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

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.


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

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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.