All posts by Ivan

Day Four – Loving the Nigerians

Sunday was a wonderful day. We began our day by worshiping together. The sermon was outstanding (of course) and the fellowship invigorating. We then traveled four hours to Makurdy where we found a hotel and had some supper — chicken and noodles out on the patio. I thought that this “simple day” would be a breeze. Now that evening has come, I’ve been reminded of how much a seven-hour time change can mess with your body clock. I’m very ready for rest.

Monday will be a big day of travel. Eight hours of twisting, slowing, speeding up, honking horns, avoiding potholes and good old cruising will provide another opportunity for us to chalk up some good memories on our African Adventure. If all goes well, tomorrow evening we will find our beds in the new Guest House that Edinbrook has funded for GECHAAN. And we will be its very first inhabitants! Wow.

We saw so many things today as we traveled through the countryside. Roadside markets, Nigerians carrying huge loads on their heads, entire families on mopeds, and quaint villages of little thatched huts. We had some wonderful pics and videos to share,  but our Gembu internet service would not cooperate. Sorry… maybe later.

I am reminded of the great task we have been given to “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus most literally meant “all ethnic groups” when He delivered this command. Beyond all of the strange customs, activities, foods, lifestyles and hard-to-understand accents, the Nigerians are amazing people. They have treated us with a winsome kindness, favor, and respect. Here’s another thing I know about the Nigerians—Jesus loves them, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.

We love them too!

Thanks for your prayers. It’s just about time to get to work.

Day Three – Sunday

It’s Sunday! We just had our first real sleep since leaving home on Friday evening. Oh—it feels so good! After getting settled in to our hotel in Abuja, we all gathered with Dorothy Helwig and our two drivers, Pete and Charles, and spent a little time chatting, planning, and praying. It was good.

Here’s the plan for today: We will have a time of worship together at the hotel (that’s the advantage of having a pastor along) right after some peanut butter breakfast sandwiches. Then we’re off to Macurdi (only four hours away) where we will settle in for the evening. Monday is our big driving day…twelve hours to Gembu.

      

Consider a few thoughts about Adventure…

Jesus began His earthly ministry by giving a simple invitation to a few people, “Follow me.” Those that accepted the invitation had no idea the adventures they would experience. They would witness miracle after miracle, a love for people that blew their minds, lepers healed, the lame walked, and the dumb spoke. The seas were stilled from storms and crowds of thousands were fed with a few small parcels of food. What amazing adventures followed that simple invitation to “follow me.”

Adventures await all of us on the other side of Jesus invitation to follow, wherever and however that may be. As Gary Haugen writes in his book, Just Courage, “If I want to stay safe and warm at the visitor’s center, I don’t get to be with him on the adventure up the mountain. But he says his power is made perfect in my weakness, not in my strength.” The challenge, of course, is to be bold, accept the challenge, get out of our comfort zones and live on the ragged edge of adventure. God is there.

Well Lord, here we go!

Day Two — Travel

First—the facts. We made it to Amsterdam on time. Five of us were a little jealous because Jim and Barbara were bumped up to first class for the eight-hour flight, mostly due to Jim’s kindness. He was given a first-class seat and then gave it to Barbara. The flight attendants were so impressed, they gave Jim another one!

 We are currently (10AM Central Time) on our way to Abuja, Nigeria (a six-hour flight) and are just beginning to fly over the Great Sahara Desert. Very cool.

 Now a few reflections.

 Rest is not over-rated. We wanted to sleep on the first leg of our trip. Most of us got very little. I feel like I’ve been drugged, Susan looks like she’s been drugged (and she’s still cute!), and all of us are functioning in something of a stupor. So many things have kept us from getting our rest—cramped conditions, sitting upright, excitement, eating at 10PM…so many things. And so we are like zombies in our seats.

 Spiritual rest is not over-rated either. So many things can distract us from getting the rest we need – busyness, a sense of responsibility, our adrenaline addiction, our false sense of self-sufficiency, driven to perform rather than live in grace, and so much more. We can be doers without being be’ers.

Hebrews 4:11 states, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.” The rest, as stated in Hebrews, refers to two things primarily: the final rest we will have in glory and living in the center of God’s will. It’s a heart thing not just a “do” thing. With this condition comes a peace, a restorative strength, and an intense vibrancy to the Lord’s participation in our lives. We must be “diligent to enter that rest”, however.

The flip side? We live in a stupor. Listen to this from Romans 8:11, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that would not see and ears that cannot hear, Down to this very day.”

Who wants that? I know that seven of us on the Gembu Team want rest more than ever. And “yes”, we want to be in the very center of God’s will.

 

Day 1 — Departure

back row: Larry & Lynne Peterson, Susan & Ivan Veldhuizen; front row: Judy Elftmann, Barbara Kosiah, Jim McKinney
back row: Larry & Lynne Peterson, Susan & Ivan Veldhuizen; front row: Judy Elftmann, Barbara Kosiak, Jim McKinney

Our team of seven! In scripture, seven is the number of perfection. Sounds good to me!

Here’s the plan for our trip:

  • We will work on the housing project our church funded and put the finishing touches on that.
  • The women of the group will be working with widows to teach them skills they can use to make a living. They will also be a tremendous encouragement to them.
  • We will be helping to prepare and celebrate the dedication of the housing complex on December 1, World AIDS Awareness Day.
  • We will be helping to distribute 280,000 thousand meals that Impact Lives www.impactlives.org (and the WNBA helped provide (if it arrives on time — please pray for this)
  • We want to seek the Lord about what “big thing” Edinbrook may be able to help with next.

Initial Agenda:

  • Leave the Twin Cities at 7PM and fly to Amsterdam.
  • From Amsterdam tomorrow we fly to Abuja, Nigeria (the capital)
  • We drive part of the way to Gembu on Saturday (it’s a 15-18 hour drive)
  • We arrive in Gembu some time on Sunday.
  • Then–it’s off to work we go, laying a little Jesus-style love on some hard working missionaries and some very precious Nigerians.

Thanks for tracking with us and praying for us!

AIDS Ministry in Nigeria

Nigeria–here we come!

Beginning tomorrow, a team of seven from Edinbrook Church are heading to Nigeria to help in GECHAAN’s HIV/AIDS ministry. As the Word states, “True and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27.

I’ll do my best to blog every day…as long as the internet holds out.

Thanks for your support and prayers!

Focus

I’m a pretty simple minded person. Maybe it comes from carrying corn cobs to the kitchen stove when I was five, or milking cows most of my childhood, or spending hours in the fields throwing hay bails around. Whatever the case, I don’t think the gospel or the Christian life was meant to be so complicated. That’s why I’m always stirred when I read Jesus’ conversations on following after God — like a man plowing in the field that should not look back, or like seed planted on various kinds of soil. This is really easy stuff to understand.

We tend to make things more complicated than they should be. And we’re often eager to “discuss” issues that are meaningless.

So when Paul tells Timothy to keep people from wasting “their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God,” (1 Timothy 1:4) he’s primarily reminding us that a lot of things that sound spiritual are a big waste of time.

We need FOCUS. We need to constantly focus on the things that really matter.

Now–here are some great words from Spurgeon

Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions.

There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these:

  • Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind?
  • Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit?
  • Am I growing in grace?
  • Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour?
  • Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master?
  • What more can I do for Jesus?

Now that’s a great list to help us find some focus!

Music Matters

Singing is magical. We do it to express ourselves, to honor God, and to communally speak to God. We have good singers and bad singers…and some in-between, but God doesn’t care. “Make a joyful noise,” He proclaims.

Singing also makes church life challenging since we all like different sorts.

  • Is some music more spiritual than others?
  • Is there a certain style that we should be singing more than others?
  • How do we “arrange” a worship experience so everyone is happy? Or is that even what it’s about?

I’ve been giving this some thought lately–again. Here’s what I’ve realized as I’ve dug below the surface of my soul — I’m not in pursuit of any certain style, nor am I stuck on something I like (I’ve actually come to like just about everything except screemo). I’ve decided I like new, fresh, current. You see, when I pray, I don’t want to use the same old prayers I’ve used before (I did that when I was a little child). I want to pray what’s on my heart, what I feel, some new expressions of faith, commitment, and thanks to God. I’m certain that this idea of fresh expressions to God greatly pleases Him, too. Scripture clarifies that our ultimate worship before Him some day will involve singing “a new song unto the Lord.”

The important thing is that we keep on singing with fresh fervor for the Lord, to exalt His name, to honor who He is, and to express authentically what we feel about God and His presence among us.

Take in a few thoughts from one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Batterson (get linked up in the side column). “All of creation is singing a unique song to the Creator. And you are part of that universal chorus. No one can worship God FOR you or LIKE you. God has given you a unique voiceprint. There are millions of people praying and worshiping God in every language all the time. But your voiceprint is unique. Like a parent who knows His child’s unique cry or scream or laugh, God knows your voice. He hears your voice. The Heavenly Father loves your voice.”

It’s All About Love!

I just finished meeting with the most gifted committed five young men ever! This a group of twenty-something leaders that I’ve pulled together recently into which I hope to pour some truth, wisdom, and encouragement. As Paul wrote to Timothy long ago, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” 2 Timothy 2:2. This is about sharing the goods and multiplying our efforts.

Here’s the thing–I am so challenged by these guys! I love their pure passion, untainted commitment to Christ, can-do spirit, and energy for God-things. This old horse is getting fed and fueled. I’m benefiting big time! We take the masks off, share our lives, and talk about loving God and loving people.

This morning we pondered 1Timothy 1:5 which states, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Bulls eye!

It’s all about love. Just like Jesus said, the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. It’s so tempting to get distracted with meaningless things that look Christian and sound spiritual (1Timothy 1:3-4). But it’s counterproductive.

Keep the main thing the main thing.

I love you guys!!!

Ticked

It’s confession time. I got ticked yesterday…while I was preaching! So here’s the deal–we’ve spent ten weeks fleshing out Acts 1 & 2 trying to understand and then become more like the Acts 2 church. When I asked for a response about inviting and welcoming some people next Sunday to a special event, only about 25% of our people (in one of the services) indicated they could participate in that kind of ministry. I was really upset and almost lost my cool. That doesn’t happen often.

So here are a few questions I have on that…

  • Is it that we tend to spectate more than participate–even when asked to respond with a raised hand?
  • Are our people more honest than most, not wanting to commit to something that they suspect they will not do?
  • Is it that my expectations are too high?
  • Was the anger in me at that moment righteous or carnal?

This morning, as I was spending some personal time in the Word, I came across these verses from Ezekiel 33:31-32:

“So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it!”

I also received an email from a friend that put it this way..

I’m sure there are many reasons why some people were uncomfortable to do anything besides just sit quietly in their seats and listen.  (That’s the type of church I grew up in, by the way.)  And I’m sure that many people just won’t come to the front of the church.  I’m not saying that’s right, but I wouldn’t assume that they weren’t on board with your call.  I actually did come up, but stood along the wall.  Coming forward should have been an easy thing for me to do, but I hadn’t done it before.  And I’m sure many others were wrestling in their own minds over that, too.  And if nothing else, I guess it shows that there’s still work to be done (no surprise, right?).

Bottom line? We had an awesome Sunday. So many people are on-board without question. I don’t think it was right that I got ticked. In fact, now I’m ticked that I got ticked…

Possibilities

So–in our worship together today, about 200 or so people came forward committing to be an Acts 2 Christian. Just think of what this means…

  • If each of those people invite five people to Edinbrook Church in the next few months, and if two out of those five invitations result in a guest attendance, we will have 400 new visitors in the near future.
  • If out of those 400 visitors, one out of ten respond with a “yes”, we will see 40 new Christ followers in the months ahead.
  • If one in three of those 360, who do not say “yes” at this time, continue to attend, we will be constantly exposing another 120 people to the truth of Jesus on an ongoing basis.
  • If one half of those 120 say “yes” to Jesus in the next year, we will have another 60 Christ-followers from that group alone.
  • Over-all, this means that by being Acts 2 Christians, we could easily see 100 new believers in the next year or so…just from these new commitments made today!

And if those 100 new believers have an average of six unbelieving friends that they point to Jesus in the year that follows, we will have another 600 influenced in the following 12 months.

And on…and on…and on…

And that’s just a snapshot of what God can do with just one day of commitments made to Him!

Now–let’s be Acts 2 Christians.