Reid Satterfield is an editor for T2Pneuma Publishers LLC, the former director of the Pierce Center at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) in Charlotte, NC, a guest blogger on T2Pneuma.net (link), and a good friend. He commenced in May 2015 and gave the address on behalf of the graduates. I commend it to your listening (press here).
This afternoon I will be guess on the Life Issues Radio Show with host, Lloyd Rosen.
I will be talking about my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality.
The interview is from 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Central Standard Time (3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).
Listen online at: The Life Issues Radio Show.
The Life Issues Radio Show appears on the Tough Talk Radio Network which comes to us from Katy, Texas.
Lloyd Rosen is the author of a book himself, Search for Happiness: My Journey from Darkness into the Light
(ISBN: 9781434368706: Amazon.com), which chronicles his struggle with depression.
Our guest blogger today is Chaplain David Wilkinson of the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue.
Answer the Call!
The recruitment campaign for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue has a double meaning for those who serve as Chaplains. We answer not only the call to help people, but also a call from God.
Without the call from God, we would struggle during emergencies to keep our faith and sanity. First responders face numerous stressful situations as they run into burning buildings and deal with other life-threatening emergencies. It should come as no surprise that they often need to talk about it. Unfortunately, it is a surprise to most people who idealize first responders thinking that they are tougher than the rest of us. Statistically, first responders (police, fire, rescue, military) have a high incidence of divorce and suffer numerous other stress-related problems because of their work. What is perhaps most surprising is that hundreds of volunteers in Loudoun County accept this risk without out pay or other compensation just for the satisfaction of helping those in need.
Rescue chaplains not only aid the emergency medical services (EMS) staff their stress, they also work along side of the EMS staff in aiding family members experiencing these emergencies—injuries, loss of life, and property damage.
The hardest part of an emergency is dealing with the unknown. We typically want answers that only God can supply. What is taking so long? What is EMS team doing? Is there hope for full recovery? Simple things are not so simple during emergencies. Still, chaplains are trained to be a nonanxious presence in these stressful circumstances. The Apostle Paul writes: I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 ESV).
My call story is most personal. My father was a fireman. One day as he worked under a car it slid off the jacks onto his chest. I was right there. Being young and naive, I struggled to lift the car. Then, I heard a voice saying: “Jack the car! Jack the car! Jack the car!” I did, and pulled him out, still living but bleeding internally. Waiting in the hospital for 10 long hours to hear from the surgeons exhausted me emotionally, but I realized that the voice that I heard during the accident was not a neighbor but God. At that point, I realized that God was calling me to help not only my father but also other people.
What is God calling you to do?
David Wilkinson grew up in Milford, Connecticut. He accepted God’s call on December 16, 1961 at the age of 14. He is now married with two children and six grandchildren. David is a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary , a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church , Herndon, Virginia, and a Stephen Minister .
David has been a member of the Sterling Voluntary Rescue Squad  for 7 years.
Our guest blogger today, Pastor Chris Looker, invites us to consider the potter’s work by learning the fine art of pottery throwing on the pottery wheel.
Potter’s House Ministry
The Potter’s House ministry began at First Presbyterian Church of Annandale this past September as a pilot program for 8 weeks. The objectives of the program were to learn more about pottery, each other, and the Lord through prayer, listening to Taize music, and breaking out into small groups to throw, trim, glaze, and fire ceramic forms. Before it was over, we produced more than 100 finished and glazed pottery pieces.
The Original Potter
When God created the heavens and earth, God was like a potter at the wheel. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote about a vision that he had saying:
[The Lord said] Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words. So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:2-7 ESV).
But pottery is not just the prophet’s imagination. We are told in the Book of Genesis that: the LORD God formed the man of clay [dust] from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7). From that which was formless, God created many beautiful things. From the clay of the ground, God created and formed life!
But God did not stop there! God’s Holy Spirit formed Jesus in Mary’s womb out of nothing! In Luke’s Gospel we read:
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus … And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God (Luke 1:30-31, 34-35 ESV).
This is our potter at work. God formed Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It was not an accident; nothing was left to chance. God was involved in each and every step. He was born as the perfect Savior, fully human and fully God, all because the Creator himself was perfect. Jesus Christ was and is and will always be a miracle of God’s handiwork–and so are each of you! In Jesus Christ, God has shown Himself to be the greatest Artist of all.
God formed us from the clay of the ground. We know this because in Hebrew the word, Adam ( הָֽאָדָ֜ם (Genesis 2:20 WTT)), means alternatively: Adam, man, or clay (soil, dust, dirt, or ground). At funerals we are reminded of Adam’s curse for his sin: By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are clay, and to clay you shall return (Genesis 3:19).
What do we say? Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We live in certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.
Dr. Chris Looker is the Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, Virginia (www.FPCAnnandale.org) where he has served for the past 8 years. He and his wife, Genny, live with their two boys, Ben and Sam, in Vienna, VA.
In the 50 plus years since FPCA was chartered, the community has morphed from being a Caucasian suburban community into an ethnically diverse, urban community. FPCA has risen to meet this challenge by forming a partnership agreement with the First Korean Presbyterian Church of Virginia (FKPCV). This partnership involves a growing number of people in decision-making, financial support, mission, and worship. FPCA and FKPCV have worked together to renovate the main sanctuary and much of the physical infrastructure. FPCA and FKPCV are also active in Christian Mission Service jointly supported the building of a 50 kilowatt hydroelectric dam in Lubondai, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the building of a Mission School in Catamayo, Ecuador.
First Presbyterian Church of Annandale (FPCA) is located in Annandale, VA off of Little River Turnpike (route 236) adjacent to Annandale High School (www.fcps.edu/AnnandaleHS) at 7610 Newcastle Drive, Annandale, VA 22003-5422.
FPCA prides itself on its commitment to musical excellence. On Sunday April 13, 2014 at 7:00 P.M., the Mormon Choir of Washington, DC (www.MormonChoir.org) will perform a concert in our sanctuary, as the second concert in our concert series.
Our guest blogger this week is Pastor Thomas Smith who works with his family as a missionary to the reformed churches in Croatia, a part of the former communist country of Yugoslavia.
A New Life in an Old Land
Sparkling crystal clean water along pristine beaches on hundreds of islands and inlets loom large on the tourist promotions for Croatia. Rightly so, Croatia’s Dalmatian and Istrian regions really are spectacular. If you have not yet visited Croatia, you should. Visiting a country like Croatia for vacation is one thing, living and working here year round is a different experience.
Over much of the past two years, I have lived in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia where I have been a theology lecturer and helper to a Protestant church. This is the first time I have lived outside the United States. I am still adjusting to the culture and rhythm of life here.
Croatian culture puts more value on family, traditions, and relationships than does American culture. While Croatians value convenience, pragmatism, efficiency, and quality, they do not rate these quite as highly as Americans. So as an American living here, I find myself feeling frustrated at times with products, services and rules because they are different than in America. So, I am learning to change my expectations and my ways of thinking and doing.
I remind myself that I want to be here, I am called to be here to help the evangelical community in general and the Protestant Reformed Christian Church (http://www.prkc.hr/index.php/home) in particular. The Protestant community is small, less than one percent. Roman Catholicism is woven into the fabric of society.
Here church membership is about identity. Church membership is not about being a disciple of Christ. If you are Orthodox, then you must be Serbian. Or if you are Muslim, then you must be a Bosnian. Croats are Catholic. But, Protestants are just odd and don’t fit any hole–it would better if you were an atheist.
The Croatian people are wonderful friends. They are kind, helpful, generous and hardworking. Most work at their jobs and are paid very little. The transition from communism to capitalism has been rough and inhumane. My friends tell me life under Tito’s communism was better than conditions today.
While there is plenty of despair to go around, the people are great and love life. They love children, dogs, a good cup of coffee, conversation, and a good story. They appreciate home-made food, fine wine, music, and dance. Enjoying the same things, I feel at home here. Like death and taxes, frustration and bureaucracy are unavoidable no matter where you live.
Croatians are primarily a Slavic people, but through the centuries they have absorbed the Illyrians, Romans, Celts, Germans, and other ethnicities. The Slavic tribes came to this part of Europe in the early 600’s. The first united kingdom arrived in 925 AD, but the royal line died out by 1100 AD. They later merged their kingdom with Hungary until the 1500’s when they joined the Austro-Hungarian Empire to avoid being overrun by the Turks.
During the 1500’s Luther’s ideas about reforming the Roman Catholic church across Europe because of Gutenberg’s printing press. The Protestant Reformation came to the edges of the country. In this time period, Croatia was a battleground between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Due to the military and political situation, the Protestant Reformation was unable to penetrate Croatia. During the 16th and 17th centuries diffe
rent Popes assembled Catholic nations to battle the Ottoman Turks and, as a consequence, the Croatians saw the Vatican as their best defender and friend. Catholicism became an important part of their identity and Croatians remained loyal to the Roman church. The Counter-Reformation led by the Jesuits effectively reduced and eliminated the Protestant presence.
Reformation in Croatia
Nevertheless, during the Reformation in eastern Croatia a priest named Michael Starin embraced Luther’s ideas. He introduced people to Christ; spread the idea that the Bible alone is the highest authority in the church; and proclaimed “Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” in the region. A total of 130 parishes converted. For example, in the village of Tordinci, a Protestant church was created in 1551 and remains active today–despite the Counter Reformation and persecution–463 years later! In 2001, it voted to leave the Reformed Calvinist Church (which is mostly Hungarian), along with some other parishes.
Friends in Christ
The pastor at Tordinci, Dr. Jasmin Milic, is a close friend and he invited me to join him as a church planter in Zagreb. Much like Paul’s vision of the Macedonian begging him to “come over … and help us” (Acts 16:9), I prayed and felt God’s call to join this church. In 2011 and 2012, I transitioned from being a Pennsylvania pastor to working as an evangelist inside the church in Croatia.
My task here is to preach, teach and do outreach, but I also mentor young church leaders and teach seminary classes. Friends, family and churches in America feel called to support my family and work through contributions to the International Theological Education Ministry (ITEM). As our expenses grow and our savings shrink, new partners in Christ step forward to support my wife and I in this work. The crystal clear waters of the Adriatic remind me of the waters flowing from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1). Here is the crystal sea and before it are every tongue, tribe, and nation worshiping the Lord! The Lord beckons: come to Croatia; see the crystal sea; make disciples; join the new life in Christ!
Rev. Thomas J. Smith grew up in York, PA. A graduate of Penn State University and Covenant Theological Seminary, he has been an ordained Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America since 2004. He is married to Ana with whom he has three daughters, Katherine, Kristina, and Evelyn. Tom and his family have been living and working in Croatia since 2012.
Financial contributions (designated for Tom Smith) may be sent to ITEM, Inc., P.O. Box 31456, St. Louis, MO 63131-0456 or through PayPal at www.item.org .
Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield
This morning’s guest blogger, Reid Satterfield, writes about a learning experience as a missionary in Uganda. Reid hails from Charlotte, NC.
Reflection on Cows
One evening—when we still lived in Northwest Uganda—April and I were awakened by the sound of footfalls just outside of our bedroom window. Alarmed, I jumped out of bed, grabbed a tire iron, and rushed to our front door. At that moment I was aware that the source of the noise was on the other side of the door. Bracing for the worst, I opened the door to—of all things—the rear-end of a cow. Peering around his hindquarters, I could see him munching on our grass, oblivious to me and to the fact that he’d just desecrated my doorstep and—nearly—my feet. Agitated, I traded the tire iron for a walking stick and laid into that mangy cow.
As the cow galloped away, I returned to bed, satisfied he would not return and grateful for the ebony walking stick—a gift from an elder of a nearby clan. Sadly, I enjoyed my satisfaction only a moment. Within minutes the cow had returned and, again, I had to chase him out of my yard. This cycle was repeated. The third time he returned I was so angry that I ran outside, stick in hand, and chased that cow for about 100 meters.
When I came to my senses, I found myself in overgrowth—where recently I’d had a Wild Kingdom experience with rats and a large black mamba (an aggressive and highly poisonous snake)—wearing only boxer shorts and flip-flops. Chastened, I returned home to a rather amused wife and with another “teachable moment” to ponder.
Following Christ is not always glamorous…it can be downright degrading. But, these little humiliations that we endure in Christ highlight an oft-overlooked truth that self-regard and humility do not go together. Following Christ is a “downwardly mobile” pathway . To serve Christ is to count yourself as the least among many; to serve Christ is to put other people’s needs ahead of your own.
So brothers and sisters, accept life’s many humiliations as Christ’s provision for the journey; a journey from self-regard to humility.
The Apostle Paul’s Words to the Church at Philippi
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).
I grew up in Hampstead, NC, a small fishing community located in the southeast corner of the state. Here I spent endless hours outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring the salt marshes of the barrier islands. Through conversation and commitment, my mother and father introduced me to Jesus Christ.
During my last two years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, I committed myself to a life of following Christ and got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF; www.intervarsity.org). Here I developed an inner joy in being discipled and discipling others. My wife, April, and I met in IVCF and we ached to serve Christ in overseas missions. When we married in June of 1996, we were already on our way becoming missionaries.
Mission to Uganda
April and I were missionaries with the African Inland Mission (www.aimint.org) from 1998 to 2001. Our daughter, Emma Jane, was born in northwestern Uganda in August of 2000. Working among the Aringa people, an unreached tribe along the Congo and Sudan borders, our dream was to share Christ’s love with people previously familiar only with famine, war, and exile. We loved our little mud-brick house in the bush and planned to make it our life’s work.
In January 2001, rebel troops ambushed, shot, and left for dead a friend and I. We survived miraculously, but my wounds forced us to return to the states in February. A year later I entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (www.GordonConwell.edu) in Charlotte, NC and later (2004-2012) coordinated of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building for the Charlotte and Jacksonville campuses.
St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission
Today, I serve as the Coordinator of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation at St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission (http://StPatricksMission.org). I also serve as a certified lecturer for Perspectives, a nationwide organization that provides churches with educational resources for engaging in world missions and provide spiritual direction to various leaders in and around the Charlotte Metro area.
 Henri Nouwen. 2007. The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. (www.HenriNouwen.org)
Our guest blogger this morning is Frank Hiemstra from Centreville, VA.
My Life as a College Student
When I came to college, I wanted thrill and adventure. I thought I could fulfill these desires by partying, getting good grades, getting girls … getting mine. Things worked that way for a while, but I was never satisfied.
All that changed in the fall of freshman year. I met Jesus Christ and found a fulfillment that does not go away. God told me clearly that He loves me and that I have a purpose in life–to glorify and enjoy Him. And knowing my past, if He can love me, He can love anyone.
And now, wrapping up senior year, I see that Christ uses 4 things to shape me:
In time spent alone with Him, He tells me He loves me.
In my local Church, He builds me up.
In my community of friends and believers, He encourages me. And
In ministry, I get to tell the world how much Jesus loves them.
First, there is nothing like spending intimate, quality time with God. Here, God builds me up; His Spirit gives me real life; and He shares His promises:
That He loves me unconditionally,
That I have eternal life,
That He has plans for me,
That He will never forsake me.
College students often believe that they are too busy to spend time with the Lord. That is a lie. College is a time for the Creator of the world to tell us why He made us and fill us up with His Spirit. Reading the Bible is not just another thing to check off our list; it brings us life and the energy to overcome each new day’s challenges.
Second, every Sunday my friends and I go to Jefferson Park Baptist Church (http://jpbc.org). Church gets me out of the college bubble and I get to see real people: families with kids; adults with jobs. What a blessing–it’s the best part of my week! These are people who have experienced the same pressures and temptations of college life with friends, wild parties, and grades that I am experiencing. Having been through it, they are able to offer me valuable wisdom and advice.
Third, every night I come home to a house of college guys seeking God just like me. Not only are these dudes fun–joking around, throwing dance parties, and playing Super Smash Bros on N64–they are also committed to Christ and they push me towards Him. They hold me accountable; listen to me; and walk alongside me as I follow Christ. God never wants us to be alone. I love how we get to do it together.
Lastly, sharing the Good News with others and being God’s hands and feet on earth is a great privilege. I volunteer as a Young Life leader at Charlottesville High School (www.ccs.k12.va.us/schools/chs). With Young Life, I build relationships with high school students and share Jesus’ unconditional love. Last fall, a friend met Jesus and his life changed forever right before my eyes–it was just like when I met Jesus for the first time. This experience enriched my own relationship with Christ and it convinced me that leading Young Life is the best thing that I’ve done in college.
Do you want thrills? There is no greater thrill in college than experiencing the God of the universe show up in your life.
Frank is a senior studying electronic engineering at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. Frank volunteers as a leader with Young Life (http://Charlottesville.YoungLife.org). In his free time, he plays basketball, Spades, and the game board–Settlers of Catan. Frank is a graduate of Chantilly High School.
Today’s guest blogger is Pastor Brian Clark of Riverside Presbyterian Church (RPC) in Sterling, VA. He talks about SlopFest which has been a summer tradition.
History of SlopFest
Seventeen years ago RPC created an event to celebrate the end of the school year called Slopfest. The first Slopfest took place in the backyard of a neighborhood home. A dozen middle school and high school students and a few adults attended. Slopfest was a sheet of plastic that slid into into a baby pool of slime.
Message of SlopFest
Before the sliding began one of the adults shared a simple message: No matter how messy you get in life, God still loves you. Seventeen years later Slopfest had moved to a 5-acre church property and participation grew to 2,000+ high school and middle school students with over 200 adult volunteers. The baby pool of slim had been replaced by:
3 pits of mud called “the pig sty”;
A jousting pit with a foot of muddy water under a low beam where kids could knock each other off;
An obstacle course and three giant slides into soapy water;
Two toilet brush hockey rinks; and
The climax consisting of giant crud war where the weapons of choice were expired syrup, shaving cream, and flour bombs.
I am sure that I missed something here! At the end, the local fire company hosed everyone down.
Still, the event began as it did seventeen years ago with a simple message: No matter how messy you get in life, God still loves you.
All good things must end. Perhaps not, but all good things in life must adapt to changing circumstances if they are going to remain good. The SlopFest Message–No matter how messy you get in life, God still loves you–is still a good message. We need to continue to share this message in new ways. As the Prophet Isaiah wrote:
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19 ESV)
Farewell to Slopfest is an opportunity. Each ending is also a beginning. The energy and resources that went into running SlopFest can now be directed into other ministries.
Hey, You are Invited: SlopFest Goodbye Party
For unrelated reasons, RPC recently sold its property; this sale implied that Slopfest lost its home. However, our farewell celebration is not a denial of the objectives of SlopFest. The SlopFest message still lives in our hearts and inspires our ministries.
On Sunday, April 27, 2014 the community is invited to join us in this celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. at in the parking lot of the church (46040 Center Oak Plaza, Suite 130, Sterling, VA 20166). Farewell to Slopfest will be a festival complete with a band (www.DavePettiGrew.net), food, laser tag, and an inflatable obstacle course open to all ages. It will be one more chance to share the message: No matter how messy you get in life, God still loves you.
Check with the RPC office (703-444-3528) or website (www.RiversideChurch.com) in coming days for event details. You can also follow us on Twitter (@SlopFest).
Our guest blogger, Nathan Snow, attended a breakfast for area faith leaders and wrote this post as a reflection on the conversation that took place. It appeared on the Centreville Presbyterian Church website (www.CentrevillePres.com) on February 26, 2014.
Visit to the Centreville Labor Resource Center
“God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself… gave us the ministry of reconciliation (katallasso).” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
How often do we make friends of the invisible people that we pass daily at work or in the market? Do you know your hairdresser? Do you know the person who serves you coffee? Perhaps yes; many times no.
But even with perfect strangers we cannot, as Christians, treat people with fear or indifference. In Christ, we exchange not only money and goods, but also ourselves, our joys, and our dreams. Christ inspires us to take risks and to be open to everyone we meet.
Market places, when they operate without too many restrictions, draw us closer together and reconcile perfect strangers.
The Greek word for reconciliation “katallasso,” means to make friends by being decisively changed. The word also meant making “exact change.” Of persons, it means changing from enmity to friendship.
Richard Whately, a 19th century economist and Archbishop of Dublin, recommended the word “catallactics”, rather than economics, to refer to the study of exchange. Some economists have recently followed Whately’s lead and used this term. After all, to exchange and make friends is the whole point of a knowledge society.
Earlier this month I visited a new market place called the Centreville Labor Resource Center (www.CentrevilleLRC.org). People were friendly, smiling and talking about work and new job opportunities they had heard about. They shared information with one another over coffee and small talk. People from multiple different cultures, languages, and walks of life were joined to one another to learn new skills and ways to care for their families. This is a true market place.
But this new market was also unique, even peculiar. Like Monster, or LinkedIn, it was like the websites many of us visit when looking for a new job. However, these were people “off the grid”. None of the people at the market I visited could look for a job online–they were all day-laborers. This was like a temp service for individuals who do not have access to a temp service. Undocumented workers and other day laborers are matched with contractors or individuals needing odd jobs taken care of around the house. The service protected the worker and reduced the risks to the employer of hiring a complete stranger. It is always easier to do business with friends that you know and trust.
The Centreville Labor Resource Center is a reconciling ministry: a market and a place to make friends. It creates community. In doing so, it provides a safe, organized place where residents and contractors can negotiate work arrangements with day laborers. And, it receives no government funds.
Nathanael Snow is an economist and amateur theologian. He and his wife spent 8 years in full time ministry to inner-city Durham, NC. His research looks at the intersection of Theology and Economics, in particular the structure of religious institutions. Twitter @NathanaelDSnow.
Our guest bloggers today, Stefan and Ellie Sultanov, are a ministry team from Bulgaria and fellow classmates of mine at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Their post focuses on a unique ministry that they initiated among international students working in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Myrtle Beach Ministry
In recent years the immigration law and reform in the U.S. have been a hot issue. Politicians have taken sides and so have voters. But what about us as Christians? It is enough to just side with our preferred political party when it comes to foreigners? There are also no doubt legal implications. But what about the spiritual implications? In this brief post I will address one with eternal significance.
Our story began in 2008 when Ellie and I began a 5-year ministry to international students while working at Myrtle Beach, SC on a work-and-travel program. According to local news statistics, there are some 3,000 international students that flood Myrtle Beach each summer. Most of them come from Eastern Europe which, of course, includes a large number of Bulgarians. During our summer outreach each year, we came in contact with Bulgarian, Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Turkish students.
Our strategy was quite simple. Over the summer we developed relationships with students by inviting them for meals at our home, watching movies together, fixing their bicycles, and taking them shopping. Because they only used bicycles for transportation, we drove them on short trips to visit other places and even took some to church with us. And we talked and talked.
We had countless opportunities to share the Good News with them. Remember, these young people came from former communist countries. Most of them had never heard about God or held a Bible in their hands. Most of them had no sense of spirituality. At best, they might share some vague understanding of eastern religions or their personal philosophy of life.
Still, at Myrtle Beach some took significant steps forward in their spiritual journey. Some decided to follow Jesus Christ right by the beach. Others began the thought process and later took the final step with someone else in their lives.
Over the years we looked for other people and churches who might share in this ministry. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for international evangelism that does not require travel or the need to send missionaries overseas. Still, we were unable to identify any ministry partners. Then, about three years back, we talked with a pastor of a local church that is strategically located in the middle of Myrtle Beach. He was excited about the opportunity. We offered to outline the whole project and to train a ministry team. However, our timing is not always God’s timing.
A few months ago, missions people from that same church contacted us to learn more about this ministry. We got together for breakfast and emotions ran wild! This group was as passionate about missions among the visiting students as we are. Soon, a mission group from that church plans an organizational meeting where we will be able to present our ministry experience.
*****Please pray that God will give us utterance–the ability to share passionately, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit–at this meeting.*****
We are excited that this ministry will come back with more resources than we were ever able to offer. God knows how many students would be impacted by a more systematic, more sustained, outreach effort.
Stefan’spassion is building deep and long-lasting friendships, teaching and discipleship.
Currently, Stefan is a full-time student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (www.gordonconwell.edu)–Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed a Master of Divinity degree (Magna cum Laude) and is now finishing a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling degree. Stefan also holds a Master of Arts in French Language and Literature and prior to becoming a seminary student he has worked as a private language tutor and worship leader. He is a founding member of Holy Trinity Bulgarian Free Church in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
Stefan was born and raised in communist Bulgaria where he had a first-hand experience of living under an atheist dictatorship. Shortly after the fall of the regime, when he was only 14, he responded to an altar call and gave his life to Christ. Stefan’s early ministry experience includes working with worship teams, children’s work, orphanage visitations and open air evangelism. While serving the Lord in different capacities, he started sensing a special call from God to pursue a seminary education.
Ellie has a special heart for evangelism, discipleship, counseling, and the persecuted underground church around the world.
Currently, Ellie is completing a Dual degree – Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary-Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ellie grew up in Bulgaria while the country was still under communism. After the fall of the regime Ellie began attending church with her parents which marked the beginning of her family’s journey with God. Shortly after, Ellie’s parents became some of the first full-time missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ International in Bulgaria (http://bit.ly/1oTfxOr) – a ministry they have been working with for nearly twenty years now. Ellie’s point of conversion came at a winter children’s camp organized by Child Evangelism Fellowship where she gave her life to Christ at the age of 9. Ellie traveled with her father extensively throughout the country to show the Jesus Film, evangelize and preach (www.JesusFilm.org). Ellie witnessed for Christ to people around her and her spiritual identity became deeply ingrained.