India Update 2

“Welcome to Hyderabad,” we read on a sign outside the airport. After a long day of travel, we arrived safely to Hyderabad, India around 9 pm. Our driver picked us up and navigated to our hotel through the crowded and bustling streets. A clearly marked 2 lane road, at times served as a 6 lane road. They technically drive on the left side of the road, but that is more of a suggestion. I know my family is thankful that I wasn’t driving.
  
As we walked through the largest temple in Hyderabad today, our hearts were pained as we saw countless people worshiping made-up gods.  I’ve prayer walked many temples, but this one stood out.  We stood near an alter where animals are sacrificed and their ashes are put on the forheads of the Hindu people to remove sin.  God break our hearts for the lost people in our world!

“Your presence here makes more impact than you will ever know.” This was the first sentence we heard from one of the church leaders. After a long journey, before anything was taught, these words were reaffirming that we were in the right place. We have been spending time with many pastors and church planting leaders in Hyderabad. Every day we have spent a significant amount of time learning about the spiritual climate since the new government took over about 18 months ago. The challenges the church in India faces is overwhelming, but the leaders remain encouraged and hopeful as they swim upstream in the fastest river I’ve ever seen. OM India has set realistic goals to reach 25 million Dalit people by 2025. They currently have over 4,000 churches, 107 schools, and 25+ training centers. They are also extremely involved in stopping human trafficking, rescuing temple prostitutes, and government influence to change anti-conversion laws. Can you imagine being punished for becoming a Christian? 

Each time we get together, we spend much time in prayer for both personal and ministry struggles. God continues to use the Indian people to teach me about the power of prayer. Often times, when we see this type of environment, our first thought is…”I’m blessed to be born in America.” God has blessed us beyond measure! But He hasn’t done so for use to live comfortable and happy lives in our subdivisions. He has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. I’m proud to be apart of a church that loves ALL of God’s children and is committed to the Great Commission.

We will officially begin our pastors conference tomorrow. The pastors are traveling 10+ hours today by train to spend the next 4 days with us. God has already done God-sized things since we have arrived, but the conference will reap fruit for years to come. Please pray for the power of God to pour out on these pastors and church leaders. Even though our “In-country” team is small, we need YOU as a partner in prayer right now. Thank you in advance.

China 2015

 

Here is a short recap video of our China mission trip from July 2015.  It was amazing to see how God worked and continues to work in the hearts of His people through this journey.  Remember that missions isn’t a trip, but a lifestyle dedicated to serving a worthy God.

China Update 5

Our final full day in country the team was blessed with different worship services in Nanning. Three of us attended a home church while the other four went to a “Three Self Church”. A Three Self Church, incidentally, is a government ‘approved’ church that is actively monitored to ensure political correctness and compliance. At the heart, the government doesn’t want Christians to instigate dissention nor evangelism within its own borders.

  
So, our team had two very distinct worship experiences yet in their uniqueness they were each just as powerful as the other. At the house church I preached on the assurance of God’s timely promises as well as our obligation toward obedience. Pat also shared a about the price that has to be paid to be a disciple of Jesus. Interestingly, at the Three Self Church the message came from the passages of Psalm 96:1-9 and Luke 9:57-62, which speak of declaring God’s glory among the nations and that to be a follower of Christ one must be willing to leave everything behind. Throughout the three messages there were common threads tying them together and looking back it’s undeniable that we all needed to hear these words from the Lord.
Reflecting on our visit to China, we spent time talking over some much needed coffee. We shared with each other the lessons learned and how God used this trip to draw us closer to Him. We also admitted to each other where God is leading us and why foreign missions is so important. To be sure, Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples’ was not a command to a select few but rather it is an all inclusive command He gave to all of us. Our team has been blessed by this pas week and our prayer is that the Lord will call more workers to the field to take part in gardening souls for the kingdom.

China Update 4

The journey we take in life (be it on the whole or on a daily basis) does not always turn out the way we plan. Granted, some of our intensions are realized but others are not. Thankfully, for those of us who are redeemed, we are not in control of the outcome.
  
As has been our pattern, the team went about its way – dividing and conquering. One group went deep into the countryside to fulfill a prearranged appointment, while the other group stayed in Joe City to fellowship and to let the Spirit direct the path. Traveling roughly three hours one way to a village, Jim’s team met with a family who had been visited with by two previous teams. This particular couple had prayed for their salvation back in June and we wanted to continue to develop that relationship. They spent time again going over the plan of salvation; and, with the interpreter’s help, a few questions were answered. One of our main goals was to provide them with copies of their own Scriptures and to outline for them key passages for future reading. While with this couple, neighbors and other family members looked on as the interpreter spoke. Who knows what will become of those seeds.
Walking throughout Joe City, my team encountered a group of blind men that a local had been sharing with. Despite, not knowing exactly how the conversation would go, there was, nonetheless, divinely inspired intent to somehow weave into the discussion a presentation of the gospel. What more appropriate subject than Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus, being blinded and receiving redemption by the One whom he sought to persecute. It was a beautiful story that I was able to tell these men and no doubt the story resonated with them. May their eyes be opened and may they, at the end of their journey, find peace and contentment in Him who met them on the road. 

China Update 3

After arriving in Joe City, we met up with a couple that several in our team had met before. This young American couple has lived here for six years and has a great work going. To be in the presence of someone who has a sold out passion for the Kingdom is so refreshing.
  
At lunch and dinner we shared in fellowship, listening to them talk about their field and the mission Father has called them to. It was fitting, then, for all of us to join them in a rented apartment for a prayer and praise meeting with a few members of their home club.  
Together, we sang songs, some songs only in English, some only in Chinese and others we sang in the two languages at the same time. Worshiping in unison, lifting our hearts to heaven and bowing before the throne of grace, broken, burdened for the lost and rejoicing in the spirit.
Our souls long to be in the Father’s presence. There is a gap, a hole in our hearts, a chasm between us and Father. Only He can stretch out to meet us where we are. And, in and of ourselves we have no desire nor ability to reach for Him yet His love for our souls is beyond our finite human comprehension. As our relationship with Him is deepened, we get a glimpse of our eternal home. With each passing day, as our days on this earth draw to a close, our longing for Him will only be satisfied when we see our Savior face to face. What a glorious day that will be.
Please continue to pray for this couple as they continue to work in the field and that the members of their club would grow in their faith. Pray especially now for a young lady who’s been attending their group for some time yet who has not confessed her need for the Father’s love expressed through His Son. She has questions, big questions; but only Father can satisfy.

China update 2

Today we were moved by the things we witnessed and by what we found that we were a part of. Know that your prayers are being heard and as a result, we believe, the Spirit is moving among the people. While four members of the team went to a village the rest of us went back to the local club where I wrapped up my teaching in the book of Acts.
  
The other four from our group spent some time in a nearby village where we had a connection to an friend that was an unbeliever. One cannot deny what seems to be within our control simply isn’t and that there are purposes for why things happen that is beyond our understanding. While in the village, the team was invited by the head club leader to come into their facility and before too long song broke out amongst the mixed group – all the while this unsaved friend was witnessing these events unfold. Of course, there was also conversation, which he participated in; but what may have had the greatest impact was the conduct of the group and the love that was shared. Love is an unusual and rare commodity here that cannot be ignored.
The rest of us went back to the local club within L City and I wrapped up my teaching with two, three hour sessions. The teachings centered on how a growing and maturing body of believers should remain faithful to the truth and pure toward the simplicity in J.C. alone, to spread the Good News and how to treat each other with love and sincerity. At the end of the session prayer was in order. This was no ordinary prayer meeting. I can recall very few times when I have experienced anything like it. It began with some confusion on who was going to pray. But as we all stood, the silence soon turned into whispers. Those whispers we soon accompanied by sniffles and tears. Some were singing their prayers softly. The Spirit was FULL in the room. He could physically be felt. After 20-30 minutes of our individual praying, a man in the back of the room prayed one the most memorable and spirit filled prayed I’ve ever heard. I was blessed to be able to understand most of what prayed. After he prayed, we all stood gazing around the room amazed at how HE had shown up! This was on the order of Pentecost. Those of us who were privileged to participate will never be the same. 

  

China Update

 We FINALLY arrived in Luo Cheng after a long journey. After a good nights rest, we arrived at the bus station on Monday morning but the bus tickets were sold out. We had no choice but to hire 2 private cars to take us 5+ hours north to Luo Cheng. The drivers got separated and ended up taking 2 different roads. The driver in my vehicle and had never been on this road before. We could tell he was lost and unsure of where to go. I quickly had to become the navigator and I ended up driving ½ the way when the driver was too tired to continue. Quite exciting. Once we arrived, I immediately went to meet the HC leaders that had been waiting for an hour and a half for me to arrive. When I showed up, they were singing and all very excited to see us. I was able to teach them for 1 ½ hours and they were eager to study with me. I began with an introduction of me to help build some report and then he began to study in the book of Acts. A year ago this HC network only had two gatherings. They now have 23 gatherings. Their growth has been very fast. I have been given a passion to teach and train the leaders to strive to look like the New Testament Gathering. After the training, one of the leaders took me back to the hotel on the back of his motorcycle. I met up with the rest of the team and went to eat dinner with a couple that lives in the area that some team members know from San Antonio. The man is American and the woman is Chinese and they have a young daughter. The man has only lived in China for one year so I was able to encourage him with the roller coaster challenges of living in a new culture. After dinner I headed back to the hotel to study for the next day as I would be teaching for 6 hours. Sleeping by 8:30! Excited for a great day of training the HC leaders. 

China 2015

On Friday the 17th will be departing with a team headed for China. During our trip I will be periodically posting updates to keep you up-to-date with ways you can pray. This will be the first time I’ve been back to China since returning to America 2 1/2 years ago. I am beyond excited to be going back to a place that is near to my heart. God has given me a love and passion for the people of China that began in 2006, and that passion has continued to grow. While it will be a fun time of reunion, it will also be strategic for God’s work in a desperate land.

1.  Pray for traveling mercies and safety in country

2.  Pray for receptive and repentant hearts

3.  Pray for spiritual eyes and ears to be opened to the truth of Christ

4.  Pray for our families in America

Thank you for partnering with us in prayer during our journey.  There is power in prayer! even though we only have a team of seven actually taking the trip, thousands can participate in this journey by interceding for us.

Jonah

 

 

The Greatness of God

Leave it to a children’s book to help us see how big our universe is.  In a book entitled Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? Robert Wells takes us from a size we can grasp to one we can’t.

The largest animal on earth is the blue whale. Just the flippers on its tail are bigger than most animals on earth.

But a blue whale isn’t anywhere near as big as a mountain. If you put one hundred blue whales in a huge jar, you could put millions of whale jars inside a hollowed-out Mount Everest.

But Mt. Everest isn’t anywhere near as big as the earth.  If you stacked one hundred Mount Everests on top of one another, it would be just a whisker on the face of the earth.

And the earth isn’t anywhere near as big as the sun.  You could fit one million earths inside of the sun.

But the sun, which is a medium-size star, isn’t anywhere near as big as a red supergiant star called Antares.  Fifty million of our suns could fit inside of Antares.

But Antares isn’t anywhere near as big as the Milky Way galaxy. Billions of stars, including supergiants like Antares, as well as countless comets and asteroids, make up the Milky Way galaxy.

But the Milky Way galaxy isn’t anywhere near as big as the universe.  There are billions of other galaxies in the universe.

And yet, filled with billions of galaxies, the universe is almost totally empty.  The distances from one galaxy to another are beyond our imagination.

And the Creator of this universe is God, who with a Word spoke it all into being, who is present everywhere in this universe and beyond, who upholds it all with His mighty power.  Great is our God and greatly to be praised!

Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 201.