December 17, 2016

Are we there yet?

Merry Christmas from… yes, still in Charlottesville. No, not overseas yet. Not quite there yet. Several years ago in my Christmas letter to you all I talked about the Magi setting out on a long journey to an uncertain destination: “I think of those eastern astrologers loading up their camels to follow a quietly shimmering sign they’ve never seen before, not sure exactly where it will take them, but knowing that the journey is God-driven, God-guided.” And I compared it to what my family and I were going through, having just returned to the US after thirteen years in Ethiopia and Kenya.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t think the journey would take THIS long. I thought I’d be back overseas by now, back to my passion for teaching the Bible and training emerging church leaders where the needs are greatest. As I’ve pondered the Magi’s story this Advent, I've noticed that apparently they were on this quest for two years. That’s an assumption scholars make based on Matthew 2:16, where Herod “sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.” Evidently they saw the star two years before they reached Jerusalem. They could have been plodding along on those swaying camels, across hot and dusty desert, along roads they’d never ridden before, for two years before they reached the destination the star was pointing them toward.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. In the spring of 2015 I began the process of becoming a missionary theological educator with Serge and EPC World Outreach. Many friends and colleagues have affirmed that yes, this is God’s call on my life at this point. And many of you have stepped in as partners, pray-ers and encouragers. We’re on the way. I am so very grateful. But we’re not there yet. There have been several ‘oasis’ stops in 2016 – Ireland in April to meet the Serge team in Dublin where I’ll be based, Spain in May for Serge’s triennial all-member gathering, India in July to teach biblical interpretation at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) – but we’re nowhere near the end of this long hard journey.

My heart’s desire is to begin my new role as a Theological Education Specialist by March 2017. Two years since we first set out on this path. Right now, 64% of the needed ongoing support has been provided – by nine churches and 33 families and individuals who've promised to give monthly or annually – while others of you have made generous one-time gifts. But we’re not there yet.

Could you please stop right now and pray about partnering with me? The call is to bring my international experience in theological education – all those years in the US, UK, Africa and India – to Serge’s fields of ministry, serving the Kingdom of God by teaching in theological institutions alongside church-planting efforts in Africa, Asia and post-Christian Europe. Fully funding this ministry will take an additional $2900 per month or the equivalent in annual gifts. But, if I have 80% of my total required support – another $1240 per month or the equivalent in one-time gifts – I can deploy to Ireland this spring. That's a crucial opportunity to begin connecting with the needs in theological education there and in nearby regions before returning to the US later in 2017 to seek out additional supporting partners.

Will you join me in training this emerging generation of Christian leaders worldwide who will shape global Christianity in the 21st century? You can give here to Serge or here to EPC World Outreach. Or email me and let's talk more.

And for those of you willing to pray, here are my requests:

  • To Ireland by March 2017 if it’s the Lord’s plan, with all the resources needed (God's doing, beyond human ability!)
  • Wisdom and discernment in the next steps if the Lord has a different plan
  • The ability for me to say ‘Thy will be done’ with sincerity and joy, no matter what happens
As I wrote before about those weary Magi on their long trek:
I keep thinking that when those curious stargazers finished their long and mysterious journey, they ended up exactly where God was. Born in fragility, messy with the reality of human existence, newly arrived to engage with his broken human creatures. My prayer is that our own God-driven, God-guided – yet puzzling and unexpected – journey will also bring us face to face with Jesus. I’m holding onto the hope that when we reach the end, wherever that is, we’ll discover that God is already there.
 
I’m grateful for your company with me on this road. And may we each meet Jesus face to face during this season of wonder... and waiting... and worship.