Friday, May 24, 2013

Volunteer Testimony: Campbellsville University (May 2013)

What a week on mission in Niger is HOT!

            After spending 9 – 10 day s here in Niger, Africa sharing the gospel, distributing children’s vitamins, baby formula, prenatal vitamins and sweating a whole, whole lot… I have come away with the remembrance of HOT.  Yes it is hot in a physical sense, but hot goes much, much deeper than the sun burn or the amount of sweat that issues forth each day.  HOT is what makes Niger, these Songhai people and the Phillips so encouraging, and mission for Jesus Christ so exciting here in this part of the world.
HOT has a deeper meaning.  The Hospitality we have been shown show’s Christ’s presence here.  The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the leaders, translators and new brothers and sisters in Christ is evident.  The Transformation that is taking place amongst the Songhai is more than a miracle, it’s a promise of God and the transformation among this team from Campbellsville University that has come is apparent as well.
Mention the Songhai people, and the very first word that comes to my mind is hospitality.  These people are never too busy to offer you their time, a cup of tea or even their best chair, which could be their only one.  In every village we visited, on very few occasions, a handful in fact, were we asked not to share the story of Jesus, we were treated as honored guests.  Anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour we shared the Creation to Christ account of how God created, man sinned, separation came between God and man, God’s bigger plan would involve His only Son, and Jesus dying a death we all deserve yet defeating death on the third day after crucifixion.  Hospitality is something I will look back on this trip and see that it can be exhibited even in the most remote places in Africa.  If those that are unsure of where their next meal may be coming from are able to sit, listen and hear the story of Jesus, it makes it more significant that I display patience, time and value to conversations I have with others, whether it be in the United States or around the globe.
Outpouring of the Holy Spirit is upon the Phillip’s and those they work with each and every day.  This Songhai team made up of Mark, Parker, Cephas, Biba and countless others are determined to make Jesus known to all people here in Niger, and the Holy Spirit is opening the ears and hearts of these people to hear this message.  Just sitting and sharing Jesus with an individual who have never heard the name of Jesus can be frightening, yet encouraging at the same time.  On this trip, we saw the Holy Spirit speak new life into five new believers in a village of Latta.  To see some people think about what we share but not fully commit to following right away is somewhat common, but not always.  To see five men at the same time, at a village that has never heard of Jesus, realize they are lost and without hope without Jesus is beyond encouraging.  That is the work of God.  To say that I was a vessel and this team helped share Jesus to celebrate new life with new brothers is by far the most important and exciting part of this trip!  And this was all due to the overwhelming and all-consuming power of the Holy Spirit.
Transformation has taken place.  In the lives of new believers, there is transformation of a life with purpose in praising and sharing Christ.  In the lives of those who have heard the story of Jesus, they now have the opportunity to reflect and choose whether to follow this truth or choose to ignore it; pray that they will be transformed through the power of God through the Holy Spirit.  The transformation amongst this team has shaped each of us to understand that the Gospel truly knows no borders.  A trip to Africa doesn’t have to open your eyes to see the desperate need of Jesus that the world needs to see, but it does give you a good perspective of how you are individually making Jesus known.
As we conclude this trip, and we reflect upon the villages we’ve shared the Gospel, the many vitamins and formula we’ve passed out at health clinics and once-in-a-lifetime experiences of camping out in a Songhai village, eating true African cuisine (African style too) and attending a church service in the heart of Niger, we know that God was at work.  Through the many reflections, the passage from 2 Corinthians 12:9 comes to mind which says,
 “…’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
All that we have seen, been a part of, and accomplished this week is because of God’s power working through us and enabling us to the work we came here to do.  We all became tired, hot, hungry, sleepy, hot, sick, frustrated and hot, but we keep enduring.  Even when we were affected by so many difficult weaknesses, we still found the strength to spend another day in the heat, sharing the story of Jesus with people and saw lives forever changed.  That is only through the power of God.  God’s power is sufficient enough for all people, and with his power in place of any and all our weaknesses, His plan will prosper.
Our team is thankful for all the prayers of those who knew we were hearing serving, and it is because of these prayers that lives were forever changed.  Because of those prayers, you have been as instrumental in this trip thousands of miles away as we were here serving.  Be in continual prayer for this Songhai Team; pray that lives will continually be transformed into the likeness of God, and may Niger and these people stay HOT (hospitable, outpouring and transforming) for the Lord!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Needing Joseph's help!

Today I went back to a village for follow-up where a team from CU had shared with last week.  Five men had come forward last week wanting to believe.  These men were the first believers ever to emerge from their village which is over 400 years old!

I told them last week I'd be back this week so today I went out there.  I found them all and they were still very excited about their new faith.  We went through some initial discipleship lessons and they wanted to be baptized.

However, before we went one of the men pulled me aside and said "i need to ask you something." He went on to explain that he'd had a dream he wanted me to explain.

I can honestly say this is the first time anyone has ever asked me this.  I admitted that I could only offer my opinion and that I was not like Joseph in the Bible who could, through God's help, interpret his dream.

He told me the following dream that he said he had the night that he'd believed last week:

"I was laying on the ground crippled with broken legs.  I couldn't walk, I couldn't move, it was like I was dead.  Then I saw you [talking about me] and a white dove.  You said to me "get up and walk" and the dove came and touched my legs.  I was instantly healed and I got up!"

Now, this is already pretty amazing but listen to this next part.  Remember, here's what this guy knows theologically speaking. He knows a brief Creation to Christ story and he knows Romans 10 about how to believe.

"When I got up, the Holy Spirit descended on me and saved me!"

I told him that I didn't think his dream was too hard to understand.  That God had used me as His messenger to bring the Gospel to him.  That he was dead in his sin and needed to be healed/saved.  God did this and has given him new life.

Now, the amazing thing is his use of "Holy Spirit." This is not an easy concept for our Muslim background believers to understand and even many of our mature believers struggle with this doctrine. 

In fact, I had never mentioned the Holy Spirit in my brief interactions with him thus far.  God had revealed this truth to this brand new believer. 

It was just an awesome reminder of how God is still using the supernatural today.  He is still speaking to His children through dreams and visions. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 2013 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

First, let me apologize for the delay in sending a newsletter ... it's been 2 months!!! The kids & I (Parker) went to the States in April for 3 weeks to visit my parents in SD. While I had the best intentions of trying to write a newsletter while in America, I was unable to do so. The day after the kids & I returned to Niger, our summer interns arrived. We spent a couple of days orienting them to life in Niger & then a team of 10 arrived from Campbellsville University. Two days after they left, a team of 7 from our home church arrived! To say we've been busy (& jet lagging!) since returning from America is an understatement!! Oh & we also celebrated Isabelle's 5th birthday somewhere in the middle of all of that!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers (& understanding ... & patience!) even when our communication with you may be sparse at times. We are so grateful for every prayer you lift up on behalf of our family, our team & the Songhai people. Thank you!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><