Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: Hamsatou (Ayorou)

Please be in prayer for Hamsatou this week. She is one of our female believers from Ayorou. She was 8 months pregnant &, earlier this week, she informed us that her unborn child had died in utero. She had not felt the baby move for 3 or 4 days & went to the local doctor to have it checked out. The doctor advised her to go to Niamey but, before she could go, she went into labor & delivered stillbirth. She is not sure what caused the complications as last month she had an ultrasound & the doctors assured her that all was well.

As many of you know, the death of children in Africa is commonplace (3 out of 5 children die before their 5th birthday). Due to beliefs in animism, it is common for parents to not even grieve their child's death. I remember when we lived in Ayorou & our neighbor's 2 year old child passed away, we were laughed at for being upset & crying over her death.

Yet, for Hamsatou, who has a greater Hope, she should both grieve & know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Please pray that she would allow herself to grieve the loss of her child (even though her friends & neighbors may mock her for doing so). Please pray that God would reveal Himself to her & His love for her in a very real way during this time. Pray that God would comfort her grieving heart & she would trust Him even more. Pray also for her health during this time. She will return to the doctor in one month to check for any further complications.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

march 2012 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

Thank you so much for praying for the Songhai, our team & our family! We can never express to you how grateful we are for your intercession on our behalf & on behalf of the Songhai people. Month to month, we are continually amazed at all God is doing among the Songhai & through your prayers. Light is breaking through, people are hearing of Christ for the first time, the lost are finding salvation & the Songhai believers are growing in their faith. Every minute you spend in prayer for them is making an eternal difference. Thank you!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker Phillips <><

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Andy Taught Me

I never grow tired of being taught so much by new believers.  Maybe it’s a way to ensure that I don’t puff up with pride but, for whatever reason, I’m constantly reminded that I may know more information than these brand new believers but that doesn’t mean anything.

One thing I love about having volunteers here in Niger is that you get to re-live those first few days of coming here every time a new group arrives.  Things that don’t even cause a second glance are objects of amazement by the fresh volunteers (aka, camels, donkey carts, and guys peeing in the road).  I get to see with fresh eyes the country I now call home.

This is also true for our new believers and Scripture.  Passages we glance over without a second thought are awe-inspiring and thought provoking to our new believers.  I remember sharing about the “wise” men one time in Ayorou and these brand new believers said, “Who tells a king that a new king has been born!?!?!” and thought it the greatest of ironies that we called these men “wise.”

Well, I had another moment like this a few weeks ago.  I’ve been walking Andy* through the discipleship lessons in our E2E material each afternoon.  We came to the story on persecution, which is about Paul and Silas in prison.  They are wrongly imprisoned but an earthquake provides a route for escape.  As the jailer weighs the outcome of an empty jail with his supervisors, he decides to take his own life.  Paul tells him to stop because no one has escaped, they are all there.  The jailer asks Paul, “What must I do to be saved?”  Paul tells him and the man and his whole household believed.

You’ve heard this story before right?  Maybe you’ve even seen it acted out on flannel graph! So Andy, all 2 weeks into his faith, sees something in this passage I’ve never thought about.  We read the story several times and then he looked at me and said, “How did the jailer know that Paul knew how someone could be saved?”  Ever thought about that?  The jailer didn’t say, “Thank you for not escaping,” but asked them how he too could have salvation. 

Andy then made the application himself and said, “I want to live my life in a way that people will ask me how to be saved.”  I picked my jaw off the table, dusted off my Master’s of Divinity and thanked God for His Holy Spirit, His Holy Word, and for saving Andy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Proclaiming Christ through Baptism

I was able to be present at one of our newest believer’s baptisms recently.  We have strived from the very beginning to replace ourselves in ministry so that the work can go on without us.  This, for the most part, has worked very well.  However, this means we’re usually not present anymore for most baptisms.

Hank* (from Ayorou but now living in Niamey) had led a friend to Christ and we’ve been moving through the E2E together every afternoon.  When we got to the section on baptism, much like the Ethiopian in Acts, Andy* said, “The river is right here, why not get baptized right now?!”

I asked if I could tag along and they agreed, so off we went to the river.  We actually walked for what seemed like forever even though I was constantly assured “a si mooru" ("it’s not far"). I’ve learned in almost 6 years here that phrase is as trustworthy as the promises on As Seen On TV products!

We finally arrived at the spot and Henry led Andy into the cool water, asked him several questions and then baptized Andy.  I love baptisms here because they seem to capture most accurately what baptism is supposed to be all about: proclamation of the Gospel. 

It’s just normal now in the States for baptisms to occur inside the church building in front of a mostly Christian audience.  This is how baptisms growing up for me were done.  There were some questions asked and a very girly robe donned and then as the new creation rose from the water, applause usually erupted.  It’s like wearing a Peyton Manning jersey through downtown Knoxville: everyone is in agreement, everyone is happy, everyone is saying, “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!”  It is a celebration, and rightfully so, as what once was dead is now, in front of their new community and family of faith, being declared alive!

However, baptisms here are often different.  At Andy’s baptism there were at least twenty people watching/staring who were not in agreement, who were not happy about what was going on.  Andy was not greeted with applause at his decision.  His friend (now brother in Christ) smiled and I encouraged him but everyone else in “attendance” that day did not share our joy.  Even as Andy returned home he was not met with gladness over his decision but rather, at best, disinterest and, at worst, disgust. 

But back to the river.  For those twenty or so there, and especially the unbelieving friend Andy had invited, got a front row picture of the Gospel.  They saw, to quote a song by Andrew Peterson, “a sinner who sinks in the river then emerges again delivered.”  Andy was declaring to a group of peers, “I am in Christ now, I am a new creation now!  I have been buried with Christ!” Andy’s baptism wasn’t just a simple symbolic act.  No, this was warfare, this was proclamation, this was the Kingdom of Christ advancing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Language Helps - Greetings

Weekly Prayer Focus: "the Bible" & his mama

Thank you so much for praying for "the Bible" last week. He is still living at home & trying to live out his faith in front of his father. Please continue to pray for him to have boldness. Pray for the Lord to grant Him wisdom about what he should do next ... move out or stay. Pray for him to be encouraged in his faith & for God to be especially near to him when he feels "faint of heart."

His mom is also near & dear to our hearts as Susan & I have been meeting with her for a while, sharing God's word & plan of salvation. Until recently, she had never shown any resistance to the Message but when Living Hope was here last month & they asked to pray for her, she said, "No!" Upon pressing her, she said that she feared if we prayed for her that it would mean she would become a Christian & her husband would not allow it.

After the situation with her son & husband escalated, she explained to us that she would stand by Hama if the father kicked him out of the house. This was a bold statement to support her son who follows Christ yet she does not have the courage to do it for herself. She even explained that if she was not married to this man, she would choose to follow Christ.

Please pray for her as she struggles to know the Truth & have the courage to accept it. Pray for God to reveal Himself to her in a way that she knows, without a doubt, that He is the One & Only True God. Pray for God to give her strength & boldness to follow Him despite what the earthly consequences might be.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

urgent prayer request

We covet your prayers for a young boy we refer to as "The Bible" because of his amazing ability to hold onto stories from God's Word. Many of you who've come here know and love him as he's such a sweet kid. He has been a believer for four years and led many of his friends to Christ. We received word yesterday that he'd recanted his faith in Christ. We thought this unbelievable until I called him and he confirmed this and then hung up on me. I called right back and his friend answered saying he wasn't there. I drove over and found him and asked what was going on. He said Satan was tempting him but he was still following Jesus. I pressed a little more and with tear-filled eyes (that doesn't happen much around here) explained that his dad told him he must deny Jesus or get out but he could no longer remain there as a Christian. He asked me to please have all of you pray for him to remain strong and for his dad's heart to be changed. Thanks for your prayers.

Weekly Prayer Focus: Accra

Please pray for the Songhai in Accra, Ghana. The Songhai leave their home lands of Niger, Mali or Burkina Faso to find work in the capital city of Ghana, usually selling onions or changing money. The Songhai migrant workers  range in age from 15 - 40 years old.

After 2 years of faithfully serving & sharing with these young men, Gomer W is finally seeing the Light break through as 4 young men have accepted Christ. Please pray for these young men to remain strong in their new faith, to grow daily in their wisdom & knowledge of Him & to become bold in their faith as they share the Hope they have with the other Songhai in Accra.

Please also pray for them as they return to their homelands in a few months to work the farms. They will undoubtedly be persecuted for their faith as they return to their villages that are 99.9% Muslim & will face being ostracized from their families for their decision. Pray for boldness, protection & commitment amidst the persecution.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

news from Gomer: March 2012

Dear Friends, 
I begin by offering praise to God for the great things he has done in the past few weeks.  We had a team in from First Baptist New Orleans.  They have come several times and have developed a great relationship with several of the onion guys.  While they were here we had the opportunity to get in some small group settings and talk to the guys about Jesus and what it is to be a Christian.  Four young onion guys have decided to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior!!!!  We all praise God for this.

Praise God for His miraculous healing powers.  Two weeks ago on Sunday, the team, Mitch* and I went to the onion market to visit.  When we arrived we were told that Wyatt* was sick in a small room behind our little school.  When we tried to wake him we got no response, we quickly realized his condition was serious and he needed emergency medical help.  We sent him to the hospital and he was given emergency care.  He was suffering from a very serious case of malaria and was dehydrated.  The hospital staff told him he would have died without quick and proper care.  Wyatt* and several of the guys from the market are giving all the credit to God for saving him.  They say it was God who sent us there to find him and send him to the hospital.  Wyatt* has no money for medical care and so we were able to cover his cost.  While in the hospital he had a vision of God lifting him up and telling him to go and tell everyone that God saved his life.  As he awoke from sleep, he saw them taking out a dead body from the ward he was in.  He had been hearing the guy suffering for breath all during the night.  He was deeply touched by all this and made a renewed commitment to follow Jesus more closely.  He came by today and is feeling much better only still really weak.  Continue to pray for him.

There is some very good news for Wyatt.  As you will recall, his wife left him when he told her he was a Christian.  She took their little baby and fled to her father's village.  Well, it appears that Wyatt's father is supporting him throughout his ordeal and has been talking to his wife. She called him this past week and has now told him she wants to come back to him.  He is very happy about this and is shocked at how God is working in his life.  He is trying to find the money to bring her to Accra.  Pray that somehow we can help him bring her and the little boy here and that she too will come to accept Jesus as her Savior.

While the team was here we had a very unusual occurrence. The onion guys kept coming to us at the Guesthouse. Talk about making short term volunteers lazy!!!  Just a little humor there, but this is a very big deal.  Rather than wait on us to come find them and sit with them, they were seeking out the team.  Mitch points out that they were seeking this time away from the larger group, so they could feel more free to listen and respond to the Christians and their teachings. You see, this is due to the love the guys feel from this team. 

The first day the team arrived, there were about seven guys that came and sat and talked for maybe a hour or so.  Then each morning at least one, sometimes more would come and sit and talk to the team.  One guy expressed his desire to minister the Gospel of Jesus to his friends and family.  He actually took the evangecube and told the good news of the Gospel to four of his friends one morning.  One of them has confided to Mitch that he believes what he has been taught about Jesus, and we believe he will soon accept Jesus as his Savior.  All this lead to us being invited to go and show them the Jesus video one day.  One guy that has always kind of been in the background sat and watched the whole video and in the last few days has come to visit us several times.  Please Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in the hearts and lives of these young men.

Right now many are coming to be near to us, they are seeing the love poured out upon them by God through us.  Many are talking to Mitch about the life changing experience of becoming a believer in Jesus and accepting Him as their Savior.  Please pray that in the next little while many will come to accept the Gospel and will allow Jesus to be their Savior.

  • Pray for Mitch and his family.  So much is happening in their lives right now.  Barbara* is within a few days of delivering a little beautiful addition to their family.  We are very happy to see this little one come soon.  I am hoping to see him or her before I leave to come to the states for a while.  Also pray for Mitch as I prepare to leave and be in the states for at least four months.  He feels a big weight on his shoulders as I will not be around for him to lean against.  We have come to truly rely upon each other in this ministry.  God has made us to be good friends and family.  I love to go to his home and sit with him and Barbara, play and talk with their children about all that is happening in their life.
  • Please pray for the ministry as I am gone.  Mitch and I are both looking forward to seeing what God will do in my absence.  With Mitch able to go around a little more freely, we look forward to the guys drawing closer to him to engage in conversation of Jesus.
  • Pray for me as I go home for a while.  I need to rest and get back in shape, spend some time with family and friends, work in the yard and be in the mountains.   Most of all I want to share all God is doing here and share our vision with as many as I can.  I am praying to raise some support for the ministry also.  I hope to meet with some great ministries, churches, organizations and people to see if God is calling them to be apart of this mission ministry.
  • Praise God for the four young men who have accepted Jesus as their Savior.   Pray for them as they endeavor to follow Jesus in their new life.
  • Praise God for raising up Wyatt from his sickness.  Pray that he will soon regain his strength and be more bold for the cause of Christ.
  • Pray for Wyatt's wife and family.  Pray he will be able to bring her here and that she too will come to accept Jesus as Savior.
  • Pray for the many young onion guys that are seeking to know more about Jesus and what it is to be a Christian, a child of the most high and loving God.
  • Pray for Mitch and his family as they experience so many life changing events in the next few weeks.  Pray that God will strengthen them, give them boldness and courage.  Pray that Barbara will deliver a beautiful little healthy baby.
  • Pray for me as I travel.  I am already missing the people here and I have not even left yet. Pray that God will open doors, guide me in the right ways to go and that I will be faithful to follow.  Pray that in all I do, I do all for Him.  I want to be always and only in the will of God.

      Thank you and God bless you all.
      In His Service,