Missions Update #1 from Home
Good Monday Morning!! We are back and it feels good to be home. But its always difficult coming back from any trip away. We are excited to be home and yet we truly left a part of our heart at the various missions stops along the way. Today I want to let you know what I am planning in regards to sharing about our trip and then give you a good look at what we experienced. The difficult part here is not knowing exactly what to leave out and what to share. There were so many stories that it would fill more pages than you would want to read. Most of them amazing, some are only relevant for us (I'll try to leave those out), and some that I will just have to decide if and when to share. Jennifer and I will be sharing this coming Wednesday night and taking questions. Sunday we will share as well but it will be much more focused and brief. I'm not even sure where to start with pictures as we took almost 3000 during our 4 weeks away. I kept saying as I took another picture, "Wow, this is cool, but when I get back I will have no idea what the picture was about." So let me now just share with you some of the adventure.
As many of you saw on Facebook the journey was a long one. 15 flights, numerous countries, and over a dozen missionary families and local pastors that we were able to meet and encourage and pray with. In each situation we were able to hear their heart for the gospel. They shared with us stories and their vision and what God is doing. In place after place we spent time prayer walking and one missionary even affirmed results from previous groups that had come in and done nothing but prayer walking. The "prayer walkers" never saw the results but those who remained did. One thing that struck me as we visited each "missionary unit" was what incredible people God has called and we as Southern Baptists have sent to the field to represent Christ and us. I was overwhelmed by each one of them. I even mentioned to the last group how impressed I was by every missionary we met. I even said that it wasn't like I was expecting them to be bad or whatever but I wasn't expecting every single one of them to be far above and beyond average and normal. These are all EXCEPTIONAL people. They would tell you that they are not exceptional but merely normal people answering the call of God upon their lives. And that very well may be true but what we saw were people empowered by God. We saw dynamic believers representing Christ to the very MAXIMUM. It made me proud and excited. I was proud to call them "my" missionary. These were ALL IMB missionaries that we give to support. We support them every week through our portion that we give to the Cooperative Program (I will share more about this in person) and through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I am telling you right now that Southern Baptists do it the right way when it comes to sending out missionaries. When they come home on a 6 month furlough they do spend some time speaking but they don't have to go around raising support to stay on the mission field. They deserve that time of rest and time with their families. As we sat in one missionary's home (a modest duplex) he told us how everything you see was paid for by the giving of churches just like ours through Lottie Moon. He pointed at one item after another and said this was paid for by Lottie Moon. He even said he would love to "Skype" in during our emphasis and share with us about what God is doing. I told him I would take him up on it. Each one that we met were kind and loving and gracious and giving and are the kind of people that might be called the brightest and best. They have chosen to leave behind family and friends and their language and culture and many of the comfort items they have grown accustomed to . . . to live out the Gospel in a place where God has called them. And yet they don't even view it as a sacrifice. They view it as simply doing what God said to do. God calls each of us. Most of us are not called to a foreign country but we are called to minister and share right where we are. Personally, I believe many of us have become so comfortable because so little has been asked of us that we can't even do that small thing. I pray today that each of you will ask God for a bigger vision, a bigger ministry. The Bible says we must be faithful in the small things before he will give us bigger things.
We were able to share out faith as we went. We had several designated and planned times to share but most of our opportunities came in the moment. I was able to preach in Rome and in Poland but the impact we made often came in ways we didn't expect. When we were in Krakow, in a random area in the main square we rain into some young people from American who stopped us. Olivia had on a shirt from our daughter's cake shop in Durant, OK (CakedUp) and they recognized it. They were from Durant. They were there om mission as well. It was such an odd encounter. We took our picture with them and then later we saw on social media how they mentioned it and what an encouragement we had been to them. We had no idea. It was such a God thing that was beyond our control. Another incident that happened last night as we flew home. It had been a long day that began about midnight Texas time and our very last flight out of Detroit was delayed by the storms that were going on here. By then we were pretty much exhausted as the flight didn't land until around 9:30pm. Those 6 checkpoint stops I mentioned online that we endured just at one airport and then more and more security checks and delays. As we finally landed and were preparing to get off, Olivia saw a "Mercy Ship" water bottle being carried by a young lady ahead of us. We found out that she was returning home from 6 months there where she worked as a surgical nurse for Free. She works here and then has to pay to go over there and work for Free. She had been in Madagascar which is funny as well because one missionary couple we met had just had to leave Madagascar because of a health issue. But this young lady said she had been traveling since last Thursday to get home (yikes) AND when she landed she still had a 3 and a half our drive before she got home. I felt pretty small for thinking I was suffering. Time after time God reminded of us of why we were on this trip and he revealed himself to us through encounter after encounter.
Each place we visited we asked ourselves, we asked God, and we asked the missionaries what it would look like if we came back and brought others with us. We prayed at each location and we listened to God's voice. I often wondered about the language barrier and in many situations that can be an issue. But many people also speak English and often there are things that can be done that don't require anything more than being available. Each missionary said they would love to have us come back and they could match our skills (even if we just love Jesus) to the task that would be needed. I can tell you right now that YOU would be blessed more than you could possibly bless. We found ourselves on the receiving end much more than the giving end. We found that God was encouraging us and helping us see that He wants to use us right here. Sometimes we have to take a step away from our reality to gain a better perspective. Trips like this "recharge our spiritual batteries" and help us see what He is doing around the world. They gave us faces to go along with names to pray for. They helped us see the vast and enormous need that is out there. I am asking YOU to pray about going with us next year. We have no idea where that will be. Maybe it will be going back to Central America where the cost is cheaper or maybe it will mean going back to Europe. We don't know but we believe God wants us to go. Next time it will probably be more like a 10 day trip so begin praying. Begin saving. Begin planning. If you feel God is telling you to go then let me know. Send me an email or a message. I believe God wants our church to be a mission "going" church.
I could go on . . . and I will. Maybe next week.
David (and Jennifer and Olivia)