Having Been There

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Joan and I went with a small team to Slovenia in October. It was an amazing trip!

And it changed us.

The effects of travel upon the traveler are axiomatic.  Since I like G.K. Chesterton, we can insert the gratuitous quote here, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

Loses its punch when your aim is to make that foreign land your country, but yeah.  Keep in mind that in Chesterton’s  day you didn’t travel overseas for just a week.  It took a week just to get there.  So is it drama or self-absorption or limited scope of imagination to claim to have been changed over the course of a week-long trip?  What kind of changes are we talking about?

We have met our team-members. Before this trip we had met only one family of four out of the team we are going to join.  We had Skyped a handful of times with our team leader and once with one of the other missionaries.  Most of the team were pictures on prayer cards or at most talking heads.  Now we’ve hugged them!  Now we’ve prayed with them!  Now we’ve worked with them, both in outreach and even physically.  We’ve even cried with one of them.  We’ve seen them get frustrated, we’ve seen them tired, we’ve worshipped with them, we’ve held one of their infants.  Do we know them yet?  Not even close.  But now they are real people – and real people change you.

We have met Slovenes.  Before this trip we learned, and often related to you, statistics about Slovenia and its people.  We read books about Slovene culture and articles about Slovene food.  Do I even need to finish this paragraph?  I don’t think we were presumptuous – we knew that we knew nothing of Slovenes.  That was a large part of the reason for making this Discovery Trip!  Now we have met a few Slovenes.  The lady selling produce in the market;  the couple that runs the inn where we stayed.  The server at the inn who was so surprised when we thanked her for serving us.  The baristas at the coffee shops who were interested in conversing with the Americans.  The lady whose shelves we assembled one morning who was a prolific artist.  Do we know the Slovene people or their culture yet?  Not even close.  But when we think of Slovene people we no longer see numbers pop up in our heads, we think of Vladimir and Sandi and the gentleman who quit his job to run a vineyard and the computer programmer who competed internationally at chess when he was younger.  Now we remember real people – and real people change you.

We have met some of the Slovene church.  A thriving, growing, self-sufficient church is the end goal of our moving to Slovenia.  What that means and how to move towards it is defined in very concrete terms.  But that church is an abstract concept.  It’s not real.  Now we have met some of the Slovene church.  We worshipped with one gathering of believers.  We shared a meal with them, and through conversations and observation we glimpsed some of the joys, struggles, failures, and brilliance of that small body.  We talked haltingly with many of the members, and what each of us was saying was obscured by the language barrier. But in many of the church members’ faces Christ and His glory shone unobscured.  We spent an evening in the home of one of the young elders.  He and his wife expressed their hearts for their fellow believers, some of their dreams and frustrations.  We heard their testimonies and prayed with them.  We met some elders from another gathering.  We heard their testimonies and saw both the eager joy in walking with Christ and the eager desire to see Christ accomplish more in their gatherings.  Do we know the Slovene church?  Well, actually, in Christ we are one with them and in many small ways we experienced that oneness.  But that is an area we look forward to growing in.  And now the church in Slovenia is real to us – and real people change you.

So how have we been changed by knowing, in small ways, so many real people?

We’ve lost whatever we had of the “isn’t it fun to be preparing to move to Slovenia – isn’t it a grand adventure” feeling.

We have invested some of our selves in people in Slovenia.

We miss them.

We ache to go back.

The Centurian Truth

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Jesus said of the Centurian, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matt 8, Luke 7)

WOW! So, can I do what he did?

A Centurian sent emissaries to Jesus to intercede for his servant. Jesus started toward the Centurian’s home and the Centurian sent others to dissuade Jesus from coming all the way to his home.
This is what the Centurian said:

Luke 7:6b  “Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth [it].”

Notice the word, “also.”

The Centurian’s authority came from being under his commander’s authority. His submission gave him authority. He recognized that Jesus was submitted to the Father and therefore had authority. Jesus praised him for believing that Jesus was submitted and therefore had authority. Believed, as in accepted the truth so completely that he actively trusted in it.

So what does that have to do with walking in The Way?
We have very succinct marching orders. If we are to walk with Jesus on This Way that He has trail blazed, there are many ways He will manifest Himself through us, but there is one primary command. And it is couched in the terms of authority:

Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

(Luke 7:8 “authority” is same word as Matthew 28:18 “power”.)
Notice the chain. Jesus has all authority. That is the foundation of all that comes after. Jesus commands us to Go, Teach, Baptize. If we submit to this command, we have authority.

What is our confidence in telling our neighbors about King Jesus and His Kingdom? All authority.
What is our confidence in teaching all nations to observe all the commands of Jesus? All authority.
What is our confidence in going? All authority.
If we just submit to The One who submitted.

How poignant then, is Philippians 2:5-10. It exhorts us to have the same mind as Christ Jesus. “What mind?” we ask. Servant form, humility, and obedience. “And what was the result?” Highly exalted, name above every name, every knee bowing, every tongue confessing as Lord. Submission leads to authority.

Oh pray this for us! We are Going. Going to Slovenia. We are Teaching. Teaching everyone in Slovenia who will listen about King Jesus and the gospel of His Kingdom. We are Baptizing. Baptizing Slovenes into the body of Christ. So please pray that we will be submitted! And pray that as a result of our submission that our walk will be marked by and covered by the authority and power of Christ.
I will ask again. Please pray that our hearts will be submitted to Jesus and our Way radiating the power and authority of Jesus.

And I exhort you, in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, walk in submission to Him!
“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” John 20:21

Little Toe

Experience clarifies truth that we’ve already absorbed.

God chooses to use life experiences to open our eyes to the depth, texture, passion, or solidity of a truth we’ve already learned from His Word.

God is currently teaching me more about how His church operates as a body. Not necessarily more data points – God’s already used many faithful men and women to teach me the Scriptural content concerning Christ’s “whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.” But there’s a flavor, a pervasiveness, a breadth of application that I am being forced to understand.

Up until now, my experience of being connected in the body of Christ has been more of what I’d imagine a blood cell experiencing. Gushing around the body, the blood cell jostles other blood cells of the same function, jostles other cells in the blood of various other functions that it regularly observes and of which it has some understanding. It rushes on its business touring widely various parts of the body. But unless that blood cell is at the right place at the right time – a cut in the body that needs blood cells to clot together to patch the cut – its connection to the body is one of immersion.

The same cannot be said of the little toe.

The little toe is out there. Exposed. Very aware of the joints that supply whatever is necessary to keep it joined to the body. Very aware of the great impact the next step ordained by the brain may have on it. Literally.

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I am a little toe now. I am a small exposed part of the body that can only operate alongside the muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood, and nerves that I’m attached to. Not only can I do nothing on my own (I’d fall off!), any motion or positive result is completely a team effort.

Take our Discovery Trip in October. It is completely a team effort. Joan and I are going with JT and Sheryl Turner of One Way Ministries (http://1wayministries.org/) and two other dear friends to Slovenia for 8 days. Our goal is to lay the foundation for future ministry. We want to develop relationships with the SEND team there and some of the Slovene church leadership. We also want to scout the appropriateness of short term mission trips to the area.

Everyone connected to us is contributing to this Discovery Trip, and every positive result is theirs. If you are part of a missions team like ours, any glory gained for God is because of you.

Wade and Joan will be paying for their expenses for the Discovery Trip in October out of monies given by this team. If you are our financial partners, every relationship initiation in October, every stepping stone laid for future ministry is yours. (The four others going with us are raising their own funds to go. Listen to God if He’s stirring your heart to partner with them also and give here: https://www.gofundme.com/GoodNewsSlovenia.)

The team relationships and the relationships with the Slovene church leadership are key. If those relationships do not develop in God-honoring ways the ministry there will be hampered. We go in October to work on those relationships. If you are our prayer partners, every God-honoring conversation, every word of edification and fellowship is yours.

The Turners will be scoping out the current ministry in Slovenia, the cultural environment, and the possibility of short term mission trips that would join well with the Slovene church’s current direction. They will also be building relationships with an eye to solid teamwork across cultural lines for future short trips. If you are planning to partner with us through short term mission trips, your investment in Slovene hearts starts this October. It is because of you that the Turners are going.

Our friends in the US office of SEND International and our Advocate Team here in Birmingham round out the full team that has come together to Plant Churches in Slovenia. This Discovery Trip in October is a team effort.

Together, jointly, we are bringing glory and praise to God through this trip. The fact that you and I and all of us are supplying what is necessary to join us together and compact us in itself honors God. Only His Holy Spirit could do it.

All praise to Jesus!

The Way

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In Acts, the life of the early Christians was called “the way of God” or just “the way” around eight times. Relax – I’m not going to suggest overturning current terminology.  I don’t think I’ve even changed my own way of talking. But in thinking through how to express what I’m learning about life in Christ, particularly as that life in Christ is moving my family towards Slovenia, the idea of The Way stuck out.

Why?

  1. Our Life in Christ is a journey.
    The Bible describes us as traveling strangers, pilgrims, sojourners, exiles. Hebrews 11 in particular describes patriarchs we should emulate as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” When I apply this idea to my family’s journey to Slovenia, we see that we will not become “strangers in a strange land” when we move. We are strangers/pilgrims/exiles moving from the strange land of the United States to the strange land of Slovenia.
  2. The Final Destination of Our Life in Christ is certain.
    Hebrews 11 then said of those patriarchs, “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country . . . a better country, that is, an heavenly [one].” 2 Corinthians 5 says it this way, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” So on this journey to Slovenia, the ultimate destination for me and mine is not Slovenia. Our ultimate destination is to arrive, with you, in the presence of our LORD forever. Selah.*
  3. Intermediate Destinations of Our Life in Christ are not certain.
    God redirects.
    He doesn’t tell us every stop along the way to getting to His presence. Sometimes it looks like He’s taking us toward one goal, then leads us to take a hard right turn. Read about Abraham, read about Joseph, read about Paul. Sometimes in this walk there doesn’t seem to be any intermediate destinations. Take the time to read Numbers 9, the whole chapter. It contains the best picture in Scripture concerning this point – Israel being led in the wilderness by the pillar of cloud/pillar of fire. This describes our life in Christ. The conclusion? “At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed.”
    Is God going to redirect my family away from Slovenia? God knows. He has given us a burning desire to be in Slovenia. I think He’ll let us get there first. SEND International thinks He’ll let us get there first. Our Advocate Team thinks He’ll let us get there first. But Slovenia is NOT the final destination. God’s presence is.
  4. The most important part of the journey is Who You Follow.
    In the gospels, Jesus consistently called His disciples to “Follow Me.” That is what He has called each of us to.
    The most beautiful picture of this is in Exodus 33. God promised Moses that he and the Israelites would get to their final destination, the land promised. God promised to drive out the inhabitants to make room for them. God promised prosperity when they got there, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” But He said He would NOT go with them on the journey, “lest I consume thee in the way.”
    Moses’s response was basically, “If You do not go with us, don’t send us. Without Your presence on the way, all of it – the land, the open door, and the prosperity – just isn’t worth it. We would rather die in Your Presence on the way than have a guaranteed arrival and success and rewards at the end of a journey without You.”
    Shouts of joy! Does your heart not burn at those words?
    In this journey through Slovenia (Slovenia is not the final destination) I want to go with the Presence of God or not go at all.

 

*Not sure exactly what Selah means, but it’s in the neighborhood of, “That thought right there is worth taking a minute to pause over. Probably take a praise break. With musical crescendo thrown in for good measure.”

Letters

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Recently we were allowed to take part in a Vacation Bible School as the missionary speakers. Our children joined in the classes as we addressed each age group in their missionary time. We were allowed to present a little of our story, share a little about Slovenia, and talk some about what it means to be a missionary. In particular we shared the following step-wise definition of missions:

People can hear about Jesus from their neighbors. You can tell your neighbors about Jesus. Most people in Slovenia have no neighbors who know Jesus. The Killingsworths are going to Slovenia to be neighbors who know about Jesus and can share the One who loves the Slovene people the most.

A few weeks ago we got letters from many of the children that we visited with. I wanted to share some of their words. You can see the seeds. God cause them to grow and bear fruit!These are excerpts, most of the spelling intact:

Dear Ms. Joan and Mr. Wade,

Thank you for coming to our church and sharing your ideas . . . Pray for your neighbors. Pray for Slovenien to learn about Jesus. Tell Jackson I said Hi.

Please send a letter to me and could you send me a few words written in Slovenia like the word: hello. Pls and thank you.

 TELL JACKSON HELLO FOR US!

 I’m prying for your family and prying for you guy’s when you go to your new home.

 Thank you for coming to our church and sharing about your plans for Slovenia. I hope ya’ll can come back one day. We’ll all be praying for your family staying in the U.S. and the ones going to Slovenia. I hope that you tell a lot of people about Jesus and be safe.

 I will pray for you in Slovenia and language school. Also we will pray for your children in a new school. I hope you teach them a lot about Jesus.

 I hope that ya’ll are doing ok teaching the people about Jesus. They all need to know about Jesus.

 I will pray that language school will go good for you. I will also pray for the older kids going with you to a new school. I will also pray for the people that live in Slovian will reseive the word of god.

The LORD God answer their prayers!

God reward the faithful teachers who were pouring love and instruction about missions into these children! It is their labor and their seeds sewn that you can detect in these letters.

These children will be responsible for the next generation of souls in the world. Join us in praying for these children, that they would each accept Christ, learn to walk in The Way with Him, and bear a bunch of fruit for God’s glory. And join us in praying that God would call each of them into His mission for the salvation of the World!

Introducing the Turners

As we announced in God Communicates His Timing, we are planning a short trip to Slovenia in October. Our purpose is to establish relationships as a foundation for future ministry. One aspect of the ministry we want to lay a foundation for is receiving short term mission teams.

We have had several churches and many individuals express an interest in coming to participate in outreach in Slovenia once we are there. To prepare for these short term mission teams, we are including our friends, JT and Sheryl Turner in our Discovery Trip.

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JT Turner is the founder and president of One Way Ministries based in Alabaster, Alabama. He and his wife of 26 years, Sheryl, have five children, Kaitlyn (19), Madison (17), Jett (12), Zeke (10), and Elly (8).

In 1979 JT was in the back of his home church in Fayetteville, Georgia when he knew God was calling him to repentance and salvation. He gave his life to the Lord that very night, and as it turns out, so did his future bride, Sheryl, in her hometown of Thomasville, Alabama!  Then JT had a ministry-defining encounter.  It was midnight of June 1982 in Sells, Arizona on an Indian reservation. After sharing the Gospel with a young boy and hearing the words, “…will you forgive my sin and come into my heart to be my Savior,” the vision for One Way Ministries was birthed.

From 1985 until 2001, JT served on staff at several churches in Alabama and Georgia as the student minister. He loved discipling teenagers and challenging them to be bold witnesses for their faith.  He and Sheryl worked side by side to train leadership, teach students, and challenge fellow believers to study God’s Word and live in out on a daily basis.

In 2001, God called JT to “step out of the boat.” Trusting God for every aspect of life, the Turners formed an official evangelistic association for the express purpose of boldly sharing the message of Jesus with impoverished, forgotten and desperate people groups. Stepping away from a secure church staff position, One Way Ministries was formed!

The Turners expressed the direction for One Way Ministries in the slogan, “Reach the World . . . Teach the Word!” This double focus is reflected in their ministry style. The Turners have been involved for many years reaching the World. They have been active in New Mexico, Arizona, Guatemala, Uganda, and South Africa. They coordinate with local pastors in order to feed into the existing ministry of local churches. They do this through multiple avenues including event evangelism, VBS outreach, door-to-door evangelism, visiting with and exhorting church members – basically whatever the Holy Spirit leads through the local church elders.

JT and Sheryl have also been involved in teaching the Word. They accomplish this by leading people on mission trips that will change their lives. JT and Sheryl spend days training and praying with team members before taking them along to reach the World. In the field, they continue teaching and demonstrating Spirit-led ministry under the guidance of the local church. And they complete the life-changing short term trips with intensive debriefing with a view to permanent transformation of lives.

We are so excited to be friends and partners with the Turners!

The short term mission teams that they are preparing to bring will not be the first to invest in Slovenia, and will by no means be the only ones to visit us while we are there. But the work they will put into this Discovery Trip in October will help us discover what efforts have gone on before, what logistics are necessary for success now, and what vision for the future is already alive in the hearts of the Slovene church and missionaries in Slovenia – a wealth of information that we can share with anyone who also comes alongside the Slovene church on short term trips while we are there.

If God is moving you to invest in this foundation for many mission trips to come, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/GoodNewsSlovenia.

God Communicates His Timing

God has been so gentle! Watch this unfold:

We made a big push to reach 66% of our monthly budget promised by July. That was so that we could attend field training in July and get to Slovenia by our target date of September.

We didn’t make it.

We are currently at 44%. But at the same time, we have seen more growth in the past few months than at any time previously. Back in April we were only at 37%. God has moved so many individuals to partner with us financially that what could have been devastating is instead peaceful. God let disappointment come with encouragement. God has been so gentle.

So our target date has been moved. Whenever asked about our target date, we’ve communicated September 2016, but always hesitantly. It was healthy to have a target date, but we did not know what God’s timing would be. Well, we didn’t make that target date. We even had a back-up target date. There was a very small chance that SEND could offer the field training in February of 2017 where we could attend.

They can’t.

So our new target date is September of next year. But at the same time, we came close enough to our target this year to be encouraged. Now when we say that our target date is September 2017, we say it with much more certainty. God let disruption come with certainty. God has been so gentle.

His gentleness in letting us down from our expectations has given us a peace that we are in His timing. (Notice that the peace is not because of our amazing level of maturity or special missionary dispensation of grace. We have peace because of God. He chose in this case to breathe peace into us by His gentleness.)

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But God did not leave us with just this gentle assurance of His timing. He’s also declared His timing concerning another issue.

We’re going to Slovenia!!!!!!

This October Joan and I are going to Slovenia for eight days! The possibility of going on a “Vision Trip” has always been there, but we were focused on our target date and set the possibility aside with considered counsel. Now that our target date has definitely moved, our Advocate Team has counseled that we take a vision trip. Our church and missions organization have agreed.

We’re going to Slovenia!

Why?

  1. To meet the rest of the team. SEND International has four missionary units in Slovenia that we will be joining. Having a strong foundation for our relationship will be vital!
  2. To meet church leadership in Slovenia. The essence of church planting is coming alongside the Slovene church and working with them to grow. Having a strong foundation for that relationship is also vital!
  3. To lay the foundation for short term mission trips. We are more than excited – ecstatic – to be partnering with One Way Ministries (http://1wayministries.org/) to see if we can develop additional responsible, effective short term mission trips to blend into and cooperate with the effective outreach of the Slovene church, the SEND team in Slovenia, and the short term teams that have already invested so much.

J.T. and Sheryl Turner of One Way Ministries are dear friends and teachers that we have lived life with. We are beyond excited to be going with them and dear friends Greta and Lydia Greene on a relationship-intensive Discovery Trip that has the marks of God’s timing all over it.

I encourage you to go to https://www.gofundme.com/GoodNewsSlovenia.  Pray whether God wants you to invest financially in laying a foundation for many short term mission trips to come. And while you’re at it, start praying whether God is calling you to come on one of these short term mission trips once they start!

More to come soon!!!!!