Come on people…..

Last week I posted about Matt and Tricia and their upcoming movie to Thailand. Like I said in the post, they need to raise about $5,000 for their travel expenses, and they’re leaving really soon.

In the comments, Tricia shared some great news that they scored a ‘buddy pass’, which reduced the cost of the trip by half, but here’s what she wrote on their blog a couple of days ago:

Unfortunately, the buddy passes that our friends gave us turned out not to be the best route. Because they only got us so far, only one time, it ended up actually being more economical to actually purchase two round trip tickets. We got a pretty good price for one: $1,571.67. So, that brings our support needs back up to about $4,500. So far, we’ve gotten about $500. 🙂

In the last blog post I noted that if everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis would give 20 bucks, we could get them there. So far, two people have responded, and I have $40 that I’m going to send to the Flaglers, but I know we can do so much better than that! Let’s take a cue from Anne Jackson and show what lots of people can do when they do what they can!

Uzbekistan Photos (Pt. 2)

I posted another round of photos from my time in Uzbekistan (Read the original post here about where these are coming from). As I said before, I will gladly sell these to you in any format for any price, and all profits will go to supporting the Kingdom of Jesus in Central Asia.

See the rest of them on my flickr feed here.

Got a minute?

’cause if you do, I’d like to share a couple of neat opportunities with you…

When I went overseas, I had about 11 weeks to find enough folks to commit to giving about $1,200 a month for at least a year while I was gone. Once I had been gone for a couple of months, a good bit of my support dropped off. I ended up having to watch my finances very carefully, and I still spent a lot of my own money.

The day I got home, I pretty much had nothing in the bank, and I actually owed some money to cover travel expenses for getting home.

Missionaries shouldn’t have to deal with that.

Fast-forward to today: God is good and He takes care of me. Steph and I are ironing out some financial rinkles and God is teaching us in the process. But I want to introduce you to three friends who are now in the shoes I was in a couple of years ago:

—-

1) Meet Tricia and Matt. Tricia is my sister from another mother. She was with me in Uzbekistan, and is one of the awesome-est (yes, I just made that a word) people you’ll ever meet. Since we’ve been back, she and Matt got married and started a life together.

In a couple of weeks, they will be moving to Thailand to spread the Gospel. They will earn their place in the culture by teaching english to elementary school students at this school. Once they arrive in the country, their expenses will be paid as part of their teaching positions, but they are responsible to cover all of their travel expenses, which will be several thousand dollars.

Up until now, Tricia has been working at a church, and Matt has been working part-time while going to seminary. This is another way of saying, “These kids have been living on a string and a couple thousand dollars doesn’t come easy.” If everyone who looked at this blog yesterday gave 20 bucks, we could pay for their whole trip. Please pray about it and let me know if you wanna help!

Continue reading

I wanna go back…

Me in the ruins of Alexander the Greats palace in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Me in the ruins of Alexander the Great's palace in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

I would give a lot to be waking up in Samarkand today. I would walk down the street to get break baked just a few minutes ago, and I would come home and eat it for breakfast with sweet milk and tea.

Or I would fast and walk around the city all day and pray against the demonic strongholds that make a miserable place to live.

Someday, Lord?

What do you think?

Brace yourself.

For the first time in a while, I’m making some time to write something somewhat meaningful here.

It’s strange. Although these past couple of weeks have had me busier than ever (lots of driving back and forth between Greensboro and Creedmoor and working really hard to get up to speed at work, plus focussing a little bit more on church stuff), I seem to be experiencing more clarity than I have in a while.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just ’cause of the John Mayer song. Actually, I hope not. (Isn’t the point of that song that as soon as you realize that you’re having a moment of clarity it’s too late, because that realization will take away the clarity?)

But I digress…

To be honest, it’s not nearly that complicated. I think the bottom line is that I’ve had at least 2 1/2 hours a day to sit in a car and think and listen to some fantastic teaching from guys like Mark Driscoll and Francis Chan. And at least equally importantly, God has been doing some amazing things in Stephanie’s life too. She might not even realize it, but she’s more beautiful than ever — in every way. I feel more encouraged and supported than ever, and that makes more difference than any woman will ever understand.

So, all that rambling because I want to ask for some feedback. I had a rare moment this week when a Bible story became completely new to me — the meaning and value for my life right now came through in a way it never has before.

In our ‘Spiritual Gifts’ Bible study that our men’s group is studying through at work, the author makes a point using the life of Moses, and he focusses specifically on the story from early in Moses’ life where he kills the Egyptian. The author challenged me to consider the question: “Why did Moses kill the Egyptian?”

It seems like a simple enough question, but the answer is powerful for me: I think Moses killed him because he was beginning to get a grip on God’s calling for his life. God put in Moses’ heart a burden for His people. Moses felt God’s compassion and righteous anger towards the conditions of the Israelites.

And before he probably realized that God had put this in his heart, and certainly before he consulted God about it, he did something rash and chalked it up to passion.

The result: a man died, and Moses spent 40 years hiding out in the wilderness.

And I got to thinking: Did it really have to be that way? If Moses had realized that his passion came from God, and asked God for direction on how to act, and then waited, could it have played out better? What if God was ready and willing to lead the people out in 1 year? What if those 40 extra years of toil and death that God’s people experienced weren’t necessary?

But then again, God is sovereign. Someone in our discussion put it this way: What if God planned for everything to happen just the way it did? What if He wanted Moses to go out to the wilderness so that He could mold him into the redeemer of His people that He wanted him to be?

This definitely seems reasonable. Think about all the people who spent time in the wilderness before God really fulfilled His calling in their lives. There’s Moses, David, Paul, John the Baptist… even Jesus it seems to some extent.

So all that leaves me in a funny place because I have such an overwhelming passion for God’s church. I seriously feel the Gospel like fire in my bones and everything in me screams to give my whole life to see the world changed by the Gospel. I want to spend my life being poured out for the Bride of Christ in America until She is a true reflection of Him, and truly cares about His bride around the world. And I try to wrap my head around the story about Moses, and how God seems to send His servants into long seasons of waiting where He prepares them, and I try to think about how that applies to me, and I just don’t know what to take away.

In the sermon I listened to this morning from Francis Chan, he said that in Uganda alone (I think — that part wasn’t clear), 43,000 children are orphaned every day, and 29,000 orphans die every day.

Every day.

Part of me fights God about that.

“What can You teach me in 5 or 10 years that is worth so many wasted lives?”

I know. It’s an audacious question to ask the Creator. I ask it respectfully. I know that I have so much to learn that I don’t even know how much I have to learn.

But what’s the balance in the meantime? How do I stir up the passions God has put in me and take full advantage of what’s available for me to do in THIS season, while simultaneously resting in God’s sovereignty and just waiting for His leadership?

I guess I already know what I would tell someone if they asked me those questions… but all the same, what do you think?

More trouble in Uzbekistan

A Protestant from north-west Uzbekistan, Jandos Kuandikov, was arrested on 14 June and is still in detention before facing criminal trial on terrorism charges, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Uzbek police have also recently falsely accused a Protestant refugee in Kazakhstan of terrorism charges. Amongst other recent violations of freedom of thought, conscience and belief, four Baptists in Tashkent Region – Natalya Ogai, Filipp Kim, Dmitri Kim and Nurlan Tolebaev – have been fined and sentenced to ten days’ imprisonment, because of their peaceful religious activity. Fines continue to be imposed on other Protestants. However, in a highly unusual move, a court in the capital Tashkent found that charges against a Protestant had been fabricated and ordered police to be punished for this. But members of Tashkent’s Hare Krishna community have been banned from taking part in a music and environment festival.

Read the whole article here

Some quick links

Every time I come across something I want to draw your attention to via this blog, I leave it open in a tab, in hopes that some day I’ll have time to write what I really want to write about it.

…that hasn’t happened in a while though

And now my computer tells me that it must reboot to apply some security changes, so I’m going to throw a few links at you before I have to close my browser. I hope you’ll take time to look:

Uzbekistan TV Campaign Against Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses

This is something I experienced first-hand while I was overseas. People are literally brainwashed as their own fearless (revolting excuse for a man) leader comes on national television and tells them that Christians are only in their country to steal away their culture. And it’s effective. Here’s an excerpt (emphasis mine):

On Saturday 17 May state television broadcast in prime time a report describing such groups as a “global problem, along with religious dogmatism, fundamentalism, terrorism, and drug addiction,” actively involved in deceiving young people and minors.

The documentary featured Uzbek religious and political experts, state officials as well as representatives of the other religions, all of whom took a critical view of missionaries.

People are literally taught that the Gospel is as dangerous as terrorism or drug addiction.

I guess in a way it is…

Uzbekistan: Longest-Held Political Prisoner Free After Two Decades In Jail

The United Nations has decided that Uzbekistan has the 5th most corrupt government in the world.

And cotton is a big deal.

It’s a cash crop.

Farmers are literally forced to grow cotton and sell it to their government at substandard wages, while their families starve because of the essential foods that are not grown instead. University students are forced to take 4-8 weeks during the summer to pick cotton for the government, for free. And this guy was sent to jail for most of his life, why: because he made it work. That’s why there’s such a pervasive sense of hopeless in Central Asia. Because it seems like people are punished for doing anything but suffering…

Why do I share this? Because I want you to pray.

Adoniram Judson’s Advice to Missionaries

I found this on the Desiring God blog. If you don’t know who Adoniram Judson was, then you owe it to yourself to look him up. Desiring God has some great free resources, and I believe for a dollar or two you can buy a 1 1/2 hour talk by Piper about his life. The short version of the story is: The Gospel is alive in Burmha because of Judson’s amazing dedication and sacrifice. Here are a couple of his points to anyone who would be a missionary:

First, then, let it be a missionary life; that is, come out for life, and not for a limited term. Do not fancy that you have a true missionary spirit, while you are intending all along to leave the heathen soon after acquiring their language. Leave them! for what? To spend the rest of your days in enjoying the ease and plenty of your native land?

Fifthly. Beware of the reaction which will take place soon after reaching your field of labor. There you will perhaps find native Christians, of whose merits or demerits you can not judge correctly without some familiar acquaintance with their language. Some appearances will combine to disappoint and disgust you. You will meet with disappointments and discouragements, of which it is impossible to form a correct idea from written accounts, and which will lead you, at first, almost to regret that you have embarked in the cause. You will see men and women whom you have been accustomed to view through a telescope some thousands of miles long. Such an instrument is apt to magnify. Beware, therefore, of the reaction you will experience from a combination of all these causes, lest you become disheartened at commencing your work, or take up a prejudice against some persons and places, which will embitter all your future lives.

Eighthly. Never lay up money for yourselves or your families. Trust in God from day to day, and verily you shall be fed.

Seventhly. Beware of pride; not the pride of proud men, but the pride of humble men — that secret pride which is apt to grow out of the consciousness that we are esteemed by the great and good. This pride sometimes eats out the vitals of religion before its existence is suspected. In order to check its operations, it may be well to remember how we appear in the sight of God, and how we should appear in the sight of our fellow-men, if all were known. Endeavor to let all be known. Confess your faults freely, and as publicly as circumstances will require or admit. When you have done something of which you are ashamed, and by which, perhaps, some person has been injured (and what man is exempt?), be glad not only to make reparation, but improve the opportunity for subduing your pride.

(Read all 10 here.)

Silk Road to the Present

This is an article from the Moscow Times about the city where I spent a year. It’s funny to hear someone talk about the city from a tourist’s perspective, but it’s interesting none-the-less.

Uzbekistan: International Groups Blast Tashkent’s “Media Freedom Conference”

Excerpt:

The idea was that major international rights groups — including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the International Crisis Group, and the Open Society Institute — would attend and contribute to a frank exchange on a topic that generally makes the region’s leaders squeamish.

At the last minute, however, Uzbek officials scrapped the plans for an EU-Uzbek conference on civil society. Instead they staged an “Uzbek version” of the gathering that participants and would-be participants said fell far short of Brussels’ goals.

This is how they role in that good ol’ corrupt country.

Pray for Uzbekistan y’all.