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June 26, 2017
As always, I want to thank you for your continued support of the Haiti ministry. I wanted to take a moment to provide you with how God has been working in our life in order to bless us and enable us to most effectively involve ourselves in an increasing role in Haiti.
We began this journey in October of last year. We agreed that we needed to depart the pastoral ministry that we were serving in at Conway Baptist Church. Once we came to that conclusion, the obvious question was, "for what?" In December, after much prayer, many conversations with other faithful believers, and several rising circumstances in Haiti; we decided to pursue an increased role in the mission. We also determined to fervently seek not manipulating the process but instead allow God to direct our steps. In an amazingly short time, 1mission was re-incorporated and was granted 501c3 tax exempt status. In addition to these technical issues, God arranged housing for us in the parsonage of a small church in Stanley, NC as well as an opportunity to serve as interim pastor of Craig Memorial Baptist Church in order to help this church and provide us income during the transition.
Our plan was to pursue support raising and step away from the interim by the end of September of this year. Little did we know what God had in store! I have regularly described it in this way. Jennifer and I were confident about this direction but knew that we were only looking through the doorway. We could see clearly what was through the door but with a limited view. We knew when we stepped through the door, we would then be able to see the broader landscape around us. This is exactly what has occurred. Proverbs 16:9 says, "The mind of man plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps." We were leaning heavily upon this truth praying that God would clearly reveal to us the steps we were to take during this transition.
When we arrived at Craig Memorial Baptist Church we found ourselves in the midst of what we considered a unique situation. This little church was extremely supportive of our mission and took us in as though we had always been a part of their family. Shortly after we arrived several members inquired if we would remain and if I would serve as their pastor. We consistently reminded them that I needed to give a greater amount of time focusing on the development and expansion of the ministry in Haiti. Soon their comments turned to, "why can't you do both?" I just assumed this wasn't possible because I couldn't envision a church that would allow me that opportunity. After 2 months of them asking, I told them that the only way that I could remain would be if I could continue with the plans that were already under way in Haiti which would require at least 6 trips each year. They requested that I formally sit down with the pastor search team to discuss this and I agreed.
The result, as of Saturday, June 24, 2017 I became the official full-time pastor of Craig Memorial Baptist Church in Stanley, NC. We are amazed at how God has led us to this place and these people where we can joyfully continue to serve the church and pursue increasing involvement in the Haiti ministry via 1mission.
How does that affect the issue of support raising? It has a huge impact! We no longer need to raise personal support to allow our family to live. We do, however plan to continue raising enough support to enable the ongoing ministry expansion in Haiti. We have determined this goal to be $2000 per month. This support will allow us to increase the leadership training to 4 each year as well as focus on church partnership and Haitian pastor support without having to continually hold fundraisers for each event. Fundraising events would be reserved for additional projects. It also allows room for some of our expansion plans. We are currently at $500 support per month or 25%. We will continue to seek additional partners to reach our goal. None of the monthly support raised will go toward any personal support. 100% will be directed toward enabling and increasing the Haiti ministry.
There is no way that I can convey how much God has blessed us in this process in a newsletter. Many of you have served as a part of God's means of blessing and grace in our lives. If you would like to hear more details about our journey thus far, feel free to contact me. I love sharing the story!
Currently, we have 2 trips planned for the remainder of this year and are working on scheduling 4 conferences for next year. I am also available to lead any church trips for churches that might be interested in pursing a church to church partnership. I will be leading a conference September 28u2013October 2 and then leading a church partnership trip October 16u201323 (Unity Baptist, Lincolnton, NC & Centerview Baptist, Maiden NC). Please pray for these trips.
I pray that God will magnify Himself in each of your lives!
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21
February 25, 2017
We are excited to announce that our online support giving page is now up and running! We are officially ready to begin receiving support for the Haiti ministry.
If you have indicated that you would like to support us, you can do so by:
2. Writing your check to "1mission" and mailing it to:
2706 Carriage Lane
Lincolnton, NC 28092
Your monthly giving is essential to enabling the ministry in Haiti to continue.
!!!Please consider a one time gift in addition to monthly support in order to help us make this crucial transition.!!!
It is our prayer that each of you understand that you are not merely giving your money to us, but through us. It is our desire to be faithful to follow Jesus wherever He leads. We believe that we are currently doing just that. We, therefore, know that He will provide the ability for us to be faithful through partners like you.
For His Glory Alone,
August 19, 2016
Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Law.” Imagine that it is not only possible but inevitable that those who pursue God’s Word would find themselves amazed at the wonderful revelation that God has left His people! I never cease to be amazed when God uses the Word to give me a glimpse of His majesty and glory revealed therein. Such was the case recently as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark, chapters 7 and 8.
The overview of the headings in Mark 7 and 8, according to the ESV, looks like this: Traditions and Commandments, What Defiles a Person, The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith, Jesus Heals a Deaf Man, Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand, The Pharisees Demand a Sign, The Leaven of the Pharisees, Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida. As is often the case, we tend to look at these headings and focus on the few versus that are placed under them. While this may be helpful at times, it can distract us from the greater context which Mark has included in order to more fully reveal his (and God’s) intention. Remember, the headings (as well as chapter and verse numbers) in your Bible were placed there by an editor and are not part of the inspired text.
On this particular occasion I was considering Mark’s recording of Jesus’ healing of the deaf man. It’s one of those stories that you read and wonder, “what am I going to do with this?” The details of the story are striking and raise numerous questions. Why does Jesus place his fingers in the man’s ears? Why is it important for us to know that Jesus touched the man’s tongue after spitting? While I would agree that the details are significant to Mark’s purpose, I concluded that the greater significance is found in the conclusion of the story with the quoted response of the people. “They were astonished beyond measure saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak’” (emphasis mine). My mind immediately went to the occasion in Luke 7:22 where Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John that the blind receive sight, the deaf hear, etc. in response to his question about who Jesus really was. It is clear that the miracles that Jesus was performing were about more than Jesus meeting felt needs in this life. They were a demonstration of the fulfillment of God’s promise to send Messiah. So, I turned my attention toward the Old Testament to find where in God’s promise this expectation would have arisen. To my surprise there were few verses that came up in my search. If you do a simple search for “deaf hear” in the Old Testament, it will result in only three verses: Psalm 38:13, Isaiah 29:18, and Isaiah 42:18. If you are familiar with or have read the greater context of the story contained in Mark 7:31–37, you might recognize as I did that this isn’t the first time Isaiah 29 arises in this text. In the earlier episode with the Pharisees, Jesus rebukes them and quotes Isaiah 29:13, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me: in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” At this point, my interest was piqued but even though the healing of the deaf man seemed to be related to Isaiah 29:18, that verse speaks also of the blind seeing and therefore might not be directly connected. If you keep reading through Mark into chapter 8, although you will find several intervening episodes recorded by Mark, we eventually arrive at Mark’s recording of the blind man healed at Bethsaida in 8:22–26.
Mark 7 begins with an episode pointing to Isaiah 29:13 and ends alluding to Isaiah 29:18. At the very least this warrants a serious consideration of Mark’s interest in this particular text. Isaiah 29 begins by building upon God’s people’s inability to see or hear God’s truth leading to God ultimately pouring out a spirit of deep sleep upon them (vs. 10). God’s Word is as a sealed scroll and cannot be accessed by them. While the hearts of God’s people were far from Him, God promised to do wonderful things with His people. In verse 17, God reveals that “Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field.” It is this verse that makes Mark’s use of Isaiah 29 almost certain! The intervening story in Mark 7 that connects Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees and His healing of the deaf man is the account Jesus entering Tyre and Sidon. It is here that He is met by a Syrophoenician woman who believes. Interestingly enough, Tyre and Sidon are geographically located in southern Lebanon (see Judges 3:3) and it is here, above all other places, that faith in Christ is revealed.
It seems more than coincidental that Mark seeks to order the selected events of Jesus ministry in such a way to closely align them with the Word of God by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 29. In fact it seems that (at least) this portion of Mark’s Gospel is very much like a sermon on the text of Isaiah. There is, however, more support provided in the intervening text between Mark’s recording of the the deaf man (7:31–37) and the blind man (8:22–26).
Among other clear themes in Isaiah 29 is the theme of those who lack the ability to see, hear, and understand. It is a clear expansion of Isaiah’s initial commission in Isaiah 6:9–10;
“And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
The episodes that lie between the deaf and the blind miracles serve to emphasize the above reality. Jesus once again proceeds to feed a crowd of people with little resource. Although Jesus had done this very thing in 6:30ff, the disciples can’t seem to understand how this is possible. Somehow they developed a kind of spiritual amnesia. Yet, Jesus once again provides for the people in abundance and they are ‘satisfied!’ Then the Pharisees come on the scene for another brief moment demanding a sign. Look around! What exactly did they consider to be a sign? The deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, etc., etc. Seeing they were unable to see. No sign would be given to this “unbelieving” generation. Finally, with a bit of irony, the disciples get in a boat with only one loaf of bread (an interesting detail). When Jesus warns them of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, they can’t understand. Why did they need to be concerned about leaven? They only had one loaf of bread. Jesus responds to them, “Do you not yet perceive or understand?” Jesus’ concern was the leaven of spiritual stupor resulting from unbelief. Jesus commands faith, but even the disciples were missing it. Jesus, therefore, proceeds to remind them of both the crowd feedings concluding with yet another question, “Do you not yet understand?”
These intervening episodes provide further support and emphasis to the underlying text of Isaiah 29. In fact, Mark 7 and 8 are a clear picture of God revealing His Word through the person and work of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Isaiah was God’s prophet. A prophet was one who spoke the Word of God. Mark views God’s spoken Word as now being “fleshed” out in the person and work of Jesus during His ministry. In the words of yet another Gospel writer we could say, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory. . .” (John 1:14). What Mark fleshes out through historical narrative, John summarizes and states emphatically. John goes on in 1:18 to say, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (exegeomai).” In other words, Jesus has exegeted (revealed clearly, unpacked) God. And this is absolutely worth getting excited about!
January 29, 2016
I came across the blog posts that I wrote after returning from Haiti immediately following the earthquake in 2010. I found myself emotionally reliving my experience while I read the posts out loud to my sons. Below I have re-posted 4 blog posts from 2010.
The Event (Part 1)
If you talk to the Haitians today you would undoubtedly hear them refer to “the event.” That is their way of speaking of the life altering experience on Tuesday, January 12 around 5:00 p.m. In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy the world has responded in an unprecedented way. The news has been filled with images of horrible conditions, mob scenes, miraculous rescues, and the daily increasing total of lives lost. The picture that is painted portrays a desperate people, hopeless and doing whatever it takes to survive. While all the images are real and the tragedy is as tragic as it seems, life behind the camera is somewhat different.
Upon hearing the news of “the event” I immediately began trying to reach my Haitian friends to confirm their well being. Communications were down in Port-au-Prince making it impossible to reach anyone. Having been to Haiti many times before, I knew that it was unlikely that the building where the church I work with met would withstand an earthquake of such magnitude. In addition, the church met on Tuesday nights at 5:00 for their mid-week meeting. I imagined that the outcome that I might discover would be disastrous. I immediately began arranging to travel to Haiti as soon as I could get there. I called Jeremy, my traveling partner, and inquired about his ability and willingness and in a matter of minutes we were planning our trip. We planned to leave on Friday or the following Monday depending upon what we might be able to find out. Over the next several days I sought to make contacts in Haiti, calling each of my friends more that 40 times a day with no success. I reserved a flight into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic with plans to travel to Port-au-Prince by ground, a 156 mile journey that would end up taking us 15 hours. In a matter of days many people offered their support and we had enough funds to make the trip as well as purchase supplies to help the members of the church there. The only thing missing was a contact on the ground to help us confirm what we might be walking into. On Saturday, after many phone calls I unexpectedly heard “hello” on the other end. I had gotten through to Pastor Clerzius and was able to confirm that we could stay with him and his family. I also learned that the church had collapsed and that Pastor Fortune (the associate pastor) was killed when it did. Pastor Clerzius had been delayed and asked Pastor Fortune to start the service without him. Fortunately, none of the members had arrived when “the event” happened.
On Monday, January 18 Jeremy and I left Raleigh headed for Santo Domingo. We ended up leaving Miami 4 hours late due to a delay leaving us with little time to make arrangements for travel across the border on Tuesday. Just as we were boarding the plane in Miami I met a Haitian Pastor living in Florida who was taking a group of 6 to Haiti. He invited us to travel with him on a bus that he had reserved. When we landed in Santo Domingo, we were met by Achka, one of our Haitian friends who is now living in Boca Chica, DR. He planned to travel with us so that he could check on his family. We purchased some rice, beans, and water and set out on what would end up to be a 15 hour trip. We stayed overnight in Barahona and then started again at 7:00 on Tuesday morning. We reached the location of the team we traveled with around 1:30 on Tuesday and were met by Kalipso, another Haitian friend of ours who arranged our transportation to Clerzius’ home. We transferred all our supplies to a tap-tap (Haitian taxi) and set out for another 3 hour trip. During this final leg of our journey I realized how wrong all my assumptions were that I had gained from the news. As we passed through Croix de Bouquets everything seemed business as usual. No one attempted to relieve us of the food and water we were transporting without any security. People were going about their day the same as they typically would on all my previous trips. When we arrived at Clerzius’ home we were joyfully greeted with the words, “now I truly know you are my friends.” The relief of seeing Clerzius and his family well was overwhelming. As we transferred all our supplies into Clerzius’ courtyard, once again no one seemed to be anymore interested than usual. Though they had little to no food, no one indicated any desire to cause us trouble. The images on the t.v. were far different than what I was experiencing. We immediately set out for the church building to see its condition and then to meet with the church for their Tuesday night service. They were meeting in an open air courtyard about a block from the collapsed building. We had a wonderful time of worship as they sang as joyful as they always do. Jeremy and I took the opportunity to share encouragement with the church. After such a rigorous day, we returned to Clerzius’ home to settle down for the night. No one was willing to sleep in the homes that were still standing for fear that they would collapse in one of the many after shocks, so Jeremy and I pitched the tent we brought and bedded down for the night. Little did we know that the next day would start off a little shaky. (To Be Continued)
The Event (Part 2)
At 6:00 am Wednesday morning, Jeremy and I were suddenly awakened to a very odd experience. From inside the tent we felt as though we were on a turbulent river. Outside the tent we could see the power line frantically shaking and suddenly it stopped. Clerzius had rushed to the door of our tent to check on us. What we thought was just another after shock turned out to be another earthquake (6.0) centered 35 miles from our location. This time it only lasted for about 10 seconds. Not enough to do the damage of the first event, but still enough to bring at least one of the already compromised homes near us crashing to the ground. Though we didn’t see it fall, we could hear the concrete falling. An incomprehensible experience to say the least. I still cannot comprehend how the earth can move like that!
We quickly got ourselves ready and sat down for a quick breakfast. Quick because Clerzius didn’t want to sit in the house for very long for fear that it too might yet collapse. Everyone was afraid to go indoors for any length of time. At night the streets were blocked by cars and blocks so that people could hang their tarps and sleep there. After breakfast we began the task of searching for some of our other friends that we were unable to contact by phone. We decided to go by the American Embassy thinking that it might be a little easier for Clerzius to obtain a visa to visit the states (something he has yet been unable to get approved). We walked a mile or two to catch a tap tap (Haitian taxi) to the Embassy. Along the way we saw numerous houses and schools that had collapsed. We passed by Remy’s house on the way to try to find him. Remy is a police officer friend who has helped us on many of our trips to Haiti. His neighbors informed us that they hadn’t seen Remy but that his mother’s house had collapsed. Remy’s wife and children stayed with his mother most of the time because of it being nearer to the children’s school. To say the least, this concerned us and we were anxious to make our way there. We continued on toward the Embassy. When we arrived, there were large crowds around trying to get in. The US military was waving everyone to keep moving past while they called out, “American passports only.” They were only open to American citizens seeking help to get out of Haiti. While we are American citizens we were seeking help for Clerzius so we asked one of the marines how long it would be before they would be open to others and then went on our way. As we were leaving we heard someone call out “Jeremy” and turned to see Frantz, another friend of ours on the list to locate. We had received word that he was okay but wanted to see if he needed any help. Instead of having to search for him, providence lead us right to him. We inquired about his family, talked for a while and then gave him a small amount of money to help out. We then ran into Marco, Pastor Fortune’s oldest son (the pastor who was killed in the church) and were able to visit with him, his wife, and his new baby girl Marrindina. After a short visit we set out in search of Paul Fortune, another friend who often served as our driver. After a long walk and another long tap tap ride we reached Croix de Bouquets. Paul worked at a mission there called Double Harvest. This is also the area where Clerzius had begun building a house and where we planned to plant a church. We decided to go check on Clerzius’ property first which required another long walk. After taking some photos and resting a little we set out for Double Harvest several miles away. Fortunately the wind was blowing which afforded us a little relief from the heat. When we arrived at Double Harvest we were told that Paul had already left. All that labor for nothing! We laid down in the shade for a few minutes and then set out to catch another tap tap back into town.
When we arrived in town the phone rang. It was Paul! After a short wait Paul met us. He informed us that his family was well and that his wife was expecting their third child. In just a few moments we were able to make plans of how we would return to the DR and be able to get more supplies back to the church. Paul had an SUV but no gas. We had money for gas, but no SUV. A perfect match. We gave Paul some money for gas and he planned to make some arrangement and meet us early Friday morning for the long return trip. At this point, now about 3:00, we decided we had had enough and set out for Clerzius’ home. After about 7 1/2 hours of walking and having our behinds beaten in tap taps we were exhausted. So exhausted that I fell asleep sitting up on the back of a tap tap and would have taken a nose dive into the street if it weren’t for the Haitian sitting next to me. He grabbed my shoulder and graciously switched seats with me. Of course then I wasn’t about to fall back asleep. We arrived at Clerzius’ around 4:30 to rest. We planned to take it easy for a while and then head down the hill to visit with a family in the church that Jeremy and I are quite fond of. Allen and Chrismene have four children: Allenson (19), Christopher (16), Kristi (12), and Adassa (5). We always enjoy being with them. Allenson speaks good English so it makes our visits a little easier. Their house was broken in “the event” and they were living in an open area under several tarps with around 40 other people. We were anxiously looking forward to our time with them. (To Be Continued).
The Event (Part 3)
We made our way down the hill from Clerzius’ home to see some of our friends from the church. On the way we passed the house that they used to live in. The entire center of the front of the house was missing. As we turned right down the hill we were overlooking a large open area covered by several tarps and a crowd of people around. We made our way around the corner to the entrance of the area. It was here that Allen, Chrismene and their four children were now living along with approximately 30 other people. The tarps hung low enough that I had to duck down to walk under them (imagine how Jeremy felt). Adassa quickly spotted Jeremy and ran and jumped in his arms as she usually does. We spent the next 1 hour just hanging out and enjoying the time with our friends. What a relief it was to be with them since prior to my arrival in Haiti, I had gotten a miscommunication that Adassa and her family were dying (that can mean several things coming from a Haitian). As usual, despite the terrible living conditions, they were all as happy as they always were. If we hadn’t already known about the tragedy that had taken place, we wouldn’t have gathered it from their attitudes. After our visit we made our way back to Clerzius’ home to settle down for the evening. Evenings at Clerzius’ have always been a time to just relax and enjoy conversation centered around theology and ministry vision. This time was no different. Around 11:00 or so, Jeremy and I made our way to the tent and settled down for some long awaited rest (we are always the last ones to bed).
On Thursday we had planned to try locating Remy and our friends who lived in the area where Remy’s mother’s house was. After several tap taps and a great deal of walking we drew near to his mother’s neighborhood. The phone rang. It was Remy! While we were glad that our friends were contacting us, we just wished their timing had been several miles of walking and several tap tap rides sooner! A few minutes later we found him getting a shave in the middle of the street (an interesting story in itself). Remy informed us that his family was well and that he had moved them away from the city. This particular neighborhood had been hit hard and was almost completely destroyed. Remy pointed to the alley way leading to his mother’s house and said, “do you want to see it?” I instinctively took one step toward the alley and realized how foolish it would be to walk down that narrow alley underneath piles of concrete that could tumble at any time and said, “no thanks.” Another friend, Margarette, who cared for several children we used to sponsor lived in the alley as well. Remy informed us that they were all okay except Jessica. Jessica was 6 when I first met her and was now 12. She was killed in “the event.” Remy led us to where Margarette and the others were staying. As we approached their location Stephanie looked up, saw us, grinned and rushed over to hug me. I hadn’t seen Stephanie in about 2 years. She was always in school or somewhere else when I visited that last few times. She was now 18 years old and had grown into a beautiful young woman. We were also able to see Emily, a little girl who was 4 when I first tried to take her home with me. She is now 9. Margarette had just had some kind of surgery before “the event” and wasn’t feeling too well. They had been sleeping on a street corner since “the event.” We visited for a while and made arrangements for them to move to a more conducive area for the time being. Jessica’s mother was there with them. Even though I have dealt with those who have lost loved ones many times, I didn’t know what to do or say. I just hugged her and prayed. We then started our journey back to Clerzius’ house. This journey allowed us to see some of the areas that we hadn’t yet seen a little closer to the center of things. We still only came across two small medical set ups (the only stations we saw our entire trip).
After arriving back at Clerzius’ home around 2:00 we determined to remain there the rest of the day. We spent the time making plans for our return to Santo Domingo on Friday. Clerzius, Paul, and Remy would accompany us in order to purchase more supplies in the DR to bring back. Jeremy and I thought for sure our return trip would be less agonizing than getting there. Boy were we wrong. We also spent some time with Allen trying to make a plan for taking some of his children with us for awhile. Adassa is an American citizen since she was born in Miami. The other three children’s visas had expired. Allen was going to try to get their visas renewed if possible and meet us in Santo Domingo on Friday (this plan changed several times but eventually fell through. We are still hoping that the children may be able to come and stay with us until their parents can get more established in Haiti). Friday morning we awoke early in order to depart around 6:30 am. Achka had failed to inform us that his visa for the DR had expired, so we began to worry whether or not he would be able to get back in. He kept saying “I’ll get in.” So, we went with his confidence. We ended up having to pay off 9 soldiers at check points along the way once we crossed the border (an amount that ended up totaling about $35 US). Our trip to the border was much faster than what it took us coming in. This encouraged us, making us think that we would make great time. We ended up spending about 1 1/2 hours at the border and having to pay $170.00 to cross. After several military checkpoints and a flat tire, we realized that our journey was destined to be another long one. We finally reached Santo Domingo around 7:30 pm. We needed to get Paul, Clerzius, and Remy started on their return trip so we had them pull over and drop us on the curve figuring we could find a way to get to Boca Chica about 40 minutes away. We had to say a quick goodbye since a bus heading in our direction immediately pulled up. A Dominican woman was gracious enough to help us get headed in the right direction. Thankfully Achka speaks Spanish fluently so we were able to communicate. Jeremy and I arrived at our hotel around 8:30 and planned on relaxing the rest of the evening. On Saturday, we had a few issues to work out in the morning but were then able to relax on the beach for most of the afternoon. Then on Sunday morning we gladly boarded a plane for home. American Airlines were very gracious when we arrived in Miami. Since we were coming out of Haiti, they bumped up our return flight getting us home 4 hours earlier and gave us first class privileges (that was a first). We landed in Raleigh around 6:30 pm. I pulled in my driveway in East Bend around 11:00 that night after one really long week.
This concludes my posts on the trip details. Not very exciting, but nevertheless successful. My next post will address my theological/biblical perspective of what is going on in Haiti, what that means for people like me, and how a Christian should respond. I will also be adding several post concerning future plans working with Clerzius and his church. Currently, I am praying that the Lord will allow me to return at the end of this month to oversee part of the building of Clerzius’ house in Croix de Bouquets, but more on that later
Where was God when "The Event" happened?
Most of us were and are struck with amazement while viewing the images of the devastating event that took place on Tuesday evening January 12 in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. We were and are both grieved at the tragedy and amazed at the response of so many around the world. In the midst of worldwide turmoil from day to day, it is rather refreshing to see so many come together for a common cause. Questions of motives and agendas, however, eventually began to arise as differing groups sought to undermine the cause of another and soon enough even an altruistic venture is turned into a self-seeking opportunity for some. Their were even accusations of America having some grand agenda in Haiti to gain control for some purpose or another. It seems that America was even accused of causing the earthquake with some new highly technological form of warfare. I’m not all that great at following the political views or agendas of my own country, much less have the ability to discern all the motives behind what we or any other country might be seeking to do in the aftermath of such great calamity, so I won’t even try.
The question of “cause” is, however, one worth pondering. It is the basic question that lies beneath any tragedy whether great or small. Why and how does something so awful happen to such a struggling nation or to any nation? The answer to such a question could reveal something wonderful or possibly even more tragic than this recent tragedy itself. The question of “how” must first be discerned before we can even begin to seek out “why.”
While there may be a multitude of possible answers, I believe they can be summed up in two major possibilities with the second having two possibilities of its own. Either this was a random act of merely natural occurrence or it was a supernatural occurrence. If it was of the supernatural kind, then either it as a malicious act of a satanic power, or a sovereign act of an omnipotent God. I imagine there are no shortage of individuals who fall into any of these three categories (natural, satanic, God), the latter, however, most likely having the least amount of proponents. While understanding the cause might not seem all that important, it will have a tremendous impact on how people should respond ultimately.
If this tragedy, along with many others, was the result of a random act of nature, then while the immediate response that we have seen is at the very least necessary and good, we are left with a hopeless uncertainty for the days ahead. All we can do is our best and blindly hope that it doesn’t happen again. We can be thankful for what technology we do possess that might provide some security, but after all this technology provided no security for the nation of Haiti. It is therefore possible that it will afford no security for others facing an unknown number of possible natural disasters in the future. I must admit that I have no authority to speak on most subjects of science and will leave that to those who do. I like many others do, however, have an opinion. While I would imagine that those who deny the existence of God would naturally fall into this category, I am more concerned with those who do acknowledge the existence of God that still fall into this category. If an individual professes there to be a God yet assumes mere random acts of nature are the result of such disasters, then they at the very least silently proclaim the powerlessness or indifference of God. If there is a God (I am certain there is) and this kind of earthly activity occurs apart from His involvement then it must be because He is either unable to stop it or is uninterested in stopping it. I’m not sure exactly what kind of God that would reveal Him to be but I am certain that it would leave me with little hope or confidence in the future. What else might He be unable to do or indifferent towards? Does He really have control over what I might consider Him to have power over? Does my insignificant existence even matter to Him? What good would it even do to pray to this God? While one might disagree with my line of reasoning, at the very least the questions are valid. Ultimately what it comes down to is not what I think or imagine in my own heart, but what is the truth (what is certain) if it can be found out at all. Your opinion and my opinion ultimately doesn’t matter all that much. The question that must be ask is, “does the Bible support this view?” Without a long theological discussion, I have to respond with a resounding “NO!” The Bible (which I believe to be the Word of God) paints quite a different picture. Nowhere in its pages will you find a God who is either powerless or indifferent! So then, that leaves the cause to something supernatural.
If in fact the cause of tragedies like this one is one of a supernatural kind, then as Christians that leaves us two options, Satan or God. Let’s first consider Satan. Is Satan the blame of the tragedies of life or at least the really big ones like this? It would seem plausible given Satan’s character and history. According to Peter he roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). A disaster like this definitely fits the description of people being devoured. The Bible also characterizes Satan as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). That could imply his ability to stand behind such natural disasters as we call them. Yet a couple verses in the Bible alone provide very little evidence to convict Satan of such things. The question that comes to my mind is, “does the Bible evidence Satan having power over such things as earthquakes, tsunami’s, tornados, hurricanes, etc.? While I don’t know the entire Bible by heart and have to leave a little room for error on my part, I can’t think of but one implicit occurrence of such power on Satan’s part. This occurrence can be found in the beginning of the book of Job. Job’s livestock were devastated by Sabeans (Arabic dwelling people), his servants destroyed by fire, his sons and daughters killed by wind, and his own health compromised by great sores. All this took place at the hand of Satan. The story, however, reveals at the very least a dual role in these tragedies. Satan had to seek God’s permission first. The fire is said to be “fire from God,” and while it says that Satan struck Job with sores it was only after Satan himself said to God, “stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” Even this episode doesn’t reveal a great deal of autonomous power for Satan over such great calamities. The Bible evidences the greater part of Satan’s power being manifest through the evil hearts and hands of mankind. So much so that in describing the kings of Tyre and Babylon in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 it seems that Satan himself is being described. So ultimately our decision of whether or not Satan is to blame has more to do with our emotional decisions than it does with propositional truth revealed by an objective source, in this case the Word of God. Making a decision on a fickle, experience influenced emotional basis leaves us with little confidence in the conclusion (or at least it should). We may be right or we may be wrong. We just can’t be sure. Finally, if Satan is to blame, this power that he possesses puts him on a level equal to that of God. After all, a God of love wouldn’t want His creation to be destroyed in such a malicious, tragic way, but if they are, Satan must have the power to out maneuver and overcome God on some occasions. This conclusion casts a shadow of doubt over many other issues of hope. How can we be sure that Satan doesn’t fully and finally get the upper hand and win in the end if he can overpower God in such tragic events, wiping out over 100,000 human beings in one momentary disaster? But, surely such a tragedy as this doesn’t happen at the hand of God Himself! (To Be Continued)
October 22, 2015
2 ½ years ago I made my first contact with Mark at Online Church Solutions (OCS). I had researched the most prominent website solutions previously, including Cloversites and Ekklesia 360; and had settled with Cloversites. Cloversites was essentially the most user friendly compared to Ekklesia, although Ekklesia had more possibility in website development. At the time, I wanted something that looked good but was easy to update and maintain. Cloversite also offered a much more inexpensive monthly rate at $20 per month. Both sites were equal in their $1000 start fee.
It wasn’t long before I realized that Cloversite limited me beyond what I had hoped especially when it came to page limitations. It was at this time that I received a random email (I don’t exactly remember the nature of it) that led to me searching again for website solutions and discovered OCS. I called immediately and was connected with Mark. Mark spent about an hour on the phone with me talking about the web solution he was offereing at just $100 sign up fee and $100 per year (now $125) with an additional $50 per year fee for podcasting (now $75). At those rates, I couldn’t afford not to give it a try, so I signed up that day. There hasn’t been a moment of regret since.
Since I was practically familiar with website building tools, I was able to rebuild my website in a matter of hours and get it live. In the process, I found several minor setbacks. To my surprise, when I made Mark aware of what I thought would be a better way of doing something, Mark made changes and additions to his product to accommodate me. And that was just the beginning!
2 ½ years later, I am more excited about OCS than ever. Mark created a discussion group and added each new OCS member to the group. In this group we ask questions and offer feedback. Our questions are answered almost immediately and our requests are responded to with further development to the websites within days. Mark has allowed us as clients to have a part in developing this crucial ministry solution. It is as though Mark serves as the media minister to over 250 churches in the US and beyond. I can say with confidence that Mark approaches his website solution as a ministry! I have no doubt that God is glorified through this.
I was not asked by anyone to do any kind of write up on OCS’s behalf, nor do I wish to downplay other solutions that others make available as ministry. It is just that I am genuinely impressed and excited with what Mark and Alisha at OCS have dedicated their time and energy to for the sake of the gospel. If you are looking for a website solution that is simple to use and goes far beyond what you probably need, contact OCS (http://www.onlinechurchsolutions.com) or me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I think you would be impressed with the capability of what OCS offers and even more so with what OCS will be releasing in the coming months at no additional charge.
October 08, 2015
While my blogs are typically focused on the exegesis of Scripture, I wanted to take a moment and write about what God has been and is currently doing in the midst of the mission and ministry that He has privileged me to experience throughout my life.
Most of you know our story. Jennifer have been married for almost 20 years and have experience a great deal of chaos and change during that time. As if having 5 children isn't enough to keep things in constant flux, we have added multiple transitions in ministry to the plot. We have served on staff in 5 different churches and are now beginning out 6th. It would be futile for me to try to give a perspective of all of ministry time in a few short sentences, but it is suffice to say that we have experienced both extreme blessing and extreme sorry along the way. In the midst of the ups and downs of ministry life, we have also experienced 4 miscarriages and lost all our belongings to a house fire in 2007.
In July 2014 we left our last church in New Orleans after some difficult circumstances. Circumstances that arose from my own passions, others misunderstandings, and the plight of sin thrown in the mix of both. All things considered, we left hurt. We returned to Winston-Salem, NC in order to pray for direction for the future. We initially pursued the possibility of moving to Haiti for full-time mission work, but soon realized that idea was not the right direction. We then set our sights on settling in Winston where we felt comfortable. God graciously provided a job for me to help support my family through a friend. I was contacted by several churches over the first few months but determined that none of them were a fit for us. Finally we resolved that we would just remain in Winston, not take a pastoral position, but instead just serve in the church however and whenever God would allow us. For several months this was a joy. I had the opportunity to preach on some occasions, led a gospel community group, and started a Friday morning men's Bible study. All these things brought joy and ministry contentment to me for a while, but it was just a matter of time before things would change. Circumstantially, a few specific things developed in the church we were serving in that caused us to re-evaluate where we were and where we were headed. The circumstances were tough, but time revealed the God was using them to redirect our focus.
As a result of a period of difficulty and struggle spiritually, God led Jennifer and I to reconsider pastoral ministry. I had taken almost a year off and was desiring to be more involved in ministry than my current job allowed me to. Shortly after this decision, I was contacted by another church. Initially, I was hesitant. I didn't want to move my family yet again! And, I was sure they didn't want to move again! I did, however, agree to talk with this church. Through several conversations and meetings, God gave Jennifer and I a very positive outlook of what might be a fruitful ministry opportunity. We remained, however, hesitant because of our children. Within a short time, we had come to the point of needing to make a decision about whether or not we would accept a call to serve at Conway Baptist Church in Conway, NC.
I wa certain that, if left up to my older children, they would want to remain in Winston and not relocate to Conway. To my surprise, my children all opted to move. This served as a final confirmation of what we should do in pursuing to serve the gospel. We accepted the call and are now in the midst of transition. Our hope is to make our final relocation effort on October 16, Lord willing.
Please continue to pray for the Starkey family! Specifically:
1. That God would meld our hearts together with the community of faith in Conway, NC
2. That we would be patient in the transition and enjoy this time as we seek to learn how we can best serve Conway Baptist Church
3. That we would be enabled to continue the fruitful work that God has privileged us with in Haiti.
4. That God would provide "kindred spirits" for Jennifer, myself, and our children in Conway.
5. Above all, that we would faithfully serve the gospel and bring glory to God in all things.
We continue to be amazed at God's providential work in our hearts inwardly and our lives outwardly. We look forward to see how He will conform us to the image of His Son in this next venture!
September 02, 2015
As we arrive at Ruth 4, we reach the final installment of this grand story that God has inspired. This final chapter adds to the irony that serves to carry this entire story from beginning to end. In addition, it adds a few interesting subtle points as the story concludes.
In chapter 3, the book of Ruth reveals God’s sovereign plans unfolding in the lives of ordinary people through the plans of mere humans. It was Naomi’s scheme that served as the vehicle of God’s purposes in chapter 3. In chapter 4, however, the scheming shifts to Boaz. In the process, while not absent from the story, Ruth fades somewhat to the background while Naomi serves as the focus of the conclusion of the story.
Chapter 4 begins with Boaz immediately carrying out the plans that he had communicated to Ruth concerning the nearer redeemer. In verses 1–6, Boaz carries out a crafty plan. He offers the rights to the land belonging to Elimelech to the nearer redeemer. This redeemers response was initially positive as we might expect. Boaz then adds the twist, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (v. 5). To this twist, the redeemer gives up his right.
Verses 7 & 8 add a curious narration to the story. While the custom introduced is foreign to the modern reader, it was to the original audience as well. While there is possibly more significance to this narration than meets the eye, at the very least it serves to inform us that the recording of the book is much later than the actual events themselves. The author finds it necessary to explain this ancient custom to his original audience in order that they understand the significance of this transaction. The transaction itself, at the very least, serves as an exclamation point to what has just occurred. Boaz plan had succeeded! As a result, God’s purposes once again prevail just as they always do.
The witnesses of this transaction then declare a blessing upon the outcome. Boaz would serve as the redeemer which included taking Ruth as his wife. The blessing serves to provide a foundation for what was yet to come. First the blessing draws a parallel between Ruth and the wives of Jacob who gave birth to the 12 tribes of Israel. Then, the blessing draws a parallel between this union and that of Judah and Tamar. Judah was the chosen tribe through which God had promised to rule the nations. Therefore, in this simple blessing the emphasis is upon both Israel (as God’s chosen people) and the nations (God’s ultimate goal).
The irony of the story comes full circle in the next few verses. While Boaz married Ruth and Ruth bears a son, the attention turns to Naomi! The significance of words of the women in verse 14–17 requires a reflection on the end of chapter 1. Chapter 1 closes with Naomi returning home and the women declaring that Naomi had returned. Naomi’s response was that “the Almighty (had) dealt very bitterly with (her).” She then declared that she had gone out full and returned empty. The question that was raised at that juncture, was what does empty and full reference. Naomi left Bethlehem because there was no food and returned at the time of the harvest yet she seems to think just the opposite. These circumstances reveal that the issue was not food. What she left with and returned without was her children. Now in chapter 4, Naomi emerges as the one holding a son (not Ruth). The women even declare that “a son has been born to Naomi.”
Naomi’s emptiness was not satisfied with an abundant harvest, but by the birth of a child. The author concludes by revealing the significance of this particular child. It was through this family that King David would come to Israel. King David was a king who provided peace (however temporary). Peace that had continually been promised to Israel by God Himself that would come via God’s anointed king.
It is likely, that at the time of the writing of Ruth, David had come and gone. The peace that God provided during his reign (as well as Solomon’s) was short lived. It fell short of the promise that had been made to God’s people. God’s people were looking for something and someone greater than David.
Just as fullness came to Naomi through the birth of a son, so too would ultimate fullness come to God’s people through the birth of a son! While the author, under God’s divine inspiration reveals this truth, the author was looking forward to the fullness of God’s promise. While God’s promise was not fulfilled in the authors lifetime, it did come. There was another “Son” born who would finally and fully bring about God’s promise. It was the very same promise God made after sin first entered this world. God promised victory through the seed of the woman (a son). Not just any son, but God’s Son . . . Jesus Christ! In Christ emptiness is turned to fullness. All that God’s people longed for throughout the Old Testament and all that anyone created in the image of God has ever really longed for can only be fulfilled through Christ! He is the ultimate fulfillment! He is the greater son of David who would reign on the throne forever and bring about real peace!
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