Randy gives us more of his experience and time in Nigeria.
“Here is what God taught me during this time. First, grant yourself grace when you have failed. It is easy to beat ourselves up when we have made such a blunder (trying to fly on an expired visa), but God uses our weakness to exalt His Grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). Second, the work of God does not depend on me! All we planned went forward without my presence because God is using the indigenous Nigerian leaders to train their own people! Third, one difficult may be the first of many more so do not lose heart. The rest of the trip had flight cancelations and delays, always reminding me that God’s plans, not mine, will ultimately succeed.
Far above all I have reported, God is doing a work that is far beyond all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). Where Fulani and Boko Haram tried hard to stop and destroy the work of God, it has exceeded all expectations. In Mubi, we trained 140 missionaries and leaders with God’s Plan for His Church, and these lovingly and joyfully embraced God’s Word beyond any of our expectations.
Please continue to pray for them. Whatever we face in this life, let us all embrace this promise: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). As always, thank you for going with me in prayer!”
“When our plans, even the ones given by the Lord, take unexpected turns, with many stops and restarts, it is good to press into the promises of His Word! In 40 years of missions, this trip had more changes logistically than any I have ever experienced, yet God was showing me how His ways stand firm in a fallen world. It is with joy that I report to you His unstoppable plan that moves forward despite human weakness and even heavy opposition. Along with Psalm 33 below, I have witnessed how Jesus’ promise cannot fail: “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:9).
When I arrived at JFK on the evening of May 9, something happened that had never happened in all my years of missions: I misread my Nigeria visa expiration and could not fly out! Here is what happened. My expiration date was written this way: 08/04/23. Americans read this August 4, 2023; but in international language, it is April 8, 2023! You can imagine how surprised I was when the Air France agent asked me, “Is the day first followed by the month?” Of course! Every passport and visa records dates this way, and I knew this from many, many travels; yet, one mental lapse can change everything!
After my complete embarrassment, I tried to get a visa on arrival, which Nigeria does accept, but once again, a logistic stood in the way: You cannot get your approval letter for two days. I was sunk! My weakness, my mental lapse meant I was headed home and not to Nigeria that night! From that point I began diligently working on the new visa, which was not as easy as it seemed, and I did not fly out until May 15. Each day was filled with new turns and twists, but God opened the door and I was able to join my brothers after the Jos & Gombe trainings.” (Randy)
“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:10-11
There are moments in this ministry that are very humbling when we observe how God is working. I received a text from one of our team who has just finished training in a S. E. Asia country. He sent me this picture and explained:
“This girl's parents got their certificates, but later I found out that her dad cannot read and her mother has only a 3rd grade education. She read to them each lesson and question, plus the Scriptures which enable them to complete their study through God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD). This 10 year old girl also finished so we joyfully presented her with a certificate.”
This reminds me of Jesus’ words, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
I had the same experience some years ago in India as I watched a 12 year old boy helping his father who could not read or write. Not only are the parents gaining from Scripture and the training, but these children are learning as well. How thankful we are for the varied ways God works to accomplish His purpose.
As I was listening to some wonderful songs about our Savior, my mind went to several Scriptures that speak about what it cost God to secure our salvation.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
“He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).
Each of these references is worth quiet meditation, asking the Spirit to give us some sense of what it cost to purchase our freedom from sin. Though we will never grasp the magnitude of Jesus bearing the weight of God’s wrath against our sin, we can develop a greater heart of gratitude and worship in appreciation for this GIFT OF GRACE – FREEDOM FROM GUILT AND CONDEMNATION!
I have heard from Pat regarding his visit to Senegal. “We are finishing God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD) with 40 leaders today and have a graduation this afternoon. We began God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC) on Monday. Bishop Benjamin is an amazing leader, and the Lord is using him and other leaders to build his kingdom here in Sierra Leone and beyond.”
How thankful we are for what God is doing in Africa. Here are some insights from Joshua Project.
“While all without Jesus are equally lost, all do not have equal access to the gospel. Access depends on what people group an individual belongs to. How hard is it to find a follower of Jesus in various people groups?”*
A newsletter was sent to us from a country in North Africa with news that thrilled our hearts. A short introduction of God’s Plan for His Disciples was given there last year, but we had not heard since what the Lord did with the material. Here is their comment that gives us much thanksgiving.
“In February, the team printed Christian books in our office in order to share them with leaders and new believers in different cities throughout our country. The goal is to provide Christian books and share the gospel with as many believers as possible.”
What a thrill to receive this news! There are times when we leave places not knowing what the results will be. We leave that with the Lord. This is why Paul says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Pat left yesterday for Senegal, Africa, to follow-up training there with key pastors and leaders. Pray for effective ministry that will unite the Church around God’s Word and the spread of the gospel. Like every African nation, the challenges are great, but so are the opportunities.
Tim has just finished his follow-up training in Cambodia and is flying to Laos today. The work in both places has been wonderful to watch, especially in Laos. Some of those in the most difficult circumstances are taking what they have learned and are passing it on to others. We must hold up in prayer these brothers and sisters who face persecution.
Translation challenges continue to keep us very dependent on the Lord. Here are a few that we ask you to keep in prayer:
I will bring you updates as they take place.
Gideon lived in extremely difficult times. So do many believers today. Conditions were so oppressive for Gideon because Israel was under the thumb of Midian to the point that he had to secretly “beat out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites” just to survive (Judges 6:11). As Boko Haram and Fulani radical groups invade villages, killing Christians, burning their houses and churches, they are seeking shelter wherever and however they can.
Many today are asking the same question that Gideon asked; “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? (13). The answer from the Lord to Gideon is different from what we find the Lord saying to the Church. For Gideon, the Lord was raising up this timid man to conquer Midian and destroy the worship of Baal, a pagan idol.
Jesus gives a very different answer to a suffering church called Smyrna. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
He did not promise to rescue these suffering saints from their suffering or even death. He only encouraged them not to fear and be faithful even to the point of death. These two things become a strong witness to Jesus. We do not wish that any of our brothers or sisters should suffer, but if they are called by the Lord to suffer, we want to strengthen them to be faithful to the end.
There is another reason why Jesus made the statement, “I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.” The context of this verse is Matthew 28:18-20 which is often called The Great Commission and includes a promise. “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” (Matthew 28:19) comes before Jesus promises to be with us “ALWAYS” as we “GO.”
Though Jesus is not here physically, He is here in the Spirit (John 16:7). The Book of Acts is a proof that the Apostles were never alone in their mission to spread the gospel “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). His presence in the Spirit was not ‘here a little and there a little.’ From the beginning to the end of Acts, the Spirit is active in the Church spreading the Word in power, transforming lives, and pushing the Apostles and ordinary men and women out of their normal settings to places they had never been before. They went under His guidance and power (16:6-10 for example).
Do we “GO” expecting the Lord to be with us “ALWAYS?” The promise in Matthew 28 is not for a limited time or in certain places or circumstances. IT IS “ALWAYS.” Since Jesus has promised to be with us “ALWAYS,” should we go out with the confidence that He will supply direction where to GO and with the supply of power to speak through us what to say?
What difference would it make today if we realized that Christ is present in His Church “ALWAYS”! I am afraid that most in the Church would not be able to discern whether He is there or not because they have never cultivated an intimate relationship with the Lord.
In His first letter to the seven churches Jesus says, ““To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1). In John’s vision “on the island called Patmos,” he saw Jesus as “in the midst of the lampstands [the churches] one like a son of man…” (1:9, 13). The vision John was given was because most of the churches were in serious decline and had either “abandoned the love [they] had at first” or allowed false teaching to erode their faith. Some even thought they were doing well when in fact they did not “realize that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17).
Would Jesus’ promise “I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS” also make us aware that He is observing our spiritual condition and wants to help us make corrections, so we do not wander into error and activities that are dangerous to our relationship with Him. His presence is also a comfort when we suffer for His name. Which of these are we experiencing today?
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