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Colombia: Days 4 & 5 – March 2017

On Monday morning, I went with Ms. B to take her younger kids to school. They go to a private school started by missionaries in Tabatinga, Brazil and they are learning Spanish and Portuguese. I’m still just learning to tell the difference between the two! We went over to the airport and walked around where the Brazilian military goes on their runs in the morning. We talked about the churches and the common beliefs in the area. We also got to start planning the retreat that we’ll have on Thursday with all the local missionaries when the team gets back from the river. We went around and invited some of the local couples, and found out about a girl who had been attending the English school that these missionaries ran, but she had recently stopped attending it so she could go to the Mormon church in town. (We are now praying that she will return to what she had been learning through the missionaries for the past couple of years and that God would reveal his truth to her!)

Later that afternoon, the oldest girl and I went out for a canoe ride on Los Lagos (a lake that is connected to the Amazon.) We swam in the lake and looked at all the trees and the beautiful scenery in it! We got to watch the sun start setting while we were on the Amazon river and it was so beautiful! That evening Ms. B and her girls and I just hung out, baked cookies, and talked about girly things while Isaac and Joy fell asleep on the couch watching Ghostbusters. Afterwards, the girls I had a sleepover in the girls’ room and talked all about life.

This morning (Tuesday), the oldest girl and I woke up after the little ones had gone to school and Ms. B was getting ready to go to breakfast to celebrate another missionary’s birthday, so I took her out to breakfast. Then we went to explore the town a little bit more and buy LOTS of coffee to bring home! We have been having a great time to get to know each other here, and just have fellowship with other believers. I wish I had more to talk about with the work the guys are doing in the village, but I’m sure when they get back tomorrow, they will have tons of awesome stories about the work God got to do through them! Thank you for your prayers and support of the six of us as well as the ‘B family’.

Written by Brena Lackey

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Colombia, General Missions, Samaria

 

Colombia: Day 3 – March 2017

The next morning (Sunday), we went to breakfast as a team one last time and Ms. B took the guys to the port. (Please continue praying for their safety and effectiveness while they are gone until Wednesday evening.) The ‘B family (wife, kids and a neighborhood friend) and I went to church when Ms. B got back from the port. It was Mariana’s first time to join the girls for church and they were so excited to have her there! Beth introduced me to the people there as “Brenda” because it was a more well-known name to them than Brena, so my Spanish name is Brenda. The service was in Spanish, but it was still cool to meet some of the fellow believers in Leticia and worship the Lord with them. They talked about the passage that instructs us to build your house on the rock from Haggai 1:9-11. This meant so much more to them here than it does to most Americans, because they watch homes often be destroyed by the flooding of the river. In fact, people in Peru have been losing their lives due to flooding during this rainy season. It also reminded us that we should be more focused on the house of God than our earthy houses.

We then went to lunch together and Ms. B and I were able to start getting to know each other while the kids walked over to the park. We spent the afternoon getting to know one another while resting. The girls asked if we could all go get ice cream that afternoon. Just then, I realized I didn’t know where my passport was, and since I had left the hotel to come stay at the ‘B family’ house, everything was in a different place. I thought it had fallen out of my backpack when I had gotten my pen out of it to journal the night before, so one of the girls went back to the hotel with me to find it (she has been an amazing translator!).  We sat for about 30 minutes only to find that it wasn’t there. I was praying that it was just in a different pocket in my bag and it hadn’t been stolen or lost someplace else! We got back and I searched every pocket of my bag, and it was in the only pocket I hadn’t searched yet. Praise the Lord!

The girls and I finally went to get ice cream, and the girls’ friend tried to learn some English while I tried to learn some Spanish. We wandered around the town and they told me all about their life here, the places they had lived, and places they liked to go. Then they asked if they could dye my hair with tissue paper! So now I have red tips from the dye used to make tissue paper. (Don’t worry, mom, it’s not permanent.). I cooked with Ms. B, and we got to use the new pressure cooker that UBC sent the ‘B Family’.  The food turned out delicious! We made chicken curry and rice and watched a movie together. I got to play video games with the ‘B family’s’ boy too, which he loves. We ended the night by watching a movie together, and by the end of the night, we were all exhausted and slept so well!

Written by Brena Lackey

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Colombia, General Missions, Samaria

 

Colombia: Days 1 & 2 – March 2018

Well we’ve been here been here for a few days now, and it’s been absolutely amazing! We departed Friday night at 6 pm and got to Leticia around 1:30 the next day. Travels were miraculously smooth with only a couple of minor bumps in the road, and we handled it as a unified team, which was a huge answer to prayer. After getting lost in the airport in Bogota at 5 a,m. in the morning and navigating our way to our gate with a very little knowledge of the language, I’d say we were very bonded as a team! Many of us were unable to sleep on the flights, but we were carried through and so excited to finally be in Leticia when we landed.

We were greeted by the ‘B Family’ and it was great to finally be here.  We went to their house, and got to meet all their kids and spend  time getting to know them and hearing about their life and work in Leticia and the surrounding villages. We spent some time hearing of the work in the lives’ of those they are reaching, as well as praying over their family, and worshiping together. Mr. T prepped Jake, Michael, Chaz, Morgan and Korey for the work they were going to be doing when they left for the river on Sunday around 10. After orientation, we took a tour of the town and went over to a neighborhood close to the port that overlooked the Amazon river. The sun was setting behind it and it was absolutely one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. We walked down a boardwalk in the neighborhood and were able to see life happening in Leticia. Little kids would come right up to us and hug us, and the older ones were playing soccer or volleyball in the mud, with joy on their faces the whole time. It was a much more relaxed lifestyle than we were accustomed to. People here are more concerned with getting their daily needs taken care of, rather than planning for the future. Later in the evening, we went to get groceries for the guys to take on the river with them and went to dinner with the ‘B Family’. We also were with another family who currently live in Florida, but are looking to come to be missionaries in Leticia as well. After dinner (and being awake for over 48 hours) we went back to the hotel for a time of prayer as a team before the guys were set to leave in the morning. We all slept so well after the exciting and exhausting couple of days we had had.

Written by Brena Lackey

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Colombia, General Missions, Samaria

 

East Asia – March 2017

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared tomake a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;” 1 Peter 3:15

Mission trips have a unique way of both emboldening you when it comes to opportunity and providentially surprising you when it comes to timing.  Our team realized this to be the case, as we spent three days working with our partner Kim, as she serves among the ‘Y’ People.  This was the second part of our trip to explore work among unreached peoples of E. Asia, as we look towards future partnership for UBC.

The “Y” People number 8 million and are one of around 55 minority peoples in this part of E. Asia.  They are an animistic people revering the worship of the Tiger through many of their ritualistic practices.  It just so happened that days before our team arrived, Kim connected with someone in the town she lives in, and found out about a festival that was happening during our time there to celebrate the culture of the Yi People.

We traveled a few hours to the nearby township where the celebration was being held.  Performers in dance, music, song and poem were taking the stage as they put the ‘Y’ peoples culture on full, colorful display.  We explored the costume and pageantry of the day, but it also gave us unique opportunities to share.  Obviously being may be the first foreigners many of these folks had seen, we looked like the newest exhibit at the traveling zoo.  Selfies were a dime a dozen and we probably made front page headlines in the morning gazette.  Beyond the curiosity of our culture, and even through it, God answered our prayers in giving us opportunities to share.

Two college graduates introduced themselves to us and wanted a picture with John and I.  After introducing ourselves and sharing our reason for being there, we were invited to their art studio.  They had recently graduated college and opened up a business/studio to teach art.  We were shown great hospitality as we sat in their studio drinking tea and sharing about our cultures.  We soon found out that one of the guys had been to church with his uncle, and so we took the opportunity to explore his beliefs.  We segwayed to the gospel using the Prodigal Son story, as a means of reflecting the nature of the gospel through an honor/shame lens.  Neither of our new friends believed that day, but seeds were sown.  We later met up with them the next day and were able to spend more time with them and reflecting their character and love of Christ through our lives.

The second day, we had plans to travel into a ‘Y’ village, but due to road closure were stopped.  While sitting on the side of the road we began conversing with a group of guys, some of whom we had met the day prior at the festival.  Because the ‘Y’ people are an oral culture, they love sharing stories and our being there for the festival allowed them to delve into story telling surrounding this particular festival.  Again, we took every opportunity to share, too, the greatest story that we know.

I came away from these few days continued to be amazed at how we may have plans, but God directs our steps, as He wills.  Sometimes that is in a conversation over tea in an art studio or on the side of a mountain in a village road closure.  Other times that might look like going for a walk with your neighbor and talking about life and the gospel, or asking the waiter at the restaurant you frequently often how you can pray for them.  You never know just when God might present an opportunity for proclamation.  Don’t miss it, we have no greater message to tell than the gospel. You have hope in Christ, go herald it!

Written by Ryan Martin

 

East Asia – March 2017

What does Member Care look like in East Asia?

Part of our team purpose was to come alongside those serving in East Asia by providing support and encouragement, as we joined them in their daily activities. It was my privilege to join KJ in her daily tasks and a variety of outreach opportunities. I accompanied KJ as she traveled to a village about three hours away from her city. She visited some helpers there and conducted some ministry tasks. We were invited to eat with a local family and enjoyed mutton, chicken, and goat all at one meal! In her city, we interacted with students learning English from private teachers – two elementary classes and a junior high class. Their teachers are always excited to have their students practice their English skills with a native speaker. As a guest, I was able to story with them from the Bible – David & Goliath and Noah and the Flood.   Other activities involved meeting both Christian and non-Christian friends for meals and fellowship, having her friends teach me how to make dumplings, sharing ethnic songs, walking KJ’s dog so she could complete planning for our team, and doing some simple computer editing of a language project to help meet a deadline. I was also able to meet other colleagues and team members in her city.

In addition to working with KJ, the interactions with her ethnic group allowed me to increase the scope and vision of her ministry and gave me a clearer understanding of the prayer needs for these people. I also came to see that ministry takes place in every activity of her day – those that are intentional as well as those that God spontaneously appoints. God certainly went before us and provided many opportunities to connect with many different people. KJ said many times that we were probably the first foreigners that they had ever seen.

Last but not least , this time with KJ allowed me to see several needs that we can address as a church and as individuals. Things like Christmas party supplies – a time when KJ has the elementary and JR High students of her friends to her home and shares the Christmas story and has a craft. Also special technology items that would be more reliable and allow greater productivity.

Written by Dottie Harris

What a blessing to see KJ in action! I have a more accurate picture of what being on mission means and the utter dependence on God that is required to complete every single day!

 

East Asia – March 2017

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me” Jeremiah 9:23-24

The first part of our trip was spent with Brian, who is trying to reach a certain sect of “T” people living in the more rural, mountainous regions of the country. There are over 1 million “T” people in this area and very few believers. The size and geography of the region makes it difficult to get to this group and believers among them are often isolated with few chances for discipleship. There are only 60-80 people trying to reach them with the gospel.

We got the opportunity to travel to a ‘T” village and stay in a home there to get a sense of how this people group lives. Everything there is seen through the lens of Buddhism, which is intricately linked to their culture and identity. The main tenet of Buddhism is removing suffering and reaching a state of peace but, at its core, is essentially the idea that one can be saved by works. There are colored flags strung along every mountain, usually near the peaks, with the hope of bringing good fortune to the area and, in some cases, to appease local spirits or gods. “Prayer cards” with various mantras written on them litter the ground, especially near temples, where the charred remains of burnt offerings linger. There are prayer wheels (cylindrical wheels containing scrolls inscribed with mantras) next to rivers that use the running water to make them turn. The idea is that spinning the wheel gives the same benefits and good karma as reciting the mantras inside. The more revolutions made, the more merits earned. In this particular village, there was even a woman who would get upset if travelers dared trek around a sacred mountain without first paying a “fee.” It was not done with the intention of getting rich, but rather with a sincere belief that not doing so would bring bad fortune upon the village.

In the house we stayed at, images and icons adorned the walls and shelves. While we were there, a monk was hired to perform a ceremony for the grandson. There was a lot of chanting from the monk and occasional rituals performed by the family at set moments. Yet, for all their fervor for décor and ritual, the family didn’t appear religious in any sense of the word. They were completely disinterested in what the monk was doing, casually going about their own business while he chanted away, and only performing in it when called to do a particular work. The grandson was on his phone the whole time. When asked whether she thought these rituals worked, the grandmother’s response was “Who can know?”

In his book, Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes, “we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” I saw this cruelty in the lives of this family, saddened from the realization that there was a lot of work done for nothing, words uttered into the void, and hope flung in vain. Oh, that they might know the hope and assurance in Christ.

Written by Jennifer Gidden

 

East Asia – March 2017

“If the governmental authorities show up and ask us what we’re doing, we’ll tell them that we’re having an informal meeting and that you’re our guests.” That’s what one of the lead house church pastors told us before we began our teaching. We’re told that it’s illegal for a group larger than to meet in China, particularly a Christian group, without letting the government know. If fact, any gathering of Christians for worship that is not sanctioned by the government is against the law and subject to criminalization.   Persecution of Christians varies from place to place. In the large city where we were, many house churches have found that the law is not adhered to very strictly, especially if the churches are small and receive no complaints. Still, this group of pastors and church leaders wanted to be cautious.

Ryan and I were invited by this group of about a dozen pastors and leaders to share about the importance of church membership. In fact, they asked us to walk them through Jonathan Leeman’s book Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. I was honestly a bit surprised by their request as I assumed they would be grappling with issues such as discipleship, preaching, equipping, and others. I was encouraged to know that they wanted to learn about and seek to implement meaningful membership. We were thankful that 9Marks had already translated this book into Chinese. We took twenty copies as gifts and then learned that a couple of the pastors already had a copy.

We had about six hours with the group, so after a time of prayer, we jumped right in to the teaching. Ryan and I decided to alternate teaching. I would take the odd chapters and therefore began our time together talking about the highest kingdom authority on earth being the local church. The group was incredibly attentive, and our times of discussion were lively.

It was interesting to learn that many of the churches these men pastor have a pretty stout membership process. I believe a good bit of this is because of past persecution and the need to insure that people weren’t trying to infiltrate these churches to report them to the authorities. Also, it seems like they genuinely what to make sure those coming into membership are true believers, bearing fruit and willing to walk with Christ even in persecution. If persecution were all around us here in the U.S., we too would likely take membership even more seriously.

Some of the pastors and leaders shared that they have a tendency to make membership more burdensome than need be. Their culture is one of rules and processes. They wanted to make sure that their membership process didn’t learn toward legalism but was also filled with grace. This was particularly evident when we began to share about church discipline. This topic was one that they had obviously been wrestling with. We received many questions and walked them through specific scenarios that they brought to us. It was an energetic discussion.

Overall, it was a sweet time with these laborers. They were so gracious to us and expressed gratitude for our coming. They asked if we would come again soon.

As you finish reading this post, take a few minutes and pray for this specific group of pastors and leaders. Also, pray for many such church leaders throughout China who seek to shepherd their flocks well in a place where true Christianity is not welcomed and even opposed.

Written by John Mueller