Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Missionary Life: What I Do and What I Need

I had an epiphany yesterday. It may not seem like much to you, but it was big to me. 

These days, I write a lot about what I think, but seldom about what I do. That's not completely accurate, of course. I used to write about what I did fairly often in the before-I-became-a-missionary days.

Today, I'm giving you a day-in-the-life glimpse of my world. There'll be a little lesson at the end, so keep reading all the way through.

Almost every day, I'm up at 5 am. My first stop is the coffee pot. No surprise there.

My second is quiet time. I'm doing the James study, journalling as I go, and there's something that convicts me in those words every day. 

You might not recognize it, but that quiet time is the most important hour of my day. It sets the tone. It gets my heart in good working order. It prepares my attitude for whatever lies ahead.

By 6am yesterday, I was hard at work on my blog. I like to get it posted earlier, but I took longer in quiet time than I intended. Still, it flowed from my study on humility and, amazingly I had it posted by just after 6:30. 

I use Hootsuite as a scheduling tool. I schedule the blog to post three more times in the next few days and again in three months. It takes a little time, but it's still the most efficient way of scheduling that I've found, so I do it just after I post the blog. 

I spent another half-hour or more answering emails and messages, then dressed and drove the 22 minutes to the Global Outreach office. I was there just in time to join the daily staff devotions at 8:30.

On Tuesdays, Scotty Shows teaches us from the book we're studying together, Secrets of the Secret Place. We finished our lesson and prayed for our missionaries. (We have prayer cards with names and photos so the missionaries are more than names to us as we pray.)

As soon as we were done there, I had a meeting with my mentor, Judy Shows. We usually study 1 John together, but yesterday we spent our time in prayer for my upcoming trip.

I took a few minutes to answer medical questions from a friend and make some recommendations before I went from the meeting with Judy into a meeting with Anna Grace, for whom I'm serving as mentor. We reviewed a report/presentation she's giving as part of her internship program, discussed the topic of the goodness/wickedness of our hearts, her possibilities for a summer internship, and discussed our upcoming trip to Jordan. 

The minute we were finished, I headed out to meet a friend for lunch. (I rarely eat out, so this was a huge treat.) Among other things, we talked about my ministry, and she had a few suggestions that were really helpful.

I went straight home and started back to work. When missionaries email me their upcoming events for which they need prayer, I write it down in my lizard-green organizer. Several missionaries had needs for yesterday, so I emailed to check on them. I also emailed the missionaries we'd prayed for. 

The "we-prayed-for-you" is not a simple hello email. In general, I try to share something about our devotional that day, and draw prayer starters from it, then inquire about their situations. Usually, I review the latest email from the missionary to be sure that I'm following up on their needs. (When we pray for ten or more missionaries, this takes quite a chunk of time.) 

By that time, I had more emails to pray over and answer, more missionaries to contact about the Taste and See project that starts on Sunday, more prayer partners to email. 

I spent a few minutes considering the possibility of doing a Mission Dine-Around program. It's percolating in my mind and will soon be fully formed. 

I'm speaking Thursday to the senior adults at Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo and needed to make a PowerPoint presentation about my ministry. Steadman Harrison (CEO of Global) had shared gorgeous photos from Jordan and Israel, so I reviewed the photos and spent a few hours working on the presentation. 

When I was in Israel in 2013, the one thing I was desperate to do was to go to the Bedouin camps. Of course, we didn't go, but God knew my great desire. To my utter astonishment, I'm spending one night in a Bedouin tent camp while I'm away. I didn't have any photos of Bedouins for my presentation, so I did a quick search. I found a photo of the inside of the tents and was dumbfounded by the rich colors and tapestries. 

I spent a short moment savoring the sweetness of God in giving me one of the desires of my heart, then took a few minutes to eat a quick supper of leftovers.

After that, I prayed about the need for prayer coverage for my trip, considered the implications of posting the dates I'll be gone on the internet, and decided that the need for prayer was greater than the risk for vandals to take advantage of my absence to break in my house. 

I turned to Facebook and spent some time recruiting prayer and asking everyone who commented on my post about the trip to add me to their church's prayer list. (If you haven't added me, please do. I'll be in the Middle East for three weeks starting next week. I desperately need prayer... more on that trip in the next few days.)

I went back to my PowerPoint, empowered by the prayers that had already begun, and finished the PowerPoint presentation, then considered how I could adapt it as a virtual prayer walk. 

I write a story of the week most weeks for distribution to the missionaries and board of Global Outreach. (I'm not actually sure where it goes.) My job is to write it, so I do. It took me another chunk of time to write the story of the week and turn it in.

By that time, it was 8:30 pm. I'd been nonstop for thirteen hours.

I spent a few minutes playing with my dogs, loaded dishes in the dishwasher, and headed upstairs to get ready for bed. I considered doing some long-overdue dusting but decided against it. I don't know what time it was when I finally climbed in bed, but I had more messages and emails to answer before I turned out the light. 

"Lord, I've spent an entire day answering emails and working on presentations. What kind of missionary work have I done today?" I prayed.

"Check the numbers," came the whisper in my heart. 

I clicked on the Blogger count (I have multiple other programs that also count blog views... when added together, the total is a lovely number). On Blogger's count alone, more than 500 people viewed my blog yesterday, literally around the world. (United States, France, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Estonia, Jordan, Philippines, United Kingdom) I corresponded with multiple missionaries. I prepared to speak to dozens of people on Thursday. I prayed my way through the day, in constant contact with the Most High God. 

It's not the typical missionary kind of work. I don't have an orphanage, a feeding program for widows, or an evangelistic outreach, but this unique ministry is touching hearts and lives around the world. 

It takes long hours to connect virtually with this many people. It's more than full-time. Most weeks, I'm at it at least sixty hours. When I'm writing a Bible study, it's done on top of the usual sixty hours. During the James study, I worked ninety hours a week.

Has a blog ever touched your heart? Caused you to consider something in a different way? Prodded you to take an action? Encouraged you to pray for someone? Forgive someone? Help in a new way? 

Consider that impact multipled by thousands of contacts every month. 

Blogs. Emails. Messages. PowerPoint presentations. Even when I speak, it usually begins as words on a page. In a way, I write as ministry and it's fulfilling the Great Commission in a unique, and surprisingly effective, way. 

When I post the "you can partner with me" message at the bottom of every blog post, it's a request to partner in the entire ministry. The outreach in long-term care facilities, schools, churches. The outreach to countries like Ireland and France. The digital outreach around the world. 

I need volunteers willing to help with coordinating the prayer partner ministry. I have a new project that I'll need hands-on help with in a few months.

I need financial partners who are called by God to assist in the expenses of ministry. Wifi isn't free, nor is the scheduling program I use. Website hosting costs money. Travel to nursing homes, schools, and churches all costs money. Basic living expenses have to be met. (I've used my own funds to do this so far, but it's not a sustainable plan for the long-haul.) 

Here's the good news. God has begun to bring partners to help. The upcoming trip to Jordan/Israel (more about this later) has been fully funded by the generosity of God's people in response to His prompting. I've begun to receive reimbursement for mileage expenses. Soon, I believe there will be enough to receive reimbursement for other ministry expenses. I'm hoping that, before the year is out, there'll be provision for a small salary to supplement my own funds.

Why am I stressing this? Because it's a requirement for being commissioned as a Global missionary. Once appointed, a Global missionary has 12-18 months to raise the financing for their ministry. To be commissioned, this is one of the things that must be done. 

I joined Global in August of 2016 and hit the ground running. The ministry has blossomed and God has blessed in amazing ways. BUT... I'm closing in on the 12 month mark at a faster rate than I realized, and I have some serious work to do in this area. I need your help. No gift is too small.

There's an equally (if not more) important need that you can meet, no matter your financial situation. I need your prayers. 

If you're not praying for me every time you read a blog post, please start. The spiritual warfare is intense. The battle is real and there's a struggle of some kind every day. The needs are great and I agonize over the words that must provide balm from a distance. What you read may look like a polished conversation, but it isn't easy. 

I've written a lot about me today, but what about you? As Christians, we're called to be disciples, but we're also called to be disciple-makers. That's what the Great Commission is all about. Making disciples as we go. If your "going" is in the United States, there are disciples to be made in your home town. In your sphere of influence. 

Ask God to send someone your way, but get ready. If you're willing to be a disciple-maker, He'll send someone ready to be a disciple.

You can't make a disciple if you aren't one yourself, so take a close look at your life. Are you using the gifts and resources God has placed in your hands to touch the world for Christ? If not, what do you plan to do about it? 

One day, we'll enter eternity. I haven't always used my time for Christ, but I want to use the years I have life to make an undeniable difference for the Kingdom of God. I want to leave this world a better, more godly place because of my influence here. I want to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Don't you? 

There's work to be done, children of God, and we can do it, if we all do our part. Whether you partner with me or start a ministry of your own, let's make doing what God has commanded us to do our first priority. 

"Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20 NLT
ps the photo above is of a recent prayer retreat. I'm sitting on the floor in the center, my favorite position for teaching.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Why We Should Chose Humility and Let Pride Go
This ministry of prayer and outreach (digital and in-person) is only possible because of the generosity of your support. Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your  check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.