Like Thursday of Passion Week, there was no activity recorded for night #2.
Night #3, as mentioned previously
, was "outreach through flatulence" night. I skipped the chilinalia in favor of demolishing a huge mound of nachos and a fish & chips dinner at a nearby Denny's, which only served to confirm to me the mediocre quality of their food. It also reminded me why it isn't a good idea to "consume mass quantities" after not having eaten all day, as I had to, shall we say, "use the facilities" before I even got to the church building. This created a potential problem because not only did I arrive several minutes late (natch) but I feared I'd miss the beginning of the first missionary field report while "enthroned."
Fortunately my exit from the loo coincided with the beginning of said missionary's comments.
His name is Stephen Jordan. He, his wife Ginger, and their daughters Rebekah and Abagail, serve with New Tribes Mission
in the Philippines. They live and serve amongst the Agutaynen people on Palawan and have begun to study their language and build relationships.
Their ongoing prayer request is that their lives will bring glory to God and draw the Agutaynens to Himself. And as Mr. Jordan related it, the burden they have on their hearts for these people has grown so large that they are moving up their return to the Philippines from July to April - just after the arrival of their third child.
What's the hurry? The building response of the Agutaynen people. Mr. Jordan spoke of a recent church dedication in a village two hours away from their home base. A bus with a seating capacity of fifty was earmarked to take parishioners to the dedication. Three times that many people showed up to go.
Another factor is that they're finally getting the additional "warm bodies" to help them. Two families, to be precise, and God's hand was clearly seen in the overcoming of a housing obstacle for one of them.
Finally, the very cultural obstacles that they have to overcome to reach the Agutaynens. Native superstitions are deeply ingrained. When babies are born, items such as ginger pouches and bullet casings are affixed to the little ones as talismanic "good luck"/anti-evil spirit charms. They also harbor a quasi-Nazarite belief that strength and vitality come from hair length. Convincing their people that none of these things matter, that all anybody truly needs is to repent and trust in Christ as Savior and LORD, must come across as an exhortation to use a smile as your umbrella during monsoon season.
But it's the Holy Spirit that works in the hearts of men (and women). Missionaries' task is to make the Gospel known to the "four corners" of the globe.
This made for a nice segue into the remarks of the conference's keynote speaker, Kameel Kilada. Mr. Kilada, his wife Rachel, and their half dozen kids, serve with Middle Eastern Missionary Organization (MEMO)
in Spain and, that's right, Egypt.
MEMO has as its primary goal to place national missionaries strategically in Arab countries. In recent years, the LORD has also opened new doors for ministry in Spain, both among Moroccan immigrants and for the broadcast of Arabic Gospel radio programs from that vantage point in North African countries. Mr. Kilada frequently visits the field to encourage local workers, to help them meet new challenges in their ministries, and to provide them with the tools they need for expanding their work. The Kiladas also maintain the mission's home office where they work closely with the board of directors, raise support for national missionaries, provide awareness seminars on Islam and the Arab world, produce written materials, videos, and CDs, and manage an Arabic/English website for evangelism and leadership training.
Not to be intemperate to the theme of this post, but this man has a set on him. Given the frenzied, desperate state of Islazism across the Middle East these days, and the recent jihad perpetrated against a family of Egyptian Christian emigres in New Jersey, it takes boldness aplenty to continue to go to Egypt and oversee the "planting" of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such manifestly hostile "soil."
But Mr. Kilada is a bold man, who freely acknowledges and emphasizes that that courage comes from God as a result of the prayers of the saints offered up on his behalf.
That was the core theme of his remarks. Prayer is the foundation of God's work, including the mission field (Luke 10:2
). It opens doors and facilitates clear preaching of the Word (Colossians 4:2-4
). And it stirs up new hands to reap the harvest of souls all over the world.
In that context, Mr. Kilada set out some interesting population trends. For example, there are approximately 200,000 Christian missionaries worldwide to reach a global population of 6.5 billion. A quick bit of tapping on your trusty ten-key tells you that that's one missionary for every 32,500 people. A rather daunting task, huh? Now let's massage those numbers further. Of those 200,000 missionaries, only 96,000 of them serve outside their home countries. In an American context, that's one missionary for every 64,583 people. But don't stop there. Of those 96,000, only 38,000 serve both outside their own country and
their own culture - i.e. in a non-Western or Westernized locale.
What was the point of this seemingly veiled rebuke? That missionary work is not a hobby, or an excuse for travel or vacations or globe-trotting, or a resume-enhancer, or an act of penance to work off guilt. It is a calling, a full-time vocation, and an act of self-sacrifice. It is leaving everything behind and going where God tells you to go to be used as God would use you. It is saying, "Here am I, LORD, send me."
Sermon outlines oftentimes make use of the alliterative template, and Mr. Kilada's was no different. It can be summarized as follows:
1) Recruitment - praying for the calling of new missionaries
2) Response - God answering those prayers by inspiring more workers to join in the harvest
3) Resources - Missionaries trusting in God to provide for their needs, and the supporting churches giving towards them as God moves them
4) Receptivity - God opening doors in other parts of the world for missionaries to go in and proclaim the Gospel
5) Regurgitation - Proclaming the Gospel and trusting God to provide the optimal means of doing so as the situation requires
6) Rescue - God's protection of His workers in the field, who oftentimes face danger and death fro the Gospel's enemies
7) Results - Bringing the harvest in as the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts and minds of the lost
The common thread running through that progression, as in the Christian walk in general, is faith. Not a blind faith, as we have God's Word to guide us. But rather a faith that is total and transcends circumstances. A faith that trusts God no matter what happens, even in the depths of despair. A faith that looks utterly irrational to the mind of the "natural man
," but without which it is impossible to please God
Oftentimes this means not trying to make things happen by your own efforts, but waiting for God to provide. Tell me that
isn't counter-intuitive. Mr. Kilada related an anecdote that was wonderfully illustrative (he related several, actually, but I'll stick to this one).
When he was first called into ministry, he did what he thought was the responsible, even faithful, thing to do: he sold his Stateside house, intending to use the proceeds as seed money for his Egyptian ministry. No sooner had he deposited the funds in an Egyptian bank, however, than he discovered that they had disappeared. Every last red cent. Whether it was a mistake, or bureaucratic incompetence, or the sort of kleptocratic corruption all too typical of Third World despotisms, Mr. Kilada and his wife and then-three young children were stuck in a hostile country with no money and no way to get back to the U.S.
At that point he did what any believer would do: he got on his knees and cried out to God. Not in a fist-shaking, self-pity-fest of heavenward recriminations, but in the sense of, "Okay, LORD, you called me here and now you've let this happen, so what do I do now?"
The lesson Mr. Kilada says God taught him was that in trying to finance his own way to the mission field, he was not relying upon God, and therefore wasn't following God's plan. Since God called him, God would also pave the way for the ministry He intended Mr. Kilada to pursue.
So he sat back and waited on God. And God provided. He put it on the hearts of other Egyptian believers to provide financial support. Checks started showing up like manna from the sky. Doors started opening. Thus did MEMO gestate and develop, as it still does to this day.
It's a heady thing, faith, especially at that level. A level, I should hasten to add, that I've never reached. But who knows? I may have to one day, perhaps sooner than I know. Because, as is also a recurring them of the conference, all believers are called to missions, whether on the other side of the planet or in our own neighborhoods and communities.
As I alluded, Mr. Kilada has grapefruits, indeed. Still not convinced? He told us that God has laid a special outreach burden on his heart - for Saudi Arabia
That'd be the biggest coup since the Ten Plagues
. And just as indicative of His unchallengable power and unparallel lovingkindness.
Parallel to the main program was a children's conference. Friday night began with the Atkins, who spoke Wednesday
, and Andrew Prout.
Mr. Prout is affiliated with Christar
and serves in Pakistan, another decidedly ballsy assignment. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a T.H.M in New Testament Studies. He has "missioned" in Turkey and India as well, and has been active in Pakistan for the past four years as a lecturer at Zarapheth Bible Institute in Rawalpindi. He is currently on furlough in the Seattle area and is slated to return to the Middle East in mid-May.
Day #4 began with a men's breakfast I was unable to attend. The featured speaker was Steve Van Horn, who serves with his wife Brenda in International Training & Equipping Ministries
. Dr. Van Horn is ITEM's founder and president. He established the organization as an international ministry in 2003, although he birthed its forerunner while in Nairobi, Kenya teaching theology. ITEM exists to provide training for pastors and church leaders in the world who do not have easy access to formal theological education.
Mrs. Kilada spoke to the ladies' luncheon.
This evening, which I was also unable to attend due to a prior commitment, Mr. Kilada again headlined, following a field report from Steve & Sarah Holmes.
The Holmes work with New Tribes Mission
in Paraguay, where they serve as church planters. NTM is committed to planting churches among tribal peoples who have no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - the ultimate fulfillment of the Great Commission