Friday, July 22, 2011

Rethinking Radical

We don’t need any more books, seminars, or conferences.  What we need are examples.” Matt, a rising college freshman, has spoken for a generation that is tired of being entertained by Christian celebrities and challenged to “go” by executive pastors who stay.  

As I thought about Matt’s statement and the desire of a generation to live “Radical,” I thought immediately of Charles Thomas Studd.  He was born in England in 1860.  His father, Edward Studd, had made his fortune in India. C.T. Studd was handsome, rich, and athletic.  He attended Cambridge University, one of the most prestigious universities of his day.  Studd had a passion for Cricket (the sport, not the insect) and became what others have referred to as the “Michael Jordan of Cricket.” Studd was claimed by some then and today as the greatest player to have ever played the game.

However, after hearing an influential missionary from China speak, Studd, along with 6 others made a commitment to go.  They gave up promising careers and their fame, and walked away from the “Great British Dream.” For several months, the “Cambridge Seven,” as they became known, traveled from campus to campus across Britain challenging students to give their all for the glory of God.  Their testimony and their lives rang with authenticity and awakened the church to His global cause. 

C.T. Studd spent his life as a missionary mobilizing the church to “Come.”  Once he said, “There are more than twice as many Christian ‘officers’ at home among the peaceful Britain’s 40 million evangelized inhabitants, than the whole number of forces fighting at the front among 1.2 billion unreached! And yet such call themselves soldiers of Christ.”

What might C.T. Studd say today to our Christian “officers” at home?  What might C.T. Studd say to David Platt about being “Radical?”

David, your book is good, but it’s not really that radical.  Your call to finish the Great Commission rings hollow to a generation looking for examples. Follow me.  Resign from your church.  Rally six of your friends in similar positions as yourself.  All of you go and spend your life among an unreached people group until you have learned their language and learned their culture, and planted the Church there. This generation may be moved, but never mobilized by your books.  It will take ‘reckless sacrifice and heroism in the foremost trenches.’

I think at this point in the C.T. Studd challenge, Adoniram Judson would be stirred from beyond the grave and the words he spoke in 1832 would echo down from Heaven, “First, let it be a missionary life.  That is, come out for life, and not a limited term. (What would he think of our generation’s short-term mission strategies?) Do not fancy that you have a true missionary spirit, while you are intending all along to leave your people group soon after acquiring their language. Leave them?!  For what?  To spend the rest of your days in enjoying the ease and plenty of your native land?”

Francis Chan hinted at the C.T. Studd challenge when he resigned his mega-church last year to “seek God’s direction and serve for a few months in a developing country.” Now he’s back and the message that is heard louder than his words or books is that, “Crazy love doesn’t mean following Christ long-term to the unreached.”

….But what would happen if all these mega-church pastors resigned? Who would lead their churches?  Thousands of applications would flood their church offices within weeks! Who would rally the church to go if these important voices left? Ion Keith Falconer served as a missionary to Arabia from 1885-1888. (He died after only 3 years on the field, just in case you are wondering why he served short-term.) He had attended the commissioning service of the “Cambridge Seven,” and followed them in their radical experiment for life.  He said, “Perhaps you think you are meant to remain at home and encourage others to go.  You think that by sending money, sitting on committees, speaking at meetings, and praying for missions, you will be doing the most you can to spread the Gospel abroad.  Not so! By going yourself, (He was not talking about a short-term trip.), you will produce a tenfold more powerful effect.  You can give and pray for missions wherever you are.  You can send descriptive letters to the missionary meeting which will be more effective than second-hand quotes gathered from others.”

One final word from C.T. Studd… “Dear David and friends…  Hundreds may go as a result of your books, songs, and conferences, but if you will follow my example and go-- for life--  a whole generation will follow you.  They are waiting for an example.”

C.T. Speer
imb missionary
Southeast Asia

P.S.  This may be the first time in history that the majority of our ‘mission heroes’ are not missionaries.  Where are the voices from the field that compel a generation to come?  Where are those with blood on their faces that challenge a generation to join the fight?  They are serving quietly and faithfully among the unreached and hard to reach.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kid's Korner

David is in his first year as a student at Houghton College in Houghton, New York. This tropical boy is experiencing winter weather like he has never seen before! Single-digit temperatures and inches of snow are a common occurrence during the winter months. The 1st semester has passed quickly as he is adjusting to college classes, made new friends, and playing on the school’s JV Men’s Basketball team.

The year 2010 has brought several “first’s” for Krysten: 1st mission trip to India (traveling by herself), first perm, getting her student permit & then driver’s license, visiting potential colleges, volunteering at a local pediatric clinic, and working a couple days a week at her grandfather’s law office. In between all of these activities she was involved in the youth program at our home church- singing in the youth choir, performing with the drama troupe, & taking weekly voice lessons- while being homeschooled (Biology, Geometry, Spanish, etc)… it’s been a busy fall! She’s looking forward to getting back “home” and getting back to her friends and normal life. She’s also looking forward to her next mission trip… SPAIN!!

This fall has been an exciting time for Betsy also. Lots of new experiences… or at least experiences that seem new to her! A family trip to Disneyworld was the highlight for her. Other trips to Washington D.C. and Niagara Falls were great field trips to supplement our history curriculum. She has continued her piano lessons and enjoyed her role in her choir’s Christmas program. Betsy is looking forward to getting back to her school in the Philippines. The 5th grade class has started band and she’s looking forward to learning to play the flute.

American Nehemiah Teams 2010

2010 was an exciting year for our American teams. Many of you were partners with us as we conducted our first stateside orientation & debrief. It was such an encouragement to have so many churches & individuals involved in this training. 105 students from 19 states & Canada were trained & sent out to seven different countries (15 different people groups). Nazareth Baptist Church (Rainsville, AL) hosted this event and provided a large part of the meals with other churches helping with meals & transportation to & from 3 different airports. It was a major undertaking that produced eternal results! At the end of the summer as the teams gathered for debrief, it was exciting to hear what God had done through them:

  • 250 people indicated a decision for Christ with 25 of these following through with baptism,
  • more than 170 orphans cared for,
  • almost 10,000 gospel tracts were distributed,
  • 92 circumcisions were performed plus other basic medical services provided,
  • assisted with 2 baby deliveries,
  • English classes using the Bible were taught to non-believers, many in “closed” countries who don’t allow traditional missionaries,
  • trees were planted,
  • houses were built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity,
  • thousands of pictures were taken,
  • and… thousands of people heard the gospel presented clearly, many possibly for the very first time.

As we begin 2011 we need your partnership again. More students have been requested so we anticipate a larger group of students to train this June. Please let us know if you or your church can help in any of the following areas: providing meals, providing transportation to & from Atlanta, and providing lodging for trainers/facilitators. In 2011 we are looking at having teams in some new countries including India and some European countries. We will also be having our first North American teams. Teams will be returning to the Philippines, Thailand, southern Sudan, Japan, South Korea, and some other Asian countries. A complete listing of the teams can be seen on our website (www.nehemiahteams.com) or on the IMB Student website (www.thetask.org).

Filipino Nehemiah Teams 2010

During 2010 there were 6 Filipino franchises (or affiliates) which sent teams of Filipino students to the unreached & hard to reach of their own country. These 100 young adults served on 20 different teams, sharing the gospel with thousands of their countrymen. Many indicated a decision to follow Christ and 68 followed through with baptism.

Happy 2011!

It has been exciting to be in the U.S. during this past holiday season. We’ve enjoyed spending those special days with family and friends. It was an added plus for us to wake up on Christmas morning and have… SNOW! The first white Christmas Alabama has had in years… our kids think it was just for them! The icing on the cake for us was to hear reports from you as your churches set, reached, and exceeded your Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goals! We are so thankful for your generous giving to this offering as well as the Cooperative Program. These two avenues fund the majority of the budget for the 5,000+ International Mission Board workers serving all over the world. Thank you for giving so that others have the opportunity to hear the greatest story ever told!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Back to School: 2009-10

Summer was great... but it's over and time to head back to school. New uniforms... new backpacks... new teachers & classmates... new responsibilities. It was an exciting day! Even the few homework assignments that came home at the end of the day didn't dampen their spirits.
  • Pray for Krysten as she embarks on her high school career... we're sure 9th grade will bring more challenges as well as more opportunities for her personal growth.
  • Pray for Betsy as she enjoys having a "man teacher" this year for 4th grade. She is still confident that the girls will rule the classroom as they outnumber the boys 5 to 3!
  • Pray for David as he is a full-time "Instructional Assistant" at the school this year. He has a full schedule, helping in a couple classrooms in the morning then working with the elementary & middle school PE program for the rest of the day. He also gets to help with lunch & recess duty. :)
Betsy with other 4th grade girls... great buddies!

Krysten with old & new friends

Seeds Sprouted After

Ride a jeepney two hours into the beautiful green-clad mountains outside Butuan City, and you'll reach a covered basketball court that serves as the community center for a small village. A group of medical missionaries were holding a clinic in the middle of the concrete pavilion one morning in late June. They had been welcomed that morning by the village captain and his assistant, who said, “I have lived here all my life, and this is the first time a medical clinic has come to our village.” Jordan and Sam, two college students, took temperatures and blood pressure, then gave everyone a number and sent them to some benches to wait until they were called.

Pastor Antonio leaned on a table near the benches. He was a brown-skinned Filipino with a thick and powerful build, and deep grooves that time had etched into his face. He had once been in the rebel army, but now his hardened face had a sublime tranquility in it as he taught the people sitting on the benches about the Gospel. Behind Antonio was a large banner with pictures illustrating Bible stories that outlined the Gospel, the Gospel that changed his life and took him from military to ministry. He pointed to the box that depicted a cross on a hill, and addressed the small crowd in deep-voiced Cebuano. I knew what he was saying.

A few minutes later, Pastor Antonio called me over. “I want you to share your testimony,” he said. There was a new group of patients waiting at the benches. I agreed, excited at the opportunity and a little nervous. I told my story, about how I had been raised in the church, how I had wrestled with my father's atheism, how I had fallen into secret sins that taught me God's patient love, how I had resolved to hold no part of my life back from my King, how Christ was my only good. Pastor Antonio translated after every few sentences, so I had plenty of pauses to think about what to say. The mothers and children looked at my intently as I urged them to seek God and find Him good, as I had. I prayed, and it was over. We passed out some tracts, smiling at the families.

I repeated my testimony to two or three other groups of patients. At three o'clock, the medical mission wrapped up, and we took the bone-rattling jeepney ride back down the mountain road. “Lord,” I prayed, “I've been faithful to tell who you are to me. I've done all I can, but no one responded openly. Please bring fruit out of it in your own time.”

Pastor Antonio had a daughter who had just given birth and was in the hospital with complications. She was taking heavy antibiotics to fight infection. About a week after the medical clinic, I went to the hospital in Butuan City to visit Antonio and his daughter, marveling at dank corridors that would have appalled most medical professionals back home. As I sat beside his daughter's hospital bed and talked with him and our friend Rudy, Antonio pointed a finger at me and said something in Cebuano. I didn't quite catch it, but Rudy translated.

“He says God used your testimony to bring people to salvation. Three people from the medical clinic last week came to Pastor Antonio here in the hospital and asked how to join our church.”

“Wait, they came here?” I asked. The trip to Butuan City was not something casually done for most rural residents.

“Yes, they sought him out in the hospital. There were two women and a man,” said Rudy.

“Praise God!” I said, unable to keep back a smile. Are you serious God? Thank you so much!

Antonio had referred the three villagers to Pastor Allen, a pastor in a neighboring area who came to the village to do social work. He was the closest permanent minister to them, so we put the task of follow-up with these people in his hands – and in God's.

I walked away from the hospital reeling in delight. God had surely used what I had said, together with what Pastor Antonio had spoken, to stir the hearts of those people. I was sure their faith was genuine. They had gone to such great lengths to find Antonio, a symbol of their search for the Truth.

God had used me, the media guy who took pictures, to be part of communicating the life-changing message of the gospel to these people. God had altered eternal souls, and he had done it through me. Even days after I had left the field, seeds sprouted. Praise be to God, who stirs hearts beyond our sight or knowledge.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Kids Korner


A lot has happened since our last update... the biggest event being David's graduation from Faith Academy Manila. It seems just like yesterday when we put him on the plane to go to Manila to begin high school. His future plans include college but he has chosen to stay at home for this next year. He'll be a full-time volunteer at Faith Academy Mindanao (school where Krysten & Betsy attend) this school year, helping with the PE and sports program. He's enjoying spending time with friends and playing lots of basketball.

Krysten "graduated" from 8th grade and is excited about high school. She's also enjoying spending time with friends this summer. She decided she wanted to learn to play the flute over the summer so is taking weekly lessons. She continues to develop her piano skills and singing... I'm sure our neighbors wonder sometimes what type of concerts we hold in our living room! She had a great time with the team from FBCFP this past month. Connecting with friends and being a part of their ministry made for a great week.

Betsy finished 3rd grade and is looking forward to 4th! She loves spending time with her dog, Bravo, and playing with our neighbor, Jessica. She's enjoying sleepovers with friends, swimming, and some trips to the beach- she & Jess are snorkeling buddies! Betsy is also taking piano lessons and is doing great! She asked me the other day if it was okay if she practiced twice a day instead of just once... of course!!

This has turned into a summer of visitors. Not only the friends who came with FBC Ft. Payne, but also family. Wendy's sister, Jeanna, and a friend surprised the kids when they showed up for end of the school year activities. It was a great surprise for the kids and made some great memories! They were able to attend Krysten's closing program, go with Betsy on a field trip to the beach, and attend David's graduation. They also stayed with the girls while Jess & Wendy went to Manila early for other graduation events. It was great to have Jeanna here!

A couple of days before David's graduation, niece Kate Vincent arrived. Kate is a recent graduate of the University of Louisville and will be with us until the end of August. She has jumped right in and been involved in whatever was going on. She's also spent some time with several of the Nehemiah Teams, getting involved in their on-going ministries.
With the team from FBCFP arrived nephew Luke Jennings. It was great to see him & David play ball together for the week. Although he didn't get to visit where we live now, he did get to see where the kids lived while we were in the Butuan City area, meeting some of David & Krysten's childhood friends.

But that's not the last one, Kate's younger brother, Josh arrives this Sunday! He'll be here through the end of the month. We're looking forward to showing him the sights of Davao City. Kate is excited to have him here too!

It has been great to have the entire family involved in several aspects of ministry this summer. David was in charge of "transportation" at our Nehemiah Teams orientation at the beginning of June. Coordinating the arrival & pick-up of almost 100 participants went off without a hitch! David, Krysten, & Kate were also a big help during orientation with "office type" tasks. David also helped set up the "adventure rec" courses used for team building.

Again during the week of ministry with the team from Ft. Payne... David coordinating the basketball games, Krysten being in drama presentations & helping with the dental presentations... while both of them begin able to serve as translators and guides as needed. What about Betsy? Her love of playing and making new friends is always an instant draw. She isn't shy to acquaint herself with other children and involve them in games to gather them together. She also acted as score keeper for a couple of the games.

The end of July we'll all head back to Manila for de-brief with the teams. Again, each of us will have our responsibilities to make sure everything runs smoothly. The body at work!
  • Pray for us as we have this next year together as a complete family.
  • Pray for David as he continues to seek where the Lord would have him for college. Pray for God's timing in his decision making.
  • Pray for Krysten as she begins high school. It's our desire that the Lord will mold her into the young lady He desires.
  • Pray for Betsy to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit working in her heart.


Sonlight 2009

It's always great when friends come to visit!! A team of 18 youth & adults from our home church, First Baptist Church of Fort Payne, Alabama, spent 10 days in the Agusan River Valley working with the local association. Actually 2 teams in 1, these 18 were joined by Nehemiah Teams members and local believers to complete a vast array of ministries. You can see pictures and read updates from their ministry on our personal blog: www.jennings-journal.blogspot.com

Ministry started out with a half-day work day with the Nehemiah Teams Habitat for Humanity team. The guys helped build the walls for the house while the gals painted roofing supports. The ride to the worksite in a dump truck gave the team a quick introduction to Butuan City... they were kinda like an impromptu parade going down the road! After lunch, the youth team headed out for an overnight associational youth fellowship. While the association planned the logistics for the event, the FBCFP team led the program which consisted of games, food, worship, & just having fun together. The next day, the team was divided into groups of 3-4 and went for an overnight "homestay." Hosted by local churches & families, the team members spent the night in the Filipino homes, experiencing a day, and night, living as they lived. The next day was Sunday and most members were involved in local worship services- sharing testimonies, singing, "preaching", and being an encouragement to local believers. Other, including the medical team, attended a local wedding and got to experience this part of local culture.

The medical arm of the team, led by Dr. Mike Story and Dra. Glee Dacanay-Velenzona conducted free medical clinics in 6 sites with a total of 1319 patients. As families came through the clinic they experienced Christ's love through meeting their physical needs as well as hearing the gospel shared through scripture and personal testimonies.

The youth team, led by Student Minister Jeff Ford, focused on local elementary & high schools. In 4 different villages, they visited the elementary schools in the morning, presenting a short dental hygiene program in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. The program ended with a gospel presentation and the distribution of toothbrushes to the kids. After a sack lunch (lots of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!), they spent the afternoon at the high schools playing games with the students and sharing one on one with students using tracts and storytelling (salvation) bracelets.

Another component of the week's ministry were late afternoon basketball games. Organized by our son, David, "Team USA" (composed of David, cousin Luke Jennings, Doug Mackey, and several Nehemiah Teams members) played local village teams in exhibition games. During half time of each of the games, the youth team shared testimonies & drama followed by a clear verbal explanation of the gospel. The team also distributed tracts to many watching the games.

Some stats from the week:
Tracts distributed: 1800
Story-telling (salvation) bracelets shared: 750
Basketball games: 5
Total attendance at games: 2000
Schools visited: 4
Dental hygiene presentations: Done 12 times for around 400 children, preschool-3rd grade

Korean Nehemiah Teams

This is the third year in the development of Korean Nehemiah Teams. A team of four Korean students (mainly seminary students) have been in the Philippines since mid-June. This team has been working with a Korean Foreign Mission Board missionary in Davao City for the past several weeks. This week they are working alongside the American Habitat for Humanity team in Butuan City.
  • Pray for these students as they complete their ministry and return to Korea on July 19th.
  • Pray as they continue their studies in preparation to be fulltime cross-cultural workers.

American Nehemiah Teams

American Nehemiah Teams have now been on the field for a little over a month. 40 teams in 8 countries including the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Argentina, & others! It has been exciting for us to visit teams on the field, talk to team leaders on the phone, hear reports through local supervisors, and read about their adventures on the blog. (www.nehemiahteams.blogpost.com) All I can say is that the bar has been raised this summer and students are rising to the challenge. They are acting like adults! Churches are being started! Children are being rescued! Prostitutes are hearing the Good News. Orphans are being loved. Homes are being built. People are receiving clean drinking water. The gospel is penetrating into some hard places.

However, half-way through a task can sometimes be tough. Nehemiah and his volunteers almost quit from threats, exhaustion and discouragement. For our volunteers, things are no different. The adventure has worn off. Sickness has visited some of the team members. Floors are now very hard. Rice is now very bland. The language barrier is now a nuisance, not a novelty.

We covet your prayers for the teams as they continue their ministry for these last few weeks.
  • Pray for continued unity among team members.
  • Pray for good health.
  • Pray for new opportunities & places to open up for sharing the gospel.
  • Pray for the persons of peace that they have found... pray for fruit to be produced.. fruit that will last!
  • As they prepare to say good-bye to national partners, pray for all to be encouraged that they have been a part of kingdom work
  • As teams gather for debrief on July 26th, pray for the Lord to speak to them in unique ways about their next steps as a World Christian.
Read about their ministries and see pictures of them in action on our blog. www.nehemiahteams.blogspot.com You can also see links on the right side of the blog for the other blogs being maintained by media team members in other countries.
  • As we are developing job requests for summer 2010, pray that we will be led to the right partners to enable teams to be present in strategic places.

Filipino Nehemiah Teams: Reporting what God has done

April & May saw 13 teams with a total of 80+ Filipino members going to 11 areas of the Philippines to share the Good News among the unreached and hard to reach. These teams spent 3-5 weeks going door-to-door distributing almost 2500 tracts, 300 New Testaments, and 80+ evangelistic DVD's. But more important than these stats are the lives that were changed by having an opportunity to respond to the Gospel that was shared. Over 500 indicated a decision to follow Christ and 40 were baptized. 30 VBS/Health Camps were conducted with over 1200 children enrolled. Other outreach ministries included: drama, community/home film showings, community cleaning, teaching moral values in local schools, sports programs, True Love Waits, jail ministry, hospital visitation, and free medical services.
  • Pray for the follow up in each of the areas where the teams ministered.
  • Pray for national partners who will disciple the new believers.
  • As the new believers grow in their new faith, pray for encouragers to come into their lives.
  • Pray for the franchise leaders as they have begun planning and setting up for 2010 teams.