Archive for December, 2009

Go Now Update – Finding strength in the cold

December 23, 2009

Kennan Neuman, a senior mass communication/journalism major at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, spent  nine days with two other students in Transniestria, volunteering with CERI Ministries to hand out scarves, socks and boots and to share the love of Christ with hundreds of orphans. Here’s what Kennan had to say about the experience. 

Translator Alexei Rotaru and Kennan Neuman walk through downtown Chisinau, Moldova.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

After more than nine hours of flying above the Atlantic Ocean, our plane landed in Moscow, Russia. Passengers clapped. Leslie, my fellow team member, and I looked at each other and smiled. It was good to get our feet on the ground.   

The CERI orphan boot mission team changed for the third time to complete the last leg of travel before reaching Chisinau, Moldova. I knew I was experiencing a different culture already.   

Our destination was to Transniestria, a region between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. An area many people don’t even know exists.   

While there, we delivered boots, socks, scarves and hats to hundreds of orphans for five days.  

I’m a true Texan girl, and when it’s 60 degrees, I’m wearing a jacket. But the below freezing temperatures of Transniestria didn’t deter me from my ministry during this trip at all. I asked God, “Why did you send me to the coldest place possible?” I froze to the bone. Somehow He puts us where we are least comfortable, places where we have to rely on Him the most for strength.  

On the second day of the trip, I wrote the following:  

My eyes filled full [of tears] to the edges of my lashes. It could have been me there. I don’t deserve any more, and they deserve so much more. They soak in attention like a sponge … (I felt Your presence) when the girl in the yellow sweater grabbed my hand and patted the seat next to her, then talked to me in Russian.  

Later we laughed at seeing the review of her picture on the screen of a digital camera, then she motioned, held both my hands.We jumped up and down laughing. ‘Thank you’ they say in Russian – ‘Spasiba.’ ‘Pazhaista,’ I say. ‘Dasvidania,’ as I wave my hand goodbye…. 

Having toes that were frozen all day from being out in the snow and only getting about six hours of sleep the past few nights is starting to affect me physically, but my spirit has never been stronger.   

Instead of being a barrier to the treasure, the cold actually became the prize. The foot-and-half of snow that fell during our stay was the backdrop to a God-moment.  

Early Thursday morning wearing three layers of clothes, I met Borus, our bus driver-translator extraordinaire, outside. It was just after 6am. We had to shovel the driveway to make a path to the road for the van.  

At one point, the only sound was the cracking of our two shovels digging deep into the freshly fallen snow. The only constancy was the heat I blew from my mouth into the scarf covering my runny nose. Crack. Push. Breathe. Shovel. Exhale.   

It was my first time to shovel snow. The muscles in my back ached already. Borus went inside to retrieve his gloves. Later, David, another team member joined me and then left to find keys to the open the gate. I stopped shoveling.   

Looking up, I saw the dark sky. Ahead of me, an apartment building several stories high. On the ground around me, snow twinkling, sparkling like millions of tiny diamonds. I had “skipped” my regular, planned morning devotion and found Jesus while shoveling snow before the sun came up.   

“You will seek Me, and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 says.   

I found that seeking Him with all my heart doesn’t always mean singing praises in church. It means singing praises in a cold shower that you share with 15 other people. Seeking Him doesn’t always mean reading the Bible alone. It means talking with teammates after dinner about where you saw God working. It meant traveling to a place not many have heard of and being thousands of miles from home for a few days. Seeking Him with all my heart meant, at least that morning, “putting my back into it.”

Go Now Update- A New Global Perspective

December 23, 2009

As Joshua, an international studies major at Texas Tech University serving on a Go Now Missions Christmas trip in the Middle East, spent the last 10 days in the Middle East, he shared that his world view of the area has drastically changed. Many times, mission trips not only provide a way for students to share the hope of Christ to changes others’ lives but also their lives and views of the world are bettered in the process.

In Joshua’s update, he mentioned believers must allow God to provide their world views and not the media, noting how prevalent that is in American society. Below is some of what he shared.

First Impressions: First and foremost, American media gets a grade of F for representing the Middle East.  It is definitely not a complete desert.  Nor is it primitive or nomadic.  The people are not all extremists. And it is definitely not dangerous. In areas where wars are and have been on-going for 30 years, people, even Americans, are comfortably and safely living.

I would say that the downtowns or ghettos of most larger American cities are more dangerous than these areas.  Where in America can one leave one’s cell-phone at a mall bench and be confident it will still be there in three hours or leave one’s house or car unlocked?

Yet, for some reason, I doubt that even if I shouted this messages from the rooftops in America, people would remain skeptical.  It has become ingrained in us the images we conjure up when we hear the words “The Middle East.”

So, what can I do to remedy this misinformed view? Not much unfortunately…You must make the decision to be informed.  All I can do is share my story, and highly recommend you go and see for yourself what the Middle East is really like.  It will change your view and most likely your life.

“Don’t forget baby Jesus”

December 17, 2009

Leaving my 3-year-old’s pre-pre-school the other afternoon, he said, “Daddy, don’t forget baby Jesus.”

Ok, I immediately thought, “Man, this school is good and my child is brilliant.” While those may both be true, Evan was being a touch more concrete. That day at school they had made baby Jesus dolls out of tube socks and they were even wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Nonetheless, the phrase, “Don’t forget baby Jesus” is quite applicable and we have left the baby Jesus doll on our counter to remind us.

The Christmas wars

December 16, 2009

For the past several years, it seems the overarching press coverage of the Christmas season has centered around the Christmas wars — happy holidays vs. merry Christmas. Stores decided to be more inclusive in the language they were using in their signage, and a group of Christians were trying to “keep Christ” in Christmas, arguing signs and advertising should say merry Christmas.

This year, I don’t see that story as often. Instead, I see a new one that has risen in many churches. A different way believers are seeking to “keep Christ” in Christmas.

There seems to be a movement building of believers and churches who are re-examining how they celebrate Christmas, promoting a holiday that returns to its roots in the birth of Christ. It’s happening across the country and across denominational lines. These Christ-followers don’t simply want to remember Christ’s birth as “the reason for the season,” they want to act upon it too.

If anything can be boiled down to a few points, let me suggest that this is what this group of Christians is encouraging believers to do this Christmas (I’m practically stealing them from Advent Conspiracy):

  1. Cut back on the consumerism.
  2. Focus on Christ.
  3. Love others.

In churches, this movement seems to be driven on three fronts:

  1. Advent Conspiracy campaign. Across the nation — including Baptist churches across this state, congregations are joining in this effort that encourages people to worship Christ fully this season; give heartfelt, meaningful gifts rather than overspending; and love people to the fullest.
  2. Fair Trade efforts. Congregations, including Texas Baptist churches, are giving members an opportunity to “purchase with a purpose,” buying gifts that help pull people out of poverty and trafficking situations. Texas Baptists’ fair trade initiative is called Good News Goods, and churches have been holding fair trade markets leading up to Christmas.
  3. Benevolent efforts. As a society, we realize the struggling economy has forced many people into hard times. More than any year than I can remember, Christians are attempting to step up and help those in need with food, clothes or toys.

What do you think of this way of attempting to “keep Christ in Christmas?” How are you approaching this Christmas? Are you doing anything different?

Caring during Christmas

December 16, 2009

A few days ago, I met Jason Norton, pastor of King’s Trail Cowboy Church in Van Alstyne. Sitting around an open fire, Jason shared with me his concern for people in need this Christmas season and his desire to do something about it.

He has been camping in a tent in the middle of town and fasting since Dec. 1 and will continue doing so through Dec. 25, going without in hopes that others will have food and presents this winter.

It seems to be working. A steady stream of people have become aware of Jason’s efforts and have come by to see him, dropping off clothes and toys. They’ve thanked for him for what he’s doing.

But the items aren’t simply coming in. They’re also going out. More than 40 families have been helped as a result of Jason’s sacrifice. He’s met people for the first time. He’s encouraged people in their faith. He also led one person to the Lord there in the middle of town.

But my words get in the way. Here’s a sermon where Jason shares his heart for his effort. And here’s a brief video of Jason explaining what’s going on.

Hot chocolate and hope

December 15, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I spent a brisk evening with members of First Baptist Church in Lufkin who turned the city’s annual Christmas parade into an event to spread the hope of Christ. Instead of watching the parade, they handed out free hot chocolate and evangelistic multimedia CDs. Pastor Andy Pittman shared that the response to the opportunity to have one of the CDs was great. Only one person turned him down and another person asked for an extra CD to give to His friend.

See how the event unfolded below. This week, what event will you turn into an opportunity to share Christ?

JEHOVAH JIREH- God my Provider

December 14, 2009

GO NOW MISSIONS STUDENT BLOG by Joshua, an international studies major at Texas Tech University serving on a Christmas trip in the Middle East.

Having been on plenty of short-term mission trips, I have done my share of fundraising.  God has always proven faithful to His promises that He will provide all I need.  I have never lacked money for short-term missions, and in fact, the teams I have been a part of usually raise well over the amount we ask for.

However, this summer as I read the autobiography of George Mueller, I realized that it truly did not take much faith in God to ask other Christians to give prayers and money as they should; that only required me to have faith in my brothers and sisters that they would live, love and give as God’s Word commands!  Mueller took this to heart and decided that he would start an orphanage, which in turn started five other homes housing over 2,000 children!  Throughout all this, George Mueller pledged that he would NEVER even hint that the orphanages needed money but would bring all his needs before God whose bank will never break.  Thus, for over 40 year, Mueller proved the faithfulness of God as God continually and often miraculously provided for the children.  Often, the children would gather for breakfast with no food in the cupboards and no money to speak of, only to have God move an individual to donate food, funds or both at the very last second.

And God is still faithful!

For this mission trip, I have not even hinted that I needed funds although almost $3000 was needed.  I was the typical full-time college student working 30-hour weeks just so that I could make enough money for tuition next semester and bills and such. While in this paycheck-to-paycheck state, I was accepted to go on a mission trip this Christmas break and committed that prayer to God would be my only resort for funding.  And GOD ANSWERED!

The next week I was hired at a job that made literally FIVE TIMES the amount I was making and I was not even looking for another job!!! I cut down a few trees for folks during Thanksgiving and they pay me $1000 for it! My church mission pastor from three and a half years ago received my letter asking for prayer and promptly gets the church to give $1000!

Needless to say with these kinds of stories, God clearly showed that He will provide.  He is just waiting for us to ask. May this true story encourage you as you boldly choose to allow God to bring maximum glory to Himself.

Students share Christmas hope across the world

December 14, 2009

For many college students, Christmas time is when they flee cramped dorm rooms and hours of studying to enjoy some relaxing time back at home with family and friends. But this Christmas, more than 30 college students from all over the state will be leaving the comfort of home to serve with Go Now Missions, the student missions arm of Texas Baptists, to share the Christmas story and the hope of Christ with people in Texas and around the world.

Teams will be serving at various times Dec. 11 to Jan. 9. Some will place warm boots on orphans’ feet in Moldova. A couple will share the hope of Christmas over coffee in the Middle East. Others will hike through Nicaragua camping in small, remote villages to help with church planting. Another group will host English corners to meet students in East Asia. More will prayer walk and practice English with locals in a North African city. Still others will work on the World Hunger Relief Farm in Texas or meet physical needs through helping with apartment ministries and food pantries at Mission Arlington.

These students go in the name of Christ knowing that they have a story to tell that will change lives. While they are away, several will be blogging here about their experiences. I hope their stories will touch your heart as you read about God working in and through them to spread His story and glory. Please join me in praying during the next month for these students who are eagerly being obedient to the call God has placed on their lives.

“We weren’t going to have Christmas”

December 12, 2009

Ok, I’ve about had it with that phrase.

This time of year, which I love, brings about numerous sappy news stories and radio call-ins. There is a Christian music radio station here in the Metroplex and they play many of these segments where gracious people have stepped in and provided presents.

Inevitably, the person being interviewed utters the phrase, “We just weren’t going to be able to have  Christmas.” or “This person made it possible for us to have  Christmas.”

I do hope they mean that they weren’t going to have presents. Matter of fact, I’m quite certain that’s what they mean, but it’s not what they are saying.

As we know, Christmas does not depend on receiving gifts under a tree. Christmas does not not happen if you don’t have things to open on the morning of December 25. Nothing anyone can do can stop Christmas. Take note from the great philosopher’s (Dr. Seuss) character the Grinch. He tried, yet the point of that book and movie (the one with Boris Karloff narrating) is that there is more to Christmas than toys.

“Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! It CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

Unique Christmas Gift

December 7, 2009

 Are you looking for a unique Christmas gift this year?

Would you consider a mission trip?

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to go with the Singing Men of North Central Texas to Ukraine April 18 – May 1, 2010.

Travel will be up the Dnieper River aboard the Viking river cruise ship, Lomosonov from Odessa to Kiev. Each mission partner will serve on a ministry team supporting the 10 evangelistic concerts.

For more information please contact me rex.campbell@texasbaptists.org, or

Don Blackley donblackley@sbcglobal.net, or

visit www.michaelgottinternational.com


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