A New Brother!

54222bbf-72b3-4df0-986e-7a83b304456eGreetings friends, we are back in South Africa now after a quick ministry trip to the States. You can imagine how excited we were to return and see for the first time our new grandson, Cian (pronouced Key-In) McComas. Another brother added to their family and the joy of being held by his big brother Finnegan.

While in the states we attended ABWE’s annual leadership conference, The Global Operations Summit.  This year’s conference primarily focused on our vision as a mission agency. Now, we all know that mission and vision statements can be pretty boring for a lot of people, but it’s “the vision” that keeps a group of people united as a team heading in the same direction with a focus on accomplishing common goals. For ABWE, that means keeping approximately 1,000 missionaries in over 70 different countries aimed at the same target.

slide4WHO IS ABWE? We are a missions agency with more than 85 years of experience helping churches and missionaries start relevant, effective, creative and adaptable ministries in more than 70 countries.

OUR VISION? Our vision is to fulfill the Great Commission by multiplying leaders, churches, and missions movements among every people.

All of that to say, we are passionate about Jesus and want to be faithful to what He has entrusted to us as His followers. What has He called us to do? Here is a paraphrased version of His last words before He ascended into heaven…

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)

Sometimes the best the way to illustrate a vision statement is through a story – a real story of a life recently changed by the Gospel.

img_1006At Mountain View we host a class each term to help assimilate new people who attend our church and encourage them to get engaged. It’s called Next Steps and it’s all about helping people find their next step while discovering the truth of Jesus and His church.

Quinton and his sweet family had been attending Mountain View for several months when, after a few invites, they came to our Next Steps class. Quinton, like most South Africans, was exposed to Jesus, religion and the church from an early age. However, little did he know that his “next step” would change his life forever. Quinton came to the class asking to be baptized. As I discipled him through a study about baptism, Quinton realized he was lost and in need of salvation. While he had known religion, he was not in a relationship with the living God. While meeting in my study one evening, Quinton came to a better understanding of what Jesus had done for him on the cross and was born again. A couple weeks later he was baptized and joined the church. His words on that day still ring in my ears as he gave testimony of his conversion to Christ. “When Pastor Tom and I knelt down on our knees to pray, I asked Jesus to be my Saviour. We knelt down as friends, but when we came up, we stood together as brothers.”

That’s it. That’s what it’s all about – the vision to reach the world one person at the time, adding “brothers” to the family of God. That’s mission with a vision, and it’s happening every day in almost every corner of the world.

Thank you for your partnership in the mission of Jesus, your friendship to us personally, and for your amazing support – both prayerfully and financially. We are looking forward to a great year in 2017 as we carry out the mission of Jesus and the vision!

No MUMBO JUMBO Here…Four MUST DOs For 2017

new-years-resolution-statisticsHappy New Year! Another year is behind us and it’s with starry eyes (well, maybe still a little groggy) that we approach 2017. I really do think most people want that feeling of starting fresh with a new beginning, however, let’s do something different this year. For now, let’s put aside those common New Year’s resolutions and goals like losing weight and getting fit, or spending less and saving more, or becoming more organized…yada, yada, yada!

While each of us can probably relate to at least one of the goals I’ve mentioned, perhaps what we really need is something different…something more. Consider these four MUST DOs to make the most of the New Year before us. They all start with “D” and should be easy to remember.

No Mumbo Jumbo Here…Four Must DOs For 2017

  1. DREAM Big

cyytr4awqaexgbsSo, where have all the dreamers gone? I say, let’s not play it safe in 2017 but dream big dreams.

Do you have a bucket list? If not, then pick one event you’ve dreamed about and go for it.  Maybe it’s taking that big trip (Why not a missions trip to South Africa?) or going back to school. Why not run a marathon or your first 10K? Write a book! That’s what my friend, Jeff, did and it was recently published – That is so inspiring! Jesus put a dream in Peter’s heart in Matthew 16:18 that many surely doubted would ever happen. Hint: Don’t let others tell you it can’t be done. Pray about it, make a plan, and ask God to help you accomplish it. And as Buster Moon (from the movie Sing) says, “Don’t let fear stop you from doing the things you love.”

  1. DELAY Gratification

embrace-your-inner-child-4-dream-big-1091645-twobyoneThe first New Year’s “D” was inspiring, but the second is more like a reality check. We live in a narcissistic, it’s-all-about-me world. It’s a fast-paced instant-gratification society that perpetually makes us more impatient and discontent. It doesn’t have to be like that in 2017!

I say, delay gratification. This is a call to think eternally and invest our time and money in what matters most. It’s about making wise life choices and purchases that have a long-term impact while not demanding or insisting on instant results.

The demands for instant results are seeping into every corner of our lives, and not just virtually? Ask yourself, “Do I need to put my life back in balance?” If you do, then here are some things to consider: Should you make that purchase? Are you “laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” (Matt. 6:20) or here on earth? Are you making church attendance a priority and investing in spiritual disciplines that grow you spiritually? Are you giving your kids the best shot of really knowing who Jesus is? Begin January 1st by putting into place whatever God brings to mind. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21)

3. DISCOVER Giftedness

Number three may be one of the biggest oversights on planet earth! When God saves His people, He also gives them spiritual gifts to use for His glory. Do you know how God has gifted you and are you putting your gifts to use for Him? How has God wired you? What do you enjoy doing most? What gets you all fired up and what are you most passionate about? Do what you love, love what you do!

Throughout most my education and adult life I was taught to compensate for my weaknesses. It finally dawned on me how crazy that concept is. We should be strengthening our strengths! We should know our strengths and areas where we excel most, and then go for them. In 2017, I say do what you are good at…best at…and do it with all your heart for Jesus!

  1. DISCIPLE Someone

coffee-692560_960_720If Jesus were making a MUST DO list, this very possibly would be at the top. It has to do with His last words before He departed the earth (Matt. 28:19-20) and it should be part of the DNA in every Christ follower. We should all disciple someone and have someone else disciple us. This is the very heartbeat of God and we all need it.

I can hear some of you right now saying… “But I’m not good at that.” Or, “I don’t know enough about God or have enough life experiences to pass along to someone else.” That’s serious mumbo jumbo!

You can and you should mentor and help someone grow in his or her relationship with Christ. Discipleship actually promotes growth in them as well as in you. If you’re a parent, are you intentionally discipling your children? It’s definitely a MUST DO for 2017.

Stop the MUMBO JUMBO and get busy with these MUST DOs

Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” In other words, talk is cheap. Make 2017 a year to remember forever — Invest in eternity. You’ll be blessed and God will be glorified!

Are we taking Christmas back?

returnWhen you first hear the words “Taking Christmas Back,” what comes to your mind?  Tom and I recently arrived in America for our annual ABWE leaders’ conference and we’re also getting ready to celebrate our second Christmas with family on this side of the ocean.

While out and about doing some last minute shopping, we were both amazed at how much “stuff” is in the stores just waiting to be purchased.  The sales are abundant and somewhat addictive, too. (Does anyone pay full price for anything these days?) We organized a shopping list of “needs” and did our best to stick to it.

2take-back-christmasSo I have to admit, something that comes to my mind when thinking about “taking Christmas back”  are the anticipated and dreaded long lines of customers who, on December 26th and thereafter, will be doing just that – “taking Christmas back.” They’ll be getting refunds, making exchanges, and probably looking for special deals to purchase even more stuff.

Prior to coming to America on this trip, we started our celebration of Christmas in Cape Town with our kids and grandkids on that side of the ocean as well as our forever family at both churches, Mountain View Somerset West and Mountain View Hermanus.  Tom started the annual Anticipate Christmas series and each week leading up to Christmas MV’s theme of “taking back Christmas” has been emphasized using these words: Light, Glory, Grace and Truth.  After all, Christmas belongs to us…God’s people.  It’s not about people anticipating the “presents” and the various traditions of Christmas – but rather celebrating the incarnate “presence” of the Saviour of the world!  Taking Christmas back is acknowledging that the world has hi-jacked the celebration of one of God’s most important events—the one we’ve set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.

So, as we all Anticipate Christmas this week…think about what it means to “take Christmas back.”  Would you join us and your South African brothers and sisters in Christ and “return” Christmas to its true meaning?img_7239
With love from our family to yours…have a joyous and Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Specials (And we don’t mean Black Friday!)

2015-11-25-1448482240-4534072-happythanksgivingpicsThe Thanksgiving holiday is not celebrated around the world but it can still give everyone a good reason to pause and give thanks, no matter where we are. What makes Thanksgiving special for many of us is family and close friends that we love and for whom we are grateful.

Nancy and I love being parents to our four daughters and amazing son-in-laws God has given us, as well as being grandparents to our six grandchildren (and counting!). We give thanks to God for His awesome work in their lives as they have graciously endured the rigors of ministry life, separation from their parents for extended periods of time, and still choose to pursue their walk with Jesus and raise their children to love Jesus, too. None of that was ever, or will ever be, taken for granted. It is a daily answer to prayer. “Thank you Jesus for blessing us as a family and keeping us close despite the distance and separation we’ve often felt through the years.”

IMG_6075Today is also a special time to say “thank you” to all of you who have faithfully stood by us and supported us over the years. You are part of what God is doing in Southern Africa and we give thanks to you for your partnership, friendship and the love you have shown us throughout this journey.

We celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday with a good ‘ole South African braai (barbecue) on Tuesday with the special ministry partners God has given us at Mountain View. Our prayer is that you will enjoy your Thanksgiving, and even if it’s not on your schedule for Thursday, and you are not in a place where you can get together with the ones you love, our prayer is that it will still be a special time of thanksgiving as you praise God for “the specials” – those people who, by His grace, God has brought into your life.

We just posted a family update (Where Are The Wolf Girls Now?) with some new pictures. Please go to the About Us tab and share in the thanksgiving with us.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Here There and Everywhere

mission-slide-variants-001The Church on Mission: Here, There and Everywhere is the heartbeat of God. Like you, we take the Great Commission personally. Some stay “Here,” as God leads, while others make the trek to be used of God “There and Everywhere.”  That’s been our journey and what a delight to be used of God here in South Africa.

Here, There, and Everywhere was the theme of our annual missions conference at Mountain View. For five consecutive Sundays we heard pastors and missionaries tell us of their journey to full-time ministry and the Biblical truth that calls us all to work toward the reality spoken of so vividly in Rev. 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belong to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

So, in keeping with that theme, this is what’s happening in our part of the vineyard…Southern Africa.

img_6670Here – Mountain View as a church continues to grow spiritually as well as numerically and we have been seeing an influx of visitors. What a joy to work alongside Pastors Dave, Mark, Wade and Matt as we serve the Lord in two church locations, Somerset West and Hermanus. In Somerset West we hosted a Family Fun Day as part of our missions conference complete with food from around the world and some local home made cookies too! It was such a success that next years’ outreach event is already in the making!

img_8726There – Hermanus is a town about one hour from our first church plant in Somerset West. You wouldn’t think with that distance there would be much difference between these two church communities, however, we are finding the cultural climate and variety of people residing in this area to be unique and new to us. Wade McComas is the lead Campus Pastor of this church plant, now over one year old. Wade, Tara and their children are doing a great job connecting with the people in the community. img_8694Wade is also teaching Bible classes at the Overberg Bible Centre while Tara (and Aislinn) serve in a pre-school within the township (sub-economic area). We are seeing fruit, howbeit, ever so slow but sure. We recently changed to a new location for our Sunday services to better reach the various people groups in our community. So far, so good…especially with all the kids who are coming.

fullsizerenderEverywhere – Pastor Mark will be taking over the role of lead pastor at Mountain View in Somerset West allowing Nancy and I to continue helping with the Hermanus church plant while also focusing more time on the Regional Director responsibilities with ABWE. There are exciting new adventures awaiting us in 2017. You may have heard us mention a survey trip to the country of Mozambique with our Brazilian Portuguese-speaking ministry partners who are looking to send missionaries “everywhere.” Please pray for us as we plan and prepare for this trip in April, 2017.

So, what’s happening in your part of the vineyard? We’d love to hear about it! Just drop us a line in the reply section or send an email to twolf@abwe.org – we promise to pray for you, as we know you are so faithfully praying for us. We appreciate you so much!

Want to be the next spiritual casualty?

As I take time to write this month’s blog post, I’m aware that it’s possible only a few will actually relate to the topic or be willing to consider it’s personal implications. But I am telling you – it’s real and it’s scary. It’s even with trepidation that I write…so, read on if you dare.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-09-03 22:29:17Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.comLast month I was in a meeting where my friend said something like this,“There can be no more pedestals in our organization.” He was referring to the number of good men and women of the faith who fall and become what is known as a spiritual casualty. It was a sincere comment related to the number of people whom we’ve looked up to for years, giants of the faith, who in our eyes were elevated to the status of “hero” and placed on a pedestal of high honor…only to fall off. Spiritual heroes who sometime, somewhere, somehow let things go wrong. When news like this hits related to someone you know or have even observed from a distance, it’s alarming, it’s incredibly frightening, and it’s also sad and discouraging.

bummer-of-a-birthmark-1Why? First of all, when someone who is “in Christ” hurts, we hurt. When a fellow believer is caught in sin or admits to a failure and comes forward, it affects all of us who are in the body. I don’t know about you, but I also feel afraid for myself and for others when these incidents happen, because I’m exceedingly aware of our need to be on high alert. Seriously, we all know things like this don’t just happen overnight, therefore, it should cause each one of us to immediately do a reality check and ask, “Am I next?” What prevents Satan and his demons from making me or you their next target?

I actually wrote this blog post several days ago and was uncertain if I should post it. I didn’t research the topic nor did I have anyone in mind. I just wrote from the heart as God kept bringing me back to my own personal responsibility to Him, my family, the hundreds of people in churches that partner with us, our mission agency, and the ministry partners that are part of our lives. What happens if I succumb to temptation and fall? What would be the ripple effects?

So, instead of putting my nose in someone else’s business or engaging in “spiritual gossip” about someone who recently fell, or even unintentionally contributing to throwing another pastor/missionary under the bus for being a disappointment to the multitudes, let me instead share with you five things that I desire and need to preach to myself. Reminders that I hope will help me stay at the task, remain faithful to the end and avoid becoming the next spiritual casualty.

  1. No More Pedestals. I’m blessed to have several personal “heroes of the faith” in my life. In addition, I have tremendous respect for the authors whose books I read and pastors whose messages I’ve listened to for years. However, I believe my friend is right. We have inappropriately glamorized and placed ordinary sinful people…because that’s all they are…on spiritual pedestals. My guess is that even in all their greatness and perceived success, they never really wanted that kind of treatment or status anyway. The truth is, the higher we hold them, the further they have to fall. And then it happens — they fall hard, people are hurt, and God’s reputation is damaged. As for me, (not that I’m on anyone’s pedestal or anything) I’m committing to daily preach the gospel to myself as a reminder that I am but a sinner for whom Christ died.
  1. No More Isolation. Trouble comes when we isolate ourselves from others, and that can so easily happen. We can become so independent that our accountability is gone. It’s even possible to develop a double life, being one person in public and another in private. But we need to live in community with other believers, engaged and willing to bring our own fears, pain, and struggles into the light and get help from those we trust. So, I commit to being the same person in private as I am in public. And when I struggle with something, I will reach out to a trusted friend or brother in Christ with full transparency — no hiding in isolation.
  1. No More Dry Days. That’s what I call the days when I don’t spend time alone with God, both reading His word and in prayer. You see, I know what it’s like to “lead on empty” — and every pastor reading this knows what I mean. bible-readingI know the distress of preaching with a heart that’s not right and a spiritual tank that’s running dry. I know the pain that comes from seeking the audience of many, hearing their hurtful criticism one day and their empty praise the next, instead of seeking the audience of one and serving for His glory alone. Being in the Word and in communion with God through prayer is what will carry you and me. You already know this, and so do I, but sometimes we trade our personal quiet time for time in the Word focusing on what we will teach and preach to others. Skipping personal time with God is one sign that you are headed toward becoming a spiritual casualty. It’s often subtle. It’s always blinding. And it’s amazing how long you can go before the cracks are seen – at least by you. Join me in committing to spend daily, regular time alone with God, reading His Word and praying.
  1. No More Denial. The most effective way to become the next spiritual casualty is to think it won’t happen to you. How crazy are we to possibly think we are immune when in most cases we are just one decision away from failure? Built on the platform of denial is a person who is overconfident and in need of a stark reality check. When life is going well, it is easy to become dependent on ourselves and less reliant on God. We can begin to minister in our own strength and giftedness and be deceived into thinking we won’t fall. Today, I commit to pray regularly for God to do whatever it takes to keep me humble and reliant on Him, realizing that in my own strength I can do nothing but fail.

*At the end of this post is a quick test to see where you are on the spiritual casualty spectrum.

  1. No More Sexual Escapes. Most of us are afraid to write or talk about it, but I can’t avoid the issue of sexual sin when considering spiritual casualties. Certainly, you’ve noticed how many failures or casualties are related to sexual sin and misconduct. It has to be the number one arrow that Satan employs and all of our eyes and hearts are prone to wander. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard work to stay “in love” with your spouse. It can be extremely hard for singles to abstain. And we can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore that it’s hard for some who fight the sexual attraction they feel toward those of the same gender. What’s the answer? Well, numbers 1–4 help. So does making a commitment to having no secrets. No lies. In our marriages, let’s be willing to ask the hard questions so we can stay honest and sexually pure in our relationships. Be careful with all types of media and don’t let pornography creep into your life; I don’t care how soft it is…it’s a slippery slope and it only gets harder to resist the further you go. protecting_your_family_from_porn-title-2-still-4x3The statistics of men (and yes, women) using porn are staggering. As much as I would like to think it’s not true of believers or those in our camp, I have to say to myself, “All the reports can’t be that wrong.” So, I commit to setting a high standard of purity in my speech, my meditations, my media and viewing habits. I will commit to keeping the love alive in my marriage and boundaries in place to avoid areas of temptation in my life.

As you now know, I decided to go ahead and post this article, and for good reasons. I did it for my wife, Nancy, for my daughters and their precious families, for my parents and siblings, for my trusted, godly and hard-working colleagues, for our ministry partners, our fellow missionaries and a few dear and close friends who come to mind. And, I also wrote and posted it for me. It’s a humbling and scary thing to write and speak this way, especially if you are a fairly reserved person, which I am. It makes me feel very vulnerable, but also highly accountable. I think it’s worth the risk, if only to hold my feet to the fire as I seek to follow Christ.

fullsizerenderIn closing, I want to encourage you, plead with you, to join me in making these commitments. Let’s not be counterfeits that lead to casualties. Let’s be real, authentic, and passionate for Jesus and what really matters as we strive to finish strong in this Christian life. Most character building happens in private, so let’s spend more time building below the water line. However, we also need to live authentically in community with one another. So, let’s be less enamored with those we perceive as heroes on pedestals, and also less worried about how others perceived us. If you need help, please get it and get it now. Ask God to help you seek those who can help you avoid becoming a spiritual casualty.

*Spiritual Casualty Test – When it comes to finishing strong, you can actually rate yourself. No kidding. Here are four questions and then the correct answers. (Questions adapted from Finishing Strong by Steve Farrar, pp. 40-41)

  1. Do you spend personal time with the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture at least three times a week?
  2. Are there at least one or two people in your life with whom you have built a friendship based on trust, confidentiality, and accountability? In other words, do you have a friend who is close enough (that means you can’t con them) and loves you enough to get in your face if he or she needs to?
  3. Are you currently spending a significant amount of time with someone other than your spouse (someone you work with, or a person you are counseling, etc.)?
  4. Are you absolutely sure that you will finish strong?

Correct Answers: 1) Yes 2) Yes 3) No 4) No

If you have one wrong answer, you are at risk of heading for a spiritual casualty. If you have two wrong answers, you are moderate risk. Three wrong answers, you are a bad risk. Four wrong answers, you are dead meat.

Teach Many, Reach More

Wolfs MinistrySeveral years ago we revamped the look of our Wolfpack logo. However, the core of our ministry, making disciples, stayed in the center because it’s at the heart of equipping leaders, planting churches, developing communities and multiplying mission movements.

Perhaps you are part of the Wolfpack Team and you’re not quite sure what “Multiplying Missions” really means and how it practically applies to our everyday lives and ministry. So we thought we’d highlight a couple of things we are doing right now to fulfill this part of our calling.

IMG_2827 (1)In early July, Nancy had the opportunity to use her ESL training to teach several full-time servants of God from several different countries, such as Chad, Guinea, Uzbekistan, Cape Verde, Morocco and Sudan, as they participated in a program which teaches Christian leaders how to use sports ministry in their community. Many African countries report that 50% of their populations are under the age of 25 and sports is a wonderful way to share the gospel and invite young people to church. That’s one of the ways we are equipping leaders and thereby multiplying missions.

DSC00029We are currently in America for a mini-furlough and we just finished helping to facilitate a program at ABWE called Essential Mission Components (www.abwe.org/training/emc). We worked with many veteran and pre-field missionaries who were learning ABWE’s church planting philosophy which includes both methods and models for effective church planting in various parts of the world. We are actively involved in church planting ourselves, but how much greater our impact for Christ when we help equip others to go out and do the same!

Mozambique MapOne more way we are working to multiply missions, and one that we are very excited about, is our upcoming survey trip to Mozambique. It is scheduled for later this year and we’ll be traveling with the ABWE’s Regional Director from Brazil and the President of a Brazilian Mission Agency. The purpose of the trip is to see where missionaries are needed, what ministry needs are there, and how we can best partner with Portuguese speaking missionaries and Mozambique believers to reach the unreached people in that country. Yes, there are still people in Mozambique who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Creating partnerships and mobilizing people will multiply the mission efforts in that country and many, we trust, will come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

Years ago the quote “Each One Reach One” became popular. Well, we say “Teach Many, Reach More.” And that’s exactly what we are busy doing. Won’t you pray with us and even consider how you can help partner with us in specific ways…pray for God to open doors for Mozambique. Pray for God to place a burden on the hearts of those He will send to minister there.  What about you—would you go?  How can you get involved?  Got some thoughts — just write us twolf@abwe.org as we’d love to further involve you in the “multiplication” process God is doing! Thanks again for all your prayers and support!