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.

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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.

South East Asia Profile

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Oklahoma is a growing hub of international activity. Dozens of people groups call the greater Oklahoma City area home. One of the largest non-Hispanic international people groups are South East Asians, which itself is made of numerous people groups.

A drive through Edmond, OK will reveal numerous businesses by South East Asians. Indian, Bengali, Nepali, and Pakistani restaurants and grocery stores dot the city. Beyond their own establishments, many also work for the medical and tech fields here. Well-rooted in the Edmond community, several of the South East Asians would attend services at the nearby mosques and temples. Collectively, while from different countries and backgrounds, South East Asians form a group of near-culture people that have almost no Gospel presence in Edmond and OKC.

Of the few South East Asian Christians, I know of only a few small Indian churches and house churches and one small Bengali church. These dozens of Christ-followers are a drop in the bucket for impacting their people with the Gospel. There is a great need to create disciples of Christ that will then go on to reach the South East Asians of Edmond, OKC, and throughout the world (learn about the 10/40 window).

South East Asians are some of the most challenging people groups to reach. With different faiths, languages, cultures, and geo-political backgrounds, there is a difficult task ahead for anyone sowing seeds among these peoples. However, with the command of the Great Commission, Christ also gave the promise that He is with us. The impossible is made possible through Jesus.

The largest people groups in Edmond and OKC also include Koreans, Chinese, Arabs, and Vietnamese.

For the South East Asians:

-Pray that God raise up believers who will bear witness of Christ to them

-Pray that hearts will be turned from the false truths of Islam and Hinduism, declaring salvation in no other name than in Christ Jesus.

-Pray for disciples who will go on and start Gospel movements among their own people, leading to new churches that will continue to fulfill the Great Commission across the globe.

Person of Peace

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As my family embarks on a new adventure in living on missions, prayerfully towards the international communities in Edmond, OK, we are praying for two types of people. One are partners who also are on fire for impacting the international students and residents with the Gospel. The other is to find persons of peace. A Person of Peace is a term for those individuals who are welcoming to the missionary, interested in your life as a Christ-follower, and may even assist you in your work.

THE “PERSON OF PEACE” PRECEDENT

While its very possible that God will not provide a person of peace, it is important to recognize that sometimes He may. It is A method He uses to accomplish His work. There are numerous examples in the New Testament where God used welcoming and open non-believers. Jesus encountered the Woman at the Well and Zacchaeus. Philip would meet the Eunuch from Ethiopia and Paul would meet Lydia. These men and women were not only eager to hear the Good News but would later assist others in hearing it.

MY MUSLIM FRIEND

When I served with the International Mission Board as a missionary, I spent a great deal of time befriending Muslims. Often my encounters were blessed but short-lived. I’d meet a new friend, we would lightly discuss our faiths, and often I would give them Gospel media as a gift. I would sometimes revisit them but due to language barriers, I was always limited in my ability to talk in-depth regarding spiritual topics.

I was out one day visiting a community when I met a group of men who worked at a local bazaar. This close-knit group of nearly 20 shopkeepers were all from the same region of Pakistan. I greeted them and was received warmly. One man, who I will call Aagha, was far more eager to know me than the rest. His English was the strongest of them all and we were able to chat very casually. In later visits, Aagha would actually help me translate to the groups. Soon, discussions began about what it was like being a Christ-follower. The group invited me to dinner for the sole purpose of hearing about what the Bible says of Jesus. Aagha served as my translator and would fire back questions the group had, as well. Eventually, I would build relationships with the entire community, gift them with the Gospel, and even have a showing of the Jesus Film in their native language! All of it, however, started by God utilizing Aagha, a Pakistani Muslim. While I never knew if Aagha came to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, I know, to and through him, I presented the Gospel to many who were seeking spiritual peace.

PRAYERS FOR OUR “PERSONS OF PEACE”

For Sarah and I, we are praying for the internationals who will not only be receptive to the Gospel but will help us break through into new areas and people groups. Not having any other language asset beyond Urdu, these persons of peace may very well help us with translation and language learning. This is a critical need for us as we discern how God will have us make disciples of the nations. Please pray for us in this way:

-For teachable, humble spirits that will discern God’s direction and join Him in His work, not “ours”. 

-For partners, both individuals and organizations will come alongside us (and us them) for reaching the Edmond international communities.

-For persons of peace, who will receive us warmly, eager to learn of and embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, and be a disciple-making bridge towards new communities. 

 

Smartphone Storytelling: Be Church and Bring Church

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My 2nd entry in my series, “Smartphone Storytelling,” was made with the desire to tell a different kind of story from my previous one. I wanted to work on a NATS package and try to pull it off with only a phone and laptop.

The story of, “Be Church and Bring Church,” arose out of my own personal experiences with church planting and missions and my father’s work as a church planter catalyst for the North American Mission Board. I set out to shed light on the challenges faced by church planters and the lack of support by believers. The call to the Great Commission is shared by every Christian but it is the Church’s apathy that has led to many frustrations and failures.

The hardest part of any NATS package is making sure your interviews go correctly. Its like a house of cards. Without solid interviews, the whole thing collapses. Interviewing with a smartphone is a even more complicated than what most backpack journalists deal with. The constant camera shake and limitations of the phone are coupled with the already consuming effort of conducting an interview.

The first interview with John Draper had a lot of issues. Wanting a more relaxed backdrop, we went to a cafe. However, the cafe ground its own beans and caused a lot of noise. Smartphones have omnidirectional microphones which will pick up any background noise. While I want to limit myself to only a phone and computer, I did want to test out a magnetic mini tripod I purchased for $40. It holds the weight of my Galaxy S5 nicely and can stick to any magnetized metal surface. I toyed with it only in this interview and may occassionally utilize it in the future.

The interview with Elie had to be recorded with my computer as I was using my phone to interview the church planter. While using it, I realized the possibility of doing a two camera shoot when combining the two. Set the laptop up for a wide shot and go closer with the smartphone. Synchronize to one audio source. I don’t know. Something to play around with someday.

The smartphone proved to be an excellent candid camera when recording in the church service and in public. A larger set of equipment would have not allowed me to, as freely, move where I wanted to. Almost everyone ignored me and I was able to snag some decent shots. However, capturing the worship leaders on stage led to the struggle with the limited zoom ability on smartphones.

Overall, I feel that I was able to tell a compelling NATS package. Checking off audio storytelling on my list of to-do’s, I hope to do a very visually striking piece in the near future. Stay tuned!

Churches offer family friendly Halloween activities

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It was Halloween night and hundreds of families were going to church. Scores of princesses, superheroes, and even an Ebola victim lined up for candy and games. Dressed as Superman, I passed out Bibles next to a plinko board, one of several fair games setup. These children were skipping traditional trick-or-treating to, instead, visit Trunk-or-Treat.

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Photo by Sarah Draper

Halloween at Edmond First Baptist Church was a unique contrast to the activities I remember of my youth. I recall memories of shuffling along poor lit neighborhoods, knocking on strangers’ doors, and always being slightly scared of what might happen. The news never made it any easier. Leading up to Halloween, I would hear reports of poisoned candy, child abductions, and other terrifying crimes. EFBC’s Trunk-or-Treat was the celebration I wished I had when I was younger. It was safe, well lit, and had more candy than a kid could hope for.

Greeting each child at the plinko game, Jeremy Duffle helped orchestrate Trunk-or-Treat. While this was his first time at the event, Jeremy heard of the growing trend among churches to provide a trick-or-treat alternative, “A lot of churches are offering this now as kind of a safe haven to bring their families and their kids in, to basically bypass the strange neighborhood or scary dark corner aspect of trick-or-treating.”

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Photo by Sarah Draper

EFBC was certainly not alone in providing family friendly Fall events. Houses of worship across the country are reaching out to neighborhoods with fall festivals and Halloween night activities. In the Oklahoma City Metro, many churches opened themselves up to their communities.

  • Douglas Boulevard United Methodist Church hosted its own Trunk-or-Treat.
  • Putnam City Baptist Church sponsored FestiFall, a similar event with games and candy.
  • Mayfair Heights United Methodist Church held a Fall Festival featuring a craft show and bake sell. 

(Source: NewsOK)

“What it’s doing is it’s giving our people, the people of this church, an avenue to reach out to those that they would never come in contact with before. It gave us a blank canvas to reach a lot of different people and in a very safe setting,” Jeremy said.

Safety is a major concern for many during Halloween night. Unfortunately, this Halloween saw the tragic deaths and injuries of children across the country. One incident in California led to the death of three teenage girls when struck by an SUV (Source: ABC). Another vehicular accident in California left a father dead and his son injured (Source: LA Times).

At EFBC’s Trunk or Treat, there were no fast moving cars. Police were present. Dozens of caring volunteers kept watch. Children orderly went from activity to activity. I observed hundreds of families attending. They were enjoying themselves and carefree. They were happy and safe. Jeremy agrees, “I think it went really well. We had a huge turnout.”

Trick-or-treating remains as traditional to Halloween as Jack-O-Lanterns and candy apples. However, churches are finding new ways to give families a safe atmosphere for costumed fun. Trunk-or-Treat and other Fall festivals are relevant ways for churches to give back to the communities they are in. The compassion of churches opening their doors will ripple throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, giving further opportunities to touch lives. As I watched children walking away with candy and a new Bible, I sensed that this small blessing of loving thy neighbor could have a tremendous impact in each child’s life.

 

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Sources:

Duffle, Jeremy. Personal Interview. November 2nd, 2014

Staff Reports. (2014, Oct. 25). Oklahoma City-area churches offer festivals and other fall activities. Retrieved November 2nd, 2014 from http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-area-churches-offer-festivals-and-other-fall-activities/article/5359417

Pierce, Harold. (2014, Nov. 4). Halloween crash victim was Irvine lawyer, devoted father. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://www.latimes.com/local/orangecounty/la-me-11-05-irvine-halloween-20141105-story.html 

Dillon, Raquel Maria. (2014, Nov. 4). Man charged in Hit-Run Halloween Deaths of 3 Teens. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/girls-13-killed-halloween-mourned-family-26670726