Quenching Thirst in Haiti

Haiti is an island country of friendly faces and many needs. Organization for Integrated Rural Development for Northwest Haiti (ODRINO) has two central ministries in Haiti. First is helping spread the Gospel and supporting the churches in spreading the Gospel. One of the main ways we do this to support the programs of local churches in our area. It can include helping them with evangelism, church planting, Chrisitan elementary education, discipleship, VBS and sports camps, or encouragement.

The other main track of ODRINO is supporting local churches to respond to the overwhelming physical needs in the church and around them. We do this by helping with church and school construction, drinking water projects, irrigation and agriculture, and other community development type projects.

Our ministry is also involved in immediate disaster response and long-term recovery efforts following natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. At the moment we are in the midst of the worst drought since 1992.

Over fifteen years, we helped the churches at Poste Metier and Baie des Moustiques build a gravity drinking water system. This water system has over 40 miles of pipe and serves from 12,000 to 15,000 people depending on rainfall and the time of the year. The water system relies on the participation of the people who use the water. A small yearly contribution to help pay for fittings and repair materials and volunteer labor when digging is necessary is how the people maintain it. The initial part of the water system started operating in 1992. This water system has delivered over two billion gallons of clean, safe drinking water.

Each year the water system has a general assembly. All the people who use the water expansion, and issues are discussed, and the Gospel is shared. We provide Bibles and hymnals for door prizes. For a lot of people who are struggling to get enough to eat for their families, this is the only way they have to get one of these precious books.

Thank you for your support and prayers for the people of Haiti.

Being Good Neighbors in Japan

In the late ’80s, Peter and Wendi Thomson were called to serve as missionaries in Japan. Sent out by BelPres, other congregations, and believers who understand the value of incarnational ministry (living out Christ in front of others), they are passionate about seeing lives transformed by the love of Jesus Christ. God’s modus operandi, as seen in John 1:14, talks of Christ coming to Earth to provide salvation and restitution: “Jesus became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” How incredible! Likewise, the Thomson’s have “moved into the neighborhood” in Japan and here are two stories of loving where they are.

Recently, while working through the gospel of Mark, their church fellowship discussed repentance. Recognizing that neither the Japanese nor the English word for repentance adequately conveys the Biblical meaning (which is to turn and face God), Peter stood and physically demonstrated turning 180 degrees in order to come face-to-face with God. Only by looking at God and acknowledging that salvation is fully His work, do we receive both recognition of sin and forgiveness. This resonated strongly with Mrs. F, a young mother with children in their English program, recently coming to the fellowship. Wendi meets with her regularly to read the Bible and pray. The day after the discussion of repentance, Mrs. F was researching the meaning of her first name. By breaking down the characters, she discovered the meaning to be a person holding out their hand to receive help from God! Mrs. F shared that, throughout her life, she has found it difficult to rely on people for help, and this has been a barrier for her faith in God. Learning the concept of turning toward God, coupled with discovering that God ordained her name when she was born, has warmed her heart to receive Jesus more.

The Thomson’s vision in Sanda is to create kingdom communities among existing communities. What does this mean? Simply, taking the Church to people and seeing society transformed. Though they have been in Japan for over 30 years, God always surprises with what He does. This school year, Peter was approached by the PTA of their son’s high school to become the PTA president. “What! Are you crazy?! You want a foreigner to head up the PTA of a Japanese high school?” Peter was honored to be nominated but knew it was a very time-consuming position. While wishing to serve the students, parents, and teachers, Peter felt he should decline. However, every couple of weeks, there were persistent phone calls asking him to reconsider. After further declines and much-continued prayer, the Thomson’s finally realized that Jesus himself was the one asking! Amazing doors have opened! They meet regularly with the principal and administration, are connecting with other school leaders and have a whole new relationship with students and families at the school. Serving in this capacity has allowed deeper influence for Christ in previously untouched communities and to love where they are.

Thank you for praying for the people of Japan!

Bangladesh Hospital of Faith

Last year, a huge wave of violence spread through eastern Myanmar bordering the hill tracks of southern Bangladesh.  About 3 hours south of the major Bengali port city Chittagong Deep in the remote region of Cox’s Bazar district, is the village of Malumghat and Memorial Christian Hospital (MCH).  As survivors trickle into the hospital, Laura and I receive Facebook posts from our resident medical friends serving with Samaritan’s Purse and the Association of Baptists (AOB) at the hospital.  Burn, gunshot and traumatic amputation prayer requests come in for the victims, many of whom have also witnessed the killing of their family and village community.   The trickle becomes a stream until the hospital’s resources are overwhelmed.

I have served with my wife Laura on BelPres’ DivorceCare leadership team over the past four years.  We are grateful for the many opportunities at BelPres as we’ve found that we receive exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever ask or think.  We want to share our experience and solicit prayers for the nationals and expats serving there now.

For the past few years, Laura and I have prayed to use our vacation time for medical missions.  I do diagnostic x-rays and Laura is a Doula (birth coach).  Through Samaritan’s Purse, we found the answer through a call for short-term x-ray training at MCH-Bangladesh as they move from film to digital-based imaging.

Samaritan’s Purse staff were terrific and connected us with medical volunteers that recently visited MCH-Bangladesh.   We got our vaccinations and flights to the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh by way of Tokyo and then Bangkok.    After an overnight stay in an AOB guesthouse, we caught our final two-hour flight south to Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh is the size of Iowa with 164 million people, 50% of which are 15 years old and younger.   Our first experience was the amazing press of people everywhere!  We were met by our wonderful jovial hospital staff driver who loaded us and our bags in the hospital van for a two-hour trip to MCH.   The two-lane road was filled:  pedestrians, bikes, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, cars, motorcycles, vans and several full-size tour buses.  And no traffic lights … at all.  What seemed like insane traffic mayhem eventually revealed itself as a complex, cooperative system of amazing efficiency.   It is wise to hire a driver in Bangladesh.

As a doula, Laura helps moms and their Songee through the birthing process.  On her first full day (entering the woman’s ward small labor room), she encountered a very young weeping woman who immediately clung to her in terror.  This is her story.

The recent popularity of smartphones, with nearly country-wide connectivity, has caused havoc in the traditional separation of the genders in this huge agrarian, predominantly Muslim country.   In her village, a nineteen-year-old boy took an interest in her a year ago, and after texting, they met alone and were caught.  Her father is one of many thousands of men working as laborers in the Middle East, so it fell upon the village elders to handle the crisis.  The decision was quickly made that the young man must marry the girl or go to jail.  While child marriage is illegal, it occurs with sad frequency as a result of social crises like this.  Moreover, if the young man decided to make a run for it, the custom in Bangladesh is to simply go to the family and incarcerate any other male they find from that family.  They were shortly married.  Now, about a year later, she is a tiny 14-year-old girl at full term and terrified.  Simply too small for the size of her baby, the C-section quite possibly saved the young woman and her baby’s lives. 

The largest Christian congregation meets a quarter of a mile away from the hospital.  As a new country, Bangladesh gained her independence in 1971 after a brutal conflict involving Pakistani military killing of Bengali Hindus.  During this terrifying time, a core of Christian doctors, nurses, and nationals elected to trust the Lord by serving at the 8-year old hospital while the war raged through.  The government and people of Bangladesh did not forget, and MCH continues to serve today.

Please commit to praying daily for the long-term doctors, nurses and support personnel serving in MCH alongside their national partners.  Please pray for healing and peace in the present refugee crisis as well as provisions of funds, equipment, and personnel to complete the new hospital building targeted to open sometime next year.

Finally, thank you so much for your prayers and support that allowed us to serve.  There is no fear in love as perfect love casts out all fear.  Our prayer is that you find new courage in love serving among our brothers and sisters at BelPres.

 

All We Need is Love…Jesus’ Love

Lord, I am not ready to serve. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t have the time. I can’t afford it. What if I fail? Just like Jeremiah, I have given God excuse after excuse as to why I am not cut out to be a missionary and why I can’t serve him. There are so many better people out there to do his job.

But God doesn’t see it that way. We are his plan to share his love. He uses everyday people every day. He wants us to serve him just the way we are, in the place that we are, with the people that we are with because that is why we are there. He chose to share his love and good news through us, knowing that we could not even follow one simple direction in the Garden of Eden. He already knows we are not perfect, we are horrible at following directions, and we will make mistakes.

As crazy as it sounds, he still believes in us, has faith in us, and tells us to share his love. He is the creator of heaven and earth, so if he wanted perfect people who knew of his presence from the moment we came into this world, he could have made that happen, but that was not his plan. I think word “mission” or “missionary” can scare people. It sounds like it comes with big expectations. That is why I feel like I cannot do it. I like the word “plan.” It’s simple and something I can be a part of and do.

We are his plan to share his love. We get caught up worrying that we don’t know enough theology to share the gospel, what if someone asks me a question and I don’t have the answer? You are not God so you won’t have all the answers. And the reality is, most people do not become Christians because someone shared a Bible verse with them. Most people come to know Christ because someone showed Jesus’s love. The first step is to not do all the talking but listen to their story and love them for who they are right at that moment. Your act of kindness is what they need. Jesus’s acts of love throughout his time on earth was what brought the throngs of followers to him. When you consider how many pages there are in the Bible, we can see that even Jesus was a man of a few words.

We are his plan to share his love. In 2 John 1:6, the Message says, “Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love.” Look around you, everywhere you look, you will see people who are dying to be listened to and loved. Here is our mission field: in the cars driving by you, in the malls walking past you, in the office buildings working near you, on the streets begging by you; there are people feeling alone, helpless, broken, and lost. It can be anyone: the CEO, the teacher, the mother, the homeless, the barista, the brother, the technician, and the children.

As we begin this New Year thinking about new resolutions, stop your excuses and challenge yourself to a new mindset, to see the world through God’s eyes. His mission for you may be big or small, global or local, but ultimately the plan is the same, to share God’s love. John 13:34-35 say, “A new commandment I give you: Love another. As I have loved you, so you must love another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We act because we believe, we love because we are loved. Can you do at least one act of love every day? Can you share Jesus’s love because he shared with you first? All we need is love…Jesus’ love.

Watch Dr Scott Dudley’s Jan 8 Sermon about Jeremiah’s excuses to God.