Think before you speak!

How many parents have ever said to their kids’ something like this? “Eat your supper, honey. Do you know how many kids in Africa are starving and would love to have what you have to eat?”

I admit to using this phrase many times when our girls were little and we were still living in Columbus, Ohio. And then we moved to Africa…and guess what? That comment came back to bite me!

I vividly remember a particular evening when one of our daughters, the one who was not particularly impressed with the food that I’d prepared, looked at me and said, “Mom, remember when you used to say there were starving children in Africa who would love the food we had? Well, we’re here now. Can you feed one of them this?”

You chuckle, but have you ever made a statement related to someone else’s situation, only to realize later how those same words related to your own circumstance or reality?

So here’s our reality:  We live in a time when immigration laws, no matter where you live, are a hot topic and many people live in fear of being deported or refused entry to the country where they desire to live, work, and for us, serve.

It truly begs the question, who is really making these decisions on our behalf and is God still on His throne? Personally, our own visa renewal documents are “in process” in the midst of a climate where missionaries are being declined, some have been deported or refused entry to South Africa, while others have gone through the process without a hitch. The interpretation of the current laws and the decision to put the coveted approved visa sticker in a passport would seem to be in the hands of “the man behind the desk.” This isn’t unique to our situation. It’s the reality that missionaries around the world are facing regularly.

“God is still on His throne, we’re still on His ‘footstool,’ and there’s only a knee’s distance between.” (Jim Elliot)

When speaking of this situation recently in his Regional Director’s Update to our missionaries, Tom actually referred to this statement when he said, “God is great and He is still on His throne.” However, what if the next missionary application is declined — does that mean this confident declaration is not true? No, certainly not. What about those working to gain entrance into limited access countries to carry out the Great Commission? Who is in control of that decision?

In all of this, I must admit, in my human desire and frailty I fight worry and I’m tempted to doubt. When I think about receiving an adverse visa decision and all that means, tears immediately spring to my eyes and I quietly declare in my heart what I truly believe…Yes, God is still on His throne! We truly believe that God is sovereign and in control of all things. He is in us, with us and for us!

Unlike my comment to our girls about food and the starving children in Africa, this statement about God will not come back to bite me. It’s more than a cliché or a cheeky little phrase used to encourage others in a difficult situation. It’s our hope. It’s our peace. It’s our reality.

So as you read this latest post, won’t you even just pause and pray for us?  God desires to hear from us and prayer makes a difference. Then, before you also make this commonly used statement — Think before you speak, and remember, God IS still on His throne!

Wingman for the General

“Okay, I’ll be your wingman. Let’s roll!” That was my self-appointed proclamation as General Loren Reno arrived in South Africa and we began our tour, providing leadership training to ABWE missionaries as well as South African pastors and ministry leaders.

Having served 38 years in the US Air Force, and now in his leadership position at Cedarville University, God has uniquely prepared General Reno to speak into people’s lives and help them develop as leaders. I was all set to go, but little did I, as a civilian, realize what the role of “wingman” would really mean and how I much I would personally be shaped by having a retired three-star General speak into my life.

I love the way WWII Ace Colonel Gabby Gabriski speaks of a wingman, “I look after my wingman. He looks after me. We work together. We fight together.”

Three significant things happened while General Reno was in South Africa.

Portrait taken by HAF/IMMP

First, various leadership training seminars were held where General Reno used the Scripture and his life and military experiences to show us how to develop a Personal Leadership Model. This comes out of his new book titled: 10 Leadership Maneuvers: A General’s Guide to Serving and Leading.

As the General’s wingman, I had the privilege of seeing the transformation of men and women who walked away feeling renewed in their passion to excel and equipped to become even better leaders in the areas where they serve the Lord.

Second, I was challenged, not only in my desire to see more leaders equipped, but also in my desire to grow as a leader. Here’s what God put on my heart as I worked through General Reno’s steps to developing a Personal Leadership Model. Mine grew out of a treasured verse where Paul fervently instructed his young protégée and friend, Timothy, to Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15

Tom’s Personal Leadership Model – From 10 Leadership Maneuvers with Gen. Reno

  1. Lead with a Passion for a Person (2:15a) Keep Jesus First. 
  2. Lead with a Passion for a Plan (2:15b) Stick to the Mission. 
  3. Lead with a Passion for a Pace. (2:15c) Let God’s Word Guide.

Third, and highly meaningful to me personally, were my one-on-one times with General Reno. Some came while on the go, driving to another city or communicating in-between seminars, while others were planned and intentional. Shortly after General Reno arrived, I asked if he would take note of what he observed of me in my various leadership capacities and then speak into my life on those matters…both the good, and the not so good.

Throughout his visit, I saw him journaling a lot, and it was on the last day when just the two of us sat alone at the Cape Town Waterfront, that his journal came out and the General debriefed with his South African wingman.

Frankly, I was taken back by his swift ability to perceive, his keen sense of intuition, and the deep insights that he authentically and thoughtfully communicated with me. The General’s ability to grasp the details quickly, accurately assess the terrain, obstacles, challenges and resources was off the charts. I am forever grateful for that special time and believe I am becoming a better leader as I apply what we spoke about. Few people have spoken into my life the way he did in the short 12 days we spent together.

I learned a valuable lesson that I believe applies to all of us, but particularly for those in leadership roles. It is way too easy to isolate ourselves and avoid accountability when we all so desperately need it. The struggle can be that we are too busy, too insecure, or in some cases, not proactive enough to invite someone like a General Reno into our lives and allow them to get close enough to help us. Real spiritual and leadership growth happens when we listen to God as He speaks and then allow ourselves to be real and intimate with a godly individual who can help shape our personal development. I will be forever grateful for the General’s investment in this wingman. May the impact made on my life and leadership, as well as our ministry partners in South Africa, bear much fruit to the glory of God.

For I know the plans I have for you…

37 Years and Counting!

“For I know the plans I have for you…”       Jeremiah 29:11 is often misquoted, but these words came to my mind recently and brought me such comfort and confidence. God knows His plans for us. Sounds cliché doesn’t it? But that’s the bottom line.

This month Tom and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary! Looking back, we can’t help but laugh at the plans we had back in 1980. Some of you know this funny story, but in our pre-marital counseling we asked our Pastor to show us in the Bible where it said we had to have children – because we didn’t plan to have any kids! Four beautiful daughters later (not to mention our four wonderful son-in-laws and, to-date, seven grandchildren), we now know God had different plans.

We lived in Columbus, Ohio for the first half of our marriage and we didn’t plan on leaving. Tom was a business leader and finance guy and I was a very content stay-at-home mom with a very lived-in mini-van. Then one day we went on a missions trip to Papua New Guinea. That trip changed the plan. Not God’s, of course, but it radically changed ours.

Tom with Cal Clark and Jenuan Lira meeting Mozambique Pastors.

We came to South Africa in 2001 to be church planters, and we still are, but that’s not all. Now, Tom is Regional Director for Southern Africa. What has that changed, you ask? Well, in the last month we were in Mozambique for a nine-day survey trip with our missionary partners from Brazil. From there, we flew to Durban, South Africa for a week of ministry with our ABWE Team.  Then we were off to Hermanus for three days, leaving two days later for George, South Africa for a leadership conference with our Team there, and then we returned home to host another leadership conference in Cape Town with Lt. General Loren Reno. I’m actually a little tired just thinking about it!

We were flying to Durban on the day of our anniversary and I looked at Tom and said, “It’s a good thing on our wedding day I promised to follow you anywhere.” (Ruth 1:16 was my chosen verse for our ceremony.) I think it’s safe to say that all this traveling was not what I had planned!

What I do know is this – before the beginning of time God prepared the good works He planned for us. (Eph. 2:10) Wow, even as I’m writing, I’m still amazed at the thought. It’s comforting to me now because we are working hard to lead ABWE in opening new ministries in the country of Mozambique, and guess what? We don’t know how God plans pull it off! So, back to the reason for this Blog post – the comfort and security we have ultimately comes from knowing that He knows, and that He will lead us to what He wants us to do.

As for now, we have seen the great needs of Mozambique and we have been called to reach the nations. From South Africa, we are in a wonderful position to join our partners from Brazil to equip and prepare people to serve there. And most importantly, we serve a God who has all the resources we need and promises that He will provide!

Kids from the Pre-School loving Pastor Tom

No, we don’t currently have the full plan in hand, but we are praying for wisdom and guidance. Won’t you join us in praying to the one who “knows the plans He has for us,” for those who are willing to go? Pray that they will  respond just like Abraham did when God said “Go…to the land I will show you,” and then “Abram went…” (Gen. 12:1, 4).

We believe that disciple makers are needed to train pastors and leaders, teach English as a second language, serve in orphanages, train youth and children’s ministry leaders.  There’s also a need for those who are able to teach basic health care, farming, how to start a business, and the list goes on…

We covet your prayers as we together mobilize South Africans, Brazilians and Americans to reach Mozambique…For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord!

Two Countries…One Goal…Mozambique

Our ABWE friends and colleagues from Brazil, Cal and Carol Clark, arrived last week in Cape Town. We’ve enjoyed showing them around the Western Cape and introducing them to the beautiful sights and sounds of South Africa. And today we begin to fulfill a dream – the combined missions trip that we’ve been working on for months, and we need your prayers.

This is a “survey” trip. That means we’re going there to investigate how we can partner, as Americans, South Africans and Brazilians, with others who are already working to reach the needy Portuguese-speaking people of Mozambique. Our trip includes a variety of meetings in various locations aimed at seeing what God is already doing there and how we can work together. We are pleased with the warm welcome that we’ve received thus far from the existing mission agencies and potential national partners in Mozambique and we’ve only just begun.

Two Countries…One Goal…Mozambique. Please join us in praying specifically for these four needs as we trust God for the journey…  

  • Pray for safe travels, our security and health as we move around Mozambique. This is a malaria-invested area.
  • Pray for open doors and open hearts. We have planned and prepared as best we can, however, there will no doubt be additional and possibly unexpected opportunities along the way to serve those we meet and share Christ along the way. We need God to direct our steps and enable us to make an impact for Christ while there.
  • Pray for the right kind of relationships and potential partnerships to develop while we are there. We need God to lead us in forming relationships that will be a good fit as we move forward to further the gospel, in some cases, attempting to reach the unreached people of northern Mozambique.
  • Pray, even now, for the laborers God will send for this part of His vineyard. And would you be bold enough to ask God if it might be you?

Thank you for your ongoing support and for helping us reach this part of Southern Africa!

Change Ahead

Changes are Coming – We made the official announcement at the Mountain View Somerset West Church (not to anyone’s surprise, as it’s been coming for a while now) that as of October 1st Pastor Mark Osborne will become the Lead Pastor. What may have surprised some was that we also shared the news that we would be moving to Hermanus to help with the new church plant, working alongside Wade and Tara McComas.

Changes for Greater Impact – You never know how God will use you to impact someone who is watching and listening. After the announcement was made to the church, Pastor Mark gave a brief testimony of how God led Mark and his family to Mountain View. It all started when Tom was the main speaker at a men’s retreat in Durban South Africa in 2009, because it was at that event that Mark gave his life to the Lord for full-time ministry. He then pursued his education and was equipped for ministry through the efforts of many faithful servants at a sister church in Durban. Then our paths crossed again at the ABWE South African Regional Conference in 2014 when Mark was invited to lead worship. Unknown to us, spending time together all week helped Mark and his wife, Claudette, see how God could possibly be leading them to transition to a new ministry someday. One thing led to another, and in God-like fashion, here they are, serving the Lord and being used for His glory. Still growing, still learning, and definitely making an impact for Christ.

Having said this, there are many changes ahead for Nancy and I and we covet your prayers. Above all, we pray that we will be used by God to make an impact in the lives of those we continue to meet in Hermanus and have opportunity to minister with. Also, it feels very weird and even somewhat difficult to be letting go of something we’ve worked so long and hard at – kind of like when your kids leave home and get married. You’re still involved in their lives, but in a very different way. It is like that now with our first “baby” – Mountain View in Somerset West. We won’t be far away (less than an hour) and we’ll still be involved with the church as the Pastors of both churches work together on the same church planting team, but in different locations. However, Mountain View Somerset West will be autonomous and have a new leader, Pastor Mark, and we know he’ll do a great job. Tom has often said that he thinks Mark will take the church to the next level in its growth. Plus, he will have Pastor Dave Drullinger by his side – and there has never been a better “pastor partner” than Dave. In the new structure Pastor Wade will still lead Mountain View Hermanus, even after we join them, giving us more time for Tom’s ABWE Regional Director duties for Southern Africa.

Changes Stretch Our Faith – In Tom’s State of the Church sermon series last month he shared this quote from William Carey, “Expect great things from God – Attempt great things for God.” That is our desire. In all that God is doing right now in our lives and ministry we are expecting God to show up Big Time! And we will attempt, in His strength, to give our best in all that we do.

Please pray as supporting churches and ministry partners for us as these plans come to pass and we continue to learn, grow, and serve in new ways. Pray for those who we will impact for Christ, possibly without ever knowing how. May many come to faith and be moved and equipped for service for Him. That is our true desire! As time allows, please look at our Prayer Requests to gain more insight into our praises, needs and requests. We value your support…knowing that you stand with us in prayer.

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!