God is Faithful!

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Its been a long 30 days since the last time I posted. It has been a month of fervent prayer and preparing for whatever outcome. One full of ministry but also of waiting. For while Sarah and I have been praying and seeking to pursue ministry in Edmond among internationals, I have for almost a year and a half been seeking employment. With less than 30 days before we would pack everything and leave Oklahoma to move in with family, all our prayers were answered.

desert
2010, Oman

10 years ago, to date, I began as a missionary with the International Mission Board. After 2.5 years in the Middle East, working among Afghans and Pakistanis, I returned home (engaged to my beautiful bride, I might add) with an awakened heart towards international ministry. As Sarah and I got married and moved to Oklahoma, we recognized the immense need for outreach right here in OKC and Edmond. While we frequently pursued ministry opportunities, it was days before the birth of our firstborn in 2016 that I truly felt a tug on my heart. I had let the urgency of the Gospel grow quiet in my my life and felt a growing spiritual discontent with where I was leading my family and myself. For the past couple years, we prayed and discerned God’s will, eventually recognizing that I needed a different career and a job that put me closer to home.

Giving up the comforts and securities of a job I’d known for 5 years, I have been job-hunting for a position that would allow us to live co-vocationally, supporting ourselves in ministry. Yet, over a year passed since I started searching. While we were certain of our calling, we began to wonder if perhaps we were to serve elsewhere. The past month has been filled with prayer on getting a position or forced to move in back with family across country. No interview had turned into an offer and I had packed half our belongings, preparing to leave Oklahoma.

Draper Clan packed and ready to move!

29 days till I was unemployed and then the phone rang. An offer. A generous offer at a career that will not only be a joy to work at but also give the opportunities to minister. And just like that, 2 years of prayer about how we might support ourselves is answered. Now, we may even greater focus on the task of sharing the Gospel and disciple-making.

God is faithful. He never promises the road to be easy but He does promise to be by our side. He never says we won’t “fail” but He does promise that He is victorious. His work will be accomplished and He will receive the glory.

As we begin this next chapter of our lives, please pray the following:

-For the Sarah and I to find opportunities and communities to evangelize and disciple.

-For us to remain teachable and humble, learning from those who have gone before and, ultimately, from our Heavenly Father.

-For us to find partners and co-laborers in Christ, so we may sharpen one another and expand outreach.

-For the unreached peoples of Edmond and OKC to meet their eternal savior, Jesus Christ, and that church-planting movements may begin in their cultures and languages.

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Just Start A Conversation

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This past Sunday, I (Stephen) went to the house church we attend. This was a special time as it concluded an outreach ministry. The leaders of the church had recruited local Christian college students to help survey, prayer walk, and evangelize throughout OKC, with a special focus on internationals. Concluding several days of work, the students had several great stories to share.

The students had gone out in small groups, praying and talking to people, prayerfully sharing the Gospel with whoever would chat. Several of the students expressed initial awkwardness when approaching strangers but overtime saw how these conversations would lead to Gospel opportunities. This “ah-ha” moment was further cemented by the testimony of a special guest. He had been a refugee from a war-torn region. He came to know Christ when a pastor approached him and poured into him. He has since grown to be a minister, himself. The theme throughout all of this was that evangelism isn’t to be feared, isn’t complicated, but is urgently needed.

While it may seem scary to go up to a stranger, especially a foreigner, and share Jesus, its important to remember we are not alone. Jesus promises to be with us in the Great Commission. We’ve been sent out with the promise that God is already by our side. With that comfort, how do we actually share?

One of the most effective approaches to evangelism is simply to follow Acts 1:8 and be God’s witnesses. Tell your story! Bear witness to what God has done through you.

*How was your life before Christ?

*How did you come to Christ?

*How has your life changed since?

This simple method is personal, relatable, and easy to remember. Its your life, after all!

To give the Gospel a bit more structure, there are many ways to present it. 3 Circles is a simple approach with a strong visual element that can easily be drawn on a napkin. To ground it in Scripture, I am partial to the simple explanation using the Romans Road. The important point is to both find a way that works well for you and still be open to how the Spirit might have you share.

Please lift Sarah and I up as we seek to tell the story of hope in Jesus to those who have never heard before.

A Walk in the Park

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Its been far too long since Stephen and I have written. Unfortunately, for almost a month, the babies have been sick and Stephen has been busy with his job search. We’ve also not been able to prayer walk much as the weather has been too chilly for walking with an infant. That said, we have been prayerfully searching for new ways to meet internationals, some we’ll be sharing in posts throughout this week.

Now that the weather is finally turning to Spring, we have been looking forward to both prayer walking and meeting people. One of the key areas we look forward to is in Edmond’s wonderful parks. Hafer Park is one of the best for this! With several playgrounds, a walking trail, and a pond, it has several areas that people hang out. Many internationals frequent Hafer to exercise or take their kids to play and, due to being close to UCO, is a favorite spot for the international students to enjoy.

Last summer, we participated in an outreach opportunity with our church, Edmond First Baptist, and met several internationals at Hafer. Stephen chatted with a group of Indian men looking to play volleyball and I connected with a Korean woman. Even as we take our own toddler there to play, we continue to see international families relaxing at the park.

I understand its an awkward thing to approach strangers, especially people who are different from yourself. However, the thing I know, from my own immigrant experience and from meeting countless internationals is many of them are desperate for relationships. Many immigrants are lonely and afraid to talk to strangers out of fear of rejection. So many are hoping to be welcomed!

Be courageous! Don’t be afraid of the unknown, as we have God’s promise He is with us, guiding us (Isaiah 41:13). Stephen and I can testify about the many wonderful interactions we’ve had, simply by greeting people with Christ-like love. In fact, just last week, I had a great experience with a Muslim woman from the Gulf Arabia. I was out walking and saw her, garbed in her hijab, walking alone. I had no idea how she might respond but I decided to simply start a conversation. She was very happy to talk and we even exchanged numbers. We are now looking forward to making plans to meet. By inviting her into my life and getting to know her more, we may begin having spiritual discussions and lead to an opportunity for her to meet her Savior, Jesus Christ.

With the turn of the weather, we look forward to leading a prayer walk in Hafer Park next week and also meet people. If you would like to join us, it will be from 5:30pm to 6:30pm on Tuesday, April 2nd. Whether you are able to join us or not, please pray for the following:

-For God to prepare the hearts of those we meet, to be receptive to us and that our conversations may point to Christ.

-For Stephen and me to draw nearer to the Father, discerning His will in where and how to go forward in obedience.

-For new opportunities to be revealed on how we can meet internationals and invite them into our lives.

Spiritual Beachheads

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A reality I believe is too often ignored is that we live amidst a great spiritual war. While I shy away from going to great extremes to shout “Onward Christian soldier,” I also recognize the battle that goes on in my own life and in others. There is an enemy. A defeated enemy, crushed by Christ, but still an enemy who moves to frustrate, deceive, and tempt.

It is the reality of spiritual warfare that I believe in the necessity of prayer. Particularly, the necessity of praying over people and places. As I had mentioned prior, Sarah and I are starting our international outreach ministry in prayer walking key areas of Edmond, OK.

Last Thursday, we were joined by a church family in walking throughout the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma. We prayed over the students, administration, and even specific locations, praying that God may raise up opportunities to create spiritual beachheads in an area and among people who don’t know Him. It was a blessed time but one that brought to light the great struggle and task ahead. However, there is hope.

Unlike the wars of our world, the spiritual battles of the faithful are not won with weapons. It is in our obedience and submission to God that we experience the victory that He has already won. We have nothing to fear. We are on the winning side. We must simply obey and live victoriously.

Tomorrow, this Thursday, we will be prayer walking at Hafer Park in Edmond. This park is notable for being a lively gathering spot for families and Sarah and I often see international families there. In fact, we’ve even met some through outreach gatherings of Edmond First Baptist Church. We will be meeting the playground near the pond at 5:30 pm. If you would like to join us, message me at xtiannetizen@gmail.com or simply show up. Regardless, pray with us that God will allow us to sow seeds and build relationships that will lead to salvation at the park. Pray specifically that Sarah may connect with other women and pour into their lives. Pray also that God may allow us to gain a foothold at UCO among the lives of international students.

South Korea Profile

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A country with a large Christian population. Churches are a regular sight. Missionaries being sent from this country all over the world. You might think I was talking about the US but I’m referring to South Korea.

While Christianity took time to grow in South Korea, 30% of South Koreans profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, with over 15% being evangelical. This is phenomenal compared to many neighboring East Asian countries, with nearby Japan having more than double the population but only 0.5% claiming to be Christian. Its evident that God is working mightily among South Korea.

LEARN ABOUT SOUTH KOREA’S GREAT MISSIONARY MOVEMENT

South Korea is saturated with a Gospel presence but is far from a “Christian” nation. In fact, despite a large Christian demographic, more than 30% are non-religious with nearly 25% following Bhuddism. The true spiritual condition of South Korea is a country accepting of Christians but not willing to call Jesus their Savior and Lord.

In Edmond, Oklahoma, East Asians make up a tremendous number of the immigrant population. Among them, South Koreans are the leading people group among all internationals attending the University of Central Oklahoma. For students, already seeking their identity and future, now is the time for bold men and women of the faith to introduce them to the hope found in Jesus Christ. Presently, there is no Korean church in the NE OKC/ Edmond area.

The largest people groups in Edmond and OKC also include South East Asians, Chinese, Arabs, and Vietnamese.

For the Koreans

-Pray that they may recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord, including nominal Korean Christians.

-Pray for Korean Christians to gather and form a church in the NE OKC/Edmond area.

-Pray that the Korean church will multiply among its people, fervently obeying the Great Commission and making new disciples.

A Teachable Spirit

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UPDATE: The original time of the prayer walk has edited at the bottom.

Jesus had left the disciples. The Holy Spirit had arrived with Pentecost. The disciples were now evangelizing, ministering to, and teaching to thousands. We see throughout Acts and through the numerous letters written to the growing Church, teaching and discipleship were critical for the Church to remain obedient to the Great Commission.

As Sarah and I begin our work to make disciples of all nations, we also recognize our need to be discipled, as well. As God is constantly at work, we must always be ready and willing to learn, adapt, and live in Christ-like humility. Its here where we are joining a house church effort by those who have a similar passion and a wealth of experience. Not only is this group a treasure-trove of knowledge but is modeling the same house church model we want to disciple others in.

This week is the start of some of our efforts in Edmond and we begin not by doing but by listening and learning. We will be prayer walking throughout Edmond for God to reveal His works and our calling. In fact, on Thursday (1/24), I invite anyone who would be willing to join Sarah and I in prayer walking the UCO campus, one of our focus areas. We will begin at 5:30 pm and end by 6 pm, at Fink Park. We will have specific prayer guides that you can pray through and continue to pray for afterwards. Email, call, or message me if you would like to join us.

The Cycle of Disciplemaking

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Sarah and I are blessed that we were able to attend a workshop on the missional strategy of Four Fields as presented by #NoPlaceLeftOKC (resources on Four Fields on their site). Its a reminder that God has a design to the Great Commission. While it may look different, its core purpose is to bear witness to Christ and make disciples. While evangelism is a critical early step, this alone can’t reach the world. We are limited to our own lifetime. Just as Jesus entrusted the Great Commission to His disciples, all believers are to disciple others.

As Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, we are to make disciples who then can make disciples. We must create a legacy of evangelism and reproducing discipleship. From there, God does the rest. One plants a seed. One waters it. God makes it grow.

For Sarah and I, our prayer is that we may not only boldly share the Gospel but teach others to teach others, trusting God to grow our acts of obedience well beyond our small hopes. Pray for us that we may continue to live our life on mission and gain clarity as to the “how” and “where”. Pray for our own discipleship, that we may learn from those who have walked before and may pour into us.