The SAMS home office is complying with government directives to help public health efforts. Though our staff is dispersed, we continue to minister at full capacity focusing on our mission and supporting your missionaries around the globe. Standard contact methods are still available.
Dear friends in Christ,
As the global threat from COVID-19 spreads, SAMS wants to assure our Senders and Missionaries that our home staff team is monitoring the impacts of this virus so that we may seek to respond appropriately in harmony with our global church partners and mission networks.
We know the Lord is our strength and protector, our strong shield. We also know we live in a broken world, and that brokenness includes disease, danger, and even death. While we ought not be afraid, we do want to be prepared and wise, and thoughtfully protect our missionaries, their families, and those we serve. We also must be faithful to the One who has called us to serve and glorify Him both among the nations and in our neighborhoods.
SAMS is not requiring missionaries to leave the field, nor are we requiring them to stay. We are asking them, however, to monitor and follow the crisis as it unfolds using guidelines from the U.S. State Department*, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and SAMS Contingency Plan that includes evacuation and emergency preparedness protocols. We have offered counseling and guidance with staff and SAMS Safety and Security Coordinator.
In terms of the work done by your missionaries across the globe, it is important to consider that those whom they serve often don’t have the option of leaving their city or country to escape. Staying in an affected country can be interpreted as a demonstration of their commitment to those they minister among. Your missionaries recognize the need to be wise and good stewards of themselves, their families, and their teammates, but they also balance that stewardship with the call they each discern corporately within the Body of Christ, by the grace and wisdom of our loving Father.
What more may we do to continue to support and encourage both Missionaries and Senders as we walk through this together? How do we continue to faithfully share the Gospel in word and deed within a world that is being jolted and the poor are especially hurt? We thank you all for continuing to partner with us through your prayer and giving as we seek God together trusting that in the midst of darkness, God’s redemptive hope shines brightly.
To do our part as the home staff to help contain the virus, especially seeking to protect the most vulnerable, we are now working almost entirely remotely. SAMS also has a 24-hour hotline for our missionaries. Senders may reach us at:
(724) 266-0731 – General inquiries for sending, praying, and going and for sharing your prayer needs to be lifted up to the Lord by the staff during virtual daily chapel.
(724) 266-0669 – Questions about giving, giving via phone, and support in that arena.
Pray for your missionaries who are sharing the Good News of Jesus in word and deed to the spiritually and physically needy all over the world. Pray for strength and encouragement, for health, safety and security.
Pray for your Society to serve and respond wisely and well to our Missionaries and Senders around the world and at home.
Pray for provision of resources for missionaries, senders, and faith communities in the midst of the financial loss and ongoing insecurity due to layoffs, markets, and economies where they reside. As it is written: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Cor. 8:2) and “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12)
Pray for those who are sick and dying, and for the healthcare workers who are risking their lives to minister to them.
Pray that the Gospel would go forward and for God to draw many to Himself. There are many who are hurting, sick, or fearful, and we know only God can bring about true and lasting redemption.
Let us together hold on to encouragement in the Lord. We invite you to join your SAMS family for Noonday Prayer on Thursdays via a ZOOM conferencing call 12:00-12:15 PM EDT. Please email email@example.com to receive an invitation and instructions for phone dial-in or computer connection. Use the instructions to join the call around 11:55 AM to intercede before the Lord.
Our staff will also be praying together via ZOOM every weekday, and we would love to pray for you during those times. Please feel free to submit prayer requests on our website.
Thank you for being such a vital part of the SAMS family. We will update this page as new information becomes available. Your Society is praying for you, that you would know the presence and peace of God in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Your partner in the Great Commission standing with you in prayer,
Mission Director and President
*On March 19, 2020 the U.S. State Department released the following statement:
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.
Since this statement advised “U.S. citizens who live in the United States” to return to the United States, all of SAMS Missionary Bridgers and Associate Missionaries who were on short-term assignment internationally and who are not prepared to “remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe” have returned home (one is en route as of this blog post).
SAMS has emphasized to Career Missionaries, whose homes are where they currently live internationally, that “U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel” (most are already heavily restricted on domestic travel, too) and that if they choose to come home, to be aware that countries are “implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice” and “airlines have cancelled many international flights.” Consequently, many of those who have already had plans for some time to return to the U.S. in the next few months for Home Ministry Assignment here and others who have grave concerns about what is transpiring in the country where they live have made difficult decisions to return to the U.S. (or will do so if a route opens for this to happen.) Most SAMS Missionaries have made equally difficult decisions to stay and continue serving (perhaps in unique ways), in the communities where they are currently planted. Please keep all these missionaries in prayer as they continually seek the Lord for wisdom and guidance.
The following article is reproduced from the latest edition of The Messenger with extra pictures that did not make it into print. Read the full edition of The Messenger at this link!
The saying goes that “no man is an island,” and this is especially true of missionaries. SAMS Missionary Bridger Patrick Lutalo has a team of people behind him, championing his mission. His community at Christ Church in Colorado has supported him since September 2016 in the establishment of Teach Men to Fish in Uganda which provides youth with vocational skills while discipling them in Christ.
Patrick observed that many teenagers in Mityana, Uganda, are vulnerable and, in desperation, often become ensnared by crime, drugs, and prostitution. He responded by forming a ministry employing his extensive experience in construction to equip others. The apprentices are currently constructing a new maternity facility for the local community.Patrick recently updated his Senders: “As we give the apprentices skills, they are also giving back to their own community to show how God’s love and compassion can be shared with others.”
Patrick’s community at Christ Church has played a vital role in getting the mission off the ground. A core group of 12-18 men, who meet weekly for Bible study at 6:30 a.m. led an initiative among all the men of the church to raise $5,000 for a concrete mixer and brick maker. The apprentices are using this equipment to construct the maternity facility. Sender Cynthia McRae, also of Christ Church, shares her joy: “I am committed to this ministry because I have a sense of the deep needs of folks there. Patrick is providing an education and skills-training to young people who have had little [or] no opportunity to learn a trade, to provide hope or a future for themselves and their families. I admire him enormously and am very privileged to assist [Patrick] in any way I can.” God is working through Patrick and his Senders to help young people build buildings and build up their lives in Christ. Patrick shares that the ultimate goal for the youth in their community is to “build His kingdom.”
A Men’s Bible Study raised $5,000 for a brick maker and cement mixer, supporting the mission to equip young people practically and spiritually.
Apprentices utilize new skills to bless their community.
Patrick (in blue) is mentoring apprentices in construction skills and Christian faith.
People of Mityana, Uganda, gather around the foundation of the New Maternity Facility
An expectant mother joyfully participates in the foundation ceremony of the new maternity facility.
Patrick speaks at the foundation ceremony of the new maternity facility being built by apprentices.
An apprentice uses the brick maker purchased with funds raised by the Men’s Bible Study.
Apprentices construct the new maternity facility.
Apprentices begin to install the roof and paint the exterior.
SAMS Missionaries Guy and Summer Benton are program directors for Better World, a gap year program of the New Zealand Church Mission Society (NZCMS). Better World has a vision to equip “a whole generation of young people to reach into the suffering in the world around us and bring the light of the gospel of Christ.”
Keep reading for a testimony from a recent graduate of Better World.
“Our final ceremony to end the Better World Programme for the year wrapped up on Saturday the 14th December. It was here where I truly realised just how many people have been supporting us all year long. Generations of NZCMS supporters and missionaries showed up to send us out, most of which I have never met, who have been praying for a revolution of missional youth to carry the radical heart of Jesus into our communities since they were my age! That is a long time. I feel very excited to see what God is doing in our generation, and how he is raising up young people today to live as radically as Jesus did in our world as we know it. It was a sudden realisation that this gap year is a small part of a much bigger plan. Far bigger than I realised. God is answering the prayers of generations of passionate people, some of which have prayed every day for the last 50 years.
“Better World has done exactly what it set out to do. It has re-awakened passions in me that God planted years ago. It has moved my heart and challenged me to respond to areas of injustice I never thought I would be interested in. Before this year, I was planning to live a safe life. Safe from financial problems, safe from inter-personal conflicts, safe from judgement of others – safe through the eyes of the Western world. I used to believe in God, but not in a God that was bigger than these things. I have now learned that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I am excited to step out into the next season of my life to
continue to learn and up-skill in the areas I feel most passionate about,
whilst continuing to live prayerfully and radically in community, trusting that
God will be in front of me as well as behind and beside. Sometimes this looks
like lifting your foot up without knowing where to put it down, but stepping
out in faith anyway, in the knowledge that God will show you. This is a bit
scary, but trust me, God is bigger. He has been bigger than me and my life, he
is bigger than our politics. He heals, and he saves, and he loves. Most of all
“This year has changed the course of my entire life. I would recommend it to absolutely every curious young person who is wanting to ask the hard questions about God and about injustice. It is challenging and by no means is an easy ride. Our comfort zones may be familiar, however nothing grows in them. I challenge you to quiz God on where he might be moving and ask him to show you where to go next. It was the best decision I ever made.”
A few minutes walk from our apartment is the 120-meter high, man-made Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). This hilltop plateau with views of the city and the surrounding Grunewald (Green Forest) was made from some 75 million cubic meters of rubble from the second world war. It is frequented by tourists and locals, who come to take advantage of the views and of the wide open space to run their dogs and to fly their kites.
Monday, in spite of the gray and cold dampness of the afternoon, someone was there flying a kite. This is a common sight year round. Often multiple kites and remote controlled gliders and drones are in action simultaneously. But somehow, this week it seemed to me a sign that spring is on the way. Soon the gray landscape of the Grunewald will match its name again! I turned and walked along the edge of the plateau, and I saw below me were several more kites. These, however, were no cause for hope at all, for they were caught, broken and hanging rather forlornly in tree branches.
They reminded me of the lives of so many people who have lost hope, countless individuals, who for awhile may have soared, but who are now caught in the ugly entangling circumstances of life–trapped by their own unwillingness and inability to do what they were created to do.
Kites, it seems, are always in danger from trees. (Remember Charlie Brown and his kite-eating tree?) But the problem isn’t really the trees. As long as kites remain connected to the kite flyer, they remain free to do what they were created to do, which is fly! As soon as a kite breaks free from the string or in rebellion gets away from its master, it will inevitably be lost and caught, unable to ever fly again . . . unless it is rescued.
Sin, which is a term for rebellion against God, breaks the connection we have with Him, and leaves us unable to achieve our created purpose, which is to live in relationship with Him. Away from the Master, we find ourselves caught by our own sins, trapped and hopeless. And unless we are rescued, we have no hope of ever being free.
But praise God, He has come to rescue us!
In light of our metaphor, it is interesting, how! For when we consider the Cross of Jesus, we see there a figure caught and hanging on a tree–broken, lifeless, seemingly without hope. But when we look beyond the Cross, we discover His broken and lifeless body raised up in the resurrection on the third day and ascended back into the heavens. The Scriptures teach us that by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus we are granted the forgiveness of our sins. Through faith in Christ, we are set free, and we are also raised up to eternal life and ascended with Him into the heavens. May we receive this gospel and fly again for His glory!
God called me to Madagascar November 2007 when I heard Rev. Patsy McGregor speak in Miami. After three short term missions I finally arrived in March 2018 with a commitment to be here for 3 years to work at the Women’s Center in Toliara. I retired from teaching high school March 2017.
I thought my purpose here was to teach the women and as I had experienced time here as a short term missionary I unfortunately assumed I knew what to expect. Was I wrong, for three months I studied the language (a very difficult language and each area has their own dialect). I have always struggled with language learning and this was no different. I felt isolated and lonely, living on a compound with mostly Malagasy people and two couples from the West. I lived in a room at the women’s center that has all the basic amenities, electricity and running water. I craved communication with people who speak the same language and have experienced a similar culture.
I struggled for nine months, talking regularly with God and often angry and frustrated, asking Why am I here, when I feel like a fish out of water. I would have what I called regular melt downs and say I‘m going home, but something kept me here. I have to say a thank you to my son James who always told me to stay because I had worked hard for a long time to come here.
December 2018 I decided to take a break. I went to England for Christmas and spent time with my two brothers and family and actually enjoyed the cold and rain after the intense dryness & heat of Madagascar. During the time I was in England I felt Jesus telling me to rest in his arms and to spend time walking and visiting with extended family.
I then went to a SAMS retreat in Cape Town in February and God revealed to me why I was in Madagascar. Teaching is a small part of my work, but my main purpose is to be a prayer warrior.
In England I had attended a silent retreat and learnt what a Postinia is and actually used one. At the retreat the speaker, Rev. Richard Copeland talked at length about prayer and also what a Postinia is, a room usually with no windows where one goes to pray and meditate. I do not have a Postinia in Madagascar but most afternoons I go outside and sit under the trees to pray and meditate.
God persevered with me and his call for me to be here with the people of Madagascar to give them hope and joy. This year I have found joy and peace and there are still struggles but God is there with me in the suffering and I learn more each day.
“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.”