Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vision Trip Day 6

These believers were very friendly & hospitable.

This morning we talked with G.S. about our experiences during the week, and whether we want to come to Suriname. We were happy to say that we loved our time there, and felt that we didn't want to leave.

We had some time to go on a date. Our friends watched baby Lyla, while we went out to eat, and explored a little. We had been so busy getting the word out, and preparing for this trip, that we didn't get to celebrate Erin's birthday. We even had to drive about 11 hours on her birthday. So we celebrated her birthday in Suriname.

While we were out, a stranger asked us to get him something to drink. I gave him a bottled water, and asked him if he knew about Jesus--he spoke very good English. I told him a little, and directed him to our friends who could tell him more. He spoke about having some knowledge & experience in the truth but had gone astray. We pray that God will lead him to himself, and establish him in the truth, and make him a light to others.

We had some time to do a little last minute shopping downtown to get some things to show as we tell others about the ministry here.
A beautiful old building downtown.
An old church building downtown.

 We got to visit for a short time with these believers. They just came out from ministering in the bush. They've been serving in Suriname for many years, the couple in the middle for 40 years.

We visited Sister C. in her humble home. I visited her last year, and she really wanted Erin to come, too. Her whole house is about the size of one small bedroom in the U.S. It floods whenever there is a heavy rain, so she has to keep her fridge up on stilts, and everything off the floor. She is not merely content with her home, but loves it, and doesn't want to leave, though her children want her to come & live with them.

Yet, her humble abode could not contain the enormity of her hospitality. She did not let her poverty stand in the way of loving & serving strangers. She insisted on feeding us, and she had a wonderful meal prepared, including the most delicious eggplant curry.

We finished the day having dinner with the S's, the family with whom we'll be working most closely. We said our goodbyes, since we'd be leaving very early in the morning.

A pastor & his family.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vision Trip Day 5

Our multicultural team visiting homes in the village.

This morning, I preached to a church of English speakers, the same church which I mentioned yesterday who are building a meeting place. The church has clearly grown since I was there last year. I preached from Luke 10, about the teacher of the Law who comes to test Jesus with a question, and tries to justify himself by his keeping of the Law, but Jesus responds with the story of the "Good Samaritan." The message was well received; pray that the Holy Spirit will bless it with fruit after I'm gone.

Later, we had sweet fellowship with the other believers, and split up into groups to visit homes in the village. We met some very poor families, such that it makes poor Americans look like kings. I've seen this kind of poverty before, but it is still shocking. We met some new English-speakers, who'd come here for work. We also had the opportunity to encourage a believer, whose husband has quit seeking, and whose sons have no interest. We had prayed a couple days earlier for a brother who is suffering from the shingles, and had only aspirin to help with the pain; today, by God's grace, he is feeling much better.

The ladies worked hard, cooking & serving food for c. 115 people.

In the evening, we had a gathering in connection with a birthday. (Not like in America, where the birthday boy or girl gets a bunch of presents, but where the family gives to the community through hospitality, and the community celebrates with the family.) The believers organized this as a ministry to get the Gospel out to their neighbors. The people would not come to a church building, but they will come to a home, to birthday parties, weddings, fellowships, etc. Such fellowships are common in their communities.

It is common at such gatherings to have music & stories & food. So the believers sang the Gospel, and proclaimed the Gospel, and welcomed the neighbors, and fed them. One of the ladires from the Missouri group gave her "testimony," and one of the men gave a message about Christ as the only Savior for all men. These were translated so that the people could understand.

One of the most encouraging things I noticed was that many believers from other churches came to support this outreach. There is a real love & fellowship here between believers of different ethnic groups & churches.

Pray that God will bless the labor of these dear brothers & sisters with the fruit of new worshipers of Jesus.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vision Trip Day 4

A group from Missouri visiting on a short-term trip.

Late last night a group flew in from Missouri. The organization sends people annually. We got to meet them this morning at their orientation meeting. We were surprised to find that we have mutual friends with a few of them. We may see some of them in the future when we are living in Suriname.

One of the churches that our missionary friend G.S. helped plant is working on a building for their meeting place. Currently they meet in the garage of the pastor, which they open & expand each week for their Sunday gatherings; otherwise they meet in their homes.

They purchased this property themselves. Last year, when I was here, it had been mess from the previous owners. They've cleaned it all up, and built a fence. Now they're buying sand as they're able to raise level--to prevent flooding. They are working hard with shovel & wheelbarrow to move the sand. As they are able, they will build a foundation & the building.

In the afternoon, we went to a village to visit people in their homes, and talk with them about Jesus. The people were very friendly, and many open to talk with us.

We split into groups to visit people. Several believers from other ethnic groups helped.

This is where many of the local people worship.

That night, the group from Missouri led a Bible study on men's & women's roles in marriage. Through this, we were enabled to see the difference in culture because arranged marriages are typical here. We have to be careful how we interpret the Bible, so we do not see it through the lens of our modern American culture, and read into it things which are not really there. Nevertheless, we had a good discussion of the Word, and good fellowship before & after.

So many have not heard the Good News about Jesus Christ. Will you come with us to proclaim Jesus?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vision Trip Day 3

Our humble upstairs apartment.

This morning we went to the supermarket, grocery store, department store, and downtown. There are no Wal-mart's! We got to see the miriad of fruits & vegetables, many of which we have no idea what their English names are.

They also love smoked fish.

We also went to an appliance store to see what the prices are like. In general, we can get what we need. Prices are higher than in the U.S. because they do have to import so much. Gasoline is about $5.55/gallon. Food is more expensive also. We will eat mostly local food because it is cheaper than trying to eat an American diet of imported foods.

Later, we went to a small village to visit our friends, and get to know them better. Lyla did so well; she loved being passed from person to person, and then wouldn't let go of R.M., when it was time to leave.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vision Trip Day 2

Happy Birthday, Lyla!
After getting some extra rest, G.S., the World Team missionary with whom we'll be working most closely, came and told us more about the field of Suriname, and the particular needs here.

Here are some of the specific needs here:
1. One or two families to work in the same ministry with us.
2. One family to train church leaders in another people group who are sending out their own missionaries.
3. People who will come short-term to help train & develop the church leaders.
4. We need a photographer/videographer to come & make a DVD for making the needs of Suriname known.
5. One or two people to do some accounting work, transferring data from paper to computer.
6. Two or three families to work among a people who have no churches, no Bible studies, and no evangelists among them.
7. One or two families to work among a people group who are responding well to the Gospel, but the need for evangelists is still great.
There is more, but this gives you an idea of the need for laborers. Pray that God will send them. Then come yourself.

Later we went to the missionary's home to have lunch with his family. His wife had made a wonderful meal of curry chicken, "dal roti," an Indian-origin favorite of people here, and pumpkin, which is also very common.

Erin enjoying some cake with the ladies.

Later, that night we had dinner with the same family, and the leaders of the two churches they helped plant. They also had a surprise birthday party, complete with hats, cake & a candle, for Lyla who turns 1 tomorrow. Birthdays are very special to the people here. They make an excellent means of evangelism, too. Many people will not come to a church building, but they will gladly come to a birthday party, and invite us to theirs.

Since English is their native tongue, I was able to encourage them in the Word. We read together the book of Titus, and I spoke about the importance of focusing on the Gospel (3.3-8). The Good News of God love & grace to us, especially through Christ, motivates us to every good, i.e., "beautiful work," not just doing the right thing, but doing what is good, loving, & attractive. Then, by the Good News we speak, and the "beautiful works" we do, we will glorify God, and draw men to Christ.

It is such a privilege to be here, and be able to serve God's people. But we could do this without the prayers & support of you at home who are helping us. Please continue praying. Thank you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vision Trip Day 1

Michael & Erin in Trinidad

Day 1
It was a long day. We got up at 3:30 AM, after getting to bed around 10:00 the night before, got to the airport, and flew to Miami at 7:00. After a short layover, we flew to Trinidad, a small island off Venezuela. They made everyone go through imigration & customs, even if, like us, they were getting a connecting flight. So we decided to go outside the airport, and enjoy the day, while we waited.

Lyla, world traveler by age 1

Lyla guarded our bags while we walked around. No, just kidding! It was a beautiful day in Trinidad: sunny, low to mid 80's, a nice breeze, and surrounded by beautiful flowers & palm trees.

We were hungry from only snacking all day, so we went to the local food court, and had "doubles," a Trinidadian favorite originating from the Indian immigrants. They were quite delicious. To wash it down, we had a pear-flavored soda pop. After a nice evening together we took our final flight to Suriname.

God helped us out tremendously with the baby. She didn't sleep much during the whole 20 hours of traveling, but she hardly fussed at all the whole trip. She didn't seem to mind the take-offs and landings. She was happy & playful. That made the trip so much easier. Also, we had very few difficulties with immigration & customs & finding our way from place to place.

Bro. Peter picked us up at the airport, and after a 45 min. drive we finally got to our apartment & to bed about 1:30 AM.

Thank you so much for your prayers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vision Trip

We are so excited to go on our "vision trip." We will be in South America for 7 days. This trip is an opportunity to see the country & people, get a feel for what it would be like to live there, meet the ministry leaders there, and confirm God's call for us to serve there.

This is my wife's first trip outside of the U.S. So she is both excited & a little nervous. We are leaving our 3 older children with some close friends for the week. They will have a great time playing with the other children. We are taking our youngest, turning one-year during our trip, with us. We would love to take all of the children, so they could see what it is like; however, the cost is prohibitive, and having them along  they would make it difficult to get a good look at the place & people. Nevertheless, it will be difficult leaving them for such a long time.

Please pray for us that God will lead us, confirm this ministry as the right one for us, and use us as a blessing to the people there. Pray also for G.S. & his family, the ones with whom we will be working most closely, that we could develop a strong relationship, and that God would bless their ministry--they've been there many years already.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Journey in Preparing for Missions

In 2001, I went to Asia with a friend. There I witnessed personally to people of various religions through a translator. I saw & felt, first-hand, the desperate need for Christ in the world!

I was changed forever by that trip. I asked Erin to marry me with the understanding that we might end up anywhere in the world. She was willing both to marry me, and to go.

We married in 2004; our first son was born (2005); I graduated from seminary; and I began to serve as a pastor in Minnesota--all within about a year. There God richly blessed us with children: our two “souvenirs” a boy (2006) & a girl (2008). However, the whole time we could not get away from the desire to serve where Christ is not known. We even ministered cross-culturally to Native Americans on the nearby reservation, which only deepened that desire.

In 2007, we applied to serve with World Team, and went through a rigorous evaluation. These brothers & sisters gave us practical feedback about our Christian walk. They gave us some areas to grow in, and invited us back after a couple of years. This was hard news, but we took it as from God, and returned in 2010. This time, they accepted us--we were elated!

Since then, we have been serving in our church. And we have been discipled by the leaders of two churches, Bible Baptist Church in St. Louis, MO, and now Rockport Baptist Church in Arnold, MO. I visited South America in 2010, and shortly thereafter our younger daughter was born.

This whole journey to a foreign field has been a blessing from God. A blessing to our marriage; to our spiritual growth; and to our family. Praise him!

Thank you for praying for us. Please continue, as we gather partners to work with us & help us, and make our final preparations to go in September of 2012.