When short-term mission gets cancelled…

I’ve been hearing stories recently about short-term mission workers whose time abroad has been rudely interrupted by Covid.

Young people on a gap year who had barely got into their stride in the field when their agency called them back home. People on a DTS who can’t go on outreach. Medical students planning an elective abroad whose plans have been frustrated.

For many of these people it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to serve God abroad, and now it’s not happening. Perhaps it’s never going to happen. Many of these people are disappointed, confused and angry. They need to process this. They have questions like “Why did God send me abroad only to bring me back again?”

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The changing face of evangelism

As we emerge into a much-changed world, it is important to cling to the fact that God has not changed.

I am writing this in the spare room/office of my home, in what is now the eighth week of lockdown. This period has been one of reflection, a chance to be able to reassess my thoughts, my intentions and my motivation.

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Photo by iMattSmart on Unsplash

How a mission worker survived lockdown in China

Greetings from the East…

Two to three months ago, the world was thinking about China and praying for us. Today my heart and prayers, and those of believers here, are focused on you in the West, and the rest of the world. It’s been an unsettling time facing COVID-19, but I want to take a moment to share as things start to look a little brighter here.

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What The Early Church Can Teach Us About The Coronavirus

The early church was no stranger to plagues, epidemics, and mass hysteria. In fact, according to both Christian and also non-Christian accounts, one of the main catalysts for the church’s explosive growth in its early years was how Christians navigated disease, suffering, and death. The church’s posture made such a strong impression on Roman society that even pagan Roman emperors complained to pagan priests about their declining numbers, telling them to step up their game. 

So what did Christians do differently that shook the Roman Empire? And what can the early church teach us in light of the coronavirus? 

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8 Things The Coronavirus Is Teaching Us

I awoke this morning in Naples, Italy’s third city to have been placed on lockdown. Public gatherings, including church services, have been forbidden. Weddings, funerals, and baptisms have been cancelled. Schools and cinemas, museums and gyms, have all been closed. My wife and I just returned from a grocery-shopping trip that took two hours due to long checkout lines. Italy currently has the highest reported number of Coronavirus cases outside of China: 9,172 cases and 463 deaths. As a result, 60 million people have been told to remain in their homes unless absolutely necessary. How are we, as Christians, to respond to such a crisis? Answer: with faith not fear. We are to look into the eye of the storm and ask, Lord, what are you wanting me to learn through this? How are you seeking to change me? Here are eight things we’d all do well to learn, or relearn, from this Coronavirus scare.

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What is my purpose?

This is a question I’ve asked myself for years and I imagine one that plagues the minds of many. In the past I would have answered it with something like “to help people” or “to tell people about Jesus” or perhaps a more vague “to serve God”. Those are great aims in life, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think they’re quite there. As a church worker, I’ve tried to do those things. I’ve worked very hard at helping people. I’ve told lots of people about Jesus. I’ve tried to serve God through giving talks, writing studies, organising events, hosting parties, driving people round, baking cakes, brewing tea, mopping floors and being a shoulder to cry on. But somewhere in the midst of all that, I forgot that my primary purpose in life is to glorify God, and that starts with simply knowing Him (John 17:3).

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The Crowd and the Finishing Line

Like many runners, I was transfixed recently when Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon distance in under two hours. I know it wasn’t a race and it doesn’t count as a world record, but it was still impressive. When he broke away from his pace makers and sprinted to the line, I was in bits. Frankly, I could run half a mile at the pace he managed, much less a marathon.

Of course, this was his second attempt at a sub-two hour marathon. His first try at the target was on Monza race course and he missed his goal by a very narrow margin. One of the things that he identified as a problem at Monza was that he was too far from the cheering crowd, so in Vienna the route was chosen so that people could be close to him and cheer him on his way. Crowds do help. Even running in a small, local half-marathon, it gives you a little spring in your step when kids hold up their hands for a high-five as you go past.

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Hope does not disappoint

The Evangelical Alliance has called the UK to believe for a hopeful future following the outcome of the General Election which returned a majority Conservative government.

In a statement responding to the election outcome, Gavin Calver, CEO, said: “I am hopeful for the future of the United Kingdom as we head into 2020.

“Not because one party has won and another has lost, but because we believe in a God who is powerful.

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“We were prevented…”

Much frustration, confusion, anger and loss is incurred by mission workers who find their plans thwarted.

Perhaps a family need draws us back home from the field. Some of us inexplicably lose visas and are given 48 hours to leave a country we’ve lived in for 20 years. The risk of terrorism forces our evacuation. A sending agency decides to pull out of a given location. Our funding falls to an unsustainable level. The list goes on.

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Game of Crowns

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” – Matthew 6:24 (ESV)

I have found that a lot of people misunderstand this verse, or perhaps more accurately simply ignore half of it. So often we immediately take from it that we shouldn’t make idols in the place of God because if we do, we will end up loving that idol and hating God. True. But notice that it doesn’t just say “You will hate the one [God] and love the other [money/sex/food/image/insert-own-idol-here]”, it gives us the alternative option too: that you could just as well end up – if you still love and serve Jesus – hating the idol instead. Money, sex, food and image are all good and important things, gifts given by God. We should respect and desire many of these gifts, but we need to put them in their proper place. If we serve any one of them wholeheartedly, they will inevitably disappoint us and we will end up hating them.

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