Mililani Missions

Lord, Do It Again

More than two centuries ago, five Williams College students gathered in a maple grove to discuss a dangerous pamphlet written by the legendary William Carey. It was a controversial study of unreached peoples grounded in his conviction that the responsibility of world missions belonged to all believers. It was their spiritual responsibility no matter the cost.

Within moments, heavy rain, strong winds and lightning engulfed the grove and prevented the five students from seeking safe shelter beyond a haystack. Even inside the haystack, while the world was seemingly coming down around them, they argued. Samuel Mills passionately insisted that the gospel must be taken to the unreached in Asia.

The five students began praying for their hearts and the hearts of other Christians. Mills exhorted his friends with the words that later became their heartcry: "We can do this, if we will!" Modern scholars point to the Haystack Prayer Meeting as the formative event which launched the American missionary movement. And its results are still being felt — even at Mililani Baptist — today.

Mills himself enrolled at Yale to cast the missionary vision to students there while finishing his theological studies. He met Henry Obookiah, a native Hawaiian student, who encouraged him and others to share the gospel with the lost in the Pacific. A year after Obookiah's premature death, the first American missionaries were sent to the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Mills also helped persuade churches across New England to fund Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice and others. Judson became the first Protestant missionary sent from the Americas to Burma. Rice returned to the United States where he spent the rest of his life raising funds and advocating for cooperative giving in Baptist missions. His efforts laid the groundwork for the Southern Baptist Convention.

As for Samuel Mills, he would die less than twelve years after praying under a haystack. But not before he helped found the first North American foreign mission board, launch the missionaries who continue inspiring us, served in the ghettos of New York City, established two Bible societies, ministered to Native Americans on the frontier and fought against slavery.

Since that hot August day in 1806, countless have gone to the Nations because of the prayerful actions of these faithful few. Their prayers were not bogged down by what-ifs but by an earnest desire for God to use them. Decades later, a man named Luther Wishard visited the same spot at Williams College and prayed. Over fifty thousand student volunteers would be mobilized for world missions as a result.

His prayer was simple and yet dangerous: "Lord, do it again. Where water once flowed, let it flow again...I am willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything for Jesus." Let these words be yours only if you are prepared for when God answers. Be prepared not only to possibly give up everything we hold dear but for the Lord to do something utterly amazing.

Neither Samuel Mills and the Haystack Five nor Luther Wishard foresaw the end-result of their prayers. Neither could they have imagined the incredible impact of their prayers among generations of believers. And to think it all began with ordinary Christians humbly asking God to fulfill a responsibility entrusted to us by Jesus millennia ago. "We can do this, if we will!"

Probably the Most Important Healthy Habit

Listening to Mike McQuitty preach from Acts over the weekend was refreshing. One of the insights which hit home was shared during the fourth and final session. The speaker urged us to schedule in evangelism, to make it a healthy habit in our busy lives. If not, it will fall by the wayside.

Initially I thought McQuitty was contradicting himself since he had been sharing about the power of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. Spiritual discipline, according to the speaker, includes depending on the Spirit to open the hearts and minds of people seeking Christ. Why schedule in evangelism then?

Yes, we must depend on the Spirit to lead us towards seekers. Missionaries call these encounters "divine appointments." We cannot use the Spirit, however, as an excuse not to share. Instead we should be creating opportunities for the Spirit to move in our evangelistic obedience.

We are an extremely busy people. Parents are constantly shuttling their children from one thing to another. Pastors and deacons are always in and out of appointments, hospital visits, etc. while also preparing for Sunday. It seems like the only time of the day when we are not overwhelmed is when we sleep.

What is more alarming is all the beeps, dings, vibrations, whistles, chirps and endless notifications pervading our digitally connected lives. Universities are already reporting on the decline of social skills of incoming freshmen. Even some restaurants are offering discounts for turning your smartphones off.

I believe this is the reality which McQuitty was describing on Sunday evening.

If we do not purposefully carve out the time and space in our hectic and noise-filled lives to witness (coupled with the false notion that the Spirit will simply tell us when), we will never tell others about Jesus. And we will miss out on experiencing the Spirit at work in amazing ways.

In an April 25 post by Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary, he opened up about missing some things about how church used to be done.

"One of the biggest changes has been the loss of evangelistic focus in many SBC churches. The most visible evidence of this is the decline of baptisms over the past decade to record low numbers. Another change has contributed to this number - the neglect of personal witness training and the abandonment of the conviction every Christian must be equipped to fulfill their responsibility to share their faith."

"These days, it’s hard to find churches with any type of continuing, consistent training program for personal evangelism. Admonishing members to 'live their faith' or 'invite a friend to church' are about the extent of the challenge..." Iorg continued.

My challenge for myself, and my challenge for you is that we will follow through with this particular lesson. Schedule in twenty minutes this week to tell someone about Jesus. Encourage others to do the same or to pray intentionally for you. And also ask them to hold you accountable.

Together, as a church, we can spark spiritual renewal but it begins with healthy habits.

Standing with the Global Church

It was before dawn on Easter morning when I woke up to get ready for the day. My wife still had sign-up sheets to print for the photo booth. I had a collared shirt to iron, and a shower to take. That’s when I received a message from my Pakistani Christian friend who I served with during my Journeyman term. His message was all but familiar at this point: another attack against Christians.

Three years ago, suicide bombers struck a church in Peshawar on Easter morning. More than eighty were killed. Suicide bombers killed more than a dozen and injured dozens more in a Christian community last March. And just days ago, more than 75 people were slaughtered at a children’s park packed with Christians celebrating Easter. Most of the dead were women and children. Feet away from the swings.

Several Easters ago, I was given the absolute honor of preaching at a Pakistani church which had gone through persecution. Real persecution, the kind I only read about in books or watched on the news. The kind that required a police perimeter for service; and the chairs be removed so people did not sit level with the broken windows lest there was gunfire.

What could an educated American Christian possibly say to the persecuted?

I began with Saul's conversion from persecutor to evangelist in Acts 9. That in the face of trials for nothing other than our faith, we must pray for our enemies to turn from their spiritual blindness and wicked ways. And when every ounce of our flesh wants to seek revenge with the weapons of this world, we must seek God's strength to love our enemies.

Then I shared from Revelation 21. In the final verses of this book, John describes one of his visions of a new heaven and a new earth. It is a place where God "will be with them...[and] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, 'Look, I am making everything new'" (21:3-5)!

Since that morning in a dusty village on the Punjab, it has become easy to see events like the suicide bombing as sad, tragic and horrific. They are. But then life moves on until I am awoken again by my friend thousands of miles away. Another attack. More Christians dead. I get it...however, what can I do? It was easy to become numb to events so far away and removed from my daily schedule.

I was asking the wrong question. Instead I needed to ask: what is God wanting to teach me?

What the persecuted church has shown me is that there is a real cost to following Christ. It's not always physical but sometimes it is. To be Christian is to be persecuted is the local saying. Luke 14 tells us that counting the cost is actually the norm. Whereas our freedom to worship in relative peace (of which I am grateful for) is only experienced by a tiny percentage of Christians around the world.

Is my "following Christ" costing me anything?

What these persecuted Christians have also shown me is to always have hope. The enemy may take everything from us but we have something they can never take away: living hope in Jesus Christ. For He has conquered death, even death on the cross and rose again on the third day to demonstrate His incredible power. This is the God in whom we place our eternal hope.

Am I placing my hope solely in the One who is risen?

This month, do not forget our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer for the faith. This is the cross they carry. Let their perseverance give us the strength to carry our crosses. Because together, wherever we are, we have hope in the Only Hope who can transform the hardest of hearts, the Only Hope who can restore this broken and evil world.

Four Kinds of Love

With MLK Day behind us and Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, the idea of Christian love has been on my mind. What does it mean today? Recently I watched Selma, a movie about the campaign against voting restrictions levied on African Americans in Alabama. What really struck me though was Dr. Martin Luther King's powerful oratory skills which I later learned, he honed inside the church.

Many civil rights leaders were also pastors. Inspired by Jesus' teachings and other Biblical principles, their movement of nonviolent resistance was led by Dr. King whose beliefs and practices was deeply permeated by the gospel. Chief among them was the concept of love which he wove throughout his speeches, sermons and writings.

In the apostle John's first letter to the churches of Asia Minor, readers are also urged to love one another (4:7). Why? Because God first loved us by sending His only Son to be the propitiation for our sins (4:9-10, 19). Earlier in chapter 3, verse 16, John writes, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."

God sets the standard of love for us. And yet, everyone defines love differently. The word is often misappropriated because I can love my wife as much as I love ahi poke or Syracuse basketball. Culture has also hijacked love to mean blind acceptance. Anything but is labeled in- tolerant. Biblical love as described in 1 John and elsewhere is so much deeper plus so much harder.

Greek defines love in four ways: storge which is a natural type of love found between parent and child or siblings; eros (erotic) which is a passionate or sexual love designed for relationships like marriage; philia (Philadelphia) which is a brotherly love often found among best friends; and agape which is the ultimate expression of sacrificial love.

How is agape love different than the rest? Unlike the best-friend-forever love of philia or the eros love found in romantic relationships, the New Testament use of agape involves intentionality. It requires effort on our part in order to put the interests of others before ours. Even when we do not feel like it. We may choose to philia love our friends and not others. But we cannot pick and choose who to agape love.

Agape love simply does not come naturally to us. Our sin, our fallen nature renders us more likely to hate than to love in the self-sacrificing way God commands of us. Dr. King had every reason to return the hate he and millions of African Americans experienced. He also understood it was easier to hate, and much harder to demonstrate agape love in the same way God did on the cross.

Preaching on the Sermon on the Mount at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1957, Dr. King shared:

"...it's significant that [Jesus] does not say, 'Like your enemy.' Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don't like what they do to me. I don't like what they say about me and other people. I don't like their attitudes. I don't like some of the things they're doing. I don't like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them."

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were asked to lead Ohana Bible Study in how to engage other cultures with the gospel. One participant commented that underneath the layers of culture, language and other barriers are people who just want to be loved, valued and cared for. God loves them just as much as He loves us. And we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Let us remember to agape love this Valentine's Day and every other day.

Best. Gift. Ever.

She was born into a wealthy family from rural Virginia in 1840. Seventy-two years later, she died on Christmas Eve in the Japanese harbor of Kobe. “Frail, weak, and nearly starved,” described one account. Single, penniless and with barely any belongings left in her trunk, her selflessness would forever change the course of Southern Baptist missions. Her name was Lottie Moon.

During her almost four decades as a missionary in China, she taught young girls, cared for orphans and made inroads for future ministry work among unreached people groups. When famines struck, Moon sold everything to feed the hungry. When uprisings and war rocked the country, Moon chose to stay. When people encouraged her take a break or move on, Lottie Moon instead wrote powerful letters urging Southern Baptists to organize and raise finances for sending new missionaries.

A constant theme throughout her letters can be surmised by the Apostle Paul: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20, NIV). The Apostle Paul was an apostle. The essence of his calling was to go from place to place, unreached people to unreached people until the gospel took root, churches started and leaders were equipped to repeat the process.

In Southern Baptist life, however, we are beginning to ask a dangerous question: why are we going over there when there are lost people here? Yes, there will always be lost people both here and over there but the heart of the matter is gospel accessibility.

The population of Mililani Town is roughly 48,668. A Google search shows almost three dozen evangelical churches in our zip code. Throw in Christian schools, K-Love on the radio and a few thousand Christians; and gospel accessibility becomes high. Are there enough churches to reach everyone? Of course not. But if a lost person from Mililani wants to know about Christ, there are many starting points.

On this planet, according to the IMB, there are 3,092 unreached people groups not engaged by anyone. These are people groups who have no known Christians among them, no churches or ministries, no Bibles or VBS material in their heart language, no missionaries committed to reaching them. Nothing. If a lost person from this people group wants to know about Christ, he or she would have nowhere to start.

Imagine living in a place where the closest Christian or church is hundreds of miles away. Imagine if that very same place hundreds of miles away was blessed with dozens of churches, so many Bibles that people own multiple copies, and incredible wealth to start Christian schools and such. Now imagine if that faraway place wrote to the unreached people saying, “We are sorry for not going to you but there are a lot of lost people where we live. And oh yeah, we do not want you here either.”

This certainly would not be in the apostolic spirit of Paul or Lottie Moon. This would not be in line with the evangelistic zeal of those who planted Mililani Baptist. Not everyone is called to be a missionary. But each and every one of us has a role to play. Ask the Father what He wants us to give to a lost and hurting world this Christmas season. Some of whom have never even heard about the birth of Jesus. Ever.

Nearing the Tipping Point

Heartbroken. Discouraged. Forgotten.

“That’s how I feel today,” wrote one of our missionaries upon learning of the International Mission Board’s announcement that 600-800 of her co-laborers were being asked to voluntarily retire by December. This should come as no surprise. Within the past decade, Southern Baptists have lost one-third of their global missionary force which, if anything, is devastating.

Yet church planting movements, according to an extensive IMB study, are breaking out in every “house” of the Islamic world. Historically missionary-receiving nations like China, Nigeria and Brazil are now sending their own to advance the Great Commission. And even amidst one of the greatest movement of refugees since World War II, countless are coming to faith while countless more are dying for Christ.

Malcolm Gladwell, journalist and bestselling author, calls it a tipping point where everything converges toward this moment of critical mass. Why then is the IMB recalling so many missionaries when the lost world seemingly needs them most?

“The only reason for this massive recall of missionaries from around the world is that Southern Baptist individuals and churches would rather spend the massive resources God has entrusted to them on other things than the most effective proven means of taking the Good News of Jesus to the nations,” wrote Dr. Don Dent, veteran IMB missionary and current director of Golden Gate Seminary’s missions school.

Annual declines in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering forced the IMB to reduce US-based staff, sell overseas properties and dip into emergency reserves to make ends meet.

The new plan involves telling missionaries, who have given up their entire lives, that we can no longer support them as promised. We are asking the most experienced in language, culture and ministry to clear the bench because we cannot afford it. And in some of the hardest to reach places, the light they represent will be extinguished until we give enough to replace them. One day.

“This is a terrible time for many of us. We feel that our [SBC] family is not really a family...The bottom line is that we are really numbers and nothing more than that,” laments one IMB missionary. “It is with great anguish and deep sorrow that our family seeks help from you today. Please pray for us. Is our time done? A week ago I would have never imagined it. It is all very surreal. No home. No car. No jobs. Nothing. We are trusting in God to provide,” writes another missionary.

Faced with extermination thousands of years ago, the fate of the Jewish people laid in the hands of Queen Esther who was seemingly divinely placed to petition the king. Instead she made excuses. Her cousin responded: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)?

In this passage, we learn that God will take care of and rescue His people because nothing will disrupt His plans. But God providing does not absolve us of responsibility. Disobedience has its consequences. Queen Esther was Jewish herself, and would have been exterminated had she not done something. So what if God is also positioning you and all of your gifts, skills, talents and resources for such a time as this?

Brothers and sisters, please give more than ever before to God’s global work. Jesus’ teachings command us to go. The lost world is telling us to come. Christians are saying here I am, send me. We are nearing the tipping point; and all this boulder needs is a push over the edge. But just as important, please pray for our laborers and their families, for the work to continue among the lost and for Southern Baptists to finally awaken to their eternal responsibilities.

Going to the Philippines

We just finished up a training meeting for our missions team going to the Philippines in November. I’m excited for the team, but also ask our church ohana to keep this mission trip in your prayers. It will be a ten day trip with a packed itinerary. The primary focus will be in farming villages in an area several hours drive north of Manila. Our team will be working with a local SBC church already established in that area and also helping a newer church plant in a nearby village. We will be reaching out to the local public schools, and currently have plans to visit five elementary schools and one high school. Our team will be allowed to go into each classroom and present the Gospel to the students. We will also be providing school supplies to the students during that time. We will be partnering with believers from the local churches with the goal of opening a door for them to be allowed to come back on a regular basis to provide Bible studies at these schools. Our group will also be leaving materials and providing training for those believers to facilitate these ongoing studies.

We also have a local medical team of doctors and nurses who will volunteer their time and provide free medical care and medicine in a village without a hospital. Our team along with local believers will be sharing the gospel as people are gathered and waiting to meet with the doctors. We used a similar model on our mission trip two years and have made some modifications to be able to provide an even greater impact on this trip. Besides assisting with physical needs, we want to minister to their spiritual needs. Along with the medicine provided, everyone will receive gospel tracks, and information on the local church services. There should be enough time for us to personally share the Gospel with every single person there.

At the church we will be staying at, our team will be going through that local village sharing the Gospel and inviting them to an evening of worship and fellowship. It will be a big night and we anticipate a large crowd coming for food and fellowship. It will be a great opportunity to share the Gospel and for them to visit the local church. We were also asked to provide a training workshop for some of the local church leaders from surrounding areas. In addition, we will be reaching out to at least one orphanage, creating care packages for farmers working in the fields during this harvest period, and partnering with the local church in a community service project in the village.

The team will be involved in many projects. Please be in prayer for this trip: for the team, safety, for doors to be opened, and for people to come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. It is difficult being in a foreign country: a different language, different culture, different food, using a bucket with no hot water to shower, and so on. There will be many challenges, and the team has been told over and over that they will need to be adaptable and flexible because schedules and needs can change. With all of this, we recognize that there may be spiritual resistance as well. The team will be meeting every morning for devotionals and prayer during this trip, and will also be ending each day with a group prayer time. Prayer is that important, and we ask that you be in prayer as well. The team will be providing updates with specific prayer needs before and during this trip. If you would like to be included on these email updates, please email pastor@mbaptist.org requesting to be on the Philippines Mission trip email list. I’m excited about the possibilities that lay ahead.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt.28:19-20).