North American Missions Offering

Much has been said the last few months about giving and going to the nations. Parkwood celebrated sacrificial and significant giving to the International Missions Offering in December, and earlier this month, we gloried in the mission of God during Mission Impact Celebration. Much of Parkwood’s focus has been looking beyond the United States and even North America to the global cities and hard to reach places of the ends of the earth. Now, however, we turn our attention to the North American Missions Offering, what Southern Baptists have historically referred to as the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. 

It is important to see these offerings with a consistent vision rather than at odds with one another. To see these offerings with consistent vision, consider two things: the meaning of harvest fields and the reason for disproportionate giving. First, consider the meaning of harvest fields in the Scriptures. Begin with the Great Commission command to go and make disciples. Since going is actually a participle, the instruction is to make disciples as you go. As you go, make disciples near or far. Most should make disciples everyday during the course of your going to school, to work, to play. Others, though, should leave and intentionally go cross-culturally to make disciples. If we are to make disciples among the nations, then the geographical goal of that command necessarily includes the place in which you live. 

Likewise, this near and far tension relates to the harvest field. Followers of Christ are commanded to earnestly pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send workers into the harvest fields. What fields? Certainly he does not only mean international locations to the neglect of closer places. What did Jesus say to his disciples before ascending? Indeed he directed his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When we consider the harvest fields, then, it is consistent to consider each of these geographical locations as legitimate fields of service. Jesus tells his disciples that the fields are white for harvest, and later he tells them to go to their current city (Jerusalem), to regions beyond their city (Judea), including areas that are different or even difficult (Samaria), and of course, to the ends of the earth. When you consider the biblical directive to go to the harvest field, therefore, do not negate every harvest field for one particular field. The hard to reach places are harvest fields for which we should pray and to which we should go, but other harvest fields exist also, perhaps in your own backyard.

Second, the reason for disproportionate giving to international missions should be understood in view of disproportionate need. No doubt much is said at Parkwood about going from the United States to the nations, about going to global cities and hard to reach places, about naming Christ where he has not been named, and no doubt Parkwood exhorts the church to give and send and pray toward these end of the earth harvest fields. But spurring this international harvest field focus is the reality of drastic need. Of course the lost are in the United States, but also across this country are many Christians and churches and resources. In the forty-five unreached people groups of the Caucasus Mountains, for example, many more lost live with much fewer Christians, churches, and resources. So we unashamedly raise the call to go to other nations even while we consistently go, pray, and send to our own country and North America.

For these reasons, it is consistent and right to highlight the far and hard to reach harvest fields even while we give through the North American Missions Offering to the North American Mission Board. With this vision for missions, would you please consider this week what you might give next week to the North American Missions Offering? I pray we would give faithfully and obediently in accordance with the gift given to us in the gospel.

Going with the Gospel #3

Going to the Dibo…
A small team has recently returned from a trip to the Dibo to prepare the way for future trips. Their update is encouraging. Though few believers exist among the 120,000 Dibo, one believer, a pastor of 28 years, is currently serving this Muslim people group. An interview with Pastor Akeem* offers insight into the work of God among the Dibo and how we might pray and be involved in reaching this people with the gospel.

  
 
Muslims, of course followers of the Quran and the prophet Mohammed, understand Jesus as a historical figure but find it difficult to hear that he is the Son of God. Accordingly, Akeem reasons the Gospel of John is a great place to begin with Muslims, since that book affirms with emphasis that Jesus is the unique Son of God. The pastor recalls one man who came to understand that Jesus, recognized both in the Quran and in the Bible, was raised from the dead. The man knows that Mohammed had died and is still dead. Jesus, though, died, was resurrected, and will come back one day as the Judge of all people. In fact, Mohammed will be judged by Jesus. This good news is often quite incredible and even disturbing for those Muslims who first hear it. Sometimes they may be ready to receive this gospel after a few days, but most require a year or more of conversation and explanation of these concepts that are at first so foreign before they surrender to Jesus. Pastor Akeem went on to recount stories of other Dibo who have recently received the truth of the gospel. The Father is indeed at work in Nigeria and among this unreached people group.

  

Surrendering to Jesus is not easy, particularly for the Dibo. Identifying as a Christian is immediately difficult, and dangerous. “If you abandon Islam, you must be killed – shot or poisoned,” the pastor said. The best practice for now is to send new believers away from their home so that they may be discipled and gain some maturity before they return. Be encouraged that the hand of God is moving among the Dibo, but be vigilant to pray for them as well.

  

Given the desperate need for the gospel among the unreached of the world, and hearing of God working among the poor, the Chorti, and the Dibo, would you consider going on a trip to share the gospel in one of these places? Inspired by God and zealous for the gospel among the nations, Paul rejoices that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). But he writes in the next verse, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone sharing with them?” The God who saves has chosen to use his church to proclaim his gospel. If you will consider going and sharing that the others might hear and believe, begin by completing this trip application. Short-term trips are planned throughout 2016 for these and other partnerships.

*Names are concealed for security purposes.

Going with the Gospel #2

Going to the Chorti…

A mission team led adults in Bible study and ministered to children in several villages on the most recent Honduras trip. As John and Kem led a men’s Bible study in a particular village, one young man stood out in the group. 

Pam immediately recognized the young man from a trip five years ago to the same village. That day, we were told not to visit the house where the demon possessed boy was, but thanks be to God it didn’t stop us. We approached the house to be greeted by the father coming around the house with a machete (a common tool for Chorti farmers but still unnerving!). Once we explained who we were and what we were doing, he allowed us to come onto his porch, and the young man who was inside finally came out very distraught. We laid hands on him and prayed for him in spite of his clinched fist. That day we took a picture which remained on a mission team member’s refrigerator all this time.

  

The young man was interceded for continually as the picture served as a reminder. Now, to see the miracle of this man attending this Bible study on “How to be a Godly Husband” was amazing! He had a precious wife and three children. We praise God for what he allowed us to see and the work he has done in this man and among the Chorti.

In addition to this and other short-term teams, many will remember that we recently sent a mid-term family to live among the Chorti. David and Carla Demaree moved with their children to Honduras in November to disciple Edgardo and to increase gospel work in this partnership. David heard years ago about Edgardo’s desire to be discipled more deeply in the Word and ministry. In our partnership with Edgardo and the Chorti, Parkwood was faced with two options if intense discipleship were to be sought: remove Edgardo from the field and connect him to a discipling relationship, or send a discipling relationship to Edgardo on the field. As the Father called the Demaree family to Honduras, David proved to be the answer to Edgardo’s prayer and the solution to Parkwood’s direction.

  

Please continue to intercede for the Demaree family and for Edgardo and Emilio(translator and partner) as they work with David. Pray specifically for discipleship–that depth in the Word and integrity in life would deepen and increase for the sake of the gospel among the Chorti. Pray for David that he would be strengthened and given wisdom as he oversees discipleship. Pray also for Carla as she assists with language and ministry and continues to fulfill her calling as a mother. And pray for the children as they adjust to a new schedule and pattern of life. 

The mission team, upon seeing God’s hand at work in that young man, was reminded of the call of God in Isaiah 6. God calls, and we are given the opportunity to respond. Similar to Isaiah, we should raise our hand to be numbered when we hear the invitation to go and be sent. God is at work, and we have the privilege to be involved. As with the mission team and with the Demaree family, let us say with conviction, ‘Here I am; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Going with the Gospel #1

The purpose of Parkwood is to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people. We’re serious about that purpose, and we put that purpose to work every day in our strategy, in our methodology, and in our partnerships. It is to fulfill this purpose that we choose to partner nationally and internationally because we are committed to going with the gospel to all people. For this reason, we engaged the poor of West Virginia, the Chorti of Honduras, and the Dibo of Nigeria. We believe that one day, when we are gathered around the throne of the Living God, we will worship with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation that Christ has ransomed for himself (Revelation 5:9). We not only have that hope as we seek national and international partnerships, but we recognize our responsibility to participate in the mission of God in going for the gathering of that multitude around the throne. We have engaged in mission among these partnerships consistent with our purpose of going with the gospel to all people and our passion of reaching the unreached.

Parkwood has been blessed to send teams all over the world in 2015. We want to update the church on these partnerships for a few reasons. First, you should be informed that you might be encouraged as you give to these partnerships. Second, you should be informed that you might praise our heavenly Father for the work he is doing among the people of the world. And third, you should be informed that you might be encouraged to go with the gospel among the nations. To this end, you can read below and in two following updates from West Virginia, Honduras, and Nigeria.

Going to the “poorest of the poor”…

  
McDowell County is one of the poorest areas in the nation. Located in the southernmost corner of West Virginia and home of the massive Pocahontas Coal Field, McDowell and the area around it was once a thriving region whose economy was fueled by coal mining. This huge industry reached its peak sometime before about 1980. Since then the steel industry, coal country’s largest customer, has largely moved offshore resulting in the closing of coal mines. The economic collapse of the region accelerated as increasingly difficult emissions standards forced electric power plants to shift away from high-sulfur coal to cleaner natural gas and renewable energy sources. Today, once-proud communities, many not much more than coal camps, are ghost towns. The few people left in the towns and the surrounding “hollers” have one of the lowest household incomes in the nation. Many survive on food stamps, disability payments, and other social welfare subsidies. The illiteracy rate approaches fifty percent. People there live hard and die young because of black lung and other respiratory diseases. Drug abuse and all of the ills that accompany such a culture are rampant.

  

On a recent mission trip to McDowell County, a couple of our men were talking with the coal miners and truck drivers (“wheelmen”) at a truck stop near the town of Iaeger. The locals were friendly enough, but there wasn’t much joy in their voices or their eyes. They said that three more mines were closing that week—none of them would have a job with Christmas and the mountain winter approaching. When the mines close, the coal trucks stop running, the diesel station stops selling fuel, the lady who comes in at 4:00 a.m. loses her cat-head biscuit customers, and so on down the revenue chain. By the end of the year, only five mines—all independently owned—will be left in the county. 

  

During that same mission trip, one of our men sat talking with a local lady and her daughter at a Family Night sponsored by Little Sparrow Ministries in Iaeger. He and others had met her during an earlier trip to West Virginia. She lives with her husband and daughter in a rented house that is in unbelievably poor condition. Open holes were in the walls where windows should have been. The wretched plumbing provided only a trickle of water, which was undrinkable due to barium and sulfur contamination. The furnace, an ancient oil-fired thing, had long since quit working. There was junk and filth everywhere, evidence of hope given up. The man of the house was upstairs sleeping, apparently stoned on oxycontin (“hillbilly heroin”). That night, this lady stood up before the preaching began and gave her testimony—it was a story of sickness, pain, poverty, and time spent in jail. Even her Christian faith seemed filled with hopelessness. 

  

It is into this poverty that we send our mission teams to help the “poorest of the poor”—not just with food, clothing, hygiene and cleaning items, and construction projects, but also with the hope of the gospel message. We expect this fledgling ministry to expand in 2016 by engaging our Growth Groups with the opportunity to put “boots on the ground” in West Virginia.