Sunday, December 13, 2009

Godj (Well Rope)

The chief of Godj (Well Rope) has recently given us permission to story in his village. A couple of weeks ago I went riding on my motorcycle out towards the area we have been asked to target. My objectives were to get used to riding in the sand again and to see who I would meet and what the Lord might do. I was looking for one village in particular (called Lanta) where I had already met one man, but that was only one village. Besides, they have yet to connect me with the village chief there.

I suited up in my riding clothes (due largely to the fact that I didn’t know where I was going and I had no idea what I might meet up with) complete with riding boots, etc. I found Lanta and stopped to ask if my acquaintance was there or the village chief, but neither were there that day. Then I kept riding and rode through a couple of villages before stopping at a meeting place just off the main road (wide sand track for horse carts and missionaries on motorcycles). There were a lot of men there so I stopped and talked. We all shared the same last name (N’diaye). As I chatted with them they all invited me to lunch. I would finish in one place when someone else would call and invite me to lunch. (I only ate once…)

I stuck with the guy that first invited me to lunch and met his family. He ended up giving me like 8 kilos of peanuts. I described the house to them all and one day last week one of them showed up at my house to greet me. I told him further what I wanted to do and told him that I would go there on Tuesday to talk to the village chief.

I showed up and met with the village chief and we talked about what I want to do. I told him that what I want to do has two sides. One side is to see how we can seek to help them in their physical life. But that side is not enough. I told him that even if I was able to put billions in helping the village, unless God blessed the village, it wouldn’t help. That is the other side of what I want to do there and it’s so much more important. That is to seek to help them know God deeply. I told him I would do this by teaching the first books of God (Old and New testaments). He was agreeable! So, the Lord willing, we will start there when they are completely finished with the harvest.

Pray that God gives us wisdom about how we can proceed with the physical help and how we should do this in a way that would be harmonious with the Gospel and what we desire to do in that vein. Pray, too, that God would open the door to Lanta and other villages. Thanks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Finally in Senegal

Finally, we are back on line and can start reporting to you all. Just a reminder that this is where I’ll be putting up prayer requests, experiences in our work, and progress reports for what is happening in the different villages in which God gives us to work.

We are now in Kaffrine and very happy to be here. It is warmer than what we were used to in the US, so we are still adjusting. Unpacking is going well and most things have done OK with the long storage time. I have had to repair one table and everything needs a good coat of varnish to protect it, but all in good time. We’ve also needed to have some windows installed along with mosquito screen, but enough of the mundane.

Andy has made some neat friends around town. There are a group of young guys from various villages in the area who have given their hearts to Jesus. He sometimes hangs out with them to learn Wolof and get out of the house. The other day, he went with a friend to the market to buy his own Arabic tea set. Later that day, his friend “xiim-ed” the tea for him in Andy’s first lesson in tea brewing. “Xiim” is the verb in Wolof used exclusively for the brewing of tea. One then can assume the importance of tea in Wolof culture. All these new things can make a 15 year old young man pretty tired. The heat, the language, the culture, the friends… the list could on and on, all while the house is still littered with boxes and barrels. He is doing really well, but pray for his stamina and that he will stay interested.

Yesterday, I preached in Wolof for the first time in years. There is an Assemblies of God “church” here in Kaffrine. I put church in quotations because I want you to understand that though there is a building and believers meet there on Sundays, there are almost no local folks attending. The service is held in French mostly with occasional forays into Wolof. It is very western in its style of worship and thus unwelcoming to Muslim Wolof. We attended last week with a colleague who had asked me to go in case she was asked to lead singing. She wanted to be able to turn and ask me to lead instead. So I did. At the end of that service, the pastor asked me to preach the following week. So yesterday, I led the singing again and preached – all in Wolof. It was fun in some ways, but I felt out of place. You see, God has called us to reach the Wolof and while I’m happy to serve where I can and when I can, preaching there isn’t the best route to take in doing what God has called us to do.

One cool thing to report is that God seems to opening the doors already in at least one village where we hope to work. I needed a mason to install a door for me in the house here. So, my motorcycle tire went flat. I took it to the guys who repair tires close to my house here and met a guy who is a mason. I hired him on the spot. It turned out that he is from a village out towards to southwest of Kaffrine. We’ll call it Hotlanta (if you come visit us, you’ll get the joke). While he was working, we were chatting about how God takes care of us and I asked him if he was interested in him and his village hearing the chronological stories. He said that he was. So, I hope to meet the village chief soon and ask permission. Please pray for all of this and pray that God would show us the villages that He wants us to work in.

Monday, September 14, 2009

God Loves a Cheerful Giver - part 3

Supporting the Kingdom of God – Worship or Drudgery?

If you haven’t read the other two articles on this topic, check them out in the archives section of the blog.

The word of God says: “6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. “(Bolding is mine).

So God loves a cheerful giver, but how are we supposed to conjure up cheerfulness in giving when the economy tanks and our job (if we still have one) is in danger of being cut?

One of the things that I have often asked teens is, “What are the only riches that we’ll be able to take with us to heaven?” Obviously it isn’t money, or cars, or houses, or even our status in society. The only riches that we will be able to take with us when we go are our friends and family who have found true forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ. I would like to expand this to include anyone in whose lives God has used us (directly or indirectly) to bring them to an intimate relationship with God through Jesus. This is it! Also, the only thing that is within our grasp is the glory of God. Everything else that we grab for will slip right through our fingers.

“Missions exists because worship does not.” (John Piper). It has often been expounded that missions is an act of worship, indeed, it is at the very heart of God – to seek out the lost sheep to bring glory to Himself. Why is missions an act of worship? The answer is in Rev. 5:9, 10, “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”” (bolding mine)

As we participate in seeing the lost reached with the Gospel with our finances (whether through our church in reaching folks local to us or through missionaries like Esther and I reaching the uttermost part of the world) we are actively worshipping God. We are taking our earthly treasure (where rust and moth corrupt) and transferring it to heavenly treasure! Has that been your heart as you have written checks to your home church or given your hard earned money to a missionary’s ministry? Has it been with a view of “I can’t wait to see what this small check will do for the Kingdom?” Have you given your check and as you place it in the offering plate, envelope, or offering box said, “Daddy, I sure love you! Please take this, glorify Yourself with it and make sure it is used to see people come to Jesus!” God is worthy of the praise from every tongue of every man, woman, boy and girl on the planet! Give from a heart of worship, not because the poor missionaries need it or the church accounts are in the red. Give as if Someone gave you all He had from a heart of love. God loves a cheerful giver.

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. 2 Co 9:6-8
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Re 5:9-10

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Call to Ordinariness

It was early morning and I could smell the ocean on the breeze rushing past my face. The sun had not yet risen for the day. It was going to be a nice walk in solitude through the cool, wet sands of the beach – a good time to be alone with the Lord and enjoy His creation. As I stepped down from the boardwalk protecting the dunes that separated land and sea I was shocked by the amount of people already on the beach. What are all these people looking for this early in the morning?

We recently took a family vacation with Esther’s family in Myrtle Beach, SC. I always try and spend at least one morning walking the beach and praying when we are near the ocean. The noise of the crashing waves usually drowns out my distracting thoughts and I can concentrate on the Lord and what He is saying to me. It is a great place to listen. However, this morning I was shocked by the amount of people already on the beach. The sun wasn’t even up… what were they looking for?!

As I walked and prayed and quieted my thoughts, I observed them all. There were couples, individuals, and even dogs scouring the sands with their heads down. The concentration was intense as their eyes roved to and fro over the small section of beach at their feet. There was even a lady there with her metal detector and shovel ready for sunken treasure. They were looking for something extraordinary – the conch shell, or the cone or maybe even a star fish. With the backdrop of ocean-washed sand-castles from the day before, it was quite a picture.

Suddenly at my feet, I noticed a beautiful little brown shell. It was half of a broad-ribbed cardita. That’s a fancy name for an ordinary brown shell. There were thousands, maybe millions, of them on that beach. It was beautiful, but ordinary. It had probably been passed over numerous times before by the beach-combers, but not noticed due to its ordinariness.

Enjoying its beauty I asked the Lord, “Daddy, why did you make so many brown shells?” My thoughts turned to what the Lord was speaking to me about faithfulness from Ps. 101 that morning before my walk. My prayer was for the Lord to give me the strength to be faithful, to be consistent in my obedience to Him. I don’t want a bi-polar commitment to the Lord. In that quiet moment with the ordinary brown shell the Lord asked me, “Are you willing to be ordinary? Are you willing to faithfully walk in obedience to me and be unnoticed by those searching for the extraordinary?”

I realized then that faithfulness isn’t a call to oooh and ahhh the masses, it is a call to ordinariness. It is a call to do the unpopular tasks of life with joy and cheerfulness in worship before the Lord. It is in one sense, a call to consistently “change the diapers” in life and ministry, whether you are noticed or not. Sensing that it will cost me dearly to learn this lesson, I answered the Lord by saying “yes”. What about you? How will you answer His call to ordinariness?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God Loves a Cheerful Giver - part 2

God’s Plan for Funding His Work

The seminar that I attended recently on support raising has really been an encouragement. We are enjoying support raising for the first time in our 15 years of ministry! It is mostly due to the truths of Scripture that I came to understand from the seminar. Last time, in the article To Make Tents or not – that is the Question, I was trying to help clarify what tent-making was and how it was used in Scripture to fund Paul’s ministry. Now that we know that tent-making was not God’s ideal plan to fund His work, I want to talk about what is God’s plan.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Paul defends his rights as an apostle. Central to this passage and this topic of what God’s plan is to fund His work is vs. 14, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Paul uses some examples earlier in this passage from life and the Old Testament, but this verse leaves no doubt. Notice that it says that the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should live from it. This is not a suggestion or merely a good idea, but a command. In other words, if you are spending your time preaching the Gospel, it is His command that you are supported from your hard work of preaching the Gospel. By the way, remember that “if a man does not work neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), so our work of preaching the Gospel is not a call to laziness.

Therefore, if those who preach the Gospel are to receive their living from it, does it simply fall from the sky and land in the lap of those who need it? Again the word of God comes through! Numbers 13:21-32 commands that the Levites were to dedicate themselves to the Tabernacle and the worship of the Lord and that they were not to receive land when it was divided up. They were to be supported by the tithes and offerings of the children of Israel. Notice, however, to Whom the gifts were offered. The children of Israel were to give their tithes and offerings to the Lord and the Levites were to receive from the Lord His provision. This is emphasized in Malachi 3:8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.” The tithes and offerings belonged to God, not the Levites.

In the New Testament we know that it isn’t only the tithes and offerings that belong to the Lord, but all of our earthly possessions, and even ourselves as well. If those who preach the Gospel are to receive their living from the Gospel, then we all should be supporting those who preach the Gospel, whether here or abroad. The cool part though is that we offer it not to the preacher of the Gospel, but to God Himself. To Him it is a “sweet smelling aroma” (Phil. 4:10), but more about that next time!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

God Loves a Cheerful Giver - part 1

To make tents or not - that is the question!

Recently I attended a seminar on personal support raising. It was awesome. Honestly, I was afraid that it would be a lot of sales gimmicks and theological acrobatics. However, it was nothing like I thought that it was going to be. We spent the whole first day in the word of God discovering what God’s plan has always been for funding what He is doing in the world and then discovering biblical perspectives on funding the work of God in the world. Cool stuff! I wished I had this seminar 15 years ago when we first started ministry.

For so long, I’ve thought that the ideal way to support ministry was through tent-making (that is working a "regular" job while doing part-time ministry) and that because it wouldn’t work that well in a good part of the world today (that is the poverty stricken places of the world), we missionaries had to go around and raise our support. However, tent-making was the exception, not the rule, in funding God’s work around the world. Paul was the tent-maker and he was the only Apostle to earn his living from anything other than preaching the Gospel. Not only that, but even Paul didn’t completely fund his ministry through tent-making.

There are three prime examples of Paul working at something other than preaching and teaching to support himself. The first is in Corinth where he met Aquila and Priscilla, who were tent-makers themselves (Acts 18). It is evident that Paul was doing the tent-making until his companions arrived and then he was “compelled by the Spirit” to proclaim the Gospel. It seems that he at least “kicked the evangelism up a notch” when his companions arrived.

It is interesting to note where his companions came from – Macedonia. It was the Macedonian church who supported the church planting work in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:7-9). I wonder if Paul’s companions brought some gifts from the Macedonian church with them when they came. Seeing that gift might have inspired Paul that God wanted him to focus on proclaiming the Gospel, rather than being distracted with making tents.

Another example is in the case of Thessalonica. You may remember that it is to this church that Paul wrote “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10). What was happening in the Thessalonian church was that they were over-balanced in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. In fact, they were so over-balanced that they were being idle, and they weren’t being responsible with their time or resources. They had the view of “well, it’s all gonna’ burn anyway!” Paul worked as he discipled them in order to model a strong work ethic against the idleness that characterised their everyday existence.

Interestingly, it was in this setting that Paul received from the Philippians “aid once and again for his necessities” (Phil 4:16). So, even when Paul was working to model a Christian work ethic for a church caught up in idleness, he received support from yet another church. Why would he do this? That brings us to the last example of tent-making.

In Ephesus, Paul apparently did tent-making or something that brought in some income. He told the Ephesian elders that his “hands” had provided for his necessities, and for those who were with him (Acts 20:34). It is interesting to note his reason for this. “I have shown you in everyway,” Paul says, “by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” (Acts 20:35) This goes along with what Paul was teaching them in Eph. 4:28. So, similar to the situation in the Thessalonian church, Paul was teaching something by working. In Thessalonica he was modeling a good work ethic to combat the idleness he found there. In Ephesus, he was modeling generosity.

The next article that I write will be more about what God’s plan is for funding what He is doing in the world. Tent-making or working to support oneself in ministry was used in Scripture in a very unique setting and for very specific reasons. It was not the ideal. So, come back soon and find out what God has planned from the beginning. It totally transformed our ministry.

Monday, May 25, 2009

That’s Kaffrine, not Caffeine!

Some of you may be wondering where Kaffrine is and what is chronological storying. Kaffrine is a small rural town in the middle, eastern part of Senegal, just north of the Gambia. It is located in the heart of Wolof territory and is surrounded by villages which are almost totally Muslim.

A Southern Baptist couple started working in the Kaffrine area about 12 – 15 years ago. They used their gifts of compassion and service as a spring board for the Gospel. They began to develop and use the Chronological Storying method. Storying is a method of communicating the Gospel starting with Creation and moving chronologically through the Scriptures to the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2. In this method of teaching, one focuses on the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, so that the coming of the Messiah is fully understood. This also helps people to fully understand sin and the depravity of man. Chronological Storying is a method that I have wanted to use since my internship in Ghana back in 1991. I had planned on using it in Khombole but was still working on development of the resources when I was asked to serve in administration.

The doors of ministry began to open for this Baptist couple back in 2001 as villages sent messengers to ask for the stories to be told to them. This lone couple could not answer all of the requests. They pleaded with their mission to send more workers. For some reason, they were turned down. They made a plea to all missions for help. While serving as field director, I was able to be a part of sending five families out to that region. Not all were able to stay, but the door is still wide open for the Gospel and villages continue to request that the stories be told to them.
Now, there are four families with SIM and the lone Baptist couple working together to reach the villages surrounding Kaffrine. There are other organizations that have come to work only in the town at this point. Our desire is to join this group and reach the Wolof villages in the area with the Gospel.

Monday, May 18, 2009

When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.

I was reminded of this line from the Sound of Music a couple of weeks ago. Last month I was sick with strep throat (it hung on for six weeks) and God used that down time to really think about our involvement in the university ministry in Dakar. The trans-missional team is planning on using an approach called the Insider Movement. I felt that there were certain elements to this approach that were not healthy for the church. We saw this then as a definite closed door, yet our hearts still long to be in Senegal reaching the Wolof with the Gospel. What is God doing here?

That was the subject of prayer for me during my time of sickness. One morning in my quiet time, I feel the Lord gave me the thought that He has been delaying us and then closed this door in order to open a door that He has wanted to open for us all along, yet we were not ready to walk through it. That door is rural ministry in Senegal.

I remember the simple days as church planters in Khombole years ago during our first term. There were days, of course, when we wanted to buy a plane ticket home, but over-all, we really found our niche there among the simple rural folk. I can remember coming home from a village thankful that I could live and feed my family doing what I was doing. Loving folks who have never heard of Jesus and seeing the lights come on in their hearts and minds is better than anything I can imagine doing, including riding motorcycles!

So, God has opened the door for us to go work in Kaffrine, Senegal where we already have a team of missionaries. So, we will enjoy fellowship. Also, they are using a method that I’ve wanted to do since I did an internship in Ghana, W. Africa in 1991. The SIM/Southern Baptist team in Kaffrine has been using mostly Chronological Storying for many years now. I’ve wanted to do a similar ministry since I observed Mark and Amy Hagerup using it in Tamale, Ghana.

It gets better. The best way to go out to the villages in the Kaffrine area is via motorcycle. ( -: But wait there’s more. Andy wants to help me out when we first get there by possibly putting the stories to dramatic presentations. So, the Lord willing, he will be with us in Kaffrine the first little while and we’ll hopefully get him a small motorcycle to ride with me out there. He’ll do home school in the mornings and write any skits for the stories, then in the afternoon, he can go with me each day to the villages to preach.

Andy hopes to attend Dakar Academy, an M(issionary) K(id) school in Dakar. So, we are trusting the Lord to provide for him if God wants him to attend DA.

But wait, there’s more. This new change of ministry focus takes us out of expensive Dakar and puts us in the bush. On our new budget, we are 58% in our monthly support. That is only about $2500 more a month to raise before we get to go home! We’ll also need a four wheel drive vehicle for when Esther and the littlies come along for some ministry. God is so good!

I guess one could say after all this that when God closes a window, it is because there is a huge door that He wants you to walk through. Is God doing something similar in your life? Does it seem that the doors are never going to open? Does is seem the He has disappointed you for some reason. Know that He will accomplish His purpose in your life. Know that you cannot “fall through the cracks” of His fingers. You are in His hands. His hand is so vast that you will never find the edge of it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Senegal Nights

This past week I was busy making money for our needs on this side of the ocean (our support is too low to receive our full salary). It was kind of fun to relive the days when I did residential wiring. Two days I worked with a guy in our church that has a security systems business. Like old times, I swung from joist to joist dragging my ladder with my feet. I also cut quite a bit of firewood. That was also fun, but I certainly could tell that it has been awhile since I did those things on a regular basis. That is what we call the “poor man’s gym”. ( -;

A bright spot was that we got to meet a family headed to Gambia as missionaries with ABWE. This mission and their work in Gambia are a part of the Wolof partnership for the Senegambian region of West Africa. We hope to see this new family and perhaps host them as they come north to join us each year for those meetings. They are raising their support as well and hope to leave soon for their first term. I’m hoping that we can get together more on this side of the ocean for prayer and mutual encouragement. Maybe I can help them with their Wolof before they go.

Esther and I have been talking about having Senegal Nights here at our house. These are evenings where we would host people who would like to know more about what we hope to do in Dakar. We could eat supper Senegalese style and enjoy fellowship while talking about ministry to the university students in Dakar. If you are interested in being a part of one of these and are going to be in the Clayton area, please get in touch with us, we’d love to have you. Maybe you would like to host one and let us come and speak with your neighbors and friends. Get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to travel to you and have a Senegal Night at your house. You can call us (706) 490 3176 or (706) 782 1899 for details.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

African Chop for the Soul

Hey you guys. I just got back from a missions conference at Toccoa Falls College. I actually didn’t know about it until late in the week last week, so I didn’t get a chance to ask for prayer. At any rate, the conference went really well. I was at the school with Steve and Ann Lutz (the SIM Southeastern Regional Directors), and Joy Freeman (SIM Niger) to represent SIM and to be used by the Lord to generally cause mayhem with people’s decision to stay in the US. By God’s grace, both happened.

The conference started for us on Monday morning as we presented for an 8:00 am class on the book of Acts. Talk about sic’em to a dawg! We each took time to share about our ministry and relating it to the book of Acts. We talked about leading families to Christ, the sufficiency of Scripture (as principles for ministry strategy and truth to be communicated), and the dynamic of the Spirit of God in ministry. Those things spiced with stories of how God taught us while in Africa made for some pretty good African chop for the soul. One girl told me after the class, "Wow! That's really cool about what you guys said. I was not even considering missions until you guys spoke. Now I've got to go pray about it!" I said, "Yeah, it's kind of radical when God comes and messes up your call!"

We shared similar things in another class at 11:00 that same morning. Each day and each evening we had chapel. It was tremendous to be led by students in worship. The speaker was Dr. Steve Irvin who had been a missionary in South America. He also spoke on the move of the Spirit of God in the book of Acts. The conference went well. I was counseling kids left and right, telling them about the amazing opportunity that Senegal is. For some, they just needed someone to talk to and share the Scripture with them. Anyway, it was fun to watch God work in the hearts of these college students. I'd rather counsel people towards total submission to Jesus than ask for money any day of the week.

Speaking of money, keep praying that God will provide so we can return to Senegal. God is providing for us though. The other morning I knew that if I didn’t bring home some fire wood, we’d be snuggling under blankets that night. In fact, I wasn’t sure that Mama and the homeschoolers were going to make it through the day with heat. I also needed some money. So, in my quiet time that morning I asked the Lord for money and fire wood. By God’s goodness and brother Don at our church, I came home that night with both. He is good.

Thanks for praying for us. Keep praying too for the team of missionaries who are seeking to reach the students at the University of Dakar. Pray for us as we “hammer out” our basic strategy and philosophy of ministry. We are from different missions and we need to get on the same page. Yàlla na leen Yàlla barkeel di leen aar ci jàmm ak salam! May God bless you and guard you in peace!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Contextualization Conference #2

I did find quite a bit that was helpful. I don't want you to think that I found it all bad. There were some very helpful things that they presented, things that would help us in Senegal build bridges even further than we have with language and culture learning and adaptation. It reminds me of some things I learned in my studies at Toccoa Falls College.

One thing that is very important is love. There was a story that I heard while at TFC that has stuck with me. There were two missionaries serving in West Africa among the same people group in the same area. One of the missionaries was a gifted language learner. He learned the local language very fast. The other missionary was not as gifted. He struggled with the simplest of tasks in the local language, yet he deeply loved the people. He served them with all his heart. Furlough time came for the two. The church wrote the mission and said, "_________ is really gifted in our language, but he does not love us. __________ struggles with our language, yet he serves us everyday and he loves us. Please keep _____________ (the first missionary) and send us ___________ (the second missionary) for he loves us."

I share that story because loving the people is basic to bringing the Gospel to a community. If you do not have love, all the strategy in the world will do you little good (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Love involves serving. Serving involves availability and vulnerability, two concepts that brings fear to the strongest part of self service and pride. We really want to get back to Senegal to serve the Wolof people.

This conference has really made my desire to return to Senegal that much more acute. I really feel the need to get back and work with the team of missionaries that is forming as they plan their strategy (they are meeting now) and really move ahead in reaching the Wolof for Christ. Please pray with us that our financial and prayer support would come in quickly. Thanks!

The Conference on Contextualization

My heart is heavy with grief as I write today (Sat). I have just returned from the contextualization conference. I’m grieving because what they taught today was heresy and so many accepted it. All week during the conference I was finding things to be somewhat helpful (some of the things they were talking about we already do in Senegal and there were some helpful tools) and somewhat harmful. Their perspective was that if people were Muslim or Hindu or whatever, then they should remain Muslim, Hindu or whatever, all while trusting in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. They would then be “in the Kingdom” (of God). I say that it is harmful because that has already been tried in Senegal with various organizations and found to be divisive of the church. I could not agree with that as well because it will lead to syncretism, that is the blending of two or more belief systems. We observe syncretism in Senegal everyday as there are aspects to the Wolof belief system that originate from their traditional religion (spirit worship). You can imagine a follower of Jesus who has blended his family’s belief system with the new belief system of Jesus as Savior. This is bad missiology (the practice of taking the Gospel cross-culturally). Although it is heretical, it is more “indirect heresy” if you know what I mean.
What I found heretical is the following quotation from a scholar named Drummond, “My own judgment is that I see Muhammad as an authentic prophet of God, even though like other prophets after the time of our Lord, neither morally perfect nor doctrinally infallible”. The speaker in the conference then read Ephesians 4:11 and asked rhetorically, “I wonder why could we not call Muhammad a New Testament prophet?” I am ashamed to say that I didn’t refute him publically as I should have. I simply got up and left. I was just so shocked. Anyway, I shed my name tag and left as close to tears as I’ve ever been.
I understand what Paul felt as he said of the false teachers that had confused the Galatians, “11And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!” (Gal. 5:12, NKJV) That “cut themselves off” actually refers to the idea of not being able to spiritually reproduce. Please forgive me for being so frank with you all, but you should know that I plan on being frank on this blog. I hope that you don’t mind.
I did find some helpful tools at the conference. Also, I was challenged to study the Scriptures deeply to make sure that my methods are rooted in Scripture rather than my own traditions. This should be a constant challenge for any cross-cultural worker. So thanks for praying.

Monday, January 19, 2009

This week, I'll (Steve) be attending a conference on contextualization. Contextualization is the term used in missions for making the Gospel relevant to the context where it is preached. How far do you go? In a Muslim context, do you have your believers meet on Friday instead of Sunday since Friday is the Muslim "holy" day? Is it OK to baptise people in sand when you are in the desert? At what point does contextualization become syncretism? After more than a decade of church planting in a Muslim context I certainly have my ideas, but I want to hold them to myself until after this conference. I'll be posting again next week sometime when I get back to let you know what I learned. Pray for me that I will have an open heart and discernment from the Lord. Thanks!
Hi, welcome to Steve and Esther's blog page. We've created this in hopes of staying in touch with everybody interested in our ministry to the Wolof people of Senegal. As time goes on, we'll be learning more and more about how to post to this page so you can get our news, see any videos and most of all pray.

The Wolof people are the dominate people group of the Senegambian Region of West Africa. They are 99% Muslim and most have never heard of the good news of Jesus. We desire to be a part of what God is doing in this region of the world and among the Wolof.

We've been serving in Senegal among the Wolof since February 1997 with SIM (Serving In Mission). We did Wolof language study in Thies, Senegal (which is now Senegal's second largest city) for the first 4 months of our time in Senegal. We then finished a house in Khombole, a small rural town that is almost completely Muslim. We were the first Christians to live in this town and the only witness for Jesus for at least a 20 mile radius.

Upon returning for our second term in Senegal, we were asked to serve as the field directors for SIM Senegal. We served as the field directors for 5 years. We are presently back in the US waiting on the Lord's provision for starting a new ministry among university students at the Chiekh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal.

We are currently looking for prayer and financial support to enable us to return. Get in touch with us if you would like to help.