Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Popcorn in Minneapolis

I'm sitting up late, with a big bowl of buttery popcorn next to me, determined to not to go sleep tonight until I record a few events of the past weeks. So much has happened and my family keeps asking me for a post. I've officially been here for 2 months now. It will be a bit of touch and go, but you'll get the picture.

So...here are the highlights of my past month in MN.

  • Attended the Midwest Missionary Care Conference (amazing weekend! I've got a whole stash of notes; I'll blog on that one later) I went with several people from the AFLC world missions office and another friend from WI. Jessica stayed with me all weekend and I was so encouraged having her with me after some pretty quiet evenings by myself. The theme of the conference was taking care of our missionaries. How do we nurture them for long term service, for spiritual, emotional, and physical wholeness?
  • Made new friends.
  • Made a giant batch of clam chowder. (Yes, there is a story behind this one!)
  • Started attending a Sunday night Bible study on Revelation and made new friends.
  • Attended Beautiful to God conference for young women. (I actually went as a small group hostess for the girls, but ended up being so refreshed with the theme of loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Taste and see that the Lord is good!)
  • Continue to visit new churches every Sunday and I'm starting to narrow down the options. Thank you for faithfully praying grandma!!!!!
  • Started going to Wednesday night Lenten services at Faith Free Lutheran. Meet more new friends; (Are we seeing a theme?).
  • Lost my cell phone. Love my TomTom.
  • Learned how to NOT walk on the ice! =)
  • Finally receiving my MN driver's license, car title, and health insurance.
  • Listened to a fascinating lecture series on Islam.
  • Made more new friends (how many more names can I forget?)
  • Spoke on Accelerated Distance Learning at the Bible School. This is something I started praying God would open the door to three years ago. Wow, as I stood at the front of the classroom is was so amazing to look back and see the route God took to answer the prayer.
  • And tomorrow I pick up my dear southern friend, Adela, from the airport for half a weeks visit, as she tours the Bible School! Yea, fun times and pictures taking ahead.

Woven in between all of this is my new work in the AFLC Home Missions office, which I enjoy immensely. I make mistakes and blush frequently in the learning curve, but I know this season won't be forever. It is like a family here in the administration building and people have been so helpful on every side, making the transition smoother.

I won't say it's been easy, but God's people around have shared in the change with me. I am so, so, so grateful to Jesus for not just carrying me to this place, but carrying me through the change. I read this verse, Matt 25: 35-40, a few weeks ago, and they hit me so forcefully in my present situation that it brought tears to my eyes.

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

"I was a stranger, and you took me in." Wow! I never understood how wonderful the testimony of Jesus is when lived out in this way, until I became a stranger myself, and experienced the warmth of someone extending a hand when I was feeling terribly lonely, inviting me over, bringing me hot bread, taking me to church, fixing my windshield wipers, shoveling my snow, sitting with me at church, having me over for a Texan supper, calling to check on me, or praying with me and for me. This is all God's lavish goodness that is totally undeserved and therefore all the sweeter. Can I be Jesus like this to someone today? Will you? Without saying words, these actions give off the fragrance of a beautiful Savior.

My friends back home ask, is it really hard living by yourself?

Yes, I do miss my family everyday. I miss talking with them at night, curling up on the couch to watch a movie with my sisters, or puttering around among all the herbs with Tricia. And I miss my church family every single Sunday. I miss all of you at Word of Truth! Sometimes all one wants is a familiar friend to sip a cup of tea with (while nibbling some creamy Dove chocolate).

Yet, in the midst of experiencing solitude, I find that I am not alone. Everyday I wake up He is enough! I'm sure this is something that the Holy Spirit has been gently cultivating in my heart for many years, but I've never had to truly test it like this, until now. That is, the peace of finding my identity and joy, not in people, but in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is such a humbling place; it has simplified my spiritual walk and gotten rid of some of the clutter. It has prodded me to spend more time in prayer. It has given me a renewed appreciation for true and godly companions, the ones who push and prod me to know Jesus more. The ones that have a vision to change the world for God.

At the end of it all, I can't help loving Jesus more.

My popcorn bowl is empty, which means this blog is about to go to bed.

Tonight I'm praying for the Punjabi people of Afghanistan, a Muslim people who need missionaries. A people who haven't even had the opportunity to know that Jesus offers them an Eternal Home. It's my turn to open the door, and welcome a "stranger" in Christ's name.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Missions Conference - Day 4

Pastor Paul Nash opens up our evening tonight telling the story of William Borden. As heir to the multi-million dollar Borden Dairy company, he shocked the world by leaving fame and fortune behind that he might share Jesus with Muslims in China. During his years of ministry preparation at Yale and Princeton, his zeal for the lost and his fervent prayer ministry transformed both college campuses. Just months after his ordination in 1912 and well-publicized departure to China, 26 year old Borden contracted spinal meningitis and died. At the back of his Bible was written this statement: “No retreats, no reserves, no regrets.”

Just months after his ordination in 1912 and well-publicized departure to China, Borden (who was only 26) contracted spinal meningitis and died! At the back of his Bible was written this statement: “No retreats, no reserves, no regrets.”

Though seen as "a waste" in the world's terms, both his life and his death leave us a challenge. We are challenged to hand over all those temporal toys and amusements that hinder total consecration. His role model shows the beautiful, eternal fruit of dying to self that I might live unto Christ.

Pastor Nash is director of the Home Missions work in the AFLC (the department I am blessed to now be working in) and shares about the new mission work in Naknek, Alaska and the KAKN radio station broadcasting from there. This is a new work for the AFLC (since summer 2008) and such amazing doors of ministry opportunity are opening up there.

Pastor/Missionary Dan Giles gave a final message tonight on surrender. "When we surrender, God unlocks hidden gifts." We can't list our inabilities as excuses for not surrendering. Pastor Dan tells about how he responded to God's call for missions, and afterward found out God had given him a real knack for linguistics. He would have never imagined God using him in linguistics, never in a million years. But those who God calls, he qualifies.

Are my priorities, God's priorities? The question is not "if" I should have a call to reach the lost, but where and how. Everyone is called to be a worker in the harvest field.

"To whom much is given, much is required."

Here are 3 ways to reach the lost. We've probably heard them before; they aren't rocket science. They are, however, just plain inescapable and vital. There is nothing more important.

1) Pray--I mean really pray for missions. For workers, for souls, for seminarians, for church leadership, for peace and effective government so the Gospel can spread freely and without threat. Put up prayer cards. Don't just talk about praying, really pray.

2) Give and Send--Provide for the practical needs of missionaries. Be an active "sender," not just in sending money, but in the ongoing care for your missionaries. Pray for creativity (I like this idea)--that God will show new ways to give. He tells about one seminarian he knew, on a very limited budget, who collected coke cans to recycle so he could send money to missionaries.

3) Go--not just for fun or adventure. Realize that missions is treading on the devil's territory and it will bring spiritual battle.

Instead of ending with a hymn tonight, Pastor Lee dismissed us quietly. Those who felt God speaking are encouraged to stay and pray. Many start filing out, quietly whispering in the reverence of the moment. But many are staying. Many are on their knees. Lord, speak to us!

It's been fun blogging the mission conference this week...alot of extra work, but I'm glad I did it. It gave me lots of extra time to think over the messages and their application. If you just found my blog this week because of the conference, I hope you will stay tuned!

Mixed Ensemble

“No retreats, no reserves, no regrets.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Missions Conference - Day 3

Is it Tuesday already? Night 3 of the AFLBS Mission conference is underway. The opening speaker comes to us tonight from Wycliffe Bible Translators, brother Arvid Westfall.

Starting out he announces a conference coming up right here in Minneapolis (Feb 20-21), which he us to pass the word about. The Midwest Conference on Missionary Care, training for helping churches and laymen understand how to be the best caretakers of their foreign missionaries.

(This perked my interest immediately, since I'm very, very interested in this aspect of missions. How can we best be an Aaron or a Hur to the missionaries in the field? Just maybe I'll be able to attend it.)

Brother Arvid and his wife were Bible translators in Guatemala, and are now living in the states serving as both church mobilizers and translators.

Here's his opening statement: "I'm excited about this generation! Why? Because it is logically possible, by the empowering of God's Spirit, that you can reach the world in your generation."

He tells a story written by Amy Carmichael, Daisy Chains. If you haven't heard or read it before, skip over to the above link for a moment. How does Jesus find us?

This brother shares statistics about translation; the fact that there are still 2,500-3,000 languages without a page of Scripture. Can you imagine not having the blessed privilege of opening a Bible in your moments of deepest pain, grief, uncertainty, frustration? This statistic makes the Word dearer to me, and compels me to act - someway, somehow.

You know what I gleaned most about his 30 minute message tonight? It wasn't the stories, or quotes. It was just his life. He is 70 years old and still going full speed for advancing the Gospel among the nations of the world. He's still doing a translation project and prays to see the Old Testament completed among his people group in about 6 years.

God, give me a life-long passion for your mission, just like this witness before me! Hebrews 12:1-2

But the night is just beginning. We have a prayer time again and then join in singing, "Christ for the World We Sing."

And what a treat, we have a quartet singing tonight. Everyone is smiling as Pastors Lee, Monseth, Rolf, and Mr. Andrew Hanson sing "Come and Join the Reapers". They receive enthusiastic applause! Where is my camera? I keep forgetting it. I won't forget for Thursday evening.

Oh, and I just discovered that some wonderful, technically gifted people are recording the sessions this week and they are DOWNLOADABLE! Yes, that means you can listen what I'm trying to feebly describe in this blog. Please avail yourself of the opportunity.

Pastor Giles gets up. "Why does God choose to use us? Why does God choose to use prayer? Is He capable of spreading the Word without men and women? Yes! But for some reason, known only to Him, He has chosen to use you and me. "

He shares lessons for a new missionary from the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 tonight. Excellent material. This is the chapter where Jesus commissions the 70 disciples to go out 2 by 2 for a season of ministry training exercises. Here's some things we learn.
- Jesus sent the disciples to a target people group. It is not that other people are to be ignored, but He understood that specific aim, bring specific results. (vs 5)
- Go in total dependence on My provision. (vs 9)
- Bring a blessing with you wherever you go (don't be just takers)(vs.12-13)
- Focus on ministry to people who are hungry to hear (Vs 14)
- Don't get side-tracked (Luke 10:4)
- Any there are many more lessons in these verses!! Study this for yourself if you want to see more of our Lord's advice for new missionaries.

Pastor Dan explains universalism. Most Americans fall into this category, believing that you are destined for heaven when you are born and basically "earn" your way to hell by being thoroughly wicked. This is completely opposite what the Bible teaches.

There are estimated 6 billion people on earth. About 20% live a place with a strong Christian witness. About 60% in a place with at least a very minimal witness. But 20% live WITHOUT any Gospel witness. How can I even wrap my mind around those numbers? Every second a soul goes to hell without Jesus.

He challenges all us young adults, "Don't be afraid of raising your children on the mission field."

Three biggest decisions in life:
What will you do with Jesus?
Who will you marry?
What is God's call for my life?

Are you hearing His call?

We closed by singing, Here am I Lord. The altar was opened for a time of prayer.

There is no meeting tomorrow night, so everyone can attend their local church. I'll be back blogging Thursday night.

Will you pray for all the students at this conference this week? Will you pray that even among the young men and women in the pews tonight, God will raise up laborers for His Harvest?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Missions Conference - Day 2

I slid onto the bench just in time for the introduction of the opening speaker this evening, Pastor Don Richman, founder of Eastern European Mission Network.

Pastor Richman asked a front row Bible School student to open in prayer.

He read Habakkuk 1:5 "Look among the nations and watch—
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe, though it were told you."

Pastor Richman went back in history to tell the story of the great oppression of communism and socialism in Eastern Europe. "The damage is still palpable to this day,"...he said. The wound is so deep.

But then he explained how God shone light in that darkness. He told the story of, "The Red Cranberry" from the autobiography of a Lutheran pastor that lived in Tartu, Estonia.It's too long to tell, but the theme was simple delight in the goodness of God even in the midst of darkness.

Pastor Richman carries such an enthusiasm in his presentation. "There are amazing doors through teaching English." He explored opportunities in Europe, though Christian English camps to touch lives. You begin by developing relationships, building trust, being available. But he added, "don't wait to go; be doing this now, just where you are."

Most memorable in my mind is the story he told of a young woman in one of these countries, who loves Jesus, and is trying to live out her faith is the midst of some really hard circumstances with family. She needs the daily strength of Jesus. I'm going to remember her name for a long time.

He led us into a segment of prayer in small groups all over the chapel, just as we did last evening. Isn't this the heart of missions conference?

Next, a ladies trio sings a beautiful rendition of Fairest Lord Jesus. We take a mission offering, (Lord, use these gifts for growing your Kingdom).

Pastor Giles opening the main service by reading Ps. 74:20. "Have respect to the covenant;For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty."

His message tonight took a slightly different theme than some might have expected.
"How's your prayer life? Do things happen when you pray?"

If you buy an iron and it doesn't work, what do you do. You read the instruction manual, you call the company, and if all else fails you take it back. The iron is supposed to work. Comparing this with our prayer life he explained how too many of us pray expected God to NOT answer, expecting things WON'T happen. It's like buying a new iron and then being content to set it on a shelf not working, rather than striving to find out how to make our prayer life a vital reality.

Spiritual warfare is reality. Seeing the "haunts of cruelty" breeds a prayer life, he explained. For the next little while, the chapel echoed with stories of God's provision, down to the minute, of His healing hand, or His grace.

"Why am I telling you these stories?"...he asked. "It's not to make you think I'm something special. I'm not a spiritual giant. I'm telling them to showcase the faithfulness of God. He's the God who keeps every promise He has ever made."

The first step towards answering God's call to missions is believing that He is a God who keeps His promises. If we do not begin in prayer, and remain in prayer, believing He keeps His covenant, God has little use for us in His kingdom work.

Comparing physical and spiritual warfare, the enemy must establish a beachhead in order to move inland. If he can get an inch, he has hope to go in further and further. In so many of these countries that have been overrun by darkness for generations, the battle now rages in the opposite direction. Light must make a beachhead. It starts in a few lives, but it begins to change a generation, and then the children, and later the grandchildren.

This is why we must know how to pray. Breaking from darkness into the light cannot happen on wishy washy prayers.

Matthew 28:18-19
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

The pastor's closing words..."All power has been given...Go therefore..does this mean you?"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Moving Update

I’m getting settled into my new, frosty home sweet home in Minneapolis. These past two weeks since arriving have flown past on gilded wings. This past week I have been doing orientation in my new job, unpacking, trying to set up a new bank account, making new friends, shopping for basics, scraping off the ice on my car, and trying to figure out my way around the city (how happy I am for the GPS given me!).And now this coming week in missions conference in the evenings to look forward to after work.

People ask me a dozen times a day how I am adapting to the cold. Honestly, I am enjoying it. I love looking out over the snow blanketed landscape every morning. Sure it has been freezing, last week being the coldest on record in Minneapolis in 5 years. I’ve prayed that God would help me embrace this new place, cold and all. He has been, and giving me joy in the new discoveries all along the way.

There are some amazing, humble, Spirit-led men and women, pastor’s and their families on the front lines of sharing the Gospel. I am truly humbled to be in this new place, with this new job, serving them in Home Missions.

Missions Conference Begins

Tonight the AFLC annual missions conference at the Bible School began at 6:30 sharp. For years I've wanted to be able to attend this, never guessing that one day I would be living 1 minute away from the chapel. The mission conference is mostly attending by Bible School students, but it open to area churches as well. This is a treat indeed and I thought that some live blogging of the conference events would be fun.

Day 1
Bible school students are filing in, dressed like Eskimos in their overstuffed jackets. It's a chilling 0 degrees outside. The chapel quickly fills.

Pastor Rolf, dean of the Bible school announces the theme verse from Matthew 9:35-38
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

We sing hymn 303, O Zion Haste. It's not a common mission hymn, but it has powerful words. It's well worth learning.

Chuck Lindquist is introduced from the World Mission Prayer League. WMPL is in 17 countries and has about 120 full time missionaries. Pastor Lindquist shares three moving stories, spanning a century, all about God using ordinary students of the Bible to touch the world in extraordinary ways. "Dear God, do it again," was his concluding passionate prayer. I felt that prayer throbbing in my heart too. "Yes, Lord, do it again!"

We split into small groups for about 20 minutes of prayer time for the the week, for missionaries, for our own hearts to be sensitive to the message the Holy Spirit has for us.

Next we have a some students get up and sing a beautiful song with the guitar. I've never heard this song before, In Me, (but googling it afterwards I see it's by Casting Crowns). It's so fitting for this mission week. Here's one of the verses.

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves

I'll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I'm nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I'm weak, You make me strong
When I'm blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I'll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don't need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I'll stand on Your truth, and I'll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

Missionary Dan Giles is the main speaker for the week, former missionary in South America for 30 years. (And here is where my blogging gets a little sporadic. Pastor Dan has me listening so deeply to his stories and challenges, that it's hard to write them down. I'll have to finish this part of the blogging afterwards...)

He doesn't paint a glowing picture of missionary life, or of great revivals and ease. Rather he describes the lostness of people who are living in bondage to the enemy. And the only hope is Jesus.

Re-reading over Matthew 9 he puts things in perspective. Jesus is in the midst of a revival, people were being healed, believing, the kingdom of God was at hand and growing in the hearts of people (v 35). But then, in verse 36 we see a contrast, as He looks out over all the people, all the thousands of people milling around him, who were not all part of the immediate, up close happenings, lost, hurting, wondering about like sheep without a shepherd, and it caused Him to cry out in compassion to His disciples..."The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."

As Pastor Dan spoke I came to better understand this verse and the the heart of how Jesus must have said it. There were several parts in his message where you could have heard a pin drop, he had the whole room listening so intently. Praise God for faithful messengers of His Word.

Here's the closing challenge: Until I come to a point of seeing people as Jesus does, His purpose in my heart has not yet been fulfilled." Pastor Dan's direct goal is not to make missionaries of us. God is the one Who does that. His heart is to help us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, see people as Jesus does. And from that, a missionary heart is inevitable.

It was a stirring opening night. Look for another post tomorrow.

Lord, may your Kingdom come, You will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Friday, January 09, 2009


One journey is over and another one started. It's hard to believe I'm here, in Minnesota, unpacking my shoes and blankets and tea cups in a new home. Dad and I had a safe and beautiful drive up from Texas. Everyone in my family woke up early Wednesday morning to say goodbye. God's tender mercies were so sweet to me just then.

Mom recommended I stop at Cracker Barrel to rent an audio book for the drive, which was a brilliant suggestion for my 17 hours in the car. I found one book by Jan Karon, A New Song, that looked interesting. This was the first time I have ever read anything by this author, but I can't tell you how Providential it was that I picked that book. It turned out to be a delightful novel about a pastor and his wife who were moving from one place to another, transplanting church and ministry and relationships, and all the struggles and joys as they walked through it. It is a simple story, but I couldn't believe how timely it was in encouraging my heart and putting joy and reality in my expectations.

Today was my first full day and there is so much I want to tell, of unpacking, the gifts of furniture and dishes and everything that people brought me, or sledding down a hill at midnight and running into a tree, but I'm completely exhausted and can hardly lift a finger to type any more. This blog will have to be a day behind.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift, Jesus Christ my Lord.

Here is the first dusting of snow we met somewhere in Iowa.

And then it started to get a little heavier

And heavier!!! This is dad and I in front of a snow mound.

Medicine Lake, just a few houses away from where I live. It is spotted with little ice huts right now, each one filled with frigid fishermen fishing for flounder (or some other shivering fish).

And this is my very bare new home, full of boxes!

My God's presence be in this place and His peace abide.