The Stolen Seed

Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it… The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. (Mark 4:3-4,14-15 ESV)

seed road

Yesterday, I experienced what I believe these verses mean.  Just a little background.  Earlier this year, *Peter and one of his disciples led a man to Christ, *Sam.  For those following our updates, you know a lot about Sam.  Ever since putting his faith in Jesus, he has been heavily persecuted by his family and community.  He has been kicked out of the village at least twice, is constantly verbally harassed by his family and in-laws, and has had to relocate his business shop.  Yet through all this, he has remained faithful to his new Savior.

So yesterday, Peter and I hosted a small training at the church where Sam attends.  The plan was to encourage the church to be faithful in sharing the Gospel with the empty villages and people groups around them.  I had heard that Sam was coming and bringing his wife with him!  This was very exciting since she is staying with him, but has not yet accepted Jesus.  Once we arrived, word came that Sam’s mother was furious about this training and refused to let them leave.  So we began our training, and about 5 minutes later Sam and his wife arrived!  “This is the day” both Peter and I thought.  This is the day that she will accept Christ and then we can baptize both of them!

I decided then that we should alter the training schedule just slightly to make sure that we have the opportunity to share the Gospel with Sam’s wife.  Just as we were approaching the time to share the Gospel, my phone starts to ring.  Earlier this month, I had ordered some Piper books translated in Hindi that were to be delivered this week.  Well, of course they show up while I am at this training, and the delivery guy cannot find our house.  I had Peter talk to him the first 3 times he called.  After the 4th call, I decided that it would be a good time to take a short break while I talk with this guy.  Also, I thought, let everyone get some air so they can be ready for the Gospel section.

Naturally, our 5 min break turned into 15 which is par for the course here.  When we started again, Sam and his wife were not there any more.  Turns out that she had gone back to their home and Sam’s mom was waiting there to let them have it.  Sam finally returned and joined us about 10 min later; his wife did not.  Later he told me that his mom was very mad and was yelling at both him and his wife for going against her wishes and attending this training.

After the training was over, I was thinking more about this “missed opportunity” when the above parable came to mind.  I was reminded that the Gospel is sown among every type of soil; we don’t always know the condition of the soil before we share.  In this case, we didn’t even get to share.  It’s like the seed was snatched out of the air before it even had time to land.  These are hard situations to understand.  How is it that we didn’t see the thief coming?  Why did I wait so long to share the Gospel?  Why didn’t I change my schedule more?  What if we hadn’t started 45 min late?  What if I hadn’t ordered these books?  What if the delivery guy had come at any other time?  I could go on and on.  But ultimately, I don’t get to chose the soil.  I don’t actually cause the seed to grow.  Later in chapter 4, Jesus tell the parable of the farmer where the harvest is growing, but he knows not how.  It’s the Spirit that causes the growth.  It’s the Spirit that prepares the soil and removes the obstacles, allowing the word of God to plant deeply and cause new life.  The enemy is always working to prevent the spread of the Good News.  He throws obstacles our way, even when we don’t even realize it.  Yet, our God is greater than this enemy.  He is working His plan according to His Holy Will.  He will accomplish His plans for Sam and his wife and, hopefully, their family and community.

Continue to pray for Sam and his wife.  Slow progress is happening.  He is faithful and energized to continue sharing the Gospel among all peoples and all places where God’s Name is not yet known!

Image Credit: http://cometoourtable.blogspot.in/2010/06/lessons-in-dirt-picture-parables.html

The Story of Matt: From CP Training to UUPG Engagement

IMG_7638This is Matt.  He’s a follower of Jesus, husband, father, deacon, servant, and owner/operator of a famous chain of chicken restaurants.  And this is his story.

In Oct 2012, Matt and 2 others from their church in the States came over to help me with a church planting training.  Over 3 days, we trained around 60 men and women in how to share the gospel, disciple new believers, and plant healthy churches.  From this larger group, 10 men said that they wanted to receive more training in how this all works.  Each of them had tried something they learned and had filtered themselves out.  For the next 3 months, I met with them as a group and talked more about how God could use them to see His glory spread throughout Bihar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the help of others from Matt’s church, we were able to again filter this group down to 6 men who were ready to take the next step to see healthy churches multiply across their districts.  So beginning in August, I met with these 6 men each month for a few days, and we also visited each of them in their home to see where they live and visit some of their churches.  Each of these men learned more about how to go from doing the work themselves to becoming trainers of how to multiply new churches.

IMG_1899So Matt and another church member returned to the FLL in March of this year.  At this training, the 6 men were able to bring some of there new leaders from the new work.  Over these 3 days, 21 men and women gathered together to be refreshed in the big picture vision of seeing God’s glory spread among all places and all peoples in Bihar!  So why is this awesome?  Because Matt was able to begin with a group of 60 and then 18 months later see a group of 6+15 of faithful men and women who have a vision for church planting.  This is a real life example of how 2 Timothy 2:2 is supposed to happen.

But that’s not all…because from this group of 6, there is 1 who has really caught the vision for all peoples in all places.  Recently *Peter was at my house, and we were discussing what UUPG’s mean.  After explaining it to him and giving him an example, he replied, “There are some from that people group who live just a half mile from my house!”  The next weekend, Peter went through that village, using the Luke 10 method he had learned.  One house from this people group invited him in, and Peter was able to share the gospel with them.  Now, as of the writing of this email they have not yet put their faith in Jesus; but they have expressed interest in having Peter come back and continue sharing with them.

So, what began 18 months before with a large training and then filtered down to 6 who then have raised up another 15 new leaders has now seen the first (of hopefully many) UUPG engaged with the gospel for possibly the first time ever!

Thanks to Matt (and all the other volunteers) and his church for making this possible through the giving of their time and money to see God’s glory spread across this great country!

Also if you are in the Louisville area, stop by the Mall St. Matthews Food Court and talk to Matt while you “eat mor chikin”

10 Things I Think I Think

Alright, here we go with another 10 Things I Think I Think.  As always, thanks to Peter King at the MMBQ for the idea (always love reading his)…..

1.  I think driving in the FLL has given me a new appreciation for NASCAR.  I used to be amazed out how they drove so fast with so little room between them and other cars.  Now, yes they drive at must faster speeds….but lets see them try to drive in close space with dogs, cows, people walking, people riding bikes, motocycles, 3-wheelers, small cars, big cars, buses, and cargo trucks all running 3 wide on a 1 lane road.

2. I think Scripture memory is way under-rated.  I never really got into much (and if I did I sure don’t remember them now).  Actually, I probably know more verses in Hindi than I do in English!  However, I highly recommend the Fighter Verses app from Desiring God.  It’s on your phone; it gives you quizzes to practice.  It’s great!  I started it right before Christmas, and I love it.  Even on those days where life is crazy and a quiet time is non-existent, I can still “feed on the Word.”

IMG_0579

3. Here are a few things I think about our vacation in Thailand…
a) Thai fashion is off the charts weird.  No words to describe.
b) It was quite refreshing not to see people peeing on the side of the road.
c) I love some Indian food, but I really love beef!
d) Krispy Kreme is in Bangkok……(you see the “Hot Now” light)
e) There is also a Sizzler with an all you can eat salad bar!
f) I think it’s weird that I was excited about an all you can eat salad bar!
g) Bumrungrad hospital has got to be in the Top 5 best hospitals in the world.  Amazing!
h) I thought I had seen some nice malls in America.  In Bangkok, bigger and nicer malls exist on EVERY CORNER!
i) Also beware the night market…(eyes forward or straight down….just saying)
j) Forgot how much I really love thick chocolate milkshakes.

4. I think I wish I had written down more of what I think.  10 things is hard…

5. I think that it would be hard to go back to America and work an office job.  For 2 years, I have been working from home.  Beth and I are together most everyday.  I see my kids all the time.  When I do travel, I’m gone for 3-4 days; however, when I am home I am home.  I can’t imagine only seeing my kids for a few hours a day before bedtime, or not having Beth around all day to talk with.  While there are some downsides to the job we have, this isn’t one of them!

6. I also think that working from home is tough.  Having to go from a structured office job to working from home with no real schedule or routine was really hard.  But here we are 2 years in and I think we finally are understanding how it works.  There are no real office hours so sometimes work happens early, sometimes late, or sometimes all throughout the day.  Yet we love what we do so that is what matters!

7. Final thoughts about football…
a) I should have won the company fantasy fooball league.  There was a tie in the semi-finals, but espn rules say that the higher seed moves on…I wasn’t the higher seed.  I would have won had I been in the finals.
b) I should have won the CCBC fantasy football league.  I had 1 bad week in the quarterfinals; that’s all it takes.  I would have won both the semi-final game and the championship game.
c) I was right that the CCBC East division was the hardest.  Congrats Jeremy on the win!
d) The “should haves” are for our CCBC Commish, Mr. Miller.  He loves it when I trash talk in the past.  He says I learned it as a Duke fan.
e) Speaking of Duke, I got to watch Duke play in December….and it was a football game!  We should have beat A&M.  In other news, I can’t name 1 player on Duke’s team.

8. I think it is crazy that we will be heading back to America for our furlough in 18 months.  There is so much happening in 2014 that I know it will come quickly.  We are looking forward to the many volunteer teams coming to visit.  I am also super excited to release our 6 church planters to begin training others!  They have been so faithful these past 6 months in sharing the gospel and seeing new churches started in brand new areas!

20140105_1902539. I think it is so much fun having 2 daughters.  Maddie and Mahaney have been so much fun this past year.  It has been a joy seeing them grow and mature.  Maddie is learning so much in school, and Mahaney is really developing her own personality.  They love to play monster and hide-n-seek and spin around with daddy, and they also love to just cuddle while we watch their girly, kiddy cartoons.

10. I think know that I have a wonderful wife.  In December, we celebrated 8 years of marriage!  What has amazed me the most is that the learning process never stops.  I am still learning new things about her.  And not just new things, but we are also growing deeper in our relationship.  Working from home together has it challenges, but I cannot imagine working a job where she is not right there beside me.  I love the in-between task flirtations and small conversations.  I love the encouragement and support that she offers me as we work together!20140105_190437

Life in the FLL: Why we do what we do (Part 2)

In April, I wrote Part 1 of this blog series where I focused on the call from the Bible to take the message to all nations.  In Part 2, I want to share with you the Brutal Facts of our area to further explain why we do what we do.  One of our leaders shared this little story with us which I think will help you in understanding the immense population and lostness around us…

Let’s say I was a super evangelist, and I was able to lead 5 people a week to Christ.  Let’s say that I did this every week of every year for 40 years.  During these 40 years, I would have seen 10,400 people give their life to Christ!  This would be awesome!  40 years and 10,400 new believers!  Job well done!

Yet in the state in which we focus, 10,400 people are added to the population every 2.5 days!! Yes, I said days.  Everything that I would have accomplished would be awesome; yet, all that I would have accomplished in 40 years would be equalized by the birth rate in 2.5 days.

Here’s another way to think about the monumental task before us….every 3 minutes, 5 people die in our focus state.  So every hour, 100 people die, and every 10 hours, 1000 people die.  This is a lot of numbers but here is the truth.  If 1000 people are dying every 10 hours, only 1 out of 1000 knows Jesus as his Savior.  Yep, only 1!

While these facts and statistics can seem both surreal and also saddening, know that God is working among all of this!  May these Brutal Facts both help you to understand more of why we are here and how you can continue to pray for the work.

What are you thinking?: A letter to my girls

IMG_5536

What are you thinking about in this picture?  Your mom and I sat there behind you, watching you, seeing what you would do.  You both just watched all the different kids playing. Some were black and some were white. None were Asian. You would inch forward and then quickly shy backward. So what was going on in those precious minds of yours?

We know that America is not your home and yet it is at the same time.  All of those kids playing in front of you are apart of your generation, yet none of them will probably ever get to experience what you do.  They look at you and think you are like them, but you won’t be. You will have such amazing stories and experiences on this journey. In fact, it’s going to be hard for this generation of yours to understand all that you are. Yet, your mom and dad will be here to help you in this journey.

We love you both and know that you really didn’t have a say in our calling to serve God here in FLL.  Yet we know that God would not call your mom and I if he, in his sovereignty and foreknowledge, hadn’t called you as well.  It hasn’t always been easy and it won’t always be easy, yet we will go through everything together as a family. Your mom and dad will be here to listen and encourage you in both the good times and bad.

We hope you enjoyed your first trip back to America!  It was a great joy to watch you play with your grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. You drove us crazy on some days and made us most proud on many more. Just know coming back to America can be hard and frustrating; it still is for your mom and dad. But we are here to help you. We love you.

daddy and mommy

Life in the FLL: Why we do what we do (Part 1)

Last month, Beth wrote a post about what we do here in FLL.  In it, she talked about the trips we take to do trainings.  Part of our teaching includes a section on vision casting where we answer the question, “Why are we here?”.  So for the blog today, I wanted to share some of this with you to answer the question, “Why we do what we do?”.

Why are we here in FLL? There are 3 passages from the Bible that I want to share to explain why. First start with Ezekiel 36:22-23 where I think we can see God’s Pulse.

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.
23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (ESV)

Israel has been exiled from their land and is now in captivity, yet we know that God has promised never to leave his people and he will restore them to their land. But look closely at what he says again. See? God acts and works for the sake of his name alone! He is not going to restore Israel for their sake. They were the ones that profaned his name! And as God makes his name holy, his name will then be made holy among all the nations! You see, there are so many places around us where God’s name is profaned every day through the worship of idols and false gods. It is God’s heart to see His name made holy in these places.

Knowing this truth, we can then look at Revelation 7:9-10 to see God’s Promise.

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (ESV)

The apostle John here describes for us this beautiful vision of what we sees in heaven. Among the great multitude worshipping Jesus on the throne, John writes that he recognizes people from every nation, tribe, and language. Think about that for a second. In heaven, there will be at least 1 person from every people group and/or language group in the world! And not just those living now but from every group that ever was or ever will be! So what does this mean? As we go out into these nations where God’s name is not known, we have a promise from him that there will be people from these groups worshipping him. We can rest knowing it is not our responsibility to save them, but merely to make his name known. He is the one who is doing all the work!

Now that we know God’s Pulse for all nations and have God’s Promise of believers from every nation, tribe, people, and language, we can look to Matthew 28:18-20 for God’s Plan for making his name known.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

Here in the Great Commission, Jesus is giving his disciples the plan for growing the kingdom of God.  There are 3 parts to this commission.  In the middle, we find God’s Plan.  The command here is to make disciples through baptizing them and then teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands.  That’s it!  The simplicity of this is amazing, and it’s why the church grew so quickly in Acts.  What’s even more comforting in this command is the statements book-ending it.  At the beginning, Jesus states that all authority is his.  No one is above him.  Then at the end, he tells his followers that he will always be with them.  So get this: the one who has all authority will always be with us.  Therefore, we can go and make disciples without worry; Jesus is with us!

In part 2, I will explain more about the brutal facts of our area and why we came here…

Life in the FLL: Durga, Diwali, and Deception

This week marks the final week of the month long festival season here in FLL.  As we’ve seen the pandals (temporary temple buildings) being built, torn down, and rebuilt; heard the sounds of Hindu songs blaring through loud speakers; and seen the idols paraded around town, I’ve (Will) had lots of time to reflect on all these sights, sounds, and smells and the deception behind them.  Before commenting on the spiritual battles around, I thought I would share just a bit about the 2 biggest festivals here (Durga Puja and Diwali) in FLL…

Durga Puja
Here in FLL, Durga Puja is by far the biggest Hindu festival of the year.  It’s a 5 day long festival where different gods are worshipped, but Durga is the main deity to which all worship is devoted.  “Ma Durga” as they call her is a very popular goddess as she was the victor over the evil buffalo demon.  Huge makeshift pandals are built all over town with an idol of Ma Durga as the centerpiece.  Just driving the 5 km to Maddie’s school each day, we would pass 4 pandals.  I was told that just in the eastern part of our country, around $13 million was spent on the construction of these pandals.  Really, a pandal is just like a homecoming parade float.  There are competitions around town to see who has the best theme and most originality.  You can see the pictures of the one that was just next to our house here.

Diwali
Around the rest of the country, I would say that Diwali is the largest festival around.  Diwali, or the festival of lights, is the celebration of the goddess Lakshmi; she is the goddess of wealth and fortune.  Legend has it that her spirit will follow the path of lights to your home and bless your money so that it will increase.  Fireworks are another huge part of Diwali and the people set them off all through the night and even in the daytime.  Legend says that the firecrackers scare away the evil gods and demons, thus freeing the way for Lakshmi to find her way.  Now here in FLL, we have a mix of cultures so there are some variances to Diwali.  Especially here, the goddess Kali is worshipped.  Kali is a mean looking goddess.  She usually has a necklace of skulls, tongue sticking out, a knife in one of her hands, and a head hanging from one of the other hands.  For her, more pandals are built with the idols of Kali and Shiva present.  Here are some local Diwali pics.  For more on Diwali, here’s Michael Scott’s review.

Humor aside, there really is something both capturing and deceiving about this month of festivals.  First, the pandals are amazing creations.  We were able to watch the Durga Puja one built from scratch to full temple.  The amount of time and money that goes into making these detailed temples for just a few days was quite crazy.  For Diwali, all the houses and buildings and streets are covered in Christmas lights.  There are great sales in the stores and markets on clothes and electronics.  Many people travel back home to visit and stay with family.  Everyone is in a really celebrative-type mood and very friendly.  It’s really like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all squeezed into 2 main celebrations.

But you see, that’s just the problem.  Looking at the surface from the outside, one might think these festivals are quite harmless.  Just a lot of fun, food, and fireworks with pretty lights hanging everywhere.  However, beneath all the festivities is a deep, dark battle waging in the spiritual world.  The millions of Hindus have been deceived into thinking that the worship of these idols and deities will both protect them from evil as well as bring them whatever benefit they may be seeking.  Need money?  Show Lakshmi where your money is and she will bless it.  Need business? Pay homage to Ganesh to make your business grow.  Feeling scared?  Bow down to Kali so you can feel safe.  Yet, for most, their money doesn’t supernaturally increase; their business doesn’t supernaturally grow; and they continued to feel scared.  You may ask why they don’t see this vicious cycle?  Well, they believe that if their need is not met then they must have done something wrong; they must have not done enough puja or hung enough lights or given enough money.  The gods could never be wrong.  Right?

Wrong!  Satan has totally bound these people up in this cycle which has no way out on it’s own.  Yet, we know how to break this bondage.  It’s actually quite simple.  The great Light of the World has shown them the way to true freedom from this mess.  The one who  created all things (Col 1:16), who holds all things together (Col 1:17), who has power over the spiritual world (Mark 5), and who has equipped us to fight the battle (Eph 6)…He is the only way out of this vicious cycle.  Pray with us and for us as we take this message to these millions who need to know the truth.

Man, what is it about time flying…

It really is not a habit that I want to get into….only posting once a month.  What’s up with that?  Will, the girls and I have been on a crazy adventure these past 2 months.  We closed on our house, obviously by the last post.  We have moved into our church’s mission house.  Nice and furnished.  We’ve been packing and visiting w/ friends and family.  Trying to tie up loose ends w/ bills, changing our address, bank accounts and adjusting to being broke and homeless.  ha!

It’s been a sweet adventure though…we’ve told some friends goodbye already and we have truly been encouraged beyond description by these sweet people.  The Lord crossed our paths for a reason and I hope that we have given Him glory through it all.  Anyways, before I start crying…..ha!   Ok, so the last I updated was July 5th…Here is a quick rundown on what we’ve been doing and what’s going on w/ the girls as we go through this transition….

July
VBS @ CCBC!  Maddie’s 2nd VBS and Bug’s 1st!

   

We went to visit one of my dearest friends, Kim, and her sweet family in Knoxville.  We got to meet their fun little boy, Rev and we had a blast!

After the Knoxvegas trip, we moved into the Mission house and moved the girls into the same bedroom.  Kinda shaky at the beginning, but they love it now!  Then, my awesome South Carolina friends came for a visit in the Ville while William was playing his last Summit Cup golf tournament.  It was a sweet treat to get to hang w/ them and laugh hysterically together (and not scaring Maddie w/ my laugh).  HA!

August
Will’s 32nd birthday!  Yes I did just post your age on our blog!  It was fun celebrating w/ our dear friends, the Chung family.  We also visited Big Willy at work for our annual birthday lunch with Daddy on the day.  Despite the face in the picture, Maddie LOVES going to see Daddy at work.  🙂

Our last day in our first home….kinda sad, but we went out with some Krispy Kremes!  haha…

We’ve had friends come over, gone to the zoo w/ Daddy, Catan night w/ some friends, a smashing going away party w/ our peeps at church, Bug got her big girl carseat (sigh!) and  lunch w/ Grandaddy, Granmommy, Aunt Abbey and Pop halfway!

  

We’ve gone over to some friends’ house for dinner and we even went to the KY state fair for the first time!  Whew!  Will even ate that nasty Krispy Kreme hamburger….he claimed it was delicious, but about 20 minutes after he ate it, he had to sit down…ha!

 

I had a wonderful dinner w/ my Art chix (the art teachers I used to teach with) and they TOTALLY surprised me with a Canon Rebel T3 (whoa, I know!)  So, we will be taking more pictures and updating more frequently, or off with my head!

We went swimming at Auntie Laura’s pool too!  And Maddie had her first big dentist appointment to get her teeth cleaned – she did great!  We were really apprehensive about it, but she did great until the actual dentist came in.  HA.

  

Needless to say, we’ve been busy, but we wouldn’t have it any different in this chapter of our life…

Closing Time

One of my favorite lyrics from this song is “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.”  (If you’re trying to remember the tune, click here).  Yesterday, Beth and I closed on our house.  What?  Closing on house?  Are you moving?  Yes and Yes.  About 4 years ago, seminary was getting close to ending and we really started the process of discerning what was next.  Through this process, God showed us that the call to missions was one that both of us had strong leaning towards.  So in January 2009, we sent our initial application to our mission agency.  Little did we know that the economy would collapse and the agency would go through a sending freeze AND a reorganization causing us to have to sit and wait, and wait, and wait.

So 3 consultants and 2 kids later, the time has come.  Last week, Beth and I (and the girls) were recommended for appointment!  We will head to Orlando in September to meet with the trustees of the mission agency.  Pending final approval from the entire trustee board, we will be leaving for South Asia in January!  South Asia?!?  That’s far away?  Where are you going?  I’m glad you asked.  While we aren’t saying exactly where we are going (at least not on the blog), I have decided to call the place “Funny Lady Land”.  What are you going to do?  Well, we will be working with the local church planters and pastors, helping train them on how to plant churches and disciple their believers.

Over the next few months, we will be sojourners in the States going to visit family, some vacation, and 2 months of training in Virginia.  We promise to try to be more diligent in updating the blog with stories of our journey as we work towards moving to “Funny Lady Land.”

Give Me an Answer Conference

gmaa

Today, Beth and I are headed up to Southern for the Give Me an Answer Conference.  This year’s theme is “Only One Savior?” focusing on the uniqueness of Christ in a post modern world.  Dr. Mohler and Dr. Moore are the keynote speakers with Shane & Shane leading the worship time AND providing a concert tonight!

Also, many of the professors are leading breakout sessions during the day on Saturday ranging in topics from “What about the man on the island?” to “Preparing to teach the only savior on the mission field” to “The gospel and science fiction.”

Final note, SBTS students can register today for free with their Shield ID card in the Honeycutt Center.