Posted by Becka | Posted on Monday, August 29, 2016 4:00 PM
I have never been a fisherman. Never. I am the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of fishermen and yet the genes of fishing must have passed me up because I have never been able to sit still long enough to catch a fish.
Last week our family took a vacation on the coast of Ecuador and I had an opportunity to watch a group of fishermen bringing in their catch of fish. It was unlike any process I had ever witnessed.
First, several of them rode out into the ocean on a wooden raft, dropping a net as they went. At some point most of them jumped off and swam to shore. Then the hard work began.
Men would tie themselves to a rope, at least six to each side of the net and begin to p u l l.
Slowly, over the next hour, they pulled and pulled. Every once in a while, one man would rush to the water's edge and retie himself to the rope and then as he held the line stable, his team mates would rush further down and re-tie themselves. Then the pulling began again.
As more and more rope was pulled out of the water, a young woman would coil this extra rope, keeping the men from getting tangled up in the excess.
After an hour of pulling the net became visible and a horde of birds flew over the heads of the fishermen trying to steal as many fish as possible. Sometimes it was difficult to see the fishermen because of the birds!
Finally the catch was grounded and large trucks pulled up to the shore to receive their share of the catch. Out of the truck rushed the drivers and their helpers and an assembly line was quickly made with fish being shoveled into buckets which were then carried to the trucks and dumped out. The buckets traveled back down the line where they were re-filled and red umped, several times over.
Whew. What work! And in coastal heat. I couldn't believe the number of people it took to bring in the catch- at least 30!
And the work was not done! Several men had to stay behind to take care of the net, bring in the wooden raft, and load everything into yet another truck!
So. Maybe I am a fisherman after all--- because this reminds me a lot of what I do as a missionary.
Gaby and Weston interrupted as I was helping Ricky record a drama presentation at the radio. They were too excited to wait. The two of them have been witnessing to a woman at a local park and each time they talk to this woman, they return ever so excited to share what God has been doing. Just two weeks ago this woman declared, "Are you evangelists? Because I don't want to talk to evangelists. I love the virgin of Cisne and worship her and want to honor her with my life."
And yet she continued, miraculously to listen as Weston and Gaby explained that they would not speak anything outside of the woman's own Bible. And so, for the first time in her life this woman began to read her Bible. They started with the book of John and when she finished chapter 1 she asked to keep reading.
Now, two weeks later this woman is curious. She wants to know if her own baptism was real. "Do I need to be re-baptised?" she asked Weston. "And what about these idols. I am confused. There is the Virgin of Cisne. The virgen of Guadalupe. So many. Which one is God?" "Is Jesus God?"
And I watch and listen as these two fishermen of men tell me about their work.
And then I thought of the team of people they had working with them. Me, holding the ropes and talking them through the process. Oswaldo who talked to Gaby about how to share her faith with an Ecuadorian catholic and shared resources. Sheryl who taught both Gaby and Weston to give their testimonies. My church back in the states and every single one of our prayer supporters who faithfully give of their resources and time to make it possible for me to pull in that rope! Irma who prays each day for the young people I disciple. My SIM Ecuador teammates who pour into my life and the lives of those I am working with.
We all have our place. It's hard work. It's uncomfortable work, what we do; you and I. And yet as we see that net coming in closer and closer to shore and we know that God is bringing in a catch so big our nets can hardly contain it- that work seems like nothing at all.
And suddenly I understand why my grandpa loved sitting all afternoon waiting for "just one bite". It's because he knew of the excitement of pulling in a catch.
So, my fellow fishers of men. Pray for a woman at the park. Her name, in English means- "The Light". Pray that Gaby and Weston will hold the front of that rope while the rest of us guide them back to shore.
I am glad I am a fisherman. It's in my genes after all.
I have been counseling a young woman through some tough life decisions because a failure may cause her life's course to shift in another direction.
As we were talking though options and what God might have for her (because He has something AWESOME for her), I remembered something. It had been niggling at the back of my head for a few days but shot forward in all of its hilarious implications.
I also failed an important course. I didn't know at the time that it was important, but honestly, the failure should have dramatically altered the course of my life.
I didn't just FAIL this course, I BOMBED it. From the first day it was a disaster. The second day was an utter failure, and a few weeks in was a catastrophe.
Day one: Someone pulled a prank and put snap bombs in my ink pen. When I went to make notes the ink pen blew up and the teacher was livid. At me.
Day two: Flunked my first quiz
Sometime towards the end of my course (my memory is fuzzy on this for very obvious reasons):
Short version: The ceiling fell in on my head.
Long version (because it's hilarious): So there I was, minding my own business (not likely) when a giant triangular portion of the metal ceiling comes crashing down. Seriously.
Everyone is looking at me like a have a triangular section of the roof sticking out of my head, because- I do! I am screaming, blood is spraying everywhere and this grim teacher is staring at me with THAT TEAHER LOOK that said, "You are the single worst student I have ever had in my life. You are an attention grabber from Hades you little brat child."
|I drew you a picture because there weren't camera phones back in the olden days.|
Four of the kids I work with were challenged to study a method of evangelism and teach it to the entire group. The next week we all (even a group from the USA who was here on a two week trip and who don't speak Spanish!!) took a big breath and went to the park to "practice".
Four of us sat out to paint faces and to tell the story of God's perfectness, man's sin, and our desperate need need of a Savior, that led to God's perfect plan of redemption.
One of the mother's listened intently to the story as one of the girls painted her child's face.
"Where can I find that story?" she asked.
"It's in the Bible, do you have one at home?" I asked her and then pulled mine out of my bag to show her.
"I have that exact one." she responded.
"Great! It uses really easy language to tell the story.
"Can you tell me how to get to THAT story you told? Do I need to start at the beginning and read the whole book?"
I smiled as I thought through my recent readings through the Old Testament stories and saw God Story of Salvation written on every page.
"Well, the entire book tells this story but you can get a summery by reading the book of John. It's really beautifully and simply written and if you want to know Jesus, it a great place to start."
As I showed her where to find the book of John, close to a dozen other parents huddled over my shoulders, interested in knowing where they could also find it?
And then the park official came over. Would he also want to know about this story I was telling? Not today. Today he would tell me that my story-telling time was officially over. And my heart plummeted. (both from the nervousness of being told I had broken the rules, and from disappointment that we had to stop.)
As we packed up our paints and told the children we had to leave it was hard not to feel the sting of rejection. It was easy to forget the thirty kids and their parents who had heard the gospel message in full.
As we walked back to the meeting place half an hour earlier than planned, the sky lit up with a rainbow and we stood under it staring at the majestic colors that swept across the sky. All four of us had forgotten the rejection and we just stood in awe of the backdrop of mountains and a rainbow. It was a double rainbow with a reflection inverted underneath and as we stared a third rainbow appeared.
Three rainbows. God's promise. Disappointment forgotten.
As we stood and watched the magnificent display, our other team members were leading six new souls to the throne of God. They reported that the rainbow appeared just after several of them prayed to accept Christ. An amazing harvest! Punctuated by God's promise.
But as we celebrate we remember that a prayer does not a disciple make and no where does the Bible command us to make converts. The hard work is still before us as we teach these six new believers how to follow Christ. Our work has just begun as we follow God's command to make disciples.
And I am humbled as we consider the best way to do this that I am part of a great team of people- national believers, all youth, who are dedicated to the task.
Will you pray with us. Will you pray for us? Will you take on this task of making disciples by partnering with us? It's exciting work, I promise :) (rainbow promise)
Posted by Becka | Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2016 7:30 AM
Have you ever thought about who your co-workers are in your ministries?
Several years ago I took a discipleship course. The instructor told me something that really changed my perspective.
"When you are discipling, you do not work alone. You are part of a team and your co-worker is the Holy Spirit. Don't try to do this alone. Find out where the Holy Spirit is working and then join Him."
The basic idea is that we often walk into a relationship with someone else, easily identifying areas of needed growth and then struggling to help that person overcome their spiritual obstacles.
This had happened to me numerous times and almost always ended in a terminated relationship. Usually because the person I was discipling simply became disinterested and walked away. I had wondered, "What is the problem? Are they just not serious about walking in Christ?"
But now I had my answer. I had not been looking to see where the Holy Spirit was already working in that person's life. Instead of finding out where He was working and joining Him... I was praying that He would join me and then crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It wasn't working. It was frustrating and discouraging to see people I dearly cared about continuing to struggle with sin and complacency.
Understanding that the Spirit was already working in the life of a believer and that I could join HIM in that work means that success does not, in any way, depend on me. I just step in and allow God to use me as a tool to do the work He was already doing!
Let me tell you a story to better help you understand the difference:
A man becomes a believer. He is a rough man who has had a rough life. His story of salvation is beautiful and full of redemption but his life habits tell a different story and he still struggles in ways that make his new Christian family cringe. For example- each Sunday morning the church arrives to see him smoking on the church property and when he gets excited he has a habit of using Christ's name in a way that is unappreciated by everyone else.
Finally, the older gentleman who is discipling him decides that these issues are needed to be dealt with and they begin to study what it means to respect his body (as the temple of God) and the needed respect for the name of God.
Meanwhile this man's heart is breaking from a deeper unrepented sin. He is twisted up inside and does not even know how to begin to deal with the ugliness he has in his life. He tries to hide what he is doing but each time he does it, the Holy Spirit causes him to writhe in agony.
Instead of talking to anyone about it, he pours his spiritual energy and his time of accountability into those two things that seem so important to his discipler. He tries to quit smoking and he starts replacing Jesus' name with "Jiminy Cricket". Meanwhile he is physically abusing his wife and son.
So how do we avoid entering a relationship like this? Well, it takes being intentional about knowing where the Spirit is working. And that takes TIME and EFFORT. It takes shared meals, it takes prayer, it takes sharing a life together. It takes extra phone calls during the week and follow-up questions that make everyone squirm a little. It takes transparency on the part of the discipler who must also share their struggles and failures.
As Dustan and I continue with our work of discipleship, will you commit to praying for us?
Here's what you can pray for:
That we would be innocent as doves and wise as serpents.
That God would reveal His workings to us so that we can always join Him.
That our relationships with those we disciple would be healthy.
That our language skills would continue to grow so that we can understand better and express ourselves better.
That we would continue to make discipling others a priority in our ministries.
Posted by Becka | Posted on Thursday, June 2, 2016 10:09 AM
May 31st- It's my birthday and as I prepare for a week of grueling work my heart is thrilled that my favorite day of the week also fell on my birthday.
Every Tuesday night I get to see the answer to six years of prayers. I look around at a room filled with people, who like me, are dreamers. And they are prayers, and they are doers. The fourth floor of the SIM ministry center fills with singing...
Open your eyes and see
The harvest is ready
The time is here
the harvest is ripe
Be strong. Be brave.
Get up and get preaching
to every nation
That Jesus is the life.
Six years ago I began dreaming of seeing the church in Loja take part in the great commission. I dreamed of them seeing their potential in reaching the nations for Christ and I dreamed of them sending missionaries into the uttermost parts of the earth.
Six years ago I started praying that a movement already happening in Guayaquil and in Quito would take root in Loja. But Loja was tiny, the church a little slow and no one seemed to take a gigantic dream seriously. Most of the time it seemed that God Himself didn't take my dream seriously.
Until one day Susy walked into Sendero and told me she had had a dream. A literal one, while she was sleeping. "In my dream I was preaching to muslim women" she told me. "I think that maybe God wants me to be a missionary."
I told as many people as I could. And the wheels moved so slowly I couldn't even see them moving.
Then another young woman told me about her calling to a country so closed I won't even type it here. I told her she was crazy and she responded that she was quite sure it was God who was crazy but that she was willing to follow Him with her life.
I told as many people as a could. And I could see the wheels start turning.
And yet another young woman told me of her dream of being a missionary and a young man asked me if I thought God wanted Lojano believers to participate in missions, and things started to spin...
And I won't lie to you. After six years of praying, I might have been a little giddy, and I may have come across as more than a little like a crazy woman.
And the wheels starting turning so fast I could hardly keep up. I wasn't the only person with a desperate dream and God was no longer holding us back. In the course of a month we held a huge missions event with a visiting Ecuadorian missionary, we sent one missionary candidate to Guayaquil for an interview and a young man to receive training in mobilization.
One week later I sat in a room of 15 people who had committed to mobilizing the Loja church into a missions participating entity.
It was Tuesday night. Our little group meets each week and we study topics that will prepare each of us for the mission field as well as prepare us to be mission senders. We praise God for His deep love for every nation and we pray that God will raise up Lojano missionaries and send them to the ends of the earth.
We have a lot of work to do. A LOT. But I can't wait each week to get to work.
If I were to ask you what your definition of a disciple was (in the Christian context), what would you say?
If, as missionaries our job is to fulfill the Great Commission, and part of the Great Commission is in the area of discipleship making, How do we go about that without a clear definition of what a disciple is?
Our SIM Ecuador Edification team began with the premise that we first must define what a disciple would look like within the context of the Lojano church. We decided on a 2 part definition.
1. A disciple is someone who follows Christ.
2. A disciple is someone who makes disciples.
One of SIM Ecuador's goals to to build up the local church and one of the ways we are going about this is to teach the church to be and to make disciples.
Now, I imagine that in the US church there are a mountain of resources. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges would be choosing which resource to use. That isn't the case here. Even though several discipleship resources have been translated into Spanish, they are often difficult to use because of the lack of contextualization.
So, over the last 4 months our small group has been working through one of our favorite discipleship manuals and then contextualizing it (and correcting Spanish). One of the biggest challenges is that the place we will be teaching is an oral learning culture and the manual was definitely written from a literate point of view. We take a hard look at each lesson and decide how to best teach the concepts.
We have a couple of months worth of work to do, but when we are done, we hope to have a resource that we can use to teach a small rural congregation to to be AND how to make disciples.
Please pray for our Ecuadorian team mates David and Rocio Martinez and David and Sandry Ludena as well as long time missionary Chandra Smith as they have been tasked with the bulk of the contextualization work. Pray for wisdom as they choose which passages and questions will best teach the discipleship concepts in the rural Loja context.
Please pray for me (Becka) as I teach the manual to the SIM Edification team as it is written so that we will have a clear understanding of the concepts we are wanting to teach. Pray that my Spanish will be clear and that as we review these important concepts, that it will effect the way we work for God's Kingdom.
Pray that we can finish the manual in the next couple of months and pray for Becka as she formats and types up the work that the team has finished.
Pray for the community of Portete where we will first teach this course. Pray that God will be preparing them to learn some very new concepts and that they will begin to diligently join us in our work of making disciples.
June 1st will be an 8 hour work meeting in our home to finish up lessons 4-5. Please pray that God will give us energy and wisdom as well as unity during this important work day.
That we have a dedicated team of people, especially including Ecuadorians, who have been faithfully working with us on the project.
We have finished 3 out of 6 lessons. Half way done!!!
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