earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Pre-Field Ministry by the Numbers

By all accounts, our pre-field ministry was short and blessed by God. The whole experience of itinerant meetings for “partnership raising” is so peculiar that it is hard to convey the extraordinary ways in which God has provided for us. Needless to say, there are a number of unique issues that arise from spending so much time traveling and entering a new church situation week after week. Some of these issues are purely logistical but others have to do with learning and accommodating the customs particular to each church we visited. The simple fact that we now have a regiment of like-minded people praying with us, we have our daily bread provided, and we finished the process without a catastrophe is a testimony of God’s kindness toward us.

Since it is good practice to point out God’s grace (e.g., 2 Cor 8:1), I hope that by sharing a few numbers pertaining to our pre-field ministry, you can get a better sense of the big picture and, perhaps, appreciate God’s kindness a bit more.

The Brevity of our Deputation

Given that our starting point was March 11, 2011, the day of our first church meeting, and that our end point was our departure on September 11, 2012, our pre-field ministry was only 18 months long. We understand that the national average is between 3 and 4 years.

Safety over many Miles

  • 19,857 miles driven for ministry purposes–that’s averaging over 250 miles every week
  • less than $900 in non-routine repairs
  • 0 traffic accidents; 1 train accident; 0 significant injuries
  • dozens of cups of coffee consumed

Finding a Few Needles in the Haystack

  • 600 churches contacted
  • over 1,500 emails or phone calls made (yes, I actually logged most of them)
  • meetings with 37 churches (6% of contacts)
  • We are now fully supported with just 18 church partners (3% of contacts)

Miscellaneous Reflections

  • Any success that these numbers represent was not as much a matter of strategy and skill but rather providential timing and God’s blessing.
  • The experience as a whole is much like riding a roller coaster: there are so many unexpected highs and lows. We will remember our pre-field ministry with gladness for the many answers to prayer and the thought that we shouldn’t need to due this again.
  • Finally, we are encouraged by the number of churches moving towards supporting fewer missionaries at higher levels of involvement. I trust that this trend will help make our experience less exceptional.

October 8, 2012   2 Comments

August 2012 Prayer Update

We are excited that we are less than a month away from our move to Africa. Everything seems to move by so quickly, but it is apparent that God is keeping up with the pace better than I am! What I mean by that is that our heavenly Father is covering the ways in which we recognize our inadequacy and providing for those needs we don’t immediately recognize. Here are a few example praises and prayer requests.

Praises:
  1. We received much help from friends in the process of moving out and preparing the shipping container. God has been good to grant us kind, patient, and productive assistance.
  2. God provided renters for our home in Michigan. We are very happy with the situation and extremely grateful that a long-term lease was signed.
  3. God has truly provided beyond what we have asked. Despite my expectations otherwise, we will be fully supported beginning in September!
Requests:
  1. With our time in the States coming to a close, we’re swimming in logistical details. Please pray that God would grant us strength and wisdom to finish pre-field ministry well.
  2. Please pray that our language acquisition training will effectively prepare us to learn Swahili. The progress of our language learning will be a regular and important prayer request over the next couple years.
  3. Please pray that we may help our family to navigate the upcoming changes. And, please pray that God may continue preparing the relationships between us and our teammates–Beth and the Eads. We will be leaning on them much for support in the upcoming months!

August 20, 2012   No Comments

Longest Road Trip to Date

With all of our things packed up and moved out of the house, we have been living out of our car since July 27. Thankfully, we have had great places to stay along the way. We won’t return back to Detroit until September–just a few days before we depart for Tanzania. Here is a summary of our church meetings since we left Detroit.

We made our first stop to meet with a church in New Jersey on July 29. Parsippany Baptist Church invited us to share our ministry with them on that day. After I offered a presentation and a sermon, we had multiple opportunities for fellowship and discussing theology and missions with the people of the church. I was impressed with how seriously the church evaluates missionary candidates. It was explained to us that the process was intentionally thorough so that the church can make their partnerships lifetime commitments.

We were glad to meet with our partners at Colchester Bible Baptist Church in Connecticut on Wednesday, August 1, to update them on the progress of our pre-field ministry and share a sermon. They were glad to meet Ian and send us on our way with prayer.

From there we took a detour through New Hampshire and stopped in Burlington, MA, to meet with the Church of the Open Bible, August 5-9. Their pastor Dan Winnberg and his family are friends from our sending church. The church gave us four days to meet with them and participate in their church services. We appreciated how eager the church was to open their homes to us so that we may fellowship with them.

We left New England to return to New Jersey and meet with Calvary Bible Chapel of Flanders. I was asked to present our ministry in Sunday School and preach in the other worship services on August 12. Calvary Bible has the unusual distinction of being our last church meeting in pre-field ministry. Laura noted that this may be the last time I preach in English for a couple years–an oddly bitter-sweet thought. At any rate, we are glad to end this part of our pre-field ministry with such a positive experience.

August 12, 2012   No Comments

Where We Left Off

We’ll be joining the thousands of Americans who will be making road trips this Memorial Day Weekend. This will be our first trip out-of-state for the three of us. Adventure surely awaits!

Our church meetings have already picked up where we left off for a multi-week break beginning the end of April. On Mother’s Day we had the privilege of sharing our ministry with Maranatha Baptist Church in Clarkston, MI. Maranatha is actively focused on sending out some of its own members to the mission field. Since we were with them on a day which is unusually difficult to schedule missionary presentations, all of the fellow missionary appointees were there to fellowship and critique my presentation. It was a great experience.

On the weekend of May 20, Matt made a solo trip to update our friends at Lena Baptist Church and present our ministry with Faith Baptist Church in Beloit, WI. This was my third visit to Lena since our pre-field ministry began. I am glad to see our relationship with them grow over the these visits. While it was my first time to Faith Baptist Church, their gracious and encouraging hospitality has me looking for opportunities to return.

On Monday the 21st, I was able to attend the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory in Rockford, IL. My recent attendance at pastors’ conferences has been primarily for the purpose of networking with the pastors. I honestly doubt the effectiveness of attending such conferences in this regard. Pastors don’t come to recruit missionaries, after all; they come for preaching and fellowship (then again, perhaps this merely reflects on my poor salesmanship!). However, I am glad to say that this conference was profitable to me in that way–that I was challenged by the preaching and refreshed by the fellowship.

May 25, 2012   No Comments