Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Do They Know It's Christmas?"

In 1984 a group of popular singers and musicians assembled to record the song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The entire proceeds from the song were donated to help with the massive Ethiopian famine that was taking place at the time.

This Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and enjoy family and food and fun there will be millions of people in our world that will not know it's Christmas because they have never heard the story of the Savior of the world.


This Christmas will pass with over 1.65 billion people having no access to the Gospel at all. As our family will sit by the Christmas tree and read the story of the birth of Jesus, people representing over 4,000 different languages will sit in spiritual darkness having no portion of the Bible available to them in their language. It seems that most people in our world do not know that it's Christmas.


I anticipate having a great time with my family on Christmas day. But behind all the fun and smiles and laughs and special times will be the thought that we are celebrating a truth that others have never heard. And I pray that fact will break my heart. What can we do together so that soon more will know that it's Christmas?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Without Words Wednesday




Okay, this picture needs some words. This is Gayle in 2004 in a rice field with some ladies who were out harvesting rice. They began dancing and encouraged Gayle to join in. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Absolute Commitment

Some time ago I ran across a little children's book about Jesus that caught my eye. You know the kind of book: vibrant pictures with a few sentences on each page using short, easy to understand words. A typical children's book. On the cover of the book was a picture of Jesus with a wide smile, perfect teeth, groomed hair, and an appearance that said, "I just want to be your friend."

Make no mistake, I think that it is great for kids to be taught from an early age the love that Jesus has for them and His desire to be warm and welcoming and friendly. The problem is that we grow up and still have this view of Jesus exclusively. In other words, we cannot imagine Jesus saying or demanding anything over and above just wanting to be our pal.

While I believe that Jesus was indeed the most joyous man who ever lived, since He had no sin and enjoyed perfect communion with God, He is also the man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) who came to speak out against sin and to deal decisively with it once and for all (Hebrews 9:11-12). And the smiling, easy-going, happy-go-lucky Jesus is also the Jesus who calls His followers to absolute and unconditional commitment to Him.

In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." To deny one's self is to live as if we no longer exist. And to take up one's cross is not just to deny self; it is to die to self.

In Luke 14:33 Jesus said, "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." Jesus is emphatic that all has to be given up to follow Him. This does not mean that a person has to take a vow of poverty in order to be a Christian or that they have to sell all of their possessions and give the proceeds to Christian causes. But it does mean that nothing is to get in the way of our radical following of Him. It means that we dare not allow our hands to be full of things that must be given up for Christ.

I am eternally grateful for the smiling Jesus who's arms are open wide to receive sinners and who calls them friends (John 15:15). I am constantly amazed at the grace of God shown to me in Jesus as He receives me not based upon my works or my goodness, but based upon His death (1 Peter 3:18). Yet I am continually confronted and challenged with Jesus' call to absolute commitment to Him, the One who has always been absolutely committed to me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finding Contentment in Jesus

There is little doubt that our society suffers from a lack of contentment. Many families bury themselves in debt as they seek to keep pace with the proverbial Joneses. Many individuals move from job to job and career to career in search of more pay, better benefits, and the brass ring that always seems just out of reach. Marital discontentment causes many to hope for greener grass in another relationship. And rampant materialism permeates nearly every facet of American life. All the while the virtue of contentment is nowhere to be found.

Thankfully God's Word addresses these pressing issues with illuminating clarity. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 says, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

A few verses later the text continues by saying, "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

When considering these verses, along with the rest of what the New Testament teaches on the subject, it seems that the key to contentment is not my finding contentment in money, possessions, or things, but in my finding contentment in Jesus. Contentment comes as I am able to live knowing that in Jesus I have a treasure that is worthy of giving all for (Matthew 13:44). True contentment comes when I value Jesus above any and everything else and then live like I value Jesus in that way. Contentment is essentially living like Jesus and Jesus alone is more than sufficient to satisfy every longing and desire of my life. This treasuring of Jesus loosens the grip of materialism over my life and frees me so that I can truly experience the all-satisfying pleasure of knowing Jesus Christ.

Consider these eleven questions that may help you determine your level of contentment. These questions are aimed at the heart so as you read and think about them be sensitive to what God may be saying to you:

1) Am I content with what I have and the circumstances of my life or am I striving for more and more?

2) If everything in my life was taken away, all of my material possessions, and I had nothing but Jesus Christ would I still be content?

3) Am I living as if I am taking nothing with me when I die?

4) In my life does Jesus look like an all-satisfying treasure?

5) Can I rightly distinguish between my needs and my wants?

6) What is tempting me to treasure it more than I treasure Jesus?

7) Am I discontent with the things of this world, yet content with where I am in my relationship with Jesus?

8) Do I live like I trust and hope in things or like I trust and hope in God?

9) Am I generous, ready to give and willing to share?

10) Am I living and giving in a way that shows it is more blessed to give than to receive?

11) Does Jesus have all of my life?

Contentment is not primarily about money and things. It is primarily about being satisfied with Jesus and treasuring Him above all else.

Monday, November 7, 2011

If I Only Had Three Years Left...

For the last few years Gayle and I have been asking ourselves a question. What we hope will be a life-changing question. A question that rightly answered will cause us to radically reprioritize our lives. The question is this: If we had only three years left on this earth what would we do? What would change in our lives? What would become more important? What would be a bigger priority?

We have been asking this question not because we have a terminal illness that we know of or because of any other external reason. We have sought to ask and answer this question because we do not want to waste the life and the salvation that God has so graciously given to us. We realize that life is like a vapor (James 4:14) and therefore we must live with planned urgency.

So let me share with you my ten personal answers to the question: If I had only three years left on this earth what would I do?

I would:

1) Strive as the main goal of all I do to draw closer to Jesus

2) Apply Scripture to every area of my life

3) Pray with greater intimacy and do more listening to and for the voice of God

4) Spend more real, purposeful, intimate time with my family

5) Do more to reach people with the Gospel, especially the unreached peoples of the world

6) Pray more fervently for the lost

7) Be more generous and give more radically

8) Love the Body of Christ deeper

9) Think much more about heaven and the life to come

10) Live with and in the freedom of why I was created and why I was saved: to glorify God

The obvious point with this list is that I must do these things today, in this moment that I have been given. If they are so important that I would seek to spend my last years on earth consumed with these things, then these things must consume my life today.

What about you? If you had only three years left on this earth what would you do?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Three Things

The most important thing that you can do for our family and ministry is consistently pray for us. Please take time each day to pray with us for these three areas of our lives. Consider lifting up these requests before each meal for the next two months.

FAMILY: For God to draw us closer to Him and to one another. That we would transition to Canada and school well at the end of the year.

FINANCES: For God to assemble the remaining people that He is calling to financially support our ministry. That all of our financial support would be in place before the end of the year.

FIELD: For the Jola people of southern Senegal. Ask God to prepare their hearts for the Gospel and to draw them to Jesus.

Thank you for praying! We will let you know exactly how God answers!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Satan's Plan for Your Church

Satan has a plan for your church. If you are part of a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Gospel-centered congregation Satan has a plan for your church. And his plan is to destroy it. He either wants to destroy it in the sense that it no longer exists or he wants to destroy it in the sense that it no longer matters that it exists. Either way that is his purpose and agenda for your church.

Satan is a crafty schemer and strategist (Ephesians 6:11). He knows what works. For your church he has a threefold strategy that is progressive with each phase of his plan building upon the one that has gone before it.

Phase one: DISTRACT
Satan’s major point of attack is upon a church’s focus. His main goal is to get the people of God to take their eyes off Jesus and the Gospel and to place them upon something else; something temporal. If God uses a church that is focused on the Gospel then Satan knows that the most effective thing that he can do to stop the work of God is to get the church focused on something other than the Gospel. And he throws out everything in the world in an attempt to distract. Like a fisherman with a tackle box full of lures, he keeps changing the bait until we bite. And oftentimes the bait is not bad or sinful. Sometimes the bait that he uses is something that is good, but is just simply not the Gospel.

This is always his first step, so if he can be stopped here then he is rendered virtually powerless in the church. That means that our eyes must continually be fixed upon Jesus and the Gospel.

Phase two: DISUNITE and DIVIDE
Unity is broken when the thing that holds us the people of God together, which is the Gospel, is not front and center. And Satan knows that if he is able to distract the church then disunity will almost always happen; it is nearly always inevitable once distraction has occurred. Because when the Gospel is ignored then we look around and realize that we really have nothing to hold us together. When the Gospel is not center-stage then we no longer have a common purpose and goal and mission together. And when this happens we all seek to come up with a new agenda of our own because we are not anchored to the agenda of Jesus and the Gospel. Most (not all, but most) disunity that occurs in the local church has as its root cause the fact that people are looking at something other than the Gospel.
When our eyes and focus are not on the Gospel then we no longer see what unites us and there is division that ensues.

Phase three: DISCOURAGE
Once a church gets to this point it becomes obvious that the work of God is not being accomplished. When this phase takes place there is an absence of vision and focus and spiritual life and vitality and vibrancy and passion. And everyone becomes discouraged. Everyone sits around and sees nothing but the problems because they no longer see the promises of the Gospel. And discouragement leads to inactivity and an inactive church is not a healthy church. When a church gets to that point then you can just picture Satan sitting back and laughing because his work has been accomplished as the work of Jesus has ceased.

But none of this happens when everyone’s eyes are fixed on Jesus and the Gospel. Satan cannot touch a strong and healthy church like that. May God’s people “turn their eyes upon Jesus” as Jesus uses His church to accomplish His will in the world!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Road to Senegal Goes Through Canada

What does Quebec, Canada have in common with Senegal, West Africa? (Hint: it’s not the weather!) It’s the fact that French is the official language of both! After several months of prayer, research, and inquiry we have decided to attend language school in Sherbrooke, Quebec at Parole de Vie Bethel’s French Language School.

While Matt and Gayle are busy studying French, Ezra and Thea will be attending a Frenchspeaking Canadian school for their education. (Anyone want to guess who will learn the language first?) Learning French before arriving in Senegal will allow us to hit Senegal better equipped to communicate and minister to the people there. French will also serve as our “bridge” language to enable us to learn the Jola language once in Senegal.

We plan to leave Florida and drive to Canada at the end of December and stay there at least through June. Please pray for us as we prepare for this huge transition in our lives.

Our transition to Canada also means that all of our financial support needs to be in place in the next
three months. Currently 72% of our monthly support is committed and we are praying for new monthly partners to make an on-going commitment to support our ministry. Our family is deeply thankful for you being a part of what God has called us to do!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sharing Your Story

Many Christians struggle with sharing their faith. It is one of those things that they know they are supposed to do and sincerely want to do, yet they struggle to find the right words or the best “technique” that fits their circumstances and personality.

Thankfully, God is much less concerned with technique than He is the communication of truth. And He has given all Christians a relevant, personal way to share their faith: through the telling of their story. Your story of what Jesus has done in your life is a powerful vehicle for truth as you share it with others.

In Acts chapter 26 the Apostle Paul gives us an excellent example of how to do this as he shares his story with King Agrippa. He divides his story of what Jesus has done in his life into three parts: what his life was like before Jesus (Acts 26:1-11), how he became a follower of Jesus (26:12-18), and what his life has been like since trusting Jesus (26:19-23).

In the first part of Paul’s story he shares with Agrippa enough details about his life before becoming a Christian to inform, but not get bogged down with unnecessary details. Paul relates with Agrippa and his Jewish background so he shares with him that Jesus is the promised Messiah (26:6-7). Paul also shares what his concept of Jesus was before his conversion (26:9-11). 

When Paul shares about his conversion he tells of the events surrounding his coming to faith in Jesus (26:12-17). He also is sure to include the truths of the Gospel (26:18). People do not come to faith through hearing our story; they come to faith through hearing the Gospel. So Paul is sure to include in his story what it is that Jesus does for sinners who trust Him.

As Paul brings his story to a close he shares with Agrippa how his life is now different. He tells him that while he was once disobedient, he is now striving to be obedient to what Jesus has called him to do (26:19). Paul also stresses that what Jesus has done for him He can and will do for others (26:20, 23). At the same time Paul is careful to show that Jesus does not make one’s life problem free (26:21).

After sharing his story Paul then calls for a response (26:24-29). The communication of God’s truth always calls for a response on the part of the listener.

As you share your story with others seek to emulate Paul’s example. Talk about your life before Jesus and what it was like. Do not feel that you have to share all the sordid details of your past; just help them to understand what you used to be like and how you used to think about Jesus and Christianity. Then include how you became a Christian. In this part seek to clearly and concisely share the truth of the Gospel. Let them know what it means to become a follower of Jesus. Then finally talk about how your life is different now: how has Jesus changed you since becoming His follower.

While sharing your story use memorized Scripture to help convey what Jesus has done in your life. Also, try to avoid language that tends to be “churchy” or that people may not understand. Consider writing out your story and practice saying it out loud. This experience will help put you at ease when you share it with others.

But more than anything you have to tell your story. The only story that God cannot use is an unspoken and unshared one. So go and tell others of what Jesus has done in your life and pray that God would use it to “open their eyes in order to turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18).


Friday, October 7, 2011

Finding Our Identity in Christ

The first time that the reader is introduced to Peter and his brother Andrew in the Gospel of Mark Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16). And the two brothers were there casting their nets into the water because, as Mark adds, “they were fishermen.” Now fishermen had a bad reputation in those days: they were known to be hard workers, rough in their speech, crude in their mannerisms, and coarse in their treatment of others. In other words, they were a pretty rough and tumble bunch of guys who were known to be really rough around the edges.

But Peter and Andrew “were fishermen.” They were defined by what they did for a living. When people would have seen them they would have thought, “There are Peter and Andrew the fishermen.” Being defined by what a person did as their profession was commonplace in the first century. Jesus’ step-father was Joseph the carpenter. One of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, was known as Matthew the tax-collector. Later in Mark chapter 6 when people are wondering about the identity of Jesus they will ask, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” identifying even Jesus by His former profession.

The same thing is true today: one of the first questions that a person usually asks when they meet someone new is, “Now what do you do for a living?” These same things define us and serve as our identity: we are engineers, and managers, and pastors, and businessmen, and stay-at-home moms, and teachers. For Peter and Andrew, as well as for us today, part of who they were was drawn from what they did.

But it is not only our career that defines us and gives us a sense of identity, but many other things as well. Some of you may be defined by your successes: wealthy, successful, powerful. Some of you may be defined by your failures: unwed mother, addict, loser. Some of you may be defined by your past: sin, disappointment, abused, tragedy, victim. That is your identity that you feel that you are living with that defines you and who you are. And there are times where you feel that you cannot shake it and that you will always be “that.”

But the thing that Jesus offered to these fishermen and that He offers to us as well is not a change of identity, but the opportunity to find our identity in Him. That we could be defined by Jesus and our relationship with Him and that we could find our identity in Jesus Himself.

Do you remember the ridiculous years of high school where everybody was just trying to fit in with one group or another? If you were a jock you dressed one way and did one group of things and if you were a preppy you dressed another way and had another group of friends and did other activities. Each group had their defining characteristics as everybody was searching for their identity and what was going to define them. There was franticness about fitting in and being accepted and being noticed and being somebody. Unfortunately the ridiculousness of high school did not end there: many people today are still searching for what will define their lives as they look to find their identity and who they are in what they do and what they have. 

So the freeing alternative that Jesus offers is to find our identity in who we are in Jesus. No matter what else I may or may not be, or whatever I may or may not have, I must first and foremost be defined by my relationship with Jesus Christ. Before anything else, before I am a missionary or a husband or a father or a friend or a whatever, I must be defined as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Do not let your past or this world dictate to you who you are. Find your identity in Jesus Christ and let that define you. Because all of those other things may change, but who I am in Jesus will never change. If I can find my identity in Jesus and be satisfied in Jesus then I do not need the latest and greatest things to define who I am. I do not need a huge bank account to make me feel like a real somebody. I will not crave more stuff to impress others. Because I am secure knowing who I am in Jesus Christ.

When that happens I am free to find worth in who I am in Jesus and in nothing else. Peter the fisherman and Andrew the fisherman were about to become Simon Peter and Andrew the followers of Jesus as Jesus said to them, “Follow Me” (Mark 1:17). How sweet and freeing to lose ourselves in Jesus Christ!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Your Role in the Great Commission

I am constantly reminded of how everyone has a role in the work of the Kingdom of God. The tragic problem is that few know what that role is or even bother to seek the Lord to know where they fit into His work of reaching the nations with the Good News of the Gospel.

When our family was in Kentucky we had the privilege of connecting with some dear friends that we had not seen in over five years. As we were saying our good-byes and getting ready to hit the road again their son, who is Ezra's age, came over to the driver's door where I was seated. And in his hand he held a ten dollar bill that was his own money. He gave it to me and said that he wanted us to use it for our ministry. That young man had found his role. He found where, at least for now as a ten year old young man, he fit into God's Kingdom work.

I told him that what he was doing in giving and "sending" is just as important as what God has called us to do in the "going." Unfortunately, we often miss this. There is a tendency to think that those who go and live cross-culturally and take the Gospel have the more important role. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without the "senders" there could be no "goers." The Apostle Paul states it like this: "And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:15). The goers are vital to the spread of the Gospel AND the senders are vital to the spread of the Gospel. Just having goers is not enough; without senders the goers never get to go!

I am thankful that young man in Kentucky found his role in God's work of reaching the nations with the Gospel. His obedient giving of a  ten dollar bill IS JUST AS IMPORTANT as our obedient going to Africa. It takes goers and it takes senders. It takes people who are willing to seriously ask God, "What is my role in the Great Commission?" And then it takes radical and joy-filled obedience to what He calls you to do. That's God's plan to reach the nations and you have a role in it that is likely bigger than you have ever dreamed! I challenge you to ask Him what it is.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summertime Statistics

Having arrived back in Florida we wanted to share with you some summertime statistics from the Boyd family:

2634 - Miles driven this summer

335+ - Pictures taken

285 - Hours spent in class at the Center for Intercultural Training

99 - Dollars spent on a much needed GPS

95 - Days away from Florida

75+ - Times Hosanna feigned a North Carolina accent (what she calls her "man voice")

68 - Percentage of our monthly support that is in place

56 - Words Ezra learned in Russian

16 - Languages Thea learned greetings in

15 - Binders full of material we brought home from CIT

7 - Times Thea wrecked her bike (this is a very conservative estimate!)

5 - Churches we spoke in

4 - States we stayed in

3 - Times our van was towed

2 - Teeth Ezra lost

1 - Flat tire

Too many to count - Memories and friends we made during our greatest summer ever!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stirring Quotes

Take a few moments to read these quotes from ordinary people that God used in extraordinary ways. And let them stir your heart to action for the cause of Christ in the world.

"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply" — Hudson Taylor

"We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first." — Oswald J. Smith

"God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him."Hudson Taylor

"Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God" — William Carey

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed" — Hudson Taylor

"Sympathy is no substitute for action." — David Livingstone

"Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us." — Keith Wright

"To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." — William Carey

"Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." — C.T. Studd

"In our lifetime, wouldn't it be sad if we spent more time washing dishes or swatting flies or mowing the yard or watching television than praying for world missions?" — Dave Davidson

"God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose." — John Piper

"If I had 1,000 lives, I'd give them all for China" — Hudson Taylor

"In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God's work, especially the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer." — Dick Eastman

"The history of missions is the history of answered prayer." — Samuel Zwemer

"The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner."  - William Cameron Townsend

"Prepare for the worst, expect the best, and take what comes." - Robert E. Speer

"I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third places and teaching the fourth." - James O. Fraser

"It's amazing what can be accomplished if you don't worry about who gets the credit." - Clarence W. Jones

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jesus' Call to Follow

Several months ago I ran across a little book about Jesus in a church nursery that caught my eye. You know the kind of book: vibrant pictures with a few sentences on each page using short, easy to understand words. A typical children's book. On the cover of the book was a cartoon picture of Jesus with a wide smile, perfect teeth, groomed hair, and an appearance that said, "I just want to be your friend."

Make no mistake, I think that it is great for kids to be taught from an early age the love that Jesus has for them and His desire to be warm and welcoming and friendly. The problem is that we grow up and still exclusively hold to this view of Jesus and who He is. In other words, we cannot imagine Jesus saying or demanding anything over and above just wanting to be our pal.

While I believe that Jesus was indeed the most joyous man who ever lived, since He had no sin and enjoyed perfect communion with God, He is also the man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) who came to speak out against sin and to deal decisively with it once and for all (Hebrews 9:11-12). And the smiling, easy-going, happy-go-lucky Jesus is also the Jesus who calls His followers to absolute and unconditional commitment to Him.

In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." To deny one's self is to live as if we no longer exist. And to take up one's cross is not just to deny self; it is to die to self.

In Luke 14:33 Jesus said, "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." Jesus is emphatic that all has to be given up to follow Him. This does not mean that a person has to take a vow of poverty in order to be a Christian or that they have to sell all of their possessions and give the proceeds to Christian causes. But it does mean that nothing is to get in the way of our radical following of Him. It means that we dare not allow our hands to be full of things that must be given up for Christ.

I am eternally grateful for the smiling Jesus who's arms are open wide to receive sinners and who calls them friends (John 15:15). I am constantly amazed at the grace of God shown to me in Jesus as He receives me not based upon my works or my goodness, but based upon His death (1 Peter 3:18). Yet I am continually confronted and challenged with Jesus' call to absolute commitment to Him, the One who has always been absolutely committed to me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Birthday Thea!



After over three-and-a-half years of infertility problems we really believed that Ezra was going to be our only child. And we were totally okay with this and overjoyed that we would even be parents of one child. Little did we know, however, that immediately after Ezra was weened that Gayle would be pregnant yet again. And this time it was going to be a girl!

We were in living in Louisville, Kentucky at the time and I was a full-time college student working two jobs. It would be an amazing understatement to say that things were a bit tight during that period of our lives. It was a time where we were having to trust God for everything. And now we were going to have to learn to trust Him as a family of four.

While we had Ezra's name picked out years in advance, we really struggled to come up with a girl's name. I really liked Lilly and fought pretty hard for it; Gayle liked Lydia and held fast to it. But neither of us liked the other's name they had picked out. There were two names that we were both kind of neutral toward: Anna and Thea. We had a friend in college that was named Thea and we always thought that it was a pretty and unique name.

So one afternoon, as we were at our usual name-picking stalemate, I wrote down the four names that we were considering on small pieces of paper and put them into a hat. Gayle and I then agreed that we would draw out a name and we would stick to it; that would be the name for our soon-to-be-born baby girl. She agreed, reached in the hat, and pulled out the name Thea. And so when we are asked where we got her name we can truly say that we pulled it out of a hat!  

I remember the moment that I saw Thea for the first time in the delivery room. And I remember how my heart felt when I saw her. I was now the father of a daughter; a beautiful little girl. When she came home from the hospital a few days later she had jaundice and had to spend all her time in what we called her little tanning bed with a blindfold on. And she was perfect! We would sit and watch her sleep in her little brightly lit contraption and we loved her.

Thea has not always had it easy with some of the things that God has brought her way. And she is, for good and for ill, a lot like her father. But she has always had a way of capturing my heart. Among the many other nicknames I have for her I often call her "Theadorable" because I tell her that her father adores her.

Happy birthday Thea. Know that your Father's plans are even grander and richer than the plans I have for you. And as much as I love and adore you, my love will always pale in comparison to His abounding and abundant love for you!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Hosanna!

I remember well coming home from a short term mission trip to Senegal in December of 2006. The day after I returned Gayle sat me down and said, "I think that I might be pregnant." I thought, "No way. There is no way that you are pregnant." But the next day, after at least two pregnancy tests, this fact was confirmed: Gayle was indeed pregnant. She fell on the bed and began to cry and I began to laugh (I think in an attempt to keep from joining her in crying).

It wasn't that we were sad; it was more that we were shocked. We were not planning to have another child. Gayle was 41, we did not have maternity coverage on our insurance, and we were not sure that we were ready for an infant in the house. It was not in our plan. But the shock was short lived as we began to get more and more excited about the thought of having another child.

We had never been very good at picking out and agreeing upon girl's names and we reached our usual baby naming gridlock until Thea (who was 4 at the time) suggested that we name her little sister Hosanna. And we loved the name. Hosanna means "God save us!" It is really a prayer and a plea for God to save and to rescue His people. We chose Grace for her middle name because at this time in our life and ministry God was teaching us a great deal about His abundant grace for His people.  

I cannot even begin to express what joy Hosanna has brought to the life of our family and the heart of her father. We have often said, "What did we do for fun before God gave us Hosanna to entertain us?" Sometimes God's greatest gifts at first come as a shock, but soon after are seen as nothing more than pure grace. In this case, Hosanna Grace. Happy 4th birthday Hosanna!

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is a Disciple?

The word “disciple” is used around 275 times in the New Testament. Though the word is used exclusively in the Gospels and in Acts, the concept of discipleship is found throughout the entire New Testament. The word translated “disciple” simply means “learner” or “pupil” and it carried with it the idea of being a student or a follower of a person. It would have been similar to the modern day idea of apprenticeship where the less experienced learned from the more experienced, seeking to emulate them and their life. The task of the disciple was to learn from their master and to then pass along the teachings of their master to others and thus spread the teaching of the master beyond his own personal realm of influence.

When “disciple” is used in the New Testament it most often applies to followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it refers to the twelve disciples, it is sometimes a reference to a larger group of followers that included the twelve, but went beyond them, and in Acts it is used to refer to all those who are followers of Jesus Christ. This is important to see, because all Christians are disciples of Jesus: we are His followers who are committed to Him and to following Him and His teachings. And as such we are seeking to emulate Him. In Luke 6:40 Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus’ point was that over time the disciple would begin to live as the teacher did.

We could define discipleship like this: Discipleship is learning from God’s Word how to live my life as Jesus would live it, striving to live that way, and teaching others to do the same. So there is a learning component, a doing component where you put what you have learned into practice, and then a teaching component where you take what you have learned and what you are doing and transfer that to others helping them to become disciples as well.

This concept of discipleship is seen in the life of Ezra, a priest and scribe of the fifth century B.C. The direction of Ezra’s life is summed up in Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.” The phrase “set his heart” denotes certainty: Ezra had established that this was simply how it was going to be for his life. He had set his heart upon learning and knowing God’s Word, doing God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to others.

Ezra set his heart to “study the Law of the Lord.” The word “study” has the idea of “seeking or searching for frequently” and conveys a serious desire for something. So for Ezra, God’s Word was not just something that he could either take or leave; it was something in which he had a burning desire and passion to learn and know. Ezra realized that to know God’s Word is to know the God of His Word, so he came to the Bible with a desire to know God.

But Ezra also set his heart to do it. He wanted to be the man that James would later write about who is not just a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word (James 1:22). Studying the Bible and coming to know God in a deeper way is not just an academic exercise, it is a call to action. And God uses His Word to make disciples of Jesus more like their Master as He conforms their lives to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Any study of God’s Word that does not lead to “doing” is not truly fruitful study!

Ezra’s study of the Word that led to his doing of the Word did not end there. He then sought to pass along what he was learning and doing. Ezra taught God’s “statutes and rules in Israel” so that people would come to truly know and experience this God. Teaching is not just standing before a class and giving a lecture. It is sharing your life with others so that they can learn and benefit from what Jesus is doing in your life. Colossians 3:16 gives instruction to every disciple of Jesus when it says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”

I pray that God would give us all a heart like Ezra: a heart that was set upon learning the Word, living the Word, and then teaching the Word. And when we have a heart like that what was said of Ezra may be said of us: “For the good hand of His God was on him” (Ezra 7:9).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"All Senegal for Christ!"


I was recently asked, “Why do you call your ministry ‘All Senegal for Christ’?” That’s a good question that really has
two answers. The first is that we desire all of Senegal to come to faith in Jesus Christ. We often ask ourselves, “What would Senegal be like if it were not 95% Muslim, but were instead 95% Christian?”

But the second reason we say, “All Senegal for Christ” is a bit more personal. In May of 2009 I baptized Abdoulaye Bodian who was the first Christian in the village of
Diouloulou; a village of around 7,000 people. After his baptism he sat on the bank of the river on an old dugout canoe and we made a video of him sharing his testimony of what Jesus had done in his life.

The only problem was that Abdoulaye was so excited he
could not make the video in English; he would only speak French. So he goes on in the video for a few minutes speaking very excitedly and we have no idea what he is saying. But as he comes to a close he begins to point in the direction of some of the surrounding villages and he calls out the village names. Then, with arms raised, he exclaims in English, "All Senegal for Christ!"

That phrase, spoken by a former Muslim who was now a new creation in Christ, truly captured our hearts. Pray for Abdoulaye and pray with us that all Senegal might come to know Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Are you a "doulos"?

It is interesting to notice how the writers of the New Testament refer to themselves in their letters. As the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the church in Rome he writes, “This letter is from Paul, Jesus Christ's slave, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News” (Romans 1:1). James begins his letter by saying, “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). The Apostle Peter starts his second letter by writing, “This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). And the first words of Jude’s letter read, “This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude 1:1). The one thing that they all have in common was that they consider themselves slaves of Jesus. Rather than refer to themselves as church planters or missionaries or leaders, or even referring to themselves exclusively as apostles, they chose to be known as slaves of Jesus.

Slavery was a reality in the first century Roman Empire. Estimates of slavery in that culture vary with some reporting slaves being in upwards of 50% of the population and some showing slaves making up 20% of the population. A realistic number is probably somewhere in between, but whichever figure is true it is more than apparent that slavery flourished in the first century.

While the tasks of slaves varied, one thing that all slaves had in common was that they were the property of someone else. Slaves were considered living tools with each one having an owner. A Roman could buy, rent, or sell a slave as he would any other piece of property. Paul had this truth in mind when he wrote, “Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22b-23a). Jesus, our Master, has paid for us with His life and we are now His possession.

The word “slave” or “bondservant” that is used in the passages above comes from the Greek word doulos and is a word that means “pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something; to be subservient to someone else; one who gives himself up wholly to another’s will.” So as slaves of Jesus we are now to be completely controlled by and subservient to Him. As His followers we are to give ourselves up wholly to His will and live for Him and not for ourselves.

But a slave of Jesus lives not just to serve Jesus, but also to serve others. 1 Corinthians 9:19 says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” A Christian’s servitude to Jesus is lived out in the service of others. A person who is a slave of Jesus will follow the example of their Master who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” so that He could serve us by dying on the cross in our place and for our sins (Philippians 2:7-8).

Are you able to refer to yourself as many of the New Testament writers did: a slave of Jesus? Begin today to live life as a slave of Jesus Christ and experience the grace and love of the Master who says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Without Words Wednesday

Fourth of July water balloon launch!


Ez with some of his new friends
Hiking with some friends in the DuPont Forest


Thea getting ready to ride the falls!

The Girls!

Picnic off the Blue Ridge Parkway



Friday, July 15, 2011

You know you're in intercultural training when...

A few weeks ago those of us who will be living in remote areas of the world met at our apartment and had a crash-course on suturing by Dr. Scott (a student at CIT). With a half-dozen fresh pig's feet spread out on our dining room table we practiced stitching and stapling up cuts. I am not sure that we are ready for the real thing or not, but if you have a wounded pig please do not hesitate to call us!  





"Gayle, let me show you how to do this. I have been
stitching up pig's feet for over 20 minutes now."
Ez even got in on the action by stapling the pigs cut.
The finished product!