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!

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What a year!

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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

 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

Ministry Update – Show and Tell

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Katherine, who has been on mission with International Commission projects since she was four years old. Hear why she’s making disciples among the young and old in South America and how God can use you, too.

I’ve met many inspiring people like Katherine since I’ve been in ministry with International Commission, and it’s a great privilege to share their stories with the world. Her story is an encouraging reminder that Jesus can use anyone and that it’s important to raise up younger generations of disciples to be disciplemakers themselves.


Here’s how the Lord is using us:

What’s New?

  • Web development: The new organization website is still a work in progress, but we’ve been developing the new fundraising pages for projects, participants, and staff. Some of those are live and will build into the new site once it launches.
  • Storytelling:
    • This month, I interviewed a few of our international staff members and partners during their visits to the office and have shared some of their testimonies and stories online and at our celebration dinner events.
    • At celebration dinners, guests are treated to a meal, special music, ministry updates, testimonies, and an invitation for involvement in our work. I’ve had the privilege of traveling with our office staff to help set up a couple of these events and meet more of IC’s partners and participants.
  • Office geekery:
    • I’ve continued to work on on tweaking our videoconferencing setup and finally settled on utilizing GoToMeeting to help keep our staff connected for meetings and devotionals.
    • We still have data management projects ongoing as we implement new tools, so please pray those go smoothly.

What’s Next?

  • Trip: I’ll head out with our Ukraine project team this week and I’m very excited to do what I love most: sharing Jesus with new international friends. I’ll also be toting along a new video kit to capture what God does during the week. Following the project, I’ll catch a train with a few of the team members to Lviv, where I’ll interview pastors and participants of recent projects in that city. I’ll be staying with missionary friends of mine, The Blessings.
  • Ministry Partner Development: It’s been about a year since I began the journey of building a ministry partner team, and it’s time again to concentrate on inviting more monthly partners to join me in ministry. Please pray that the Lord will send the right people to invest in this work. If YOU feel led to become a monthly financial partner, you can sign up here.

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Family Ministry

  • We’ve joined a new small group at church and are still working on making connections there and in our neighborhood. Please pray for our relationship-building!
  • Ella is enjoying a kids’ missions program at church called Operation Impact Kids, where she has opportunities to serve the community in a variety of ways.
  • Evie and Maisy are beginning to make friends at church and have started preschool at home.
  • Evie is enrolled and excelling in gymnastics. Pray that this will be a venue for more relationship-building.

We’re so grateful for your continued support and prayers. Please let me know how my family and I can be praying for you.

Progressive?

Are we really a “progressive, enlightened society” if we’re becoming more violent, divisive, and lawless?
 
As a person matures, we expect greater measures of peacemaking, selflessness, and prudence. What does it mean when our heroes and leaders act like toddlers and are celebrated for doing so?
 
What have we become when we tolerate the use of guns as gavels and the abuse of both? Have we progressed so far past our nation’s founding that “liberty and justice for all” is an antiquated ideal?
 
See, neither liberalism nor conservatism can address our problems as a people. Empires routinely rise and fall, and they do so from within.
Sin can’t be defeated on our terms.

Ministry Update – Geekery for God

 

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During a project in Mongolia last month, our partner Rob Johnson said:
“God tells us that we are to be His witnesses. Around the world I have found people who follow Jesus that don’t speak the same language but have the same heart and value the same beliefs that I do. I strongly urge you to get out of your comfort zone on go on a mission trip. You will never be the same. International Commission has trips to every area of the world. After a little training on witnessing and the culture, you work alongside church members to share the Gospel. Inside a ger, sharing the love of God with someone who has few possessions and little hope of a better tomorrow as he or she prays to accept Jesus, you see the change in their face. Salvation brings not only a heavenly eternity but an earthly abundant life. In those divine moments when God moves in someone’s life, I have such joy that exceeds my best day at Disneyland.”

Mongolia

“Yesterday 10 new believers in Jesus began a new life with God. This 93 year old woman prayed after her daughter and her grandson. Three generations in one family in one hour changed their eternal destinies and their earthly goals. God does not wish any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

That’s what we’re all about at IC. If you’re ready to join a church-based evangelism project overseas where you’ll work with local believers to visit their neighbors and share the reason for the hope that you have in Christ, go sign up! If you’re ready to go sooner than later, we need more American participants for the Nicaragua project in September:

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Apply here!


 

What’s New?

  • Web development: Project participants and donors have found participation with our ministry much easier with the new online forms I created. In the coming weeks, we plan to take that up a notch by deploying our mobile-responsive redesign, project pages, personal profiles, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools. This will make it simpler than ever for people to register for trips and cover their costs.
  • Storytelling:
      • I’ve been enjoying a steady stream of reports, stories, and images from projects around the world and have been sharing many of them on social media. A lot of them are too sensitive to share with the public, but they’re awesome. If you’d like to hear a cool story of what God is doing to save and heal people in “hard-to-reach” places, give me a call!
      • This month, I’ll begin capturing interviews and testimonies from our staff here and on the field. We’ll use some of these online, but we’re also developing a new presentation to take to churches and universities.
      • Our social media channels have dramatically increased our reach to an average of 300 engagements each day. I’m praying that the Lord will use those connections to mobilize people on mission with us.  Follow and share what the Lord is doing through I.C. and our partners on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

  • Office geekery:
    • Our office staff starts every weekday with a morning devotional and prayer time. In July, I rigged up videoconferencing gear so our “away team” staff can join our devo once a week. I know I say it all the time, but it’s amazing how the technology of our time can be used for Great Commission work. We’ve got to make the most of it.
    • I won’t bore you with the details, but we’ve got several data management projects going on at HQ. Pray for us as we learn new systems, migrate data, and work out all the kinks that go along with such.

 

  • Trip: Thanks for praying for guidance as I decide where to go this fall. I’m planning on joining the Ukraine team in October. I’d love for you to join me!

Family Ministry

  • At Ella’s request, we braved the heat on Saturday to clean up the park in our neighborhood. She hates seeing litter and wanted to make the space nicer for everyone. We love her heart.
  • We’ve continued to meet more of our neighbors and are hoping to develop meaningful relationshiTrashps with them. We think many of them are lost, so please pray for us to know how to love them well. Sidenote: make fun of me all you want, but Pokémon Go made several of those connections happen. The silliest things can be used for the sake of the gospel.

  • Our home has already been well-blessed by visits from Tennessee friends. We enjoyed hosting
    Vince Wallace as he stopped through on his photography workshop tour to benefit The Orphan Portrait Project. We also loved having the Dahlbergs stay with us, despite the bout of illness which tried to steal our fun.
  • Last Sunday, I attended a volunteer orientation for a local anti-trafficking group. I’m hoping my years of experience with End Slavery Tennessee can be put to use in our new community.
  • Thanks for praying about a church home for us. We’re getting involved with RockPointe Church in nearby Flower Mound.

Thanks as always for your support, prayers, and friendship. Please let us know how we can serve or pray for you!

Ministry Update – Getting the Word Out

pablo (9)… shouted 20-year-old Lota as she ran to her neighbors after hearing the gospel from C.B. on an International Commission project in Bangladesh. Many more did come and some accepted salvation. C.B. reports that 83 people believed that week. 


 

It’s an amazing blessing that hearing and telling stories like that is part of my new routine. God is working through churches all over the world in ways reminiscent of the Book of Acts, and thanks to our ministry partners, I’m giving Him glory and helping to mobilize more workers for that harvest.

What’s New?

  • Web development: I.C.’s new site design will deploy in July. I’m excited about transforming it from an informational “brochure” into more of a toolset. The online project participant application I implemented last week is already being used! Pray that this will help more young adults and their churches to get involved.
  • Storytelling:
    • I’m developing systems for content curation in cooperation with our staff, including a new Dropbox setup for gathering pictures and video from projects.
    • I’m planning production for testimonial and documentary-style videos to share stories from churches and staff.
    • Our social media channels are up and running. Follow and share what the Lord is doing through I.C. and our partners on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. Here’s one recent update:

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Praise God for the salvations last month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo! He miraculously worked out peace during the week of the project among the warring tribes in the area. Fifty-two former cult members were among those saved.


What’s Next?

  • Training: This week, I’m joining other leadership staff at a Support Raising Solutions Bootcamp seminar.
  • Trip: I’m prayerfully considering where my first international trip this year will be. I’ll be evangelizing along with the team and capturing stories. Please look at the list and join me in praying about where to go. And pray about going yourself!

Family News
International Commission is my full-time ministry assignment, but you know my family is on mission in our local community, too. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

  • We closed on the new house and moved in! Thanks again for praying for our home-buying journey. We had to navigate some turbulence with negotiation, underwriting, and closing, but it all worked out just fine and we’re very glad that season of homelessness is over.
  • We’ve started meeting our neighbors, all of whom have been very nice so far. Pray that we’ll quickly build meaningful relationships.
  • Ella & Evie attended VBS at a church down the street and they loved it. Ella also learned about creative arts in worship at a skills camp at another church we’ve been visiting. Pray that we’ll soon discern which church to join.
  • We harvested our first cucumbers and peppers from the existing garden in our backyard!  We plan on planting more to eat from it as much as we can and to bless friends and neighbors with the extra. But we kill things. So pray that it continues to be fruitful.
  • We all volunteered at a World Refugee Day event in Dallas to welcome and celebrate newly naturalized citizens and their families. We met people from all over the world, including a very inspiring young student from Nepal. I got the opportunity to share a bit of my testimony with him and how God used Nepal to call me to full-time ministry with I.C. Here’s a bit of his story:

Anwesh

Anwesh didn’t speak English and had never used a computer when he left Nepal a few years ago. Now he’s a programmer and app developer who speaks three languages, codes in four, and is headed to college for computer engineering. His dream is to “be even better” than his hero Steve Jobs and to improve cell infrastructure in Nepal.

 


The gifts, prayers, encouragement, and support from our ministry partners have already been abundantly fruitful in my family’s life and around the world. If you have any prayer needs, please do send them along. Blessings to you and your family!