How Missions Changed Me

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If you tuned in last week and watched the devotional, “My Heart for Missions,” then you now know why I have a heart for different areas of our world. Hopefully my story gave you insight into my desires to visit foreign lands and meet people in distant places.

This week I want to share why that very first experience to Chiang Mai, Thailand changed the way I saw the world after returning to America. I want to explain to you why reaching our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so incredibly crucial and why it is time for each of us to get out of our comfort zones.

When I came back to America after spending a month in Thailand, I could barely function. My desire to go back into a 9-5 work environment was low. Now remember, at this point I had been working professionally for only one year. You see, when I first learned sign language, I was excited to get as highly certified as I could and make a lot of money. That was my main goal. Now, less than a year of professional interpreting on my resume and one international trip, I could not stop thinking about the other “why” I had really learned ASL. It was now crystal clear to me, God needed me to utilize my skill to share His story with those who could not hear.

For the next three years, each summer I prayed about opportunities to travel and told God I was willing if He asked me to “go.” Each and every time I went overseas, God brought specific deaf people in my path and every time my mind was blown. God knows what He is doing. To be completely real and honest, sometimes I doubt that. Then I think about the encounters of my past and I am reaffirmed in God’s greatness over my life. All of us doubt God is able when it comes to various points in life, the key is not to stay there. Satan puts doubt into our minds, but if you think long enough I guarantee you will think of some moment in your life when God’s greatness awed you.

International travel by way of worldwide missions changed every aspect of my life. I no longer looked at deaf people as “clients,” but looked at them as real people with real needs and real struggles. I came to realize ASL was a gift God allowed me to succeed in and it is not just a “fun” job to help you earn a paycheck. It is to connect me with people who have dramatically changed the way I think about everything. It was at this point in my life I realized a career in interpreting for the next forty years would never be enough. God created me for something more. It was not a radical change overnight. I travelled to four different countries over the span of four years before I began to pursue a path for full time missionary service. Although it made sense for me to pursue this path, God did not open any doors for me. I contacted several companies handing them my life saying, “Send me anywhere!” But God was not saying yes. It was frustrating.

In the midst of it all, I met my husband and we wound up in The Federated States of Micronesia for a year. My husband and I were gifted the only deaf person on the island to be our student. Ironic? I hardly think so.

In Romans 10:13 Paul says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” In verse 14 he begs the questions, “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 preaching?”

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus tells the disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Psalm 96:3 says, “Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!”

Scripture is constantly speaking to the fact that we are to declare the Lord to all the nations. It is commanded and the desire of our Father’s heart that all may come to know Him.

It is easy to think this way when we are on a trip with that specific intended purpose in mind, but our world is our mission field. Anytime I am out in public, that is my mission field. The grocery store, the airport, the walk to the mailbox when I see my neighbor, those places are our mission fields.

The biggest takeaway I have from my international travels is looking at the world with intentionality. There are lost, hurting people everywhere. We come into contact with them daily. I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and follow in obedience to reach those who need Him. That is our purpose and missions has taught me that is my greatest purpose.

My Heart for Missions

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It was 2007, I moved away from my hometown for the first time in my life and began a new path as a professional sign language interpreter. I had lived on my own for about four years already, but relocating to a new city away from my family had quite the impact on my life. I also had roommates for the first time in my life and strangers at that. During the 2007-2008 year, much transpired and life became stressful and heavy for me emotionally and spiritually. I felt very alone and did not have much desire to break out of my comfort zone and meet spiritually solid people. Eventually as I mentioned in my testimony, I hit a breaking point and finally fully surrendered to the Lord. It was at the moment I really began to notice my life completely change.

It was somewhere around March of 2008 when I got a call from my brother asking me if I would be interested in joining a team from his seminary on a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I laughed the first time he called to talk to me about it. “Why on earth would I want to do that?” I asked him. He shared with me the vision for the trip and how God had continued to lay me on his mind and he thought it was finally time to ask me about it. For a solid week, he called me daily to ask if I would consider going. He even threw enticing information about the trip such as, “You can ride an elephant.” After the fourth or fifth time he said, “Lindsey, promise me you will pray about it?” I agreed and I told God in my stupid stubbornness if He really wanted me to go, He would have to practically slap me in the face with an obvious sign.

The next morning, I was feeling weird about the whole thing and when I arrived to my staff interpreter job at a middle school, one of my deaf students asked if I would help him finish an assignment. I sat down next to a long table and noticed he had spread out about twenty National Geographic magazines across the table. The way they were spread out, you could not see the covers, only the continual overlapping of yellow from the rims of each magazine. He told me he needed to cut out pictures of things he liked and his love for nature led him to Nat-Geo magazines. As I asked him questions about what he liked, I was watching his responses in sign language while at the same time reaching over to feel my hand grab a magazine within reach. Now in both hands, I looked down at the front cover of the magazine I arbitrarily grabbed and nearly fell out of my chair. There, staring back at me, on the cover of National Geographic, were two people riding an elephant underneath the words, “Explore Chiang Mai, Thailand.” I called the seminary the same afternoon to sign up for the trip.

I had never been on a plane let alone outside of Texas hardly, so in deciding to travel across the world, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I did not know my teammates and the little they knew of me was that I loved deaf people and signing. We spent the majority of our time there learning about Buddhism and Islam and sharing the gospel of Jesus best we could with anyone willing to listen.

One afternoon during some free time, about ten of us from the team decided to go explore. We heard about a waterfall at the top of a mountain overlooking the city and immediately became intrigued. We found a guy willing to drive us and about fifteen minutes into the thirty-minute drive up the mountain, it began pouring rain. Had any of us been in our right mind, we would have turned around and gone back to the hotel, but none of us were. When we made it to the top, we located a covered pavilion within running distance from the van and agreed we would make a mad dash for it. We had been safe from the rain less than five minutes when one of my teammates tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey Lindsey, I think those people are deaf.” When I turned around I saw a group of twenty or so adults signing. I could not believe it. Without hesitation, I walked over and immediately asked the first person that looked at me if they were deaf. They nodded. We began chatting and after a couple minutes it occurred to me that they understood American Sign Language (ASL). Most countries have their own sign language and for some reason, despite being in Thailand, they knew and understood my sign language. Again, I could not believe it. Not long after our conversation began, they told me they needed to leave, but gave me information about where to meet other deaf people. These people were Christians and upon leaving, one of them looks to me and signs, “God brought you here to us today because He wanted to show us there is hope.”

As the day went on I continued to think of that man’s words and it struck a chord with me. The next day a teammate of mine and I went to the deaf school. We had no idea if they would even let us in, but we decided to show up and see. The moment we walked into the gated school yard, we were welcomed into a classroom. Most of the students were in their mid to late teens and they understood everything we signed. Sadly, only a few of them knew who Jesus was, but they were eager to learn more. We returned for many days to the same students to continue to share the victorious stories of Jesus with them.

On our last day there, one boy asked if we would share another story of Jesus, but he motioned to the teacher and indicated she would not approve. He led us to a picnic table outside and asked us about how the world was created. My friend John did not know sign fluently so he began sharing in spoken English, while I interpreted his story. When we began we had only four students with us. As we shared about God’s creating all the earth, many questions arose and we addressed all of them as best we could. We started sharing more about the life of Jesus and I felt something touch my back. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw a small girl and when I lifted my eyes I saw a sea of children to my left and to my right watching us. There were hundreds of deaf children and teenagers gathering around us to see us share about Jesus Christ. I have absolutely no words to describe that moment. It was incredible.

As the afternoon pressed on and the stories continued, it once again started raining. We all made a mad dash for the outdoor cafeteria which sheltered us from the rain. The children continued to ask us questions about this Jesus and the bible. We spent time with them sharing, taking photos and laughing. My heart had never felt so full. It finally began to get dark and we decided it was time for us to head back to our hotel. I remember an adult approaching us as we left saying, those kids have dinner at a certain time every night and they never miss. We immensely apologized for having messed up their schedule. With a tear in her eye she said, “They know what time dinner begins and ends. God bless you.” These kids purposefully went without food that night because the joy of Jesus satisfied their souls more than any physical nutrients could.

One girl we had spent a great deal of time with came over to me to say goodbye with tears streaming down her face. She pointed to herself and signed something I did not understand. She pulled out a dictionary to look up the meaning of the word she was signing. When she handed me the dictionary the definition read, “Hollowed out, dull, boring.” She was saying this describes her. She signed to me, “you will go back to America and you will forget about me.” I told her she was beautiful and Jesus loved her so much. I also told her she would always be in my heart and I could never forget her. I will always remember the smile she had on her face as we left that day.

What she may not realize is that I have never forgotten. For it was in those moments I realized I would never again be the same. I was completely wrecked. Because of Thailand, my love for the people, nations and tongues of this world was born.

I am living proof Jesus wants to do amazing things in and with your life. He leads you to places you could never imagine and the impact His name has on this world will forever bring joy to all eyes, ears and hearts.

Missionary Spotlight: Jim Elliot

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Many men and women throughout the course of history have stood up for Christ while facing persecution, including death. One of the greatest missionaries of our time outside of those mentioned in scripture is a man named Jim Elliott.

Jim was in his twenties when he and four other missionaries where brutally speared to death by ten Amazonian men. For quite some time, Jim felt a deep unexplainable pull in his heart for an unreached people group in the jungles of Ecuador. The Waodani, formerly known as the Auca Indians, were a primitive savage people. Oil workers drilling on a site near the Aucas territory were killed along with other Tribal people in Ecuador converted to Christianity. Despite all of this, Jim and his friends were convinced God’s call had not been altered.

In February of 1952, Jim boarded a ship from California to South America. He and missionary partner Pete Fleming, spent their first year learning Spanish. Jim also learned the tribal language of these people because he felt so strongly of their need to know Jesus Christ. He did not fear these people. He believed if they knew the true gospel, they would not want to kill.

Pilot Nate Saint, and the other missionaries flew around the area attempting to make contact and locate the Auca people. They began to lower baskets of gifts down to the Auca people and after months, they received gifts in the basket back and felt they were warming up to the idea of their contact. The missionaries found a clear stretch of beach to land and the five missionaries were flown in and set up camp. Within a few days, a few of the people came by out of curiosity and the missionaries shared a meal with them. A couple of days after that, January 8, 1956 two women approached the men looking less friendly than their previous visitors. Upon further investigation, the missionaries realized the two women were not alone, they were standing in front of ten men, all armed with eight foot spears.

What followed next is both tragic and savage. The ten Amazonian men overpowered the five missionaries and brutally murdered them with their spears. Jim had a revolver on him, but had vowed not to use it against someone who did not have a relationship with God. He was secure of his salvation; he knew these men were not. The men’s bodies were discovered later floating in the river near their camp.

Jim’s wife Elisabeth went home to the United States and after a year, returned to live among the very people who killed her own husband. In her obedience, the entire tribe was saved and the savage killings stopped.

One Auca man was so radically transformed by faith in Christ he said, “I have killed twelve people with my spear! But I did that when my heart was black. Now Jesus’ blood has washed my heart clean, so I don’t live like that anymore.”

Of course, Jim’s tragic death brought the light of Jesus Christ to a people who otherwise might still be living in darkness. He lived out his mission to God’s calling on his life. He wrote in his journal, “when it comes time to die, make sure all you have to do is die.”

In the world right now, it is estimated that there are roughly eight thousand unreached people groups (UPG) in the world today.

We are thankful and humbled by these five men who gave their lives up for the gospel, so others living in darkness could know Jesus:

Roger Youderian
Ed McCully
Pete Fleming
Nate Saint
Jim Elliot

Jesus died for you so you would not have to. What are you waiting for?

Is God calling you to go to the unreached deaf peoples of the world?

Do Not Be Anxious

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Did you know in America today, anxiety disorder affects 18% of the adult population? According to the National Institute for Mental Health, approximately 40 million people between the ages of 18-54 suffer from some sort of anxiety. These numbers do not account for those who do not seek help from a medical professional, so it is highly likely those numbers are even higher.

Anxiety can refer to a minor discomfort in day to day activities or a more severe diagnosed disorder. Both lead to nervousness or worry in some regard. Anxiety in day to day activities can range from anything like a job interview to paying the bills, while more severe diagnosed disorders are like: Phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Panic Disorder. Whether major or minor, anxiety can make daily life decisions and encounters a serious challenge. Many who struggle with their anxiety may cope by engaging in the use of drugs and alcohol, which of course creates other problems.

In Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus addresses a crowd with His famous “Sermon on the Mount.” These two chapters are filled with some of the richest, profoundly treasured words of Jesus we have recorded during His life on earth.

A section in Matthew 6:25-34, is perfectly titled, “Do Not Be Anxious.”

In verse 25 Jesus says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

I deeply appreciate how Jesus begins His passage using piercing words overflowing with reassurance, “Do not be anxious about your life.”

It is incredibly easy when we think about our own lives to feel immediately overwhelmed. From the moment we wake up in the morning until the second we lay our head down on the pillow at night, we are packed with busyness. That itself can bring about much anxiety! Our days can begin fueled in trust and one minor slip or change in routine can lead to worry and fear causing intense moments of anxiety and stress.

But do yourself a favor…Relax.

Take comfort in the words of our Savior, ”Do not be anxious about your life.”

As a Believer in Christ, there is nothing the devil can do when we give Jesus the reigns. However, when we worry and allow stress and anxiety to paralyze us, the enemy snatches up that opportunity to have a welcomed stronghold over us. When you start to feel those internal constrictions creep up, cry out to Jesus for help. He will never give you more than you can handle and He wants desperately to take your burden from you the second you ask.

Matthew 11:30 says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In the midst of the section of text nearing the end of chapter 6, Jesus mentions the blossoming lilies and the success in their flourishing. Take heart in knowing God cared enough to create, plant and grow those lilies, but He holds you even closer, with more care than even the most delicate flower. You were created to be both His precious treasure and a strong soldier in the Lord’s Army.

I myself have been there. As I write this devotional I think about areas of my life I need to relinquish control and allow God to give me peace in. I shared in my testimony how I had succumbed to the enemies pressing, but Jesus can do unbelievable things. He did in my life and every day I get to serve Him is a relief and a joy. Please understand I am not discounting the realness of any stress or anxiety you have or are currently experiencing. What you are going through may be heavier than I could ever know. I am sorry for the depth of your pain. In the quiet moment of this message, imagine the Lord Jesus wrapping His arms around you and smiling upon you. He loves you so much. He wants you to trust in Him and have firm faith in His ability to carry you through this dark time of struggle. I want you to know if you need further counsel or prayer over a struggle in your life, that is nothing to be ashamed of. I also delight in being your prayer warrior.

Some ways the Lord has given me peace through anxious times is through prayer, journaling and scripture memorization. Two verses I would encourage you to make a priority to memorize are the following:

1). “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
2). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The world worries because they don’t have faith in God’s provision over their lives. If you are a believer, God tells us we should not worry. He takes care of us if we are seeking after Him. God is in control and if we seek after Him, we need not worry. When we aren’t seeking Him, we worry easier because we don’t trust there is a God out there worthy of allowing to lead over our lives. He knows what we need, but we will only have the clarity to see it if we seek Him first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

*If you are struggling with anxiety and need assistance learning how to cope with it and trust in God, a Christian Licensed Professional Counselor can help. Contact me if you need assistance finding one in your area.

BEST SELF-HELP BOOK: THE BIBLE

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Walk into any bookstore and you are likely to find a “self-help” section in the Christianity aisle. The plethora of books available today to match any personal need is enough to make one’s head spin.

There are books written by men, women, couples, doctors, pastors and teachers of various backgrounds of faith. You can find books about parenting, marriage, faith, depression, success and yes, even topics of opposition to the Christian faith.

Many people do not believe the bible to be enough. I would say those people need to go back and read it. The Bible is chalked full of the only truth and wisdom needed to function in this crazy world. If you are left unfulfilled after reading the bible, consider a different approach. The magical “open my bible to any page and read” approach or the “one verse a day” method, should be revised. Read the bible with purpose. Pick a book of the bible and read through it and study it for 30 days. Another option that really pounds the Scripture in is one John MacArthur suggests. For the New Testament, pick a short book of the bible and read it all the way through every day for 30 days. For longer books, divide is you’re reading no more than 7 chapters or so and read those chapters every day for a month. Then do the same thing for the next 7 or so chapters of that same book. There are many options for how you can go about making your bible reading worthwhile. Make your bible reading time a priority and do it at the same time every day and build the habit of getting into His Word. Eventually, you will feel unfulfilled if you miss a reading.

Often when I read the bible I may not fully understand the text. This leads me to reach for a commentary or a bible companion type book to further expound upon the original text from Scripture. There are many resources out there to increase our understanding of God’s Word, but it is imperative to pick from those written by scholarly sources, men or women who write with deep spiritual bible believing conviction.

You see, the danger in self-help books in and of themselves, is the ease in reading them. Many books out there are “light” reads. They do not dig deep, they motivate you to think positive and help you feel as though you can conquer the world with a smile. Scripture warns us about adding to and taking away from His words:

Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, or take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”

Revelation 22:18-19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

He also warns us to watch out for false prophets, those who look appealing in the light but are filled with darkness.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15

Self-help books may not blatantly take from or add to scripture, sometimes subtleties are the most dangerous and less obvious. But I tell you this believer, if a book is not overtly reaffirming the hope we have through Jesus Christ, then they are a real danger. True outside sources of biblical depth, will fill you with questions, convictions and ALWAYS point you back to scripture. If you read a book that does not do this, burn it.

If you are using outside books alone to be your source of spiritual fulfillment, I would encourage you to set those aside and create a meaningful bible reading plan for yourself before adding back in extra reads. Or read them in the evenings to reaffirm the truth of God’s Holy Word. I am an avid reader and on the regular, I read books that encompass all genres. My personal preference in recent years leans towards foundational faith books, written by pastors who I highly regard as scholarly men of faith. My overall goal when I read is to be challenged, convicted and deeply drawn back to the word so I can grow and flourish from what Jesus is already leading me to learn from the ultimate source of self-help, the Bible.

Other authors/resources to check out:
John MacArthur – gty.org
Albert Mohler – albertmohler.com
John Piper – desiringgod.org