East Asia: Discipling First Generation Believers

We had a wonderful trip to East Asia.  We began our time in the capital city to acclimate to the 12-hour time change.  We walked over 17 miles in the day and half we were there, but it worked and we adjusted quickly.  While in the capital, we visited some historic and cultural landmarks.  One that particularly stood out to us was a large Buddhist temple just outside of the city center. 

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As we were prayer walking through the temple we were overcome by feelings of the darkness of the place and the sadness of seeing so many desperately seeking God, but directing those desires in the wrong direction.

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After adjusting, we flew to our primary city to spend the week with our partners.  They are lovely people, and we really enjoyed our time together.  On the first full day that we were there, we hiked up a mountain and prayed over their city.  It was a very special time of lifting the people up to God and asking him to do a mighty work in their lives.

 

Throughout the week, we were able to see some amazing things and meet some truly wonderful people.  The area around the city is spectacularly beautiful – mountains, rivers, farmland, trees, rock formations, and so much more.  We were treated to seeing the rebuilt and original Great Wall in an area that most people like us never get to see.  Our ladies made instant friends with everyone they met.  The people there were so interested in them and wanted to take lots of picture of and with them.  It was very sweet.  As they would take pictures and interact, we would pray silently for each person we encountered.  Being in such a remote area, we considered that we might be the only people to ever pray for each of them. 

One night we had a very special authentic local dinner complete with indigenous food, music, and singing. 

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We will never forget that special night as we learned so much about the culture and way of life of the people group around us.  It was also a great time to fellowship with our partners and a first generation brother around the large table inside of a ger (yurt).

Our ministry time was especially encouraging for all of us.  The men in the group met with a couple of young men that our partner is guiding.  We taught a lesson on the importance of purity in a society that has abandoned that value.  We were surprised at how open and vulnerable the guys were instantly.  The opportunities for this type of guiding are so rare that there is no time for shyness.  They have learned that they need to take in as much as possible when they get the chance.  There is no local body for them to regularly learn from, internet is restricted, and there simply are very few like-minded people around them from which to learn.

One of our ladies had a special evening of baking with our partner and her local friend.  It was a great opportunity to do life one on one and truly pour into our new friend.  It was also a nice opportunity for our partner to have her friend over to meet her American friend. 

We all had a ton of fun helping at a local English language book club for kids.  We were blown away by how smart, kind, respectful, and talented these children were.  They speak three languages and the oldest was probably around 12 years old.  We read the book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” 

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After the story they worked as a group through an “if…then” exercise in English where they recapped the whole story.  Then they did three different craft projects that reinforced elements of the story.  They each painted a 4x6 canvas however they pleased.  Most of the work they do is so structured that it is a rare treat to have creative license with their task.  They also made little mouse/cookie foam ornaments, and finally decorated their own cookies.  Turns out that cookies with icing and sprinkles crosses all cultural barriers for kids!  They loved them and had so much fun.  At the end of our time, they sang a few songs for us before they left.  We were so thankful to have the opportunity to spend time with local children as well as adults. 

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We also visited another Buddhist temple where our partner has made friends with a monk in the monastery.  They have formed a special relationship and it was clear that they both truly enjoyed the other’s company.  It is encouraging to hear about the significant conversations they have had.  We again lifted up those we saw and met around the temple.  How wonderful would it be to see that place someday as a place that worships the one true God.

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On our last day in the city, we split into two’s and walked around the mall lifting up those we saw and tried to engage people in significant conversations. 

The weather in this area reaches well below 0 degrees in the winter, so the malls are huge and have just about everything in them.  Each mall we went in had a huge old-school ball pit with a giant slide that led down into it.  It was packed with kids and families laughing and having a great time. We were especially encouraged to see how many dads were there playing with their children.  These kids were so cute!  Every one of them just captured our heart.  As we were enjoying watching the fun, it began to occur to us that most likely all of them were headed for a future apart of God.  We prayed and prayed over each little face and their parents. 

Throughout the week, it became abundantly clear that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.  Seeing all the people in the mall, all the people at the temples, all the people on the crowded streets yet knowing our friends are the only light in the area.  The task is so overwhelming, yet they are committed to following their calling and day-by-day doing their best to do what they can.  We also came to realize how incredibly difficult it is to minister in that area.  It is lonely.  It is culturally hard.  There is little fruit yet they persist as though it were plentiful.

Upon arriving, we quickly felt that one of our primary purposes of being there was to come along side of our partners and serve them.  We tried very hard to be listeners to what their life is like, to be empathetic to their struggles, to commit to pray for them, and most of all not to forget them when we leave.  We truly hope that while we were there we were able to encourage them, love on them, and in some way fill them back up a bit to give them strength to continue in their good work.

We were all so thankful for the time we had in East Asia.  It will always hold a special place in our hearts.  We ask you to please pray for our partners.  Consider all that you have read above and lift them up to our Heavenly Father.  Even if you do not know their specific needs, God does.  Please also pray for the people in their area.  There are a minuscule amount of brothers and sisters among millions of people there.  Pray that many would hear and many would believe.

Zimbabwe: What do the Fruits of the Spirit Look Like?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control."  Galatians 5:22

Now please reread that verse and imagine a lot of pep, hand motions, and hip action. Cause that's how it's done Zimbabwe style.  --->>

When Jennifer Bosma came up with her hilarious dance and hand motions to the verse, I don't think she was planning on it being such a hit, but it was. Many of us felt we would never forget the verse and it's reference. I'm sure the children would agree.

God had something special for us in regard to the fruits. Not only had He orchestrated this to be the VBS theme long before our trip, He also showed us each of them while we were in Zimbabwe. Let me show you what I mean...

 

 

 

 

 

L O V E

Each of the team members displayed it in a multitude of ways. Whether it was by playing soccer with the kids, mixing concrete, painting the little girls' nails, lugging water from a stream, or someone speaking words of encouragement to a fellow team member. Love was everywhere.

Love was even displayed by Tyler Craft proposing to his girlfriend, Jami Joyner. Congrats you two!

 

J O Y

It was expressed on every child's face. The simplest things brought them so much joy. On the last day of VBS we took a Polaroid picture of each child for them to keep. All of the children thought it was the coolest thing. Something so simple to us meant the world to them.

 

 

PEACE

It was found in our alone time with God. One morning Thomas Nelson challenged the team to go and spend 30 minutes with God through prayer, reading Scripture out loud, and singing God a song. To be in His beautiful creation with no distractions or noise was truly refreshing.

 

 

 

 

 

PATIENCE

Travel will teach you a lot of patience. Our team had many circumstances where we to had to practice it.  After delayed flights, long bus rides, and too much time to kill in an airport, it was very clear this was something God wanted us to learn.

 

KINDNESS

Chris and Norma Ferguson are beautiful examples of this. Being our host and hostess for the week, they displayed kindness in everything they did. The whole team would tell you what a blessing it was to be around them. Chris prayed with many of us, Norma always made sure we were well fed, and they both invited all of us to come back and stay with them. God's kindness radiated through them.

 

GOODNESS

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Every one of the Zimbabweans had this down pat. Every person we came in contact with was always so good to us. Many of them were happy to welcome us into our home, willing to translate for us, show us around, or help in whatever way they could.

 

 

 

 

FAITHFULNESS

God was very faithful to us, especially making sure we always got where we needed to be, with all our stuff. Even when two suitcase fell out the back of the bus, to no one’s knowledge, until much later. God made sure we got them back. No matter what curveball was thrown at us God always took care of us.

 

GENTLENESS

Each of the team members showed this whenever they were around children. It was always so beautiful to watch them spend time with the kids. Many of the guys played soccer with the kids or chased them around. Many of the girls were so loving and gentle as they held babies. Every one was a beautiful example of Jesus' love and gentleness to children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SELF CONTROL

During VBS, we had team members talk about or act out one of the fruits of the Spirit. When it came to self control AJ Baumenn and Robert Moore acted it out. As AJ told Robert he had to wait to eat his sandwich he jokingly squirmed and whined, but waited and displayed self control. I’m sure the children will always remember what self control is and it will bring a smile to their face.

Clarkston: Camp Ministry, Day 5

He's Got the Whole World In His Hands - On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand!  It was beautiful listening to and watching the students sing this song, and then lift posters featuring the countries from which they have come.  

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Our students were ready for their program on Day 5!  After a terrific lunch provided by Chick-fil-A of Woodlawn Square, they were ready to sing and praise the Lord.  We were thrilled to have so many family members come to see their children perform!

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Chick-fil-A always brings a smile! 

 

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Playing Boom Whackers and keeping the beat!!

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Signing Proverbs 3:5 & 6

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5 days - how do you impact lives for Jesus in 5 days?  HE says, "Go and tell!"  We went, we told, we  planted  and watered.  The Holy Spirit will take care of the "impacting"!  There is a large congregation of people waiting to hear the Good News in Clarkston - GO AND TELL!

Clarkston: Camp Ministry, Day 4

The children arrived full of enthusiasm and energy on Thursday morning and tackled each class with excitement. 

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Snacks, lunch, snacks. . .providing daily food for our campers is another way of showing God's love.  

Today the knitters began using the long pieces they finger-knitted to make bracelets, scarves, pillows, headbands and butterflies.  The artists learned to paint strawberries!  They were taught how to paint the flowers of the strawberry plant, how to add the leaves and then the strawberries.  They learned various techniques for shading around the flowers and adding grass at the base of the plant.  It was amazing to watch their little hands practice the techniques!

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Each afternoon, the students have learned about different musical instruments:

Monday - David and Jon Klausmann shared the trumpet with the students and played a variety of songs.     

Tuesday - A Johnson Ferry String Quartet gave a demonstration of various stringed instruments. 

Wednesday - Bernard Flythe, a low brass player from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, brought two Tubas and shared an interesting array of music.

Thursday - Johnson Ferry's Bobby Smith entertained the group by teaching them how to write and record music.  

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Sometimes students need a little extra love and attention.  Dennis was ready with a book to read to these students.   

This afternoon, Josh Davis led a group of us through a "Refugee Experience".  We learned how refugees are forced to leave their homes - how they must often flee quickly taking only what they can grab - and how, at times, they are forced to give up the people and things that matter most to them, often through circumstances over which they have no control.  This community of refugees in Clarkston has lost much, but Proskuneo is working to help them gain what will ultimately matter most to them - knowing Jesus and trusting Him as their Savior.  

Our devotional leader this morning read from Timothy Keller's "The Songs of Jesus" devotional.  Mr. Keller reminded us that one day there will be an international assembly of worshippers.  We will all be united through prayer and praise, because nothing unites people across racial and cultural barriers like prayer and praise.  Language differences will not be a barrier in this glorious international, multiracial, and richly diverse gathering of Praise to Jesus our LORD!

Clarkston: Clarkston Rocks Camp, Day 3

Johnson Ferry partnered with Proskuneo School of the Arts for this week's Clarkston Rocks Camp.  It's the perfect partnership, as each group seeks to share the Good News through music, song and the arts!

Proskuneo School of the Arts offers quality training in the Arts in a Christian environment.  Because Clarkston has one of the most diverse zip codes in the USA, with 120 nationalities and 60+ languages represented, Proskuneo has the opportunity to engage teachers from a culturally diverse group of believers who are talented in their art.  Most of the PSOTA students are refugees from nations like Sudan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Mexico.   PSOTA is sharing the Good News of God's love through one-on-one lessons, through recitals and performances, and through the personal relationships they have made with students and their families.  We are blessed to work with Founder, Josh Davis.  You can read about Proskuneo at www.proskuneo.org/psota. 

Today, our students continued their lessons in knitting and art, building on the skills they have gained.  One of our instruments groups began lessons on the Recorder with Mrs. Pamela as their conductor.  I could hear strains of the William Tell Overture while the students kept time using drumsticks played on cans and plastic cutting boards - inventive instruments!  Another instrument the students enjoy playing is the boomwhacker, a lightweight, color-coded plastic tube, tuned to musical pitches by length.  They are learning the accompaniment to "This Is My Father's World".

These beautiful children come to us from many places throughout the world, yet their need is one that transcends all continents. . .to hear God's Good News of Jesus.  It is a precious blessing to carry that message to them through smiles, hugs, songs and sharing our stories.

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Tambourines! 

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Finger knitting!

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Boomwhackers! 

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Beautiful watercolor painting on rice paper.  The students mixed paints to achieve the various colors!

Central Asia: Expelled Fear & Warm Hospitality

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My initial reaction to stepping onto the plane was fear. Not fear of flying, but fear of what lay ahead in Central Asia. I didn’t know exactly what I was afraid of. It seemed to be an all-encompassing fear of everything and anything that could go wrong. At the same time, I was so excited that God was allowing me to travel to a foreign country that I had never been to before and experience a new culture.

We started out our ministry by going to the local church and putting on a VBS program in the morning for three days. We had a Bible story every morning along with crafts and recreation. Each day after VBS the family we were staying with and other leaders of the church would feed all 30 of those kids (plus us adults) lunch. This is just where the hospitality began. These people welcomed us into their home without even a thought. We found out as the week went on that this family is so hospitable they have people staying at their house every single day. In the words of the father,

“I do not ask my wife if there are guests at our house, I just ask how many.”

This to me was such a beautiful thing. To open up your home is to open up your heart and these people knew how to make you want to open up your heart until it felt like it was going to burst.

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The next step of our ministry was to disciple a group of teenagers in the afternoons after VBS. We did team building games with them and they loved it! We also taught them evangelism for the purpose of equipping them to go out and share their faith with their unsaved peers. This led right into our last ministry which was to take these teenagers we’d been discipling and their friends who were unbelievers to a soccer camp about an hour outside of the city.

We weren’t sure at all what to expect from this camp, but I believe we were pleasantly surprised. There was a freezing, rushing river and cows everywhere! Even though it was around 90 degrees Fahrenheit the shade was very cool and the breeze off the river was wonderful. We did a bunch of recreation games and LOTS of soccer. The guys were very surprised that a girl from America could keep up with them in the soccer game. I even scored a goal which just shattered their expectations.

At the end of each night, the teenagers we discipled led some worship and somebody gave their testimony. The way they gave their testimony was so non-aggressive. It was wonderful to hear these teenagers express their faith and tell their story in a way that was very much like,

“Hey here’s what God’s done in my life and I just want to share that with you to encourage you.”

On the last day of camp, Danny, our trip leader, gave the chemical cross talk. The symbolism of a cross turning dirty “sin” water into pure, clean water was so strong that we had approximately 12-15 professions of faith. To sit back and see these teenagers who are so oppressed already take courage and raise their hands for Jesus was an image I will never forget.

All fear was expelled because of love. The love and hospitality we witnessed calmed any fears we might have had.  As the first part of 1 John 4:18 reminds us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

Clarkston: Clarkston Rocks! Camp

Our second day has begun with praise, worship and a great Bible story about Jehoshaphat!  All of our Clarkston Rockers seem ready to learn and explore new adventures in Art, Knitting, Instruments, and Rock music.

Our group of almost 60 students represents a variety of countries, yet their enthusiasm for music confirms that music is the universal language!

While the younger students have three exploratories (Art, Knitting and Instruments), the older students who range from 6th through 8th grade are learning all about Rock music!  They have learned the history of Rock and will each day learn about a rock instrument. Johnson Ferry Band members have engaged these students in a rockin' good time.

These students are excited to show off their tamborines. . .such a fun instrument for praising the LORD!

These students are excited to show off their tamborines. . .such a fun instrument for praising the LORD!

Our theme scripture for the week is found in Proverbs 3:5&6:

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

One of our favorite songs, with a catchy tune,  is "This is the day that the LORD has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!"

It's exciting and humbling to be an instrument of God and to watch Him work in and through us!