Many have begun to watch posts on my Facebook page regarding the topic of our Christian mission, and Unreached missions in specific. I have decided to begin a blog to post about these things. May God be glorified by what is written here and may His people be alerted to and act upon His call to spread the good news to every tribe tongue and nation.
This passage represents one of the saddest moments of the early church, the stoning of Stephen. We learn in the previous chapter (Acts 6:5) that Stephen was chosen as one of the seven Deacons to serve in the distribution of food to the poor.
In these few short verses, there are a few things I would like to point out. Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit”. This is perhaps the truest mark of a believer and is signified by a desire to do the will of the father, not ourselves. This desire to do God’s will in spite of what “God’s representatives” thought cost Stephen his life.
We also see a unique relationship with the other two parts of the trinity. Stephen looked up and saw God. This is the goal and the mission: relationship with God the father. He also called upon Christ to receive his spirit. Christ is the way (John 14:6) in Christ’s high priestly prayer (John 17), He continually prayed that believers know His father, the focus not on Him. How many times do we think in this regard? Stephen also prayed that those who were winning receive the Lord. How often can we do this in the presence of those who hurt you?
I learned that 86% of students have never been in an American home or have an American friend. Many students’ only interaction with Americans are the teachers they pay to interact with.
The realization of many people who have never heard of Jesus Christ hit me very hard. I became convicted in a way that I simply could not ignore. I began to contemplate seriously whether the Lord was calling me and my family to international missions. My wife, however, believed we needed to stay locally. I was crushed, but began to ponder, “How can we minister to internationals while staying local?” I first began to think of refugee and immigrant populations, and met with Catholic Family Charities at the suggestion of a mission minded pastor. They advised friendship, but did not want any religious influence/conversation if at all possible. I had yet another meeting with Dick Dreyer, one of the most respected mission leaders of the Elim Christian Fellowship movement. He had advised that I really seek out what gifts and experiences God had given me to minister to those in other nations.
Through this conversation, I began to think about international college students. I am more academic in my personal life, and those coming to America for school are the best and brightest from their respective countries, generally speaking. Doing research, I discovered that Rochester and Buffalo both were a hotbed of international students, with only a few people actually focusing on them, especially in Rochester. I learned that 86% of students have never been in an American home or have an American friend. Many students’ only interaction with Americans are the teachers they pay to interact with. WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY!! I began to research local international student programs at the colleges/universities, and my alma mater Roberts Wesleyan had a good program already started.
We have begun as a friendship family for two girls from China. That has now blossomed out to about a dozen relationships with international students in a matter of three months. They are such a joy to us, and we learn as much if not more than they learn from us. They are truly a part of our family. When my kids talk about their “Chinese sisters”, few people understand. It is amazing what the Lord is doing with a family that wanted nothing to do with foreigners just a couple of years ago.
Shortly after this time, I got in touch with Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT), a mission agency based in Dallas Texas. Ironically, I had meant to call another mission agency called Pioneers, but the Lord worked through it.
I got made contact with Nathan Davenport, the director of recruitment for PBT, and I began to share with him everything that had happened over a few phone calls. On one of these calls, we prayed, which was a common thing. After praying, he wanted to wait on the Lord, much like the very first meeting and post on this topic at Panera Bread. I must admit after a few minutes of waiting, I did not receive much of anything. Nathan, on the other hand, saw three images close to those seen above. The first image is the head of Jesus. The second, a weary person being held up by the arms of another. The third, a sickle with blood, indicating death. There was not an immediate interpretation, but a few meanings flooded my mind at first.
One scenario was that the weary person in the middle was me. I had been doing battle with Satan for years and was weary and tired. I could choose to continue fighting or even give in to Satan’s schemes, or be held in the arms of Jesus. In another sense, this picture seems to explain those people the Lord has put on my heart. Many of the peoples the Lord has put on my heart, (Turks, Iranians, Chinese to name a few) have been oppressed on many fronts, with many being put to death as a result. Most of these cultures adhere to communism (of which the sickle is one of the symbols of fighting and destruction) as well as Islam (sometimes called the religion of the sword, and has a crescent moon shaped much like a sickle blade). China is also known as the “Red” nation. One thing seemed sure from this experience: Many people are oppressed by something. They also have a choice to fight alone or to rely on Christ. It is part of my job to come to this realization and to make it real to others, particularly from those countries where oppression makes it very difficult to hear the gospel message.
I had always lived with the assumption that everyone had heard of God, or at least knew where to go to learn more about Him. I WAS HORRIBLY WRONG!!!
My revelation as a herald lay mostly dormant for the next few months. One thought that had entered my mind at this time was that it would be neat to give to ministries/missions from every country on the earth. I wanted to send them a donation just so that they would send me something, anything from their ministry so that I could make a scrapbook and look on it later at how neat it was to give to all the world. Well, I did not have much money, and work was actually going pretty terrible. I sensed a leading to get out. So since I did not have the money to do this, I began to think I could pray for every nation of the world and that would give a similar satisfaction. I had come across Operation World online and had received the book for my birthday. This is a day by day prayer guide for the entire world. A strange thing began to happen as I prayed from the book with my kids, though. I began to be genuinely concerned with what I was hearing! These people from the other side of the world were now entering my family prayer time. More than anything what disgusted me was that they had never even heard about God. Being an ignorant and spoiled American in this area, I had always lived with the assumption that everyone had heard of God, or at least knew where to go to learn more about Him. I WAS HORRIBLY WRONG!!! What really struck me, by the time I got to Ethiopia in the Operation world, was that this phenomenon was taking place in areas of the original “christian world”. In fact, as I began to read and ponder this, the “10/40” window, that area of the world that is least exposed to Christianity, actually encompassed much of the area where Christianity flourished in its infancy. “say it ain’t so, Lord” I cried. From that moment on, I knew a truth that I could never unlearn: not all of the world had the same opportunity to hear the good news that I had, and I needed to do something to change it.
I had explained to her that I wanted to use my business (I was a financial representative at the time) to glorify God and bring others to Christ.
Until October of 2016, I really did not give a lot of mind to missions. I had heard it was a great experience for many who went, but definitely not for me. Besides, there were plenty of godless people in the United States who needed to know the love of Christ. That changed one day at a monthly Bible study I attend. There was a woman there, named Gina, who began a praying ministry. I had for awhile at this point seen the power of prayer, but was intrigued at her approach. She had agreed to meet with me at Panera Bread the following week.
At Panera, I had explained to her that I wanted to use my business (I was a financial representative at the time) to glorify God and bring others to Christ. If I am not accomplishing this, any worldly goal I attain is meaningless. We prayed on this for awhile, and then she wanted to share with me a picture God had given to her. This was a fairly common occurrence for this woman. She had said she saw a picture of the word “herald”. “Like Hark, the Herald” I asked. She said yes, but it was even more so like a paperboy, leaving the “Good News” on the doorsteps of those eager to know. No one had ever said anything like this to me before. The next few months began to make clear this picture conceived in prayer to God.
“Like Saul in His opposition to Christians, God changed my heart and forever the way I see the world and the people God put in it. “
I have been a Christian my whole life. I grew up in a Christian home, and was in church practically from birth. When I was in first grade, a missionary couple came to our Sunday School class to talk about missions. I thought it was neat that they went to other countries, but that was about it. A few years later, I had a passion that would guide the rest of my childhood: Politics.
I wanted to be the President and everyone in my hometown of Battle Creek, MI knew it. I learned about all of these men, and sought to emulate the good and discard the bad. What was my motivation for public service, you ask? If I had to describe it in a sentence, it would be “to restore Godliness to the American public”. I figured that if we had laws that would glorify God, we would at least have a better situation to create better people of God. I have learned that the law is not followed by being written on paper, but by being written on men’s hearts. This did not stop me from pursuing a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the category of political science, nor from working for some of the most powerful political figures in the state of Michigan. State and federal leadership knew my name, and I was on the political rise.
God changed the course of my life beginning in 2007. I had entered my first political race, for school board and lost. By the end of the summer, I would be married. Within a year, I would be a father. Within a year of being a father, I would graduate from college, experience the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, and find every political candidate I backed lose their elections and my hope of a job with them.
As a result of these many things happening all at once, my career outlook was survival based. I took any job that would pay bills while completing my masters. When the job market was still frozen after graduate school, I began to do something I had never made a habit of doing before: Praying about my calling. God turned my passion from political matters to eternal kingdom issues. I wanted people, especially those close to me, to know God. I did not want them to live a terrible life when God had something so much better for them. That being said, whenever missions overseas came up, I was critical. “shouldn’t we focus on those around us, before going to the world?” I would say. Like Saul in His opposition to Christians, God changed my heart and forever the way I see the world and the people God put in it.