Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ministry Opportunity--Letter from Julianna

This is a couple who work on our campus ministry team. Our CrossSeeker group has adopted them as well, and are partnering with their ministry on the other side of the state.

One of the cool things that God has been doing recently is calling native Pennsylvanians to serve here in our own state. That is really exciting!!! But it also presents a challenge, because our Baptist churches are small, and financial resources are spread so thin.

So we are appealing to you guys to get the word out about the Mussers. They need some churches or individuals to come alongside and partner with them financially in the work at Drexel. Even if you aren't able to help at the moment, then please pass the word along to others. This is an amazing opportunity to get in on the ground level of a new work with limitless potential. Please pray seriously about being part of Brian and Jennifer's support team!!!

Hi. My name is Julianna Musser. I live in Levittown, Pennsylvania.

This is my Mommy and Daddy--Brian and Jennifer. They are Mission Service Corps missionaries with the North American Mission Board. They work at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Kiki thinks I'm one of the most charming little gals she has ever met. She and Doug also love my parents and believe in their ministry.

My parents are native Pennsylvanians. They fell in love while they were students at Messiah College in Grantham. They got married in 2001. While Daddy was in college, he went to Mexico and spent a semester there doing missions. God began at that point to call him into ministry.

But everything really started happening last year. Mommy and Daddy realized that God wanted them to become campus ministers at Drexel. They both had great jobs(my parents are VERY smart!) but were willing to give them up to follow God's call. Daddy was a lab manager and research assistant doing studies on the AIDS virus. Mommy was a Counseling Specialist in the Philadelphia school district.

They quit their jobs, and began raising support. THEN GUESS WHAT???? I decided to make my entrance into the world. Mommy had a tough pregnancy, too, which made things a little harder.

I am writing to ask for your help. Our churches here in Pennsylvania are pretty little. Most of them struggle to even pay their pastors. We don't have the abundance of resources that many of you in the Bible Belt do. We need some more churches and people to partner with us.

My friends Anna and Joshua told me that you were really nice and that I should let you know about my family. They said that you guys can seriously PRAY!!!! My family needs prayer right now. We need to get more support. This month got a little tight, and Mommy wasn't sure how we were going to pay our bills. But God provided at the last minute, like He always does. He is so good to us!!!

Things are going well at Drexel. Daddy started a weekly Bible Study back in March. There is a picture below of him meeting with some of the students. He also got to take some students to Zambia this Summer for a mission trip. Our interns, Alex and Yelena, went with him on that trip. There is a picture of the whole team below, and of them ministering to the people they met in Zambia.

My Mommy didn't go to Africa, because she stayed home to take care of me. But she is also an important part of the ministry at Drexel. We believe that God has called us as a family to do this.

Would you please pray for us? Also, if any of you feel like God is leading you to partner with us, you can email my Daddy at

One last thing-- would let your churches, sunday school classes, friends, cousins, distant relatives, etc. know about us?

Thank you!


When Sermon Illustrations Backfire!!!

A friend just emailed this to me. I thought it was so cute that I needed to post it.

A minister decided that a visual demonstration would add emphasis to his Sunday sermon.

Four worms were placed into four separate cans.
The first worm was put into a container of alcohol.
The second worm was put into a container of cigarette smoke.
The third worm was put into a container of chocolate syrup.
The fourth worm was put into a container of good clean soil.
At the conclusion of the sermon, the Minister reported the following results:

The first worm in alcohol - Dead.
The second worm in cigarette smoke - Dead.
Third worm in chocolate syrup - Dead.
Fourth worm in good clean soil - Alive.

So the Minister asked the congregation - What can you learn from this demonstration?

A little old woman in the back quickly raised her hand and said,
"As long as you drink, smoke and eat chocolate, you won't have worms!"

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why Men Dont' Ask for Directions

This is why is not safe to ask for directions.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Women in Ministry

James 4:7a "Submit therefore to God..."

When I saw that the topic of Women in Ministry had resurfaced in the SBC, I cringed. I have a lot of history with that particular subject.

But God has been doing cool stuff in my heart just in the past two years in regard to that. If you go back and read some of my comments on the original Lifeway Younger Leaders board (but please don't!) then you will see how far I've come. God has been doing some major renovation.

There was a point where I had concluded that most Christian men, especially those in ministry positions, were misogynists. I have seen and experienced harsh, arrogant, and disrespectful treatment toward women that is not honoring to God.

It used to upset me when this topic was brought up at all--not because I believe women should be ordained (I don't) but because I felt it has been used to prohibit women from participating in legitimate ministries to which God has called them. I have also seen it abused by self-centered, proud individuals who are seeking to puff up their own self esteem.

For example, I had a friend in college who was an incredible preacher, and who I really respected as a minister. But one day I saw him with his wife, and to be honest, he was a complete jerk to her. It totally floored me. How could a man be such a wonderful leader in the church, but so abusive in his own home?

So I was not surprised later, in class, when he began speaking against the ordination of women, and how man was made to serve God, but the woman was made to serve man. He made it very clear that he believed women were "lesser" in the eyes of God.

That attitude, which was not unique to this one man, caused me to overcompensate in the other direction. I began LOOKING for evidence that a woman should be ordained, simply because I'd seen the mistreatment of women in regard to this topic.

But to be honest, I didn't find the evidence I was looking for. I still believe that there is a lot of freedom for women in ministry, but that does not include the role of pastor.

What I did find, though, was an overwhelming confirmation from my Lord and Savior that I am not inferior in His eyes. HE determines my value, not man.

And I'm okay with not ever being a preacher. I can't ever be President of the United States, either. (I wasn't born in this country). But I don't think that makes me a "lesser" American, or makes my civic responsibility lower than that of any other citizen. And I'm certainly not going to make a public outcry about being discriminated against, or about my rights being suppressed.

In the same way, I don't think not being able to be a pastor makes me inferior to a man spiritually. On the contrary--God Himself has shown me in my personal time with Him that I have incredible worth, value and purpose in His eyes. He also has a unique, special role for me in ministry that only I can fill. And I LOVE that!!!

All through my Bible, you will occasionally find a little heart drawn by a particular passage. That is a passage of scripture where God has spoken to me on a very deep and intimate level regarding this issue. I know who God says I am. And really, that's all that matters.

I have two friends who are both ordained female ministers. I love them both, and enjoy being with them any opportunity I get. I like their personailities, think they are really fun to be around. They even teach me lots of things about life.

I'm not going to disassociate with them, or lecture them on their proper role in the body of Christ. Why should I? Just because we have doctrinal differences doesn't mean we can't be good friends. Their beliefs don't affect our ability to fellowship with and enjoy one another's company. And they are not going to "contaminate" me in any way, either.

I think that much of the pain and hurt surrounding this issue could be alleviated if the body of Christ took Mark 12:28-31 seriously. Submit to God and His Word daily, and honor one another. So many problems would just not exist if we could put self aside and value the other person for who Christ says they are.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hilarious Video

Funny Comedy - A Reporter tries to file a report about soldiers burning weed in an open field but the smoke starts to mess him up. - fun funny laugh laughter humor comedy

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fun LIttle S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g Exercise

If you want a perspective-stretching exercise, related to my last post, then go to the blog search engine, and google "grew up Southern Baptist", "former Southern Baptist", or "in a Baptist church."

It's a little disturbing to read some of those stories, and how many of our youth who walked an aisle and were baptized still have no idea what it really means to have a relationship with God.

I did that little exercise this morning, and even found some former SBCers now immersed in Wicca, paganism, universalism, and all kinds of eastern mysticism. There are also some who are pretty bitter at God, and some sad stories of church abuse. A couple of preacher's/missionary kids, too.

DISCLAIMER: a couple of the sites had raw content, so proceed with caution.

Hurting Body, Indifferent Church???

I have been following with great interest the discussion surrounding Henderson Hills and their position on baptism and membership. And to be honest, I think they are asking some good questions.

It is complex, but a lot of people have been contributing valuable insights on the subject. (One of my favorites is Paul Burleson's ).

Everyone involved seems to agree that baptism (by immersion) is doctrinally correct for Southern Baptists, as well as a vitally important step of obedience following a person's decision to accept Christ.

That's not really the issue. The question causing the controversy is whether baptism is a necessary requirement for church membership.

It's the age old "chicken and the egg" question from a Christian perspective--belief/belong or belong/belief. And since official membership in a local church is not addressed biblically, it becomes another one of those topics where biblical/historical/traditional lines all seem to be blur into varying interpretations.

But that is not the point of my post. I read the most recent post by Dennis Newkirk, the pastor of HHBC, and was saddened by what I found. He has really been beaten up, and sounds discouraged. That picture he posted on his site speaks volumes.

Here is a man who has been crushed for simply daring to ask some relevant questions.

He has been hurt by fellow Christians whose careless words reflect careless hearts. We all need to stop and ask ourselves: is it more important to be "right", or to be godly?

We would do well to remember the warning of Proverbs Pro 12:18. "There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing."

Please hear me out, and don't bombard me with doctrinal dissertations concerning baptism and membership. I'm not endorsing one position or another, because I'm still contemplating the issue myself.

But here's what I DO know. 1 Cor. 12 tells us that if we are in Christ, we are all members of one body. It also tells us that when one member of the body is hurting, it affects the whole body, because that member is a connected, valuable part of the whole. Dennis apparently recognized this hurt within his own church family, and felt it merited his attention. It is a topic that is very worthy of discussion.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this IS a genuine barrier for many people, and there is deep pain associated with the baptism/membership issue. We cannot assume that everyone grew up within the same religious culture and tradition that we experienced. We need to start putting ourselves in other's shoes.

There are fellow brothers and sisters, in the North, East, West, and yes, even the South, who have been deeply hurt by this issue. And no matter where we stand on the issue itself, if it affects part of the body, it affects us.

Allow me to share a story with you.

I have a dear friend who is a godly, amazing woman. But she grew up in a different denomination, and came to a relationship with Christ in that church. She decided to follow Christ in baptism, because she recognized that it was an important step of obedience in her walk with Christ. Her baptism was a very rich, meaningful experience for her, and was done with the intent of honoring and bringing glory to her Lord.

So she was stunned, years later, when she attempted to join an SBC church, and they told her she would have to be re-baptized, because she had been sprinkled rather than immersed.

With tears in her eyes, she explained why she adamantly objected to doing so. To be re-baptized now would be for the purposes of membership into an SBC church, rather than as a public confession of her salvation. To her, it negates her original act of obedience and cheapens the true meaning of baptism.

So she remains in a church where she faithfully attends and actively participates, while feeling like a "second-class citizen" because of the membership issue. To make matters worse, she has received a lot of pressure from well-meaning Baptists to "just get re-baptized and put the whole issue behind her."

For her, it is not a matter of disobedience, but rather of principle.
This is not an isolated story. Each of us probably knows someone who has a similar testimony. And if you have ever heard them speak about it, then you have seen the pain in their face and the depth of emotion that accompanies this topic.

I'm not saying that we should alter doctrine to keep people happy. There is a definite time to stand for truth. But there is also a definite time to stand for love. We need to be actively seeking wisdom, while respecting those around us.

Love is patient. It is humble. It puts the other person first. Love listens. Love seeks understanding. It is gentle, honorable and kind.

Jesus did not expect the people he encountered on the street, or even his own disciples, to have instantaneously "arrived". He discipled them, allowing them to gradually learn spiritual principles. We see multiple examples of where he used questions, stories or experiences to help them grow into an understanding of truth. He allowed them to grow at their own pace within a safe environment.

I have a hard time believing that if Jesus were here today, He would say, "If those people don't like our doctrine, they can just go find a different church." He would have listened to those who were hurting. He would have sought understanding. He would have prayed and searched for God's will in the matter. And He would have responded with kindness and respect.

Some of the comments I have read recently from one Christian to another are quite frankly sickening. There is no love exhibited, no honor shown, no attempt to esteem others more highly or love our neighbor as ourselves.

No matter what opinions we may have, the biblical guidelines on relating to one another are clear.

1Th 5:11-15 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,
and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

Rom 12:10-13 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Rom 15:5-7 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

1Pe 1:22-23 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ramblings of a future pet owner

It's 2:31 a.m. and I can't sleep. So I'm writing rambling posts on non-theological topics in the wee hours of the morning. Bear that in mind as you read this.

I'm anxious about tomorrow. That's when we'll find out if we have a shot at dog ownership.

I never thought I would be this stressed out. I'm usually not this emotional about an animal--especially one I don't even really know. When we decided to take the plunge and adopt a pet, I thought it would simply be a matter of going down to the local shelter, selecting a dog we liked, and taking it home.

But oh no, no. Not in America. Did you know that there is an application process, background check, and sometimes even a home visit? I had no idea that the process was this grueling. All day long I've been thinking, "what if they don't think we'd be good owners? What if our home is not good enough? What if the dog doesn't seem to like us?"

I also made the mistake of getting my heart set on a particular pet. She is an 8 month old labrador/dachshund mix named "Crickett." I had a Labradox (or Doxador, as Doug prefers to call her) when I was a kid. Crickett happens to look a lot like her, and seems to have much of the same disposition.

The problem is that another family is ahead of us in the application process. They will be spending time with Crickett tomorrow, in view of adoption.

So we are playing the waiting game. Part of me wonders if it is okay to pray about something like this. Does God care about our pet desires? Is that like asking him to help your team win a football game? Is it fair to ask Him to make another family not want her?

What do you think? Is it okay to pray about the little things in life, even if they have no theological bearings whatsoever?

Either way, I know that it will all work out in the end. But in case God does care about it, I might just say a little prayer, too. : )

An Eight-Cow Wife

I read a recent post over on "Dorcas' site" that got me thinking. It is titled "If I Had Only Known..." and brings up the value and responsibility of a woman.

Rather than state my personal opionion on the topic, I would like to share a story that greatly impacted me a few years ago. It is taken from "Winning in the Land of Giants" (Youth Edition), by Dr. William Mitchell--an excellent study which we have gone through both with the kids at the Children's Home, and with our college students.

Long ago, in a primitive culture, it was required that before they married, the young men had to bargain with the girl's father for her. The fathers of the village demanded payment for their daughters generally in the form of cows. Three cows could buy an above-average wife, and four or five cows a very beautiful wife!

Johnny, the brightest, strongest, and most handsome man in the village loved Sarita. Sarita most henerously could have been described as being plain. She was not truly ugly, but neither attractive. She was shy. She was also older than most girls at the time of marriage.

The villagers' loved to gossip about the bargaining price of a girl. Some said Johnny might offer two or three cows. Others said Sarita's father might take one cow since nobody else was interested in her.

Johnny went to meet with Sarita's father and offered eight cows for her.

Everyone was astonished. That was the highest price ever paid for a bride in their village! Soon, Johnny herded eight cows to his future father-in-law. The wedding was held the same evening.

Time passed, Sarita changed. Her eyes dazzled, and she moved and spoke with striking grace and poise. People who came to the village and had never seen Sarita before remarked that she was the region's most beautiful woman.

Much later, someone asked Johnny why he paid such a high price for her. Why offer eight cows when he could have had her as his wife for less? Did he make such an offer to make her happy?

"Yes, I wanted her to be happy, but I wanted more than that. The most important thing that changes a woman is how she thinks about herself. Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the village." Johnny concluded, "I loved Sarita and no other woman. And I wanted to marry her. But I also wanted an eight-cow wife."

from Winning in the Land of Giants, p. 43

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fantastic Surprise!!!

This whole past year I have been concerned about a student who seemed to have fallen off the map. Joshua Boston was active with our group all throughout the previous year, and had even applied to be a small group leader.

So we were understandably concerned when he did not show up at school this past year. I had interacted with him a couple of times through the Summer, when he had requested info on some mission opportunities. I even wrote a recommendation for him, but did not hear back, so assumed he had decided not to do Summer missions.

But then when I tried to reach him this past Fall, both his email and cell phone accounts had become inactive.

I have been concerned for and praying my heart out all year for Joshua. So I was so excited to get an email from him on Friday. And I just had to laugh when I read it. Here's what it said.

It's been a while, I know, and I'm sorry about basically leaving you completely in the dark. I don't exactly have a cell phone right now, but my Andrew account is back online. The basic story is that I followed up on that email you had forwarded last year from the IMB and Mike Lopez, and recently returned from the one-year trip to Wales. By the way, that was fantastic, but I'm glad to be home.

We've had a missionary from our CrossSeeker group in Europe this past year--and didn't even know it!!!

I just wish we could have been praying for and supporting him while he was there. But I am so thankful that we'll be getting him back for '06-'07. Since he took this past year off, he'll now be around CMU for a year longer than expected. Hey, Joshua.....about that small group leader position........ : )

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The SBCs Forgotten Missionaries

Our support-raising trips are always interesting, and we can never know what to expect. But this year has been particularly challenging.

We're used to the typical disconnect when it comes to missions, and the gratuitous, "it's nice what you're doing for those kids in Philadelphia." : )

But this year, it was difficult to even get into churches to speak. I had one pastor tell me not mention what we did in Pittsburgh, because he did not want us "competing" with the church's existing missions programs. (and that was a church I helped plant while in college!!!)

We also were challenged in aspects of our ministry. One man objected to us "interacting with homosexuals." Another lady was appalled that we would "allow non-Christians to come to our group." She was concerned that they might tarnish our Christian doctrine if they were allowed to participate!!!

To be honest, it's really frustrating to be so misunderstood by your own denomination. It would be easier for us to be trying to raise support in a denomination that did NOT have a Cooperative Program, because other denominations see support-raising as a normal component of mission work.

Doug and I are actually doing pretty well financially, compared to many of our peers. We are running at about 80% of where we need to be.

But we have many MSC friends who are struggling to make ends meet, especially those who work in the Bible Belt. It's tough to hear what they go through. Our churches simply don't understand the concept of self-supported SBC missions.

So I'd like to dispel some of the common myths about Mission Service Corps that we hear over and over and over again.

1. "Mission Service Corps is not a Southern Baptist program." On the contrary. It was formed 29 years ago as an avenue for missionaries to be able to go to areas where there would otherwise be no work. It falls under the umbrella of NAMB, and makes up a majority of the NAMB missionaries. It is totally and completely a Southern Baptist mission program, even though it requires that missionaries raise their own support. Doug and I learned about Mission Service Corps from official NAMB representatives, when they recruited us at Glorieta.

2. "NAMB takes a portion of money given to MSC missionaries for administrative purposes." 100% of the money designated for a specific MSC missionary goes to that missionary. NAMB processes the money and keeps it in a designated account, then pays it out in the form of a regular paycheck. But ALL of the money given for the missionary makes it to the missionary.

3. "Giving to Mission Service Corps hurts the Cooperative Program and special offerings such as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong." In a "recent NAMB study" reports from the vast majority of association sponsors and state conventions indicated that MSC giving either did not affect or enhanced support of the Cooperative Program. 43% stated that giving to Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon actually increased because of MSC support. Mission Service Corps generates roughly $36 million annually for missions support.

4. "There are no checks and balances with the MSC system." We have a NAMB appointed supervisor, NAMB authorities, and fill out regular NAMB paperwork just like other Southern Baptist missionaries. MSC missionaries must apply and be appointed by NAMB. Our money is channelled through NAMB, and they take care of much of the paperwork for us. There are numerous sources of accountability within the system.

5. "People apply to MSC when they don't qualify for other traditional SBC mission programs." I have not even heard of one case where this is true. A good number of MSC missionaries choose to go through Mission Servie Corps because they are called to a specific region or type of work that has no Cooperative Program funding or position. This is particularly true in College Ministry. Many campus ministers outside the Bible Belt have to raise their own financial support, because there is just no traditional funding available.

I want to make one last appeal, on behalf of MSC missionaries all over the country. Please give MSC missionaries a chance to share their stories in your churches. MSC missionaries are dependent on funding by individuals and churches in order to survive. It is incredibly difficult to build a support base when Southern Baptist churches will not even allow MSC personnel an opportunity to speak. Mission Service Corps people are often the forgotten missionaries of the SBC. Yet God is using them all over this nation, and they need your support and prayers just as much as traditional missionaries.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What if?????...........

There is a question that has been bothering me for months now, and I have been hesitant to ask it. But I would really like to hear some of your responses to it, so I'm going to stick my neck out and ask anyway.

Where WOULD we be today if the Conservative Resurgence had not happened?

I have been chastised for not having a deep gratitude and appreciation for this group of men (even though I was 10 years old in 1979.) To be honest, I'm not really sure why I'm supposed to have these indebted feelings towards them.

The statement has been made, "imagine where we would be now if those men had not taken this stand!!!!"

But where WOULD we be???? What is the answer to that????

I have a hard time believing that our whole Southern Baptist Convention would have slid down the slippery slope to liberalism.

I think of my heroes within the SBC, starting with my parents. Their authority is the Word of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. I hardly see them jumping on a bandwagon of liberalism simply because other members within an organization chose to do so. And that goes for so many of the men and women I have known well over the last 37 years.

They are deeply grounded and rooted. I just have a hard time believing that such a large organization of believers, who have individual relationships with God, would have suddenly become tainted with liberal theology. Or that they would have corporately forsaken the Word that they had stood on all of their lives.

Call me naive, but I believe that God can HIMSELF protect the integrity and authority of His Word, as He has done for centuries. I believe that even if a huge number of Southern Baptists had gone astray, there would still have remained a good number who adhered to the inerrancy of the scripture.

And I question whether God would have used the same methods that certain men have used in order to protect the authority of His Word. Some of the things that have happened just do not seem to gel with the character of a Holy God.

I'm going to ask a tough question here, and please read it with the spirit that is intended. Is it possible that the Conservative Resurgence could have had right motives, but utilized ungodly methods for upholding the inerrancy of the Word? Kind of like Abram, when He got ahead of God's plan by sleeping with Hagar?

For months I have wrestled with this, asking myself, "Am I off base somewhere for not seeing these guys as the salvation of my denomination???" I struggle with some of the things that have been done by these men, especially "bringing down" other people. Even if those who were "disciplined" were teaching a false theology, and needed to be corrected, was there not a more Biblical, kind and loving way of doing so? Those chastised men and women were our brothers and sisters in Christ!!!! I just can't believe that Jesus would have used some of the same methods or condoned all the things that were done in the name of purifying our denomination.

Do you know what I honestly think? That I would be in the same place that I am theologically today--with or without the Conservative Resurgence.

My family, my mentors and the people who have invested in my spiritually through the years all upheld a deep reverence for Scripture and faith in the inerrancy of God's Word. I believe they would have still taught me TRUTH.

I also believe in the POWER of the Word of God to sustain itself. It is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.

Where do you think we would be today without the Conservative Resurgence??? I would love to hear from people on both sides of this issue, because I am honestly trying to understand the huge difference in perspectives.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hero of the Faith

This is a picture of Baba Cain Velemu. I came across it while going through the picture trunk tonight.

Baba Cain is one of my lifelong heroes. He was a deacon at our Chininyetu church, and served as the preacher whenever he was needed. He also worked on the Sanyati mission station.

Baba Cain was a very close friend with Uncle Archie Dunaway, who was murdered by terrorists in 1978. After Uncle Archie was killed and the mission was evacuated, it was Baba Cain who came to the station and ensured that the work continue in the absence of our missionaries.

Baba Cain was one of the warmest, gentlest, kindest people you could ever meet. I was just a little girl, but he would always make a point to come over to greet me. He made all of us kids feel important, and he seemed genuinely excited to see each person he encountered through the day. Missionaries and nationals alike loved and respected Baba Cain.

The only thing he seemed to love more than people was his Lord. He was passionate about the gospel and excited about sharing the story of his God. He had a deep faith and a strong, humble spirit.

So it was a sad day when we learned that Baba Cain had been murdered. A band of terrorists captured him and ordered him to deny Christ. When he refused, they cut off his arms at the elbows, and his legs at the knees. Then they threw him in the river, taunting him with statements like, "let's see if Christians can swim" and "can your God save you now?"

We lost a great man that day. But I am sure that when he arrived in heaven, with his beaming smile and joyful spirit, Jesus was standing there to greet him. I have no doubt that he heard the words "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Baba Cain, you have not been forgotten. Your influence and your legacy live on to this day.

A trip down memory lane

Mufundisi Mutasa baptizing a new convert near Sasame in 1973 (I'm the kid in the red hat.)

Mark relaxing in a tree (1968)

In our backyard in Sasame

We are getting ready for a Schleiff family reunion this coming weekend, so I've been helping Mom go through old photos and put together some memories.

It has been fun. We opened some trunks that have been stored for most of my life, and found some pictures from when I was little. We could not get film in the bush of Rhodesia, so pictures from that era are few and far between.

I discovered that I cost a whopping 2 pounds and 80 shillings when I was born (if I had been a boy, then I would have cost even more. Circumcisions were 10 shillings each.) There was also a recipe to make the formula I was given as a baby, as well as congratulatory letters from the Richmond office of the Foreign Mission Board.

We found an FMB report showing total missionaries on the field, churches planted, etc. from 1948-1973. It is amazing how far we have come in just over 50 years. There was a picture of Gordon Fort from his teenage years, WMU uniforms, Commission magazines and enough FMB memorabilia to fill a museum someday. We had a good laugh going through it all.

One other fascinating find was a Sunday School Board quarterly from July-August-September 1918. My great-grandfather carried it with him during World War I.

And there are hundreds--maybe thousands--of native artifacts. An ancient camel bell Dad picked up in the desert of Afghanistan, jewelry made by unreached tribespeople, Shona hymnals, and about 20+ more trunks with souvenirs from around the world. This house is a WMU Director's dream.

Well, I've gotta run. I've got a few thousand more slides to go through, and we can't find a working carousel. So it may be a while until I post again. : )

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lost and Homesick in the Bible Belt

We just spent the last few days in Branson with both sets of our parents. Doug's father has some time-share property, and took us all there for some R & R. We did have a great visit with our parents, and some much-needed away time with our kids. But the experience also had a profound effect on our perspective of the Bible Belt.

On our second day there, we warily agreed to attend one of the resort's sales presentations. It would give my father-in-law a discount on his annual maintenance fees, and we would receive free tickets to Silver Dollar City.

But God had a different purpose and agenda for the meeting. We came away from that experience with broken hearts, and new desire to pray for the people trapped in the entertainment industry.

Our morning started with a group workshop that was really just a series of off-colored jokes. I cringed when the presenter bragged about the fact that he was a "good Southern Baptist."

Then the individual, high-pressure sales pitch began. Our sales rep, Crystal, was brand new on the job--a single Mom who had moved from Arkansas in a desperate attempt to provide a living for her family. She shared with us how life had really knocked her around.

Then her supervisor, Jim, came over to talk to us. He began telling us how his grandfather had been an alcoholic Southern Baptist judge who would read the Bible to him one minute, then beat the tar out of him the next. The pain and bitterness in Jim's voice was tangible. He is an alcoholic himself, but rattled off a list of good deeds that he still tries to do in order to stay in good standing with God. They were both so lost and so empty.

We left that experience with sad and heavy hearts for both Jim and Crystal. Doug was so moved that he went and spent some time alone just praying for them.

The religious climate in the Bible Belt is really not that different from the religious climate up north where we are. People are just as lost, except that they have a warped sense of God and Christianity also mixed into their crazy worldview.

It was ironic to be surrounded by Christian stores, Christian t-shirts, Christian shows, and churches on every block, yet still in the midst of lostness and depravity. The story of God was nothing but cultural wallpaper to so many of the people immersed in it.

We ate dinner one night at a pizza parlor, and a group of teenagers came and sat at the table next to us. They were talking about shooting up drugs, and how the pain of the needle was worth it when you got your "high." It was so disheartening to listen to them.

But then the real shocker came. One boy turned to the friend next to him and said, "I thought you used to be real involved in your church and stuff." The other boy's reply was disheartening, "Yeah, I was. But I've gotten away from all of that. My sister is still into it, though. She doesn't like a lot of what I'm doing." They all had a good laugh at that, and I wanted to cry.

I have felt so out-of-place on this trip. I'm tired of plastic Christianity. I'm weary of pre-packaged, slick, marketed religion. I'm tired of discussions about Christian books and church politics and the latest programs.

I would love to find a group of believers who just want to come together, read straight Scripture, and discuss what it says. I want to pray and worship together for as long as the Holy Spirit leads. I want to hear testimonies of God's amazing power, and talk about our wonderful, magnificent, indescribable GOD!!!! I want to pour our hearts out on behalf of the nations, and intercede with tears and pleading for the unreached. I want to see the Holy Spirit move in power, and rejoice as lost souls come to Christ.

Last week we were visiting with one of our former college students, and he said, "sometimes I just get so homesick for heaven. I want to REALLY see Christ glorified. I want to worship with people from every nation, praising God corporately and being truly excited about God and His Word."

I couldn't agree more. Our son Joshua echoed the cry of my heart over a meal recently. He said, "Jesus, please help the missionaries and each of us do our jobs so that people all over the world can come to know you and you can hurry up and come back. We're ready to be with you."

Amen, Joshua, AMEN.