Posts Tagged ‘missionaries’

I recently traveled to Kenya to support some friends who are serving in an orphanage and school in Nairobi. It was an awesome trip and I was greatly encouraged by the Davis family’s faithfulness in serving the Lord and the dozens of young people under their charge. I told a friend last night that the trip was amazing, but somehow that word really isn’t sufficient. My wife and I travel for leisure a fair amount and seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, and making new friends is not a new experience for me. My common response is that a trip is “amazing”. This was so much more than that. It was inspiring. It was hard work. It was uplifting talking to LJ and Danee about the work. It was wonderful to hear from the Lord frequently and be able to obey with the encouragement and activity that He directed.


It weighed on my heart to see the poverty, filth, and lack of opportunity that is so much more prevalent than in the USA (or any of the places we travel to for fun). But as heavy as that was, the light of God’s goodness in the work being carried out stood out in stark, highly desirable contrast. There are many lessons that I have taken from the trip. Some were fully formed while I was there. Some are still being processed. Yesterday we hosted friends for our home group and the Lord brought a new consideration to light that I want to share today.

Maturing in faith and becoming a seasoned Christian will always include steps out of our comfort zone. In fact, growth as a believer will be an on-going series of steps that progressively move us from a place of comfort and ease into new territory that will often be a little scary and uncomfortable. But it is in stepping into the new that we learn to trust in Jesus’s presence and provision more than our own abilities and strength. I used to think that the word comfort meant ease and leisure. The actual root of the term comfort means “with strength”. Com = with, fort comes from the same root as fortress or fortification – a place of strength. When we are comforted, we are given strength to endure whatever difficulty, trial, or challenge we are encountering. Being comforted is a good thing. Being comfortable is in itself not a bad thing. However, as I have discussed in previous posts, there are times when the good can become an enemy of the best. And God wants the best for His children.

So what is the problem with being comfortable and why does God want us to move out of our comfort zone? The issue is not that God is a killjoy. Joy, comfort, and peace are great gifts He provides. But these are by-products not the end product. The end is a deepening relationship with Him and a greater intimacy with the lover of our soul. It is God’s desire that each one of us grow to know Him so well that we live in constant communion with Him. Prayer without ceasing is more than a pious platitude, it is an accurate description of the life God wants to lead us into. Which is where our personal comfort zone can become a hindrance rather than a good thing.

The Creator of the universe is without limits. His love is truly beyond our comprehension, but He wants us to experience it in ever greater amounts. To do so often means we must let go of our existing beliefs and understanding to experience the next greater level of His love. The same is true of His wisdom, His faithfulness, His mercy, His grace. Each time we let go of our current state of satisfaction and lean into a holy hunger for more of Him, we will experience a stretching and growth that reveals more of God’s nature, and by definition, will result in a degree of loss of the negatives of the world’s perspective. For me personally, this stretching often includes a letting go of self-reliance in some area to gain a greater God-reliance.

I saw this in Kenya. It was evident in my friends LJ and Danee. Masai Village-14It was also true in me. God’s specific word to LJ was “to prepare the land”. The orphanage had fallen into disrepair. Mismanagement had resulted in the loss of the license as a children’s home and much of the 14-acre compound was overgrown with brush and vegetation. The entire family responded to the call to prepare the land. Now for many of us, traveling overseas can be a daunting experience. That increases when the travel is to a third world country. Raise it another notch when we are placed next to the 2nd largest slum in the world. Kibera Children's Center-43Oh, for good measure, take the entire family with children ages 15, 14, 13, and 9 in tow. Kibera Children's Center-53I know very few people who would be able to be stretched that far. But the path the Lord has led Danee and LJ on has been a path of consistent next steps of trusting God as they go a little further out of their comfort zone, only to see Him provide exactly what was needed after each step.

While I was there, I witnessed LJ assuming the new role of overall Operations Manager for the entire compound. By his own admission, LJ is a country boy from rural South Carolina. He did not aspire to running an orphanage and school, but as I witnessed while I was there, LJ and Danee are faithfully doing whatever is required in leading, guiding, and serving the community. And the land itself is beginning to flourish. A ¾ acre vegetable garden is up and growing. Kibera Children's Center-91Soon it will be a major supplement to the food provisions for the 84 children getting their meals at LifeSpring. The livestock are multiplying. The third fluffle of rabbits are being nurtured and rabbit hutches were built while I was there.


Chickens roam the grounds during the day with baby chicks sticking close to mama hen for protection. Goats graze on grass where brambles once grew. To support the growing campus, LJ has hired widows and young men in desperate need of employment. The land is well on its way to being prepared.

LJ’s work as an instrument and controls technician prepared him for some of the work. I chuckle though because Google has come to the rescue many times as they encounter new situations they have never dealt with before. (Like letting me know that a group of baby bunnies is called a fluffle!) In one instance they were talking to one of the widows who had been hired to tend the garden. In Kenya all the schools are in English, so if you have had the benefit of attending school you are liable to speak decent English. This widow, who cares for her grandchild in the Kibera slum, knows zero English therefore she has never been to school. Kibera Children's Center-98Trying to communicate to her that LJ had bought four tin sheets to replace the plastic she was living under in Kibera was both humorous and deeply touching. Google translate had to translate into Swahili so the widow could understand that some men would be coming by to help her. Kenyans don’t cry. Stoic persistence to survive doesn’t leave room for expressing much emotion, but the emotion flickered on her face when she realized the act of kindness being done for her. Kibera Children's Center-93

LJ and Danee went to Kenya following the Lord’s clear leading. But following the Lord’s leading and knowing all that we are getting into are often two different things. In some cases, the Father will give us a degree of insight into what’s ahead. I think of Paul the apostle heading to Jerusalem where he would be arrested. God clearly told him to go to Jerusalem. And he was also clearly told that difficulty was ahead. But God gave Paul an assurance that walking this difficult path was God’s will and that God would be with him. Paul was called out of his comfort zone over and over again. In stepping into God’s call out of the comfort zone and into the unknown, Paul grew into the apostle God created him to be. Today the Church is blessed because of Paul’s faithfulness in living outside of his comfort zone since much of the New Testament was written by Paul.

As the Lord opened my eyes to the reality of our growth as believers being tied to stepping out of our comfort zone, I realized all the saints in the Word were taken out of their comfort zone. Abraham left his family, his land, and ventured many long and difficult miles to a “promised” land. There was comfort in the land of Haran, but God’s call was to step out and follow Him. Mary was a young woman engaged to a kind carpenter, when an angel said you have been chosen but it will take you out of your comfort zone. Mary said “let it be done to me as you have said” and she stepped out of her comfort zone and into God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. Jesus was a good Jewish lad, well versed in the law, but God had a plan and a call upon His life. Jesus was unique. He was fully God, but at the same time fully human. Being fully human, He experienced a degree of comfort as a carpenter’s son, then apprentice, and finally working as a carpenter in His own right. But when God said step out of your comfort zone and into my call upon your life He did. Jesus ministered for three years outside of His comfort zone – forty days fasting in the desert, speaking to crowds that wanted signs and wonders, but not necessarily the all-in life with God He was espousing, doing battle with the persons of power and influence who chaffed at His familiarity with God, and finally suffering a painful and humiliating torture and execution at the hands of both Roman authorities and Jewish leaders. Jesus modeled a life of stretching our human boundaries of comfort in faithful response to God’s call to something better, something richer, to life in union with God and His unique plan for each person.

Friends I am deeply stirred that God has a call upon every person into a life that is beyond amazing. He has a call upon you. But it is a journey that will frequently take us out of our comfort zone. God will ask us to step in faith in Him and not in sight by using our own wisdom and strength. We will have to rely upon Him. We will be stretched. At times it won’t be “fun”. At times it will even be difficult. But as we listen and lean upon Him, He will be with us to bring about His good will in us and through us. And this is so much better than the “good” we might experience in the comfort zone. Because it is the best.

What burden or desire has the Lord put on your heart that gets shelved because it is outside your comfort zone?

Where do you see injustice, need, or sin that really pushes your buttons, but thus far you have done little beyond complain about it?

Do you have a passion for something the Word says to do, yet thus far you have not truly considered the possibility of you doing something just because?

Take a few moments and ask the Father to bring your next step into clear focus. Ask with a willingness to take the next step. Realize these will not usually be huge leaps out of the blue, but a gradual revelation where God draws you to a faith place that makes each progressive step a stretch, but doable with a little courage and trust in the One Who has provided for you in the past. For the Davis’ it was a few years walking out many progressive next steps into mission work. For me going over to help them was similar, taking about a year of progressive faith steps. Having been, my faith is stirred to help even more. Will I be more comfortable? Walking in God’s grace and lifted by His love, I reckon I have all the strength a person needs. So the answer has to be yes, but in a new way. When we walk His path, taking new steps into the unknown that He directs we will be comforted with His great comfort. And that is way better than just being comfortable.

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The sales person pitching their wares will often tout their product with the line “An opportunity so huge you won’t want to miss it.”  If we listen just a little we are drawn in and before we realize it we are purchasing this must-have item that 30 minutes before had never seriously crossed our minds.  Such is the power of salesmanship.  There are amazing opportunities in life, but the majority of them arrive without the fanfare of a huckster working the crowd to drum up business.  In fact the greatest opportunities are often disguised as challenges, a difficulties, or a crisis.  Today the world faces a number of major challenges.  That means we are on the cusp of some amazing opportunities.  In times of trouble it is imperative that we fix our eyes on the Lord and follow His leading for the crisis to be transformed into the blessing that He can bring.  Let’s look at one of the opportunities today.

The rise of ISIS (and Iran) in the Middle East is a major crisis.    I have been perplexed by the lack of outcry from more moderate Muslims over the violent actions by ISIS.  We don’t know all the motivations, but I assume fear of being targeted by the extremists is part of it.  However my recent study of the subject reveals that the true nature of Islam is revealed in the rhetoric and actions of ISIS.  If we peal away the politically correct rhetoric and misrepresentations of the “religion of peace” and get to the heart of the teachings of Islam, we find a movement that is commanded to achieve world domination through whatever means necessary.  Lying and violence to achieve the spread of Islam is not just condoned, it is encouraged.  This is a sobering realization and one that is vitally important that we grasp.  What Hitler wanted to do in the name of the Aryan race, ISIS wants to do in the name of Allah.

Up to this point my prayer has been, “Lord please stop ISIS.”  “Lord, please protect our soldiers.”  “Lord, please give our leaders wisdom in dealing with ISIS.”  But yesterday I realized I was missing the opportunity that lies before us, an opportunity that I believe the Father wants us to participate in through our intercession.  That is the evangelization of the Muslim world.  You see, the Muslim faith exerts very strong restraining pressure to keep people from leaving the faith.  From the total loss of family and friends to loss of life, the negative societal implications for a Muslim to convert to another faith is practically overwhelming.  Yet today the stark, brutal nature of the religion and its moral bankruptcy when compared to the teachings of Jesus have never been more clear.  This presents an opportunity to reach moderate Muslims with the true Gospel of peace.

We support a dear family that has been ministering in Muslim lands in central Asia for 11 years.  They recently relocated to a country very close to Iraq.  Obviously I have been praying for their safety.  They answered God’s call to missions as a newlywed couple and now, four children later, they minister as a family of six dedicated souls.  The Lord has laid it upon their hearts to find people of peace.  These are Muslims who God has put the notion in their heart that there is something more, something greater, and they are willing to ask questions that Islam forbids.  In their last place of service the Lord brought a young Muslim family into their life because one member had a vivid dream of Jesus coming and speaking to them.

Our opportunity is to join with the Lord in praying these divine encounters into being.  There are many Muslims right now who are scared and searching.  While ISIS is making a big show of their brutality to westerners, they are that much and more brutal off-camera toward moderate Muslims.  This is a time when the door of opportunity to reach a very hard people group with the gospel exists.  Jesus specifically commanded His followers to pray for this in Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2.  From Luke, Jesus told them, “The harvest in plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Here are a few specifics that the Lord has put on my heart to pray for as well as suggestions our missionary friends have offered as prayer points.

1) Pray for the Lord to stir the hearts of Muslim people to seek Him.  This will include supernatural visitations of God’s power.

2) Pray for the Missionaries to make contacts with “people of peace” in other faiths who are open to talking about the gospel and truth.

3) Pray for protection, including invisibility from the enemy during the crucial formative stages of this movement.

4) Pray a hedge of protection for the missionaries, their families, and the new converts that God will bring into the body.

5) Pray for courage for Muslims to take their next steps and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

6) Pray for Muslim families to convert so that home churches can begin in their homes.

7) Pray for provision for this work to go forward.  Provision is first God’s hand directing and leading all these efforts.  Second it is the prayer covering that we are talking about right now.  Third, it is the meeting of the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of those engaged in this work.

May the Lord bless you today with His mercy in abundance as you go forth to love and serve the Lord.

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