Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ministry transition

{Note: This was our last post to this blog, as we transitioned from 20schemes to other ministry work. You can learn more about the current work of 20schemes here.
You can also read Suzanne's blog here.}

The family on departure day -- with our big ol' moving truck!

One year ago, our family was planning for an upcoming trip -- and potential move to Scotland. Who knew that today we'd be ministering in the desert of New Mexico rather than the Highlands of Scotland?

Well, the Lord knew.

The beautiful Jemez Mountains, north of Albuquerque (it's pronounced "HAY-mas", in case you wondered).

As we've been settling in, we've been reminded of God's goodness in so many ways.

God's physical provision for us through His people -- both here and our friends around the country -- has been humbling.

Our new church family readied our home for our arrival.

Living in the middle of the desert surrounded by glorious mountain ranges has been surprisingly refreshing to us. We are awed each day by their everchanging beauty and by their Creator.

Ready to tackle Pino Trail in the Sandia Mountains.

In the midst of the busyness of this transition, we're so thankful to be continually spiritually refreshed. Both the blessings and the trials of new opportunities drive us to the Lord and His Word. And He is faithful.

We hope that you'll continue to pray for us in this new ministry -- even as you continue to follow the work of our friends at 20schemes (so many exciting things happening there, as well!).

  • Pray for Jeff in his work as elder. He's just joined the preaching rotation, beginning with Ruth 1, and is getting to know the church family.
  • Our family has a heart to share hospitality with the church family and our community. Please pray that we'll make and take opportunities, and that these times will be encouraging to our guests.
  • AnnaKate is settling into her new home, routine, and church in North Georgia. We are praying for continued wisdom -- both for her and us -- as we parent this sweet young lady from afar. This is new territory for us! We are working (and praying) on finding a car for her, as well.

(By the way, check out how much our Jared has grown over the past 18 months -- he's so much taller in the moving truck photo than in the older photo in our header! We're proud of the young man he's becoming.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Westward bound!

Back in February, we told you about some challenges we were facing. Those challenges, along with Jeff's growing desire to return to pastoral ministry (whetted by our almost-move to Scotland), led Jeff to begin exploring opportunities for full-time pastoral work.

In the Lord's faithfulness, a church in Los Lunas, New Mexico, has invited Jeff to be co-elder. Our family visited Los Lunas and Albuquerque for about a week back in late April; Jeff preached, and we spent time getting to know the church family and checking out the area. We hope to relocate in mid- to late-July.

We're so thankful for the past seventeen months of sharing the ministry of 20schemes with churches all around the country.

We'd appreciate your prayers during our transition, especially in the following areas:

1) While we're planning for AnnaKate to travel to New Mexico with us, she'll return to Georgia to attend college. Please pray that we'll be able to find a safe and reliable (but inexpensive) car for her. We're thankful that the Lord has already provided her with a job, a wonderful living situation and a good church.

2) We have many details to work out for the transition. Please pray that in the midst of all of this, we'll recognize God's sovereign hand and rest in His plan.

3) Please pray for health and physical endurance for our family leading up to the move and during our 3-4 day cross-country trip.

4) We hope you'll continue to pray for 20schemes' ongoing work of bringing gospel churches to Scotland's poorest -- there is still much to be done.

Thanks for your prayerful support!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Evangelicals Now interview with Mez

Evangelicals Now recently posted an interview with Mez McConnell, ministry director for 20schemes and pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland. We wanted to share this interview with you because it's a concise overview of the mission and ministry of 20schemes. You can help us by reading it and then sharing it with your friends via email and social media.

And if you need more information about how you and/or your church can be involved in this ministry, please contact us. We love to talk about it and help people learn how they might partner with 20schemes!

Monday, March 3, 2014

What happened to February?
February. It's the shortest month of the year. But this year, our February seemed both shorter and longer than it really is.

The month slipped by without us posting a single thing to the blog. We're sorry about that. We managed to send our monthly e-newsletter out today, and we thought we'd share part of it here in the way of explanation and prayer request. We're still here. February was just a little... different. 

As we came into February, we were tempted to be a bit discouraged as we faced an empty calendar. Coming off the holidays, it has proven difficult to secure speaking opportunities with churches. Jeff was considering attending one conference, but had nothing booked as far as sharing with churches.

As always, the Lord had worked this for our good. 

In our last couple of newsletters, we’ve asked for prayer for Suzanne with regards to her kidney disorder. (She has medullary sponge kidney, which basically makes her kidneys stone-making machines) We’ll let her tell the story from here.

Around Thanksgiving, I had an unusual and very painful week-long episode which culminated in passing between 30-40 stones over a four-day period. Since that time, the stones have continued to pass with varying degrees of pain. But at the end of January, things began to change. I struggled with an infection for most of the month that required two rounds of antibiotics to clear it. Stones continued to pass, but some seemed to get stuck in very uncomfortable places. A couple of different doctors prescribed a couple of different medicines to try to help with the constant discomfort, but they didn’t really offer any consistent relief. Last fall, we met a sweet Christian friend who is a licensed massage therapist. She had helped me after the Thanksgiving episode, so we decided it was time to see her again. After about an hour of intensive massage, I passed a wad of stones but, on the way home, I started having some intense flank pain. I took my pain meds and went to bed; the next day, February 27, I passed a wicked-looking stone* that actually appeared to be several stones fused together. After a month of much pain, frustration, and lots of prayer, relief had come. 

And we understood a little better about why our calendar had been clear. Jeff was home and free to minister to me, encourage me, to drive me to doctor’s appointments, help keep the kids focused and the household running. And in between doing all of that, he was still able to study, disciple a couple of men, and network with two new pastors in hopes of building partnerships with 20schemes.

And the work of 20schemes goes on. Right now, a mission team from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is in Scotland as part of a partnership with 20schemes. The following week, five potential church-planting couples will be in Scotland on a Vision Trip as part of the exploratory and interview process for candidates. And here in the states, 20schemes will be present at the Ligonier’s Conference, Shepherd’s Conference, and Together for the Gospel (Mez will speak in a breakout session). 

God's work continues... in us, through us, and in spite of our weaknesses... all to His glory.

By the way, let us know if you'd like more information on being part of an upcoming Vision Trip, or if your church might like to partner and participate in a mission trip.

*And if you're one of the curious types who just has to see the wicked-evil kidney stone, click on the beach graphic at the top of this post. It's ugly. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Believe a lie, live a lie

Jeff was privileged to preach at Central Fellowship Baptist Church here in Macon this past Sunday. Over the past few months, we've enjoyed getting to know this church family a bit. Pastor Rodney Queen allowed Jeff to come and share about 20schemes back in June and, since then, we've visited the church from time to time. I thought I'd share a bit from Jeff's evening message (you can listen to the entire message here).

When you read Genesis 3:1-13, do you wonder how Adam and Eve moved so quickly from living in sinless relationship with God in the perfection of the Garden to being deceived into sin and separation by the serpent? How did that happen?

As it turns out, Adam and Eve were deceived in precisely the same way we are deceived today: Satan replaced God's truth with something that they wanted to hear... and he persuaded them that God wasn't being forthright with them. For that brief moment, Satan created doubt in their minds, and that doubt led to sinful action. It turns out that the military tactic to divide and conquer has been around since the beginning of time. After all, isn't that exactly what Lucifer/Satan attempted with the angels just before he and his followers -- one third of the angels -- were thrown out of heaven? He tried it with Jesus, too, but that attempt failed miserably. (See Matthew 4:1-11. Instead of taking the bait, Jesus rebuked Satan with the truth of Scripture -- the antidote to the falsehood of deception.)

Eve seems to have believed that Satan wanted the best for her (which makes you wonder what she thought -- at that moment -- that God wanted for her). That is so often the way that the crafty master of deception presents his offer -- he just wants the best for us, for us to be happy and to get what we really deserve. Of course, he's obscuring his real goal, because we probably wouldn't go for that: Satan desires to thwart your worship of God. My momentary happiness -- or ultimate failure in sin -- is not his primary goal. He desires to steal from God by drawing me away from devotion to Christ.

And that's the great battle. Deception vs devotion. Division vs. denial of self. Discouragement vs discernment. It's the battle that we fight each day, each hour, each moment, by saying no to some things and yes to other things as we choose right over wrong and best over good in a desire to worship and glorify God in all we do. 

Whether we live in the schemes of Scotland or the Highlands, or the good old US of A, this is the message we need to hear. Those without hope need the gospel, and believers need instruction and encouragement. Will you join us in this work?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

John Piper and True Mercy Ministry

We've talked about mercy ministry on the blog before (here) -- it is first and foremost gospel ministry. But you'd expect missionaries to say that, right?

It might be surprising to find that a sociologist's research actually supports the view that gospel ministry does more for a society than acts that are traditionally considered mercy ministry. John Piper has done a much better job of discussing this research than I can -- I recommend you read his post for yourself.

20schemes is all about bringing the gospel to a group that desperately needs this good news -- the poor of Scotland. And we do this through planting healthy churches right in their midst. But we can't do it alone -- we need both goers (church planters and other gospel workers) and stayers (churches and individuals to partner financially and in prayer). Will you help?

Monday, January 13, 2014

3 ways you can help us help 20schemes | revisited

As we come near to marking our first year with 20schemes, we thought it might be helpful to revisit a some of our earlier posts. We originally posted this back in May 2013, and thought it might be helpful to some newcomers to our ministry and 20schemes.

1. Support. We continue working to raise our monthly support even as we are developing partnerships for 20schemes. Please partner with us in prayer to this end -- and if you'd like to partner financially, as well, you can learn how to do that here. Some folks  opt to support us monthly, others have provided a one-time gift, still others have done both.

2. Subscribe. We love telling folks about the work of 20schemes, and two ways we do that include this blog and our e-newsletter. We hope to post here several times a week, and our e-newsletter will go out about once a month. To be sure you receive each update, we'd love for you to subscribe to both the blog and the e-newsletter. And we have a subscribe page to help you subscribe to either or both. Also, follow our Facebook page and Twitter feed for frequent ministry updates.

3. Share. Can you help us get the word out? Here are a few easy ways to share:
  • Share our blog posts on Facebook, or email the link to a few of your friends with a personal note.
  • Share our Facebook updates with your Facebook friends.
  • Retweet as we post on Twitter.
  • When you receive your e-newsletter, share it with folks and ask them to subscribe (it's free). There's a handy button at the bottom of each e-newsletter that makes it easy for you forward to a friend. (There are also buttons for sharing on Facebook and Twitter -- feel free, by all means!)
  • If you see we'll be in your area, consider hosting a missions fellowship in your home or at your church. We'd love to meet your friends and share our ministry with them, too.
  • Tell your pastor about our ministry. And let us know if your church might be interested in hosting us to come and share, whether it's as part of a missions conference, for Jeff to preach in a Sunday service or lead a men's conference, for Suzanne to speak to a women's group, or simply to share the vision of 20schemes in a worship service. You can see our current schedule here, and learn how to contact us here.
Will you help us help 20schemes? It's easy, and we can't do it without you!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

FAQs (or things you might want to know) | revisited

As we come near to marking our first year with 20schemes, we thought it might be helpful to revisit a some of our earlier posts. Here's one from May 2013 that we think might be helpful to some newcomers to our ministry and to 20schemes.

As we've been sharing 20schemes with individuals and church groups around Georgia over the past few weeks, we've noticed some common questions. We thought it might be helpful to address a few of those here.

How would you sum up the ministry of 20schemes in just a few sentences?

"Our long term desire is to see Scotland’s housing schemes transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ through the planting of gospel-preaching churches, ultimately led by a future generation of indigenous church leaders. To that end we will initiate a church planting and revitalization effort by recruiting, training, supporting, and sending church planters, female outreach workers,ministry apprentices and short-term interns to work as part of church planting teams within Scotland’s housing schemes. We believe that building healthy, gospel-preaching churches in Scotland’s poorest communities will bring true, sustainable and long-term renewal to Scotland’s schemes." (This was taken directly from the 20schemes website; you can learn more there.)

What will you be doing with 20schemes -- and will you be moving to Scotland?

The leadership of 20schemes has tasked us with developing partnerships with churches (and individuals) over the next two years. These partnerships will help this new ministry to build a financial base to support the work and also to recruit church planting teams. We'll work to this end by networking with pastors, preaching (Jeff) and sharing the ministry with congregations, speaking at conferences and mission fairs, and any other way we can think up! Because the ministry anticipates that the majority of workers and funding for 20schemes will need to come from the U.S., our work will be focused here in the States. Will we ever move to Scotland? From the time we joined the ministry we have been open to what the Lord might have for us, but only He knows the answer to that!

When do you begin work with 20schemes?

We actually began work in February 2013. Jeff participated in a Vision Trip to Scotland early that month, then began meeting with pastors and church leaders in the Kentuckiana area and at conferences around the country.

How is the work of 20schemes funded?

20schemes is funded through the gifts of churches and people like you who desire to join in partnership with us by financially supporting our missionaries, adopting a scheme, or sponsoring an intern. As missionaries-in-residence, we are raising our own monthly support even as we do the work of 20schemes.

Do you have other questions? Let us hear from you!

We'd love for you to share this post with others -- you can use the handy gadgets below!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

to live is christ, and to die is gain | the 2013 cross conference

We've asked our daughter, AnnaKate, to write a post about CROSScon 2013:

Through a completely insane series of events that were ordained by an extremely gracious God, I found myself on a bus at 5:30 a.m. seven days ago. This bus was filled to the brim with some of my favourite people in the world, a Dominican driver was gripping the steering wheel, and we were headed to Louisville, Kentucky, for a five-day missions conference. Yes, I was a little overwhelmed.

But I was also more than a little happy to be there. With those people, headed to that city, to hear those speakers. It was my dream trip, with some of my dearest friends to my favourite place in the world, where some of the most gifted spiritual leaders of our age were going to speak to us. What an adventure!

Nearly four thousand students had gathered at the Louisville convention center to have our view of missions refined and informed. We had booked the hotel rooms, chosen our breakout sessions, even scoped out the local eats-- but I think we were all unprepared for the intensity of the next five days.
Or at least, I know I was.

I came prepared to be convinced of the importance of missions, to have my emotions stirred into pity over human trafficking victims and starving children of third world countries. But as I sat under at least six sermons or lectures a day, I found that something else entirely was happening within my heart. These speakers were not giving us dry lectures on the physical needs of the world. They were attacking the sin that lurked within each of us. The result was nothing less than transforming for me.

Perhaps seasoned missionary Mack Stiles summarized the heart of the conference best-- "There is no sanctification by aviation." Being a missionary doesn't transform you into a super Christian. Being a missionary is a series of small, scary steps, only taken when you set your eyes on Jesus and follow Him relentlessly. Every Christian is called to Jesus, every Christian is called to missions--it's only what PART you play in missions that is tricky to determine. Some of us will be called to go and carry this mission to other cultures ourselves, some of us will faithfully serve in our local churches and fuel the fire of missions--but we must all cultivate a passion for God's Word to the lost. All of us must love Jesus with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and then, we won't be able to keep this wonderful news to ourselves.
"You can risk everything because God risks nothing." (Kevin DeYoung)
To listen to some of these life-changing lectures, click here. I'd highly recommend it. =)