Saturday, April 22, 2017

Three Days of Ministry

I had a visit today with a local church leader whose had some tough experiences lately.  His wife has been sick for many years, though, thankfully she is feeling more and more like herself.  There’s a church leader that he’s been discipling who had shown a lot of promise but is currently having problems with his family.  We commiserated, laughed and prayed together – it was encouraging.

I always enjoy talking with this friend because he’s been in ministry long enough now that the ebbs and flows of church life don’t seem to rock his boat.  He seems able to keep a good perspective on things whether he’s in the highs or the lows.

This past Easter weekend I was thinking about a formative conversation that Rachel and I had years ago about a theory of “three days of ministry.”  (I checked with her and she can’t remember if we got this from someone else or came up with it together in conversation – so if I’m stealing… ahem, I mean, borrowing… your idea - so sorry).

Now while “three days of ministry” could sound like a short-term mission trip to an exotic location or an exciting conference at a packed stadium, actually it’s a typology that’s been helpful in my life to frame the different kinds of experiences (or days) that one encounters in service to God. 

The original “three days of ministry” that I’m referring to are the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Holy Week.  Good Friday was the day of Jesus’ suffering and death.  Saturday was the day of silence where he was in the tomb. But Easter Sunday was when Jesus burst through in glory and was revealed as our Resurrected Lord.

Jesus’ ministry was capped off by these three pivotal days. And if we spent some time reflecting on his three years of earthly ministry, we could use this Friday-Saturday-Sunday typology to categorize his ministry experiences in this way.  Christ’s earthly ministry was marked by times of suffering, silence and splendor.    

That typology fits with Christ’s ministry as well as the three days in a missionary's life (really any minister’s life).  “Fridays” are the times of suffering when everything seems to be going against you and you may experience abandonment.  “Saturdays” are when nothing seems to be happening - it’s a time of waiting and watching and being faithful.  But “Sundays” are when God’s resurrection power is on display, things are happening, lives are being dramatically changed and everything seems to be clicking. 
Missionaries need to be prepared to handle all three of these days.  In the chart below I show what I think are the questions and temptations that go with our experience of these three ministry days.
Appropriate Question(s)
“Why is this happening? What can I learn from it?”
Despair – “God has abandoned me! I’m all alone!”
“What is happening under the surface?”
Give up - “This is pointless, why should I persevere?”
“Praise God! How can I glorify God in this?”
Pride – “These good things are happening because of me – they are to my credit!”

One thing that I’ve noticed over the last 14 years living cross-culturally is that it seems that there are a lot more “Saturdays” in ministry than “Fridays” or “Sundays”!  The “Fridays” of deep suffering are thankfully rare, while the “Sundays” of splendor are painfully rare, but we’ve been incredibly aware of how so, so, so, many “Saturdays” there are.  While the temptations of despair and pride have certainly been present, the real challenge is holding on to perseverance.  Maybe that’s why, as Frank Viola notes, “at the top of Paul’s list of apostolic qualifications is the hallmark of spiritual power: perseverance” (2009, 166).

I hope this “three days of ministry” typology is helpful to you.  It has been a blessing to me and helped me interpret my own story here in Mozambique through the lens of Christ’s story.

May we be ministers who hold fast to God through all the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of ministry!   May we develop Christian servants among the Makua-Metto who faithfully and gracefully encounter every experience of suffering, silence and splendor!

Grace and Peace,


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Newsletter April 2017

Greetings from South Africa!  Alan and I made a surprise trip to Johannesburg so he could have hernia surgery – though when we got on the plane we still weren’t sure what was wrong.  He had begun to experience increasing pain several weeks before, but the symptoms were confusing and his hernias couldn’t be officially diagnosed without an ultrasound, which we don’t have in our area, so eventually we were recommended to make the trip down to South Africa.  We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and care from so many people; our teammates have been caring for our girls, so many friends and family stateside have been praying for us and have helped out financially, and our physician friend Dr. Christine Fynes-Clinton and surgeon Dr. Hennie Loots and their staffs here have been amazing – making appointments for us before we even arrived, and working us into their operating schedule with just 24 hours’ notice.  We landed in Johannesburg about 6pm on a Friday night, and by noon the next day we had labs, an ultrasound, and a diagnosis.  And by 830am Monday morning we were on the surgery schedule for Tuesday afternoon.  Alan is now one week out from surgery; the first few days were pretty painful, but now his pain has turned to soreness and is less frequent and he seems much more like himself.  We have tickets for flights home tomorrow, and we can’t wait to hold our girls – we really miss them A LOT!  We are so grateful to have been taken care of by so many people!   

Over the last few months we’ve visited congregations all over the province and it seems like almost every week there are more baptisms.  We praise God for all this growth in the churches, and we pray for depth of maturity and long-term transformation for all these folks who have publicly declared that first step of allegiance to the Kingdom Jesus invites us into.  It has been beautiful in church leadership meetings to hear the Makua-Metto deacons recognize the real responsibility of discipling these young Christians.  

Another big topic that the churches are addressing now is their church registration status, especially with regard to conflicts in the past.  We will say more about this once the details are in place, but this is an important step in solidifying their legal status.  Please pray that they will be able to get all the documentation that they need.  

Over the past few months we have been ramping up plans for this year’s Theology School; “Instituto Teolรณgico de Cabo Delgado” in Portuguese).  Last year, our initial experiment went very well and churches expressed interest in sending students again, and this year our team will offer 15 classes – most courses will be taught in Montepuez, but a few of them will be offered in different districts.  Alan will be teaching classes on the New Testament, Preaching and a class on “The Giants” (the big issues in Makua-Metto culture that hinder the growth of the Kingdom of God), and I will be teaching a Church History course.  We are excited to see how offering more advanced training will bless the church at this stage. 


In order to get ready for the Theology School and other activities on our land in Montepuez, these last few months have been another season of team construction.  Jeremy Smith has taken the lead on the building projects, the first of which was a wall around the property with proper gates to aid with security (this just finished last week!).  While Jeremy organized the construction work, Alan was responsible for the kitchen (feeding the 10-25 masons and laborers lunch each day) as well as making sure there was enough water for all the cement mixing.  Now that the wall is done, we will begin construction of two buildings for the Theology School (a classroom/dormitory building and a kitchen/dining area).  Special thanks to Jeremy for working so hard on all of this!

The beginning of the year is the rainy season in northern Mozambique and that means that many of our friends are out in the farms growing the crops that their family will eat throughout the year.  That gives more flexibility in our schedule changes and opened up time this year for curriculum development and construction as well as a chance to connect with other missionaries.  In February, Alan, Chad and Jeremy went to Kenya to participate in a men’s missionary retreat; it was great for them to meet with others serving in Africa and share ideas about ministry.  Then, in March, the ladies on the team (and other fellow missionaries from Cabo Delgado) went to a “Come Before Winter” renewal retreat in Namibia.  I was deeply encouraged by my time with the women there (check out their website here). 


Our girls are fabulous (though we know we’re biased!).  We have really missed the girls while we have been in South Africa – it is great to see them on Skype BUT it makes us miss them even more!!!  They are so sweet and kind - all three of them were a big help while Alan was sick and I was in Namibia.  Abby is now officially taller than me and she loves coming to stand beside me to prove it!  Ellie seems to be on the verge of a growth spurt (she lost five teeth within the span of just a couple of weeks!), and Katie is still our snuggle-bug.  It is hard to believe how big they are getting – we are aching to see them tomorrow!

Thanks for checking out what is happening in our part of the world.  We appreciate all the encouragement and support!   

Please pray with us:

  • For depth of transformation for leaders
  • for the churches to disciple new believers and for resolution to the issues surrounding the church’s registration/documentation
  • for a great year for the Theology school
  • for continued healing for Alan

Peace to you,

Rachel and Alan