Missions

Perception

Perception is 9/10 of reality.

Isn't that the saying?  The problem is that perception is NOT reality, and is often incorrect. 

I merely mention this fact because it is a constant struggle with those who serve in missions.  We often live in "exotic" places, and our travels take us to "exotic" locales.  But perception is not always the same as reality.

People see a photo of Nancy and I in Red Square.  "Wow," they say, "It must be wonderful to see the world like that!"

Reality....we went to Moscow to meet all the AGWM workers and the national church pastors and leaders.  We flew on a mediocre airplane, endured horrendous traffic, and sat in endless meetings.  We saw the square because we were there, walking with fellow workers on our team.  Vacation?  Not in even a tiny way.

Perception...."you travel a lot, jetting everywhere."

Reality....the roads here are so bad we have back problems.  I can fly to Istanbul for less money than you can drive from Minneapolis to Chicago, and if I'm going to have face to face time with other workers, I have to fly to see them. And if you think flying the Russian Aeroflot airline is wonderful, you are greatly deluded!

Perception...."It must be nice seeing the world"

Reality....most days, I'd trade one "exotic" meal for a Five Guys burger, a Caribou coffee, and a Montana-grown prime rib.  Part of our adventure is that there is NOTHING else to do here.  We have no movies, no high school sports games, no outdoor adventures, and no shopping.  We don't have the weekly simple pleasures, but we are blessed with a couple of great things a year.

Please forgive me if this blog sounded defensive.  There is no intention of that.  I only wanted to share the reality of life here.  I will never complain, and I feel blessed.  Yes, there are dozens of things that frustrate me and irritate me ("dozens" is too small a number), but we are blessed.  I'm blessed to live close enough to Europe to have seen some sights over the years.  I'm blessed to have friends scattered around the world, homes that made our visit affordable.  I'm blessed to have the means to enjoy a great meal at the handful of decent restaurants in our country.

But that "exotic" life I hear so much about?  I still haven't found it!  :-)

But a blessed life?  I wake up to that every day.

 


Transition

We are flying back home to Moldova on Friday, only three days from the day I'm writing this post.  It's been a month in the US, and we are all ready to be home.  We came for the World Missions Summit, then needed to add time to get our Russia visas.  We filled the time with services and visits to supporters and friends.

But we are ready to get home.

Or temporary home.

It seems strange to me as I realized "home" for us is now in the temp stage.  With the new changes in responsibilities, it also means letting go of our current situation as we take on new challenges.  We will be moving away from Moldova, the home we've known so well.  Our house is comfortable, we know our situation and neighbors, and we've loved it there. 

It will be hard to say goodbye. 

I think the part of waiting that is the toughest is the unknown.  I'm looking forward to moving to St. Petersburg, but I'll be REALLY willing to go once we find a place, or at least know if a decent place is available.  I'm praying for a home, not a big house.  I'd just love a place that has a yard to sit outside, a place for the dog to run.  Big, small, separate or townhome....just a home.

We have a lot to do in the months ahead.  I'm just waiting for a sense of being settled!

 


Brokenness

The theme of brokenness and being poor in the spirit has been echoing around me for a number of years.  A great friend of both us and the work here is Kyle Miller, a counsellor that has been a great support to Freedom Home.  His main teaching centers on the Beattitudes, a model of healing and restoration. (His link is here).

The beginning of healing and wholeness comes when we understand our poverty and can mourn our brokenness, our hurt and our pain.  That is the beginning.

One observation we've had at Freedom Home.  (Perhaps the home there is such a good example because of its intensity.  It forces things to the surface quicker, and their isn't the space to avoid confronting your own issues).  There comes a point in all staff and workers where THEY have to confront their own weaknesses, sins, flaws, and history.  If they are unwilling...they'll not stay.  Either their attitude will cause them to depart or we have to ask them to leave.

I am not talking about pagans here, but mature believers.  But in order to mature as God wants you to mature, you have to confront some things.  Such things as:

  1. Pride--some tend to think they are "better," at the home to "help" these unfortunate women.  When we think we are "better," pride has already entered our hearts.
  2. Shame--perhaps it is our shame that prevents us from sharing our history.  We are embarrassed to remember what we did.  But when we share the secret, we break its power over us.  We must not be ashamed of being "sinners saved by grace."  We were sinners.
  3. Relationships--the healing at FH comes because its a community, a family.  We are imperfect, but we must be striving to grow.  Conflict is natural, and we have to learn how to resolve conflict.  We must learn how to ask forgiveness and learn how to let go of grudges.
  4. Submission--you will never be a leader until you learn how to submit.  I've seen that so clearly in some huge failures.  One person could not submit to leadership, a huge spiritual flaw that will stop all future growth. 

These are just a few examples.  I could list a lot more:  worship leaders that rely more on their natural music talents than on the Spirit of God, counsellors that think they have wisdom and words and skills, rather than relying on the Wonderful Counsellor, preachers that can craft their words in such a way as to bring the tears.

I've seen it in missionary letters, i.e. "We've done ______, or planted _______, or started ______"  Who is getting the credit?

I've seen it in church missions reports, i.e. "We are the  _____ largest giving in the district!"

Lack of brokenness comes when we need to look so great, so perfect, and so "holy" that we have no chance to let God in.  If we become full of ourself, we won't have room for God.

Poor in spirit helps us empty ourselves of OURSELF.  Then and only then can the Holy Spirit enter to give healing.

There are lots of examples of people full of themself...prideful, holding grudges, totally blind to their flaws.

But to find brokenness, we have to look a lot farther. 

Could I be so bold to say that God really doesn't care that much about how many campuses you have, how many books you've written, how many sermons you've preached, how many churches and ministrues you've started, and how large of a conference you spoke at.

He does care if you are poor in spirit.  And that you mourn over your own frailness.  And that we are meek. 

Thoughts?


Pastor

In my heart, I think I'll always be a pastor.  I'm not a pastor in the formal, liturgical way.  But I'm a pastor in the way I think, in my desire to see people grow spiritually, finding their purpose in the body of Christ. 

_D2X0219One way that comes out is my desire to know people's stories.  I love to hear about the history of each person, their joys and trials, stages of life, miracles, dreams, etc.  I love seeing people over the long haul, not just a one-time visit, then never back again.

Elena is a woman in the village of Baraboi.  A team from Bismarck, ND, was just there to help put a roof on the church building there.  And nearly every day, many of the women visited homes.  I asked if they could visit Elena that week.

I met Elena 3-4 years ago, visiting with her and her husband.  They were already in the early 80s, and we had a long talk.  She showed me her husbands war medals.  We talked about life.  Their house was the cleanest one in all the village.  And they were wonderful.

I sent a couple photos later with the pastor to give them.  I've checked on them, just finding out her husband passed away this year.  And she is now shrunken to even a smaller level, but still with her smile.

What's that story have to do with anything?  Only that if the stories of individual's lives are interesting to me, how must they be to God?  As the Creator and Savior, He is fascinated with our lives, the day to day workings.  The Father knows Elena's name, and he hasn't just checked in once or twice a year.  As King David, wrote, He knows when she lays down and when she rises; He knows her in the morning and night, through good times and dark days.

The Lord is our Pastor (the Russian word for shepherd).

The people of Moldova are loved and known by God.  The people of Russia and Belarus have a Lord that looks over them, hurts when they hurt, rejoices when one finds salvation. 

And He knows you.

 

 


Finally, Part 2

I just sent my e-letter out, and I'm writing additions to the letter that I didn't have space to fit in!

FINALLY...that word means a lot.

It comes when God finally brings a vision to reality.
It comes when we see the miracle we've waiting so long for.
It comes when we see God's direction, or sense Jesus' presence.
It comes when the Holy Spirit brings a sense of revival to our hearts.

 In my e-letter, I wrote about saying finally as we staked out the building for New Life.  I think back to 5 or 6 years ago, when a team from Oregon and Montana came and whipped up the "temporary" building for Viatsa Noua (New Life church).  We had dreamed for the day when the permanent building could be built.

I had no idea when or if, but got a call a few months ago about a gift that took that dream from Way In The Future to NOW.  Now I'm praying it will be enought to get in done...and finished...and open.  It might now get the entire thing complete, but we are going to get the main structure done!

The other finally's I'm dreaming for:

  • Leova...another of our COHEU Adopt-a-Community homes.  The church had some tough things happen in the past and was really knocked down.  Dan is the pastor of the church, a nice guy, but I'm praying for another church to come alongside him.  I'm dreaming for a church of 200, reaching the kids and youth in that town and going ministry that makes it the most important church in town!
  • University students...I'm dreaming that God helps Viatsa Noua use their building, and that someone with a big vision, starts a Friday night or Saturday night student service there.  I'm dreaming for 400 students each service, from a variety of churches.  A church that is drawing to the 100,000 university students that know NOTHING about Jesus.
  • House of Prayer...a new dream, of only a week.  After a week with IHOP here, using Viatsa Noua's temporary building for a week of prayer and worship.  Around 10 other churches, from all denominations, met together, sharing the load and leading prayer and worship.  Could we dream that it starts a movement of unity and prayer?
  • And now I'm starting to dream for Russia and Belarus.  I'm dreaming that God will raise up scores of workers that are willing to go to the hard places of Russia, the unreached areas that have NO church.  I'm starting to dream for a large number (I'm still holding that number privately!).
  • And I am dreaming for some champions who would help with the start of the Freedom Home Odessa, and someone who will start Freedom Home Russia (could we say multiple homes in Russia?)

What are some things you've been waiting for?  What are some finally's you've been able to say in the last few months? 

 

 


Update

I have been getting the question a lot lately--"How is your support?"

As most of you know, our missions organization schedules us to be back in the US one year every 5 or 6 years.  We spend this year reconnecting to churches and supporters, sharing about the value of missions, and raising support for the next few years.  It is valuable both for the personal connection time and for the financial reporting and raising.

But I struggle with the question! 

How is our support?  Great...and with huge voids yet.  We have our pledges to go back, but the work takes a lot more.  We have our tickets purchased, August 28.  We have our clearance to go.

But I know the financial load, mostly with Freedom Home.  We need about $4000 per month yet to operate it.  Praying for 12 churches or individuals to take a month.  Or for 40 churches to add a $100 pledge for monthly support.

BUT...we will go on, and we WILL be continually amazed how God provides.

For with God...we have plenty of support!


Prayer for Freedom Home

I have felt led for a number of weeks to challenge the women and staff to make this year a time of specific prayer.  God has already done such great things in the lives of each woman and child.  We need to pray that God will continue to do even greater things.

This is the first section of prayer requests.  The staff AND the women at the home are making these their prayer requests as well!

  • Pray for the women that are not yet in Freedom Home.
  • That we may make connections to at least 20 women this year that have yet to find healing.
  • That God will give each of us divine meetings with women who need the home.
  • That God will give us wisdom for opportunities to meet hurting women, whether at the hospital, women’s shelter, psychological hospital, street.
  • Pray that we may find other women in Moldova who have faced trafficking, somehow coming alongside them so they may find freedom.

 


Faith Based Mission

In AG World Missions, we do not operate with a predetermined salary, given budget, or central organization.  We are a faith-based missions organization, dependent on individuals and churches.  We raise our support and pledges, and out of that, the organization gives us a salary, with the rest going to the work.

Before we leave, we ask people if they would be willing to make a faith pledge to support the work in Moldova for the next term (or longer).  There is never a bill sent, thus the element of trust and faith.  No one is under no obligation to fulfill their pledge, and no debt collector will show up at one's door! 

This is the concept behind itineration, our travel schedule during our year in the U.S.  We travel back to supporters and churches, reporting about the work and raising for the years ahead.  We preach, speak, meet, drink coffee, have dinner, and in a myriad of other ways, toss out our vision for ministry and missions in Moldova.

We are totally dependent on churches and individuals to support Freedom Home each month.
We are dependent on them to finish a church building or purchase a new church.
We are dependent on them for the gas money to run our vehicle for outreaches.

The list could go on.  Outreaches, translation projects, education for Freedom Home kids and women, even the Summit we are organizing next month to start other ministries to survivors of trafficking.  All dependent each month.

Yes, we are a faith-mission, but we don't just leave the U.S. without a backing.  We budget and plan on the pledges that are sent in.  We work to find enough pledges to estimate the support.  If I raised a million dollars worth of support, I don't benefit personally.  It just gives us more work money to put into ministry and churches.

So that is the reason and method of our life.  And for that reason, we want to say thanks...to all those that have supported and pledged to build God's Church in Moldova.  Without you, none of this would be possible.  Thanks for your support.

Commit_form_s

 

 

 


STL

IMG_0798 copyLast Sunday I had the privilege of sharing at Abundant Life Community Church in Alton, IL.  They did something this year that will turn out to be a huge blessing to Freedom Home in Moldova.

Their youth group bought a car.

Actually, they made a committment to raise money for Speed-the-Light, an A/G program that helps buy vehicles, sound systems, and other tools for missionaries.  And it is the youth that do the work.  It's their vision, their responsibility, and their way to GIVE.

This youth group raised over $25,000 to help buy a vehicle for Freedom Home, the aftercare home for Moldovan survivors of trafficking.  Incredible!

This is FAR beyond anything they had ever done, but with the vision of their youth pastor, Eric Hoffman, and a bunch of high level youth leaders, they somehow pulled it off.  They broke the old paradigm.  

It is interesting how often we have mental limits.  We think that we can only give $20 to a need.  Or that we are only capable of this one task or ministry.  Or that we can never read the Bible through in a year, or memorize a verse a week.  We think that believers can never tithe, never give to missions, never go on trips.  

We have these mental limits.  But faith is sometimes simply believing that those limits can be shattered.  And when we do, our entire perspective is changed.

What is the advantage of this youth group giving $25,000?  Well, it showed them that ridiculous dreams are possible.  That God blesses generosity.  That they can do incredible things.  That they can actually play a part in a Moldovan girl's healing.    That they have a purpose.

So I celebrate with these youth today.  And I wonder what paradigm's I need shattered?  What limits are you living with, barriers that need to be stretched and broken.  What are the big dreams out there for your church and your life?


Who Am I?

Yesterday I heard a comment that I've heard a thousand times.  Someone was introducing us to a group, and he said, "Andy and Nancy are missionaries to Moldova."

Something stopped within me. 

Is that who I am?

I think I am a person, who serves in the role of missionary.  I am a man, a follower of Christ.  But a missionary?  No...that is something I simply do.

Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, but there is something dangerous when we start to think what we DO is who we ARE.  It is especially dangerous if that DOING can set you apart from you you are.

This situation where this comment was made was a small group, a place where people come for safety, counseling, and encouragement.  I had visited with a couple of guys earlier that I am not sure if they knew much about church or God.  The last think I want to do is for people to label me "missionary," mostly because in Christiandom now that means "super-Christian."

I am far from super.  I am far from sainthood.  I am far from perfect.

I do happen to serve in a unique situation, doing some unique work.  I think God has called us there, His strength and my stubbornness help me stay there.  We are trying to do work that I am unsure of, struggle with, and at times, pray that survives.  I get frustrated with traffic, imperfect churches, and the stress of going to grocery stores.

And I'm a missionary?

No, I'm just an ordinary guy, doing what he can do to show God's grace and mercy.  I want to glorify God in all I do.  Some days that desire is greater than other days.  Some days I'd rather quit and go milk cows, or sell shoes, or mow lawns. 

So next time introduce me a Andy...an ordinary guy trying to serve God, be a good husband and father, serve in ministry...and who happens to serve as a missionary for some strange reason.  Just ordinary...Andy.