Friday, April 27, 2018

Jamaica Spring Mission: Darryl's View

It is hard to believe another week on the mission field is nearing an end. However, the impact on us and the impact on those we served will live on. Our team represented Jesus and Stafford Crossing well. I appreciate the way Mark DeCourcey led the staff at Teen Challenge through 8 sessions of staff training. I am always amazed at how Scott Norcross leads the construction side of our trips. I am thankful for all the details Skip Cosner drives for our team. Every man on the job, those who led devotions, those who selflessly washed
dishes and did whatever asked brought much glory to Jesus. Please continue to pray for Jamaica Teen Challenge. Their opportunities are limitless and their challenges are equally abundant. 

We wrapped up our trip up this afternoon by seeing some amazing sights of God's magnificent creatin at Blue Hole. Our God is amazing!

Our team knows, and we want to remind you, we are called to live on mission every where and every day.

See you Sunday! 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jamaica Spring Mission: Mason's View

We are halfway through the work week and this is always a bittersweet day because we’ve gotten a lot done in the construction side of the trip which is really satisfying seeing the structure come along. But also sad in the sense that I know the trip is almost over.

But we started off the day sunbaked and ready to get working. When we got to the farm before we started working we all went to chapel for the morning. Bryan shared how we can be a Christian and very scientific minded. It was very well spoken.

But then before we knew it, it was time to get to work. We had gotten quite a bit done in the previous
days getting the walls put up on the first day, and getting the rafters for this chicken coop put up the second day. But there was still plenty of work to be done to get the rest of the roof put on for these chickens. While several men were playing up in the rafters getting purlins put into place to then get the roofing process going. I teamed up with Bryan with the task to staple all the necessary chicken wire around the remaining walls as well as the ceiling. It was great getting to know more about Bryan and his past too. I also loved getting to know more and more about the Jamaican men that are working with us on the chicken coop. I spent a good amount of time talking with a man named Kenny and being privileged to hear his story from where he was to how he came to know Christ in personal relationship to how that changed his lifestyle. He truly a changed man from his past to now, but as he exclaimed a changed man only by the divine power of our loving Heavenly Father.
In the grand scheme of things sharing the amazing news of Jesus and building relationships not only in foreign countries but in our day to day lives at home is what God calls us to do. Is to make disciples who make disciples.        

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."
Mark 16:15

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jamaica Spring Mission: Adam's View

After the first day of work today, we are tired, we are sore and we are red. We were blessed with great weather today, nice cool breeze and about 80 degrees. Today we started early with a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. After breakfast we loaded up the coolers, our tools, sunscreen, bug spray and headed to the farm. Upon arrival we started setting up and then had the opportunity to hear Skip’s testimony while he lead devotions with the Teen Challenge team. Romans 8:28 reads that, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I am always amazed at God’s provision for our team when we are on a mission trip and we always seem to get more work done then I had thought we could. Today we started with a concrete slab and foundation and by the end of the day through Scott and Skips leadership, we have the walls framed. Mark and Darryl spent the morning providing John Maxwell leadership training to the Teen Challenge staff team prior to joining the rest of the team in the afternoon.   

Tomorrow we will begin working on the roof, as we are hoping the zinc (metal roofing) will be delivered tomorrow. We are also continuing to do the work that is before us. Ephesians 2:10 states that,  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Until then we thank you for your prayers.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Jamaica Spring Mission: Skip’s View

As we sit here in Ocho Rios at the Teen Challenge center catching up with family and friends and preparing for tomorrow’s work schedule, I would like to share about the last two days. Saturday we started at the church at 3 a.m. Yes 3 a.m. and we were off to Reagan Airport for a 7:15 a.m. flight to Charlotte then onto Jamaica. Saturday’s travel was uneventful, but a long day and a short night of sleep. All was well and we made it to TC Jamaica without much trouble. We were greeted by Barbara Richards, the TC Woman’s Director, and prepared quickly to travel to the TC men’s center to evaluate the project. All was well and the material was on site and ready for assembly of a large chicken coop so TC can add to the business structure they have developed.

What a night’s sleep it was. I don’t think I snored once. Sunday morning came really early as our sleeping was trying to get back on a regular schedule. Bryan had coffee ready for us as we woke up. We attended church at First Assembly Church of Ocho Rios and were blessed to be able to worship with them. The worship service was a little longer (just over 3 hours) than most of us are accustomed to but we were ministered to in Jesus’ name. We had lunch out and a short stop by the store for some supplies, then back to the center for an afternoon of rest. Thank you all for your prayers and we look forward to ministering tomorrow at the men’s center.
Skip Cosner

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

South Asia Mission: Amy's View

The girls and ladies we have spent time with on this trip are a true example of joy in the midst of suffering. To hear them sing to God after everything they have been through is an beautiful thing.
Many of the girls in my small group don’t have fathers or any parents at all. Several of them shared their stories of pain and loss and then together we talked about how God is our perfect heavenly Father. T

here were many tears tonight as we prayed and I am sure there will be many more when we leave tomorrow, but I am so thankful for the time I have had with these beautiful people.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5

South Asia Mission: Joanna’s View (Original post March 17, 2018)

With this being my first mission trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was blessed beyond my imagining to have a bed of my own, a daily shower, running water and food so delicious!
Coming here I was rested up, covered with prayer and ready to get to work. For Jesus. But God has other work he was doing. I have always had a servant heart, more of a Martha than a Mary. Teaching Bible study to a group of rescued women and girls who already love Jesus so much brought me face to face with my biggest fears.
Inadequate. Unwanted. Not enough. Not having the right words at the right time. Feelings of uselessness flooded me. God, why am I here? I came to be a blessing and these women are serving me and blessing me Way more than I feel I am making a difference to them.
As the days went by, and as trust was being built, and as we dug into scripture, they started to share. Stories came out of shame, of the depth of evil humans can do to one another, and of God’s redemptive love. How Jesus’s love changed each life. Praise you Jesus for your power to change lives and set people free!
As we studied John 13 and then washed their feet and prayed over them, my heart was so full of joy! These precious women are so dear to God! No person is an accident. No person is a mistake. God makes us all unique and has given us each unique gifting. I don’t have to be anyone but me. Jesus in me is enough! They washed my feet and prayed over me too and I do believe the angels were rejoicing! Such a precious time of fellowship!

I am coming home exhausted, emotionally drained but with my cup overflowing with praise! Praise you Jesus that you are enough! You are able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can ask or imagine! I pray, Lord, that you protect this academy and BTC here to continue to do your redemptive work. Jesus, please protect and provide for each and every precious life here. I ask in your name amen.

South Asia Mission: Megan’s View (Original post March 19, 2018)

With this being my first missions trip, I wasn't sure what to expect! I was glad to know we would be ministering primarily to hurting girls and women, as listening to and loving others, especially children, is a passion of mine. I knew I wanted these ladies to see how God can heal a broken heart and hoped at least some part of my story could show them.
What I didn't know, was that despite all their troubles, their broken pasts, the abuse and abandonment they have suffered, that they would show ME how God can mend a broken heart. The magnitude of their suffering in contrast to the love and hope anchoring them taught me more than I ever imagined about trusting Jesus. They affectionately called me "tender girl" and comforted and encouraged me as I shed tears during the week, though many of them came from laughter.
I am so grateful for my teammates-my new friends-for the support they provided and for Mark for leading us through a great week and my first mission. I so look forward to more of this work for Jesus!

South Asia Mission: Matt's View (Original post March 21, 2018)

This is my second trip to south Asia. Last year was an exciting opening experience into the mission field. This year capitalized on the relationships made last year, while cultivating new and deeper connections with the boys and girls.

For most of the trip I had the pleasure of being the main representative of our team with the boys. I worked with them, laying concrete in their new chicken coop/ goat pen of awesomeness. I also helped sow a multitude of different vegetables throughout their flourishing fields. Last year, I was blessed to help clear and run irrigation for their first crop plats. Since then the operation has been booming. Now there are acres of crops growing all over the property. It’s wonderful to see the fruit of our combined labor.  Working with these young men was great. I had the chance to build bonds that only hard work can foster.
Every evening we had the opportunity to spend some time with the Academy girls. After Mark provided devotion and instructions on how to better study your bible, we broke the girls down into small groups. Each one of the team took a small group and discussed specific passages of scripture. After we had completed the assigned reading, the groups generally stayed together and played games or spent more time in conversation. Mornings were fun. I had the opportunity to run a workout with the team and a group of Academy girls. It was truly a joy to spend this time with the girls. It was humbling to hear the stories and see true perseverance stand in front of me, in the form of sweet, beautiful little girls. They have hearts full of GOD, which they radiate in all they do.

It was an encouraging and heartbreaking trip this year. I can say I forged new relationships that will be a part of my life forever.

South Asia Mission: Shannon’s View (Original post March 15, 2018)

My favorite thing about this trip has been spending so much time pouring into the women and girls here. I’ve never really been convinced that I am equipped to minister to other women like this, even though I’m a woman myself (which kind of still feels strange to say because in my mind I’m still like 14 trying to learn how to do womanhood).

So anyway, I came into this a bit apprehensive, knowing that the brunt of the work that we would be doing here would be women’s ministry. And Monday had me feeling really discouraged when my group of women didn’t open up to me right away. Down came the weight of my insecurities on my shoulders—I can’t relate to other women, they’re never going to talk to me, I don’t have the right words to say, why am I even here?

But day by day, as we prayed for them and with them, they began to open up to us. As we shared our stories with them, they began to share with us. When we studied John 13, they allowed us to wash their feet like Jesus did, and then they wanted to wash ours.

As I knelt beside them washing their feet, I imagined all of the places that those feet had walked—through unspeakable things, the beauty of this country and the horrors of their past. These women are so beautiful, so strong, so poised.

And we laughed together. And suddenly it wasn’t just me trying to relate to a group of women I’ve never met, but it was a group of friends sharing life together, even if it is just for a week, and even if we don’t speak the same language.

Last night during evening devotions, I got to listen to a room full of rescued girls as they sang “You’re a good, good Father” when they don’t have a father on earth to run to, and “your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold” when they’ve never experienced that sort of love from anyone on this earth.

God is so sufficient. In the places where I fall short, He spans the difference. In the times when I’m lost for words, He fills in the blanks. And He is sufficient for these women and girls in ways that I have not yet grasped. They know Him with a depth that I can’t imagine because they’ve walked through things that I have not had to, and still found Him to be everything He says He is.
4B1D3742-2023-40CB-BD59-88CC803F54B7I think we can all stand to learn something from these women by allowing God to be enough.

Refugee Crisis, Part 1: Kyangwali Refugee Camp (Original post February 2, 2018)

On this last trip to Uganda, I was able to extend my stay and spend some time visiting the Kyangwali refugee camp in Western Uganda. The resettlement camp holds about forty thousand people, but most suggest the number is as much as twice that because many have not been interviewed and recorded. Some of the refugees come from South Sudan and Rwanda, but the great majority come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the DRC, there is war. The army is fighting rebels. When the army sees someone who is not in uniform, they assume he or she is a rebel and they shoot. When a rebel sees someone not in uniform, they assume he or she is a sympathizer and they shoot. There are four large tribes who see the country in disarray, they want to protect their land and seize more, so they shoot. As a result, people flee. Believe it or not, running to Uganda, empty-handed is better than staying home.

So, these people walk for days, even weeks to get to Kyangwali. When they arrive, they get a tarp and a blanket for their family, courtesy of the United Nations. They receive a tiny plot of land and a bag of seeds to start farming, courtesy of the Ugandan government. So you arrive, maybe with your family to lay down under your blanket, inside your tarp and you go to sleep with the prospect of having food in a few months, if the rains come. Of course, the rains that you need for food to grow are the same rains that will flow under your tarp and soak everyone and everything you own. They are the same rains that will promote mosquitoes which carry malaria. They are the same rains that carry diseases across the ground because there is not a single toilet within walking distance.

Somehow, for the citizens of DRC, there is more hope here than home.

Conditions are hard in the camp. We saw children with distended stomachs suffering from malnutrition. Their bellies are swollen with parasitic worms that steal the nutrients from what little food they get. The condition can be deadly, which is why, at home, we spend a few bucks to eliminate this condition in our pets. That medicine is not available in the camp.

We met a mother holding her infant. Her pregnancy was the result of rape by a gang of rebels. Most of her family and her village were slaughtered. She is sixteen years old, a single mother, raising her baby under a tarp.

Another mother tried to give us her baby as we were leaving.

There was a lady, sitting in front of her shelter, all alone. Rebels had killed her husband and children. She told us, "First I was angry. Now I am envious of my husband."

This is gut-wrenching. The need is overwhelming. What do we do? Where do we start? This will take some thought and planning. One thing we know, Jesus is hope for the hopeless. God is Father to the fatherless.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:18

We did church under a tree. We shared the Gospel. We shared the hope we have in Jesus. Thirty-two people committed their lives to Christ in that place. This is where we start.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

South Asia Trip Update (Original post March 13, 2018)

One of our missions partners operates in a country where the government is increasingly unfriendly toward Christianity. Because of this, we need to be intentionally vague in our online communication. We are not in danger, but we could do damage to the ministry here if we aren't careful.
The partner we are serving is involved in rescuing adults and children who have been trapped in the sex-slavery industry. They operate centers for men and women to help them heal physically, emotionally and spiritually. They have a school for children who have been effected as well.
We arrived in country late Sunday night and got right to work Monday. Our primary purpose on this trip is to help our brothers and sisters to develop good Bible study techniques. We are offering the classes for women and the men in the recovery centers as well as to the children at the school. Secondarily, we are helping with good ole-fashioned labor on their farm and in their vocational center. It's a great mix of discipleship first and help second.
Please pray for the teams health and stamina as we deal with high heat and low air quality.

Refugee Crisis, Part 2: Defining Terms (Original post February 15, 2018)

As we consider what our role is in caring for refugees, we need to be sure we are talking about the same people. In today's climate and conversation, there is confusion about refugees. Even those in high office, charged with making critical decisions about refugees seem to be a little fuzzy on the definition.
Refugees are a subset of the larger category of immigrants. They leave one country for the purpose of making a life in another. There are some critical distinctions that come with the designation, though. First, refugees have left their home country because of persecution and that usually includes fearing for their lives and the lives of their families. Second, they arrive in a new country where they seek refugee status. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) grants or refuses refugee status. Status is granted if the person can demonstrate a real and current threat. Once the person receives refugee status, the host country will grant them certain rights as a refugee. Typically these rights are very limited. In most places, refugees can only work certain jobs if they are allowed to work at all. They are told where they must live and that is usually in a camp or sometimes a designated section of a certain city. This temporary home with limited rights is often called their "second country."
They are not refugees until the UNHCR grants that status. As such, there is no such thing as an illegal refugee. The designation "refugee" means they are in the country legally. 
The United States, largely as a result of geography, is rarely someone's second country. Once the person has received refugee status in their second country, the UN begins the process of finding a "third country" for the refugee. This requires several interviews over several months or years to complete. The UN will then connect them with a third country and a new set of interviews begins. If the US is the third country, the interviews are rigorous. Again, months or years can pass while the candidate undergoes a vetting process that includes interviews with seven US security agencies. If they pass the process, they are then brought to the US and given six months of benefits intended to help them integrate into society and begin a new life. They arrive with whatever they could carry and what the airline would allow.
Upon arrival, a resettlement agency helps them settle in their new home and begin the process of connecting them to US life. The agency will help the refugee apply for a green card, apply for a drivers license, enroll kids in school, find medical care, learn the language, find a job, learn the customs, learn to shop, learn to cook, etc.
When they set their feet on the ground in our neighborhoods, they are scared, confused and tired. They have been through years of processing and they are disconnected from family, friends, and anything familiar. This is our mission field. We are commanded to care for the sojourner in our land and the refugee is the modern-day sojourner. Often, these are people from countries where we would be unwelcome and they are often hostile to missionaries and to the Gospel. Don't we serve an amazing God who brings these people to our doorstep so that we can be obedient without traveling to difficult places? The least we can do is thank Him by being about His mission in our town.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus separates the righteous from the unrighteous. Among the characteristics He uses is the way we treat the stranger. He has sent us strangers, sojourners to care for. What will we do about it?
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
Matthew 25:35

Uganda: Celebrate 2017 (Original post January 13, 2018)

I’m in Uganda today, traveling across the country between two very different projects. The first part of the trip was largely administrative. We were following up on some projects that we had begun with schools in Progressive Missions network. It has been a great time so far.
Often, when you do these types of trips, it can be tiring and even disappointing. Sometimes you find that people have not done what they have promised. Other times, you find that funds have been mismanaged. You may even find that conditions in the country have changed and derailed what seemed like a good idea. Quite often, this type of trip can be pretty disappointing. These are the times when you must revisit your calling.
God, is theirs really where you called me?
God, is this what you had in mind?
If you engage the mission long enough and at a personal, relational level, you will come across seasons like this. If the mission only brings a smile to your face and never a tear to your eye, you haven’t been at it long enough or you haven’t gone deep enough with the people whom you serve.
We have experienced these seasons before and I know we will again, but this trip has been a real joy. It’s as though God has allowed us just a glimpse of the impact His church is having. Here are a few of the celebrations.
  • The children have shoes to protect their feet. The Stafford Crossing family sent bags full of shoes in June. The kids love them. Many of them are now under new management. As kids outgrow the shoes, they are passed to the next class for another life.
  • The wells you funded are pumping out healthy water. In the village of Syekobero, the local mosque has a shallow well with unclean water. It was the only source nearby but you had to be Muslim to use it. Our well has healthy water and is available to the entire community. The other well has been covered up and everyone in the village gets water from New Hope Church. You can imagine the Gospel conversations that happen around this well.
  • We have acquired land to expand the church and school in Nanjeho. On the land, we have built a kitchen and latrine. Soon, we will start construction on the church building and classrooms.
  • We were able to make a loan to one of prior students. She used the money to open a medical clinic. She has finished paying off the loan. In 2017, she delivered 11 healthy babies in her clinic and treated hundreds of kids for malaria, parasites, and dysentery. The clinic is called Restoration Medical Centre.
  • We now have nearly 800 children enrolled in school where they receive healthy meals, a quality education, and most importantly, an understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • There are 120 pastors attending classes at our Bible school. We have four campuses around Uganda. They are studying together and strengthening their doctrine so they can lead their churches well. I had the privilege presenting a seminar on how to lead like Jesus. These pastors are eager to learn.
  • One year ago, we introduced a model for discipleship groups connected to the local churches. This year, they are going strong and each one has multiplied at least once. There are over two dozen groups meeting in homes for the purpose of growing as disciples.
This last week has really been encouraging. I feel refreshed. I have a big smile on my face because I see the positive impact of many years of investing.
The coming week may look a little different. I just arrived in a town called Hoima, in western Uganda. Tomorrow, I will be visiting a refugee camp nearby. You see, as hard as life is in Uganda, people are running here from Congo and Sudan. I can only imagine what conditions are like in this camp. We received permission from the Ugandan government to enter the camp and see how we might serve the needs of the refugees. I have several church leaders with me and my hope is to empower them to be on mission in their own country.
Please pray that I am able to process what I see and pray that God makes clear how His church can partner together and serve the needs of these refugees.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20
This is the Great Commission.
This is EVERY disciple’s mission.