I had the privilege of teaching from the pulpit at our home church last Sunday. The message was a call for all Christians everywhere to advance and stop retreating. It has been something that the Lord has laid upon my heart as our Nation steadily declines into utter darkness and godlessness. For those that are interested, I have attached the message to this blog.
A few months ago our family took a road trip to Nebraska to visit family and friends and a few churches on the way. It was an amazing trip that was punctuated with God's grace and provision. As we set home for Washington on a blistering hot windy day, my wife and I were on a spiritual high. We had an incredible time with family and were so blessed and encouraged by their interest and support of us going to Cambodia!
4 hours into our trip our van lost power and smoke billowed out from the engine compartment and out the back. I immediately knew that it was a transmission issue. We pulled off to the side of the road and I began to assess the situation. We were in the middle of nowhere on a 95 degree day. It was Sunday, specifically Father's Day, and the closest town with a mechanic was 45 minutes away. I remember thinking to myself, what am I going to do now! I am stranded with 4 kids, my wife, no extra money, no transportation, and no clue what I was going to do. I felt helpless...
Panic and frustration washed over me with overwhelming force. I began praying, asking God why He let this happen when I overheard my 8 year old son Jackson assuring Hayley that everything was going to be ok. He began to explain, "God will take care of us and He knows what has happened. Everything will be ok, we (kids) are having fun but we should pray for Daddy. I feel bad for Daddy because he is having a bad day."
Even though my son did not know what I had heard, God used him to remind me of who was in control and convict me of my emotional response and lack of faith. His heavenly perspective in a difficult situation re-calibrated my view and prompted me to seek forgiveness from God for my lack of trust and patience.
As I contemplate the statements that my son verbalized to my wife, I am humbled and grateful that God used an 8 year old to remind me to have a heavenly view of my life no matter the situation or circumstance. I am to keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated.
With an eye on the mission field, Trev and I have been reminded not to neglect our children and to ensure that we walk them through the inevitable change that comes to a missionary family. After all, our greatest mission is to raise our children in a way that brings glory and honor to God!
With this in mind, Trev and I have been intentional in our conversations with our children to bring them along and to ensure that we understand their fears and expectations. After all, as parents, we have fears and expectations, so why wouldn't our children?
A few days ago Oliviya and I had the opportunity to spend some quality mother/daughter time together without the rough and tumble chaos that comes with 3 younger boys. I viewed this as a perfect opportunity to have a heart to heart conversation with her about fears or concerns that come with moving across the world. I asked her if she was nervous, scared, or concerned about anything. As she sat quietly thinking, I told her that I was nervous about learning the language, that I don't like being hot, and that I am sad to leave family behind. She sat and listened and then continued to think for a while longer. After a few moments of silence she looked up with tears in her eyes.
"Well, there is one thing I'm nervous about" she began. "I'm not sure how to tell people how to get to heaven. But I've been thinking, maybe once I learn to speak Khmer, I will tell them about some of Jesus' miracles and then give them a Bible and tell them to read it."
The simplicity of it, just tell people. After I told her some rather silly fears in hopes she wouldn't feel bad and might be able to admit maybe she was feeling the same, she comes back with that. Oh how my heart sang!
This is what's it's all about. For us to feel so burdened that the temporary things of this world cease to matter and instead, we feel so heavy the weight of lost souls. To be willing to give everything for the sake of the gospel and what God is calling us to do. She challenged and encouraged me so much that day. What was I focusing on?
As I think back on that day, I am grateful that God provided an opportunity to have a real conversation with my 9 year old. An opportunity to see her heart and what she was feeling! I am thankful for the simplicity of the gospel and the impact it has on all ages, even a 9 year old's deepest fear..."how do I share the gospel?" That is what every mother wants to hear...
What next? That was our question as the reality of becoming missionaries overcame and swept us into a state of fearful excitement and earnestness.
Taylor Creek, our home church, supports many missionaries through ABWE so we began to look there first and quickly decided to pursue our ministry partnership with them. We aligned on Biblical doctrines and philosophically with their view of church planting and evangelism.
After many hours of doctrinal tests, quizzes, testimonies, oral doctrinal exams, and personal references, we were invited and approved to attend the Candidate Seminar in Pennsylvania. It was here that God once again affirmed in our hearts the call to missions work in Cambodia and encouraged us spiritually with like minded men and women who have answered the call to missions from across the country.
At one point, I was given the opportunity to provide a one word description of my time at this conference. My response without hesitation was "brokenhearted". That response was met with furrowed brows and wide-eyed expressions.
"Brokenhearted"? Came the reply..."Please explain."
Throughout the week we were exposed to ministry needs across the globe. Needs that are real and eminent! Places where missionaries are all alone in their work of church planting and evangelism, ministries that need more team members, ministries that just need encouragement! We were provided opportunities to peek into the work of God globally and it was awesome! There were stories of tribes and whole people groups coming to Christ in masses, the Holy Spirit is moving but the laborers are few!
There it is again, that call for more help and seeing the need globally left me brokenhearted and yet motivated to get others excited about the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Another thought rushed over me...one that left me even more brokenhearted. My thoughts lingered and fixated on my home church. Ministries and people who have had a great impact on my life. Friends whom we cherish and ministries we love will be left for those whom we have not met, yet, there is still a pull...still a desire to leave.
Again, my mind wandered and once again left my heart aching...what about the United States? I began to reflect on those whom I had shared the gospel with and the response it received. I was quickly faced with the notion that our own country is in dire need of missionaries as well. Who is carrying the gospel locally? The laborers are few but the work is great!
My broken heart came from the burden for the lost; those who need the light of the gospel. That was my initial thought, but it is more than that. More than just the need for the world to know the Truth of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection! It was rooted in the need for laborers! Why are they few? Where are God's people? What or for whom are we living?
Brokenhearted...not just for the lost, but for my fellow soldiers in Christ!
I encourage you with this message from Paul:
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
- 1 Timothy 1:6-12
I remember thinking to myself, "I am so glad I am only here for 10 days." Ten days, you can do anything and go anywhere for 10 days...
The air was thick with humidity...suffocating and oppressive. The kind of air that makes it feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest. Just taking a simple breath caused perspiration and made me consumed with trying to escape. Where can I go to get away...just a little relief...anything. The realization of the inevitability that the heat would overcome and win became real, overwhelmingly real. I had to accept it. 10 days...it's only 10 days...
The smell, what was that smell? Was it me? No, that's not body odor, it's worse... I can handle body odor if for no other reason than knowing that I can fix that. No, this wasn't body odor...it was, worse. It smelled like someone was grilling steaks in an outhouse. The smell of savory food and human waste mingled and mixed into an aroma of confusion. I liked it and hated it at the same time. A smell that made me hungry and nauseous. How do I deal with this? 10 days...yes, 10 days.
The people were warm and welcoming. Distant, but welcoming...yearning to know what they could do for us and how or what we might give to them. It was a welcoming that I had come to know well going on several short term mission trips to Mexico. A proud country willing and wanting to share their culture with you expecting nothing in return. But this was different, they seemed...fearful, perhaps distrusting. Without hope.
The more people I met, the more my heart ached for their spiritual welfare. They live in fear, both physically and spiritually. Their lives are corrupted by paganism and spiritual oppression and a twisted view of life's purpose. 10 days...it's only 10 days...
That was my first visit to Cambodia, a beautiful country full of cultural wonders and extraordinary people writhed with fear and distrust. It happened 3 years ago. A short term mission that my wife and I lead our college group on. A trip, as I learned later, would be the beginning of a sojourners call to full time missionary work.
Fast forward to 2015...our home church in Maple Valley, WA was hosting a Missions Conference. It was a weekend full of festivities that culminated in a Q&A session Sunday night. We had several missionaries, whom we support as a church, speak over the weekend. At the end of the conference there was a Q&A session regarding their personal experiences and views of mission work.
This wasn't the first missions conference that my wife and I have attended. Our church hosts one every year in hopes to rally the prayer warriors and give a spot light onto those that have obeyed God's call to make disciples of all nations. This conference, however was unique for my wife and me in that the Holy Spirit was calling us to missions.
I remember during the Q&A session the overwhelming plea for help from each missionary. In fact there was a prayer that went out asking for God to draw out from our congregation someone that might be compelled to missions. There it was, a tug, an ache, a small voice saying, "You Trevor, I want you to go." Ugh, really? I have never wanted to be a missionary. Not once even considered that as an option. Ministry, yes, loved it. Missions work, nope!
I had been on numerous mission trips as a teenager and was never compelled to keep pursuing them. In fact the only reason we went to Cambodia was because our College Group had shown a desire to go on a mission trip. Why Cambodia you ask? We had just sent one of our own church members as a full time missionary to Cambodia. We thought it would be good to support them in their first year by visiting and seeing how we could help.
Now, through this missions conference I had a desire to seek mission work! Nah, I thought to myself after the conference. That was just an emotional response. So I dismissed the notion. Over the next few weeks I couldn't take my mind off of the conference. That small voice kept nudging. I spoke to my wife about what I believe was God's tug on my heart for mission work. Surprised and excited she confirmed that God had placed the same desire in her heart. There was no ignoring this now, I had to face the reality of what was happening.
My wife and I decided to pray for 1 month for clarity...is this truly from the Holy Spirit or just an emotional response to a real need on the battle fronts of global missions? My wife reached out to a dear missionary friend whom she got to know during our trip to Cambodia to ask for prayer and advice. Clarity soon followed.
In an email to Jen, my wife explained our hearts and the unfathomable tug of the Holy Spirit into missions. The response from Jen was an answer to prayer. She wrote how Todd, her husband, and she had been praying for us for over a year and half asking that God would direct us and lead us to do His will. After our trip to Cambodia, they both felt that we were called to missions, but felt it necessary to keep it to themselves and devote it to prayer. At one point she and Todd sought advice from their team leader in Cambodia on whether or not they should say something to us. The team leaders response was, in God's timing...let God do the work...devote them to prayer. Two weeks later, Hayley reached out asking for prayer and advice...Clarity, answered prayer, Confirmation.
The month of praying came to a close and we both concluded that it would be disobedient not to pursue the mission field, so we began by seeking council and researching organizations. Where do we go? Who do we talk too? How do we get started? What does this look like with 4 kids? Questions began to mount and overwhelm. However, with each question came answers and a calming peace, as if the Holy Spirit was saying, trust Me, be obedient and trust Me.
And so, a Sojourners beginning is unfolding...there is so much more to post, but will leave that for another day. Let me close with my favorite verse:
Titus 2:11-13 - "The Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, but to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus."
As I reflect on these verses, it is with joy and peace that I can embrace the idea of giving up my comforts and lifestyle to pursue an opportunity to preach Christ and Him crucified and resurrected to those who have no hope.
May We Always Look To Jesus and Him Crucified!