Saturday, January 17, 2004

January 17, 2004

11:05 PM Before I forget, I want to take one last look at the week I spent in Florida. Each morning and evening Graeme Kent from SIM International updated us on what SIM is doing around the world. Great advances for the gospel are being made in Africa and Asia. Computer technology has enabled us to reach more people faster than any time in history. As I thought about all that I heard, my mind and heart were stirred all over again. In some place deep in my heart, I have always felt called to the mission field. I remember hearing a Southern Baptist missionary in the mid-60s at a Baptist assembly called Shocco Springs in Alabama. For several years in a row I listened with rapt attention as Bob Hunt (I think that was his name) shared amazing stories of his work in Taiwan. That was my first exposure to a live-and-in-person missionary. When I was in college at Tennessee Temple, I was blown away by the massive missionary conferences at Highland Park Baptist Church. Never before or since have I experienced anything like the incredible excitement of those days each year when thousands gathered to hear Reid Jepson of Far East Broadcasting tell of open doors in Asia, and Jacob Gartenhaus plead for workers to carry the gospel to the Jewish people. Hank Scheltema (who died just a few weeks ago) shared spellbinding stories of missionary work among the tribes of South America. And Harry Bollback! Never have I been touched like I was by Harry’s messages at Highland Park in 1972. I can still hear him telling the story of going deep into the jungle, paddling a canoe into uncharted territory, and bringing the Good News to a tribe that had never heard it. Nothing in the world could be more satisfying than that. That was more than 30 years ago—but I remember how God stirred my heart with the challenge of the Great Commission. One year after we were married, Marlene and I traveled to Paraguay and spent six weeks with two missionary couples. That trip changed my life. Later we visited Columbia. And still later Haiti, and then Russia, Belize, Nigeria, India, and Switzerland. I confess that in recent years I have been busy with other things and haven’t thought as much about world missions. Marlene reminded me last night that it has been five years since we took a trip together to the mission field. This week in Florida stirred my soul in a way it has not been stirred since the early days. In recent years I have thought a lot about how I want to spend my life in the years to come. Some time ago I came to the conclusion that there are two things I want to do somewhere down the road—perhaps a few years from now: 1) I want to invest a portion of my life training the next generation of national Christian leaders. By “national Christian leaders,” I mean young people from the nations who are studying in Bible schools around the world. 2) I hope Marlene and I have a chance to live somewhere overseas—perhaps in a large city in Europe or the Middle East—so we can be closer to what God is doing around the world. And in a note that seems unrelated, I hope to have a chance to do live radio on an ongoing basis someday. I don’t have any idea or plan regarding how or when any of that might happen. But this week renewed my conviction that these things are part of God’s call on my life. The flame was still burning even when I forgot that it was there. 11:02 PM Renovation Update: I took a quick tour today and saw that the workers laid the concrete floor in the new portico. It is now completely enclosed and heated. They still need to finish the walls and ceiling in the old Resource Center area … Big News! The Awana kids used the new gym for the first time on Wednesday night. And we used several of the new classrooms as well. Early reports suggest that the noise from the new gym is significantly less than it was in the old gym.

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