Friday, September 06, 2013

Wrapping Up Great Summer

Hello from Ohio!
We are settled in after a nice summer of swimming, biking, camp, vacation on the lake, eating good American food and enjoying seeing friends and family. 

The kids are in school and I'm getting ready for my fall speaking tour of churches in Ohio, West Virginia, Western PA, and upstate New York, which begins September 15th.

Hope to get a more detailed update out soon.  But for now want to alert you to a new email address for me.  The hotmail will be going away, so please save ... 

God bless you with His best for today and beyond.
In Christ,

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Few Wins

Our local yokel chapter of the semi-pro mens basketball Sprite League entered the playoffs this weekend.  We had two regular season games against two pretty poor teams.  Then we had to play one of the teams again as the first game in the playoffs.  Then we had a break for a few hours before our final game for the weekend.  Lo and behold we played the same team we had just beaten again!

I think in this third game with us of the weekend, the other team was hoping to finally get a win.  And they were surprisingly ahead deep into the third quarter.  A special kind of fear seeps in when you're down to a team you know you can beat because you just did, not once but twice.  Suddenly the ball wont bounce right, won't stay in your hands, and frequenly gets passed to 'phantom' players who were not there.  This kind of fear was making our best players miss shots they normally make.

Fortunately we were able to crank up the defense and rebounding on the other end of the floor and they started to get intimidated a bit too.  In the end we beat them again.  It's not all that fun to play the same team three times in a weekend.  But it is nevertheless fun to win.

The biggest win came later after our evening English church service.  Mongolians and expats all enjoyed singing hymns in English acapella.  Then Renee and our kids' teacher gave brief testimonies about the power of God.  Then I read a short sermonette on the power of faith to overcome fear.  We lingered for almost an hour afterward drinking tea and eating some treats that Renee had brought.

When we got home, we got word that a Mongolian young lady who attended the service had decided to follow Jesus.  This was especially sweet because Natatlie, the girls' school teacher has been working with and praying for her for almost two years.  We were grateful that God had worked in "Ruby"'s heart to give her faith to believe in Jesus and receive God's love and eternal life.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30 KJV)

A Good Weekend

I don’t know if it’s a good sign or not when it’s rare you feel like a missionary, even though you are one.  But thank God anyway, Friday was one of those days.

Recently I saw a man who looked so satisfied and content.  He was the opposing coach to our basketball team.  He probably could have been home resting or watching TV on a Saturday, but he was at his work, coaching and encouraging the school's girls’ basketball team.  He just looked like he was doing was he was supposed to be doing.  He was doing was he was meant to do.

Friday was like that for us.  Renee and her cosmetic “Inner Beauty” team all worked together to serve the church and neighborhood.  Even our girls, who had the day off school and came with us, and were busy helping.  Painting nails, cutting hair, giving face massages really drew a crowd and ‘softened the ground’ to receive the message.   The girls carried water and really loved helping out.

Our colleague Togsoo taught a lesson about inner healing based on Celebrate Recovery principals, which is Christ-centered.  Before we began he wondered if he should preach the good news or not.  By the time he was done, he had explained the gospel in very clear terms.  Then it was my turn to speak.

The crowd still being so attentive, it was a pleasure to testify to the power and presence of Jesus to change lives.  I described faith in Jesus who healed the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead and loved us to death, got out of the grave to lead us home to true life forever in heaven.

I told the people there are two kinds of directors.  Government types like Ghenghis Khan conquer, tax, kill, and demand submission.  Grace type leaders like Jesus serve, do good, suffer pain, loss and even death for other people.  Which kind of boss do you want?  Which kind of leader will you be?

Sunday Renee preached at Light of Selenge church, an hour north of Darhan.  It was cold in the church hall, and the singing little flock was few and far from flawless.  But we made it through the 1 ½ hour service without too much screaming from Josiah or fidgeting from the girls.  Renee preached about the importance of praising God in all circumstances using the Acts 16 story of the Apostles being jailed for speaking in the name of Jesus.  

After we served communion, still stuck in a cold church hall, we gathered around a couple benches, ate leftover bread, cookies, and candy with hot water.  There was no tea.  Did I mention there was no electricity either because the church couldn’t pay their bill?  You start to get the message about the faith it takes to praise God in tough circumstances.  So we were saying our goodbyes.  I was getting excited about getting in the car to let my feet thaw out.

But before we left, a lady invited us to her home.  Pearl has been a believer for just a year or more now, and she always has a good word to say about how God has saved her and is helping her and her family.  So it was not hard to accept the invitation.  Soon we were inside her nice, clean warm apartment.

Two hours later we were still sitting around a nice table spread with all kind of good things to eat, the girls watching a Barbie movie on a nice TV and Renee and I reclining as we listened to them talk about all the people in their family that have been brought to faith.  Pearl came to church this week with her three sisters!  All have believed in the last 2 years.  Even her husband has turned from hostile to gospel into a seeker and supporter of his family's new saving faith.  We prayed for her younger brother and sister to get saved and praised Him for what a mighty work he has begun.  If their whole family comes to faith, they will out number the rest of the members of the church!  

That's a kind of hardship I can handle.

Monday at prison

The morning started out with a standard change of plans.  One of our team of three heading to the prison to preach and teach English called to cancel.  I heard that and said, ‘then we don’t go, or we find someone else’.  But in a few minutes the brother who canceled had reconsidered and the three of us entered the prison according to plan.  Sean, whose Mongolian name means silver ankle-bone, started by telling the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15. 

The prisoners followed the story as if it was their own.  Then Togsoo told his own story of becoming a down and outer by making bad choices, ending up a drunk, wheelchair ridden, and hopeless.  Then it was my turn to teach the English lesson.  I taught them 5 words: Faith, Hope, Love, Dream, Freedom.

I used Mongolian to explain what faith is, that without hope, you are as good as dead.  That life without love is meaningless and hollow.  Even if you have these three without a dream, you will be aimless, and that true freedom is forever.  They memorized each word assigning it to a finger on their hand.  Then they ended up with the thumbs up and finishing with the word ‘freedom’ .

Then Sean, the guy who was going to cancel, led ten or more of them in a prayer to use their little finger of faith to believe in Jesus and receive forever freedom, the promise of eternal life that he came to give.  My hope is that these ten guys hope in Him, love in His name, trust Him to fulfill their dream, and give them freedom from prison and sin. Some are schedule to get out in the next months. 

But more than that I hope they discover the power of Jesus to give them hope, to love enemies and loved ones alike, to dare to dream and to receive freedom even over death.  I think some of them will look back on today as a turning point in their life.  That’s my hope and I hope theirs too.  May the Lord let it be.

On the way out of the prison, the guard, who are usually kind of careful and official about our spiritual message, let it be known she had a medical need.  So we went into her office and prayed for healing and she listened carefully as we explained what parts of the Bible to read, and to draw near to God for healing. 

As we left, Sean, the man who wasn't going to be able to join us that day assured some of the prisoners that we would be back soon.  It occured to me that he was the one who led them in the sinners prayer to admit their sin and need for a Savior, and receive the gift of eternal life.  If he hadn't been there, would those lost souls have made this important step into a changed eternity?  God only knows.  

The promise of God to us in the hard months of this winter has been Galatians 6:9… “You will reap a harvest if you do not give up”.  Thank God, He is faithful, even when we are 'of little faith'.

Monday, April 01, 2013

No Egg Hunt Easter

We woke up Easter morning to snow.  It warmed up enough though that we though maybe we could have an egg hunt at church as part of kids' church.  But we thought better of it.  It's hard to answer questions about what bunnies and boiled eggs have to do with Jesus getting out of the grave.  Candy and eggs were still given, we just didn't have to hunt for them. 

I guess we learned its possible to celebrate Easter without an egg hunt.  Inside church, we celebrated communion instead.  I hope we remember His broken body and spilled blood 'as often as we eat and drink' that Jesus proved his love for us by suffering pain and disgrace in our place.  Then he went on to prove his Truth and Power by getting out of the grave, defeating death and leading us into everlasting life. 

That's the message we came to Mongolia to deliver.  An egg hunt may have its place in America, but we might not want to confuse the message by mixing with the most important message ever: God loves you.

Mathew 13:44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Spring Update

Dear Friends:

Happy Easter! We will be celebrating our Lord’s Resurrection at River of Love church on Sunday with communion and a children’s program. Join us as we pray “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead” Philippians 3:10-11

We arrive in Ohio on June 1st for a Home Assignment year of visiting family, travel, and ministry in churches. Please pray for the right place for us to live, and for the right schools for the kids. Praise the Lord we have options.

Maggie will be in 6th grade next year. She is an avid reader of good books, getting into algebra, and enjoying piano lessons and art. Lydia will be a 5th grader next year, likes reading, writing, but also enjoys math and science a lot. Johanna, who is growing tall, will be a 3rd grader next year, and is already writing cursive and learning her times tables. Clara will enter kindergarten officially next year, but has enjoyed Miss Natalie’s MK school two afternoons a week this year. She even gets to join her sisters for ballet lessons after school once a week. Josiah will turn 1 year old the week we get to Ohio. At nine months, he’s been crawling for more than a month already. He’s even dabbling in walking and talking a bit, but mostly loves eating and waking up at night often.

Teaching English at the prison is winding down. We will have our last lesson on April 15th. Transitioning out of leadership at the Project Center is underway. We now have a Celebrate Recovery teacher who holds meetings every Saturday for people struggling with ‘hurts, habits, and hang-ups’. Pray for this ministry to seek, save and serve the lost.

Renee and her cosmetic team our planning a trip to serve our old neighborhood in Bulgan, a 3 hour drive away in April. Pray that God’s elect put their faith in Christ.

Jeremy’s big excitement these past months is the basketball teams and coaches he is training. This past week, one of the coaches, who is not a believer, and was against us talking to the players about Jesus, asked me if I could mentor and shepherd her own son, and “talk to him about Jesus”. She is afraid he’s starting down a wrong track, and is now open for help. Praise the Lord with us and pray for Toya’s son to come to faith.

Our two teams had their first game on Saturday. The girls were a little overwhelmed and lost 24-2. But you should have seen the celebration when they finally scored that basket! The boys starting five were stars, all 7th graders, and trounced their 8th grader schoolmates. Our bench held their own and came away with a victory. This weekend we have another game, and plan to show the movie “Facing the Giants” afterward. Please pray for open doors to deliver the gospel to the players and their parents. The season culminates in a citywide tournament we’ve planned for April 13th. To God be the glory.

Also, we will be transitioning out of shepherding River of Love and Light of Selenge countryside churches. They will be getting their encouragement and support from the Association of Alliance Churches whose president is Dawaa, and works at the project center. I am excited for both the churches and the Association to mature through getting less foreign help and presence from us. Pray that they will grow in dependence on God.

That’s actually a good prayer for all of us.
Blessings in Christ,

Jeremy, Renee and family

Good Day for a Game Despite the Shame

Darhan's version of Men's Basketball March Madness has begun.  The Sprite League this year is regionalized, so I don't have have to travel three hours each way to the capital city to play in games.  And thank God I got picked up on a better team this year for games in Darhan. It's fun to play with people you know and like.  Friendship off the floor helps you trust on the floor which results in better play, performance, and enjoyment.  I love this game, the excercise benefits, and the things it teaches.  I hope the trust relationships that God is giving me with my fellow players will allow some of them to entrust their lives to Jesus like I have.

On Easter, we had a game, and we were getting ready to do a cheer before starting the game.  Sometimes I'll suggest "defense!" or "rebound!" as the cheer.  Mongolians love to try to speak English even if they don't know much.  Saturday many of the guys learned a new word on the fly as they yelled it the best they could.  Sunday, I decided to suggest that we chant "Jesus", but in Mongolian.  When I did, my player-coach friend, who knows I'm a believer, looked at be and said, "huh"?  But there was no time to discuss it, so we chanted "Yaysoos", with varying gusto.  Undoubtedly it was a first for many in that huddle to call on His name.

After playing a game on Saturday afternoon, missing one in the evening, playing again Sunday afternoon, I was told the next game would be around 7:30. I said I would be there because I figured Easter dinner would be over by then.  But the phone rang as we were about to sit down to dinner.  I explained about Easter festivities and asked if they could get by without me, but they said we needed me to get this win. 

After eating rather quickly and less than usual, I arrived just as the game was about to begin.  We went down by ten in the first quarter.  By half time we had tied it.  It was a close game all the way.

The most trying thing about game was the refereeing.  The league is well organized with good refs.  But for some reason on Sunday there was only one ref, and it began to become obvious even to me, that this lone ref had been drinking.  I could really tell he had when he started unashamedly explaining his calls to me in English.  It's amazing how good people think they speak English if they have had a few drinks.  It got a little more embarrassing when I saw a fan in the front row handing him him a coffee cup which certainly was not holding coffee.  I was amazed that the whole gym of more than 100 people knew he was drinking, but no one said anything.  Maybe they were too ashamed to quietly say..."hey, you've been drinking", or yell out "drunk!"  I asked him "what are you drinking" in Mongolian.  He acted like he didn't hear and gave me a look like he could make things difficult for me and my team if I pushed it.  So when he would miss calls or make non-sensical ones, you got the idea that if we wanted to finish this game, we had to just put up with injustice and play.

It was a shame to have a public show of drunkeness from a man who sober is pretty good at his job.  But games are supposed to reflect real life and teach us to play it better.  This experience gave me empathy for a society plauged with this problem.  Now I know why they tend to just tolerate, excuse and even at times deny the problem even when its right in front of them.  The ref was feeling shameless, but everyone else in the arena felt ashamed, too much so say anything.  He will bear his own shame when they mock him sober.

In the end the game was not decided by bad officiating.  It was decided by the players.  Our team maintained composure enough to still have some laughs while on the bench and enjoy the game.  We wongly fouled one of their guys from three point with 3 seconds to go, down by three.  Their player could have tied it by making all three free throws.  But he missed the first one and then another.  Then we were fouled and made both free throws to win by four.    It was a good game, despite the shame. 

Before leaving I told/taught my friend/player-coach a new English phrase: "Happy Easter".  He couldn't guess what it meant so I told him in Mongolian: "Happy Jesus' came back to life day".  His response? "Ok."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Big Turnout

Around 80 7th and 8th graders turned out for basketball training and tryouts over their winter break.  Here’s hoping this is the beginning of something even bigger.


Chest Pass Training



Saturday, February 09, 2013

Basketball Season Begins

Thank God we were finally able to begin our basketball training and tryouts during the last two weeks.  This is our highschool team. We are hoping they develop into a unit that can make a showing at upcoming tournaments through the winter and spring.

High School Boys Basketball

Setting up this passing/box out/rebounding drill took some time, but the guys really got into it and worked at it with a lot of gusto once they figured it out. 

Girls Basketball "Dream" Team

At one point during tryouts we split the girls up into teams.  The one that chose the name "Dream Team" won most of the scrimmages.  So the name is seeming to stick around.  Our group here is a little low on numbers because of the upcoming Lunar New Year festivities.   We will resume practice again on Valentine's Day.  We hope to continue the winning streak in games after another few weeks of training. 

Boys Basketball Team

After a week of tryouts and a week of practice, the boys boiled down to this group of 7th and 8th graders.  Next week they have to go back to school, but we hope to keep practicing twice a week, then enter them in area tournaments and see if we can show the power of passing, rebounding, defense, and teamwork.

Our team of coaches is coming together and starting to solidify as well.  Darhai on the left is our plumber and fix-it man from the Cama project center.  Next is Tobo, probably the best basketball player in town, and very useful in showing the skills needed to excell to the highest levels of league play in Mongolia.  Last year he was voted MVP of the All-Mongolia Leauge All-star game.  Then there is Coach Toya.  She works at this Gym we're using, which is the nicest one in Darhan.  She is also quite a good player in her own right.  Having a woman coach is helpful for pulling together the details and working with our girls team, aslo 7th and 8th grade.

Pray that God will use love for basketball to build high-trust relationships with families who discover the grace, truth and love of Jesus. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brighter Days

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."  Luke 15

Yesterday I got to see someone say "I believe Jesus died and came to life again to save me" for the first time.  "Erik" is a man about 30 who I taught English to last year. It was a Cama center team effort in that probably 3 employees and as many volunteers have been befriending and pulling for him to come to faith. 

It was rewarding and energizing to sit in a circle in of men inside River of Love church studying Romans 10:9: "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

And then this young man announced "I now believe and can say today for the first time that I am saved."

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory hrough our Lord Jesus Christ."
I Cor 15:57

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dark Days

There are days when you wonder if things can get any worse.  And then there are days where you find out they can.  If they didn't brighten up now and again, I wouldn't be writing this.  But when I do experience a beam of light, I better write it down to try to remember in the next storm.

A worker of ours was punched in the nose by a family member last week.  Hearing this wouldn't have shocked much or made much for me to do as an employer, except I didn't just hear that it happened at home or somewhere.  I came back from supervising a job to find blood outside and on the door of our project center.  That's when I heard what happened, and who had done it.  The husband had been drinking and came to work demanding something that the wife didn't want to give, probably rightly so.  There was a struggle and a bloody nose.

I wanted to call the pollice.  But two other workers advised against it.  I wanted us to go find him and warn him with superior numbers of men that only a coward hits a woman.  Cooler heads prevailed over the idea of reasoning with or using brute strenth on someone who had been drinking.

We prayed for and with our worker and for her husband, then put out the word that he isn't welcome here drunk or sober until he comes and apologizes.  To our surprise he showed up yesterday and did so to me, then to our male staff, and finally to his wife.  We told him to attend our Celebrate Recovery meeting for the next 4 weeks as a corrective measure/punishment.  (We reminded him here that this we could have called the police)  He promised us and his wife to attend meetings and seemed genuinely sorry enough to change.

It is never easy to figure out how firm to be in times like this.  If you're too hard, he could take out that harshness on his wife later.  If you're too soft, he won't really respect what you say enough to change. 

The thing that I remember at the end of the day is that mercy triumphs over judgement.  And it is the Lord's kindness that leads us to change.  We all deserve judgment for substandard living, irresponsibility, self-indulgence, violent words, actions, and downright rebellion against everything good.  I hope the grace of God is able to reform and bring a good change out of this event which was not good. 

It seemed like the grace of God has shined brighter at the end of the storm than at the beginning.  I hope that light shines for his Kingdom in Mongolia and wherever you are brighter and brighter until this kind of thing never happens anymore.  Maybe that will never happen this side of heaven.  But on dark days, it seems enough to hope that the sun will shine again, and ever dark deed will be exposed.  It will be good for those who have already denounced and exposed their evil deeds on that day. 

Judgement and punishment await those who won't or don't.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:13

Romans 2:4
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?