Thursday, March 28, 2013

Darkness has not overcome the Light

Our Songhai Team adopts a team verse and a team theme each year.  I’ll be blogging later about our team theme for 2013 but wanted to share with you our team verse here.

Our team verse is John 1:5 which says “The light has come into the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John’s Gospel is full of light/darkness references and we too find our ministry best understood in these terms.  We see our job as taking light into some of the darkest places on planet Earth.  Places that have never heard of the Light and have lived in darkness for literally centuries. 

John’s Gospel promises two things: 1) there will be conflict when light enters darkness and 2) light wins.  When light enters darkness there is conflict because those in darkness want to remain there.  Light means being exposed and revealed and we don’t like that. 

The Songhai, for the most part, are still in darkness.  Taking the Light to them is challenging on many levels and there are times that it looks like darkness is winning.  However, we cling to this promise (and others) from God’s Word that the darkness will not overcome the light.

A recent trip to a new area of work for us reminded me about this reality.  It is a new village where 2 men actually believed on hearing the Gospel for the first time ever.  I referred to this village as Mayberry as it was so peaceful.  A friend from Ayorou even accompanied me on several follow-up trips and we both remarked how kind people were even when they didn’t agree with us.

Well, darkness is never passive.  It’s not enough to try and remain in darkness but instead the darkness is aggressive when light comes. 

We pulled up to this village a few weeks ago and were on our way to meet with the few believers when several village elders approached us.  They didn’t greet us (very un-Songhai) but instead said, “You are the ones claiming you built our mosque and we want to go to the chief and have you judged!”

How’s that for a welcome?! 

We tried to explain the foolishness of this statement.  If anything, we told them, we would build a church!  

They were not appeased and insisted we go to the chief.  At the chief’s house there was a lot of shouting (on their part) as we sat quietly and listened.  They kept saying “the chief says…” although the chief sat there quietly and seemingly embarrassed at the scene. 

At long last, the real reason for their anger came out.  They weren’t mad about this so-called claim (because they knew it was a lie) but were upset because we were preaching Jesus in the village i.e., Light had come to town.

They said, again speaking for the chief, that we were no longer welcome in this place and needed to leave immediately.  The chief returned the gifts we’d given him and we were about to head back to our bush taxi when one of our friends in the village (not a believer) began to scold these elders and even the chief! 

He shamed them about the way they’d treated us because we were visitors and visitors are supposed to be kings to the Songhai.  He shamed them about making up this lie.  He then shouted that he would build a church in his compound and they could do nothing about it! 

We tried to calm this man down as this was not our first encounter like this.  But the man gathered up all people who were not intimidated by these elders to meet at his house where he gave us the floor to share the Gospel with about 40 men!  Light wins.

It’s not always so immediate though and there are plenty of times it looks like darkness is winning.  As I type this I’m so heartbroken over the news of one of our solid believers who has been severely beaten by his father for accepting Christ.

We know light wins and we cling to this promise.  We know that we won’t always see it in this life.  We know that it’s about a bigger battle that’s been won.  Light winning isn’t always about our health or our safety, it’s about the victory Christ has won as he defeated death.  It’s the victory of salvation as he frees these former slaves to sin and makes them into sons of righteousness. 

And so we cling to this verse even when (maybe especially when) we can’t see it.  Light wins.

Friday, March 22, 2013

NLTS 3 - The Gospel of John

Almost a year ago while Randy, Cephas and I were in Accra, Ghana we began to dream about a future ministry location we hoped to call the HUB.  Out of that came an idea of an oral theological training school.   We were in totally uncharted territory but felt God’s guiding hand as we began planning. 

Now we have just finished up our third course (of 12) of said school at the HUB.  It’s been an amazing ride and it just keeps getting better!  Thank you for your prayers through every step of the way.

Okay, on to NLTS 3.  I wish somehow I could capture the week with words but I just can’t.   It was such a sweet time of fellowship with 15 brothers from several villages. 

I personally grew so much as I prepared to teach the Gospel of John.  It has always had such a special place in my own spiritual growth and I was so excited to walk through it with these dear brothers.

But how could I teach 21 chapters of John in 5 short days?  This was my fear.  Our goal is never just knowledge and we always want our believers to walk away with an understanding of how to use this knowledge.  Typically this means we spend lots of time on repetition and make sure they can repeat back the stories we tell.

You just can’t do that in 5 days trying to move through 21 chapters so I decided to focus on what John himself says the purpose of his Gospel were.  He states in the 20th chapter that he has written these things so that we might know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that we might believe in Him and have life.

So with that, we set out to pull those two points out of every verse of this amazing Gospel.  Joneo created some great visuals for the 8 miracles and the 7 “I AM” statements John records for us.  We turned these visuals into a small book for each believer with the hopes that as they listened to the Gospel with their lost friends, they could use these visuals to pull out these 2 main points from the story. 

During the week there were also some chances to put into practice what we were learning.  As we read about Jesus washing His disciples feet, we too washed each others’ feet.  I shared on Facebook that this was unlike any other foot washing I have been apart of. Instead of a somber affair, it was one of rejoicing as one by one they started singing and dancing.  Then, as we talked about serving, an opportunity arose for us to do some hard work (that nobody else wanted to do) for a local school damaged by the flood.  The guys did it again with rejoicing.

The last day I gave the guys a few gifts to remind them of our week.  They each got a loaf of bread to remind them that this bread will run out but Jesus is the Bread of Life that gives life everlasting. 

I also gave them a lamp.  We looked a lot this week at how John talked about light and dark climaxing in Jesus’ “I AM the light of the world” statement.  This lamp was to remind them to walk in the light and to be a bright light in their dark villages. 

Finally, I gave them a cloth to remind them to pick up their cloths and serve one another.

The guys then surprised me with a gift.  They gave me a bow and arrow.  Someone then read from Psalm 127 (the passage about a man with a full quiver).  The point they brought out was towards the end of the text where no one debates with the man with a full quiver!  In other words, he is a powerful man.

The guys said I had started the week with a full quiver but as the teaching went on I was giving each of the guys an arrow i.e., the training was teaching them how to do spiritual battle when they go home.  They said I needed to refill my quiver so that I can continue to equip others for battle!

What a humbling gift and a great week!

My bow and quiver!
Jonathan Oglesby created some great pictures to go with our study of John.
The book we made out of Joneo's pictures

This was the guys after plowing up an area about 100 yards by 30 yards using only the tools you see here!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 2013 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

Thank you again for your faithful prayers for our family, our team & the Songhai people for another month. As January & February were extremely busy with family, friends & churches visiting us, March has had a bit of a slower pace. The heat has kicked into high gear with days above 110 & nights that don't seem to fall below 100. We are thankful to all be healthy even though we're hot! And we're thankful for the opportunities the Lord has given us tom minister alongside our Songhai brothers & sisters during this "slower paced" month. Mark has been able to return to the Road to Gaya twice already & is currently leading a week of NLTS seminars for our believers. We count it a privilege & a blessing to not only minister among the Songhai but, many times, we get to minister ALONGSIDE them! Six & a half years ago, when we started our ministry here in Niger, we only envisioned when the day would come when we'd be no longer toiling by ourselves but to do it with a Songhai man or woman who saw the true need of taking the Gospel to the corners of the earth. We can only give the glory & honor to God that we are now seeing it & living it. And we thank you for your countless prayers (day in & day out, month in & month out, year after year) for this to be a reality. We also can never thank you enough for your gifts to the Lottie Moon Offering/Cooperative Program that keep us here and enable us & our believers in ministry. All in all, THANK YOU!

We love our prayer partners dearly & count YOU a blessing & are so thankful for your partnership with us!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Volunteer Testimony: FBC Franklin, February 2013

The gate is open. 

All are welcome and encouraged to come in. 

Some rush in to see what is going on. 

Some that walked in leave thinking I will come back later or think this doesn’t interest me.

Some walk by with curiosity but think there is plenty of time. 

Others have no interest at all and keep walking. 

Please come in, please come in all are welcome the gate keepers encourage. 

There is plenty of room.

Several others come in while others linger at the door, curious but unwilling to risk the unknown. 

All of a sudden the gate is closed. 

Inside the gates there is laughter. 

There are fun new games.

There is beautiful music.

What are they doing? 

Things are going on inside the gate that have never been seen or imagined by the villagers. 

It looks like so much fun. 

Many would like to come in now but the gate is closed. 

They are turned away. 

They missed their opportunity. 

All they can do is look in the gate and watch the unimaginable things that are going on. 

Oh how they wish they had gone in when the gate was open. 

They could be experiencing the fun, the joy, the new adventures, the blessings if only they had accepted the invitation. 

This was the scene in village G. that we visited. Many were left to watch from the fence once the gate closed.  Cephas related this scene to accepting Jesus to all that watched from the fence.  The gate to enter heaven by accepting Jesus is open but will close without warning just like the gate to the compound closed. What a powerful analogy Cephas portrayed to the villagers.  It has left a lasting impression on me.  I pray all reading this will accept Jesus to be able to enter the gate before God closes it.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC, February 2013

Many of them, including Ibrahim, are very poor.

However, I was so encouraged by the spirit of friendship and love that exists not only between the various believers we were able to meet that week, but also the love they immediately showed us. It really brought the term "brothers in Christ" to life more than I have ever felt, even though we couldn't speak the same language. As Bill said, they are literally a picture of what Heaven will be like; full of believers from all nations and tongues, all praising and forever giving glory to God and the one that died in our place.

Not only did that term come to life more, but I have told many people that I kept realizing how the Bible was becoming more "real" in many ways. From the sand roads and camels and donkeys, to the woman at the well and the parable of the sower. To imagine Acts where the Gospel spread like wild fire amongst persecution, and to know almost 2,000 years later we shared with people who never even heard of Jesus...and see some believe! They believed in the same Jesus that Paul and Peter spoke about, and the same Christ that still performs miracles today.

Oh, the faith they have! Christ said if we only have faith the size of a mustard seed we could literally move mountains. I have seen men who are closer to moving mountains with their faith than anyone I have ever known. They are so dependent upon God to show up in their lives both for physical and spiritual needs, and they so believe He will...and He does! Oh, how easy it is for us in the Land of Opportunity to only depend on ourselves; to not look for God to move and perform miracles in front of our very eyes. Oh, the conviction the Holy Spirit met me with when I felt the belief of these men. The belief in the same Christ, but many times not seen because of my little faith compared to theirs.

Many of us, including myself, are very poor.

- Kasey A

Saturday, March 2, 2013