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Posts Tagged ‘Missionaries’

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SILENCE

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Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence, first published in 1966, endures as one of the greatest works of twentieth-century Japanese literature. Its narrative of the persecution of Christians in seventeenth-century Japan raises uncomfortable questions about God and the ambiguity of faith in the midst of suffering and hostility.

Endo’s Silence took internationally renowned visual artist Makoto Fujimura on a pilgrimage of grappling with the nature of art, the significance of pain and his own cultural heritage. His artistic faith journey overlaps with Endo’s as he uncovers deep layers of meaning in Japanese history and literature, expressed in art both past and present. He finds connections to how faith is lived in contemporary contexts of trauma and glimpses of how the gospel is conveyed in Christ-hidden cultures.

In this world of pain and suffering, God often seems silent. Fujimura’s reflections show that light is yet present in darkness, and that silence speaks with hidden beauty and truth.

silence-and-beauty

Silence, Beauty, and the Shape of Christian Discipleship

by Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

In 1966 the Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo published his masterpiece of historical fiction, titled Silence. It’s the story of Catholic missionaries in Japan during the 17th century, of Japanese persecution and torture of Christians, of apostasy and love, and of a God who stays silent during suffering until it is time for God to break the silence. The novel raises profound questions about love and suffering, and, in doing so, sticks with and haunts its readers for years.

View this conversation with internationally renowned artist Makoto Fujimura, philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, and theologian Neal Plantinga. Participants describe their first encounter with the novel Silence and then discuss the power of icons, the unthinkable forms sometimes taken by love, and the grace of God in history that gives voice to the voiceless. Fujimura also previews the film Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Makoto Fujimura is a gifted artist and writer. In his memoir titled Silence and Beauty, Fujimura reflects on Endo’s novel, on faith in the face of torture, on the artist’s calling, on Japanese history and culture and what it means for Christians to be a tiny, historically persecuted minority within Japan. Deeply imaginative, brooding, and piercing, Silence and Beauty stirs the reader’s heart with longings previously unknown.

Congregations are encouraged to read Endo’s book and view the movie Silence produced by Paramount Pictures.

Silence Discussion Guide
The following questions may be used for discussion and further reflection:

Share with the group one thing that struck you as you read (or viewed).
What questions does this story raise?
This story is often described as “atmospheric.” Why so?
Who are the main characters?
Who is Kichijiro and what role does he fill? Is his defense of his actions plausible? Would we be like him if under similar pressure?
Why would a novel like Silence become an international best-seller, including in Japan? After all, it tells the story of Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan, and ends up making both Japan and the Catholic Church look pretty bad. Why is this story widely regarded as a masterpiece?
Could there be cultural or national “swamps” where the gospel simply can’t take root?
Is God’s silence in the face of persecution always a form of abandonment by God?
If the only way a Christian can save the lives of other Christians is by renouncing Christ, would it be right to do it? What if you only think you can save their lives (persecutors sometimes lie)? If you renounce Christ to save lives, can Christ “take it”? Might Christ even invite you to renounce him to save lives? Or is any thought along those lines mere self-deception?
In short, does Rodrigues betray Christ by trampling or does he follow Christ?
In general, should we calculate the possible consequences of our actions as the main basis for an ethically questionable decision, or just follow God’s commands, and let God take care of the consequences?
What moral ambiguities test Christians today? Have you ever faced a quandary? For example, with a difficult relative? With a friend who is betraying his or her spouse? On the street in front of a panhandler? How do you decide what to do?
What are some small, undramatic ways we ourselves renounce Christ? At work. In our political choices. In our consumption of pop culture. In our family systems.
Where in the world today do Christians face real persecution? What forms does contemporary persecution take?

Silence and Beauty Discussion Guide
Questions for groups reading Makoto Fujimura’s book Silence and Beauty:

What special angles of vision do the Japanese have on beauty? If you were to introduce the concept of beauty to someone, how would you proceed?
Is beauty a purely relative concept? Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder?
What might it mean to refer to the beauty of God?
What’s the connection between appreciation of beauty and faith in God?
Why are the Japanese fascinated with hiddenness, and what forms does it take for them?
Why is trauma so deep in the Japanese psyche?
Why are the Japanese resistant to the gospel (by contrast, for instance, with Koreans)?
What are our own fumies? What in our own faith are we willing to trample in order to fit into a prevailingly secular culture?
After he has become apostate, does Father Rodrigues still have a ministry? A valid one?

Silence and Beauty Exhibition

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He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.   Micah 6:8

My Pastor preached on this passage at church a couple of weeks back and what God requires of us as believers. We have been talking together in our missional community on justice and what this looks like for us and our surrounding community. I personally have been looking at this for myself as well and what God wants me to be doing in my own walk for this coming new year. A couple weeks ago I was able to put together a missions wall that has served as a reminder of how God has used me during those five years on the mission field. Making that wall really has stirred up my heart. As I have been going through some of my old stuff, I have been reading old journals of my journey. I have discovered that I have really held back in using my gifts and talents that God have given me this past year. Some of it is because he has been refining me and some of it is because I haven’t been focused on God’s will. God gave me a heart for the world. I have such a deep passion to engage and evangelize with other cultures. I have been spending a lot of time with several of my friends that have been on the mission field lately. Just hearing their stories has gotten me to get on my knees and pray to God about where he wants me to be. Through some connections with some missions organizations I have known, I am excited to say God has opened up opportunities for me to be back on the mission field this summer and in the Fall. I am locked in and excited to finally be back to doing things I’m passionate about.

I also have decided to return to school as a full-time student. Part of my schooling will be getting back into photography (primarily for missions and justice purposes). I have been blessed to be at a church loaded with photographers and they have been receptive in helping teach me some skills. In fact, my friend Keira is using her own business to help raise awareness for the sex trafficking. Another course I am excited to be taking is called Encountering the World of Islam. It’s a class designed to learn about the Muslim culture and how to engage with them. I have always had a heart for Muslims. Ironically I have a couple in my MC that works for Frontiers – an organization that sends missionaries into Muslim countries. I am really excited to be taking this course and to be engaging with Muslims here in the valley. My hope is to work in a Muslim country in the very near future. I feel very blessed for these opportunities and thankful to God for his calling.

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Three years ago I took the Pathways course at East Valley Bible church when I was invited to come onto the mission board at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. The following year I signed on to their task force and helped grade papers and run the program every week. It a great course on cross-culture missions and how the message of reaching the nations is preached throughout the Bible. Pathways is a 13-week class that explores God’s worldwide agenda and the significant role each of us can play in His relentless Kingdom intentions. Taught through great reading material and different speakers from mission agencies and missionaries who have been overseas, Pathways focuses on God’s heartbeat and purpose for the nations and our role as the church in His wonderful plan. Last week, Christin and I went and checked out the class at Central Christian church and decided it would be good for us to take if God ever calls us to missions someday. We spent our first Valentine’s Day together studying and learning God’s Word.

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This is packing week for India. I see the excitement of the other team members at the team meeting and it is starting to get me excited. But the common thing I am hearing from everyone is how busy they are or how much they have to do before we go. I really don’t have a lot of excuses because I have a weak off to prepare before we leave. I guess I find myself having a hard time focusing. So my being busy is more being too busy in my brain. But aren’t we commanded to go? I think that literally means to get up and go! Abraham was constantly being called to go. That guy lived everywhere .. so did Paul. I don’t think we are supposed to say that I need to wait till I get all the bills paid and take care of this and that, then I’ll be ready to go. I think we are to be ready to go at all times. We are to be prepared to proclaim the gospel everyday – in our workplaces, the store, etc. I think we worry too much. Being a part of God’s family is like being born into a family business. We have work to do and are expected to do it. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NIV)

This mission trip is different from any other trip I have been on. I’ve always had some specific role that I had to do beforehand. Usually it’s the role of team leader. This trip I am just showing up. The cool thing is that God is already doing work in India through Harvest India and we are just joining in what God is doing through them. But because I have been stripped down to the core of who I am, I really feel this is an opportunity for God and I to work through some stuff through this trip. It really has been a tough few months for me having to come face to face with my junk that I have been carrying for so long. But it has giving me the chance to see who I was created to be – a humble servant of God. I sometimes forget that as I get caught up with the busyness of life. I’m really trying to be open minded to whatever God wants from me and to be obedient to that.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.”  Psalms 67 (NIV)

The whole Bible portrays God as a missionary God from Genesis to Revelation. I love this chapter from Psalms and the quote from John Piper “Missions exist because worship doesn’t”. They both go so well together. We aren’t called to show the less fortunate a better way of life. We are called to proclaim the gospel to those that have never heard it. Why? So God can be glorified among ALL the nations and people groups. I love that God has instilled this heart for the nations in me. I never quite understood it when I got back from my first mission trip. But as I am growing and becoming more mature in my faith, I am understanding more of what God is calling me to do. Leading mission trips has become my passion in my walk with the Lord. I love meeting people and sharing my faith, especially to people of different cultures. I am so thankful and blessed that I have the opportunity to go on this trip to India. I am excited to see God work not only through me but also through our team. May His glory shine through us and through Harvest India to those that don’t know Him.

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PRAY

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Colossians4:3 (NIV)

Prayer is essential to the work God does in the world. One of the best things I do to keep up with what different missionaries is read their stories. It used to be you had to wait till they came back from a long term trip to hear the stories and see pictures. Now with today’s technology, email and blog pages give us instant updates. Follow missionaries’ prayer email letters or visit their blogs and find out what God is doing in other countries. Pray for their specific needs.  Another thing you can do is stay updated on current events in the world.

SEND

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15 (NIV)

Missionaries were sent at the time of Paul. Sending missionaries to the mission field involves giving financially. That is why prayer and support letters are given out to those who send. It gives you the opportunity to be a part what God is doing in the world, especially if you are not able to go yourself. Another part of sending missionaries is writing encouraging letters. It can get lonely out there and reading emails and letters can really make a different in a missionary’s long term stay in another country.

GO

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 (NIV)

A small but powerful word. Go! It involves stepping out in faith. Even though it doesn’t always make sense on paper, just know God will provide a way when you obey. He will use your gifts and talents. And if going long term doesn’t fit in your plans, try a short term trip. Find out what trips your local church has planned and get a glimpse of what God is doing in the world.  Then take that experience and pray and ask if he is speaking to you to do something more.

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My crazy had passed and my life is settling back to normal for the time being.

Said bye to Ron, Anna and the fam Sunday. Harder than I thought it would be… Then said bye to Shauna and Keira as they head to Africa to do some mission work. Love those two and their passion for ministry… And I just want to give a shout out to my friends and family going to Kenya as well this week.. I will be praying for you guys!

I caught up with the guys of my men’s group this week… missed them. Ready to dive into some deep scripture reading.

Awesome meeting with Pastor Jeff Gokee the other day. He presented an amazing ministry oppportunity for me. He challenged me in my walk as well.. love that!

Counseling with da ex went well yesterday.. that’s always good.. makin progress.

Glad to have both Candace n Nancy back. Two of my favorite people. Call me

Back at work this week.. Work is… well…. work..

Lookin to catch up with Jamin this week before he leaves. I’m hearing some sushi with Axtell. That’s always quite the show…

Looking to have some fun with the boys on the 4th. Have no clue what we are doing.

Rock climbing is on the agenda with Missy. Go easy on me … I’m fragile

I miss Praxis. Might have to miss AGAIN this week. I’m hearin someone floated me some Mercy Me tickets Sunday night.

Leading Bible study tonight and givin a presentation on Belize. Gotta recruit some people on our annual Fall trip.

I think I covered everything for the week. God is good!!

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What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.    James 2:14-18

I had a pretty amazing weekend hanging out with some amazing people. My church is blessed with so many awesome people and ministry opportunities.

Saturday night I hung out two of my favorite guys – Steve Johnson and Keith Page. Steve was one of the founding Pastors of Cornerstone. Keith was the founding Pastor of Rock Harbor church and has an incredible ministry that I’ve been plugging into called Rock Bottom ministries. Both guys are so encouraging to me and two of the most real down-to-earth Christians I know.

Also present was Suresh Kumar and Mama Zipporah. Suresh is from India and has an incredible ministry of planting churches and starting Bible colleges in India. He’s doing incredible things there. I’m looking forward to the possibility of visiting India sometime. Mama Zipporah runs a orphanage in Kenya. A large group of people are heading there from our church in a couple of weeks. She too has a huge heart for those kids and has an amazing ministry. I was blessed to be in both of their presence. They spent the evening talking about having big dreams of what God is going to do in their respective countries.

I had a long mission’s board meeting Sunday afternoon. All of these people came in front of the board to speak to us. A couple that went on my Tijuana trip – Jon and Andrea Hoeffer also came in front of the board. They were just accepted to New Tribes missions – an organizaion that send out missionaries. I’m so excited for them and amazed how fast God has called them to the mission field.

I also found out that I will be co-leading the trip to Belize in October and the possibility of leading another Tijuana trip. I am also going on a vision trip to Cambodia as well. I’m pretty excited and blessed for these opportunities.

Church service that evening was Pastor Ron Merrell’s last time speaking at our church. He is leaving at the end of the week. Mama Zipporah was also interviewed. An amazing slideshow followed on missions. Most of the church was in tears. It was amazing, yet very emotional. Ron gave me a hug which teared me up. Reality set in with me that he was leaving..my mentor. I’m so excited for him though. It was quite the day to be around these awesome people.

http://www.rockbottomministry.org

http://www.harvest-india.org

http://www.hchngong.org

http://www.ntm.org

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