Why We Need More Veteran Missionaries


Yesterday after enjoying a morning of texting with parents, listening to Christmas music, and watching sports I walked over to the house of Alan and Beverly Berry for a thanksgiving meal.  The Berry’s if my count is correct have served on the Island of St. Vincent for over twenty-eight years, and that doesn’t include their years of service on other islands.

Even in a “retired stage of ministry” (I put this in quotations because retirement for a missionary isn’t the way we think of retirement) they continue serving the Lord faithfully.  Honestly the Berry’s somedays put me to shame with their level of work-ethic and energy though I’m thirty-years younger!

In between bites of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, casserole, homemade rolls, and other amazing food we talked about life on the mission field and home. While walking back with leftovers (conveniently kept in a black plastic bag so the kids didn’t notice the food) I thanked the Lord for Mr. and Mrs. Berry, and truly felt sorry for missionaries who don’t have mentors like them.


In the past almost every new missionary coming onto the field would have an experienced missionary couple to help them.  Initially this includes things like adapting to the culture, developing relationships, learning how ministry is done one the field, and developing a long-term view of work.  The Berry’s have done all this for me, but the greatest thing they do for me is share wisdom.

yesterday with the excitement of thanksgiving and the AMAZING FOOD I did a lot of talking (can get carried away sometimes) but usually in situations like that I try to listen to the Berrys and learn from them as much as I can.  Pastor Berry happens to be a storyteller (I am too) who loves to share stories that teach incredibly important ministry truths, and I’ve spent hours on his front porch listening to them.  At the same time Mrs. Berry has taught me countless lessons that have proved invaluable in ministering to children.

In the beginning being younger and more spastic (activity centered) there were times sitting on their front porch listening to Pastor Berry’s stories and Mrs. Berry’s insight that part of me thought “man I’ve got better things to do than sit on this porch and listen to them talk!”  But as the Lord has helped me realize their wisdom (and my lack of experience in SVG) I’m slowly learning the most important thing I can do is sit in that plastic chair and listen.  

Sadly many missionaries coming onto the field are either on their own, separated from co-workers, or all the veteran missionaries are gone.  There is no plastic chair on the porch for listening so all they can do is “try this and see if it works.”  Sometimes it does (amazingly) but often all they end up with is a big mess.

As a missionary it honestly scares me that some people may look on me as a “veteran” because I’ve been in missions for almost ten-years.  While the previous generation continues to serve faithfully in their “retired” stage, there eventually comes a day they cannot continue, and then we must ask, who will take their place?

There will come a day when God calls pastor and Mrs. Berry back to America but I hope it isn’t soon.  Because I’ll miss listening to their stories in the cool night evenings, and the wisdom they have poured into me.

Besides my stories aren’t half as good

Job 23:10-The God Who Sees Injustice


Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (emphasis added)

Two-weeks from today I’ll go to Kingstown and renew my three-month visitors visa to St. Vincent, it’s one of the things I absolutely dread doing.

In May after returning as a full-time missionary one of my goals was to get a long-term visa (one year) instead of the visitors visa that lasts for three months, but unfortunately those aren’t given out till a person has been here an extended amount of time.  Coming every three-months isn’t all that frustrating, but they seem to enjoy giving me a hard time when I try to renew it  🙂

For instance last time the visa was renewed in September

  1. I brought in the necessary paperwork (including a letter from Baptist Mid Missions St. Vincent signed by a fellow missionary Alan Berry) that was accepted last time, but the immigration officer informed me he had to be present for the letter to be accepted
  2. A week later I came back with Pastor Berry and the letter was accepted without a problem (they didn’t even ask for him)
  3. That day I ran into another roadblock because my US passport was expiring in October and the immigration officer refused to give me a three-month extension even though the passport was going to be renewed right after that visa was issued
  4. She eventually after some persuasion agreed to give me a one-month visa
  5. And I came back two days later to find my three month extension had been accepted!

The issue here seems to be that officers are allowed to make their own judgement calls in situations which means I get told one thing one day, and then another the next. In a way each of us experience small injustices like this in life, nothing that is worth going to authorities over, but it can easily lead to moments of anger or frustration.  

In moments like this it’s helpful to understand God not only sees our injustice, but it’s part of His plan.

Job was experiencing things that would make my immigration struggles look like a walk in the park and it definitely created frustration and anger about the injustice God had brought to him.  He was confused about why it seemed like the unsaved were experiencing joy (Job 21:7-9, 21:13) though they rebelled against God (21:14-15) and contrasted the blessed wicked with the Godly like himself who are suffering (21:23-25).

In the midst of his confusion and pain however Job clings to precious truths.  First eternity will be spent in the presence of God.  Job 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:  

And second God sees his injustice (Job 23:10).

I personally believe in this verse Job is saying two things;

  1. First God sees his pain and suffering
  2. Then second God sees the integrity (Holiness) of Job in that suffering

Now it’s true that Job has begun to question God and become bitter, but his point is that the original attack didn’t come because of his own sin.  Actually God pointed out to Satan in the beginning that Job “held fast to his integrity” (Job 2:3).  But the larger point is God saw the injustice that was done to him.

I’m expecting the immigration department to make things hard on me yet again in a few weeks but it’s a blessing to know God sees the small injustices of life.  At the same time though it’s convicting to know He sees my heart response to those small injustices.

Surviving the Oppressive Days


People sometimes ask me what things are absolutely vital in missions.  Along with an extensive library, bible-study software, household items (dishes, pots, pans), and a laptop or computer I would add a fan and possibly an air conditioner.

This may not seem important at first, but many mission fields like St. Vincent  have an oppressive heat (it’s in the 80’s all year here).  The island breeze does help, but the wind isn’t usually strong enough to cool things inside the house on it’s own, so it’s necessary to run a fan almost all day.  I normally run mine all-night, then from 7:30 am till 6:00 in the evening if I’m home all day.

Though living in the Vincencian heat is challenging from time to time, with my trusty fan and air-conditioner for the extremely hot moments I’m able to live quite comfortably.

But then there are the oppressive days

Once or twice a month the power will go out for about five-hours (normally from 9:00 till 2:00).  Some people say these are blackouts because too much power is being used, but nobody knows for sure.  The important thing is during this time there’s no relief from the heat.

Yesterday the power went out about 11:00 and come back on at 2:30, while this as a shorter period it did a number on me physically, as well as emotionally.

Being in Barrouallie I’ve gotten into the habit of getting up early (usually before six) to enjoy the cool morning weather. This means by early afternoon I’m in need of a “power nap” so before getting lunch ready I usually turn on the air-conditioning in my bedroom, and after eating am able to take a rest in blessed coolness.

Yesterday morning I was struggling a little so at 11:30 I walked into the bedroom, shut the door, and turned on the air-conditioner

Nothing happened

I checked the connections hoping something wasn’t plugged in properly but already knew the power was out

And worst of all there would be power nap in the air-conditioning!

It’s probably of the Lord that I was teaching the children in Bible club about King Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard this week because I did my best Ahab impersonation throwing myself down on the bed and begging God for a few moments of air-conditioned coolness, then getting angry when it didn’t happen.

During the power outage I tried to be productive and obey the Lord after getting over my little temper tantrum…but it was an incredibly lazy 2 1/2 hours.  All I felt like doing was watching Netflix which of course wasn’t happening.  When the air-conditioning finally came on again I immediately thanked the Lord, and after a ten minute rest gladly threw myself into ministry.

Looking back on that moment last night I couldn’t help but notice how much my heart and attitude had been affected by the loss of a air-conditioned power nap (truthfully after a bit of a rest I would probably have had a better attitude).  It was incredibly convicting to realize just how much surroundings or comfort affect my obedience.

Every once in a while I believe that God brings  “oppressive days” into our lives where something we enjoy or rely on is taken away (fan, air-conditioning, internet).  He doesn’t do this to harm us, but show just how dependent we are on those things.  It’s true that working without internet or a fan isn’t fun or easy, but it IS POSSIBLE.  And as we obey in “harsh conditions” (I put this in quotes because living without a fan isn’t really suffering) the Lord draws us closer to Himself.

In a way yesterday was a test as God cancelled my power nap and I failed in spectacular fashion.  Thankfully the Gospel means my relationship with God is based on the finished work of Christ on the cross instead of works, and the next time an oppressive day comes I can face it confidently as His child.

Power nap or no power nap.


Job 12:14-The God Who is More Stubborn than You Are


Job 12:14 Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.

If you ask both of my parents what kind of child I was you will get very different answers.  According to my mother I was a serious discipline problem, while my father views me as a perfect little angel.  The true answer of course is somewhere in the middle, but I lean towards my mothers view.

While my disobedience was up for debate I was definitely what James Dobson referred to as a “strong-willed child” (which is just a nice way of saying I was stubborn).

 This  stubbornness didn’t reveal itself in outright rebellion but in more subtle forms.

  1. Like telling lies instead of admitting I did something wrong
  2. Putting off doing the right thing till threatened with punishment
  3. A quiet anger (growing frustration and bitterness) instead of violent anger
  4. And only admitting wrongdoing when forced

Obviously this kind of silent rebellion must be dealt with because in many cases it does more damage than the openly rebellious child (you don’t notice it).  And the only way to deal with any kind of stubbornness is break it.

I can vividly remember the morning my dad broke my stubbornness.  Don’t actually remember what I was being disciplined about but after getting a spanking I decided to fold my arms and give him a defiant look.  This led to a second spanking and a second defiant look (I was feeling extra rebellious) and of course a third spanking before tears came instead of defiance.  That experience is etched in my mind because it’s the only time dad disciplined in anger (I kind of deserved it) and he brought strawberry ice-cream that to apologize for disciplining me that way.

The truth is there’s only one way to really break the stubbornness of a child…and that’s to be more stubborn than them.

I’m incredibly grateful for parents who wouldn’t put up with my stubborn ways, and did whatever it took to break that bad attitude.  And in a deeper sense I’m thankful for a God who can be just as “stubborn” as me.

Each of us have stubbornly refused to obey the Will of God from time to time.

  1. Because it scares us
  2. Or it’s too difficult
  3. It calls us to trust Him instead of our own strength and wisdom
  4. Or admit weakness

In those moments we enter into a “standoff” with God refusing to obey until He makes thing easier.

There’s just one problem with that….

God is a lot more stubborn than we are

My quiet stubborness still reveals itself in my relationship with God from time to time.  But in love and compassion He refuses to let me go until my stiffened neck and hardened heart is broken (II Chron. 36:13).


Job 9:12-Accepting God’s Sovereignty, but Questioning His Love

Job 9:12 Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?

The book of Job is hard for me to understand sometimes because it seems as if he constantly is moving from faith in God to bitterness.  It’s true that in the beginning he still held fast to his integrity though God was unjust (2:3) but soon we find him asking God for death (3:1) (editors note:  the lack of comfort from Job’s friends would have something to do with this).

Job chapters nine and ten is an interesting contrast with faith and bitterness as Job in 9:12 points out God’s sovereignty (complete control) means nobody can question Him, yet a few verses later he takes it on himself to question the justice and goodness of God.


Job 9:17 For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.
Job 9:18 He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.

Job 9:22 ¶ This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
Job 9:23 If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.

Job 10:1 ¶ My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
Job 10:2 I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.

Job 10:3 Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?

I personally believe this swinging back and forth from faith to bitterness is partially because Job’s judgment didn’t originally come because of sin…however in a way it has to do with his questioning the love of God.

There was no right on the part of Job or anybody else to question the authority of God (what doest thou in 9:12) because He was the one who created them, and obviously controlled everything that happened.

But at the same time we do see him question the GOODNESS of God (he multiplieth my wounds without cause, destroyeth the perfect and the wicked).  In other words God is viewed as unfair tyrant who must be obeyed, even though his actions aren’t just.


The scary thing about Job’s struggle (believing in God’s sovereignty but questioning His goodness) is it’s a very common experience.  All of us have submitted to the Will of God (His sovereignty) while at the same time questioning His love (having a bad attitude). This may not seem like a big deal at first (after all we are obeying God) until we realize Satan attacks our belief in His love first.

When Satan came to Eve he focused on the ONE THING they couldn’t eat in the garden, and used it to make her question God’s love .  I like how Sally-Loyd Jones describes his temptation in the “Jesus Storybook Bible”

As soon as Satan saw his chance he slithered silently up to Eve.  “Does God really love you?”  the serpent whispered.  “If he does, why won’t he let you eat the nice, juicy, delicious fruit?  Poor you, perhaps God doesn’t want you to be happy.”

The snakes words hissed into her ears and sunk down into her heart, like poison.  “Does God love me?”  Eve wondered.  Suddenly she didn’t know anymore

Satan likes to tell us submitting to the sovereignty of God while questioning His love isn’t that big of a deal.  But eventually that whispered questioning of God’s love will lead to direct rebellion against the sovereignty of God.  It’s just impossible to believe God is complete control while questioning whether or not He is loving.

Why I Love Playtime


At about 5:00 every afternoon I finish telling Bible stories on my porch, put on an  Australian kangaroo leather hat, change clothes, and walk to a nearby park for what can only be referred to as “playtime.”

Usually when I’m within eyesight of the park kids will start calling out “Mr. John” and running towards the gate entrance.  For twenty minutes we will play some kind of game, usually “lashing hat” which is their favorite.

It consists of me trying to hit them on the arm with my kangaroo leather hat (not too hard) and their running away.  Sometimes we play a variation where someone steals my hat and takes great joy in “lashing” Mr. John 🙂  Recently we started a game called prisoner where Mr. John was taken prisoner and had to escape jail.  This led to an embarrassing experience on Friday when the “prisoner” was forced to sit down and catch his breath.

In the beginning I visited the park every afternoon to get to know the children’s names, but now I look forward to gametime as an opportunity to connect them them in an unstructured way.

When reaching children one thing you learn very quickly is the need for structure or rules, and someone who isn’t afraid to enforce them.  This is particularly true for ministries like Bible club that I run four days a week at Tabernacle Baptist Church.  Since there is expensive audio equipment and the children are fascinated by singing into microphones, we have four very serious rules.

  1. No going past Mr. John:  I stand at the third row and teach them sitting on the back rows
  2. Nobody gets water, or goes to the bathroom:  both are on the Church stage and too close to the sound system
  3. Nobody gets on the stage for any reason
  4. And nobody touches the microphone for any reason

Unfortunately just having rules and enforcing them is not enough because some children just enjoy breaking them.  There is a group of three girls that always come by about 15 minutes before Bible club and try to come in, if they do get in the entire group will immediately run to the stage (knowing that I can’t keep all of them away) so I’m forced to keep the Church gate locked till they leave.  Also there are some children I won’t allow to come in Bible club knowing they won’t obey the rules, and at least three times a week I’m forced to “escort” children out of the Church.

To be honest I’m a big softie and don’t enjoy doing things like this, but at the same time having a ministry without structure (rules) means the kids will pretty much just do what they want.  And part of my calling as a missionary is not only to evangelize children, but disciple them so that they are prepared for the real world.

However after the structured ministry there is in my opinion a need for unstructured ministry where the kids are basically allowed to be kids. In fact I would go as far as to say sometimes the need for unstructured ministry is GREATER than structured ones!  

Children are filled with enormous amounts of energy.  For much of the day they are asked to keep calm and contain that energy in school or at home, so they are looking for a place to let that energy out. For children in Barrouallie that place is the park, unfortunately while there their energy turns to the wrong kind of things

  1. like arguing with and threatening each other
  2. Fighting
  3. Keeping others from using something they want (swings, slide)
  4. And creating lots of chaos
  5. An unstructured ministry like playtime gives children an opportunity to expend their extra energy towards a fun and positive game instead of fighting.

A few Saturdays ago a little boy learned how to successfully defend against the lashing hat during playtime.  Instead of running away as I lashed him with it he turned and grabbed onto the hat with both hands so as I tried to pull the hat free suddenly ten tiny hands began to lash Mr. John excitedly.  That day and the expression of absolute joy on his face was a reminder that though the work of missions emphasizes a structured ministry, it often begins during playtime.

Why I Sweep the Floor After Devotions


My morning routine usually goes pretty much the same

  1. Walking into the kitchen at 5:30 and turning on the coffee (editors note:  I NEVER get up that early in America but having roosters in the vicinity makes it hard to sleep much later)
  2. By 5:45 I’m the porch drinking coffee, after two cups feel somewhat human
  3. Around 6:00 I start watching sportscenter or the news for thirty minutes
  4. At 6:30 I’m having devotions with a Ryrie Study Bible
  5. And then about 7:00 I start sweeping the house

no seriously I always sweep the house after devotions

Actually sweeping isn’t a very strange thing since I keep the doors open whenever I’m home (the sea-breeze makes it cooler) so its common for dust and sand to be tracked or blown in (especially when kids are around).  But 6:55 in the morning IS kind of a strange time to start cleaning.

Actually sweeping that time if day isn’t just about being clean or organized, it gives me a chance to meditate and pray over what I’ve just read from God’s Word.

Like many of you I sometimes struggle with meditating on the truths of Scripture after having devotions.  I realized that part of my problem was going directly from Scripture to sitting in front of my computer working through a seemingly endless to-do list, which left no time to just stop and think.  

So a kind of “unplugged work” that didn’t use any kind of electronics was necessary…work that allowed for silence and moments without mental distraction.  

Hence the sweeping 🙂

My morning sweeping ritual usually consists of two different things. I either think through a Bible verse from that mornings devotions (I’ll spend ten to fifteen minutes getting it in my mind first) or work through the HEAR method of Bible journalling  mentally (Highlight, Explain, Apply, Respond).  And of course this kind of meditation usually leads to prayer.

As an illustration let me use a verse the Lord helped me memorize from yesterdays devotions, Nehemiah 9:33

Neh. 9:33 Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: (emphasis added)

As I swept, dried dishes, and folded laundry from the day before my mind was first struck by the word “just” in that verse.  However the more I thought about it  “In all that is brought upon us” made a greater impact because it refers to the sovereignty of God who places everything that happens into our lives.

That thought of God’s sovereignty led to prayer

  1. Lord thank you for ordering the small parts of my life as well as the huge parts
  2. I confess that often I question the justice (goodness) of what you “bring upon me” thinking that somehow I know better
  3. This improper attitude leads to stubbornness that doesn’t trust your love
  4. Help me focus not on the circumstances of life, but the one who brings them, and trust your love

Not every day has such a life-changing truth but for me that really isn’t the point. The point is allowing God to speak in the stillness of the morning hours, and then meditating on the truth He has given for the rest of the day.

The world we live in is filled with constant noise, interruptions, and busyness so sometimes the best thing we can do is create a moment of silent reflection among the clamor.  And in the midst of that moment allow the still small voice of God to speak.

A Selfie-View of Missions, And why I Don’t Take Pictures of Faces


I’ve always been fascinated by technology and “playing” with computers or electronic devices by seeing what happens when I hit certain buttons.  This used to annoy my father who wanted me to fix an electronic problem with his laptop without hitting any buttons (I couldn’t) eventually he started handing it to me and leaving the room because seeing me randomly hit buttons was too stressful and normally ten-minutes later it was fixed 🙂

Thankfully most problems mom and dad encounter now deal with cable tv’s or Roku boxes and the answer can be found in a very important document I left for them last year.

This love of playing with technology has affected my ministry in many ways, but most of all how I communicate with supporting Churches and prayer partners.  In 2009 while a missionary in Melbourne Australia my communication philosophy turned from sending email updates to using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (I still try to send at least two email updates a month).  There are three reasons for this.

  1. Social Media reaches a larger group of people
  2. It communicates on a much more regular basis, and creates a stronger relationship (your able to share the every part of ministry good, bad, and yes even the ugly sometimes)
  3. And pictures speak more powerfully than words

That last part is one of the most important reasons why I used social media…pictures speak to people.

as an illustration let me show you a picture of my breakfast from yesterday

View this post on Instagram

Thankful for the delicious fruits of Saint Vincent

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I know that seven likes doesn’t seem like much, but the same picture got twenty-two likes and five comments on Facebook.  That’s thirty-five total connections (including the Instagram comment) for a bowl of fruit.

The power of pictures and the technology at our fingertips (particularly those with smartphones) is a the same time an incredible blessing, and a terrible curse.

It’s REALLY easy to to fill your social-media feed with carefully edited and cropped selfies of other people, or group photos.  I personally have a rule against taking pictures of “people” and sharing them online because the focus goes from relationship development to gaining likes or comments.

And when the focus of a pictures is to get likes or comments instead of building a true relationship then missionaries are using technology for their own glory (and yes I am guilty of this ocassionally).

It’s not easy to keep away from the “selfie view of missions” but the Lord has helped me develop two important rules.

Rule Number One:  Take pictures of things, not people

When we take pictures of people it will automatically pull on peoples heart-strings and bring an emotional response.  Sometimes this is okay, but 90% of the time I don’t take pictures of faces (there is a large amount from VBS last summer, other than that one of a child reading a book).  I do this because pictures of people get likes (especially cute children) and I could easily get into the habit of sharing those kinds of pictures just to get likes.

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Coffee and a Bible story

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Rule Number Two:  If you do take a picture of somebody, take a picture of the back of their head.

During ministry in the States I enjoyed introducing children to “Kev the Kangaroo” and letting them sign him if they were good.  Pics of these moments were too good to pass up but there was one hard and fast rule…you don’t face the camera. 

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Kev IV came to sparks!

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Now this is actually difficult because children WANT you to take their picture!  Last Friday I got some kids to take mine to use as a new profile pic at the top of this post, and ended up taking five group photos of them.  Usually when taking Kev pictures I have to explain that Mr. John doesn’t want to see your face because he is sharing the picture online.

It is hard sometimes to refrain from taking pictures of people on the mission field and share them, but I almost never do it.  Not just because of the real privacy issues (especially dealing with children) but because pictures aren’t meant to be about my glory anyways.

Ticks for Bama


Last February after many failed attempts at keeping the kids in Bible club under control (rewarding those who obeyed, punishing those who didn’t) I finally found something that worked…Mr. John’s tick sheet.

There’s nothing elaborate about this system, in fact most of my tick sheets are on the back of a cereal box like the original one pictured above.  I did use a notebook a few times but didn’t continue, (wasn’t big enough) and during the summer went as far as using a posterboard, but find the cereal box works best because it can easily be folded up and carried in a backpack.

Yesterday afternoon after Bible club one of the boys was on my porch scanning the tick sheet, then looked up with shock and said “hey Bama has more than me!”  Now he was referring to “Obama” (not hard to figure out where the name came from) but everybody calls him Bama for short.  He was surprised because Bama  doesn’t answer lots of questions in Bible club (he is younger and it’s harder for him to comprehend what I’m teaching) while he did.

His question was obvious…How can somebody who answers less questions than me have more ticks?  I told him ticks where given out not according to how many answers you give, but how hard you work.


Children today live in a world where the most intelligent and gifted are usually rewarded.  In my opinion this is unfortunate because there are children like Bama who have a hard time with tasks others can do easily, but it’s also necessary because there has to be a standard to evaluate success (if you get an A in the class then you’ve done a very good job). The problem is people like Bama have to sometimes work two or three times as hard for that A as others.

The answer isn’t to lower the standards of success, but instead celebrate hard work and obedience MORE THAN achievement.  Particularly for the Bama’s of the world.

If Bama’s having more ticks than him shocked this young man, then seeing who had the most ticks would have given him a heart-attack.  Currently in the lead with fourteen ticks is a young boy who struggles more than anybody else answering questions, in fact if he ever does answer one it’s because somebody whispers him the answers.

He didn’t ask me why that boy was in the lead but I could have told him

  1. He’s almost always the first one to Bible Club, and almost NEVER misses a day
  2. He LOVES our songs and I can always hear him singing louder than everybody else
  3. EVERY DAY he comes after Bible club for another Bible story at my house
  4. He’s brutally honest with me about the hard questions (confesses openly he will go to Hell right now if he dies)
  5. And most of all he obeys me

One story sticks in my mind..more than anything island children love to eat good food.  And because of this of course they love MY food.  85% of the time I refuse to give any out, not because I’m an evil person, but word travels fast (people found out I gave Bama five peanuts last Saturday morning and were upset).  Because of this I’m very careful about cooking lunch or dinner and eating it outside.  One morning I was cooking some hot dogs (a favorite of the kids) and heard a voice at the door.  The tick leader wanted a story.  I calmly told him I was eating lunch and would have to do it later.

Now the smell of hot dogs being cooked would lead to asking for (or demanding) one almost every time…but he without a word turned around and left.  I was honestly in a state of shock expecting a big argument, but was met with simple obedience (he was rewarded with bread later).

We do live in a culture where rewards are given out to the especially gifted or intelligent and that needs to happen.  But there are moments God gives us to reward others, and we have a responsibility in those moments to honor the Bama’s and Chave’s (my tick leaders name) of the world because they deserve it.

After I announced him as tick leader Chave jumped up and started doing his “victory dance.”  I’m not usually a fan of dancing but let him do it because there aren’t too many opportunities for him to break out a victory dance in front of friends. May we live in a world where the children who walk away even though the smell hot dogs can perform their victory dance.

When God Calls You to Give Someone KFC


image courtesy of http://svgblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/kentucky-fried-chicken.html

Yesterday I along with a veteran missionary went to visit a girl we knew who had been in the hospital for almost a month because of heightened blood pressure and exhaustion among other things, due to a slight heart defect she was born with (very small hole in her heart).  We honestly didn’t know what to expect, so were happy to see she had gained her strength, and was hoping to come home later this week.

As I drove to the hospital I asked the Lord for an opportunity to share Christ with Sarah (not her real name).  She knew the Gospel and frequently attended Bible club, but didn’t quite seem ready to place her trust in the Lord. Knowing situations like extended hospitalization can lead a person to think about eternity I felt certain the Lord would open the door for us to share the Gospel…but He didn’t.

The fellow missionary and I did discuss spiritual things with Sarah and read some Bible verses, but there was no opportunity to explain the good news of Jesus.  

However there WAS an opportunity to do something very special.

After a few minutes of small-talk the other missionary asked “what do you miss?”  She thought for a few moments and excitedly said “I miss good food!”  And about a half-hour later we handed over a chicken dinner from a nearby KFC (she was very grateful).

As we were on our way to pick up the chicken the missionary said “you know that girl won’t forget this the rest of her life” and in a way that’s true.  I’m sure the combination of us visiting, and getting her “real food” at a time in life when was stuck in the hospital (wasn’t even able to walk around) made a huge impact upon her.  That act of kindness will probably lead to a stronger friendship in the future, and opportunities to share Christ.

Often in missions are minds are focused on sharing the Gospel which is obviously a wonderful thing (that’s what God calls us to do).  But the most effective evangelism is done when we have built “Gospel bridges” into the lives of individuals.  In other words we show kindness and compassion while ministering to the needs they may have, over time that knowledge that we truly care about them will open the door to share WHY we care.

I didn’t come yesterday planning to buy Sarah KFC, but in hindsight that’s the best thing I could have done because God was already working on her heart.

After we got the chicken I dropped the pastor off then parked, and walked down myself.  As I got there Sarah was carefully opening a box, and once she got it open pulled out a handful of Gospel tracts.  This young lady confined to her bed (especially at the beginning) had lots of time on her hands and nothing to do so God sent other Christians with tracts that I’m sure she read more than once.

The point is Sarah didn’t necessarily need someone to share the Gospel with her in that moment.  She needed someone who she could ask her hard questions, who could explain the deep truths of Scripture in simple terms, who could clarify what Scripture teaches till the Holy Spirit convicts her heart.  And that’s usually done in a relationship.

I’m eternally grateful that God’s plan for our lives includes sharing Christ, but sometimes it also includes building “Gospel Bridges” with delicious chicken.

The Glory of Plodding


Early this year I read an article written by Kevin DeYoung (the original post can be found here) that discussed the churches need for more “plodding visionaries” instead of “revolutionaries.” The reason for this article is “many Believers are starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.” In other words many Christians are focused on doing radical (world-changing) things, without exhibiting self-discipline or faithfulness. After something bores them, they simply move on.

The true problem that Kevin DeYoung has with this mindset is most days discipleship or ministry within the Church is really ordinary.

maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

As a missionary I had to teach myself this…like many of you I had an idea in my mind of what missions was about. I envisioned myself cutting down vines in Africa with my machete and swinging from tree to tree on a vine rescuing fair damsels in distress every day. Of course 95% of the work involved in missions are ordinary day to day things that could never be included in a prayer letter

When the majority of the day is filled with ordinary work, I find myself sometimes focusing all of my attention on the 5%, or trying to complete more revolutionary work while overlooking the ordinary work. But DeYoung points out those who are faithful in the day to day ordinary work (plodding visionaries) are far more revolutionary than those who have dreams of changing the world, but haven’t proven faithful to anything yet.

“With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?” Kevin DeYoung

Each of us have opportunities to daily choose between revolutionary acts, or the ordinary work of a plodding visionary, and in those moments we must remember God’s blessing of faithfulness. Every morning around 7:00 I have a choice between starting sermon work, or sweeping the house (this is necessary every day since I keep the doors open for an ocean breeze to come through). To be honest in those moments wrestling with the definition of Greek words seems a lot more important than dust on the floor, but I sweep first because faithfulness in the ordinary work brings greater glory to God.

The God of Rainy Days


In September 2015 God called me to short-term missions work in the small town of Barrouallie, St. Vincent, eventually accepting the call to full-time missions there in January 2016.  One of my favorite things about Barouallie is the fact that it’s a small town, so most ministries are community are relationship based.

While there are some planned ministries such as Bible Club, Bible Studies, Church services, or visitation ministries the majority of missions work is more relational.

  1. Sharing the Gospel during my morning or evening walks
  2. Small talk with unsaved friends in the evening
  3. playing with children in the park every afternoon
  4. Handing out glasses of water and telling Bible stories
  5. or visiting with Church members

My ministry day is basically separated into the morning (focused on study, reading, and writing) then 3:00 to about 6:00 or 7:00 is centered on face to face ministry, so it shouldn’t be surprising that 3:00 in the afternoon is my favorite time of day 🙂  There’s definitely a place for Bible study and development of sermon or discipleship material, but being a relational person I excitedly look forward to 3:00 every day.

And it’s also why I hate rainy days.


Saint Vincent is known for it’s quick rainstorms that come up “out of nowhere” and pass quickly.  But recently we’ve been experiencing rainy days that include heavy or constant rain from the early afternoon till night.  Days like this have little face to face ministry since most of the Vincy’s stay inside, and I do as well.  There’s no sense in looking for ministry opportunities when nobodies around.

Rainy days are annoying for me since they take away my discipleship opportunities but thankfully they don’t come very often.  Last week was rough however because we had three straight days of heavy rain which meant three days without Bible Club, stories, or evangelism 😦

Thursday afternoon when it became clear rain was calling off ministry for the third day I grabbed an umbrella and took a walk (more to calm myself than anything else) and in my heart had the following conversation with God.

  • Me:  God it’s not fair for the third day I’m not able to minister in Barrouallie!
  • God:  John who made the rain?
  • Me:  Well you did Lord
  • God:  and do you think I control the rain?
  • Me:  Of you course you do God
  • God:  So whether it rains or not is part of my plan right?
  • Me: ( Feeling a little embarrassed) Yes it does
  • God:  John I love you as my child, and sometimes that love means giving hours of sharing the Gospel and discipleship.  Other days it means spending extra time reading Church-growth books, studying Scripture, praying, and preparing discipleship material.  The important thing to understand is the rainy days when you don’t meet with anyone is just as important as the ones you spend teaching others…sometimes even more important

Yesterday it stopped raining and my porch once again became a place for Bible stories, and Gospel presentations, along with cups of water or the occasional cup of coffee and I’m incredibly grateful.  But it’s a blessing to know rainy days without face to face ministry come from the same God who provides the sunny ones.

Exchanging Love for Being “Nice”


“Paul was not a people-pleaser.  He was a people-lover, and because of that he did not change his message according to what others might think.  Only people-lovers are able to confront.  Only people-lovers are not controlled by other people.” Dr. Ed Welch

I was working on some notes for a sunday-school lesson on the fear of man when I came across the above quotation from “When People are Big and God is Small” by Ed Welch (Other than the Bible, this book has done more to affect my personal walk with God than any other) and was suddenly incredibly convicted.

As an introvert who struggled with self-esteem issues (secularized view of shame) as a child I’m really susceptible to people-pleasing (must be loved by others in order to feel successful).  With the Lords help I’m finding  my identity in Christ instead of others and experience victory over people pleasing, but during my study was reminded confrontation is an area where I’m still addicted to others approval.

Now for most of us even the word “confrontation” brings up uncomfortable emotions, awkwardness, and cold sweats so its very difficult to link that with the word “loving.”  But the truth is not confronting sinful behavior is the truly unloving act.

Here’s how Paul David Tripp describes this in “Instruments in the Redeemers Hands.

A rebuke free of unrighteous anger a clear sign of Biblical love, but I am afraid we have replaced love in our relationship with being “nice.”  Being nice and acting out of love are not the same thing.  Our culture puts a high premium on being tolerant and polite.  We seek to avoid uncomfortable moments, so we see, but do not speak.  We go so far as to convince ourselves that we are not speaking because we love the other person, when in reality we fail to speak because we lack love. (emphasis added)

Dr. Tripp refers here to exchanging niceness for love, instead of doing the loving thing (confronting sin) we do the nice thing (allow it to continue).

Sadly this idea has grown till today the definition of “love” has moved far past just being nice.

“In the West today, we then lay our definition of love directly on top of this negative conception of freedom.  To love someone is to set them free-it’s to remove all constraints and judgments:  If you love me with conditions or judgments, you don’t love me because your not letting me be free.”  Jonathan Leeman

The above quote comes from “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love” by Jonathan Leeman.  Chapter one (the idolatry of love) is the best description I’ve found of this redefined love and how we got there (worth the price of the book alone).

Back to this morning…because our culture has exchanged niceness for love it’s very easy for us as Christians (especially those who are people-pleasers) to choose being nice because “it’s the loving thing to do”

There’s just one problem with that

Refusing to confront sin isn’t very loving

In fact it’s the most unloving thing we can possibly do.

God’s Grace Leads Us to Worship, Not Work


Amazon must love me…I mean seriously look at this picture my father took of the front porch Sunday afternoon with nine boxes of items for a Christmas barrel that will be sent next week.

As I look at this picture two very different thoughts run through my head

“Thank you Lord for your blessings”

And “I don’t deserve this”

The second thought isn’t low self-esteem but an understanding that those boxes some very cool stuff I bought online.

  1. Two pounds of pumpkin spice coffee
  2. Three large containers of Gatorade powder
  3. Fifteen pounds of Jolly Ranchers (its for the kids…no seriously)
  4. Fifteen pounds of starlight mints (No it seriously is for the kids!)
  5. 2 1/2 pounds of Krispie Creme Coffee (sadly the donuts wont fit)
  6. One bag of Starbucks coffee
  7. A refurbished iPad
  8. Three containers of protein powder
  9. 2 pounds of Colombian coffee (are you noticing a theme?)
  10. A charger for my macbook
  11. Two Bibles
  12. And of course a new coffee maker along with lots of other goodies



The picture my dad sent me this morning of the items that will be shipped in my barrel (and more are coming) is honestly pretty overwhelming.  Last night visions if coffee without the words “folgers” or “maxwell house” danced through my head (editors note:  You may notice some folgers coffee containers in the picture, these are for my missionary co-workers who aren’t coffee snobs like me).

The picture creates not only excitement but in a strange way creates guilt in my heart. Part of me says “I have to earn all of these precious treasures.”  In other words missionaries who are winning people to the Lord every week, spend four hours every afternoon discipling Believers, and are planning their third Church plant deserve pumpkin spice coffee.  Of course I know that success isn’t based on outer fruit, but this subconscious thought creates a sinful response to God’s blessings.

God takes great pleasure in showing us grace.  This usually isn’t something as massive as my Christmas barrel, but daily provision of strength or wisdom that we could never earn.  These gracious blessings are meant to be reminders of the Gospel that lead to confession (I cannot earn Holiness), belief (God must rescue me), and worship.  

The sad thing is we each have a longing to “earn things” so when God provides grace instead of remembering the cross (our greatest blessing) and submitting in worship we live out a testimony that says you have to earn Gods grace, which of course means it isn’t grace after all.  

This doesn’t mean of course that I should sit on the couch all day watching television and eating donuts because I’m  living “in grace”.  Instead I stop trying to earn God’s daily blessings (you can’t do that anyways) and allow the smallest blessings to remind me of the cross.  Eventually those daily moments of Grace will become a motivation as we serve God out of love instead of obligation.


(Luke 5:1-3) When Obeying Jesus Makes You a Rockstar


Luke 5:1 ¶ And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,   Luke 5:2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.   Luke 5:3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

Imagine with me for a moment that you are Simon Peter in this passage.  After a long night of fishing not only are you exhausted, but discouraged about not catching any fish.  The only thing your interested in is fixing the nets as soon as possible and going to sleep, but then you notice a large crowd of people coming towards you.  And as they get closer you recognize Jesus of Nazareth is with them!

You’ve heard about Jesus of course (everybody has) but you have never seen him face to face.  He’s the one who John the Baptist told everybody he was preparing the way for (Mark 1:1, 1:7-8) and after John was put in prison told everyone the Kingdom of God had begun (Mark 1:14-15).  Suddenly you don’t feel so tired anymore and sit down to hear Him teach, but it doesn’t take long for a massive crowd to gather on the beach, and soon people start pushing and shoving so they can get closer to Jesus.

As you stand up to get a better view you notice Jesus is looking for someone, slowly his eyes scan the crowd until they come to you….”excuse me” Jesus asks, “can I borrow your boat?”

Suddenly every eye turns towards you frozen in a state of shock.  “Of course!”  you finally find the strength to say and can’t help but feel very important as the crowd parts allowing you through.  Soon you’ve pushed into the shallow waters and Jesus is teaching the people gathered on the shore.


Luke 5:1-11 is a passage of Scripture that the Lord has used to teach me the motivations of obedience are more important than the obedience itself.  Peter in this story obeys Jesus three separate times, but it’s only the last time (Luke 5:8) that his obedience came from the right motivation.  

Peters obedience in Luke 5:1-3 (pushing the boat out so that Jesus can teach from it) doesn’t come a belief that He is God’s Son.  Instead Peter obeys because Jesus is a great teacher with huge crowds, and more importantly it gave him (Peter) the chance to look like a rock star…after all who wouldn’t want Jesus to use their boat?

The danger with this kind of obedience is the crowds wouldn’t always follow Jesus.  The same ones who loudly praised His triumphal entry called for His crucifixion once they realized Jesus wouldn’t free them from Roman rule (Matthew 21:9, Matthew 217:15-32).

More importantly though Jesus is interested in those who will be totally committed to Him instead of the crowds of half-hearted followers.  

Mark 1:32-38 is one of the clearest examples in Scripture of Christ’s desire for those who will truly follow Him.

Mark 1:32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
Mark 1:33 And all the city was gathered together at the door.
Mark 1:34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
Mark 1:35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Mark 1:36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.
Mark 1:37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
Mark 1:38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. (emphasis added)

Peter and the other disciples searched everwhere for Jesus and when they found him asked “why did you leave?” (paraphrase of 1:37).  The response of Jesus was “I didn’t come for them (paraphrase of 1:38).”  Contrast this with the response of Jesus to a leper who believes He is God’s son (1:40-41) and his strict command not to tell anybody (1:43-44) and it’s clear Jesus isn’t interested in large crowds of people who aren’t really committed.

There are moments when everyone will love Jesus and serving Him will bring us great Glory…but we must also be willing to obey when people hate Jesus, and it brings suffering.

(I Kings 19:13) Escaping the Cave of Isolation and Depression


1Kings 19:13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

1Kings 19:14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

Every Christian no matter how strong or faithful will end up having bad days from time to time, and missionaries or pastors are obviously no exception.  In fact, I would say those on the front lines of ministry experience more of these since Satan wants them to give up, and walk away from God’s calling.

Sadly this mean that discouragement, and even depression are a part of ministry (editors note:  I am referring here not to “clinical depression” but intense emotional responses to frustrating or depressing situations such as loneliness, apathy, anger, or isolation from others).

Since God in His sovereignty has created me as an incredibly emotional person I’m used to experiencing this kind of depression on days when things don’t go well (have at least two “bad days” a month).  And believe it or not that’s good news, because my response to those kinds of situations has changed drastically.

Normally the blah’s (what I call my depression) comes from a few different sources

  1. There wasn’t a lot of face to face ministry (evangelism, discipleship)
  2. The children raised lots of discipline problems
  3. Or the heat got to me (I’ve learned that lots of walking in the early afternoon will do a number on my body, and open the door for blah’s)

Over time I could feel the blah’s coming and would respond

  1. With comfort food (extra crispy french fries)
  2. Netflix
  3. Nap in an air-conditioned room
  4. Or listening to music

now there’s nothing really wrong with these things, but they focus on isolation (drawing more into myself) instead of drawing closer to God.

Elijah chapters eighteen and nineteen are one of the greatest contrasts in all of one Scripture.  One chapter sees Elijah courageously standing up to 400 prophets of Baal, the other sees him asking God for death (19:4) because there was nobody else who followed God (19:14).  Elijah eventually traveled to Horeb  (19:9) and God met him there.  He probably thought that the Lord would give an encouraging word since Jezebel had promised to kill him (19:1-2) but instead God asks a question.

What are you doing here Elijah?

God actually asks the same question twice (19:9, 19:13) and Elijah in response says “you aren’t being fair to me!” (paraphrase of 19:10, 19:14).  Evidently he felt that after the victory over Baals priests everything would work out, and was upset this didn’t happen.

That question “what are you doing here?” stuck in my head as I read it in devotions this morning.  Probably because I could hear God asking me the same question when my blah’s lead me to laziness or apathy instead of His presence.

Why are you here John?

  • Why are you watching that rerun of “Everybody loves Raymond” instead of reading my Word?
  • Why are you laying in bed instead of spending time in prayer?
  • Why are you filling yourself with comfort food instead of sharing the burden of your heart with trusted friends?
  • Why are you hiding in the cave of isolation instead of seeking me?

Now let me be clear there’s definitely a place in life for air-conditioned naps, netflix, and comfort food (some days you need all three), and of course there is always a need for rest in our schedule.  yet our emotional responses to life are tools of God to remind us of our brokenness, and our need of Him.  In a way even the blah’s are a picture of the Gospel as I confess (again) no amount of work or human strength can bring me happiness.  

This afternoon during lunch I got emotional while watching a Garfield cartoon (don’t judge) as the blah’s caught up with me (combination of really hot days, and lack of ministry opportunities).  I made sure to take a nap in the air-conditioning after lunch, but not till after holding my hands out in prayer to the one who uses my moments of depression for His glory.

When God Provides Luxuries


When I came back to Barrouaillie in May two barrels that had been sent three weeks before were waiting for me.  The Lord actually worked it out that they arrived and were cleared the day I got into the Country, so I just had to pick them up from the Church!  These barrels were filled with things that were essential for life and ministry in SVG.

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Dishes, pots, and pans
  4. Appliances (popcorn popper, microwave, toaster oven)
  5. Sheets and towels
  6. And of course a tv 🙂

Along with those essential items there were some “non-essentials” that to be perfectly honest didn’t make the cut since sending these barrels can be an expensive process after clearing customs.  Most of these would fit in the “food category” like extra coffee, big containers of Gatorade powder (helps in a hot climate), protein powder, snack bars, and cereal.  Most of these things can be found in St. Vincent, but they just end up costing too much.

Lucky Charms

Editors note:  This would be around $10 US, still too much 🙂


and $21 US for a small bag of Starbucks coffee

The thing is a person can live without luxuries like microwave popcorn, your favorite breakfast cereal, and coffee (editors note  I do drink Folgers and Maxwel House in SVG but that doesn’t deserve to be called “coffee”).  In fact after a while y0u don’t miss those things!  There were moments when I thought “man it would be nice to have a nice smoothie right now!” but to be honest it feels a little bit selfish to send over a barrel full of luxury items…

Until now

Every year the Saint Vincent government allows barrels to clear customs for a very cheap price (around $30 of their currency) instead of hundreds of dollars it would normally cost.  The moment someone explained that to me Saturday morning I began compiling a wish list on Amazon 🙂

For me this barrel of luxury items means God not only cares about our serious needs, or secondary needs, but even the things we can live without.  And occasionally He reminds us that the God who gives us the breath to live, takes great joy in providing Lucky Charms too.

Why I Don’t Lead Children in the Sinners Prayer


Yesterday afternoon I sat on my front porch with a girl who attends Church regularly, and shared the Gospel using a flip chart of God’s Bridge to Eternal Life (one of my favorite tracts).  The last page has a picture of man’s side (in sin) and God’s side (saved) and after explaining the ONLY WAY to get to God’s side is believing in Jesus I asked her “Stephanie (not her real name) which side are you on right now?”  Slowly she reached out and pointed to mans side.

This actually didn’t surprise me since even though Stephanie knew all of the Bible answers, I had never heard her give a clear testimony of Salvation.  And the truth is five or six other children who regularly visit faced with the same question would tell me they were going to hell.  My response to that answer has changed quite a bit since coming to Barrouaillie a year ago.

When I began ministering to children a confession they were going to hell would lead to a clearer presentation of the Gospel, and encouragement to accept Christ. The Lord has since showed me this response leads to a prayer, but rarely genuine belief.

Last summer while washing bottles for VBS I had a conversation with Stephanie’s brother that went something like this:

  • Me:  Have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior?
  • Him:  Yes I have
  • Me:  That’s great!  Could you tell me about it?
  • Him:  Well I prayed a prayer
  • Me:  What did you tell God in that prayer?
  • Him:  I don’t remember
  • Me:  Oh okay, so can you tell me anything about the day when you prayed that prayer?
  • Him:  (after telling me three separate stories about it) No I guess not

Now it is possible that this child is genuinely saved.  But the fact that he can’t tell me about the prayer or what led to it leads me to believe he’s one of the many children who “prayed a prayer” and believed it saved him when it hadn’t.

One of the greatest mistakes I’ve made in children’s ministry is leading them in whats sometimes referred to as a “sinners prayer.”  This is where any children who want to accept Jesus are encouraged to pray after me, and then are told if they truly meant that they are saved.  While it IS POSSIBLE for children to be saved after doing this experience teaches us most haven’t accepted Christ.

There are a few reasons for this

  1. They pray because everyone else is doing it
  2. They are praying because they can tell I want them to do it
  3. Or their minds don’t fully comprehend what it means to believe in Jesus

So I’ve stopped leading children in the sinners prayer…

because my greatest fear is they will stand before God someday and their reason for entering Heaven is “I prayed a prayer with Mr. John” instead of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Instead of praying with them I tell the children “when you are ready to accept Jesus as your Savior you come see Mr. John.”  This helps ensure the Holy Spirit is the one who draws them, and Salvation is a choice THEY MAKE instead of one I force upon them.

It’s true that this makes Salvation difficult (a big step of commitment for the child) but in my personal opinion this brings greater glory to God.  I would rather have one boy or girl who seeks me out and asks to receive Jesus than ten or fifteen whose Salvation I have doubts about.

I’m not saying that isn’t frustrating because it definitely is.  There are many children in Barrouaillie who are VERY CLOSE to accepting Jesus, but don’t quite understand what it means to believe in Him yet.  One boy in particular will literally stretch out his arms as a symbol of Christ dying on the cross when I ask him what Jesus did for us, but when I ask what belief means he responds “telling God your sorry.”

It would be so easy for me to say that’s “close enough” and pray that someday the Lord would help him understand Salvation involves more than just repentance, but what if that doesn’t happen?  What if he spends eternity separated from Christ because I said “close enough?”

Yesterday I explained to Stephanie that someday God would convict her heart of sin, and show her need of Jesus, and on that day told her to come find me.  “Any day?” she asked looking up at me with large brown eyes, with all my heart I wanted to lead her to Christ right then and there, but because it had to be HER CHOICE all I did was smile and say “yes Stephanie any day.”

The God Who Cares about Skin Irritation


Matt. 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Matt. 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Editors note:  This is meant to be a contrast with my post earlier this week what My anxiety tells people about God.  While the first post speaks towards of our responses to great needs (God cannot meet them) this one discusses smaller needs (this cannot be important to God).

About a month ago while getting out of the shower one morning I noticed some red marks up and down the inside of my left arm.  I didn’t really bother me at first (just thought it was heat rash) but then the spots showed up on my right arm, and began developing on the back of both hands.  Most of the time it didn’t cause discomfort, but when I sweat the rashes seemed to itch and become inflamed.

God in His wisdom has created me with as a very strong-willed (stubborn) person.  This character trait gives the determination to succeed on the mission field, but it also means that I never..ever ask for help. So of course instead of asking for assistance with the rash or going to the doctor I just decided to “wait it out.”  Even after the rash continued to grow on my legs and upper part of my chest I didn’t do anything about it.

Finally Monday morning while working on sermons I noticed the red spots looking darker than usual and swallowing my pride, went to the local clinic.  It only took about five-minutes for the nurse to tell me it wasn’t an infection, but an allergic reaction to the kind of soap I had been using.  After switching brands and using some Hydrocortisone my rash has healed considerably.   

Much of our needs are like that skin irritation, you know it’s not a serious problem so it is ignored while the more  “pressing needs” of life are dealt with.  So we keep pushing it back over and over till finally it demands to be dealt with.  Even more dangerous than this procrastinating though is the way these needs affect our relationship with God.

Whether consciously or subconsciously we organize our needs into different groups.  Group A is the big needs we need help with, Group B is the one that we can take care of ourselves.  In a way this is healthy since we can deal with most of life’s drama on our own, but it’s also unhealthy because we only ask God for help with the bigger things.

In other words we come to God with our daily needs and say; “okay Father today I will need help with this, and this, and oh this need right here.  But don’t worry I’ve got everything else covered!”

This may seem like humility but in reality it’s an act of rebellion because we (I) tell God what parts of my life need help and what parts don’t.  Even worse we act as if the smaller needs of life don’t matter to God even though Scripture tells us we are His children.

My mother texted me this afternoon and immediately asked why I hadn’t told her and dad about my skin rash.  I told her it wasn’t serious and her exact response was “you share everything!” (exclamation point added).  Her point was as my parents they wanted to know EVERY need in my life even if it was having to change the type of soap I used because I developed a rash.  And in the same way my loving father is offended when I say “oh this isn’t important enough for you to know about I can handle it.”

Does this mean we panic over the small needs of life?  Of course not!  However we can rest in the fact that our father delights when we bring to Him our skin irritations along with the pressing needs of life.

When the Mission Field Becomes Religious Acts 17:22


Acts 17:22 ¶ Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

Though I’ve only been a missionary for a short time (seven years) how missions is done has changed a lot since 2007.  One of the biggest changes is an interesting reversal from going from a religious country (America) to a non-religious one (mission field).

Missions in past generations involved going to places where people had no knowledge of God, and never heard the Gospel.  Today in most cases missionaries go to places filled with Churches, and people who can quote the Romans road by heart.

The truly frightening thing is the roles seem to have been reversed; now the formerly religious nation (America) is becoming more and more pagan, while the formerly pagan nations are becoming more and more religious.

Because mission fields are becoming more religious it’s important for all of us (not just missionaries) to know how to approach them Biblically.  Few passages are better for this than Acts 17.

After unbelieving Jews stirred up Churches where Paul had been preaching in Athens (17:12-13) he was immediately taken to Athens to wait in safety for Timothy and Silas (17:14-15).  While waiting in Athens however Paul was burdened over the idolatry (worship of other Gods) he saw (17:16) and began sharing the Gospel (17:17).

It’s interesting to notice how the people of Athens responded.

  1. The message of the Gospel created discussion (17:18)
  3. Confessing they didn’t understand the Gospel and wanted to know more (17:20)
  4. And even gathered the whole town to hear Paul preach Christ at the Areopagus (Mars Hill)

All of this leads to Paul in 17:22 saying that they were very “religious” (editors note-I prefer this translation which is held by most Bible versions to the KJV translation of “superstitious” because it fits better in the context).

This Biblical picture of religious unsaved is helpful because it allows us to understand those in mission fields will probably respond to our presentation of the Gospel with respect and genuine interest instead of disgust or violent rejection.  In fact they could respond with a testimony of Salvation like a young lady who told me a few weeks ago she was going to Heaven because she was “God’s child” (even though she didn’t know how to become one).

There is a danger in this because we can easily mistake religion for genuine belief in God….and there is obviously a HUGE difference.

In the case of Acts 17 the people of Athens were only interested in learning about a new religion not really believing in God (17:21).  With the religious mission field emphasis is placed on having knowledge of the Gospel instead of genuine belief.  In other words people have the right Bible answers  and believe that head-knowledge is enough to save them.

Thankfully missionaries rarely encounter mission fields where people respond to the Gospel with hatred and persecution…but we do encounter ones where people respond with just head knowledge which is just as dangerous


A Change For Bible Club


It’s been a little over a year since the Lord allowed me to start holding Bible clubs for children on a missionary couples front porch, and after outgrowing that began meeting at the Church every afternoon.  The Lord used that ministry to touch many lives, and it was always a joy to hear children excitedly ask if I would be having Bible club that day.

Since the school year started a few months ago however children haven’t been attending Bible club the way they used to.  That by itself doesn’t bother me since I would rather have a few that really wanted to learn, the truly frustrating thing is a lot of the children who used to come faithfully have now become discipline problems. This doesn’t usually involve direct rebellion but an attempt to attract attention and make themselves look cool (run in and then out constantly, try to get me to chase them, shout at children from outside ect.)

Last Monday I stood in the Church and watched as large groups of children walked by (some who used to always attend) and in my heart knew it was time to make a change with Bible Club.

Now I understand that’s a very controversial statement so let me clarify what it doesn’t mean.

  1. It DOESN’T mean I am quitting the Bible club ministry
  2. It DOESN’T mean I’m going to ignore the children who do attend
  3. It DOESN’T mean I don’t believe God can change the hearts of Barrouallies children through Bible club
  4. It DOES mean Bible club will no longer be my main evangelistic ministry towards children

One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed since Bible club started again was the amount of energy focused on things that I like to call “crowd control” (reminding of rules, rewarding good behavior, calling down those who aren’t obeying, removing some who refuse to obey) and how that takes away from the work of teaching.

It felt like at least 60% of my attention was on “keeping the kids under control” while 40% was on teaching the Gospel.  And as more time was invested in crowd control instead of teaching my frustration level continued to grow, thankfully it never resulted in violence towards the kids, but admittedly they saw Mr. John get mad on more than one occasion.

Standing in the Church that afternoon watching the children walk by I had an important question to answer:

  • Will I continue trying to reach the children primarily through Bible club?
  • Or will I look for another ministry opportunity that makes teaching a focus instead administration?

Though it was hard in that moment I decided that Bible club would become a discipleship ministry for those who “truly wanted to learn” instead of an evangelistic outreach to the children who didn’t know Christ.

With the Lord’s help I’ve taken a more relaxed approach to evangelism by sharing a Bible story with children in the community using a flip-chart version of the tract “God’s Bridge to Eternal Life.”  It takes a lot less time than Bible club and doesn’t always run smoothly (children have short attention spans) but allows me to focus on the Gospel instead of keeping everybody under control.

The truth is I miss focusing on Bible club (used to run two each day) and pray God will help it become an outreach again.  But at the same time every ministry must be held with an “open hand” that allows God to change plans, and when doors of effectiveness temporarily close find the ones that He has opened.

What My Anxiety Tells People about God

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A few Sundays ago the Lord allowed me to speak at a Church about “The God who Provides” from Matthew 6:25-34.  The most convicting part of that passage for me was 6:31-32.

Matt. 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Matt. 6:32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (emphasis added)

Jesus explains here to His disciples that when they are overly anxious about the secondary needs of life like food (6:25-26) or luxuries like beautiful clothing (6:28-30) their actions are the same as unsaved people.

Those who don’t know Christ focus on filling own needs by any means necessary because He doesn’t exist (notice how the religious leaders use others to meet their needs in 6:1-8).  Though Believers know God does exist, it’s easy for us to become overwhelmed by anxiety, and live as if He doesn’t.

This idea of anxieties affect on our testimony became very clear (and convicting) to me over the last three weeks.

About a month ago I noticed one of the tires on my car was developing a slow leak, this is a pretty common problem since some roads in Saint Vincent are hard on your tires (filled with potholes).  Because I was speaking at a Church that Sunday I decided to change the tire early that morning and not take any chances, but was confused when the spare tire wouldn’t go on properly. Turns out the holes on the bottom of the tire rim were less than inch too close together so I needed a new rim.

The leaking tire was fixed Monday but no tire-shops in the area had rims to fit my Nissan since most vehicles in SVG are Toyota’s.  I started visiting stores that sold rims but after realizing how much new ones cost decided to keep looking.  After a few days a local mechanic promised that he could find a rim to fit the car.  Over the last two weeks I went there three times to try tire rims but none fit so was starting to wonder if a Nissan rim could be found.  But on Friday I finally got one that fits, and a working spare.

Over the last two or three weeks not having a spare tire was obviously a point of concern so I drove as little as possible, and as carefully as your ninety-year old grandmother.  However that legitimate concern became something I thought about too much.

  • Every time I left the house I would painstakingly check each tire of the car to make sure they weren’t leaking
  • kick each one to make sure they hadn’t gotten soft
  • Make sure to check each one again as I walked back to the house
  • And sometimes made trips outside JUST TO CHECK ON THE TIRES!


I’m pretty sure the Vincentians didn’t notice how many times a day I checked my tires, but if they did what would it make them think about me as a person?

More importantly what it make them think about God?

My anxiety would send a very clear message to them; “the God of the Universe is able through Christ to deliver me from the penalty of sin, but don’t ask Him to keep a tire from blowing.”

Of course there is a need to have common-sense along with faith….for me to continue driving without a spare tire and think “God will take care of me” is incredibly irresponsible.  So there’s a calling on my part to keep looking for a tire rim that fits-but part of it also believing God will provide one that fits.

The last part of 6:32 “for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things”   was a comfort as I drove the mechanics to see if the latest rim fit (which it did).  Sometimes it seems to me as if the daily drama of life isn’t important enough for God to worry about, after all there are much more important things going on than my tire rim.  But He cares even about the simplest need.

I found myself praying Friday afternoon “Lord you know whether this rim needs to fit because I’m traveling to a Church on the north of the island on Sunday.  But if it doesn’t help me know it was part of your plan for me to drive there without a spare.”

There is no harm in checking the tires when the trouble of life arises.  But when we walk around the car and kick them for the sixth time that day we send the wrong message about God.


Rewards that bring Obedience but not Respect


A little over a year ago a boy who attended Church came by the house for a drink of water.  As I went to get a glass he stepped inside and noticed my iPad sitting on the kitchen table.  “Is that your tablet?” he asked, and within a week I was one of the most popular people in Barrouallie.

I started playing off of the children’s fascination with technology and games by offering “tablet time” to those who were best behaved during Bible club (you would be amazed how well children would behave for two-lives in a game).  Eventually rewards for good behavior began to include koolaid, candy, and stickers but given a choice children would still choose tablet.

While there’s nothing wrong with rewarding positive behavior I need to keep in mind these rewards bring obedience not respect.  And there is a HUGE difference.

Continue reading “Rewards that bring Obedience but not Respect”

The Call to “Spiritual Parenting”

Monday night the Lord allowed me to experience a spiritual high, and low in less than thirty minutes that illustrated clearly the challenge of missions.  At around 6:30 a boy I had been sharing with prayed to accept Jesus (I have doubts about his decision but trust God to continue working in his heart) then about twenty minutes later a group of boys came to my porch with an item that another one had stolen from my house earlier that day.

Because this was an expensive item I decided to send a message and walked him over to the police station.  It actually became a big deal because lots of children were playing nearby and by the time I got to the station there were ten kids with me (thought he would run away and hide the next day)!

Sitting there in the station looking at an eleven year-old boy who according to the police was well known for stealing things one thought went through my mind….how did he get this way?    

While there isn’t a clearly defined right or wrong answer, one of the greatest influences is the lack of structure or authority for the children of Barrouallie.

This doesn’t mean parents just let their children run wild.  Instead in countries like Saint Vincent were jobs are hard to find its common for both parents and other family members to work all day doing something like fishing, or selling produce.  

Obviously not being there means they CAN’T make sure their children do the right thing, or discipline them.  So kids spend most of the day idle (spending time with friends) and come home around 7:00 or 8:00 at night.   As you can imagine spending time with friends instead of family members affects how they define right or wrong.

 Just to clarify this doesn’t mean all the children steal, the one who had stolen from me was being “physically restrained” by two or three others, and a group brought the item back to me.

The truly sad part of the situation Monday night was the boys mother who had just gotten home after working all day, only to be picked up by the police and brought to the station.  My heart broke as she explained to her eleven year old son someday his “thiefing” (stealing) would lead to his death.

Unfortunately this is a common problem not only in Barrouallie, but mission fields around the world, and parts of the United States.  The lack of authority figures who WANT to be there but CAN’T creates a generation of children who don’t respect any authority.

So what is the answer?

Spiritual parenting

In my opinion spiritual parenting means an authority figure takes on the role of mentoring or discipleship with a child that teaches them right from wrong.  Is this the job of their parent or family member?  Of course it is!  But what if that person cannot be there to teach the child right from wrong?

Because all children respect and obey “Mr. John” I have a responsibility to not only teach them Scripture, but take on the role of a spiritual parent.  I’m sure I won’t measure up to being a parent, but this helps keep eleven year olds out of the prison station.

How the Nightly News Hinders Missions


Earlier this week I wrote a post about interest in American politics overseas and how it reveals a desire for a savior or deliverer (in this case America).  That post was positive because an understanding all the world is broken (including the US) shows no individual can truly be our savior, and focuses our eyes on the one true Savior Jesus Christ.

At the same time this interest in American politics is a great hindrance to missions, and sharing the Gospel in particular, because they see the chaos that has erupted from the 2016 presidential election.

Now let me just say this isn’t a post attacking either candidate (though like most of you I have serious issues with both of them) but mourning the fact that nightly news programs loudly publish throughout the world “America is no longer a Christian nation.”

In a way this isn’t a surprise for Americans because we saw our Country slowly drifting away from God long before same-sex marriage was accepted by the Supreme Court, transgenders use of bathrooms became a hot-topic, and religious freedom was confined to four walls on Sunday.  The presidential election isn’t the source of our brokeness, but puts a spotlight on it for the world to see.

Sadly many people in mission fields were unaware just how bad things had become in America…they know now

and now that they know America’s chaos becomes my identity instead of the Gospel.

When I first came to Barrouallie St. Vincent everybody called me “white man” for about a month till the started learning my name.  Thankfully they all call me John now, but as one of the three white people in town, being American is still a huge part of my identity.  This isn’t too much of a problem since I don’t expect people to look upon me as “Vincentian” and I’ll always be proud to be an American.

Since I’m from the States though people would talk to me about American things like:

  1. Where they had been in America
  2. Sports in the US
  3. American TV shows or movies
  4. And things things that were different back home

This week because the discussion of American things included

  1. Muslim terrorists
  2. Gun control
  3. the riots in Charlotte
  4. and racial profiling

In the mornings and evenings I always take a walk around the community to develop relationships, and share Christ.  As conversations during those walks turned from small-talk to what they saw on Foxnews or CNN it became more and more difficult to turn them towards their need of Jesus.

Even worse I was no longer identified as “John the missionary who came to share Christ with us” but “John the missionary whose parents lived two-hours from those riots in Charlotte”, or “John the missionary from the Country were racism is rampant”,or “John the missionary from the Country where everyone owns guns.”

These unspoken identifications aren’t true of course (not everyone’s a racist, and not everyone owns a gun) but the point is watching news coverage from the US makes them THINK that’s true, and in the end that’s all that matters.  

Satan hates the Gospel…he would rather people talk about anything except their need of a Savior.  Unfortunately the news gives Vincentians plenty of other things to talk about, and if I’m not careful its incredibly easy to start arguing about “issues” (with someone who cannot vote) instead of clarifying the Gospel.

Unfortunately I don’t have an easy answer to this problem (don’t think there is one) but maybe the first step is remembering the unsaved in mission-fields are watching.

  • The see the chaos
  • And politicians acting like spoiled children
  • news programs that turn into shouting matches
  • Division over what people “self identify” as
  • Social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter turning into tools that attack other viewpoints
  • And a Government that exudes more and more control over Churches

They see our brokenness

They know we have turned from God

so with the Lord’s help may I become known as “John the missionary who owns his Countries brokenness (along with his own) and with every newscast confesses America’s need of a Savior.”

Matthew 6:25-The God of Secondary Needs


Matt. 6:25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (emphasis added)

Matthew chapter six is a contrast between two ways of life.  The first is one that seeks praise or glory of men through public religious actions (6:2, 6:5, 6:16) the second does them secretly so God (who sees in secret) will give the reward (6:4, 6:6, 6:18). Actually this isn’t about religious worship but our source of happiness (6:19-20) and whether things are more important to us than God (6:24).

Because what we expend our energy towards reveals what we worship (6:19-20, 6:25) Jesus encourages His disciples not to overthink about the secondary needs of life such as food or clothing.



While studying this passage for a sermon on Sunday from Matthew 6:25-34 I was interested in the last phrase “Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment.”  Basically it means there were more important things to worry about, and in a deeper sense God had already given them life (their primary need) so He could definitely be trusted to meet their secondary needs.

Continue reading “Matthew 6:25-The God of Secondary Needs”

Why I Stopped Screaming “Come to See Us”

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Last night as we were finishing a Bible study from the book of Mark I asked if anyone had questions or insights about what we had been covering.  One of the members raised her hand and in frustration told me about a friend she had repeatedly invited to Church, but always refused to do so.  “How do I get her to come to Church?” she asked.

This Believer was speaking towards one of the greatest struggles in missions.  There can be no doubt that the local Church is God’s tool to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ through the preaching of Scripture, evangelism, and discipleship of Believers.  However many people are either not interested in attending a Church, or already attend one that doesn’t preach the Gospel.

To be honest I had been struggling with the question she asked myself (how do I get people to come to Church?) for a while. No matter how hard I tried it every attempt at an answer seemed to fail, and it wasn’t till recently I understood why.  

Almost every answer had to do with a program

Basically my attempt to bring people in was creating programs at the Church and excitedly telling people “come to see us”!  The Lord truly uses this ministry philosophy, but my friend and myself (along with you) have learned there are individuals who won’t come to any program

The temptation in situations like this is to launch new programs thinking “this is the one that will work!”  But this is like screaming “come to see us” as loud as we can to someone who is deaf.


Recently the Lord helped me realize 90% of my ministry was program-driven through the local Church (screaming come to see us).  The problem with this is I’m ministering in a very religious mission field where the vast majority of people attend Church somewhere, so an invitation to a ministry is met with “oh I go to __________.”

My first response was to begin thinking of new programs that could be held at my house instead of Church, but in the midst of that the Lord helped me understand I was still screaming “come see us” and though that may reach a few, the majority of Barrouallie would still refuse to come.

The answer to our struggle isn’t screaming louder but changing the statement.  Instead of saying “come to us” we should confidently say “I’ll come to you.” This involves interacting with people where they are in relationship development, finding where they are spiritually, sharing the gospel, explaining the truths of God’s Word, and maybe even starting a Bible study.  One of the largest differences is this takes eyes that are open to the opportunities God brings.

Yesterday during my afternoon walk I carried a small book with Bible pictures in my back pocket, and a New Testament instead of my phone in the front pocket.  Eventually I came by a boy named Jaymarie who was playing football (that’s soccer for Americans) with his friends, he had asked me to tell him a Bible story a few days ago (couldn’t attend Bible club) so we sat down on his steps and I asked him to pick out a story.

He ended up choosing a picture of an Israelite sacrificing a lamb for his sins in the tabernacle so we talked for a while about why God wanted that lamb to die, and how those sacrifices were a picture of Jesus.  “Jaymarie” I asked, “if you died today where would you go?”  he was able to tell me Heaven, but couldn’t give a reason why God would let him in.

Slowly I opened to Romans 10:9-10 and explained the only way to enter Heaven is by confessing our sins and believing in Jesus.  “Have you ever done that?” I asked and Jaymarie shook his head no.  Because it would be easy to force him into a decision at that point I told Jaymarie we would talk about it more later…Lord willing I’ll be able to share more today.

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 20:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation

A program at Church may have brought more people but I seriously doubt it would have offered the opportunity to share the Gospel one on one with Jaymarie.

The local Church will always be God’s chosen tool for fulfilling the Great Commission, however the Lord is helping me understand sometimes the answer isn’t screaming louder, but quietly listening for His voice.


The Overseas Political Conversation, and a Search for a Savior

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Through the years God has taught me many important lessons about the differences between America, and overseas cultures. One of the first (and most important) came as I sat with a group of fellow Australian Missionaries at a local coffee shop on a Thursday morning.  As we chatted an Aussie sitting nearby said to us “hey are you guys American?” and after learning we were, he asked who we were voting for in the upcoming presidential election.  He then went a step farther by telling us who we needed to vote for and why!

This and other experiences quickly taught me individuals in mission fields love to discuss American politics.

This took me by surprise because at the time (2008 I believe) it was taboo for Americans to ask about another persons political affiliation, and even today discussion of politics is usually only reserved for close friends. Things are different overseas where individuals are very aware of whats going on in America (through CNN, FoxNews, and constant updates from social media) and enjoy using politics as a topic of daily conversation.

While these discussions surprised me at first I learned to enjoy, and even look forward to them:

  1. Because they challenge me to clearly explain, and defend my position
  2. Opened the door for religious conversations
  3. are a good way to break the ice with people
  4. And help me view whats happening in the US from their viewpoint

More than anything I love these discussions because they reveal we live in a broken world….and everyone is looking for a Savior.

It’s interesting that most of my political conversations overseas revolve around who I’m voting for (like the coffee shop conversation) instead of issues.  Even more fascinating is the fact that many of those individuals overseas connect THEMSELVES to America’s leadership even though they would never be able to vote.  Last night I walked by a Vincentian who was excitedly explaining to his friends how he used to be a Republican, but changed to a Democrat when Obama ran for president 🙂

Part of this connection with the American political system is because they know what happens in the US heavily affects their Country (something I didn’t understand till becoming a missionary).  But I personally believe it goes deeper and has to do with their search for a Savior.

For many of these people America is seen as a land of opportunity.  They notice the brokenness of their country (every society has problems) then look to the US as a land that was seemingly perfect and think, “if only I could live there.”  Recent years however revealed the so-called “perfect land” is extremely far from it (of course America never was).  Riots, shootings, political unrest, and violence viewed daily on their television screens reveal that the whole world is broken.  It’s my opinion this desire for one Country that “isn’t broken” leads people overseas to latch onto American leaders who promise to fix our brokenness.

The fact is no leader no matter how charismatic or wise could heal our world that has been broken since Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden of Eden.  They may make the right decisions initially, but eventually everyone will be corrupted by power.  It is only in the New Heaven and New Earth where brokenness will be forgotten (Revelation 21:1-2).

It’s tempting to avoid these political conversations (I did as much as I could initially) because they can become confrontational and awkward.  Yet the Lord gives few better opportunities to explain men cannot truly fix the worlds problems.

Yesterday I met with an unsaved friend named Steve.  During our conversation we talked about racial profiling, black lives matter, Muslim terrorism, riots in Charlotte, and of course the upcoming presidential election.  Though it was awkward at times I embraced that conversation because it highlighted we are all incredibly broken…and pointed towards the one true Savior.

Why Understanding the Gospel is Not Enough

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A few weeks ago Tabernacle began a visitation ministry on Monday nights.  Basically this involved going from house to house handing out tracts, inviting people to Church, and sharing the Gospel if possible.  This kind of ministry in a religious town like Barrouallie (I’ve been told there are as many as ten Churches in the area) makes those conversations very interesting.

Many towns in SVG could be called “religious mission fields” because almost everyone goes to a Church.  This results in a culture of unsaved people who think they are saved, and may be able to give answers that a saved person would share, but have no real relationship with Christ.

The big problem is people like this actually understand the Gospel, but haven’t placed their faith in it.  Mack Stiles says in his book “Marks of the Messenger“explains their spiritual need this way, “Understanding is not enough, there must be heartfelt, deep-seated faith and trust in Christ, His work and His call to us personally.”  This is bad news for many people in Barrouallie (and around the world) who have an understanding head-knowledge of what the Gospel teaches, but it’s never affected their heart.

Last night during visitation I noticed a teenage girl who sometimes attends Bible Club nearby so I walked over and gave her a tract.  As we were talking  the Lord led me to use one of my favorite questions when sharing the Gospel,”if you went to Heaven today and God asked why he should let you in, what would you tell him?”  (this question comes from Share Jesus Without Fear by Bill Faye, I find his questions and conversation starters very useful when witnessing.)

Our question went something like this

Me:  “Anna (not her real name) if you died today and after getting to Heaven God asked why should I let you into heaven?  what would you tell Him?”

Anna:  (thinking a moment) “I would tell Him I am a child of God”

Me:  “okay, so how does somebody become a child of God?”

Anna:  (biting her lip)  “umm do good things?”

Sadly our culture is filled with Anna’s who can explain the Gospel but have never truly experienced it for themselves.  Even more heartbreaking they believe that understanding of Salvation is enough to get them into Heaven.

So how do we reach the Anna’s of this world?  While it’s definitely not an easy task I believe in the words of Mack Styles we must explain “understanding is not enough.”  Christ Himself made this very clear when encountered by a demon-possessed man in Mark chapter one.

Mark 1:21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:23 ¶ And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
Mark 1:24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
Mark 1:25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
Mark 1:26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. (emphasis added)

Obviously this demon (notice the words “us”, and “we” that proves its the demon speaking not the man) knew exactly who Jesus was, but Christ sent him out of the man.  Later we are told Jesus didn’t allow the demons to speak because they knew who He was (Mark 1:34). Christ knew their confession came from fear of being cast out instead of true-repentance.  Again “understanding (confession of Christ) is not enough, there must be a faith and trust in Christ.”

Now I could spend hours explaining to Anna why calling herself a child of God couldn’t save her if she got there by doing works, and didn’t have a firm grasp on what it meant to believe in Jesus.  But it’s my personal opinion a knowledge that understanding the Gospel isn’t enough to save her comes through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

So its my job to MOVE PAST THE BASIC GOSPEL ANSWER and with loving questions bring that uncomfortable moment when they bite their lip.  This through prayer and conversation puts what Ted Koukl in his book “Tactics“calls “a pebble in their shoe.”  That small seed of doubt (what would I say to God?) is used by the Holy Spirit to bring Biblical conviction, and prepare for future Gospel Based conversations.

May God break our hearts over the Anna’s of this world, and give us opportunities to lovingly show understanding is not enough to save them.


The Messiah Complex vs The Entrepreneur

This morning I read an interesting article from Acton Institute Powerblog  but originally found on the Foundation for Economic Education Website entitled “Local Entrepreneurs, not foreign-do gooders are the true Hope of Africa.”  It pointed out the fact that though lots of foreign aid is given towards countries with extreme poverty problems like Africa, it doesn’t seem to be making a huge difference.

I found this article interesting because it highlighted a common problem for missionaries, specifically that even though you come to meet spiritual needs, there area always going to be physical ones as well.  And how you choose to meet those needs (or whether you meet them at all) is a very big decision.

To be perfectly honest my first thought when seeing people in need is to help them, however its very easy for that to become a “Messiah Complex.”  This idea comes from a blog post by Joseph Sunde in March 2016 particularly dealing with a messiah complex in short-term missions.  He describes it this way…

When you roll in and hand out a bunch of soccer balls and candy to kids, it undermines the bridges of trust built through partnering and instead sends the message of easy “Aid” and spreads dependency. It makes it much harder on them when you leave when they wonder why this friend who has been staying with them over years never “gives them stuff.” If you have gifts, only bring what they’ve asked and let them hand them out at a time they deem appropriate…

In other words giving things to people in need is good…but it can also create a sense of dependency upon those gifts in the future.

The fact that aid can develop a dependency can lead to lots of frustration, or an unwillingness to give things away.  That kind of attitude shared in my blog post “why I don’t give things away” in March was an attempt to find a middle ground with that struggle making people “earn gifts,” however since then I’ve changed my mind on the subject and decided this kind of attitude doesn’t share the love of Christ.

Instead of making people earn things I give out use of items freely (such as juice, my tablet, internet or computer) offer water to anyone who wants it, and will occasionally give out a few dollars if it’s needed, but prefer to spend money on fresh fruits and vegetables grown by Vincy’s.  On the other hand I know that giving out tablet time or a few dollars isn’t going to meet the financial needs of St. Vincent (our area in particular needs new jobs)….that is accomplished by funding local entrepreneurs.

The post this morning described an organization that instead of giving large amounts of financial aid in Africa, looked for people within the country who had created new ways of dealing with needs (lack of water, food).  The group then would help them with financial aid or training if needed until their business could be taught and reproduced in other villages.  The goal was to have workshops or meetings were Africans can immediately go home and begin doing that for themselves.  While that may not be look as spectacular as the financial aid philosophy, it will give a long-term impact as the people will eventually become self funding.

The bottom line is though Missionaries aren’t called to meet the financial needs of a culture, we cannot be blind to them either.  And much of what we (Missionaries, myself included) in love and generosity can create a messiah complex where people have an expectation of receiving things.  The answer isn’t slamming the door shut or asking “why they deserve something” as I used to believe, but looking for entrepreneurs who are working to find a way of doing things for themselves, and meeting needs creatively.

There will always sadly be people who hold their hands out for a dollar in every country but won’t work for it (especially America) so as Christians we must make sure the majority of our funds goes towards those who will use it to help and teach others.

Why Missionaries should stop Planting Churches 

A few weeks ago I began traveling to Other Baptist Churches in St. Vincent on Sunday mornings.  Though they often ask my to speak this isn’t about preaching, but developing relationships with Believers outside of Barrouallie, and understanding better the spiritual needs of Vincentian Churches.

Yesterday the Lord allowed me to visit Bethany Baptist Church in the town of Stubbs (about an hour away).  Before Sunday School I was chatting with some members  about how I and other missionaries can help St. Vincent’s Christians and one of them asked why we (missionaries) always planted new Churches when there were already established Churches that needed help.

Of course Church-planting (starting a new Church in an unchurched area)  has always been a very important part of missions.  However in many mission fields (St. Vincent included) it’s becoming harder and harder to find areas that are truly “unchurched.”

For instance in Barrouallie and it’s surrounding area alone i’ve been told you can find ten different Churches.  Now it’s true not all of those will be Gospel preaching Bible believing Churches (we are surrounded by Pentecostal) so there can be a need even in “churched areas” for Church planting.  Yet I found myself driving past at least three different Bible believing Churches in less than 20 minutes on my way to Stubbs yesterday.

Which brings us to the Church members question…why plant a Church when established ones are in need?

There are actually some good reasons for this;

  1. These Churches are normally led by a National, and since our goal is to equip local pastors a Missionary would prefer to start a new work
  2. While these Churches have great needs, there are usually Vincentian Believers already attending who could meet those needs (a missionaries place is to encourage or motivate and train those believers)
  3. And the financial support and training missionaries have make it easier for them to plant a new Church

While there other reasons for this, in my heart I believe one of the greatest reasons church planting is chosen over church revitalization is it’s just easier.

Now I realize that when most people think about Church planting the word “easy” doesn’t come to mind.  But  in this situation you start with a clean slate.   With “Church revitalization” however missionaries may have to deal with lots of drama.

  1. A smaller group of believers who may be discouraged, or wounded by a former missionary or pastor
  2. Instead of creating your own own culture (philosophy of ministry) you adapt to the Churches culture that already exists.
  3. Since we are dealing with human beings there’s bound to be relational conflict
  4. It always takes time to develop relationships or earn trust
  5. And some smaller churches have huge problems that must be dealt with right away
  6. But even though Church revitalization is messy and filled with challenge, there is a far greater need for it today than Church planting.

Editors Note:  Please don’t see this as a criticism of just Vincentian Churches, there is an even greater need for church’s revitalization ministries in the United States.

More than anything else the difference between Church planting and Church Revitalization is the message it sends

Church planting says to the Nationals “stand aside and let me do the work”

Church revitalization says to the Nationals “let me help you do the work”

In other words Church revitalization focuses on training, discipleship, and leadership development of members who are already there.  Church planting lends itself towards a pioneering view of ministry which if we aren’t careful can become just about the Missionary.

As we got ready for Sunday school in Stubbs one of the men began listing areas outside of Kingstown (farther north) where almost all of the Churches were struggling, and there was nobody to help them.  As I drove back to Barrouallie that afternoon the Lord placed a burden upon my heart for Church revitalizing missionaries who would dive into the drama, and grow those struggling Churches instead of planting new ones.

Hanging Up My Lashing Hat


About 5:30 last night I slowly walked onto my porch and sank down into a chair.  It had been a long afternoon and my legs were killing me, so I decided to fix some french-fries for dinner (my favorite comfort food).  About thirty-minutes later as I watched sports a neighborhood boy walked onto the porch just at the moment my fries were ready (I would accuse him for coming at that moment on purpose, but have no idea how he could know they were ready).  As we sat and talked for a while part of me wanted to keep the fries a secret, but decided to share them anyway.  As I was putting the fries on the plate a DIFFERENT VOICE called my name and the temptation to hide my fries was even greater!

I brought the plate outside and instructed them to take five fries each.  This began a game I like to call “get Mr. John to chase you around the porch and steal fries while his back is turned.”  This eventually turned into another crowd favorite “lashing hat” which involved my chasing the kids and hitting them with a kangaroo leather hat (not too hard) as they laughed hysterically.  Somewhere during this a THIRD child showed up and as you can imagine they consumed my comfort food in about five minutes (I did get to eat a few of them.)

Things like sharing a meal and playing “lashing hat” are actually a vital part to ministry with children because it develops relationships, and are teaching moments. Many deep conversations have occurred over pancakes, french-fries, and the occasional vegetable.  However it’s extremely easy to get so wrapped up in playing games that the Gospel isn’t shared.

The Lord convicted my heart last night as I thought about how much time had been spent on those relationship development ministries, and then comparing that with how many moments the Gospel was shared in a direct way.  I do my best to share the Gospel during those relationship development moments, but as you can imagine the kids only pay attention to the fun stuff.   And if kids only remember things like tablet time, juice, candy, and a lashing hat instead of the Gospel when my name’s mentioned there is a problem.

So as much as it hurts me I have to hang up the lashing hat

In other words chasing kids around the porch, lashing them, and sharing meals will no longer be a big part of ministry (only for special occasions), and to be honest Bible stories will probably come to an end as well (they know them all anyways).  In it’s place will be teaching about the Gospel, and how it affects their lives.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not going to become Ebeneezer Scrooge and start telling punk kids to “get off my lawn.”  I’m sure they will always have fun with Mr John no matter what I do…yet its my responsibility as a Missionary to give them a better reason to come to my house than stealing french-fries.

Moving from the Religiouis Conversation to a Church Service 


A few weeks after arriving in Barrouallie for a six-month ministry term I met a man named Philip (not his real name) and we ended up talking for almost forty-five minutes about St. Vincent, the needs of Barrouallie, and even his spiritual beliefs (Phillip doesn’t know the Lord).  Since that first conversation its been a goal of mine to get Phillip attending services at Tabernacle since he didn’t attend anywhere, and the local Church is in my opinion Gods chosen tool for missions.

Continue reading “Moving from the Religiouis Conversation to a Church Service “

The Ministry of Small Talk

waterAfter a little Over a year in Barrouallie (arrived September 7, 2015) I’m used to the way things are done and have seen the Lord open many doors of ministry.  However I still struggle with small-talk….and I’m learning that is a HUGE part of missions.

I’m an introvert at heart which means taking the first step in communication is difficult, but after that talking is a lot easier.  People have said when they first met me they tried to make me talk, but after that they tried to get me to shut up :-).

Being an introvert means small-talk is difficult to begin (especially when I don’t know people) and quite often leads to awkwardness.  I find myself agreeing with author Sammy Rhodes

If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to do small talk well, because anyone who does it well is a superhero as far as I’m concerned. I’m more like the Aquaman of small talk: people don’t remember much about me except that I’m weird.  “From This is Awkward” by Sammy Rhodes

The thing about small-talk (having an extended conversation with others ) is difficult even for extroverted people because it’s filled with things like awkwardness, uncomfortable silences, or lulls in the conversation.  Maybe the reason this is so hard (and why I’m so bad at it) is many of us no longer view small-talk as an important part of life.

A very important lesson the Lord has taught me during my time in Barrouallie is small talk is ministry.  Last week I wrote a post about my view of ministry as activity (why I need a day off).  This activity centered philosophy caused me to not only views things like study or writing as unimportant because there’s no direct ministry, but at times viewed small-talk as laziness.

In my mind since small-talk is wasn’t part of ministry and it led to awkwardness there wasn’t any place for it in life;

I have never been more wrong

Yesterday during one of my afternoon walks the Lord convicted me about the fact that I don’t know the names of over 50% of the people who greet me in Barrouallie .  Everyone happens to know my name (has to do with the fact that I’m one of the only white people in town) but ever time they say “good afternoon” I always respond with “buddy, pal, brother” or something like that.  A few seconds after realizing that a thought came into my mind…

How can you reach someone with the Gospel if you don’t even know their name?

It’s true that Churches don’t support me so that I can sit down and talk with people all day, but it’s also true that NEVER sitting down and talking with them is a huge detriment to ministry. I’m thankful for the conviction of God yesterday that led me to turn off all my electronics, leave my phones at home, and just take a walk this morning.  A walk where more than once I said “I’m so sorry but I completely forgot your name.”

The Moment an iPhone Becomes a Luxury

One of the  blessings of living in St. Vincent is realizing many of things I enjoyed in the past can be lived without…in other words many things in the US are luxuries instead of necessities.  Of course there is a place for luxuries in a missionary’s life, but honestly on Mission fields they are usually too expensive, so you do without.

For instance during my time in Barrouallie I’ve decided the following luxuries are too expensive to purchase.

Lucky Charms


Dr. Pepper


And Starbucks Coffee


(Editors note-these amounts are in East Caribbean Dollars so in US Dollars it will end up being about half the listed price)

The truth is many of the things taken for granted in the States (just a 15 minute drive to Walmart) are now viewed as luxuries in St. Vincent so I just dont buy them.  But there is at least one luxury I cling to tenaciously…my American phone.

Continue reading “The Moment an iPhone Becomes a Luxury”

A Locked Gate Philosophy of Ministry

Locking the Gate

This Sunday I will be speaking from Acts 19 on the open doors of ministry and enemies of Paul.  One of the more interesting parts of that passage is in 19:8-9.

Acts 19:8   And he (Paul) went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

Evidently after preaching the Gospel (19:8) some refused to believe while others were open to Salvation and spiritual growth.  Paul’s response was to draw those who were listening into a more intense discipleship ministry, and leave those whose hearts were hardened.  In practical ministry terms Paul got to a point where he refused to waste large amounts of time or energy on those who refused to listen.

In all the years since Paul’s death things haven’t really changed that much in missions

Some individuals will be open to the Gospel….

And some will absolutely refuse to believe

The challenge for us in evangelism is separating ourselves from those with hardened hearts, and calling the disciples into a deeper teaching ministry

Yesterday was without a doubt one of the worst Bible clubs since my time began in Barrouallie (maybe the worst).  It was as if EVERYTHING went wrong!

Continue reading “A Locked Gate Philosophy of Ministry”

Dealing With the “I Prefer Your _____” Conversations

One of the greatest blessings that God has given me in ministry is the opportunity to work alongside a veteran missionary who has served for close to twenty-eight years in Saint Vincent. His guidance, insight, and loving “I wouldn’t do it that way” conversations have been a tremendous help in my first year of ministry in SVG.

Actually during my first six-months in Barrouallie he was in the States caring for serious medical issues so our relationship was limited to Skype or Facebook chats. Spending half of my first year as intern pastor his absence, and the second half in discipleship ministries. Unfortunately this leads to some awkward conversations or situations with other people.

Continue reading “Dealing With the “I Prefer Your _____” Conversations”

Why I need a Day Off

img_0811Next week some new ministries begin at Tabernacle that I’m very excited about to go along with the beginning of a new school year.  I was looking over a flyer that will hopefully go up over the weekend with a veteran missionary when he looked up and asked, “when is your day off?”  I explained that Monday was my day off since the only ministry done was Bible Club, discipleship, homework help, and some stories  (2 1/2 hours of ministry) but he shook his head.  “No that won’t work” he told me, “there needs to be a day you do no ministry.”

I started to laugh but then realized he had a dead serious expression on his face.  “Oh man” I though to myself, “he really means it!”

Continue reading “Why I need a Day Off”

The Glory of a Random/Weak Facebook Post

IMG_1437As a missionary I find myself using social-media websites such as Facebook, or Twitter for ministry updates instead of sending monthly newsletters (though I do send at least one of those a month).  There are few reasons for this.

  1. It’s common for people to change their email addresses so they no longer receive the updates, or they go to a persons spam folder
  2. Individuals spend a lot of time of social-media sites (it’s a more popular form of communication)
  3. and its easier to share these posts with others

While this updated technology is a blessing, it almost makes sharing information “too easy.”  In other words of frustration and anger, oversharing, approval seeking (sharing a story just so people will feel sorry for you), or personal opinion on an issue instead of Scripture can be shared just as easily as a prayer request.

Continue reading “The Glory of a Random/Weak Facebook Post”

When Meals are Missional

One of my biggest goals after returning as a full-time Missionary to SVG (and particularly during the summer) is to begin discipleship relationships with children and adults in Barrouallie.  Up till now I’ve had relationships with them centering on teaching or ministry, particularly the children through my daily Bible clubs, but there was a great need to take the next step with discipleship.

The big difference between a ministry based relationship and a discipleship one is ministries incredibly structured, and lasts a short-period of time (Bible club lasts thirty minutes).  Discipleship relationships however use the random teaching moments of life that arise as people spend time together.  Its definitely a lot messier and frustrating than ministry relationships at times, but it has a greater impact.

For me a big part of transitioning into discipleship relationships was opening my house for kids to come by almost any time for a glass of water and a Bible story.  At first there were no restrictions on this, but recently I’ve begun enforcing a rule that says you can only come by three times a day for water 🙂  Along with this some of the best behaved young people are given “special privileges” at my home that include drinking coffee (roughly 1/2 inches in a cup), playing a game inside, reading a book, or sharing a meal.

Yes you read that right…at this point I have a visitor for dinner almost every night

Continue reading “When Meals are Missional”

Returning to Curtain

Since the summer break is ending in about a week I’ve spent a few days evaluating my summer ministry opportunities (what went well, what didn’t) and refocusing on what needs to be done before some of Tabernacles ministries begin again.

Most of the changes that come from this time of evaluation aren’t very surprising

  1. I need to work on a more organized teaching style instead of reading quick Bible-stories like the summer
  2. I must begin launching new ministries and trust God to bring the people instead of trying to get everything perfect right away
  3. I need to start working from home again instead of the Church (this allows ministry to happen, but strong Bible teaching requires privacy and intense study)
  4. And I need to return to curtain

That last one is what gets me and its probably going to be the most difficult

Continue reading “Returning to Curtain”

When Privileges are Viewed as Rights  

It’s been just over a year since the Lord brought me to Barrouallie Saint Vincent as a missionary, so recently I began looking back on some of the lesson that He has taught me here.  One of the first learned (and most important) is explaining the difference between a privilege and a right.

In my ministry with children many things are given out such as water, candy, koolaid, games on my tablet, bible stories , peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or toast.  While some of these things are always given out to everyone (like water or a story) the other items are used as rewards for positive behavior.  For instance in Bible club the best behaved student gets their choice between a glass of juice, a piece of candy, or tablet time.

Beyond these daily rewards there’s a second level based on the amount of good marks (ticks) children have for good behavior.  The general rule is once someone gets twenty good marks they are rewarded with an extended amount of tablet time (5 minutes).  Then there is the highest level of rewards given to children who exhibit an attitude and testimony of excellence.  These are allowed to drink my coffee, watch Netflix  (supervised) for 10 minutes, play a game inside the house if it’s more than two people, and even share a meal!

I love offering these rewards to children and encouraging their positive behavior (would give candy, koolaid, and tablet to everyone but it would be overwhelming).  However it’s necessary to explain these rewards are special things earned by their obedience instead of privileges that they always deserve to have.  In other words if someone decides they don’t want to listen or obey during Bible Club, they have no right to demand a glass of juice.

I realize this may sound harsh to some of you so let me clarify my first response when a child asks for a reward isn’t to ask what they have done to deserve it ?”   Instead I try to take into account other things like how hard the child is working, if something like answering questions is harder for them than others, and when is the last time I rewarded them?  Unfortunately I’m not in the position to reward everyone.

At the same time it must be made clear these rewards are privileges (things earned) instead of rights (things you can can demand)

Earlier this week I had to take drastic measures to explain that difference to a boy who is normally EXTREMELY well-behaved, and is used to having a cup of my coffee almost every day.  A few weeks ago he began to develop a bit of attitude problem, this continued growing till day three of VBS last week after which he was a perfect angel.  On Friday when we announced winners of prizes he was confused (and a little upset) about not receiving one and asked me about it; in his mind being there every day and saying all the verses entitled him to one.  I calmly explained he was in a tie with some of the other boys and they received prizes because he had a  bad attitude.

I thought after that experience he realized rewards couldn’t be expected for bad behavior…I was wrong

While with me Monday he decided to directly disobey one of my rules and afterwards felt like saying sorry was all that needed to be done.  Now I’m a kind-hearted soul but realizing he hadn’t learned his lesson (he wanted to come to my house and hang out afterwards) I banned him from any special activities.

  1. No coffee
  2. No water with lemon
  3. No peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  4. No games
  5. No feeding the cat 🙂

Today in mercy I allowed him to come and sit on the porch for 10 minutes but that was it.  When he asked why I wasn’t letting him do all the things before (he asked to help me make sandwiches, and play inside) I informed him he had broken my trust and had to work his way up to that level of rewards.

I don’t know this probably makes me sound like a cruel heartless person, but I can guarantee after he earns those special rewards in about two-weeks he will think twice about doing the wrong thing.  And Lord willing he will know they are privileges  not rights

If you Start it They Will Come

One of my favorite movies is based around the phrase “if you build it they will come” (Field of Dreams), and  the Lord is teaching me that phrase has ministry implications as well.

In mid-June when the school year ended I decided to have a summer break for some children’s ministries, in particular the Bible Club that was held on weekday afternoons at 3:00 since children weren’t coming home from school during that time.  While there  may have been one or two attendees sometimes usually  it wasn’t worth the work since often nobody came.

There is a sense where my Bible Club decision was based on a popular principle for Christian Ministries; don’t begin a work until there is a great need or call for it.  In other words, if all the kids are coming home from school at 3:00 then you should definitely have Bile Club at that time.  The flip side of that coin however says if there isn’t a real need for the ministry, then don’t do it.

There’s definitely wisdom in this principle since missionaries cannot meet every need that surrounds them, but it also keeps us from launching new ministries.

Launching new ministries is almost always a step of faith because there aren’t huge crowds clamoring for it.  Instead you start with one or two people (if any) and slowly build from there.

Between you and me I would rather focus on established ministries because they’re a lot easier and people are used to them.  It’s just second nature for kids to race themselves to the Church after school for Bible Club since they are used to it, and of course ministering to a crowed of 12 to 18 children is a blessing.

But launching new ministries brings more Glory to God

  1. Since the ministry doesn’t bring glory to myself (no large crowds)
  2. It develops patience and requires hard work
  3. For the most part the kids who come there will truly want to be there
  4. New ministries are almost never launched in our own strength so it will take much prayer

Yesterday afternoon I officially started afternoon Bible Clubs again even though a big part of me didn’t expect anyone to come.

The Lord blessed by bringing four boys, but the fact is faithfully ministering even though the room is empty takes more  character than ministering to a full one.




Learning to Live With Island Time

Yesterday morning we completed the 2016 Vacation Bible School for Tabernacle Baptist Church.  The Lord used this years VBS to help me in many ways, but the most important was pointing out some misconceptions that I have about children’s ministry.

It’s common when working with children for us to  hold them to a lower expectation than adults.  For instance if a twenty-eight year old becomes upset after someone took his chair while he played with friends my response will be a lot harsher than if it was a ten or eleven year old.  In its basic sense this is a good thing (10 year olds cannot be expected to act like adults in my opinion) however I often find myself also holding children to a lower standard along with those lower expectations.

While a lower expectation and standard sounds similar there are MASSIVE differences

  1. Lower expectations don’t expect children to obey perfectly right away, but refuse to lower the standard
  2. Lower standards believe children cannot achieve the requirements, so rules are lowered to a level they can meet

With the Lords help I have been able to achieve a balance of carefully lowering expectations (not expecting to much right away) while refusing to lower standards.  But last week at VBS taught me there was a blind spot in my ministry when it came to being on time.

Most people in Saint Vincent live by “island time” which basically means lots people come to services and activities at least 15 minutes late.  Now let me say not all Vincentians are this way, and its definitely not just a problem in SVG (Australia is the same way) so please don’t view this as being disrespectful towards the people of Saint Vincent.  This does create ministry challenges though because I’ve grown up with “American time” which for the most part means if a person arrives on time that makes them late, and as any Missionary can tell you, “American time” doesn’t translate very well into foreign cultures 🙂

Over time this cultural difference led me to stop making coming in late a serious problem (I do believe people should be on time, but it isn’t a Doctrinal issue).  Unfortunately that expectation for lateness became a belief that they COULDN’T come in on time….moving from lowered expectations to a lowering of standards.

One of my challenges in ministry is getting children to faithfully attend services at Tabernacle Baptist Church.  For the most part kids want to come, but working with “island time” and its being the summer means its very easy to forget what time Church services are.  So it isn’t abnormal for children to come very late, or just not show up at all.  Experiences like this made me think children COULDN’T tell time (lowered standard) instead of it being harder for them since parents aren’t always there to tell a child when its time for Church, or take them there  (lowered expectation).

Thankfully the Lord used VBS last week to show island children could indeed tell time

Leading up to the last day (Friday) we opened up the gate to Church at 9:00 and there would be four or five kids waiting there.  Imagine my surprise when I came to find ten to fifteen children waiting 30 minutes before the door opened!  Since some special events were planned on Friday so it was decided that the gate would be locked at 9:40 (kids had been coming in after 10:00 on other days) so a crowd of 50 to 60 were expected….We ended up with eighty!

One boy from VBS learned that he was going to get sweeties (candy) at Church Sunday morning for saying a lot of verses and told to be there at 9:30.  Instead he showed up at my house ALREADY DRESSED FOR CHURCH AT JUST AFTER 8:00!  Let me say that again…he came to my house in dress clothes almost an hour and a half early!!!

Its easy to become frustrated when children don’t live up to our expectations and lower our standards for them.  But I’m grateful for God’s reminder that with the proper motivation, they will strive to achieve those higher standards.

When Ministry Is Frustrating

Vacation Bible School is a week from Monday and I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to teach seventy children about the Gospel of Christ.  There are many parts of VBS that I love

  1. Seeing the excitement on children’s faces as they answer a Bible question for their team correctly
  2. Listening to boys and girls recite their memory verses
  3. Watching the child go from disciplinary problems on day one, to model students on the last day
  4. Hearing them loudly and excitedly sing songs of praise to God
  5. And most of all their coming to a saving knowledge of Christ

There’s a lot that I love about VBS (one of my favorite times of the year) but there is at least one part that I dislike, and that’s the craft.

Actually “dislike”doesn’t accurately describe my feelings about VBS crafts….hate does it much better 🙂

Please understand I’m not saying crafts don’t have a place in VBS (they definitely do) or disrespecting someone who has artistic abilities (I definitely don’t have them).  Instead these crafts are an absolutely necessary, but incredibly frustrating part of ministry.

This personal frustration comes from the fact that I’m not good at them, but there are other frustrating points as well

  1. In a place like SVG its necessary to come up with craft ideas and put them together on your own since it takes too long to have them shipped from the US
  2. Dealing with different age groups means having three different “levels” of crafts that have different degrees of difficulty
  3. There needs to be at least three different crafts for each level group (some can be used at all levels, currently we have five planned for VBS)
  4. And of course anytime you have seventy kids working with paint or glue the risk of a catastrophe taking place is very high

To be honest if it was up to me and my missionary co-workers (none of whom are artists) we would just eliminate VBS crafts altogether and make some excuse (there was a serious popsicle stick shortage on the island).  But we are committed to doing the frustrating parts of ministry as well as the exciting ones.

there are many exciting and fun parts of ministry that fits with our strengths.  For me that would be teaching, children’s work, counseling, and writing.  However other parts of ministry are boring, emphasize our weaknesses, reveal anger and pride, result in failure, or show our need for help.  Those are the parts we would be happy to just do without…but they are also opportunities to grow spiritually.

You see God uses those frustrating experiences to remind us just how much we need Him, and break our pride in personal achievement.

The header pic of this post is my first attempt at creating a horse prototype for our VBS craft this year.  The idea was to have a nice color of purple on the bottle, then add legs, eyes, and horse mane the next day.  We never really got to that point since my bottle looked so ridiculous (paint never dried correctly either).  So a second prototype was created using construction paper instead, and after some work it (sort of) looked like a horse.



The thing is it would be easy to build a ministry only on the things I’m good at like preaching or children’s work and make sure nobody ever sees one of my purple horses.  But I continue faithfully knowing that God gets great Glory from purple horses.

The Exciting/Frightening Experience of Vincentian Driving

Yesterday after almost two months of waiting I was finally able to purchase a car in Saint Vincent.  It was at the same time one of the most exciting and frightening experiences of my life.

  1. Exciting because it gave me a lot more liberty and freedom
  2. Frightening because it means I’ll be driving on Vincentian roads again

When I came to St Vincent the one thing that scared me more than anything else was definitely the driving.  Many of the roads aren’t that much bigger than a lane in the American roads, which means you need to occasionally drive through tight spaces. Driving was made more difficult by road construction, and some roads only being big enough for one vehicle (if you meet one you have to reverse down that road).  So it shouldn’t be surprising that I preferred walking to driving even when the Church van was in my possession 🙂

With the Lords help my driving got better towards the end of the six-month ministry  in March 2016.  But the truth is I hadn’t done any driving since then so part of me worried about getting behind the wheel for the first time in almost five months.

To make things more interesting I would be driving the car back from town (Kingstown) after paying for the ownership to be transferred.  Town is without a doubt the busiest part of Saint Vincent and it can be very easy to make a serious mistake driving there (I refused to drive to town for over three-months last year because it scared me too much).  

After the title and insurance was taken care of I was feeling pretty good about myself walking with the original owner to pick up the car till I found where it was located.  He had brought it to public parking, but parked it at a far corner that was surrounded by other vehicles.  So instead of backing straight out or driving forward I obeyed the commands of a parking attendant very poorly (making myself look like a moron in the process) and almost put a dent in my car before getting it out of the parking lot!

After dropping the owner off I was able to collect my thoughts and didn’t have any issues (okay I was beeped at twice and made two wrong turns).  The more interesting thing is about a mile outside of town I started to enjoy driving…this may not seem important but I can’t remember the last time I ENJOYED driving on a Vincentian road!

Part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that my car being lower to the ground than the Church van gives me a better view of my surroundings, and it can squeeze into smaller spaces.  But in a deeper sense I believe all of the practice during my short-term ministry made driving much easier now.

Yesterdays experience reminds me how anxiety from past failures or challenges can affect us from attempting those things in the future.  To be honest part of me even yesterday would have been perfectly happy walking everywhere instead of taking the risk of making myself look stupid, or have a traffic accident, however once I got out on the road all that anxiety melted away.  

While my driving record surely won’t be perfect (pretty much every Vincy vehicle has at least one dent) I’m grateful for the reminder from God that yesterdays anxiety doesn’t have to affect todays actions.

When light pokes through the darkness 

One of the greatest challenges in ministry (particularly missions) is being surrounded by darkness.  I’m not referring to physical darkness of course but spiritual darkness of people’s hearts who don’t know Christ.  Thankfully the Lord provides Christian brothers and sisters who help bring the light of the Gospel into the world, but sometimes the surrounding darkness overwhelms, and we begin to feel as if we are the only light.

Often this overwhelming experience is connected with an attempt to lead someone to Christ or discleship them in the faith, only to see them reject the Gospel, or fall back into sin.  Putting our time, energy, and prayers into someone only to see darkness prevail ( Of course sin cannot overcome the Gospel but God allows individuals to choose their own way) can be a very frustrating experience.  In those moments we must remember the light of the Gospel is still doing its work even if we cannot see it.

Often God chooses to bring changes into a person’s life one step at a time instead of all at once.  In these situations the Holy Spirits conviction along with God’s Truth stabs small holes into the darkness…holes of light that we may not be able to see without paying very close attention.  So every once in a while He allows use to see the Gospel poke through the darkness of an unsaved persons life.

Last week I was at the Church when one of the children came by and said “Mr. John (name omitted) the thiefed (stole) your dollar!”  Evidently the day before I’d left a one dollar coin in my bag that’s used for Bible club, and he had grabbed it while my back was turned.  Knowing it had to be dealt with right away I locked up the Church and immediately walked over to his house.

On the way over I was praying the Lord would help me get a confession from him.  As most of you know getting a child to admit they did something wrong is difficult, and getting a heart-felt apology is almost impossible without physical discipline.  The truth is the dollar didn’t bother me, my main goal was getting him to admit wrongdoing.

He was standing near the house so I immediately asked him to come over so we could talk.  Slowly the boy started towards me but suddenly his sister walked over with a dollar in her hand and immediately paid me back (he had already spent the dollar he stole). She then stood by as I asked him questions and when he didn’t respond sternly said “answer the man!”  Later on that day his mother APOLOGIZED TO ME for her son taking the money, something that has NEVER happened before.

Please understand my point here isn’t that Vincencians are wicked people who think stealing is okay (they aren’t). But I’ve learned from experience that the first response of a parent is defend their child, or downplay their mistake, not publicly apologize.  And siblings don’t naturally back up authority figures in today’s culture.

For me that was a moment I could  see light poking through the darkness.  To my knowledge none of that family is saved, but the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts, and uses situation like last week to show their need of a redeemer.  

This week I sat in Church with that same little boy and we talked about Gods standard for entering Heaven being perfection.  “(Name omitted) are you perfect ?” I asked, and he immediately answered “no!” Now I’m not sure if thiefing my dollar had anything to do with that answer, but he has come to a point of knowing without the help of Christ he cannot be saved…and that’s definitely a point of light poking through the darkness.

Evangelism and discipleship are hard because all we can see is the darkness….but in those moments we know the Gospel is poking unseen holes into thier darkened hearts.

How a Church Became My Office

During the school year my ministry with children had a very well-defined structure since they would come by the Church for Bible Club after school at 3:00.  Occasionally we would play a game or have another story later, but everybody knew things started at 3:00.

As you can imagine the summer schedule is a lot more random, so although the kids promised to still come at 3:00, nobody did. Of course I don’t blame the kids for this because they are no longer around the Church at that time, but the fact that summertime doesn’t really have a set schedule makes ministering to them difficult.

After thinking and praying about how the Lord would have me reach the children of Barrouallie during the summer months He led me to make a difficult decision….

And I made the Church my office.

During the school year most of my ministry work [1] would be done at home because it offered privacy

  1. That privacy also meant I could focus my attention on things without being distracted [2]
  2. Allowed me to work freely with all of my tools (laptop, books, electronics) without worrying about them being taken
  3. And I was even able to rest or take a quick nap if needed

When the Church became my office the privacy was taken away since anybody walking by can see the doors open (yes I can close the doors but keep them open for ventilation purposes, it helps make things a lot cooler). And of course there are challenges with this loss of privacy since it means my sermon prep or Bible study in the morning is constantly interrupted. But in a deeper sense sacrificing my privacy is a blessing hands control of my ministry over to God.

For the first week after school I tried to find where the children went during the day and give them Bible stories there, invited everyone to my house for a Bible club, and wore myself out trying to minister to them…but by the end of the week was frustrated, but physically exhausted.

It occurred to me that weekend maybe instead of trying to “find the children” I should focus on things like Bible study and writing at a place where the children can find me.

Since starting this four to five kids come by every morning for a Bible story, and I’m able to have a conversation with them about the Gospel. The funny thing is this ministry is totally random since they come at different times almost every morning, but the Bible stories have a much greater impact because instead of teaching ten kids (and trying to keep their attention) I’m looking one or two of them right in the eyes.

There is a sense where kids come to play my tablet (they get two lives after the Bible story) but I truly believe the come because God sends them, instead of my finding children and bringing them there myself.

There is a need for privacy of course which is why I am only at the Church during certain hours (9:00–12:00 AM, 3:00–5:00 pm). While kids do come by the house often I will tell them we can’t do anything till later, and my time there is closely defended, especially 1:00–1:30 because thats nap-time 🙂

The Lord is helping me see theres a place for privacy in ministry, but also a place for leaving the doors wide open.  Those open doors then give God an opportunity to bring the people he wants into our lives

Yesterday around 4:30 a man walked into the Church while I studied the book of Mark and asked about our prayer meeting on Thursday night. He sat down and we ended up talking for about 45 minutes about the Gospel, and where he would spend eternity (the man knows Scripture but isn’t truly saved). After we prayed together and he left I thanked the Lord for my loss of privacy because he wouldn’t have come to my house and asked that question, therefore I wouldn’t be able to share Christ with him.

There is a place for planned ministry but I’m grateful for the opportunity sometimes the greatest thing we can do is leave the door open, and allow God to bring who He wants.

  1. sermon prep, bible study, education, lesson plans, blogging  ↩
  2. one of the blessings of being single 🙂  ↩

The Beauty of Random Discipleship

When I think of the word “discipleship” it brings to mind the image of two people with open Bibles having a serious conversation about God’s Word.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that picture, in fact the Lord is burdening my heart to pursue ministries that emphasize teaching Scripture instead of building relationships.  However I cannot allow this desire for teaching ministries to keep me from seeing the day to day discipleship opportunities.

God gives us almost every day opportunities to share His truth (the Gospel or a Scriptural principle) in a conversation with other people.  These opportunities rarely involve an open Bible or clear teaching (“God wants you to do this”) but are used by God to clarify in a conversational style what we believe.

The problem with these everyday discipleship opportunities is they are random (unplanned) and often not even noticed because there’s nothing special about them, and our schedules are already full of activity.  But if we show a willingness to slow down and notice them, God will use those opportunities for His Glory.

This morning as I put the finishing touches on my sermon for Sunday a boy from Church came by to hear a Bible story.  Afterwards we went downstairs and started cleaning soda bottles that would be used for the Churches Vacation Bible School next month.

As we picked out the right bottles and washed them in a sink I started talking with him about becoming a member of the Church (he’s old enough and shows spiritual growth)…which led to a conversation about his Salvation experience.  I explained how the Lord saved me at the age of five in a blue Toyota station wagon on the way to the grocery store, and asked him to tell me about how he got saved.

I do believe this young man is saved but he struggled a bit in giving me a specific testimony of his Salvation experience.  So as we continued to wash bottles I clarified for him how a person could be saved.

  1. You must confess to God that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
  2. Believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins then rose again (Romans 6:23)
  3. And call upon Christ to save you from your sins (Romans 10:9-10)

I asked James (not his real name) if he had ever done this and his response was “yes I do it every night!”  So as the bottle washing came to an end I told him that though a person prays to God every night they only ask Him to save them once.

Now James and I could have had a long Bible study but it probably wouldn’t have accomplished what took place as we worked together

  1. I was able to share my own personal testimony
  2. And get James thinking about his own Salvation experience (he says he remembers it but cannot tell me a lot about what happened)
  3. we reviewed together what it means to be saved
  4. and clarified you only need to get saved

This afternoon reminded me there are many organic (unplanned) discipleship opportunities like this, but many times I’m too busy doing my own work to see them.  May God help us pursue times of intensive discipleship, but also look for the random discipleship opportunities each day.

Why I Don’t Give Things Away


This morning I read a very interesting article called “How to avoid the Messiah Complex” by Joseph Sunde.  In it he explained that many short-term missions groups damage the relationship or ministry of the Missionary serving in that Country by meeting the physical needs of the people.

By itself that isn’t a bad thing…however it can create an attitude of dependency on the missionary to continue meeting physical needs.

When you roll in and hand out a bunch of soccer balls and candy to kids, it undermines the bridges of trust built through partnering and instead sends the message of easy “Aid” and spreads dependency. It makes it much harder on them when you leave when they wonder why this friend who has been staying with them over years never “gives them stuff.”

The article doesn’t encourage missions groups to do nothing but instead ” If you have gifts, only bring what they’ve asked and let them hand them out at a time they deem appropriate” in this way the short-term teams strengthens the ministry of that missionary.

As someone who serves in a mission field where you see poverty its hard to say no when people ask me for things, but I’ve learned its necessary because Missionaries cannot give things away.

As Mr. Sunde pointed out in his article ministries that focus on meeting physical needs fail in two ways.

  1. You cannot meet all of the needs
  2. And you create an attitude of dependence or even entitlement with the people
  3. The sad fact is in many places that sense of entitlement already exists so they EXPECT you to give things away

A few months after arriving in Barrouallie a young lady from down the street came with her sister and asked for a glass of water.  I brought them out and we sat on the porch talking for a while before she asked for some cooking oil as well.  It wasn’t my habit of giving things like this away (everyone would want cooking oil) but I decided to be kind and brought out enough for a few meals.  She looked at me incredulously and said “this is not enough!”

Think about that for a second

She is siting on my porch,

drinking my cold water,

and complaining about not getting enough free oil!  As you can imagine she ended up getting NO OIL but this illustrates why missionaries cannot just start giving things like oil away.

Now before you start picturing me as Ebenezer Scrooge sending hungry poor children away while living in luxury let me say I do provide for physical needs with one big difference.

I make them earn it

Today when someone in Barrouallie asks me for something (which often happens) my response is to smile and ask “why should I give you this to you?”  It’s interesting to see the look of confusion that would come in their faces after asking that question because they felt having a need was enough reason but of course it wasn’t.

  1. Instead help was earned by a willingness to do a job in return
  2. an instance of extreme need
  3. And most importantly obedience (a willingness to follow Mr. Johns rules)

It’s taken months but slowly people are starting to get it.

Last November a young lady came during my Bible club with children and noticed that I was handing out glasses of juice (koolaid) to some of them.  She asked for one and after being turned down was indignant “why can’t I have a glass of juice” she asked, I was getting ready to respond when one of the children told her “you have to earn Mr. John’s juice!”

In a way generations of missionaries (myself included) have created a culture of co-dependency with those who we are to reach with the Gospel.  Therefore its our responsibility to create a new culture that makes them earn juice.