Saturday, November 16, 2013

O for a thousand tongues to sing...

When Jeff stepped up to preach this past Sunday at Immanuel Bible Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, he reminded us of one of the songs we'd just sung:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise.
The glories of my God and King.
The triumphs of his grace.

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;.
'Tis music in the sinner's ears,
'Tis life, and health, and peace

As Jeff unpacked Mark 5:1-20, he told us how the demon-possessed man was uncontrollable and useless, an absolute slave to the forces of sin within him. But everything changed when the power of sin and Satan met the power of Christ. The demons immediately submitted and were sent plunging off the cliff in a herd of about 2000 swine. The man was free to think, move, speak -- and even clothe himself -- free of sinful demonic dominion.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

The saving power of Jesus the Son of God broke the power of sin, set the prisoner of Satan free, and made the foulest of the foul spiritually clean. And what was Legion's response? He wanted to become a follower of Christ. Literally, he wanted to go with Jesus; he didn't want his Deliverer to leave him.

In Christ, your head, you then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiv'n;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heav'n.

But Christ had a new mission for this once-monster now-man, telling him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19, ESV)

While the story of this man's redemption occurred long ago, similar stories are written across the world today as men and women are freed from sin-possession through the saving power of Christ. They are freed from the master of sin to become slaves to Christ, serving and sharing this good news with others in bondage to sin.

 The 20schemes team -- including our family -- is privileged to be a part of the redemptive work going on in the poorest areas of Scotland, bringing light to a dark place as we build relationships through the local church. Like the demon-possessed man of Mark 5, we long to be with our Savior, but have been left behind to tell of His power and mercy.

Thanks to Josh Matteson, pastor of Immanuel Bible Church, for allowing us to share our mission with the church family. We were delighted to meet his wife, Tracey, and their fun-loving boys, as well as many who attended Sunday. We're so thankful for yet another church watchfully seeking ways to reach the lost, near and far.

We're also thankful for Linda, Suzanne's stepmom, who allowed us to hang out at her house during our stay in Arizona!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Building a gospel partnership is child's play!

When we visited with Church on Mill a couple of Sundays ago, I had the unique opportunity to share with some of the elementary age children there. These kids were already somewhat familiar with the work 20schemes is doing in Scotland because of a partnership begun this past summer through Vacation Bible School.

I was able to not only introduce (via photos) these missions-minded kids to Scotland and Niddrie Community Church, but also to Natasha and the kids she's been working with. Natasha has already received some of the benefit of this partnership through funding for additional training, and the kids in both of these congregations have been exchanging penpal letters and small gifts over the past few months. Kids on both sides of the pond have been intrigued and excited by this project!

Natasha interns at Niddrie Community Church, working with youth and children in a variety of ways. She loves the work, especially with the five-to eleven-year-olds. Teenagers are harder to reach, so Natasha hopes that seeds planted and relationships built during these earlier years will help these kids stay connected to the church when they become teens.

Natasha's biggest challenge -- just learning to love the kids, even when they're not acting especially lovable -- also provides one of her greatest rewards. "I see myself in them sometimes, and it just makes me even more grateful God has decided to use me to minister to them, I can relate to them," she says. When asked how she has grown spiritually through working with the kids, she responded with this:

I'm learning so much about how God is using me in Niddrie, and how he is turning me into the person he wants me to be! It's hard to be a Christian on a scheme, especially if you are from a scheme, friends and family will turn their backs on you -- the people you least expect to, will.  Life does get difficult, but in that I learned to trust God and not myself; he will provide and take care of me and he has.

But the benefit of all that is, people NOTICE, they notice you're not the same person you had been, they notice you making better decisions, they notice a change in your behaviour and attitude, and they have to and will ask
how? And there's a great excuse to glorify God and tell them it isn't through me and my works but God and his grace, and Jesus Christ.

Now all of this may not seem terribly remarkable to you unless you realize that Natasha is a relatively new believer who demonstrated a heart to reach out to those around her, especially children and young adults. Until she was saved, she'd never read the Bible or been to church, other than for a handful of christenings, funerals, and the like. Let me further introduce you to Natasha by sharing her video testimony with you:

Natasha's testimony

The local church played a vital role in sharing the gospel with Natasha. It continues to play a vital role in her discipleship, as well as in equipping her to share the gospel and serve in the church. She's among 20schemes' first indigenous apprentices, homegrown converts eager to invest in gospel work through the local church.

That's our mission in a nutshell: reaching the unsaved in the schemes of Scotland by planting local gospel churches. But we can't do it without you. Are you willing to partner with us?

Friday, November 1, 2013

And now in MY backyard

Last post, I told you how Jeff recently preached right in his own backyard. This past Sunday, he preached practically in my old backyard, right across the street from Arizona State University, where I spent many hours of research for high school debate, as well as my first year of college.

 If you've been with us long, you might remember that The Church on Mill partnered with us this summer through their Vacation Bible School. The children learned a bit about the ministry of 20schemes, collected money to assist one of our indigenous interns with additional training, and started penpal relationships with some of the children that Niddrie Community Church is working with.

 Then, last Sunday, we were able to share in person with Church on Mill in Tempe, Arizona. During the Sunday school hour, we tried something new. Jeff shared with the adults, as he's done at other places. But since the children had already begun a partnership with the work of 20schemes, I was able to share a bit with them, too.

It was great to meet the children's director, Andrea, in person; we had just Skyped and emailed up to this point. And it was wonderful to see the deliberate work that the teachers in the children's department are doing, both in teaching the Word and in focusing on missions.

During our time with Church on Mill and pastor Chuck Newkirk, we came to understand that this love of the Word and missions is tightly woven into the fabric of the church. In a college town, churches tend to be more diverse and energetic, but sometimes rely on entertainment and edginess to bring in bodies. We were encouraged to see this healthy church body focused on equipping the saints and sharing the gospel, all while emphasizing the importance of the local church.

In many ways, it reminded me of the work that 20schemes is doing in planting gospel churches for Scotland's poorest. Whether in a college town in Arizona or the schemes of Scotland, there is a need for healthy gospel churches faithfully investing in building relationships in the community while depending on God to bring about a changed heart in individuals -- which in turn leads to social change. Both locations require a commitment over time and a willingness to do a work that can be messy.

Drawing by Sarah DeJesus
Jeff's sermon for Sunday was from the first part of Mark 5, a passage that vividly illustrates Christ's saving power. It's an unusual story, an amazing story, and it's one we love to share because, in many ways, the story of this demon-possessed cave-dwelling monster who is freed by Christ parallels the testimonies of so many in the schemes of Scotland. One young lady in the congregation captured the desperation of this man in the picture she later shared with us (left).

Then Paul Cooling, a member of Niddrie Community Church in Scotland, shared (via video) how he had been sin-possessed and useless, sleeping in a graveyard, until Jesus intervened in his life. Through the ministry of the local church, he learned of this same saving power and is now living a joyful and productive life, investing in others and striving to serve God in all he does.

This is the heartbeat of 20schemes. But we can't do it without partners, people like you to financially and prayerfully support the work. Will you help?