Convicting Thoughts This Morning

I was going through some old notes and I came across the following, which I believe was written after hearing from Don Sisk:

If your church isn’t growing, ask three things:

1. How is your personal outreach?

2. How is your relationship with your family?

3. How is your prayer life?

Those are very simply and yet honest questions that we ought to ask ourselves. As we prepare for this upcoming church plant, it reminded me of some things that are foundational. It is not about money, budgets and plans, but it is about being a man of character, a man of God. I want to do great things for God, but who does God use? Are we doing our part of the process?

Let me ask these questions in other ways:

How many hours a week am I soul winning? Evangelizing? Personally giving other people the gospel? Of course there are advertisements, tract distribution, passing out flyers, Facebook ads, etc. but am I using the time I am with others and/or purposefully scheduling time to go out and win souls?

How can we plan to have a healthy church if we don’t have a healthy family? What areas does my family need to grow in? Am I helping them grow in those areas? Am I leading my home? Am I pastoring my home? What is the spiritual condition in my home? Is my family excited about church? Why or why not?

How much time do I spend really praying? Am I asking? The following quote came through my email recently: “Don’t ask for easy lives, ask for the strength to live your life. Don’t ask for work to equal your power, ask for power that will equal the work. – Philips Brooks” Am I praying throughout my day, having a habitual lifestyle of prayer.


Then a passage I studied last week cam into my thoughts as well:

Titus 1:5-9

Edlers Qualifications

5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Blameless in Family

6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

Blameless in Character

7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Right Attitudes and Actions

8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Skilled in the Word

9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.


How can we expect God to work if we aren’t who we need to be?

Effort + Reliance | None of this is accomplished in our strength, but there is effort that we put forward in all of this, striving to be like Jesus and empowered through the Spirit to actually do it. None of the voids our effort, but our effort is useless if we don’t rely on Him. It becomes just busy work.

Rejecting Slothfulness | On the other hand, can we be accused of being spiritually lazy, just waiting on God to do everything and not putting forth the effort that He requires or has commanded us to do. Are we sitting under the Word, soaking it all in and just souring because we aren’t doing anything with it?


To do great things, we need to be men of God blameless in family and character, putting forth effort in the right attitudes and actions, busy about the ministry (skillfully using the Sword of the Lord, His Word) and have a constant reliance on Him in everything through prayer.

And at the end of the day, as I wrote down in my devotions this morning: It isn’t just about using God to do great things, but it is about knowing God, because no matter what great things I do now, those are temporal but my relationship with Him is eternal.

Pray for us as we go forward with the church plant. Pray for me, that I would be the man that I need to be.

Plan Your Taiwan Missions Trip

I want to invite you to consider taking a short-term ten-day missions trip to Taiwan. We are looking for several churches to join us for any of the summers within the next four years. If you are interested in taking a missions trip in the future for any of the following years: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023; please use the link below to access the contact form and let me know of your interest.

Yes, I am interested and want more information. Click Here!

If you want more information about our mission trips in general, use the following link:

Story: Airports, Audio Bibles, and Missionaries to Ecuador

When we were on furlough, our VFC team was blessed to be given hundreds of Chinese audio Bibles that are solar powered. The only problem was, we had to get them into China. Here is the story of one missionary family, whose field isn’t China, but was willing to help us try to get them into the mainland. They had some trouble get the first batch of them into the country, but eventually were able to successfully get them in. The second time, there were more complications. Here is their story:

I was sitting in the airport in Ganzhou, China, with my wife, my brother, and his wife. We were all pretty tired. My brother and his wife are missionaries to China, and we were all on the way back from a regional conference with our mission board. I am not a missionary to China or even to Asia. As a matter of fact, I am a missionary to the country of Ecuador. I was on deputation raising support at the time, but wanted to visit my brother before we left for language school since we might not see each other for a long time. So, I was in China with my brother, and I was also recruited to bring/smuggle some audio Bibles into China. The thought process was if you get caught and banned from entering China, you probably won’t be coming back to China for a long time anyways. However, if a missionary to China gets caught, he may not be able to continue his work there. I thought it was very logical and wanted to help, so my wife and I packed about 200 audio Bibles that we were bringing into China. 

We were sitting in the airport when my brother received a message that some of the airport officials wanted to check our bags. We had to walk across the airport to the baggage inspection area. When we got there, they had us go over to our bags while they opened them up. They were surprised to find dozens of mp3 players and were immediately suspicious. They asked us why we had brought them and thought that we were going to try to sell them. I told them that we brought them for a friend and that we were not going to sell them. They seemed to calm down a bit until one of the guys who was playing with the mp3 players started listening to what was on them. It didn’t take him long to realize he was listening to some religious book (the Bible). The officers then begin to explain to us that this was very illegal and that we might be in big trouble. It was interesting that they continued to listen to the Bible and I am hoping that they were able to hear enough of the Word of God to make them interested in finding out more about God’s Word. 

The officers then separated my wife and I. They questioned us separately to compare our stories. They wanted more than anything to know who we were working with and who had given us the audio Bibles. They also asked us about our lives in America. They did not believe that we were married or had a son. We were both 23 years old at the time, and most people in China don’t get married until they are a good bit older than that. They asked for pictures of our son, and when we both had pictures on our phones, they began to believe us. They continued to detain us for several hours and wanted to find out more about who we were taking the Bibles to, but we just continued to tell them they were for our friend and we didn’t know his Chinese name which was very true. At first I wasn’t that worried about the detention, but after several hours of sitting there and having them ask me questions, I began to worry about how long they were going to keep us and started thinking that we might be stuck for days or weeks. It is interesting how after a few hours detention I began to think fearful thoughts and began to worry. I can only imagine what it is like to be a missionary to a closed country and how easily it would be to live a life of fear. The Bible, however, tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and love. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 2:7 ) They continued to tell us that we were in a lot of trouble, but after several hours they gave up and let us go.

We were delighted to be let out of detention and very grateful that God had worked in their hearts to let us go. We had missed our flight but were able to catch the next flight. My brother had already gone ahead and left before they were able to make any connection between us. They confiscated the audio Bibles but gave us a receipt in case we wanted to pay a fine to come back and pick them up later. Although they tried to get them our later, the never were able to.

But for the ones that we were able to get in… they were and still are currently giving these Bibles out, and I am praying that God will use His word in the hearts of the Chinese people. 

K.B.

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

Words can not express the gratitude we feel towards all you who have given to make our relocation to Taiwan financially smooth. I was humbly able to report in our most recent prayer letter:

We had our escrow and reentry funds on hand for our unexpected exit from China but we didn’t have anywhere near the amount needed to do a full relocation to Taiwan. Even though we had credit cards with good lines of credit, we knew this could only be a stop-gap measure and would be a hinderance if we were not able to pay them off right away. But as we felt this is where the Lord was directing, we moved by faith. We sent out a plea about our situation and you, our friends, family and supporters, took care of us in a great way. You sacrificially opened your hearts and gave to our family. I sit here humbled by your sacrifice and amazed at what God is doing. God’s people have truly taken care of God’s servant in an unexpected time of need. We estimated how much it was going to cost, but wasn’t sure exactly how much it would be, but around 85% of our actual costs has already come in or is on its way. Lord willing, by the end of this month, we will be setup and debt free! Thank you for giving. 

January 2020 Prayer Letter

When we received our support statement and we were just blown away by everyone who gave extra, not just for the holidays but specifically to be a blessing to our family during the transition. I will be trying to send thank you cards out to those who gave, but several even gave online with no return contact information…and some names I don’t recognize, so there is no way for me to personally say thankful, but by simply writing this public blog post to say, “Thank you”.

Also, we have been contacted recently by different churches who took up Christmas offerings for us of sizable amounts. Again we are humbled. We are grateful. We are unworthy of such pouring out of love.

What many might not realize, is that it is very uncomfortable for a missionary to put financial needs in his prayer letters. Especially if it is more personal and not directly for ministry. It goes against our nature of self reliance. It goes against our pride. It shows our weakness. It shows our needs and struggles.

At the same time it is an honor. Not everyone has the same privilege to write a letter like we do when we have a need. It is a privilege that we don’t take lightly or carelessly. We feel called to be in full-time ministry and many local churches have partnered with us to make that possible. Our partners have gone above and beyond in taking care of us and often tell us to let them know if there is anything that we need, and they would see what they could do to help out. We don’t take such kindness for granted.

I am reminded of the following verses:

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.”

2 Corinthians 8:1–7

The churches in Macedonia weren’t in a place of abundance where they could give freely, but they had to make a sacrifice to give. They gave as much as they were able, according to their means, but then they also gave beyond their ability or means. They greatly desired to be involved. I recognize that many of you gave sacrificially. You truly abounded in the grace of giving.

I wrote this blog post to simply say, “Thank you!” You didn’t have to give, but you did. You sacrificed. And my wife and I with our five rascals are extremely grateful.

2020 Taiwan Church Plant Budget

When we were returning to China, we had a planned budget of what it would cost to start more church plants. We already had some money given towards those needs and we were saving for it as well. We already had Bibles, chairs, and several church furniture type things in storage that we could use in the next church plants. But even though that will help those still in China, it isn’t going to help us is Taiwan.

After getting setup here and doing it debt free (Lord willing), our next plan is to start the church plant. Because of the unexpected way that everything happened, we didn’t have time to save out of our normal missionary support for this next church plant here in Taiwan. (Of course, any funds that have been given specifically for the next church plant, have been set aside and will be used for it.) We have been using our normal monthly missionary support to pay for our normal expenses, getting life setup here and continuing to support the ministry and pastors in China so they can go forward in our absence.

I have been trying to pay attention to how much every costs here and also been asking different missionaries about the expenses they had when starting their church plants. I was able to come up with the following budget to estimate the cost of getting this church plant going, which comes to a total of around $15,000. Of course, it would be nice to start with everything that we need, and we pray that it will. But I took the budget and broke it up into 4 phases of what we would need to spend based on importance and the minimum needed in each phase.


Budget By Phases

latest update 2/17/2020

Phase 1 – Go For It

These are costs that we will need to start having services in a building. This will give us a meeting space and a place for people to sit as we invite people to start coming to our services.

  • $4,500 – Church Rent – We need around 3-4 months upfront to pay for the deposit, realtors fee, and the first month’s rent. PAID: Actual cost was $2,913 which included first month’s rent, two months deposit and one month realtor fee. So the monthly cost going forward is around $730.
  • $1,000 – Chairs – We will purchase about 50 chairs at $20 each. PAID: Actual cost was $383.23 for 50 chairs and $25.32 for 8 stools.

Phase 2 – Gaining Momentum

As services have already started, we want to make sure the meeting place is comfortable enough for people to come to, make ourself known to the community, and make sure that we have Bibles and other resources on had to help build momentum.

  • $1,000 – Bibles/Flyers/Tracts – We need to be getting the gospel out and making ourselves know in the community, thus having the proper literature and materials on hand to do so. Update: $500 given towards Bibles. We were able top purchase 1,000 flyers for $39.97; 4,000 tracts for $99.94; 500 business cards for $16.63.
  • $2,000 – Construction Cost – Depending on the condition of the building that we rent, there might be some remodeling or painting needed. Update: We will need to install a glass door on the front of the building which cost $‎1,599.26.
  • $1,500 – Church Sign – We want to make ourselves very visible to the community and let them know that we are there. Anyone that passes by, walking or driving, should be able to know about the church. Update: We will need to install two church signs on the front of the building which cost $‎532.25.

Phase 3 – Growing Ministries

As people are saved and discipled, we will have more workers. Once we have people willing to serve, we can start ministries to train them and help mature the church.

  • $1,000 – Musical InstrumentsPiano and guitar for the music ministry. Update: Piano $366 (including delivery and tuning).
  • $500 – Children’s Needs – Material, Chairs, Tables, etc for children’s ministries.
  • $1,500 – Church Furniture – Tables, Pulpit, Speakers, TV. Update: Pulpit $119.71; Speaker System $809.64. .

Phase 4 – Extra

There are always extras that costs that are different for each area. One of the things that was mentioned to me is below:

  • $2,000 – Air Conditioners – If the location we rent doesn’t have air conditioners installed, then I am told we will need to install them when the weather starts to warm up. And from what I am told it is very hot and humid here! Update: We will need to install air conditioners when the weather warms.
  • Miscellaneous Category – I didn’t originally include this but need too if we are being comprehensive. Update: Cleaning and Misc Supplies $119.05

Please be in prayer with us about the expenses. We know the Lord will provide. He has already shown Himself strong in a very real way in our lives as all of our plans have been shaken up. It doesn’t matter how much money you have if the Lord isn’t in it. What we need the most is not a budget fully funded, but we need the power of the Lord. We need to be Spirit-filled. We need revival and to be more like Jesus. We need God to work. Our reliance is on Him. Please pray with us dear friends!


Budgeted Expenses vs Actual Expenses

PhaseItemBudgetActualDifference
1Church Rent$‎ 4,500.00$‎ (2,913.00)$‎ 1,587.00
1Chairs$‎ 1,000.00$‎ (408.55)$‎ 591.45
2Construction Cost$‎ 2,000.00$‎ (1,599.26)$‎ 400.74
2Bibles/Flyers/Tracts$‎ 1,000.00$‎ (656.54)$‎ 343.46
2Church Sign$‎ 1,500.00$‎ (532.25)$‎ 967.75
3Musical Instruments$‎ 1,000.00$‎ (366.00)$‎ 634.00
3Children’s Needs$‎ 500.00
3Church Furniture$‎ 1,500.00$‎ (929.35)$‎ 570.65
4Air Conditioners$‎ 2,000.00
5Miscellaneous$‎ (119.05)$‎ (119.05)
$‎ 15,000.00$‎ (7,404.95)$‎ 5,095.05

January 2020 Prayer Letter

Relocation Update | Setting Up Life and Ministry in Taiwan

As we reported last month, because of some threats involving our family directly when we returned to China, we concluded that the Lord was leading us away from living in the mainland to living on the island of Taiwan. Taiwan has a total population of around 23 million. It is estimated that Christians comprise less than 1.95% of Taiwan’s population. The language we learned in the mainland, Mandarin Chinese, is the official language. Also, there are great political differences between mainland China and the island of Taiwan. One of the most important for us is religious freedom—the ability to legally start churches and preach the gospel. Thus, we are excited to use the experience we have gained to start a ministry here, as well as, continue to reach into mainland China as long as the door is open unto us.

We are now calling “New Taipei City” home—which has an estimated population of around 4 million. Lord willing, in the next month or so, we will be starting “Victory” Baptist Church here in the city! In the midst of recent happenings and all that we have been through, it seems fitting to name the church this knowing we are on the winning side. Threats, persecutions, relocations, field changes—even in the middle of all of this, we have victory in Christ! God always wins! “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) In preparation for this new church plant, we are in the process of saving up and raising funds, which has been estimated around $15,000.

Stories of God at Work  | Seizing an Opportunity to Share the Gospel

The realtor was at our house and she brought a couple coworkers over. There was a young man among them whom I started talking to but it was hard to hold a conversation with everything going on. I prayed the Lord would give me an open door of opportunity to witness to him. The next thing I know, the others had to run an errand and they left this young man at our house. I started witnessing to him. He listened intently. He said he had never heard any of this about Jesus. He had only heard that Christians don’t worship idols but one God. He didn’t make a decision that day, but since then he has come to church (first time ever) with me and seems interested in continuing to learn more. Pray!

Special Need Update | Thank You For Giving Extravagantly and Sacrificially

We had our escrow and reentry funds on hand for our unexpected exit from China but we didn’t have anywhere near the amount needed to do a full relocation to Taiwan. Even though we had credit cards with good lines of credit, we knew this could only be a stop-gap measure and would be a hinderance if we were not able to pay them off right away. But as we felt this is where the Lord was directing, we moved by faith. We sent out a plea about our situation and you, our friends, family and supporters, took care of us in a great way. You sacrificially opened your hearts and gave to our family. I sit here humbled by your sacrifice and amazed at what God is doing. God’s people have truly taken care of God’s servant in an unexpected time of need. We estimated how much it was going to cost, but wasn’t sure exactly how much it would be, but around 85% of our actual costs has already come in or is on its way. Lord willing, by the end of this month, we will be setup and debt free! Thank you for giving. 

Prayer Requests | Chinese Pastors, Paperwork

  • Continue to pray for the three Chinese pastors (Charles, Lebron, Mark) to be encouraged and emboldened in the Lord as they serve Jesus in the midst of persecution.
  • Pray for our paperwork and visas for both Taiwan and China to get approved ASAP.

We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

DOWNLOAD THIS PRAYER LETTER AS A PRINTABLE PDF

Regrets?

As this amazing journey took us on some serious curves in 2019, I just want to look back and remember what our philosophy is and why we did what we did, even if it is just to remind myself of the boldness that brought us to where we are—and be encourage to keep on in this boldness. No regrets.

If you are just now following this story, here is the other posts related to our current situation:


Too Bold?

Because we have been questioned, told or warned by many “well-intentioned believers” about our approach to missions in China, I can hear a resounding, “You were too bold and open as a missionary to China!” in my head. And If I allow that thought to stay… fear creeps in and I start thinking about a philosophy of missions that I don’t want anything to do with. A philosophy of missions that would put one’s personal safety/comforts above the proclamation of the gospel (especially in the case of real or perceived persecution). A philosophy that would look down on bold missionaries as reckless or ignorant missionaries who didn’t heed the call of wisdom and harmlessness. A philosophy that rewards longevity in a location over obedience to the work of the commission. But that kind of philosophy of missions…I want nothing to do with.

I want a philosophy of missions that is biblically based. See the following series of articles from this blog (and note the year they were published):

Personally, these are all things that I have considered already and just need to be reminded of. I skimmed through some of my old articles under the following category “Persecution, Fear, Boldness” on this blog and I would like to share some of what I found and was reminded of.


This Is Nothing New

I have written about this subject before, the last time some of our friends were deported from the country. I think It would be good to review what I said then:

People have been telling us for years that we are going to be kicked out of China. Some would say it to our faces and others would just say it to others. So, why didn’t we listen to these warnings? Why didn’t we listen to the caution and the perceived wisdom of others?

This is a good question to ask and answer. I wanted to answer it for those who may be wondering. I know haters will be haters, and this won’t change them. So let me try to explain for everyone else who is genuinely wondering…

Answer: We do ministry in the manner that we do because we believe it is right and the best way to accomplish our goals.

There are two aspects to what I mean here:

(1) The Fundamentals (non-negotiable) – These are the core things that we are committed to doing where ever we are doing ministry in the world, such as, preaching the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, training men, etc. If I was not able to do these things in a consistent manner, then I would change fields or be persecuted for doing them. To me, these “fundamentals” are to be obeyed or disobeyed.

Many people working in China often give up the rights to some of the fundamentals so they can do the other or vice versa (usually give up everything else for the opportunity to do some evangelism). But most people would agree that we need to obey these, and they usually don’t send hate mail to us because we shared the gospel with someone (though you might be suprised).

The hate mail usually comes from the second aspect:

(2) The Preferences (negotiable) – These are all the “hot button” issues. How open should we preach the gospel? How much information do we put on the internet? Do we have to talk in code? Can you send a text message to someone with “Bible words” in it? Can you invite strangers to your church or do they first have to have a relationship with someone, so you know they aren’t undercover police? Can you use Facebook? Should you use a false name? Should you witness to a police officer?

As a team, we have taken an “open” stance in both of these areas. For us, the “fundamentals” are settled. It is the “preferences” that are constantly changing. We do have limits. I don’t think anyone on our team has been preaching on the street with a bullhorn. We don’t think there is anything wrong with it; we just have chosen not to do it because we don’t think it helps us accomplish our goal. Opportunities for us to present the gospel in a more clear and effective way are abundant. So we have chosen a different route.”

From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)”

Longevity?

Another question you might have is: How is this the best way to accomplish your goals if you get deported?

Answer: We believe that we can produce more fruit doing ministry with a wise forwardness (boldness) in a short period than doing ministry with a fearful mindset over a long period.

From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)”

Our Philosophy

If you see our team doing something that you are wondering about, it is probably for one of the five reasons:

(1) We don’t think it is a threat.

(2) It is a threat but a fundamental.

(3) It is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.

(4) It is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.

(5) It is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.

From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)”

How To Go Forward?

Many people are probably wondering “how do they move forward” after an event like this happens.

If our American missionary friends get kicked out, how can we in good conscience tell others to go? How can we encourage people to continue to be bold in China? Were we out-of-place in our thinking and bold approach to ministry in a closed country? We talked much, and now we are in trouble. What now?

To me, the answer to these question are simple: we will keep doing what we have always done because it is biblical. Nothing changes. We do not advocate being bold because we think you won’t get caught, but because it is the Bible thing to do.

There are mixed emotions that come with an event like this, but I do know that it encourages me (to train men and continue attempting great things for God). You can be confident that…

We will not back down.

We will not be silent.

We will be loud.

We will be bold.

From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “What next? How do we go forward?”

How To Continue?

How can someone continue to serve in persecution?

They can continue to serve in persecution because of JESUS! They have fallen in love with Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. They know him as Savior and Lord. Jesus has radically changed their lives and therefore they are willing to give their own lives for Him. This is the biggest and most important reason that a person can endure persecution and serve in the face of threats.

From an article I posted in August of 2011 titled: “Serving in Persecution”

Was It Worth It?

We were given about 8 years in China. Two years doing full-time language study and six more years doing church planting. Here is what we are leaving behind… and Lord willing will be working to push forward as we continue to reach into mainland China while serving in Taiwan.

In 2012, we moved to a new city in Northeast China which has a population of 6.17 million souls. We started pioneering our first church plant. Finally, by God’s help, Grace Baptist Church was officially organized on Sunday, November 9, 2014. The Lord has been growing His church and we have seen many souls saved and baptized over the years. The church is actively reaching out to the local community through its different ministries and at the same time edifying the saints inside the church. Besides our public worship services and Bible studies, the church also hosted a bilingual children’s ministry that reached out to unbelieving families. We have had a great response to this ministry and we are excited about how God has used it.

As the church was growing, we were praying that God would give us men to train. Several men were in the discipleship funnel and eventually God heard our prayers and gave us two men who surrendered to be full-time pastors. We trained those men for the next couple of years before we turned the church over to one of them as we left China for furlough. The other Chinese man also started pastoring a church in the same year. Eventually, the Lord gave us a third Chinese pastor to train and influence.

From “About China Ministry”

Conclusion: Counted the Cost

Even though the timing of our somewhat forced departure from China caught us by surprise, the fact that we would one day possibly have to leave China because our ministry efforts there wasn’t. We knew ahead of time that our philosophy of ministry could lead to possibly deportation and/or persecution…and we wouldn’t have change it. We counted the cost.

Thus, in closing this article, I give the same call as I did back in 2014, “For perspective missionaries, come with us to China and risk being deported for the gospel”—meaning give your life to do great things for God in China even though that means you might get persecuted for doing so… never seeking persecution but fulfilling the great commissions in spite of it.

After all, we are missionaries, it’s an occupational hazard.

Will you count the cost? Will you go in my place? Will you be counted among the brethren who have and currently are paying the price of following their Saviour in the country of China? Ignore the critics. Look to Jesus…the Lamb who was slain! Andy may we reach China with the gospel proclaiming: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”

Resurrection is coming…

If you have been following the series of events that have been taking place in our lives, then you understand somewhat of the journey that we are on. If you are seeing this just now, you can catch up here:

I feel like there is a lot to say but at the same time I feel at a loss for words. Writing things down seem to help. It helps me think through what I am feeling and helps you to know what I am thinking and how to pray.

What I have been going through seems to be a mourning. Deep sorrow at the death of a dream. And as I thought about this more, I also recognize the familiar pattern, a gospel-pattern if you will, that is taking place. There are three stages.

The Death of a Dream (Crisis)

Something in your life happens that drastically changes everything around you or the course of events that your were planning on taking. The doors have been shut. The pathway has changed. It seems you have come to a dead end. Everything in life is shaken up and you are struck down to your core. Even if you did or didn’t see this coming, death strikes and this stage happens instantly and things are forever changed.

The Burial of a Dream (Mourning)

Once everything happens, you move into a period of mourning. No one enjoys the burial or the funeral. It is a time of mourning. Mourning is not fun. Nor is it wrong. It is natural and necessary. It shows that of a caring heart. And it should cause us to refocus our attention to the Heavenly Father (Read: Psalm 62:5-8). For there is a right way and a wrong way to mourn.

The wrong way focuses on self and what “I” lost. It grieves but doesn’t follow the Bibles admonition to “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27). It lets the grief turn to sin through wrong attitudes, words and actions. Loosing temper. Irritable. Mad. But we should not allow this to turn to sin. I failed in the past couple weeks. To my family I am sorry for not mourning well.

These thoughts helped me: This is a time of testing, putting everything you believe to the test. Will you mourn well? Suffer well? Remember this isn’t all about you. Others around you are hurting too. They need to see you mourn well. They need to see you suffer well. They need your patients. They need encouragement. They need to see the positive. They need to see how a man of God responds when he is stressed to the max. They need to see your mourning yet without sin.

And stress is maxed. Mourning. Plus the culture shock of setting up in a new place, new food, language nuances, new traffic and navigation, plus the care of our family in the midst of all of it. The stress of having to purchase “everything” again, and not knowing how it is all going to be paid for. Having part of your stuff in another country. Having to do all new paperwork and documents just to get bank accounts and visas.

I am being raw at the moment. And maybe too raw, but that is what has been happening.

Yet, at the same time I know what I needed to do. Refocus that attention off of self and back on to the Lord and live by faith…even in this. These verses are helping me get focused:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Psalm 61:2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Matthew 28:20 …and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Psalm 16:1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

Psalm 16:8-9 I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

KJV

(More on mourning well may come in another post.)

The Resurrection of a Dream (Victory)

We can’t stay in that place of mourning. For a person who doesn’t know God, there is death and mourning. But for a believer, our story doesn’t end there…there is a resurrection.

We have hope. We have trusting God’s plan. Resurrection leads to something better and greater.

I have been through the death, I am in the burial, but I know the resurrection is coming…

Heartbroken

I have a lot to say, but I haven’t had much time to write. My normal attitude of “adjust, adjust, adjust” isn’t playing out as smoothly as I hoped it would. Relocating, busyness and culture shock have been hitting us hard and me the hardest.

There have been many emotions that I have experienced since we returned to China. We were excited to return, although I told my wife it didn’t feel the same. Then once we found out the news, I was sad. That soon turned into anger. But then on the horizon was excitement for what the future holds.

I eventually came to a reckoning: “Honestly speaking, the move out of Dalian and the mainland has been hard. But I am reminded of the advice that I often give others: our calling is not primarily to a place but to a mission, a task, a ministry. Thus , even if the location changes, whether by choice or force, our calling doesn’t. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, and as we become more familiar with this new city, one thing is for sure…millions of souls hang in the balance needing the message of reconciliation and God has brought my family here for such a time as this…to tell them.”

But there was still something lingering: heartbreak; heartache.

We truly were heartbroken to leave China. Our team in China was heartbroken. Our friends were heartbroken. So many people felt the pain that we did. There was so much excitement for our return. There were many plans in the works. Hopes. Dreams. I preached that Sunday morning for about an hour and challenge the church the best I knew. But it still seemed somewhat like a funeral.

There are two events that I won’t forget:

(1) When I told our two older girls what had happened and why we had to leave. They asked where we were going. I told them Taiwan and they responded with excitement, as if this was another adventure. But they immediately realized what we were leaving. As we talked, their eyes filled with tears. They really loved this place they called home and these people they called family. I won’t forget those tear filled eyes.

(2) The second event happened in the airport as were were walking to security and I was talking with the Chinese pastor, Charles. I explained that I was so looking forward to returning from furlough so we could go forward planting more churches together and working together over the next term to do great things, and yet here we were being forced to separate. His eyes filled with tears and it was hard to muster up any words afterwards. The thought of leaving him and he having to face this on his own was very heavy on me. The only thing that gave peace was truth–knowing Someone much greater than me is always with him: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.

So we are working through this. I am working through this.

“The future is as bright as the promises of God.” – William Carey

There is a plan. We just have to follow. Heartache and all. Trust and obey.

Was it worth it? Absolutely, Jesus is worthy.

More thoughts to come…