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.