Monday, September 9, 2013

Drilling Wells in the Earth and in Hearts

(by Paula)

One of the things our mission team does, is go up and down the Amazon River several times a year to drill fresh water wells for various indigenous and non indigenous  river communities. Recently it was my privilege to go along and help out on one of these trips.

I was surprised at how much equipment we needed to take and loading it onto the boat was just a warm up for the work the men would be doing in the village.

When we arrived in the village late in the afternoon we discovered that no trail to the dig site had not been cleared. This threatened to throw our schedule off by as much as a day. So within a half hour of our arrival the men set to work clearing a trail, and it had grown dark by the time they reached the well site. 

After quickly eating their supper they went back to work digging two water pits for flushing out the mud and sand the drill brought up as it bored into the earth. They finally decided they should come back to the boat for some rest after midnight.

Early the next morning they were back to work, finishing the pits, hauling all that heavy equipment up the hill and setting up the rig. By late afternoon they were back on schedule with the drill running. They continued to drill late into the night, then back to the boat for a few hours sleep before morning and more drilling.

This was the schedule for three full days. But they were glad to keep this grueling pace because they knew that we were bringing fresh drinking water to the village and more importantly we were also bringing, God's Living Water to the village. As the men worked at the well site, the women were involved in the village sharing God's word with the women and children.

On the last day one of the well's liner pipes collapsed bringing the work to a halt. We had done all that we could and now it would be up to another team to finish the work we had begun.

On the way home as I thought about the whole experience, Living Water and all; it  occurred to me that there was a lesson to be learned here. The Bible talks about how when we have the Holy Spirit in us we become like wells of Living Water that springs up in us and flows to those around us.

I had never really thought  much about what all goes into drilling a well. I just figured somebody shows up with a rig, starts it up and a few minutes later there's a well.

I thought it worked pretty much the same with God. He sends His Spirit and boom just like that, there it is, Living Water. I believe many Christians think this way too and then secretly wonder what the big deal is because their walk with The Lord seems rather dry and lifeless, if truth be told.

But drilling a well, whether in the earth or the heart, takes a lot of work. 
First, the well site has to be chosen. - God chooses people before they are born.

Then the path needs to be cleared.  - A person must be prepared to hear and receive God's Word. Some people will accept Jesus as their savior the first time they hear the gospel but with others it may take a lifetime of God sending different people and circumstances to work on their hearts before they are ready to accept His gift of life.

Once a person gives their heart and life to The Lord, He sets to work on them. 
One of the things that really struck me at the well site was how deep they had to dig to hit good water that would continue to flow even when the river was at  its lowest.  

Another thing I never really thought about before was just how much gunk the drill brings up and throws out the deeper it goes.

It's the same with people hearts and lives. When we accept the Lord into our lives, we say 'All right, you can put a well of your Living Water in my heart.' But when He begins to go deeper than we're comfortable with and bringing up stuff we'd just as well prefer to stay buried, many people yell "Stop! I didn't agree to this." And they refuse to allow Him to go any further. They are satisfied with the surface water that quickly goes stagnant or the ok water a few feet down that dries up when they are "just not feeling it anymore." 
But a well that will continue to remain clean and healthy and not dry up when the rain isn't falling has to go deep. 

Going deep takes time and gunk is going to be brought to the surface where it needs to be dealt with and thrown out, before there is room in our hearts for The Lord to dwell and bring us His Living Water.

(If you have not yet seen our video of our trip, you can find it at and there is a photo album at )

Monday, April 22, 2013

Family and Friends, Near and Far

Luke 18:28-30
And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.”  And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.

(by Randall)

   This scripture really does strike home with traditional missionaries and followers who are called to serve and are physically separated from their family and loved ones. In our case, we had a 20 year history in our hometown of Mansfield, even though both Paula and I grew up in “roaming” families. My father was a career airman in the US Air Force and as a family, we relocated many times. I was the youngest of three and my older sisters really endured the hardest of these moves, leaving friends and schools several times while growing up. I was just entering the 2nd grade when my father accepted his last assignment in Columbus, OH and I lived in the same geographic location (and school system) until I left for college. Paula’s father was a minister and her family also moved around a bit during her upbringing. Moving from church to church, they moved all around southern Ohio and northern Kentucky until his last assignment in Circleville, OH shortly after Paula graduated High School.

   With that background, we both thought we would also have a “wanderlust” lifestyle, but the Lord settled us in Mansfield in the second year of our marriage. We raised both our children in Richland County, only moving once while they were in school. We built deep relationships with co-workers, neighbors, church family and recreational acquaintances. Those friendships still continue and we relish the opportunity to talk with any of our brothers and sisters when possible.

   When we confirmed we were called to mission work, part of our personalities rejoiced! “Yea! We get to go somewhere different, experience new places and people in God’s service!” We really were excited about the prospective doors we would have the chance to walk through. We were called at a time our children were grown and ready to start their own personal walk in life, and we knew that it was time for them to stretch their wings and fly their own directions.

   Over the last year and a half since we left Mansfield, we have learned of the emptiness that takes place when you leave friends and family. Our hearts often yearn for the simplicity of sharing a meal and games with those we care for. Using Skype, email, Facebook and having a “MagicJack™” phone number has eased our separation in comparison of the missionaries of years past. Still, we know the miles are there and we are not able to be next to our children to offer a hug, or fix a car. Not able to be by our parents side as they face health issues. Unable to hold the newborn baby of a dear friend. Restrained from joining worship and fellowship with fellow believers that have walked with us as our faith has matured.

   This last week, I read the verse above in my devotional time. And while we do miss our friends and families tremendously, and do not seek to replace them in our hearts, the Lord has been faithful in drawing us into a new family and new friends.

   Our missional community was recently blessed with the birth of a daughter to a young couple here. It is a blessing to hold her and pray over her as she grows up in a multi-cultural environment. Her father has been a blessing to us as he runs us around for official purposes, acting as a translator and guide through the morass of bureaucracy. (This same family will be leaving in August to spend 2 years serving with a church in the Amazon that reaches directly to the indigenous indians of the jungle.) There are several teens among the children in our group that welcome us and allow us to offer advise and guidance.

   We have been attending a small evangelical church with about 50 regular members, and they have unconditionally opened their arms and hearts to us. They strive to include us in their activities, worship and studies. One of them will volunteer to drive across town to pick us up for service or meetings, sometimes we stay overnight with the pastor and his wife so that we can continue fellowship all weekend, and then someone will bring us home. They offer meals and we have shared playing games (Catan!) as well as spending time in worship. Only a couple of them understand or speak English, and even then it is very limited, but our hearts speak a common tongue,.... that is of God’s love.

   This last Sunday, I wanted to repay some of the kindness they have showed. So we hosted them in our own apartment for a meal and celebration of my birthday. I spent Saturday morning riding buses and shopping for food, while Paula prepared what she could at the apartment. We prepared a Tex-Mex feast of enchilada’s, corn tortilla chips, onion rings, home-made guacamole, refried beans, and Indian fried bread. (Brazilians love Mexican style food, but very few places offer it) We had the honor and privilege to serve 15 members of our brazilian “family.” We still mostly sit on plastic chairs, holding plates (a gift of 11 plates was offered by one family) in our laps, and drinking out of thin plastic cups, yet the apartment was filled with laughter and we found some fulfillment in the social time.

   So we see that God has fulfilled His promise even now and have surrounded us with friends and family, not to replace those we left, but “increasing our lands” as it were, so that the yearnings of our hearts for loved ones will not become so overwhelming as to distract us from our purpose and goals here.

Praise be to our God!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mission Impossible? 

Hello, Agent Cristão. Your assignment today, should you choose to accept it, is this: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Further instructions await you at your destination where you will join other operatives already working in the area. Should you be discovered remember that I am with you even to the ends of the earth.

I just love a good spy story don't you? Just the words "spy, secret agent, operative" conjures up images of mystery, intrigue and daring adventure in exotic far off places. Who hasn't at one time or another dreamed of being James Bond or Madam Hari sneaking into the bad guy's secret base to rescue an important hostage or retrieve stolen treasure, escaping by a hair and saving the world from the evil schemes of the villainous mastermind? Come on admit it, we all have, that's why the spy genre remains so popular.

Recently, Randall and I have started listening to a podcast from the National Spy Museum in Washington DC. The podcast is not a work of fiction but rather covers a wide range of subjects relating to the world of intelligence and espionage, from histories of the early days all the way up to the most recently declassified information on today's headlines. It's fascinating. But it got me to thinking that there are many parallels between the life of the Christian and the world of spies. Stay with me here. 

Think about it. The last instructions of Jesus to His disciples was what we call The Great Commission. You don't have to be in church long before you hear about it. Most pre K Sunday school children can rattle it off by rote as easily as they can quote the Lord's Prayer or the first few lines of the 23rd Psalm. But have you really ever given it much serious thought?

 Jesus said, Go.  An operative is told to, Go. Sometimes a Christian is sent to a far off exotic land to work and at other times the Christian is based in his or her homeland. The same holds true with a spy, after all homeland security is as important as infiltrating the enemy's base. Which brings up another interesting parallel:  We are to actively infiltrate the enemy's stronghold and work to overthrow his position of power by every means at our disposal. Our God is a powerful and creative God so the possibilities of carrying out this assignment are mind boggling.

Sometimes agents are sent into dangerous situations in order to rescue hostages. Well, guess what? So are we. It is such an intragal part of our mission that we even refer to it as 'saving the lost'. While Jesus does the actual saving, it is up to us to help show the hostage the way out of their bondage.

Another duty of an operative is to recruit  and train other agents at home and abroad. Hmm, what do you think making disciples and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us to do means? Recruit and train others to serve in God's Kingdom. You may be assigned a homeland position or you might be sent to the field, either way it is a very important task.

 There is a system of leadership within the world of espionage  where an operative is guided and held accountable by a more experienced operative called a handler. The handler passes along pertinent information and instructions from the president or other leaders to the field operative. That's exactly what our ministers, church leaders  and mentors do for us. They give us important information and instruction from God the Head of our organization.

Many times, the operative does not have the full details of their assignment until they arrive at the place where they are to do their work. Often God only reveals our part of His plan on a 'need to know' basis. We just have to be willing to accept the assignment and the details will be made known at the proper time. Abraham's assignment was like this. God told him to go to a land that He would show him. Nothing much more, other than "you will be great." How many of us would be willing to do something that open ended? It's hard for us to attempt any life changing action without a clearly defined plan and all the steps laid out in advance with simple to understand instructions. And of course there are always the super covert operations where if the agent revealed any information to anyone not directly involved with the mission the results could mean  death. Yes, God sometimes sends His agents on those kind of assignments too. Don't believe me? Well, just think of the missionaries who are serving in hostile lands where they have to change their names and can't tell anyone where they are serving or what they are doing. Cloak and dagger stuff actually does take place in God's Kingdom all the time.

In the movies the agent is usually someone who goes in, does the job with a lot of style and gets out. I like to think of this mode of operations as Short Term Missions. Short term missions only last as long as it takes to get a specific job done, i.e. build a church or school, disaster relief, you know the dramatic projects that get a lot of attention. But there are other operatives who have gone in before, unnoticed, lived seemingly normal lives and laid the groundwork over many years for the dramatic climax of the operation. These are the long term missionaries. They live their lives and raise their families on the field, taking advantage of ministry opportunities and building the networks needed for the short term work to be done. In the movies these operatives fade in and out of the background at critical moments to help the protagonist along. Even though they are often quickly forgotten they are very important to the work.

Oh and least I forget the cool equipment. What spy story would be complete without just the right gadget for the job or the agent having the know how to construct something useful out of things at hand? Well, God said that He will equip us with everything we need to do His work, whether it is cutting edge technology that allows His Word to be spread covertly via mobile Bluetooth devices or the know how to purify water with a plastic coke bottle and the sun. Whatever we need, we just have to keep our eyes open and trust Him to come through for us. How cool is that? 

So if you truly take "The Great Commission" seriously, welcome to the Service. You never know just where the work will take you but you can be assured that there will never be a dull moment. And when things get tough remember, with God nothing is impossible and you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Go with God, Agent.

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