Bringing A Living Hope to the Unreached

I followed the line of four Muslim men into the back of the crowded restaurant. These were men of standing, of influence, so they seated us in a private room in the back of the gold-tiled, smoke-filled restaurant.

Waiters threw down a pan overflowing with skewers of mutton…and sheep kidney. “Kidney is good for your kidneys!” the men proclaimed and laughed hard, eating the whole time. I grinned and tried my best to put on a “happy face” that would make my mom proud.

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“Lamb Skewers (yangrou chuan’r 羊肉串)” by Jen Leung licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I hadn’t expected this reception and hadn’t hoped for sheep kidney kabobs, but I came for an old friend.

One of the men at the table was my first language tutor when my family and I moved to East Asia in 2007.  He comes from a very unreached Muslim people group and, though I shared the Gospel with him then, he seemed interested mainly in intellectual pursuits.

His educational passion took him around the world, but now at 34 years old he works in a rural university area outside our poor city. It’s bleak, arid and lonely – which is how he felt and why I came.

Timothy* walked close next to me, the cold, dry wind whipping between us. The rest of the men walked ten steps behind us. He looked me in the eye: “My mother died two months ago.”

Tears welled up in his eyes. “I spent almost all my money to pay for her hospital bills.” His mother and father are both dead; his siblings have their own families; he is unmarried.

He feels so very alone.

What can I say to someone like that? I have a few moments with him, and then I leave and return to my home, my wife, my kids…my Jesus! We’re separated by language, culture, economics, religion, and history. What can I say to show him love?

I’m praying in my head as we walk together, “Father! Help me! Help this man! Open His eyes and give Him hope in You Lord Jesus! What can I say, Lord? What can I say?”

I didn’t say much.

That night, he sent me a text thanking me for coming. But it felt so lifeless, so empty to be thanked for coming to eat kidney, for listening, and for aching so much for this hurting soul to find peace in Christ. I want Timothy to know Jesus and His resurrection power. A Living Hope – that’s what Timothy needs.

Doing this work is hard. Days like that just leave me aching for Jesus to come back, to rescue us, to bring us home. It’s a sacrifice on too many levels to list.

But at the end of the day, despite the pain, the suffering, the sacrifice, the helpless, the trial and on and on, I’m still convinced that this is one of the most privileged positions to be in on the planet – to proclaim to those who have never heard that indeed Jesus is risen! It’s among the highest honors given to men to proclaim the glory of King Jesus.

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”  – Romans 10:14-15

Have you thought about joining God’s great plan of taking His glory global? What if you gave one year of your life to preach the Gospel among the unreached? I want to invite you to consider it. Come join us for the Sowers Project – one year bringing the Gospel to people who haven’t heard.

* Name Changed for Security Reasons

5 Things a Missionary Team Leader Must Never Forget

I’ve been a team leader for almost 8 years now.  If I could sit my (much younger) self down right now, I’d tell myself not to forget five key things:

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“Father and Son Going fishing near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at Sunrise” by Matthew Paulson licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1.) Don’t forget your family. Paul, sharing with Timothy about what kind of man God has in mind to lead His church, spends the most time talking about managing your household well. (See 1 Tim 3:4-5)

Why is managing your household important? Managing one’s family life translates directly to managing God’s household.

Mission teams are no exception, and we can so easily forget this. Forgetting your family, not caring for them spiritually, not seeking their good, selfishly neglecting them (and often calling it a “sacrifice”) for the sake of your ministry, is a quick way to a lot of pain and burnout, or worse. Managing your household well equips, empowers, and qualifies you to manage other ministry responsibilities well.

Don’t forget your family.

2.) Don’t forget your Christian heritage. Although Christianity has been around a long time, for some reason, missionaries like to come overseas and brush aside thousands of years of Biblical and wise patterns of church functioning.

I’ve observed countless missionaries who view church attendance as “optional.” I’ve witnessed missionaries do away with commissioning qualified church leadership in new church plants because it slows down the “movement.” I’ve seen the Bible as the authoritative Word of God supplanted by other literature – or even their own thoughts or practical experience.

Beware, leader! Beware leaving behind thousands of years of wisdom for fleeting and passing “missionary methods”! Beware redefining that which has transformed lives and peoples and nations and cultures for centuries past!

Don’t forget your Christian heritage.

3.) Don’t forget that Jesus unifies. In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer paints a beautiful picture of how unity happens. Imagine a room filled with pianos, all out of tune. Then imagine someone tuning the first piano, then going to the next piano and tuning that piano to the first one, the next piano to that one, and so on. What do you get at the end? A room filled with out of tune pianos.

Imagine the scene again, but this time the piano tuner pulls out a tuning fork. One by one, the piano tuner tunes each piano to the tuning fork, to the standard. What do you have at the end? A room filled with pianos, all in tune.

So it is with Christ. He is our standard and to Him we must look, must be “in tune” with! So much time and energy can be spent trying to unify your team (social gatherings, discussions, meetings, retreats, etc.), and these things have their place and value, but this most-essential, foundational principle cannot be forgotten: turn your (spiritual) eyes and your team’s eyes to Jesus!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.

In the light of His glory and grace.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Hymn

Don’t forget that Jesus unifies.

4.) Don’t forget your God. This is something you already know.  Walking closely with God is the most important thing you can do while you’re overseas.  He is your strength, your life, your help, your hope, and if you do not continue in deep intimacy with Him, you lose sight of it all. Like a plant without sun, you will shrivel.

The shocking thing is not this truth; it’s that knowing this truth, you will quickly forget it.  The busyness of life, family, ministry, platform, and on and on will come and take your eyes off the One you went to serve.  In no time at all, what originally was about Him and borne of our knowing Him, becomes all about you.

He is your Source.  As one of Hudson Taylor’s favorite hymns says:

Jesus I am resting, resting.

In the joy of what Thou art

I am finding out the greatness 

Of Thy loving heart.

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting, Hymn

Don’t forget your God.

5.) Don’t forget that Jesus loves you. Sometimes I call this “Kindergarten Christianity”; its so simple, so fundamental that kids sing about it in Sunday School.

But its all too often forgotten. I, too, forget it.

The Apostle Paul, talking about the new life in Christ, says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

“Who loved me and gave himself for me.” Just think of that: Jesus truly loves YOU! That phrase alone is worth a lifetime of meditation. He loved you before you even trusted Him, while His enemy. He loved you before you ever “did” something for the Kingdom. And He loves you now – no matter what you “do for Him” or not. What amazing grace!

Every day – through His Word, prayer and meditation, by the power of the Holy Spirit – press this truth deep in your soul.

Don’t forget that Jesus loves you.

5 Ways You Can Love Missionaries Better

Relationships between missionaries and supporters can suffer from a confusing paradox. Missionaries want to be loved well by sending churches and supporters, but it can seem self-centered to talk about. Supporters want to love overseas missionaries better, but they often simply don’t know how.

The result is silence. The missionary is left wondering if they have been forgotten, and the supporters continue on in ignorance.

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“La Vieille Lettre / The Old Letter” by JulienDft_Photo licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

However, these relationships are vital, and silence shouldn’t be acceptable. Missionaries needs these interactions to be encouraged in their work. Supporters need these interactions to have a better understanding of God’s work in the world.

So what can be done? Everyone knows they could love most missionaries by giving them money and praying. These are what most people settle for. Send a check in the mail and forget about it. Keep some missionary names in your prayer list so that you will remember to pray every once in a while.

These are extremely good things, but it is just the beginning. Here are 5 slightly more unorthodox ways that you can love missionaries better starting today.

1.) Reply to their updates. Most missionaries send out prayer updates, some maybe more than others. The majority of people on the receiving end of the updates don’t realize how much work goes into these and how much encouragement a short, quick reply can deliver. Even if it’s only one sentence, these are the kind of simple things that remind missionaries you care.

If you read the update, let them know. If you have been praying, let them know. If you have prayer requests or life updates, let them know. If you don’t tell them, how can they know it’s happening? It is easy to feel forgotten while living overseas, and this is a quick, simple step to remind a missionary that they are being remembered.

2.) Send a care package. This one takes a little bit more time, effort, and money, but it speaks volumes about your desire to care for missionaries well. You can send a care package for a holiday or a birthday, or you can do it to brighten their day.

What is their favorite candy? What is their favorite snack? What is a new book you think they would enjoy? Think about creative ways to serve the individual person you are sending the package to.

3.) Send a letter. Maybe the missionary you love isn’t one for material things. Another form of encouragement utilizing the postal service is snail mail. Though an email is one click away, there is a certain nature about letters that make them extremely meaningful.

Want to take letter sending to the next level? Get a group of people to all write encouragement letters and send one envelope with all of them. This doesn’t have to be an individual activity.

4.) Host a prayer party. This one will really take planning and intentionality, but what a great way to involve other people in your quest to encourage missionaries better. Invite some friends over, share some fellowship over a meal, and spend time intentionally praying for the missionary and their work.

And don’t let this be a secret! Make sure to tell the missionary you are hosting a party, take pictures, and even try to Skype them in if possible. The party will be more encouraging if they’re aware it’s happening.

5.) Take an encouragement trip. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but it might be the most encouraging item on the list. Take a week to enter into the missionary’s world, see the work going on, and invest in your relationship with them. This would obviously take a lot of planning and money, but emails and pictures can only paint so much of the picture of the world they are living in.

Talk to your church about what it could look like to officially commission an encouragement trip and provide financial support. Talk to other church members about going with you. And of course coordinate with the missionary to make sure this is possible.


Relationships between missionaries and supporters don’t have to be stagnant, sitting in silence while neither is willing to break the ice. It takes courage to make the first move, but know that the missionary will likely appreciate it more than they can express. They just aren’t willing to ask for it.

Continue giving financially and continue praying, but consider these more unorthodox items the next time you are looking to encourage an overseas missionary.

6 Reasons You Should Spend A Year Doing Overseas Missions

Nowadays, there seem to be more missions organizations than anyone can count, and many of them offer one-year programs to explore the idea of missionary work. Even we, The Sowers Project, are a one-year program that focuses on making disciples among unreached college students for the purpose of planting churches in East Asia.

Committing to a year overseas can seem really daunting, as you leave the comfortable behind, say goodbye to your family and friends, and embark into the unknown. But there are also many benefits that can’t be overlooked. Below are six reasons why you should spend a year overseas, and each alone is reason enough to go abroad to make Jesus’ name famous.

"Old Globe" by Kenneth Lu licensed under CC BY 2.01.) Learn a new culture. It’s easy to read about cultures and gain an intellectual knowledge. It’s a lot harder to actually go and live in a new culture, but the rewards are plentiful. Practice a new language, try new foods, explore new cities, visit locals’ homes, and experience how a different part of the world views life. Not only will this broaden your view of what it means to be human, but it will also help you appreciate the beauty and diversity of God’s creation.

2.) Experience the work. In addition to learning the culture, you have the opportunity to see first-hand what God is doing there. Meet local brothers and sisters in the faith and experience how the local body worships God differently than your home church. See with your own eyes what God is doing among particular people groups and how you can be praying for the ministry.

3.) Network with missionaries. Meet a lot of awesome missionaries who are sacrificing a lot to be serving in the field. Develop relationships that allow you to continue be a part of God’s global mission whether you decide to live overseas or not. These people are the best to learn from about the particular city/people group/ministry that you want to work among because they live it out everyday!

4.) Try it out. Are you interested in serving overseas long-term but don’t know where to start? A one-year program gives you the perfect opportunity to really understand what it would look like to live overseas, as you evaluate the location you want to serve in, the role you want to have, how you fit on a particular team, and what church planting looks like practically. It’s possible to try doing missions overseas without signing your life away.

5.) Be equipped for the future. Whether you hope to stay overseas longer or return to your home country after one year, the equipping you receive is invaluable! It will equip you for long-term missions by showing you exactly what to expect, giving you a head start on language learning, and helping you cast vision for financial supporters. But it will also equip you for returning to your home country and helping the local church serve missionaries, as you will have tangible knowledge about ways the church can better love its missionaries.

6.) Make disciples. Last, and certainly not least, be a part of the Great Commission. Go and make disciples among all nations. Sow gospel seeds broadly, and pray that the Lord brings in a harvest. You get the privilege of serving the God of the universe by boldly making his name known among the nations. The Bible says that there will be someone from every tongue, tribe, and nation in Heaven worshipping Jesus, and you have the opportunity to be intimately involved in seeing that come to fruition.


 

Going overseas certainly isn’t for everyone, but pray earnestly, asking if the God of the harvest would want you to spend a year of your life serving him overseas. God desires for people to repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ in every people group on Earth, and he invites His followers to be a part of his global mission.

What reservations do you have about going overseas for a year? What excites you about the possibility of serving for a year in a foreign country?

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