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.

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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.

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. 

 

Occupy the Corners OKC

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America is at a boiling point when it comes to issues of police and community violence. Law enforcement nation-wide are beginning to make changes towards increased transparency and stronger community relations. While much discussion has been centered around police reform, communities are recognizing the need to heal from within.

PREVENTING BALTIMORE IN OKLAHOMA CITY

In Oklahoma City, violent crimes plague the communities and create tension for the police. With crime rates well above the national average, residents of OKC are recognizing the need for change.

Violence in OKC

Created with infogr.am

Milton Combs, founder of the PEOPLE Foundation, has worked with the OKC chapter of the NAACP and the police’s Citizen Advisory Board towards ending violence in the city. He says that Oklahoma City communities will need to be proactive in changing their neighborhoods.

CEO of the PEOPLE Foundation

Milton Combs, CEO of the PEOPLE Foundation

“By doing forums. By having neighborhood meetings…By having the kinds of events where citizens can vent and they can also learn about what’s going on in their town to help police-community relations and then asking them to step up to the plate.”

This year, Combs and other community leaders have been involved in several such events. Back in March, the Oklahoma City NAACP and the non-profit, Ending Violence Everywhere, partnered with Oklahoma City police in their first ever Police and Community Trust Forum. The dialogue led to further discussions on how the community can work to decreasing crime.

Oklahoma City’s Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. is starting a campaign modeled after Al Sharpton and the National Action Network’s “Occupy the Corners” project.

In the shadow of the state capitol, the neighborhood around NE 23rd and MLK suffers greatly from the violence Rev. Jackson and others rally against.

POLICE RESPOND TO FATAL SHOOTING IN NE OKLAHOMA CITY

MAN DEAD AFTER NORTHEAST OKC SHOOTING

On June 13th, nearly two dozen community leaders and residents met on the high-traffic, high-crime corner to advocate an end to gun violence.

Participants included pastors, non-profit organization leaders, NAACP members, and concerned residents. Speakers shared on the issues of violence in the community, how citizens can hold police accountable, and the need for deeper involvement. Rev. Jackson said this is all about doing the right thing.

“Our elderly people in our community deserve to feel safe. Our young people deserve to feel safe. We deserve to reclaim our neighborhoods as what they were, as what we remember.”

Looking forward, Rev. Jackson hopes support for “Occupy the Corners OKC” will grow. His ambition is to have multiple simultaneous rallies throughout Oklahoma City’s problem neighborhoods and begin a door-to-door outreach with their message.

“We’re here spreading love. We’re here saying that our lives matter. That your life has worth and that we need one another. We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters.”

Smartphone Storytelling: Preventing Baltimore in Oklahoma City

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This is the beginning of an ongoing series I call, “Smartphone Storytelling,” an exploration of how smartphones can play new roles in journalism. Throughout the series, I will limit myself strictly to a smartphone (Galaxy S5) and a laptop (Macbook Pro). I will not use tripods, external microphones, car mounts, or any accessories beyond the built-in features of these two devices (excluding charging and transfer cables). This allows me to work solely with the tools that even the average highshool student would have access to. My hopes is to discover new approaches towards how journalists can use these devices and encourage everyone that, should they have these two basic tools, they have all the power to make their voice heard around the world.

PREVENTING BALTIMORE IN OKLAHOMA CITY

The story I worked on is titled, “Preventing Baltimore in Oklahoma City.” Previously living in Baltimore, I currently reside in Oklahoma City. I was drawn to the coverage of April’s protests that shook Baltimore. Having seen police-involved deaths here in Oklahoma, I wanted to see what changes were being made and needed to be made to prevent the events of Baltimore from happening here. Speaking with both police and community leaders, I crafted my story. However, anyone in journalism can say how a story changes at a moment’s notice. One moment of breaking news drastically changed everything.

STORYTELLING WITH A SMARTPHONE

This story, being the first, was really meant to be with my technical comfort zone. I did not envision any difficult shots or recording challenges when I started. In fact, the work was made very easy as the phone served a critical part in the story’s development. I conducted research on my phone, made calls, used it’s GPS to get me to the various locations, monitored social media (which is how I discovered the in-custody death), logged my recordings, and was even considering downloading a police scanner app. The combination of the built-in features and apps allow for a great deal of innovation.

Both interior interviews were straightforward. I sat down, supported my elbows with the desktop, and held the phone with both hands (always shooting horizontally). I made sure both the interviews were in a quiet space. Smartphones ‘ microphones act omnidirectionally and will pick up a lot noise. It was imperative to get my phone very close to my subjects (3-4 feet). This shortcoming was what prevented me from getting any useful audio during the press talk by the police at the scene of the in-custody death. Having arrived in the middle of it, I couldn’t get any closer and kept at a distance that picked up too much traffic noise. Recording my own track was perhaps the easiest and I was happy with the quality of the recording.

Broll became considerable harder to film due to the lack of a worthwhile zoom on the camera. The phone did a satisfactory job in capturing wide shots but limited my angles and ability to focus on specific subjects. The medium shots of the police cars suffered both from quality and camera shake. This would be the primary reason why a smartphone would face challenges in reporting on sports and other stories that require the ability to zoom in on the action. To get those great closeups, you physically will need to get closer (which can’t always happen).

At many points in the story, I used video and pictures from other sources. A quick search of “Baltimore protests 2015” under a creative commons filter on Youtube turned up solid video. I also got permission from Mr. Washington to use his videos and images on Facebook. Some online download tools, such as keepvid.com, allowed me to easily get what I needed. With just the one phone, I utilized my laptop’s camera to record my conversations with the OKC media. Additionally, I used Quicktime’s screen capture ability to get the broll of the OKC PD social media sites. All of it allowed me to have many more elements in crafting my story.

For this story, I can’t say I really pushed the boundaries of smartphone use. I did however demonstrate that a complex story can be told with simple tools. I look forward in future entries to have more opportunities to getting up close to subjects and seeing what I can really do.