Monday, April 27, 2009

Out with the Old in with the New

An amazing thing has happened in the midst of the world-wide economic storm that has raged. My organization has authorized me to get a new vehicle. Wow. That is grace! I have been driving a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder since 1998. What a great vehicle! It has really served us well. We bought it in during our first year here in Gondor. The American Ambassador's wife owned it and due to security risks was not allowed to drive it much. We bought it for $18,000. That was a good deal for a tough four wheel drive vehicle back then. We have racked up over a hundred thousand miles on it on the worst roads on this earth for over ten years now and it is pretty tired.

The first big trip it went on we drove it out to central Gondor and back. It forded rivers and went over landslide areas with ease. It was an unnerving thing to be driving along a cliff edge a hundred meters above the river with a hundred more meters of dirt and rock hanging above you only to come to a place where it had all come down across the road. What to do? You go over the landslide which puts your vehicle at a 45 degree angle and when you look out the passenger side window you look straight down to the river. Oh yeah, that is when you go by faith. One time coming back from central Gondor with a friend it had rained all night while we were out there in the village. When we got on the road the next morning it was clear that the easily fordable rivers the day before were now raging. We slowly pulled out into one raging stream and the tires were not catching. We began to be pushed sideways when my friend said in a slightly panicked voice, 'Give it the gas man!' I did and the tires caught and we pulled up on the other side of the river no problem. After years of this kind of abuse the engine had lost a lot of zing and the chassy made many strange squeaks and groans so we decided to retire it to the city. I went out to a very remote village in another vehicle and it broke down. I spent the night out there and the next day the team had driven the Nissan out to find me. They found me, I got in the car and we turned the corner and sunk the Nissan in the river. That is a long story that I told on an old blog post (The Dwimorberg 3/29/07). But in the end a truck pulled us out and we made it home. There was water in the headlights for a year after that. It prompted a lot of questions whenever I would pull up some where!

In the end we did retire the Pathfinder to the city. It doesn't go uphill real well and it no longer has 4x4 capability but I have greatly enjoyed the gift of this vehicle over the years. There are many people in Gondor, Ithilian, Rohan, and even Mordor who have heard the Gospel because the Nissan Pathfinder was able to get me there- and it always got me back.

Tomorrow I will go and pick up a new Mitsibishi Pajero. May it go- and come back- just as faithfully. My promise to all who support us through the Lottie Moon offering and the Cooperative Program is that I will share the Word faithfully everywhere this car takes me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For HIm Who Has Ears To Hear

Frodo came by this morning and told me a story. Recently he and Sam went out and were speaking in a home. The host was up and preparing tea and food while they sat in the guestroom. There was a man there and Frodo began speaking to him. He looked at Frodo intently and Frodo was surprised by this man's intensity. So, Frodo began to share the Gospel with him. He didn't ask questions but kept looking at Frodo intently, clearly interested in what he was saying. Frodo went into detail about the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for this man. Still the man did not ask questions or respond. It turned out he was a deaf mute. Sam still can't stop laughing. For those of you wondering, no, the man could not read lips either!

Yes yes, it is back to the beginning- we never get far from the beginning it seems- Gospel proclamation is a dialog not a monologue.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

From Learners to Doers: Discipling on the Go

My wife Arwen is annoyed with me often. Yeah, I know I am pretty annoying much of the time- for instance, here it is a beautiful Saturday and I am typing a blog post instead of playing with the kids. Shoot, I even annoy myself. But on the point she is most often annoyed with me, I am standing firm. I am not putting in a plethora of job requests. I really don't want lots and lots of Westerners out here. That doesn't sound right does it? One of the first things Jesus asks his disciples to do when considering missions is found in Luke 10:2- we are to pray for more laborers for the harvest. So, why wont I put in more job requests? Well, first of all there are some more people coming to join us. I do have one or two coming along. I need the help and support to keep all the balls in the air. But a friend of mine says that everything you need to know about missions is in the book of Acts. That might be an overstatement but the sentiment is right. Look what I found the other day....

Acts 20:4
He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, by Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, By Gaius from Derbe, and by Timothy, as well as by Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia.

Beroea, Thessalonica, Derbe, Asia? All these are places where Paul first brought the Gospel. All these guys were guys who came to faith through Paul's ministry and then it seems he brought them along for the work of ministry. He did not, as far as we know, write lots of letters back to Antioch and Palestine begging them to send more believers. He used the resources available in the harvest. It took a long time. It was years- estimates vary but it was probably many years- between Acts 9 and Acts 20. During that time it seems that rather than publish alliterated 7 point book studies Paul grabbed the disciples and went to work WITH THEM.

I am getting challenged a lot lately to get more laborers into the harvest by putting out more job requests and getting more Westerners here. Well, God may in fact, be calling some. But the strategy I am following is from the book of Acts. It is Jesus and it is Paul. It is finding men and women of faith and getting them into the Word so that we can immediately go out into the fields and begin working. It can be argued that a farmer needs to know a thing or two before he starts plowing but it is beyond argument that a farmer will never know what he needs to know about farming until he gets out there are starts plowing.

We must be learners. We must be in the Word reading, studying, praying, learning, growing. But until we are doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22) we will not be true disciples. We will be deceived by our own intellectual sophistry as our world revolves around us. We must get out and obey the Word of God for only this is walking in faith. In order to fulfill Christ's command to go and make disciples we must bring men and women from the point of learning to the point of doing. Only then will they be Children of the Living God. As I go and do then it is imperative that I take true disciples along with me that we together may become what He is calling us to be.

A few years ago I went with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pipen down to Anfalas. We began work there and the project lasted about seven months. During that time we lived together Tuesday through Friday. We camped out in the village, we got up early and prayed. We ate breakfast together and studied the Word. We sang songs of praise and worshiped together. We loved each other and served the villagers daily. After a few months of this Frodo said, 'Strider, every week we go down to Anfalas and pray, worship, learn, serve, and grow together. Then we come back on the weekend, drive half-way across town and meet with a bunch of people we barely know for an hour and a half and we call that church. That is not church, what we do in Anfalas is church!' We have been struggling with the reality of that observation ever since. Since that time we have each started our own house churches. We have each tried to encourage one another to love and good works. We have each tried to discover what the Church in Gondor should look like. This is real discipleship. These learners are on the go.

Bottom line for this post? If we will truly go from learners to doers then church cannot be a Sunday meeting- not even primarily a Sunday meeting. Church must be our life in community on the go. Only then will we be making disciples who are doers and not hearers only.

Oops! My son just came looking for me. Looks like I will go get out in the sunshine after all. Going and doing can be a lot of fun, you know.