new disciples? Share in the comments below, or on social media with the hashtag #CarryOnAdvent!

Additionally, we have a request for you to prayerfully consider. Here at SAMS, we are answering God’s call to help missionaries “Carry On” in the mission to which God has called them. We forge ties that the global church may carry on the Good News of the coming Kingdom to all. Would you support us in this through a gift or pledge towards the Great Commission Fund?

Check out this video for more information on your Society’s role in the missionary sending process.

Type #CarryOnAdvent into our blog search bar or into social websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for stories of perseverance in Christian mission, and don’t forget to share your own!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV