Do you know what it’s like when your phone wakes you in the middle of the night, when you’re in a strange bed, in a hotel room, after 24 hours of travel, several time zones away from home, in Madrid? No? I didn’t either until it happened to me at 2:30 am on March 12.
Joy, my wife, said over the phone, “The president just announced no more flights from Europe. I thought you’d want to know sooner rather than later.”
Wow! That was quite a wake-up call! I was traveling in Spain on a tour with my father and my son Teddy. We had arrived in Madrid the previous afternoon. During those first minutes my mind raced through what ifs, what abouts, and worst-case scenarios. A film festival of disaster movies started to take over my brain. Then we stopped and prayed. My focus changed, and God moved into the picture. I went back to sleep. I felt confident that God would provide a path home and would guard our health and safety, or he would have a good reason not to do so.
We learned more details about the restrictions in a few hours. The situation wasn’t as dire as we thought at first. During the next two days, we had the privilege of touring Madrid, Córdoba, and Sevilla, and then Spain’s government started going into lock-down. By Saturday we had tickets to JFK. On Sunday we were on our way home. Monday night my son and I were back in Tennessee sleeping in our own beds.
As we stepped off the plane at JFK airport in New York, we were greeted by people in protective gear. One of them took the form I had filled out about my state of health and our itinerary in Europe. A young man scanned my temperature, and a woman handed me an instruction card. “Stay home for 14 days. Take your temperature twice a day. Call your doctor if you feel sick.” So that’s what we’ve been doing. We show no symptoms seven days later. God is good!
Psalm 40 has come to my mind multiple times over the past several days.
1. I waited patiently for the Lord (v. 1). When you’re waiting on God, you’re not wasting time. Our waiting should be purposeful and expectant. God is going to do something amazing!
2. He inclined to me and heard my cry (v. 1). If you only get to make one call, make it to God. He’ll hear your cry. He leans in, listens to your plea, and comes to help.
3. He drew me up from the pit of destruction,out of the miry bog (v. 2).
When you’re up to your ears in mud, feeling hopeless and helpless, raise your hand. God will grab hold and pull you out.
4. And set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure (v. 2). Faith isn’t built on thin air. When you stand on God’s promises, you’re on solid rock.
5. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (v. 3). Sing and praise God. Your spirit will be renewed whether your circumstances improve or not.
6. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord (v. 3) Your trust in God will be contagious. When fear and insecurity are prevalent, a testimony of confident trust in God will be a beacon of hope.
On Saturday morning March 14, everyone in our tour group was busy trying to make plane reservations. Teddy was on his laptop. After working hard to arrange travel for the three of us, he helped others. He made a great impression on people. Our tour guide said, “He restores my hope for young people.” That made me happy. I think it pleased his heavenly Father too.
I was sitting off by myself on a hotel luggage cart, with head bowed and eyes closed. “Are you sick?” asked one of the other travelers, probably worried that I’d caught the virus.
“No,” I replied, “I’m praying.”
“Oh! Then say a prayer for me!” he laughed.
Like most people, I have a hard time accepting when things happen that I don’t control. When I stop and think about it, I realize that nearly every variable circumstance is beyond my control. I want to think that I’m analyzing, planning, and acting in charge, but in truth I’m wholly dependent on the sovereign God who loves me more than I can imagine. He works all things for my good and for his glory. Why do I often struggle against his will and doubt his good intentions?
I don’t know when this will all be over or how it will turn out, but I’m blessed to be trusting the God who does.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.
We recently heard our ministry founder and team leader George Collins say: “We want to keep the spotlight on our national partners and what they are doing around the world.” One way the Live Global team does this is by informing you of excellent projects that our partners are accomplishing in some of the world’s most challenging places. We encourage you to get involved in these projects by praying, giving, or even going to serve alongside our partners where needed. All of these projects lead to evangelism, discipleship, and church planting by sharing Good News of Jesus Christ through word and deed.
Examples of great Live Global projects
Here are some interesting examples that you may want to learn more about:
Church planting among oppressed people: The Akha Light Foundation shares the Gospel, makes disciples and plants churches among the Akha refugees in Thailand and surrounding nations. https://liveglobal.org/akha-people/
West Park Baptiste Church in Knoxville, TN held their annual global conference from February 23 to March 1. Because “Live Global” was the theme of the conference, many of the featured speakers were our team leaders and teammates. The conference highlighted the outstanding work of our teammates and partners around the world.
Live Global Leaders Spoke to Local Pastors
On Monday morning of the conference, many pastors and representatives of local churches met for breakfast at West Park to hear from Live Global leaders. George, Andrew, and Matt shared stories about how the ministry of partnership and relationships with national ministry workers started and grew. Additionally, they shared our vision of adding many new teammates and contributors from churches across the USA to serve partners around the world.
Our Part in the Conference
We had the opportunity to participate during the whole week of the conference by sharing our ministry vision with small and large groups. Tony and Joy spoke to Adult Bible Fellowships. Then we greeted the congregation in a worship service and gave them a brief update. At lunchtime on Tuesday, we shared stories with a large gathering of senior adults. Our son Teddy spoke to a couple of the groups. He did an outstanding job.
We have been amazed at how God has brought individuals, couples, families, and churches into partnership with us during our first months as part of the Live Global team. Our goal for February was to reach 33% of our monthly support. We surpassed that goal and started toward our next one which is 50% by the end of May. It looks like we will have added a two more partners in March and two existing partners increased their monthly commitment! When all of the giving for March is recorded, we will be well on our way to crashing through the 50% mark by May. God is doing great things for us.
Coronavirus creates some challenges
In the current COVID-19 crisis we understand that no one knows what will happen in the coming months. Many people are uncomfortable making partnership commitments for monthly giving. We understand that, and we’re adjusting our ministry conversations accordingly. At this uncertain time we most urgently need to pray for one another. We will be seeking partnership in prayer: we’ll commit to pray for you, and please pray for us. More importantly we ask our partners to be attentive to our newsletters and other means of communication from Live Global to pray for our partners around the world, who are serving Jesus in difficult places during challenging times. They desperately need all of us to pray. Thank you.
Several years ago, Stephen and Robin Wright visited our church in Manta. They were recent retirees from Missouri, working on their Spanish and getting settled in the community. Steve and Robin said that they were Members on Mission from their home church, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, MO. Their plan was to lend a hand in churches and ministries, and to be available to assist missionaries however they could. Since then we’ve grown to love and appreciate the Wrights. They have become our friends, and have become part of our church family. The Wrights have assisted Iglesia Bíblica Bautista in Manta to build a relationship with their home church.
Short-term missions with a purpose
During the past few years Pleasant Valley has sent visitors and teams to observe, to pray, to serve, to assist, to evangelize, to train, and to build relationships. Their philosophy for short term mission trips is not to do things “for” the national church. They want to do things “with” the national church. They hope to enable and inspire our IBB Manta church family to reach their community for Christ. Then the church can extend its reach, and do missions as they’ve observed and participated with the Pleasant Valley teams. Cultural barriers erode and bonds fellowship have developed.
In September, PVBC sent a medical team to do outreach with the Manta church in the communities immediately around the church building. Medical professionals form Missouri worked with their colleagues from Manta. The Manta church family took responsibility for evangelism and follow-up of every person who came to seek medical attention. People’s physical needs were cared for, and their spiritual need was addressed too. Several people came to faith in Christ as a result.
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Missions Conference at First Baptist Church of Friendsville
First Baptist Church of Friendsville, TN has been one of our key partner churches for the past several years. Pastor Bill Gowder and the whole church family have been true friends in the Gospel. Besides regular support, they have been very generous with annual special offerings for our ministry and have sent 3 short-term teams to serve with the church in Manta, Ecuador. They have built some excellent relationships with the church family there and have made a lasting impact. In August it was our privilege to join several other missionaries from their team for two Sundays and for times of fellowship around the theme of Carrying the Light. We would enjoy serving your church during a missions conference. Let’s make plans for 2020.
From June 22 to July 6 our family made a trip to Ecuador. All of us attended church services at Iglesia Bíblica Bautista in Manta. We spent time with church leaders and encouraged the church family. It was a joy to see the church moving forward and God working in people’s lives. Most of our family possessions were still in our home in Ecuador. We chose some items for the trip home in our suitcases; packed others for shipment; sold furniture, appliances and household goods; and gave away the rest. It was hard work and was emotionally challenging, but it served to provide some closure for all of us. Thank you for your prayers for our family.
Recently we received a large donation for the purpose of making improvements to the church building in Manta. The donor indicated a desire to improve the exterior areas of the building. The project provided improved walkways, new benches, plants, a cook-out area, and a secure garage entrance with a parking area. Now the interior patio of the church building is a comfortable place to gather for fellowship before and after church services, and makes a much more appealing impression than it did before. We are very grateful.