Here’s our November Update Letter:
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We began fundraising just over a year ago, and I am thankful to say that in spite of all appearances on this blog, the Lord has made it very fruitful! In fact, we raised enough to leave Bellingham, be away for the summer, and now have arrived and been living in Scotland for 4 months.
All that is said as preamble, more blogs are coming soon. Keep posted, or subscribe at the top of the page to have posts emailed to directly.
We just returned from our first fundraising tour. We visited with pastors, churches, missions committees, and prayer meetings (8 communities in all). Dan also spoke on Scripture at the Fall Retreat for RUF @ WWU (at Island Lake Camp). A very busy last 12 days to say the least! Scroll through the carousel below to see all our stops.
Pledges Coming In - The Cranks Are Turning
We received a handful of immediate personal supporters on this trip. We are now at 10% pledged!
We are so thankful for those of you (8 of our email list subscribers) who have pledged already. If every subscriber to that list (roughly 150 people) pledged $50, that would $7500/month. We would have all of our monthly living expenses covered and then some!
Have you considered if you think this work is worth your investment? Will you join the others who have already pledged?
We believe this work is worth our investment: we are giving the rest of our lives to see the African church built up and matured. We are continuing in the work of Apollos, and would invite you to do the same.
$10,000 - Our Hopes Are Attainable!
After presenting yesterday, a dear couple came to us and said they would like to pledge $10,000!
Needless to say, we both started crying in thankfulness. We couldn't believe our ears. All of our hopes depend on other people's generosity, and so often our hopes feel very unattainable and distant. But, in God's kindness, he led this couple to share their blessings.
Splitting this gift between our two major needs, this means we have in total pledges:
- Moving Expenses: $6500 of $24000 | roughly 27%
- Ph.D: $5000 of $60000 (total cost for all 3 years) | 25% of the first year of tuition
These moments do two things for us:
- They make our hope in the kingdom seem perfectly attainable
- They act as a lasting memorial and witness that God is faithful and he is not daunted by our financial needs.
Generosity, Paul says, is the ministry of spreading thanksgiving to God. So please join us in giving thanks to God for this.
- Pray for each of the churches we visited to make space in their budget for us, even if it involves taking financial risks in faith.
- Churches are slow decision makers (we get this), so pray for the Lord to be working in us as we wait their budget processes.
- Pray for more supporters to come on board with us.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to be preparing us and those we will be working with, so that this ministry is fruitful. We must work, but any fruitfulness comes from the Spirit giving traction and growth.
Spread the Word
Finally, please spread the word, and invite others to check out this work. Think of those in your life who are interested in missions, in generosity, or in joining our work. Thanks!
One-Time Expenses Pledges - October
After many conversations and getting to know each other, we have decided to apply to work with Serge: Grace at the Fray. [You might know them by their former name: World Harvest Mission; they've been at this work for a long time now.]
As the name implies, they are all about bringing the depth of God's grace into the frayed edges of the world and our relationships. We have long admired them from afar, and heard many good things about he way that this grace permeates their mission team cultures all over the world.
They are excited about the work of theological formation in Africa. They believe, like we do, that the future of Christianity and the future of the African Church are bound up in the health of indigenous pastoral leadership in the church.
The most exciting thing about Serge is that they see getting a Ph.D as a necessary step to this work, just like language school and linguistics training is a prerequisite for Wycliffe Bible translators. Loving our African brothers and sisters in Christ means we seek to bring our best for their long-term good.
We will attend their assessment and orientation week December 3-8. This is the last step of vetting before we receive final approval to be Serge missionaries. We should be able to receive donations through Serge after December 8th. Please pray that the Lord will give us many partners and supporters to pledge support before then as we go on fundraising 'tour' this fall.
I love reading the many wonderful works our fathers in the faith have written, whether Bavinck, Calvin, or Augustine. In fact, as Chesterton and Lewis have noted, when we read authors from other ages our blind spots are revealed in ways that often don't happen when we stick to contemporary theological conversations. We see how our culture, and our assumptions, have shifted over time precisely because of the distance between our day and the author.
What a gift all that work is to us and the global church throughout the ages! But we must ask, how readily applicable is it for people from an entirely different intellectual and cultural background? The answer is that the writings which are meaningful for us often don't address the realities and questions our brethren face in Africa, Asia or Latin America.
One thing that often escapes our notice is how much of our theology to date has been a response to the predominantly Greco-Roman intellectual background in which the church first matured. Calvin, sadly, does not spend much time addressing demon possession, spiritual warfare, or the outworking of a biblical view of church government in a culture dominated by tribalism.
In the interview below, I asked Rev. Julius Siwenda what he needs he saw for theological education, imagining that he might say something about the teaching happening in the churches. Instead he addressed the way in which theology is done in the African context.
There is a double reality here: We benefit from reading people outside our context, but we also need to learn from people who are applying the gospel to our own context. So we can benefit from reading Augustine and Ignatius often times precisely because they inhabit a different cultural setting, just as our African brethren can benefit from reading Western theology because of its distance from African realities. However, just as we in the West have continued to produce our own theological works responding to the critical questions and hot topics of our day, so our African brethren need to produce and have access to theological works addressing their own realities.
This is one of the main reasons we believe we should invest in theological education in Africa. We want to see the growing African church thrive, and begin producing their own theological works addressing their own questions. We haven't yet discovered how much we have to learn from them. What blind spots do we have in which they could help us? What assumptions do we need to be freed of by learning from our African brethren?
As I mentioned in the last post, one of the most important parts of our trip was the part we couldn't plan: relationships.
In fact, some of the most encouraging relationships have been you all, our supporters. Because of your rich support for this work we were able to give away $2300, not to mention many gifts, supplies, and 4 entire suitcases full of books. This really is the goal of short-term missions trips: establish relationships that can grow into friendships, brings gifts and supplies, do your best to bless those who are hosting you (take out for dinner!) and look for the Lord's works all around you.
Investing in Friendships
Friendships Are Ministry
Most of us tend to think of 'fellowship' as an add on to the 'real' ministry. But, of course, the Lord often saves us and always disciples us through Christian friendships. Real, trusting Christian friendships are crucial.
So, we were very blessed to find our old friends (such as the Munyongas) ready to reconnect and share life in Christ together. They are a godly and lovely couple. We spent the day together talking about living faithfully in a corrupt society, catching up on our family life, and sharing our vision. They were excited and very encouraging!
Kids On Patrol
On each stop, the boys managed to make friends and enjoy life together with African boys. In spite of a major language barrier, they had good fun together playing soccer, exploring, poking bugs, etc. What a huge encouragement to see them embracing our mission as a family!
Elijah especially thrived in his Malawian school, and made some great friends for the week. By the end of our first week in Malawi, he was freely exploring the little village with his new friends from next door.
In South Africa we reconnected and stayed with our old friends, Mathieu and Kayle Pelletier. They have been involved in theological education in Africa for some time now. We were able to pick up right where we left off. They were excited to hear our vision as well!
We also got to connect with some of our lovely Pacific NW missionaries: the Stoms and Locatells. We spent the day together and we were able to take them all out for a lovely meal. It was so good to reconnect.
Privileged to Give Gifts
In all, we were able to give gifts to each of the missionaries we visited, totaling $1800. We also gave $500 to a godly Malawian couple we know who was in need of a new roof. This couple has ministered to so many people, including us when we lived there previously. In all we were privileged to deliver these gifts to these crucial mission works totaling $2300.
We were so blessed to be able to bring not only money, but piles and piles of books, gifts for missionary kids, and gifts for the school our boys attended. In spite of all that we gave away, we still had some money left over.
Thank you all for your support of our work, and partnering with us as a family! This will be a big help in kickstarting our work and the path forward.
One of the most important parts of our trip was the part we couldn't plan: relationships. We were also blown away to find the Lord leading us into some really exciting opportunities for which he's already been preparing Bethany and our kids.
Potential Ministry for Bethany
Never mind the goofball kids in this pic, let me tell you a bit about Bethany. Most of you don't know just how much the Lord has been at work in Bethany in the last five years. I loved her back then, but man, she is getting glorious these days.
We've been discovering recently how gifted Bethany is in counseling. Bethany is a trained doula, and is now in her second year of intensive lay counseling training at the Allender Center in Seattle. I've heard from every woman whom she's attended to through birth, every woman she's met with in 1-1 counseling, and now we are hearing it from her school leaders, "your wife is amazing." To be more specific, the Lord has specially gifted her with an ability to walk with those who are suffering, to grieve with those who grieve, as well as a deep and loving insight into people's hearts paired with an ability to lead people into a greater awareness of God's gracious presence in their lives. She's our secret weapon in advancing the Lord's gracious reign against the kingdom of darkness. This led to a big question for our trip....
What would Bethany do in Africa?
The answer is that she would do what she always does: genuinely befriend and connect with people on a deep level, and gently lead them toward greater trust in the Lord. These pictures exemplify how, along each stop, Bethany would manage to connect with women at a deep level. This was true of old friends as well as new ones. The Lord opened up trusting conversations for her in each place and we started seeing the pattern.
One thing stood out to us during our time in Uganda & Malawi: the Lord has been preparing Bethany all along to not only counsel, but to help train leaders to counsel as well.
A Big Surprise
After working with our friends in the Hospital in Malawi for a few days, Bethany asked Rebecca, "If you could hire two people for the Hospital right now, what would they be?" Bethany was thinking we could recruit some of our surgeon and doctor friends. The answer blew us both away.
"If we could hire anybody for the hospital right now, it would be a marriage counselor and someone to lead our chaplaincy training program."
Along with caring for the fatherless, walking with couples to see the power of the gospel in their marriage, and helping leaders know how to enter into and love those in grief are at the center of Bethany's passions and training.
Its hard to find marriages in Malawi (Uganda too), which are Christian in any real sense. It makes sense too: Christianity has only been around for 3-4 generations, whereas in the West we have inherited a millennium of gospel-wisdom in our marriages. This doesn't mean our marriages aren't a mess. It does mean that in America, we can almost always find a godly couple to help.
The program at Nkhoma Hospital has been up and running for a few years now. I believe it is the only chaplaincy training program in Malawi. These leaders are an ideal place for Bethany to invest her training and skills so they can more effectively comfort those in grief with God's grace. Partnering with African leaders this way allows her to bless people she might not otherwise have access to.
We were so thankful for the Lord to make this need clear to us. It was a huge answer to prayer for to see a big way in which Bethany could be used. So please pray with us that we would know how to best invest in Bethany's training and that the Lord would preserve relationships we began those weeks, and open doors for us to return.
An Old Friend, Now a New Student
This is my old friend Blessings Chikakula. We used to work together 10 years ago at a Christian Secondary school in Lilongwe. Imagine my surprise to find he was a student at JMTI preparing to enter ministry! I'm thankful for sincere friendships with brothers like this in Malawi. I got to spend the day teaching Blessings and the entire student body, looking at how we got the books of the Bible we have today (called Canon from κανων for 'rule').
The faculty of JMTI asked me to take a day of their classes and lead a seminar on the doctrine of Scripture. Thrown into the deep-end, I got a taste of how much I will have to learn in bridging two very different intellectual cultures. Tradition looms much larger there, whereas we value creativity and precision. This is as true for communicating the gospel as it is for teaching theological skills to students with a very different set of assumptions about learning and research. This highlighted to me that value of everything we’ve learned pastoring God’s people in an ordinary context. Thankfully, the students encouraged me that my pace was good, my English easy to understand, and that I wasn’t “like some Americans; you were humble.” Phew!
Shape African Pastors,
Shape The Future of Christianity
The growth of the African church is well documented, and has not slowed. Its growth is expected to place the African church as the dominant force in Christianity in the next 50 years, making up 40% of the total church. Historian Philp Jenkins says, "By 2050, Christianity will be chiefly the religion of Africa and the African diaspora." What will that church look like? What will they teach and preach?
Those questions are answered by looking at the seminaries today. If we can be involved in shaping the next generation of pastors, this will not only effect the African church but the shape of Christianity in the future.