Here is an excellent blog post on prayer by my old friend and pastor, Steve Huber on the liberti church blog.
Here is an excellent blog post on prayer by my old friend and pastor, Steve Huber on the liberti church blog.
Ministry prayer updates will no longer be posted on our blog. We want to share openly with those who support our ministry, but also respect the sensitive nature of the information we may share, and therefore not post it all over the internet. If you’d like to receive our updates, you can request to do so by clicking here. We also ask you would use discretion in sharing our updates, and avoid posting them on social media.
On this blog we will continue to share.
- Occasional general life and prayer updates.
- Thoughts on culture, God, leadership and etc, as we see it from our little kneck of the woods in Rwanda.
- Anything I find on the internet or write that will encourage folks to serve the living God, especially in places that need messengers and servants of the good news the most.
- Basic information about us, how to sign up for updates, support us financially and such things as our home assignment schedule.
Thanks so much for partnering with us in what God is doing in Rwanda!
*Here are five seemingly contradictory things I’ve notice that help make up a healthy and effective missionary (and likely a Christian in our changing world in general). What do you think? I know I do not have these things sorted out, but I do feel strongly enough about it, that it is worth shinning a light on and having the conversation.
1. Independent yet lead-able.
We’ve got to know how to lead our selves, govern our own schedules, encourage ourselves, at times defend ourselves and our ministries, and even lead ourselves to Christ. Yet we also have to be incredibly flexible. Given the nature of the places we may go, we may need to be led to a new focus, a new place and it may all happen suddenly, such as in an evacuation. As newcomers and foreigners we have to have the attitude in us that we have everything to learn. In other words, we won’t ever thrive without deep conviction, follow through and passion, and yet we can do a lot of damage if we do not learn to listen and even at times obey others (yes I mean to write it that strongly, obey…) Let us be open minded, yet let us never be flaky. Let us be adaptable to where God has us, always ready to respond to tough news that could forever affect our futures, knowing that our lives are in His hands, but at the same time immovable in the Lord, knowing full well that we will face opposition if we really serve him..
2. Adept at horizontal and vertical relationships.
If we would be good missionaries we must also be mystics. Especially for those coming from a western culture, the missionary life will blow up your sense of privacy and you will have people unexpectedly and continually visiting, watching, and probably living with you in a way that you have never experienced before. Yet, we need to learn to escape from people and spend time with God. If we don’t have an awareness of peoples spiritual conditions, especially our own, we are going to fail. We may seem to succeed, and help lift up some people academically, socially or in some other way, but we risk the danger that we have helped people simply replace the old fears and old idols for newer and more sophisticated western ones.
3. Tough skin, and a soft heart.
We need tough skin, but a soft heart. If we have too soft of skin, we probably are going to end up with a hard heart. I’ve seen people come, and just be destroyed emotionally by the darkness, and cruel poverty that they had never known existed in the world. As an urban missionary in America I saw numbers of people come with idealism and naivete, which was quickly eaten up by the evil of the world, and eventually they outgrew their need for a ‘radical’ life of love for the poor, and moved on to an easier life and work as someone might move on from watching Saturday morning cartoons when they grow up. Instead we must move through the tears…. I do not say move on, or even move beyond tears, because when we loose the ability to see the sadness in peoples lives, and weep with them, we’ve lost our hearts, and become no good to anyone! Oh we can continue to live and work surrounded by crushing needs and darkness and still grow a hard heart. No, we must work through the tears for the terrible things of this world, and do something about it. Like our Lord, we must offer very selves. Never in fear, nor indifference, but with courage and love.
4. Absolutely unified, and absolutely intolerant.
We often get this one all wrong and backwards as well. If we are missionaries of the true gospel, that must mean we must be absolutely unified in Christ. At the same time we must be absolutely intolerant of anything opposed to the reality that it is Christ who saves alone. As the Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians we have one Lord. Our Lord Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through me. It ought to break our hearts to see people unified in a ministry or a methodology, or a particular tradition or cultural affinity, but tolerant within those contexts of not preaching Christ as our only hope. The good news is that Jesus is the door to heaven, we can truthfully and scripturaly proclaim that it is a door open to all, and we are now living in the great time where that door is never shut, no matter how broken or evil a person might be, and yet it must be faithfully proclaimed, that he is the only door there is. On the other hand, we don’t have the time or luxury to battle over cultural and even our church or theological differences and preferences that we bring with us from outside the mission field. In my opinion we need to accept the fact that the harvest is ready, and the workers are few. This is why I work for a broadly christian mission that accepts volunteers from all manner of church backgrounds, from every part of the world. I will not waist a minute of energy defending my philosophy of ministry as more legitimate or effective than anothers that could be used for teaching hungry Christian leaders and reaching the lost. But if you are for Christ alone, as revealed by the scriptures, than you are my sister and/or my brother and there has to be some tangible and working reality to our unity beyond mere words, despite a possible multitude of other differences we might have. When we don’t explicitly, and regularly preach Christ as the only hope, what do we communicate? We think we are being sensitive and reasonable, but actually we are acting like we ourselves are the hope of the world. When we are tolerant of working and identifying ourselves in some way with those who do not recognize Jesus, we are actually stating that some other method, ministry, ideology, cultural sensibility or program is our Lord and Savior. Things we invented, it is easy to be excited by these things because they point to us.
5. Believe in depravity and in Grace.
It is unfair and even cruel to ourselves and to others when we fail to see the extent of our problems. If we went to the doctor and he said our pains came from not drinking enough water and sleeping well, but failed to tell us of the cancer growing within we would not want to continue to see that doctor. When we act like all people need is a little more information to act on, or a little inspiration to get them going, or a little assistance financially to get them the momentum they need, we are acting like that doctor who is not being honest, or at least is incompetent and can not see the true problem. The doctrine of depravity, which is taught throughout the bible states that our greatest problem is that we have become spiritually dead, that in everything we do, think and say, there is something of rebellion and selfishness. It is also true that we are also victims in this world, and some more than others, because we live in unjust world filled with other spiritually dead people, and it is also true that we can be ignorant, and can’t possibly imagine a different world than what we live in. When we work with people, we need to remember depravity, and not just the depravity of those we work with, but most especially our own! We desperately need the clarity to see, and humility to admit that everything we do is touched by sin, and so we need to question ourselves. But also with others, we can’t expect that if we just present better information or build a better program it will change lives alone! Not only are we needing information, needing opportunities, and etc.. We are also prone to be stubborn, rebellious and lazy and a host of other things! When we don’t understand depravity, our own and that in others, we are just going to burn out!
Yet we need to never forget grace. Grace says that people can change. Jesus had grace when he looked at Nathaniel who was ethnocentric, harsh, and ignorant when he said of Jesus ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’. Jesus declared “behold a man in Isreal with whom there is no guile!’ Than he called the one who just insulted him to leave his home and his life and wander around with him for three years and become one of his apostles. We need to study Jesus deeply, to understand grace. Grace means not only that we can change, but it also means that Jesus isn’t afraid of our darkness and our mess. He can come in and clean it all up. Grace is all about how Jesus paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary. In our lives as we give grace, it means sometimes we will be wrong about people, they will fail us, but we are absolutely willing to pay the price. It doesn’t mean we ignore depravity, in ourselves or in others. But it means in spite of that depravity we know that because of God’s grace, people can change, people can grow, and that in fact people will grow so we can expect much of them. It’s because of grace that I’ve seen marriages healed, the lost finding meaning in life, depressed finding comfort, those trapped in addictions freed. It is because of grace we can work where we do, and say, the light of the world has come to this dark place to shine, and change lives.
I have ADD, my son recently was diagnosed with ADHD. So its been on my mind. I’ve spent the last 5 years of my adult life especially learning how to make the most of the way God made me. I’m also constantly hearing from other people that they struggle in some way in these areas, to focus spiritually, to being too impulsive, and so on, so here are some ways that work for me in all my scattered glory. One successful strategy is to have external controls (schedules, routines, helpful friends) in your life, because it may be harder to internalize those things than others. Perhaps these examples from my life could work for you.
10. Lay down Gospel landmines – I call them ‘landmines’ because I don’t exactly know when I’ll hit them, nor exactly when they will go off. For example I get morning and evening readings of “Daily Light” emailed to me every day (portions of scripture compiled together somewhat thematically). Which is great because like many I struggle with checking my inbox way too often throughout the day. I also leave out a soft leather bound copy of “My Utmost” which I usually get to first thing in the morning, but if I don’t I will at some point. I can read all of these in less than ten minutes, and sometimes that is all I do. But these ‘landmines’ become the themes of my life, and the background music of my soul, the words that seem to pop out when I’m encouraging someone or praying for someone. They wet my appetite for God, His word and His will through the day. When they ‘go off’ and blow up they bring me to my knees, I need to re-read them over and over again and God speaks to me in a powerful way to comfort, challenge or convict me.
9. Spiritual Sprints – I always did well on courses that lasted for the whole day rather than a few days a week. My sweet spot was one week intensives, where you are totally isolated and focused on the course. Death to me was traditional marathon 16 week courses, especially online courses! (In other words no year long bible reading plans for me!) So spiritually I will do things like live in the New Testament once a year between Christmas and New Years. Its a 3-4 hour commitment a day, and takes work to stay on task, but that way I am somehow fueled by the challenge. Not only that but every single time, I get this far more complete, stunning, mind blowing view of who Jesus is, that is always worth it. I need to often ‘get away’ for the day or go away to my closet / office, and bring my guitar, my sermon podcasts, my books and my bible and be with Jesus for hours. The best thing is He is completely fine that I might switch from things to thing before Him. I might sometimes tire out others, but He won’t get lost in my ADD.
8. Fasting – This discipline really doesn’t work for my ADD, actually it works very much against it. Eating is just another great stimulating thing that I enjoy (too much!), often while doing other things as well. But this is such a great and powerful way for me to condition myself, so I fast just about every week. It takes a supper conscientious effort for me, but that makes me depend all the more on the Lord. I replace snacking and eating with a conscience humbling of myself before my creator. I often experience incredible joy while fasting, no doubt very helpful in establishing a habit, but it does not come immediately. (No at times its more just like misery.) The more I can learn to say no to myself, the more I can see the Lord work in my heart. This is also called the mind of Christ, or walking in the Spirit. I am freed to be a better husband, pastor, neighbor, ect… who can put others first when I am used to saying no to myself, humbling myself and devoting time towards praying for others.
7. My ‘doorway’ preacher – When I was a teenager, I used my door as a personal propaganda machine for good and ill. Covering it completely like the uni-bomber, with quotes and images I wanted to internalize. It is a little more organized and tame now (I’m sure my wife is thankful) but I still have quotes all over one the doors in my house, that when I will walk by I stop and focus on one thing or another is helpful. This is sort of another potential ‘gospel landmine’ but these are things I’m particularly need to memorize and meditate on. One of the quotes I have on my door right now is from Hudson Taylor a missionary pioneer in China. This one might help anyone with some struggle in focusing their spiritual lives “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God, first, it is impossible, than it is difficult, then it is done.”
6. Corporate prayer – I am so incredibly grateful for starting off as a new believer in a church that met almost every morning of the week for prayer. I would often go once or twice a week. Praying with others is where you learn how to pray. Praying with others you hear the heart of God. For those who struggle with focusing on God, it is so helpful to learn the forms of other peoples prayers, as well as the randomness, nakedness and authenticity in the prayers of mature brothers and sisters as well. No doubt, the highlight of my week is praying with other teachers from our ministry, for our students, who are pastors, certainly on God’s frontline throughout rural Rwanda. If you’d like to pray and your in Kigali, just hit me up.
5. Get help – When I realized a few months ago that facebook was becoming a spiritual distraction in my life, I went for the nuclear option. After a few failed attempts to do this by myself (signing off, than getting right back on), I emailed my wife, old pastor and some co-workers here in Rwanda that I am ‘going offline’ and not every returning again. What do people do when they want to get serious about any life change? They get help. If you want to start running, you’ll be way more successful if you do it with a friend. You need others as well as a sounding board, to know if what you are doing is just your latest urge, or really what makes sense considering how your story with God is unfolding. Ultimately however you need to seek God’s help and guidance in your life, and go with it. I remember a great professor in seminary, she said we can’t just tell people they need self-discipline. If we came from backgrounds without discipline, we need others to help us foster discipline, we need ‘others-discipline’ more than self-discipline in the beginning. If you want to grow, get HELP. If you want to never change, just keep all your struggles your own personal secret.
4. Obsess about God – If you can’t ‘shut off’ at night. Don’t sit in misery about it. If your mind is always racing about something. Feast your thoughts on God. Turn a challenge in your life into a dividend. I remember when I was a new believer and I realized this. I began to read, and think and than applying that to teaching, and sharing with my friends. God used this in my life, He can use it the lives others too.
3. Plan for resting / distraction – Do you know how I managed to not fail seminary? I managed because I had a counselor at the time who was wise enough to lead me to the fact that if I don’t intentionally plan down time and distraction time, I will constantly be looking for it. What I was doing between work, my family and full time seminary I was starving for rest. I would be googling every possible thing under the sun rather than writing the paper I need to for school. So when I mentally knew, at around 7pm I’m going to watch Colbert Nation or the Simpsons, and next weekend I’m going to take my wife out for a date. I suddenly became more productive. If I didn’t plan these things I’d be hungry for them all the time. I’d be stuck in a paralyzed 24/7 half working, half not stasis. It is so ironic that when I’m needing to be the most productive in a short time, I need to be the most intentional about planning time for rest.
2. Be patient, and keep your eyes on Jesus - If you read those who have something to teach us throughout history on spirituality, they will all be pretty unified on this point. Don’t get mad at God and yourself when you don’t become a saint in a day! There is a holy kind of restlessness, that we all deeply need, to drive us to surrender to Christ. And yet, however much we can empty ourselves, humble ourselves, it is only Christ who can lift us up and fill us up. It is only God himself who can work his fruit into our lives. So keep your eyes on Jesus, lay your whole life, all your habits, all your dreams, all plans down before Him. But then be patient and look to Christ alone who can give you His spirit, Ultimately, only God alone can produce the fruit of love, patience, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control into your heart, as we learn to say no to ourselves, we will become so united with Jesus that His nature increasingly becomes our. Don’t forget, like the one who idolizes anything. We are what we focus on, we become like whom or what we worship. Where will you set your eyes? Be patient, and know that God will change us, when we learn to lean on Him.
1. Take risks for Jesus – If your made to take risks, why wouldn’t you? You are going to take stupid risks that will destroy yourself, and your family if you don’t bring this aspect of yourself under the Lordship of Christ. See Jesus isn’t scared that you are impulsive, but He can use that for His glory. A huge reason that many are spiritually depressed, is because they don’t know the pure joy and thrill of laying down their lives for something greater than ourselves. If the only version of Christianity you’ve been expose to, seems to stifle your personality, and keep you in a box, where there is never any real danger of physical, or emotional loss (or possibility of significant victories in the midst of the battle), come hang out with us in Rwanda! I’ll help you with that. Seriously, email me and I can give you some advice that if you listen, may not be so safe, but it light of the glory of God, will be worth it. Besides this there are people waiting for someone to take a risk for them. I remember calling friends in vain late one night to find just one guy who would come with me to help some desperate people escape the crack house they were in. I called a lot of guys taught and discipled in churches to be sociable, but not to take risks for Jesus, risks that others desperately needed us to take.
We are eager to talk to folks who have struggled to deepen their relationships with Christ through spiritual disciplines regardless of what your struggle is. My wife and I, all we know is that Jesus is worth repenting for our lack of discipline for. We don’t claim to have ‘arrived’ we are very much in process, and yet the more consistent we are, the quicker we learn to get back up, to walk with Jesus, to be His friend, the more joy we have, and the more power we have, and we want you to know that as well. Let’s do this together, feel free to reach out.
If you are simply tired of failing, stop now, pray and consider two possibilities.
1. God is worth a lifetime of effort, a lifetime of getting back up after we fall, a lifetime of loyalty no matter how imperceptible our spiritual growth is to us. Because maybe its not ultimately about God making us ‘the best we can be’ but it is and has only ever been about serving Him, who alone is worthy.
2. Grace is for real. No matter how much you fail, there is not now, and NEVER will be any condemnation for those who are in Christ. God has adopted us, and loves us as His children, and when we seek to serve Him even in our small and imperfect ways, like a Father he rejoices with and in us at every small step we take.
Many who have considered being a missionary will hear it at some point from family, ‘we didn’t raise you to be a beggar!’ This is especially the case for working class families. It is also true for many new middle class Africans who consider the call to missions. Those who’ve worked incredibly hard to move out of an unsure position, perhaps one of real need to one of self-sustenance and don’t want to see their children intentionally taking the economic ladder down to need, and uncertainty, let alone see them make a career out of asking others for help. It’s a matter of pride that families who have not been force into needing others to help them, may not fully understand.
But of course can anyone not relate to that to some degree? Who wants to ask those they know for help for everything? Taxes, school fees, travel, salary, retirement, administration, work expenses and on an on. As career missionaries this isn’t some temporary once and done thing. This isn’t for a life – enriching experience for a couple of weeks during spring break or an alternative summer vacation, but an ongoing, never ending need for support, from those who’ve known us and been apart of our lives over the years. You also won’t ever be able to pay the people who support you back. Is right? Is it a legitimate way to live?
I can’t imagine a missionary who raises all their own support, not asking this question at some point in their life. Of course we go to the bible to look for some answers, and in bible there is the story of how at one point God’s people were all slaves in ancient Egypt. After God freed them in a great exodus and finally allowed them to settle in the promised land, each family was given a plot of land to farm. How significant that must have been for them to finally have a the right to a place of their own and the security that would provide to them and their descendants. However one family (or tribe) the children of Levi was given no land of their own. This family was to be dedicated to the work of God which included taking care of the poor, and facilitating (repairing, building, leading..) the worship of God at the temple. In a society where everyone was sustained in some part by farming, this class of people had no place of their own but God commanded His people to give out of what they had so these people could do His work.
We believe we are called to be the spiritual heirs of the Levi’s. Paul tells the church in Corinth “do not muzzle the ox while it plows.. it is right for the for those who preach the gospel to make a living by it.” Should not those who do the work of God be paid? How will they be paid? Well we don’t live in the time of the Old Testament, in a nation with laws, which say we must give 10% of our income to those who will use that fund to help the poor, the widow, and the orphan, live off it and facilitate the worship of God. However, the principle we now live under is that of grace. Out of what we’ve been given we freely give. Now the work of God is not limited to one nation and only 10% of our income, but it is limited only by the generosity of God’s people.
We’ve learned a lot about giving in the past year here (as much as we have about receiving). Of course being massive recipients of grace through many who give, it changes the way we look at requests frequently made to us. We are generally healthy, and do what we can to keep our family healthy, and we make sure they eat. We make sure our kids get a good education, and we live in a house that is safe and secure and also able to house those besides ourselves. While we don’t live in luxury, this puts us a head of the vast majority of people we live with in this nation where people live on the brink of existence, not always knowing when the next meal they have will come. We are keenly aware that all we have is not our own, and God calls us to share it with those around us. So we help several others live, and provide funds for others education so they will be in a better situation one day to help there families. We simply can not imagine how anyone who raises all their support could have a “just say no” policy to the overwhelming needs around them!
When we came overseas, we sold all we had, our house (and all the furniture and things in that house), our van, and we put ourselves in a situation with a growing family that wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people. However we did those things because we believe that God’s heart is not just for those who can take care of themselves, those who already have his blessing, but for those who need to know his love, his healing and his grace. We like the Levi’s of old are for this time without a home, without a ‘job’ that promises a secure income from month to month. We rely on God, and His provision through those who give out of what they have believing with us, that the work of God, is worth our investment here.
Because we are ultimately beggars, so that others my be rich in Christ. We will gladly take the strange looks, because we are able to be here to show others a new way to live in God.
But I reject the notion that we are beggars, if that means God’s work is not real work or any hint that investing in peoples spiritual lives, and there everlasting souls is not as valuable as teaching Math in a community of folks who can afford good taxes or private school fees, or driving a truck or anything else. I reject it if it is somehow embarrassing to ask people to partner with us in seeing lives changed, pastor’s trained, churches renewed and villages transformed by following God’s word. Lives like ‘Claude’, who after four years of study has a wife who says he’s become a man who no longer beats her, who helps around the house. A man who has found peace with Jesus, and learned the way to live by His word, and to preach His word so that other men in his village my know the healing, forgiving and love of God for themselves, and see their lives and their villages transformed. Or women like ‘Claudine’, who use to come to the group Kristy works with of sex workers, with razors in her purse, trusting no one and ready to fight, but who now sees this group as her family, her church. Who trusts the other women with her kids, is learning to read and write, learning the word of God, and living righteously, being supported by the work of her hands and in the power of the Lord, not under bondage of sin and the abuse of selfish men.
“But I reject the notion that we are beggars, if that means God’s work is not real work”
But I will accept the name as much as it was given to Jesus and his followers. Who told his disciples that the son of man had no place to lay down his head. Who sent them out, telling them to look for worthy people who would allow them into their homes, and feed them while they preached the gospel and healed the sick in their villages. I will accept the title when it refers to the reality that all who are called Christians are not people who have something to offer, something earned to share with others, something done that somehow made them worthy or better than anyone else, but instead in fact are like blind beggars, who have found the bread of life, and who go to others who are hurting, blind and lost, and take them by the arm and lead them to Jesus, the great physician of our souls.
So I want to encourage you to give, to someone, something, and I want to encourage you to ask. For as Paul the great missionary and apostle of the Lord said, how will they be saved unless they hear, and how will they hear the gospel unless someone is sent. So below is some advice for those who are perhaps a bit timid to be ‘beggars for the Lord’, but know that God ultimately has called them to go, and are willing to do what they have to to obey Him.
Some practical tips for future missionary’s who raise their own support.
To come by the knowledge you have not, you must go by the way you have not,
To come to be what you are not, you must go by the way which you are not.
- St John of the Cross from The Ascent of Mount Carmel