Ministry Update – Call Me Kwaku

55387618-7771-4eb2-97f3-9cfc04973b1e

3,953 souls were saved this month throughout Tema, Ghana! Some of the 13 participating churches doubled in size during the week, and all are busy with their follow-up strategies to make disciples who make more disciples. Healthy things don’t just grow; they multiply.

943afd7d-24b6-4572-8474-69996603df2f

Highlights

  • I was given a Ghanaian name, Kwaku, by my namesake. Confused? The Ashanti peoples find significance in the day of the week on which they’re born and give traditional Twi names accordingly. I was born on Wednesday, so one of the missionaries on my team also born on Wednesday named me Kwaku. Her nickname is Akua, the female variant of the same.

 

  • Our church teams were fantastic. The international participants from the U.S., Côte d’Ivoire, and other parts of Ghana divided up among the area churches and formed smaller groups of 4-5 to cover various communities throughout the city. I mainly worked with First Baptist Church Tema, but also went out with other churches to film. The missionaries and many of the church members were well-versed (pun intended) in the Word, Spirit-filled, tenderhearted, and very discerning. After seeing how easy it really is to share the gospel, the less-experienced believers quickly overcame their fears and became strong evangelists after a little on-the-job coaching.

 

  • The people we met at their homes and workplaces were hospitable and receptive to hear the gospel. We encountered a lot of people who grew up in church, but had never understood the gospel (a worldwide problem). We also talked with quite a few Muslims, most of whom readily accepted Christ (also a global phenomenon, whether or not you regularly hear of it).

 

  • I loved seeing newly-saved sons and daughters of the King showing up at special church services every night and being welcomed by their brothers and sisters.

 

  • The congregations’ zeal for follow-up inspired me. Members were calling new converts during lunch breaks, pastors were assigning deacons to care for those in their neighborhoods, and leaders were planning new home groups.

 

  • I led a German guy to Christ — in Africa! While walking in Accra on our “day off”, I met a young German man named Florian who was looking for the entrance to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, which was where our group was headed. He accepted my invitation to join us and we quickly bonded after discovering we’re from the same region in Germany (I mean come on, guys — the Lord brought his dude right to me). He got more than he bargained for, in the best way. Discussing our reasons for being in Ghana easily paved the way for me to share my testimony, and he decided to follow Jesus. Right there on the spot, Florian prayed to receive salvation. He left me his information for follow-up, and it so happens that I know a great church in his hometown.


Family Ministry

  • Conduit Mission Summit: Immediately following the Ghana project, Kim and I had the privilege of attending the annual Conduit Mission Summit. It was a blessing to fellowship and worship with other dear goers and senders from our home church in Franklin, Tennessee. We shared stories, prayers, and hugs as we learned together and encouraged each other. It’s vital for us to spend time with other like-minded weirdos who have traded the lures of the world for the joys and trials of following Jesus in the Great Commission.

4c337646-dbf4-421d-b8b2-3a6bde656f16

  • Family Time: The girls and I stayed with my parents while in the Nashville area, and we got to hang out with extended family and visit good friends in Knoxville.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’re inspired to join me in the Great Commission in a deeper way, both across the ocean and across the street. Don’t underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do when you share your story. You’re just the messenger, anyway; He does the work.

We appreciate (and depend upon) your prayer. Let us know how we can be praying for you. Blessings!

Ministry Update – Shootin’ Stuff (besides videos)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What’s New?
Here are some other highlights from what I’ve been working on.

  • Board Meeting: Our HQ staff enjoyed hosting our board meeting this month. It was a busy week for me, as I handled the media for the meeting (slides, videos, videoconferencing, etc.) and presented recent advancements with our social media and website tools to the group. I was energized by the board members’ passion for reaching the lost and making strategic moves to recruit younger believers to join us on mission. Their affirmation of my work over the past year made me feel highly-valued, which was especially encouraging.
  • Web Dev: This month, I rolled out new changes to our site to make the giving process easier for donors supporting project participants and staff members. I also created our 2018 project pages. Go check out the schedule and decide where you’re going next year!
  • Fundraising: Good news – we’re back to full funding for the rest of 2017! That means I can spend less time out of the office developing new partnerships and more time taking I.C.’s storytelling and online engagement to the next level. It also helps our family reach out to neighbors and continue building relationships in our community. We’re still working on meeting our budget with monthly partners for long-term sustainability, so If you know someone who might be interested in joining our Great Commission work, we’d love an introduction.

What’s Next?

  • Trip: I leave for a project in Ghana next week! The coordinator, Lon, reports that the local churches are well-prepared and have been covering friends and family in prayer for months in preparation for sharing the gospel during the project. Pray for a big harvest, great footage, good weather, and smooth travel. I can’t wait to share stories and images when I get back!
  • Missions Conference: We’ll be in Nashville next month for the Conduit missions conference. We’re excited to see some of you there.

Ghana


Family Ministry

  • Adoption: Our homestudy is approved, everything seems to be in order, and now we’re just waiting for the baby! If you want to pitch in to support the adoption, go buy a T-shirt or give online.

Thanks for reading! We appreciate (and depend upon) your prayers. Let us know how we can be praying for you. Blessings!

Ministry Update – Ghana Go?

April was a tough month for our family. My Granddaddy, Ben Bryant Elliott, graduated to heaven after 88 years on this world. He was a family man, Korean War vet, deputy sheriff, electrician, amateur inventor, and inspiration to many. We’ll miss him and I can’t wait to see him on the other side. Life for our large, close-knit extended family will be notably different without its patriarch. We are most deeply grieved for Nana, who is dealing with the loss of her husband of 67 years in the midst of developing dementia.

On a bittersweet note, Granddaddy’s homegoing meant we got to spend Passover and Resurrection Sunday in Tennessee with friends, family, and ministry partners. We treasured seeing many of you as we celebrated the reason that death has lost its sting. Jesus is so sweet to us.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Rev. Joe Fields shared how his life, family, and church have been changed by his partnership with International Commission at our Granbury Celebration.

 


What’s New?
Here are some other highlights from what I’ve been working on.

  • Granbury: Our second celebration of the season was filled with moving worship, powerful testimonies, gospel preaching, and fantastic food. The Lord blessed IC with about $86,000 in gifts to mobilize national-to-national projects among indigenous churches.
  • Nerdy stuff: I’ve been working on boosting our social media engagement and tweaking the website for SEO optimization to reach more people with stories and missions opportunities.
  • Fundraising: Our ministry partner team is growing! One new team member will cover airfare for some of my projects, which is a huge blessing to me and to IC. We’re still looking for two or three key sustaining partners with $500 or $1,000 monthly gifts to get us back to budget and allow us to do more local ministry. If you know someone who might be interested in joining our Great Commission work, we’d appreciate an introduction.

What’s Next?

  • Celebrations: Our North Carolina celebration dinner will be held in Clemmons on May 12.
  • Trip: My next international project will be in Tema, Ghana in July. Come join me! I know it’s short notice, but there’s still time to raise funds to go if you follow the Lord in faith — and I’ll do what I can to help. Let me know if you’re interested brave enough!

 

STORYTIME! (Here’s another one from Cuba)

Your life cannot be good enough to earn grace nor too bad for you to receive it. The gospel of Jesus is better than we think.
The lady on the right thought she had a great relationship with the Lord because she was religious; she has prayed and read the Bible for many years. But she still wasn’t sure of her salvation, and she hoped she had done enough to go to heaven. After she heard and believed the clear, simple gospel of Jesus and his grace, she prayed to accept His forgiveness and put her trust in Christ alone.
The man on the right expressed that he believed the gospel message, but wasn’t ready to become a Christian because he was not raised religious and had a tobacco and alcohol habit he knew that he needed to give up. He felt unworthy. With the Holy Spirit working on his heart, he heard how Christ died for us while we were still sinners and how He comes to us as we are to transform us into new creations through His love. He said he still wasn’t ready. But just before the visit concluded, his posture visibly changed and he surrendered to Jesus.
Praise the Lord for this new brother and sister in Christ in Cuba!
Jesus is relentless in His pursuit of His people, and He uses ordinary believers to do it. Come join the harvest!

 

 

Thanks again for all of your support and prayers. We depend on your prayers as we serve the Lord here and abroad. Please let us know how we can bless and pray for you.

 

Ministry Update – Happy Birthmonth

img_5821

Some of our HQ staff met with pastors from around Denton County and shared about IC’s ministry during a Baptist Association luncheon this month. We had amazing brisket, of course.

What’s New?
Here are some highlights from what I’ve been working on.

  • Project page updates: As we continue to add new international projects to the schedule, I’ve been creating and editing our project pages to connect and mobilize ordinary believers to our mission opportunities.
  • Fundraising Pages: It’s been exciting to see project participants start using their fundraising pages to tell friends and family about their mission trip and raise support to help them go. I’ve loved reading the comments from their supporters who understand that they’re truly joining them on mission through their gifts. Staff members also have pages for ministry support where partners can send special gifts or set up recurring gifts. Here’s mine!
  • MPD Networking:  Back in the networking game to find new goers and givers, I’ve discovered a couple of fantastic groups which meet weekly. I’ve been attending those when I can and I’ve been getting a lot of one-on-one meetings. This is a goldmine for new connections, referrals, and evangelism opportunities! Thanks for praying for growth in my ministry partner development. Please continue praying for the Lord to lead me to the folks He wants on our support team.

What’s Next?

  • Trip: I’m flying to Cuba next week and unfortunately I can’t tell you much about it until I return, but I’m super excited! Please pray we’ll see a bountiful harvest and I’ll capture moving stories.
  • Celebrations: Our celebration dinner in Houston is coming up on March 25. I’m working on media elements for the presentation and will travel with some of our staff to put on the event.

img_20170212_101319866

Family Ministry

  • Corinthians: Our staff member Aletha and her husband Steve lead a chapel service at Corinthians Retirement Community in Dallas, and I was invited to fill in for Steve one week while he was out with an injury. The girls came along to minister in their own way by bringing extra smiles and joy to the residents. They’re good at that. And I think they liked it; they asked to go back sometime. (Do pray for Steve as he recovers; he stepped through a hole in the attic and is overcoming soreness.)
  • Birthdays: Any reason is a good reason to come visit us. But when several family members have birthdays in January and February, it’s especially appropriate to get together for a big birthday bash! We loved hosting Kim’s parents along with Carrie and Jordan (friends since college, former housemates, and grafted-in aunt and uncle) for a weekend of celebration. And allergies. Oh well. Happy birthmonth to Ella, me, Mom, Evie, Jordan, and Kim!

img_6102img_6091


Our ministry partner teammate Gloria returned to Nepal this month on an I.C. project! The mission team reported 785 decisions for Christ, and the local churches are following up.

Gloria reconnected with old friends, saw some baby goats and bunnies, and I’m sure she shared Jesus with a lot of people, too. 🙂
Stay tuned for stories from that trip…

We’re thankful to have you in our corner praying for us. Do consider joining me on a project to Papua New Guinea in July!

Blessings to you and your family!

Ministry Update – January 2017

Change is the only constant in so many aspects of life, and along with a new year came a few such changes for International Commission. Our organization’s president was called away, but after an encouraging time during our staff retreat, morale and zeal for the mission are high.

IC Staff

Our multi-ethnic, multi-national staff enjoyed a week of worshiping, training, sharing meals, praying, and spurring one another on to love and good works.

Other changes included further advancements in technology for our team. At the retreat, I had the pleasure of introducing new sections of our website, profile pages for each of our international projects, and our fundraising pages for staff and trip participants. These new tools will help us better equip and enable our partners to go with us and make disciples around the globe. Staff members are excited about them (albeit a bit understandably intimidated by the learning curve) and we’re seeing results already. The first participant to create a fundraising page brought in over $1,550 in 4 days to help cover the cost of his trip!


What’s New?
Here are some highlights from what I’ve been working on.

  • Project pages: you can find (and share!) the pages for our international projects on the schedule. That’s where you can learn about, support, or apply to go on particular projects. It’s also where participants can set up their own fundraising pages.
  • Staff profiles: Now each of our staff members who raise support through ministry partnership can build a profile page to share about their work, write updates, and receive gifts. Here’s mine!  If you’ve thought about investing as a monthly financial partner, this is the new place to set that up.
  • Giving form: along with our new fundraising platform comes a new general gift form for the site. It’s now nicer, mobile-responsive, social, and has dedication and recurring gift functionality. I’ll be adding more improvements in the near future.
  • Social media growth: our online reach and engagement continues to grow, which means more people are hearing about our stories and missions opportunities. You can help us send more workers to the harvest by following and sharing what God’s doing through IC all around the world on our social media profiles. You can find links to them above the footer on our site.
Juan

Juan is our VP for Latin America, and he’s a talented guy with a cool story. I think. I heard it in Spanish, and I’m still working on my Spanish 😉

What’s Next?

  • Trip: I’m slated to join our Cuba team in March as a documentarian and evangelist. IC has been working in Cuba for years, but the newly-opened doors are a tremendous opportunity for the spread of the gospel and I’m excited to experience and promote it.
  • Resources: Juan (VP for Latin America) is leading a retreat in Venezuela next month for the Latin American project leaders, so I’ve been working on some media resources for that event. I also got to interview him while he was at the office, so stay tuned for that.
  • Ministry Partner Development: I’m doing some networking in the DFW area to invite new partners to join our support team. Beyond wanting more people to hear about the Lord’s work and join us on mission, my family has a significant budget gap to close. As always, we remain amazed at how faithful He is to provide for us and we have some buffer for a while. But please join us in praying for the Lord to lead me to the folks He wants on our team. At this point, I’m networking to find new people to invite, so personal referrals/introductions are the most helpful. If you know anyone who you think would be interested in hearing about my work with IC, please consider connecting us.

Family Ministry

  • We continue to get more involved with our church. Our small group is growing together, Kim is getting to know some of the women, the girls are making friends, I’ve stayed involved with a men’s Bible study group and have started making videos for the church, and the staff adopted us as a supported ministry!
  • For Ella’s birthday, the girls enlisted their friends at the library in a project assembling coloring kits for kids in the hospital.

Storytime!

Would you believe me if I said a Brooklyn Jew who’s the fastest reader in the world invited me to be a guest on his TV show on a Christian network to talk about my ministry? Well, it’s true. When I spoke with Howard Berg about ministry partnership, he said, “I’m not the best prospect for partnership with a Christian ministry since I’m Jewish, but I do have a TV show that airs on a Christian network and I’ll interview you!”

Before the taping at the studio, Howard and I had an in-depth conversation about Jesus from a Jewish perspective. It was enlightening for me and he said it “filled in some gaps” for him. Please pray that our friendship continues (he invited me to return to the show in the future) and that we get further such opportunities to discuss the gospel.

We’re so grateful for your continued prayers. Without those, we couldn’t do this. Please let me know how my family and I can be praying for you.

Blessings to you and your family!

What a year!

img_20161231_135759211

Well, 2016 was a pretty big adventure for our family. Here are the major points:
 
– We raised support to start full-time ministry (love you, partners!)
– I baptized my oldest daughter and my nephew.
– We sold our first house.
– I was ordained for gospel ministry by Conduit Church.
– Kim and I celebrated our 10th anniversary!
– We moved to Texas and found our new house on our first day in town.
– We bought said house, while living in a hotel for a month.
– I started my new role at International Commission, sharing the gospel around the globe and using media to mobilize missionaries and tell stories of what God is doing.
– We joined a new church.
– I went on mission to Ukraine.
– We hosted our first Christmas party for our new neighborhood.
 
We’ve had a lot of life change and it has been a challenge, but it has also been a joy; God has continued to show Himself faithful every day. We can tell you from His own Word and from personal experience that He is good on His promises. He’s never failed us and He won’t start now. We’re looking forward to 2017 with hopeful expectation and joy in our hearts to be called His servants, His children, and His friends!

Ministry Update – Ukraine Tour 2016

 

img_1061

Lviv, Ukraine

I spent about half of October working in three areas of beautiful Ukraine. Did you know it’s about the size of Texas? I traveled with our International Commission team, led by fellow staffer and office-mate J.T. Hilyer, to Odessa Theological Seminary. There, we met with leaders from Baptist churches all over the Odessa Oblast who are associated with the seminary and each team member was assigned to work with one of those churches for the project week. Overall, the team reported 77 decisions for Christ during that week! The project also built and strengthened relationships with those area churches which should pave the way for ongoing international partnerships and future projects. They love having mission teams come from the United States and they hope to have many more next year as they make the most of an unprecedented opportunity: Ukraine is officially observing the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Evangelical churches will be able to use government-sponsored celebrations and events to share about the simplicity of the gospel of grace.

img_0612

I worked alongside Pastor Victor  with churches in a town called Chornomorsk (on the Black Sea near the border of Moldova) and its surrounding villages. The pastor’s family hosted my translator (also Victor) and me at their apartment downtown, and we did not want for comfort nor food; his wife Sacha is a chef.

Throughout the week, I preached during Sunday morning services, evening services, special worship events, and a harvest celebration. I also taught during small group Bible studies, made home visits to share the gospel with people who have been visiting the churches, and talked about my relationship with the Lord during dinners with local believers’ friends and neighbors. I also had the privilege of meeting with and encouraging students who are in the missions program at the seminary. img_0834

img_0845

Another part of my work was media production. Between other activities, I got to interview some of the pastors and the seminary president and to capture footage and images of life in their communities. The pastors talked about the importance of evangelism and discipleship in their culture, which is heavily influenced by Eastern Orthodox tradition, and why it’s beneficial for international mission teams to work with them. I’ll use this content for various purposes; some will be edited into short videos for social media storytelling, and some will be saved for the production of a longer-form documentary.

img_0645At the end of the week, most of the team headed to the airport from their respective towns, but I regrouped in Odessa with nationals Luba and Misha to board an overnight train to Lviv (adventure!). From there, we rode a bus to Luba’s hometown of Boryslav to meet with and interview more pastors. There we also reconvened with American team member Chuck, who’s a long-time I.C. project participant and friend of the churches in that area. He and Luba continued home visits in Boryslav while Misha and I headed back to Lviv on another (and much more modern) train.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-8-10-43-pmI was hosted in Lviv by the Blessing family at Bethel House. The Blessings have been missionaries in Ukraine since the early 1990s. Kim and I became close friends with sisters Bria, Lindsay, and Krista when they lived in Nashville, and they’ve since been called back to ministry in Ukraine. A Texan bapticostal international missionary family with three homeschooled daughters, we are kindred spirits. I enjoyed spending a few days with them experiencing and capturing life in Lviv, discussing the joys and challenges of missions, learning more about Ukrainian culture, and teaching during their church’s young adult meeting. It was a profoundly encouraging time after a whirlwind year of transitioning from the career world into full-time ministry, leaving behind our home and family and friends to move to a new state, raising support, buying a new house, and trying to connect with a new community.

img_1333

No, I didn’t decide to shun it all and become a monk; the Blessings and I beat a wizard-themed escape room during my time in Lviv.


Storytime!

img_20161019_204144571

Tonya (red sweater) and Tanya (blue scarf) are inspiring friends.

One of my favorite meetings of the project was a dinner with friends Tonya and Tanya. Home visits really are the heartbeat of I.C. projects. Tonya’s family hosted us with great hospitality at their apartment and we spent hours sharing testimonies of our relationships with Christ, stories of miracles we’ve witnessed, and enjoying amazing homemade food. The friendship of Tonya and Tanya inspired me; these nurses have worked together for many years and Tanya, who is a strong believer and unstoppable evangelist, recently led Tonya to a personal relationship with Jesus during a time of depression and uncertainty about her religious upbringing. Tonya told the story of how the Lord pursued and spoke to her amidst that season of doubt and confusion and how He used their friendship to show her the difference between religion and relationship. Having discovered the voice of the Holy Spirit through prayer, Tonya also shared how she was moved by the film War Room to make her own prayer closet, where she spends time with the Lord every day. Please pray for her husband and daughter, who have been attending a local church with her.


Thank your for your prayers and support! I truly, in every sense, could not do this work without your partnership. If you want to experience the joy of working with a church to share the good news of Jesus in another culture, go with us on a project! I’d especially love for you to go with me on a trip next year.