I wrote this article couple of years ago for another website, but it was never published. Perhaps it was a little too provocative, or counter-Christian-culture? Not sure. So, I am posting it here. 🙂
You’ve heard the trendy phrases: “Being on mission.” “Missional living.”
When I hear such phrases I find that I am grateful to be living overseas, and that such trendiness has not entered my lexicon. Christian fads and Christianese phrases come and go. Unfortunately, they often do damage before they are kicked out the door.
I am not going to talk about being on mission, or creating missional communities. Instead, I want to discuss something far more important. A Biblical concept which, when applied, will have global repercussions. Missions. Not missional. Not on mission. But missions. Simple, not trendy. Black coffee, hold the soy and sugar substitute.
Missions is a non-Biblical term used to describe a Biblical church’s intentional and international evangelical activity. Hold on. You said international. Are you one of those guys that thinks that foreign missions is more important than domestic missions? Well, not really. I just think that somehow we need to differentiate between these concepts, both for the general understanding of the people in the pews as well as for proper implementation of the vision that the Lord has given to us as a church. For you see, when everyone is a missionary, then no one is. And when everything is missions, then nothing is.
Call it foreign outreach and domestic outreach if you insist on putting them on the same level, but please leave my friend, the word ‘missions’, alone. This word is special, for it is within this concept that we see the intention, character, and glory of our Heavenly Father. From Genesis to Jonah God revealed his heart for the nations. New Testament missions is simply the outworking of the eternal plan of God, and it continues today in our time, in our generation.
What is Biblical missions?
Serving: In Acts 13 we see Saul, Barnabus, and the leaders of the church in Antioch ministering to the Lord. They were already actively involved in the life of the body of Christ, effective servant-leaders who had their hand to the plow. They had a history of faithfully representing Christ in their cities, and they were witnesses to the grace of God. Sometimes I ask people who want to come to the mission field what they currently are doing in their home church. Amazingly, many of these people are not serving in any capacity. Missions begins with serving in the place where God has planted you.
Calling: The Holy Spirit will always faithfully represent the plan of God to the people of God. He is not trying to keep something hidden from us. God’s plan always incorporated active ways to make known his salvation to those who have not heard—and He called people to do it. In fact, when I read the Book of Acts I get the idea that the early church had to be chided along, even handed over for persecution, before they were willing to go beyond the borders with which they were familiar. The Lord will make His heart for the world known to those who are seeking and serving Him.
Sending: Although Paul and Barnabus were sent out by the Holy Spirit, they were also sent away by the church in Antioch. There are two things here that are important to see. First, the church needs to be ready to release (with authority and support) those whom the Lord sets apart to Himself for the work of the Gospel internationally. Second, the church needs to thrust out, even their best workers into the distant fields of the world for the sake of the Gospel. The difference is slight, but important. Many times we just wait for the Lord to put the desire on someone’s heart to go. Or worse, we are grateful that some independent person (read potentially trouble-causing) all of a sudden wants to go to the other side of the world. But that is passive missions, or even poisonous missions, and it is a reason why most churches don’t have anyone from their own fellowship whom they actively and wholeheartedly support on the mission field. Active missions is discipling people with the specific intent of sending them out to be involved in church-planting oriented activities.
Church-planting oriented: Wherever the Apostles went, the result was the establishing of local churches. The word church means assembly, and it is used in the Bible of gatherings of believers and non-believers alike. However, it is mostly reserved for this special organism which we know to be both the body and the bride of Christ. If our goal in missions does not encourage, revolve around, or result in a local church, we may be doing missions, but not New Testament missions. Am I saying that humanitarian trips are not missions? Orphanage ministry? Refugees? Business as mission? No, no, no, and no. What I am saying is that the New Testament model for missions seems persistent in the development of local assemblies. Did the disciples wait on tables? Yes. Did the disciples assist widows? Yes. Was the church tasked with helping orphans? Yes. Pure and undefiled religion… But these important activities are most effectively done in the context of a local church.
Remembering: Paul the Apostle, missionary extraordinaire, saw the need to revisit the churches that he had planted, and the need to maintain continual connection and communication with them. Much of the first portions of his missionary journeys were dedicated to visiting those churches which had been established on earlier mission trips. Also, much of the text of his letters was written to address certain problems, people, or a mixture of the two. Always one who was sensitive to the fact that he was no pope holding sway over these local congregations, Paul could write sternly but in humility. His earlier letters, such as to the Thessalonians, are more stern and commanding, perhaps in view of their recent establishment and their lack of existing local leadership. His letters to other churches, such as to the Corinthians, were more suggestive and persuasive, perhaps because of the age of the church and the existence of other local leaders. But Paul saw the need to communicate a consistent vision and demonstrate an overwhelming love to these churches again and again and again.
Missions is the method that the Lord has established for the broadcasting of His splendor to the nations. Do you have an active vision for missions? This is not a passing fad, but is the heartbeat of our Father.
This past weekend was the 2016 East Coast Missions Conference at Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia. I am looking forward to listening to the messages as time permits. So far I have only been able to listen to one, but it was so good. Here is the link. Matt Ellison shares a message entitled “When Safety is Satanic.”
Have you ever thought that those missionaries who are going to the mission field are being unwise, if not downright irresponsible, especially if they are taking children with them or going to a dangerous area of the world? Have you ever questioned a missionary’s call based upon their “ignoring” of safety, security, or lack of future benefit to themselves or their children? Some might say, “Well, at least you’re not going there with my grandchildren. That can’t be God’s will.” Or even, “You want to go to those awful people who want to destroy us? How dare you help those people. What a waste.”
Maybe you’ve never said those things, but perhaps you have thought them at one time or another. What does the Bible have to teach about the Kingdom of God and the American Dream? Are they one and the same? Are missionaries missing out out the blessings of God so as to simply experience some form of self-inflicted suffering? Or rather, are many Christians missing out on great blessing by seeking to preserve an ethereal aura of security, and consequently not encouraging others who are risking their own safety?
Matt Ellison of Sixteen:Fifteen Church Missions Coaching shares, “Do we have in mind the things of God. Do we value the temporal over the eternal. Do we prize our safety and security more than we prize the gospel’s advance? For many Christians the Kingdom of God and the American Dream are one and the same.” Take a listen to this message and be challenged to live radically for Jesus, and encourage others to do the same.
Have you heard the story behind the popular song ‘Same Power’ by Jeremy Camp? I had heard bits and pieces, but it was interesting to come across this interview where Jeremy gives the story behind the song.
With this in mind, I am posting an article that I wrote in the summer of 2013 about this event in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Thinking back, it is amazing to see how God orchestrated everything–from the biggest of decisions to the smallest of details.
This article was originally written on July 4th, 2013.
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
It was ironic. The very day of the arrival of Jeremy Camp and his team with Speaking Louder Ministries into Bishkek for a major public Christian event, an article was published by the Christian Broadcasting Network about “secret believers” meeting in Kyrgyzstan.
As stated in the article, “It’s practically impossible to openly share about Jesus Christ. Doing so will get you beaten, arrested, or killed.”
That is the opinion of most missionaries and, unfortunately, of a majority of believers in Kyrgyzstan. For this reason, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ has become a fearful burden rather than a powerful blessing. Many believers are timidly lurking in the shadows of supposed torture and death rather than boldly walking in the light, proclaiming Jesus.
Old Friends Discussing Future Possibilities
Preparations, plans and prayer for this outreach had been taking place for months, even years. What began as a mutual desire by old friends turned into an unprecedented blessing for a part of the world mostly known for its corruption, bride-stealing, and revolutions. In truth, we did not know what to expect. The fact is that missionaries are being deported from Kyrgyzstan, believers here do suffer persecution, and the laws concerning religion are more restrictive than in most parts of the world.
So, what was going to happen during a week of publicly advertised events culminating in the planned gathering of thousands of Christian believers and non-believers into the largest stadium of the capital city of Bishkek? Would it be resisted by the government? Would there be violent attacks by the Muslim majority? Would anyone come to the meetings at all?
Not by might, nor by power, but my my Spirit says the Lord
For seven years now the Lord has given us the privilege of living in Kyrgyzstan, a small country of five million, mostly Muslim people tucked into the mountains near the north-western border of China. However, with each approaching year we wondered if it would be our last and we would be forced to leave the country. [Update: Having turned over the work in Kyrgyzstan to national leaders, our family is currently serving in the country of Georgia which is located in the Caucasus mountains.]
When the decision was finally made that this summer Jeremy Camp with Speaking Louder Ministries would travel Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the timing seemed to be perfect. Under the corrupt rule of the previous president, such an event would have been much more difficult. Following the bloody revolution to oust him, which took place in Bishkek three years ago, it also could have been problematic to gather a large group of people together in the center of the city. Furthermore, as Islamization is rapidly spreading throughout Central Asia, no one knows what the future holds. Now was the time.
Advertisement in Kyrgyz for the concert
Yet, as plans were being made problems arose, and at one point the trip to Bishkek was called off. There just seemed to be too many unanswered questions. Finally, the Lord broke through and confirmed in the hearts of Jeremy and his team that now was the time for something special to happen in them and in Kyrgyzstan.
Nothing Like This Has Ever Happened Before
Time and again we were told that nothing like this had ever happened before. “Yes, we had a famous Christian musician here about ten years ago, but not for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.” To have dozens of churches working together in matters of prayer, planning, and participation, with the end result being a large evangelistic event in the center of the city… it had never been done before. At one point Pastor Yakov even suggested that all of the local churches make a financial donation to help cover the rent of the stadium. “It would be shameful for us to have Jeremy and his team come over here and for us not to participate in the financial costs associated with this event.”
Pre-concert press conference
Believers from many churches came together to translate Jeremy’s songs, for special times of prayer and corporate worship, and to get the word out throughout Kyrgyzstan and the surrounding nations. Yet, all of this was done with a large question mark looming in the hearts and minds of the people – what is actually going to happen?
After a week of concerts and events in Kiev, Ukraine, Jeremy and his team finally arrived into Bishkek. Jeremy had lost his voice after doing two concerts in a row in Kiev. Furthermore, I had smashed up my van only hours before I was scheduled to pick up Jeremy. On top of all that, my brother-in-law, Paul Billings, called me late that night informing me that his car was not working and he would not be able to help transport the team from the airport. As I towed Paul’s car home in my beat up van, I so wanted the Lord to give me the ability to see what was taking place in the heavenlies. The battle was real.
The next morning the team of twelve people arrived at the airport. Not a single bag was lost. All of their expensive gear was present and accounted for. We drove into the city, the sun just peeking over the mountains surrounding Bishkek. Everyone was tired, but excited for what the Lord had in store.
Jeremy’s dad, Tom Camp, teaching
Tom Camp, Jeremy’s father, was a part of the arriving team. With a deep-seated respect for parents and elders permeating the Kyrgyz culture, Tom’s participation in this outreach proved to be a key in opening the hearts of many. The first evening, Tom shared a powerful study from the book of Philippians. Weaving in stories from his own life, Tom encouraged those who were gathered together from different churches that “our suffering magnifies the beauty and glory of God.” Pam Markey, Renee’s mother, had earlier shared a verse that she felt described what God was going to do through this trip – Philippians 1:12-14 – “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” As Tom read the same verse I knew that the Lord had something special planned.
Throughout the week, over and over, verses and visions were given to people, shared over the internet, spoken during prayer meetings. At one point, Adie Camp, Jeremy’s wife, sent a verse by email – Jeremiah 20:9b-11, 13 – “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not. For I heard many mocking: ‘Fear on every side!’ ‘Report,’ they say… But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten…. Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” The same portion of Scripture, unknowingly, would be quoted in a message by Pasha Bolshakov, one of the leaders of our church, the Sunday following the team’s departure.
Seminar for Worships Teams
Wednesday evening had been set aside as a special evening for worship leaders and their teams from various churches. Initially, I had been concerned about how well we had informed people about this gathering, but as I walked into our church overflowing with people it was awesome to see representatives from so many different churches. The worship was powerful and the message with which the Lord burdened Jeremy was “God wants to give you, the people of Kyrgyzstan, new songs to sing. Not just translated songs, but songs birthed from your own experiences, sufferings, and personal walks with Jesus.” At the end of the evening, Vera, an elderly lady from our church, stood up and honored Jeremy by dressing him in traditional Kyrgyz garb – a kalpak (hat) and chapan (coat) made of wool.
Jeremy presented with traditional Kyrgyz Kalpak and Chapan
The following day we went to a special luncheon with some government officials. In what could only be described as a friendly meeting, jokes were told and information about our families was shared. These men went on to share of their frustration with the seemingly unstoppable Islamization of Kyrgyzstan. They spoke of how they felt powerless as they observed their people being coerced by a form of Islam that veils more than just bodies, but hearts and minds as well.
Interview with Jeremy Camp on Kyrgyz National Television
Battling the Grip of Fear
The youth–that is where the battle now lies. The forces of secular philosophy, materialism, religious extremism, violence, and drugs and alcohol are a constant pull upon the hearts and futures of these young people. So, an evening of worship and the Word with youth from various churches was organized for that evening. Another church in Bishkek offered the use of their hall, and as youth poured into this church there was an atmosphere of great expectation.
Worship during Youth Night
After Jeremy and the band played, Lika Roman, Miss Ukraine 2007, stood up and gave a short testimony about her own walk with the Lord and the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Completely unplanned, an invitation was given for young people to come forward for prayer if they sensed a need for a work of God in their lives. Dozens of young people streamed forward, praying with pastors and members of the visiting team. The second girl with whom I prayed shared about how she was overwhelmed with fear. She was the only believer in her family and felt that she could not even read her Bible or pray in her home, let alone share with anyone about her faith. With tears streaming down her face she said that she wanted to be changed and to be filled with boldness. In the same moment that I was praying about what the Lord would have me to share with her, Jeremy began saying from the stage “perfect love casts out all fear.” I immediately translated his words and told this girl that this was God’s Word for her. After we prayed, excitement radiated from her eyes.
Jeremy brought to his knees over the work of God in His people.
At least 80% of those with whom I prayed wanted to be released from fear and to be filled with greater faith and emboldened by the Holy Spirit. Some recommitted their lives to Jesus, others received Him for the very first time. If that had been the last event of the week, the team’s trip to Kyrgyzstan would have been more than worth it. It seemed that there was a breakthrough among the believers. Fear was being stripped away and people were being awakened to live brightly for Jesus.
However, later that evening we learned of slanderous TV and news reports that were coming out warning people about attending this concert. False information and blatant lies rolled off the lips and poured out of the pens of these reporters. The father of lies was lashing back. Pasha Bolshakov, the official representative of our church, was called into the Ministry of Religion many times to give account as to what was happening. Warnings were given that if something went awry that the church doors would be shuttered and he would be held accountable. Would we believe the words that we had just spoken earlier that evening?
The night before the concert was a powerful time of prayer with Jeremy and his team and the leadership of our church. More Scriptures were shared and wave upon wave of prayer washed out of the mouths of God’s saints cascading before the throne of God. What had been birthed in prayer was now being completed in prayer. The concert itself would just be the culmination of what God had already been preparing and doing in the hearts of the people of Kyrgyzstan.
To the Stadium
The day of the concert had arrived. There was no rushing, no major problems that diverted our attention from the privilege set before us. The Lord had answered prayer. Peace ruled in our hearts as we looked forward to what God was going to accomplish that day.
The stadium in Bishkek, Kyrgzstan. Threatening rain clouds developed into a clear sky directly above the stadium.
If God had done all of this, then we knew we could trust Him for the weather. But the meteorologists had promised rain for that day–basically all day. However, other than a slight refreshing sprinkle right before the concert began, there was not a drop of rain throughout the entire day. For a period of about 45 minutes one could look up and see menacing clouds encircling the stadium, but in the midst of it was an open, blue brightness directly above us.
Most people with whom I have spoken have estimated the crowd that came that day to be at about 10,000 people. As with any large scale event, we had our share of drunks, but overall it was a peaceful gathering. Believers from various churches, Muslims in full dress, and others who just came to hear good music filled up row after row.2007, sharing her story.
Four opening local groups, of Russian, Dungan, and Kyrgyz ethnicity performed well and generated an excitement as national melodies rang throughout the stadium. Officials from the national security service who came to monitor this concert were smiling in hearing songs in their own language.
Ravil Bisarov sings a Dungan song
Lika Roman, Miss Ukraine 2007
Following these opening groups, Lika Roman walked onto the stage and shared of her own story about being a person of light and a catalyst of change in a world that is attempting to squeeze one into its own mold.
Finally, Jeremy and the group took center stage. Their talent and boldness mixed with humility and respect soon won over the crowd, and the people in the stands took to their feet, yelling, clapping, and dancing to the music. From the very beginning our desire was not just for people to hear good music, but for it to be understandable to them. Members from our team and others from different churches had spent countless hours translating the songs that Jeremy would sing. The text of these songs was shown in Russian and Kyrgyz on large screens beside the stage.
In one of his opening songs, Jeremy invited his father up on stage to play the harmonica to a special blues tune. People were thrilled to hear this new style of music played by father and son. Later, after the concert, many people who were looking for the band were actually wanting to get Tom’s autograph and were expressing their appreciation for that one song which he played with Jeremy.
Tom Camp playing harmonica
After a few introductory songs Jeremy began to open up and share his heart with the people. He shared of the suffering that his first wife had gone through and her death, the change that took place in his own heart, and the answers to life that can be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. The colorful sun was setting and dissipating its gentle hues upon the nearby mountains. As Jeremy continued to speak a stillness swept the stadium as the bold proclamation of the Gospel went forth. Perhaps 10-15% of the crowd began to leave after Jeremy shared about his life being transformed by Jesus. I actually expected more people to leave. But so many stayed and later shared with counselors that, although they were not believers, they had been tremendously affected by Jeremy’s music and story. One woman whom I know shared that her daughter could not stop crying during or after the concert, and could not explain what was happening to her. In her own words she said, “This was a breakthrough for Kyrgyzstan.”
The concert was closed by a word from Pasha Bolshakov. Before getting up to share, thoughts ran through his mind, “If Jeremy, a foreigner, can be so bold in sharing the Gospel openly here, then I can as well.” The challenge went out to the people. “We are believers in Jesus. He has changed our lives. If you want to know more about Him, please come and let us share with you how you can know His love.”
Perfect love casts out fear. The answer to fear welling up in our hearts is always the same–to know God more. Please pray that the people of Kyrgyzstan and surrounding nations would come to understand, appreciate, and savor the love of the awesome God that we know and serve. Thank you for your prayers and partnership with us in the work here, and with Jeremy Camp and Speaking Louder Ministries.
“Pam Markey, continues her story, talking with Bryan about the joys and pain of serving on the field, especially after her husband died. The story clearly covers the amazing grace and comfort of the Lord and how the story continues today..”
Click HERE for the link to part two of the interview.
Click HERE for the link to part one of the interview.
“Bryan Thompson from Story4All interviews Pam Markey, who, in this first show of a two-part series, tells how she and her husband and their family moved to the former Soviet Union to begin a new life, leaving behind the farmlands of the American Mid-West.” Click HERE for the link to part one of the interview.
The end of this month will mark one year of our family living in Georgia (the country not the state). It has been quite a year–full of change, excitement, frustration, new experiences, and your basic cases of the ups-and-downs. Although we have labored in learning the language, we never seem to be able to learn it fast enough–that’s a down. But as we meet people, begin to have conversations, and share about the Word of God, our hearts rejoice that perhaps there is actually hope of us getting acclimated enough to be useable for the Lord–that’s an up. I know these things are not necessarily true, but feelings don’t always coincide with what I know to be true. That is why we pray, trust in the Lord, pray, wait on the Lord, and so earnestly covet the prayers of the saints around the world.
Since last fall we had been praying about a way to meet people. So, this spring we began a conversational English club for people over the age of 13. We weren’t really sure how it would turn out, but we have been blessed to have had the chance to form friendships with the 15-20 people who are consistently coming (and the bulk of those who are coming are classmates of our two elder daughters). How good it has been to play games together, watch movies and discuss them, and basically have fun times together. However, it has been even more rewarding to teach English using the Bible, and see many of them hear the Word of God for the first time.
Although times in class with these students have been encouraging, I longed for the day when we would have even more time to share more of our hearts. And so about a week ago we took some of the students camping. What was doubly exciting was that some of their parents went along as well. Spending hours together walking, wading in the river, getting stuck in the mud, making camp, fishing, cooking over an open fire, were all moments that deepened our relationships. What was even more special was that I was able to share quite a bit about the Lord and with some of the parents.
With more times of camping planned for this summer, we are eager to get to know these wonderful new friends even more, and have opportunities to share the Great News of Jesus with them. As the Lord brings it to your mind, please pray for the Distant Field of Georgia.
for hearts to be open to the Gospel
for the beginning of a Bible study
for us as we continue to study the Georgian language
for an even greater vision of what the Lord wants to do
On a side note, I heard a rumor that one of the more Western stores in Tbilisi has received a shipment of marshmallows. I know where I am going tomorrow. Got to get all them s’more fixin’s ready for our next adventure, for a camping we will go!
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As a missionary, I always like free stuff. When we moved from Kyrgyzstan to the country of Georgia I had to get rid of most of my library. What difficult days. So now I am on the prowl for free resources. Whenever good, free books pop up in my email or Facebook, I try to take advantage of them and build up my digital library. I must admit that it is still hard for me to go completely digital, but I take comfort in the fact the my kids are asking for real books too, as opposed to just more digital downloads. Maybe the love of the printed book isn’t just a generational thing?
Anyway, here’s a resource that is free right now. Although I have not read this study Bible yet, I am looking forward to checking it out. The ESV Global Study Bible is free right now for Kindle. (Make sure you click the Kindle version and check to see that it is still free.) I have been reading the ESV version along with my regular version for the past several years. I think it is a good translation, and I like the commentaries of the ESV study Bible that I already own.
As we are beginning a new church here in Tbilisi, we have started an English Club where we offer free lessons for students, and soon for adults. It has been a very fruitful way to meet people and share the Word of God. For part a part of each class we use stories from the Bible. I have been using the ESV version in my classes, even though it is not as easy of a read as the NIV.
I just wanted to pass along this free resource to world-minded people. Have you read this study Bible? Any thoughts?
Distant Fields is on sale from now through Valentine’s Day!
The following is an excerpt from the book describing the arrival of George and Pam and their eight children to Ukraine:
Flying into Kiev on July 4, 1992, was an unforgettable experience. As the wheels of the plane touched down, dilapidated shacks, old planes, and trees and overgrown bushes surrounding the airport seemed to race by. Thuds were felt every second as the plane rode over the concrete slabs that had been laid down for a runway. The tall grass growing up in between these concrete slabs left one wondering how many flights actually arrived into this airport. Eventually the plane came to a stop at the Borispol International Terminal.
Upon exiting the plane, the family discovered that looking for a baggage carousel was an effort in futility. While pondering the status of their belongings, the Markeys and everyone else from the plane were herded into an empty room and left standing and wondering. Soon the sound of a tractor jolted everyone into alertness. Gazing around the room, local people soon began to congregate around an open area in the middle of the room. The sound of the tractor grew louder and then finally emerged from new beginnings the back of the room. Behind the tractor was hitched a trailer, and on the trailer was a huge mound of luggage. Before the tractor even came to a halt, people from the plane were climbing up onto the trailer and hunting for their luggage.
As the engine of the tractor finally shut down, George climbed onto the trailer and began searching for their belongings, passing them to his children. All of the bags were gathered and the family was once again left standing and wondering. A line was forming, meandering into a dark corridor over to their left. The all-important matter of lines would be something that the Markeys would learn over time. For now, the 10 family members got into line, amazed at the pushing, shoving, and trampling as people rushed to cut in front of them. To their right stood a small glass-encased display cabinet offering “duty free” items, and to which no one seemed to be paying attention. A solitary light bulb dangling over their heads was the only source of a dim and insufficient illumination to the path before them.
After passing through customs, the family followed the other passengers to a set of doors. As the doors opened, all that could be seen was a wall of humanity. The passengers ahead of them walked directly into this mass of people, and as they did, a small crevice emerged through which they then inched forward. Not wanting to miss out on their chance, George led the charge, the people in the crowd seemingly not phased by the commotion, elbows, and other body parts clashing into each other. Any apologies offered for bags rolling over shoes went unanswered by people who were returning only empty stares and confused expressions…
I faltered this year. I suggested to my wife and kids that we celebrate Thanksgiving by eating out at a restaurant. Can you believe it? I actually had Renee talked into it, but those children…
Thanksgiving with Grandpa George, Kyrgyzstan 2006.
Thanksgiving has always been a big holiday for our family. Wherever in the world we have found ourselves over the past 20+ years, we have had friends and family with whom to celebrate this special Day of Thanks. With lots of planning for the occasion, the locating of just the right ingredients in foreign countries, and the grand times of feasts and fellowship with friends and family, each Thanksgiving holiday was highly anticipated, a labor of love, and left us with lasting memories.
However, this year we find ourselves in a new country and missing our friends and family. I mean, we are still trying to figure out where to buy life’s essentials, let alone the necessities for a festive celebration. So the Grinch (me) entered into our family and woefully suggested an alternative menu and a different locale.
Unacceptable! There were no mean words, but looks of wonder and astonishment. My children were aghast. “Father, how could we?” Although they are missing loved ones this year as well, they were ready to celebrate this special day with just our family. And so I find myself doing what I don’t want to do–shopping for a ham (which should be a bit easier since we are not in a Muslim country this year, but I am still having difficulty). I do have a secret though–since the kids haven’t mentioned sweet potatoes, I think I am off the hook on that one.
The main purpose of Thanksgiving does not change. In fact, perhaps the adjustment for us this year gets us even closer to the heart of the holiday. Yes, Thanksgiving is a time of gratefulness for family, friends, and loved ones. But when those things are stripped away from us, we see the need to continue to give thanks to a God who created us, saved us, and wants to be glorified in and through us. “Oh give thanks to the Lord…and make knows His deeds among the peoples!” Psalm 105:1. If you find yourself a little short on family or friends this Thanksgiving, join with us in reading though Ephesian chapter one–a list of all of the spiritual blessings that are available to us in Christ. And then, find ways to get involved in sharing those blessings with the nations.
We are thankful for the priceless gift of salvation, and the many spiritual blessings in Christ.
We are thankful for the privilege of serving the Lord overseas.
We are thankful for the many who partner with us in making His deeds known among the nations.
We are thankful for the legacy of those who have gone on before us.
By His Grace,
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