Object lesson from a $1 “Grow” Starfish

I bought a growing starfish from one of the dollar stores a while back. I thought it might be a good little gift. I thought of the Starfish Story that has been online for years. I shared the story with our children during church. I taught the golden rule, to treat others as you would have them treat you. I had a bucket of water to put the starfish into. Boy were the kids excited to see it touch the water and go “POOF”, grow instantly into a great big starfish. I had to be the bearer of bad news that it would not go “Poof” nor grow instantly. It would take some days to slowly absorb the water and grow. The only thing that went “poof” was their excitement. Their shoulders fell with disappointment about a half foot. Patience, one of the fruits of the Spirit, is a frustrating one to learn.

This experience led me to think how sometimes I want to see kids and people grow instantly mature and wise. I myself wouldn’t mind an instant spurt of growth in the wisdom department. But alas, it does take time. Jesus told us that we must make our choices daily. Spiritual growth and wisdom is a step by step marathon, or even walkathon, not a sprint. Sometimes I find it like trying to walk on a slip-n-slide, take a step and slip and slide a few backwards. But don’t stop moving forward, with the Lord all things are possible.

The good news is, the next Saturday when the kids saw that the Starfish had grown some, they were all squeals of jumping up and down excitement. I was so thrilled to see them happy. It made me think though, when have I responded in kind to the spiritual growth of one of the kids or fellow church attenders. Jesus told us that, in the good aspects, we should be as the children. Next time I see spiritual growth I will remember how excited the kids were over the growth of a little sponge starfish.

Spears, Arrows and Masks, “Oh my!” or Why I am a missionary

I am a Christian missionary. God placed this desire in my heart. I remember as a boy loving it when missionaries came to share their stories and show their interesting stuff like spears, arrows and masks. They were not using these things to fight. But only to show and share what the people were like with whom they were trying to share the good news. My first short term mission trip was to Tijuana, Mexico. I loved it. Years later I had the opportunity to go on more STM trips. God used these trips to continue building the desire in my heart to go serve as missionary.

In preparation for a long awaited trip to Israel, I watched a series of on location Holy Land teachings by historian and teacher Ray Vander Laan. I learned that God had called me to “follow”. But now He wanted me to “Go!” After a trip to Israel it was very clear to me that it was time to get ready to “go”. I came back and met with a pastor friend. I told him what I thought God was telling me. He and the Sr. Pastor helped me to prepare to go serve as a missionary. It was not a thing that happened to me all alone. But rather God used many people to prepare me. I am so thankful for them all. 

Even though I am now serving as a full time missionary, God still continues to use others to change me for the better. I know that He has a plan for my life. I eagerly want to continue on His journey that he has planned for me. It is amazing what I have learned and experienced so far. I am looking forward to so much more.

Ministry to Children and why I enjoy it now

Once upon a time there was a very inexperienced helper trying to help in children’s church. As the teacher taught, one of the little children started rolling on the floor. Then she made her way over to the door, which she opened. Suddenly she took off out into the church yard, the poor inexperienced chap chasing after her. Yes, even by the church windows for everyone inside to see. The inexperienced helper finally went to get the little girl’s Mom to come out and help.

That inexperienced helper was me. I enjoy telling people that story now. Over the years I have grown to enjoy Children’s Ministry. Little by little I learned how valuable object lessons and crafts are. How good it is to serve by helping with children. After ten years as a Sunday School teacher and continuing to help in Children’s church, now God has called me to be a missionary focused on helping churches with their children’s programs. God has helped me to take my faith to a new level.

I love Jesus’ teachings about children. He loved it when they worshiped God in the temple. He was upset when his disciples were trying to keep parents and their children away. Jesus told his disciples only those who would be humble as a child would be greatest in his kingdom. Jesus had many great things to say about children. Jesus had a great big powerful Father’s heart for the children. Jesus also said some frightful things about children and how we treat them. I believe Jesus wants all of us to be powerful godly figures for the children, teaching and training them how to grow in the ways of the Lord. I love how exciting ministry to children can be.

Striving to live each day creatively, Robert.

Youthful Energy in Short Term Mission Trips

I fondly remember the enthusiasm of short-term mission trips to Mexico. Oh the thrill of traveling to another country to serve others. My first trip, Tijuana. I used my vacation time. Absolutely fantastic! I always thought of it as the best vacation ever, still do. I wrote home, “I want to be a missionary.” Dramas, puppets, evangelism and invitations were on the menu. I met missionaries. One translated for me as I shared my testimony. We went out to invite kids. I had a puppet on one hand and children leading me by the other. It was hot. Spraying sunblock above the eyes. Not good! I was thankful for the children leading this poor blind man around. I still wonder what the people thought. “That poor blind man, crying profusely being led around by children with a puppet on his hand.”

Twenty years later I am a full time missionary, for about six years now. I love it. But I definitely miss the energy of vans full of exuberant, energetic young people passionately serving God. I still remember my trips like they were yesterday. Youth screaming and yelling, Aaaaaah, “We’re going to Mexico!!” Aaaaaah, “We’re building houses and doing VBS in Mexico!!” Aaaaaaah, “We’re going back home to tell everyone about it!!” I miss the youthful energy. A team is coming now. They will recharge my spirit. I try to maintain the vision in the middle of everyday mundane life that is always there, wherever you are. I purpose to regain that youthful, passionate desire by fanning into flame the gift God has given me. Hey, I’ll start now. Aaaaaaah, “Yippee, I get to hang out my laundry to dry!!” “Aaaaaaah, “Puppets and sunblock are still effective for children’s ministry.

Lord, renew my creativity and passion. Your servant.

What? But I’m in a Hurry!

Not long ago my Pastoral Care Couple from CTEN came to visit me. They encouraged me to read Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier. A book about cultural differences. This book challenged my behavior and actions. One is relationship verses task orientation. I am very task oriented. Generally I have a lot of things to do. Time is of the essence. As a missionary, I still have a lot to do. But now I live in a relationship oriented country. Often I am tempted to rush into a store, say what I need, get it and go. Sadly must admit that I have done this, more than once. Which served the task. But did not accomplish God’s purpose for sending me here. The people here are relationship oriented. Establishing a “feel-good” atmosphere is the first priority before the task.

It helps me to stop and think before leaving home. Reminding myself that being a friend and friendly chatter before getting to the task is the best policy. I have improved. I have even come to enjoy getting to know people through friendly chatter. Sometimes I have gone out with the express purpose of doing so. But oftentimes the pressure of tasks piling up make me revert back to hurry mode.

I have found getting to know people gives me a fuller life. I am filled with great joy and happiness with some, hearing how God has blessed them. Others are in such dire situations. My heart is crushed over their hardships.

God challenges me to rejoice with those in their mountaintop joys. And to cry with those in the harshest deep valleys. My Lord Jesus, full of all-consuming compassion, showed me how.

Jesus, fill me with your joy and deep heart pounding compassion. Amen.

Prayer before Nehemiah read through

God, help me to be open to your Holy Spirit and sensitive to his voice. Open my mind to the possibilities of what you want to tell me, new and fresh about this beautiful story. I want to see it with fresh eyes, pierce me down into my soul. I want to be different after this project is done. Lord, help me to make disciples along the way. May all learn and grow by your Spirit and by your Word. May the children come to a better understanding of who you are. Place your Holy Spirit in them to conquer the enemy. I pray that they will break down the very gates of hell itself. May they take the land for you. In Jesus mighty Name I pray, amen.

Great Questions Concerning a Heart for Missions

When and how did you come to know you wanted to serve as a Missionary? (Part 1)

As a child growing up on into adulthood I always was fascinated by missionaries when they came to share. I loved their presentations and hearing their stories always filled me with joy. I still remember many of them.

During my Bible College years I had the opportunity to go on a short-term missions trip to Tijuana, MX with a large group from college. I always remember it as the best vacation I had ever taken. I loved every moment of it. I wanted to go back right away. But I had acquired debt and could not go any time soon at that point.

Later God graciously gave me another opportunity to go to San Luis, Mexico with a group called Mission 4 Mexico.  I believe 2002 was the first trip. Again I absolutely loved the trip. The energy and enthusiasm of the teenagers, who were so committed to serve others that they were willing to give up their spring break to build houses and a church for others. God used the enthusiastic youth and others to build into me the desire to serve as a missionary. To place in my heart a love for the people of Mexico. The only bad part was that it was only for a week each time.

Is God moving you to serve others in an area of your giftedness? (1 Peter 4:10) The reward of following God in service to others is truly great.