Ongs in Malawi

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Take only a staff...

Posted on February 28, 2010 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

In the previous post, I wrote:

 

"So we're going to *deep breath* step out in faith and pray that if this is indeed God's will for us, then he'll also make a way for us financially, even if we cannot see how at this point. We'll sleep on it, pray on it, and see if the peace is still there as time goes by...."

 

We prayed about it, slept on it, woke and headed off to church this morning.

 

... and were blown away to find that God had already prepared his message of reassurance for us through our new interim pastor Laurie Perdy's sermon on Mark 6:7-13. I was so touched that it made me teary hearing it and even now writing about it.

 

It was a message on ministry.

 

In Mark 6:8-9, Jesus tells his disciples: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic."

 

In ministry, we are to depend ONLY on Jesus and trust him to provide financially. God is 'Jehovah Jireh' meaning God provides. I really loved the quote Laurie shared by Hudson Taylor "God's work done in God's way will never lack the finances to be carried out.".

 

The next subtitle in the sermon outline was "Housing Arrangements". How is that for timely?? given that was one of our major concerns!

 

In v.10, Jesus tells his disciples: "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town...." - God will provide housing when we trust him as we minister. Laurie spoke about how missions is not about us or our comforts. Jesus came to die on the cross... how's that for comfort?!! Ministry is not about OUR own needs and desires. We need to trust God and allow him to be KING. Sacrificial life and ministry is thinking about what God wants and not our own comfort.

 

I was rebuked and humbled, as only a mere 20 hrs ago, I was saying to Pete: "I don't want to live in a moldy college house with paper thin walls!!!" and I've been reluctant to move out of our comfortable townhouse and rent it out since we've only just finally done up our yard after years of wanting to do it. I love spending time out there. We were so excited that we can now finally invite people over to our yard for a BBQ and not have them wade through a jungle and kill their own game!

 

Sometimes I wonder why we struggle so much financially when friends our own age are living so comfortably. It is hard not to compare. Maybe God, in his wisdom, knows that it would be much harder for us to leave it all behind to serve him in missions if we had all the comforts we would like. As Laurie said in his sermon, if we are too comfortable, then maybe we'll forget what we're here for. Sure I'd love to have all the living comforts in the name of 'hospitality' - nice couch for our friends to sit on, great entertainment facilities... but somehow I really doubt that God only uses beautiful houses to be a place of blessing for people. Afterall, I have been blessed and shown the best hospitality in the slums of Ethiopia.

 

We recently experienced what Mum has once shared with me, that often it is not the rich who are the most generous but those who have been in need, like the woman in the Bible who gave all she had - a mere couple of coins - to God. For they know what it is to be in need and be blessed through others. Perhaps what we're going through now is a way of God preparing us to be generous in blessing others as we minister on the mission field.

 

So God, bless what we have, all we have came from you, it is yours to give and yours to take. Blessed be your name. Help us to use whatever we have as a blessing to others.

 

Listen to the sermon here:

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~Jo

Vision

Posted on January 20, 2010 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s been awhile since I last blogged and thought I’ll take this opportunity to do so before things get busier! 2010 is truly underway and much lies ahead of us! If all goes according to plan, this year will be my final year working as an engineer before going to study at SMBC in 2011. It’s exciting but scary at the same time! Exciting because a chapter in my working life will be coming to a close as I look forward to starting another chapter of my life to pursue what I’m truly passionate about. It’s scary because there are still some big questions that I do not have answers to at this stage. Questions such as: “Will we have enough financially to support ourselves in 2011 and pay college tuition fees? When is the best time to tell my parents about quitting my job and studying college? What if my parents object, and what can we do to help them to understand? Despite not knowing the answers now, I know God does and He determines our steps! It will be an exercise of faith to see how He answers and provides. Pray that these things don’t become obstacles but opportunities for God to be glorified through them.

 

Whenever I think of the challenges that lie ahead, I am also reminded of the need to have a sustaining vision to stay the course. There is a line from a U2 song which goes like this: “At the moment of surrender. Of vision over visibility” which I like because I am reminded that often we do not have a clear picture of what lies ahead of us in life and it requires eyes of faith to see what God is doing in our lives, and surrender ourselves fully to His will. We can find comfort in this because He knows what He is doing and what He does is for His glory and for our good.

 

While I was in Ethiopia, I remember a conversation with the missionary I was staying with about my future plans. I remember Jonathan asking me “What are you going to do to keep the vision alive?” At that stage of my life, I had just finished uni, I was jobless... had no secure income... not yet married let alone engaged... no theological training... so serving God overseas long term was going to be a very long road ahead. I knew it would be so but what struck me about that question was did I need to do anything or will everything just fall into place eventually? As I reflected on the past decade of my life, I can honestly say that without vision, I would not have continued on this journey to this day. So what kept the vision alive? I would say it was the very same thing that got me started, and that was the God-given and God-infectious vision of other missionaries who have a passion to declare God’ glory among the nations. I had the privilege to attend a mission’s prayer group for a year after I returned from the short-term trip to Ethiopia. It was run by a retired missionary couple to Ethiopia, Bob and Joy. I got to admit it felt really weird being in group of older folks but I loved their prayers! You could tell these guys really believed the SIM motto “By Prayer”. Despite their old age, they did ‘Missions’ by prayer. Their passion was infectious! I stopped attending that prayer group after a year, but Bob and Joy continued to faithfully send me the newsletters of SIM missionaries that they prayed for. It didn’t struck me until recently when I reflected on this that they had been sending me prayer “packages” almost every month for the past 7-8 years! And over those years, they have helped kept my vision alive as I journeyed with other missionaries through their prayers letters... reading of their struggles and joys as they experience God in their ministries to the nations. These letters were to me windows of opportunity to look into the world of missions and see what God is doing in the world. It was exciting stuff and made you want to get in on God’s plan for the world!

 

I once read in a Mission’s magazine that we need to ‘catch and ride the waves’ that God gives us or else we’ll miss out or get dumped by the waves! God makes those waves not us. We revolve around His plans not Him around ours. He just wants us to trust Him and ride them. Many of the missionary families that I have been following through their newsletters over the past 8 years, some of whom started on the mission field then, are now returning from the field for various reasons. As I reflected on this and think of friends who have recently gone out on the mission field this year, I cannot but feel a sense that as the wave of the generation before us are now returning, that God is rising up a wave of a new generation to go! Each generation leaves a legacy. I wonder what legacy this generation will leave with the next.

 

~Pete

The Mission

Posted on November 28, 2009 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (1)

That’s the title of a song that I really liked back in high school, by a Christian artist by the name of Steve Green. And it came on cassette! Yes, it’s old! By sheer age itself, it can definitely be branded an ‘anthem’.

 

The lyrics of the song really grabbed me back those many many years ago, and from time to time, I still hum the chorus in the shower! The chorus still grabs me today for it reminds me that it is the love of God that makes our hearts tick for missions, and that everything we do springs from that relationship with Him. Mission is therefore not an obligation but a love-response to God! My prayer, echoing the words of the last verse, is that we like the candle become consumed by the passion for God, and that by burning to know Him deeper, we would radiate His glory to the nations!

 

Song words below, and I'm sure there would be some thing on Youtube.

 

~ Pete

____________________________

 

The Mission

By Steve Green

 

There's a call going out

Across the land in every nation

A call to those who swear allegiance to the cross of Christ

A call to true humility, to live our live responsibly

To deepen our devotion to the cross at any price

 

Let us then be sober, moving only in the Spirit

As aliens and strangers in a hostile foreign land

The message we're proclaiming is repentance and forgiveness

The offer of salvation to a dying race of man

 

Chorus:

To love the Lord our God

Is the heartbeat of our mission

The spring from which our service overflows

Across the street

Or around the world

The mission's still the same

Proclaim and live the Truth

In Jesus' name

 

As a candle is consumed by the passion of the flame

Spilling light unsparingly throughout a darkened room

Let us burn to know Him deeper

Then our service flaming bright

Will radiate his passions

And blaze with holy light

"How ARE you?"

Posted on November 18, 2009 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Generally, before you can go on missions, you need to raise financial support and prayer. To do this, you go around churches and share with them your plans. This comes once your application is successful.

 

Financial and prayer support is important, but what about emotional support?

 

Having been on a short term mission before, I know that can be easier for people to pledge prayer and even financial support than it is to maintain emotional support. Yes, it's great to know that people are praying and that we have food on the table to eat, but it is also important to know that people haven’t forgotten you. When I was all by my lonesome self in Ethiopia last time (Pete was stationed in a rural part with only twice-daily publicly broadcasted radio contact), I remember wishing that people from home would email me. Having said all that, I too am guilty of not keeping in touch with missionary friends.

 

I've been feeling depressed and down lately. Feeling like nobody cares. I feel that no one cares enough to listen to me. Like talking to a brick wall. I'm feeling anti-social and hiding away from people.

 

This feels all too familiar. I've been here before. I was here years ago in my 'Dark Days'. I thought it was strange that this was happening again now. I thought I was better now. I thought I was over that. Out of the valley.

 

It all started when I got upset after what I felt was a lack of response from friends after sending out a message about how I was going. Is this what sending out missionary newsletters is like?

 

4 weeks on, and it finally dawned on me last night. This is a 'spiritual attack'. This is Satan's way of snuffing out my passion for missions, finally rekindled after being 'in the wilderness' for years. This is the first time I'd felt like this since my Dark Days, though not to the same degree. He's doing this now because things have been hotting up in the past few weeks as we began the application process to SIM. The devil is trying to bring me down because he knows this is where I'm vulnerable. My greatest weakness is the need for friends to show care. I was just sharing with my Bible Study group this week that I was worried because if I've been feeling depressed and 'friendless' now though I'm surrounded by friends, how then will I survive being away from all this in the middle of Africa?? How can I go on the mission field??

 

This is exactly what the Enemy wants me to feel!!

 

I know Jesus is my friend and he is all that I need, but sometimes I also just need to ‘see’ Jesus through people, to feel a hug, to hear a kind word.

 

So where to from here? I think it might be wise for us to begin to make plans to raise 'emotional support' for when we leave for Africa, to form a 'home support team', as suggested by a friend from my Bible Study group. We need to form a group of close friends who will pledge to maintain emotional support. I've heard that there are mission agencies out there who train up friends and family at home to care for missionaries, to educate them about the emotional peaks and troughs of missionary life, so people know how to show care. What a superb idea!

 

Perhaps part of the 'training' to care for the Ongs, would be for me to tell friends how I need to be cared for. Everyone perceives care differently. I'm sure people care, but people just have different ways of showing it. All I need is friends to sincerely asks me, from time to time, the simple question of "How ARE you?" and listen when I tell them. What I need is for friends to care and ask me how I'm going in the everyday things of life, not just when I'm in crisis mode. I don't need dinner made for me. I don’t need a babysitter. I just need a message. I don't need an essay, I just need a simple "how are you? thinking of you".

 

I know :o) As one of my close friends told Pete at our engagement party: "You know Jo's high maintenance, right?!!" :o)

 

I am, but like anything, the more effort you put in, the more satisfying the results :o)

Going through the motions

Posted on November 9, 2009 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I've been challenged lately during my Mums Bible Study group, about the concept of 'going through the motions' as a Christian. I can totally relate with that, having 'gone through the motions' myself. I remember my 'Christian high' days of doing lots and appearing on the surface to be godly, but on the inside, I was lacking in a daily personal relationship with my Saviour. People see the outside, but God sees what's inside.

 

I've always believed that missionaries are just ordinary Christians who are willing to work overseas, willing to sacrifice home comforts in order to serve God. Missionaries are just Christians, like me and you, who is open to God leading them to serve anywhere.

 

Some people put missionaries on a pedestal, like they are super Christians. Likewise with pastors. Maybe it's because I've grown up as a pastor's kid that I know that pastors are just ordinary people at home. They are people with the same struggles.

 

I don't want to go on a pedestal. When we become missionaries, I want people to realise that I am still the same old Jo. I will not grow a halo the day I step on the plane headed for Africa. I will still struggle with things I struggle with now, and I will still have my ups and downs.

 

I don't want to go on a pedestal, because then everybody is watching when you slip and fall. They expect you to stand tall and firm, incapable of falling. But on this side of heaven, we are all sinners and all capable of falling.

 

How often we see people who can 'act' and make all the right moves as Christians, but yet lacking the 'real stuff' on the inside? Being a missionary or a pastor or a Bible college student doesn't make you any more 'godly' than the humble church goer who dutifully sweeps the church steps every sunday. Being a missionary, or a pastor, or a Bible College student is just a CHOICE that we make with our fallen human minds. Anybody can decide with their minds to do these things. But it is much harder to actually have a genuine heart that seeks to please God.

 

I think what matters is not so much that you appear to have it all together on the outside, to be 'perfect' - because no one is until the day of Jesus' return, but that you show and have a genuine desire to walk with God and live by his grace each day. As Christians, it's not that we don't fall, but that when we fall, we can be sure that God is there to catch us.

 

I recently saw a poster outside a church that I thought was really clever, it read: "Don't let Christians put you off Jesus."

 

Only by looking to Jesus can you really know him, if you look to people, they will inevitably fall and let you down.

 

I hope when we serve in Africa in a few years time, I can help people see Jesus clearly. That I won't just go through the motions of being a missionary. That people will see that I am a fallen being living by God's grace and strength each day. That I am just like them. That my God is what carries me through my struggles, not me.

 

~Jo