Posts tagged ‘Evangelism’

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 3

Today’s numbers:  We shared the gospel with 354 people and gave away 253 pairs of glasses.  This was our biggest day yet!

Check out the pictures and captions below to find out more about today’s clinic.

Pam works hard sorting reading glasses for the hundreds that need them.

Pam works hard sorting reading glasses for the hundreds who need them.

Arnold and Tristina have been working hard all clinic!

Arnold and Tristina have been working hard all clinic long!

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Our host, Ivan, talks to the pastor who is the president of the Lutheran seminary in Ghana and is taking some time out of his busy schedule to share the gospel with hundreds during the eye clinic.

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Tristina poses with one of our fabulous volunteers, Justice. Justice works hard routing people through the clinic to make sure everyone gets to the right place.

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More of our fabulous volunteers! This devoted group sat outside all day in the hot Ghana sun welcoming visitors to the clinic.

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Tristina and Pam are still smiling even after a long day at the clinic.

Michael

This little boy’s name is Michael and our team has decided to “adopt” him. He has a degenerative eye disease and will need ongoing medical care to preserve what little vision that he has.

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Michael’s eyes.

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Our host, Ivan, has a friend, Mustapha, who works to build bridges between the Muslim and Christian communities in Accra. Thankfully, the relationships between Muslims and Christians are very good in Ghana. Mustapha has invited several of his friends to the clinic.

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Tristina uses the portable autorefractor to measure a boy’s eyes for new glasses.

The children of St. Paul Lutheran School in Accra are a talented bunch!  Check out this video of their mad musical skills.

November 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm 1 comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 2

We’re all settled in and things are going great!  Today, we saw 256 people and shared the gospel with each one of them.  We also gave away 220 pairs of glasses.  Four of the people we saw were deaf.  Thankfully, our team leader, Julie, is great with sign language!  Our clinic closed a little early because Ghana was playing against Egypt in a big football game (that would be “soccer” to us), qualifying them for the World Cup.  After our day at the clinic, we stopped by some local markets and perused some of the local wares.

Here are some pictures.  I’ll post more soon.


Does this thing come with a snooze button? Good morning!

 

If you think San Antonio rush hour is bad, you ought to try morning traffic in Accra!

If you think San Antonio rush hour is bad, you ought to try morning traffic in Accra!

Two terrific pastors assisted in helping triage patients, figuring out what glasses they needed and sharing the gospel with them.

Two terrific pastors assisted in helping triage patients, figuring out what glasses they needed and sharing the gospel with them.

Michael and Arnold are hard at working, making glasses for all sorts of different prescriptions.

Michael and Arnold are hard at working, making glasses for all sorts of different prescriptions.

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Julie signs to a deaf man so he can understand what glasses he needs.

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The girl on the left came in yesterday, but we couldn’t offer her treatment without her mother. Today, both mother and daughter came in and received glasses!

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I’m pretty sure Julie is working on a passport for this little man so she can bring him home. She didn’t want to let him go!

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Pam and our host in Ghana, Ivan, screen people for reading glasses.

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There was plenty of fresh fruit at the street market.

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Pam made a new friend with one of the street vendors!

November 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 1

Our first day in Accra, Ghana at the eye clinic was terrific!  We saw 315 people who needed vision care and gave out 217 pairs of glasses.  We also had an optometrist onsite to see people who had a whole host of eye care needs.  Most importantly, we shared the gospel with everyone who came through our clinic.  Through the glasses, we helped people see God’s world.  With the gospel, we helped people see God’s Son!

Check out these pictures from our first day.

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The morning was beautiful!

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Pastor Bill shares the gospel with people as they first come to the clinic.

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The kids from the day school at St. Paul Lutheran in Accra sing us a song.

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One of our sweet kids receives a sweet from Julie!

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Many people came to receive glasses and hear the gospel!

Two great Concordians, Michael and Arnold, are stylin' in the glasses we're sharing with the folks of Accra.

Two great Concordians, Michael and Arnold, are stylin’ in the glasses we’re sharing with the folks of Accra.


I’ll be posting more pictures soon, so keep checking back. Please continue to pray for our team!

November 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm 3 comments

Sightseeing in Ghana

Ghana FlagI’m not in San Antonio anymore, that’s for sure.  Instead, I am halfway across the world in Ghana, Africa with a team of my fellow Concordians and, together, we are hosting an eye clinic.  There are many people in this region of Ghana in desperate need of glasses.  We have the special privilege and pleasure of providing people here with the glasses they need in order to see.  In the process, we also get to point people to the One in whom they can see God Himself – Jesus Christ – by sharing the gospel.

As I’ve been working as a part of this vision clinic, I’ve been pondering one of my favorite stories in Scripture:

As [Jesus] went along, He saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3)

In the ancient world – and especially among the ancient Jews – it was generally presumed that if you faced a trial, a trouble, or an ailment, it was because you had committed some heinous sin to deserve that trial, trouble, or ailment.  Your sin and your trouble were intimately and inexorably interwoven in ancient thinking.  For instance, Rabbi Ammi wrote, “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity.”  If you were suffering, the rabbis taught, it was because you had done something wrong.  In fact, some rabbis taught that not only could a person be punished for his own sin, but a child could be punished for his parents’ sin.  Some rabbis believed, for example, that the untimely death of a child was the direct result of his mother’s dalliance in idolatry while he was still in the womb!   Such was the close correlation between sin and tragedy.

Thus, it is really no surprise that, one day, as Jesus and His disciples are walking around and see a man born blind, the disciples ask:  “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind” (John 9:2)?  Jesus’ disciples know the teaching of their Jewish rabbis well.  They know a man cannot be born blind unless there is some sin to warrant such blindness.

But what the rabbis assumed about the connection between sin and trouble isn’t what a rabbi named Jesus knows about this blind man’s plight.  This is why, instead of pointing to a specific sin committed by this man which had resulted in his blindness, Jesus explains to His disciples:  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).  This suffering is not the result of this sin or that sin.  Rather, God is up to something in this suffering:  He is using it to display His work.

The Greek word for “display” is phaneroo, from the word phos meaning, “light.”  God, it seems, desires to bring this man darkened by blindness into the light of seeing.  But God’s desire centers not only on the light of physical seeing, but on the light of spiritual seeing as well.  In other words, Jesus, through His eventual healing of this man born blind, desires to bring this man not only into the light of the sun, but into the light of faith.  And this is exactly what happens in the end:  “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. “Lord, I believe,” the man responds (John 9:35, 38).  When this man confesses his faith in Christ, he is brought into the light not only physically through the recovering of his sight, but spiritually through his trust in Christ.

All this week in Ghana, our goal is to help people see in two ways – spiritually and physically.  I covet your prayers that eyes would be opened – not only by the glasses we share, but by the truth of the Gospel we proclaim!

November 18, 2013 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Sharing the Gospel…Even When It’s Hard

ShareTheGospelHow far would you go to share the gospel?  Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9 constitute a rallying cry to “pull out all the stops,” as it were, to get the gospel to those who need to hear it:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Paul’s call to “become all things to all men…for the sake of the gospel” has been a topic of many a conversation about what is involved in showing and sharing God’s love to a world that is hostile to the exclusive claims of Christ.  Though many things could be said about proclaiming the gospel in a world like this, there is one thing in particular that I would focus on in this post:  Proclaiming the gospel to a world adverse to its message often involves pain.

Proclaiming the gospel involves much more than just being familiar enough with the culture around you to speak the gospel in a way that is intelligible to that culture, it involves enduring persecution from that culture when it takes umbrage with the gospel’s message.  This was certainly the case with Paul.  Paul writes, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews” (verse 20).  To become like a Jew was no easy task for Paul, especially since his Jewish comrades considered his message of a crucified Messiah blasphemous.  And the punishment for speaking blasphemy was nothing less than a beating.  This is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:24:  “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.”  Interestingly, a compendium of Jewish rabbinical teaching called the Mishnah considers lashes to be only a secondary punishment for blasphemy.  The primary punishment was that of being cut off from the Jewish people.  The rabbis wrote, “All those who are liable to extirpation who have been flogged are exempt form their liability to extirpation” (Mishnah Makkot 3:15).  The primary punishment for blasphemy, then, was that of being excommunicated from the Jewish community, but if a person could not stand the thought of excommunication, he could instead choose to be lashed.  Paul chose the lashes over the shunning.  But why?  It certainly wasn’t because he took any particular pride in being a Jew by birth.  Paul says of his Jewish pedigree:  “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 1:8).  Paul chose the lashes because he could not stand the thought of being excommunicated by his Jewish comrades.  After all, such excommunication would spell the end of his efforts “to win the Jews” (verse 20). Paul was so desperate to share the gospel with his Jewish community, he was willing to be beaten within inches of his death to do so.

The apostle Peter writes, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).  Sometimes, becoming “all things to all men…for the sake of the gospel” means suffering for the sake of the gospel.   By the Spirit’s enabling, may we be prepared to face adversity and pain to share and spread God’s message and power of salvation!

February 25, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Is Christianity Dying?

Broken Down ChurchIt was quite a byline:  “‘Protestant’ is no longer America’s top religious umbrella brand.  It’s been rained out by the soaring number of ‘Nones’ – people who claim no faith affiliation.”  When Cathy Lynn Grossman, religion editor for USA Today, penned these words for her article, “As Protestants decline, those with no religion gain,”[1] they served as yet another sobering statistical reminder concerning the decline of Christianity in America.  More and more people, it seems, are simply not concerned with matters of faith.

But not so fast.  At least if you believe Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, who explains the statistical shift in the “nones” like this:

“Cultural Christians” mark “Christian” on a survey rather than another world religion because they know they are not Hindu, Jewish, etc., or because their family always has. “Churchgoing Christians” identify as such because they occasionally attend worship services.  On the other hand, “conversion Christians” claim to have had a faith experience in which they were transformed, resulting in a deeply held belief.  The recent growth in “nones,” I believe, comes primarily from cultural and churchgoing Christians shifting to the category no longer using a religious identification.[2]

Stetzer surmises that more and more people are increasingly feeling at liberty to publicly admit what many of them already privately suspected:  that Christianity is not a tenable way to view of the world and so there is no reason to be overly concerned with what this faith – or any other faith, for that matter – teaches and preaches.  And because there is no longer the social stigma attached to being irreligious that there once was, these people feel comfortable designating their faith commitment as “none.”

So what does all this tell us?  I would offer two thoughts on this data.

First, this data is a good reminder that, contrary to the gleeful predilections of naysayers, Christianity is not on the brink of extinction.  On April 8, 1966, TIME Magazine famously carried a cover story titled, “Is God Dead?” where eminent theologians opined on the possibility of doing theology without God.  Christianity, it seemed to these scholars, was on the decline while secularism was on the rise.  The “nones” were on the ascendancy and would shortly squelch the relic religious commitments of the Dark Ages.  But those relic religious commitments to a God from ages past stubbornly refused to die.  Christianity did not fall flat.  And Christianity will not fall flat.  As the above statistics intimate and as Ed Stetzer explains, it’s not that Christianity in America is declining per se, it’s that people are becoming more honest about what they actually believe.

Second, this data reminds us that Christianity and culture don’t mix quite as well as some might have previously thought and others might currently wish.  The desire to have a culturally Christian nation didn’t work so well in the first century as the nascent Christian Church was belabored and bludgeoned by the Roman Empire and it doesn’t work so well in the twenty-first century in a secular society that disparages and derides the Christian faith.  This should not come as a surprise.  Christianity and culture will always be at odds with each other, for the perfect law of God and the sinful sensibilities of men can never coalesce.

Ultimately, this tendentious relationship between Christianity and culture should clarify our mission.  For all too often, the Christian mission has been reduced and relegated to little more than that of fighting culture wars in hopes of forcibly shaping society.  However, such efforts have proven largely futile.  Yes, there are times when Christians need to stand up for the truth in society.  And no, I do not have any problem with Christians lobbying governing officials on issues of moral import – issues such as abortion or caring for the poor.  These things are indeed important.  But in order to win on Christian positions, we must first win over people. After all, people hold positions.  Positions do not hold people.  If you don’t win over a person, you won’t win on a position.

Finally, even if things seem grim in society, take heart!  Persecution, ridicule, and mockery from without the Church and scandal, avarice, and pride from within the Church have not been able to destroy a faith founded by an itinerant preacher from the backwaters of Galilee.  I have a feeling some statistics about Christianity’s decline aren’t going to be able to take it down either.


[1] Cathy Lynn Grossman, “As Protestants decline, those with no religion gain,” USA Today (10.9.2012).

[2] Ed Stetzer, “Column: Christianity isn’t dying,” USA Today (10.18.2012).

January 7, 2013 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Eat Up!

Brad Pitt 2In the 2001 remake of the famed heist film, Ocean’s 11, I found my favorite character to be Rusty Ryan, played by Brad Pitt.  Do I like him because he has the raw street smarts to pull off a $150 million heist at three Las Vegas Casinos simultaneously?  Nope.  Do I like him because he is able to coolly keep his partner, played by George Clooney, in check when as he plans this job only to impress his ex-wife?  Not really.  The reason I like Brad Pitt is because, in almost every scene, Brad Pitt is found chowing down on some piece of junk food.  Indeed, this turned into an intentional gag, as Pitt later himself admitted: “I started eating, and couldn’t stop. I don’t know what happened. It’s just the idea that you never have time to sit down and have a meal while you’re trying to pull off this heist, so my character is grabbing food all the time.”  Now there’s a man after my own heart.  He starts eating and he can’t stop.  I know the feeling.

In Luke 14, Jesus seems to be always eating.  The chapter opens:  “One Sabbath, Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee” (verse 1).  From there, the food motif continues.  Jesus tells a parable:  “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited” (verse 8).  He then follows up this food-based parable with another meal metaphor:  “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid” (verse 12).  What is Jesus’ obsession with food?  Is this some kind of intentional gag?

It is indeed intentional, but it is certainly no gag.  The majority of people in the Ancient Near East subsided on next to nothing.  That is, rather than having a super-abundance of food, they lived on scarcity.  One famine, one drought, or one natural disaster could kill hundreds of thousands of people because they had few reserves in place to stymie a crisis.  Thus, the Old Testament prophets would often promise a day when people would no longer have to contend with these restricted resources.  They would speak of a day of feasting.  The prophet Isaiah writes, for instance, “The LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isaiah 25:6).  The Psalmist promises likewise:  “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:13-14).  In our day, a promise of fatness is hardly desirable.  But in the first century, when food was scarce, a promise of fatness was a promise of provision.  It was a promise of a lavish feast.

When Jesus speaks of several feasts in Luke 14, He is saying:  “I am the fulfillment of God’s provisional promises.  With Me, God’s feast has come!”  This is why Jesus continues with yet another parable on food:

A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.” (verses 16-20)

It is important to understand that the excuses these guests offer as to why they cannot attend this king’s feast are offensive and disingenuous.  To turn down any invitation to share in a meal, much less to share in a lavish feast such as this one, would have been unthinkable in that day.  But this is what these ungrateful invitees do.  Thus, the king responds by ordering his servant: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (verse 21).  This king, one way or another, will have guests at his feast.  And these marginalized people will certainly not turn down the king’s invitation.  And indeed they don’t.  They come to the king’s feast.  But even after they come, the servant returns to his king and says, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” (verses 21-22).

I love these words.  Even after the poor, the crippled, the blind, and lame fill the king’s banquet hall, there is still room.  There is still room for more feasters.  There is still room for more banqueters.  There is still room.

The king in the parable, of course, is Jesus Himself.  And the invitees to Jesus’ banquet are you and me.  We are invited to share in Jesus’ feast of salvation.  And here’s the good news:   There is still room.  There is still room enough for you to share in God’s salvation.  There is still room enough for you to share in God’s grace.  There is still room enough for you to share in God’s forgiveness.  There is still room enough for you.  So come to Jesus’ feast and share in His goodness.  After all, there is still room enough at His table…just for you.

October 22, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

They Need Someone To Tell Them – How About You?

This past weekend, we finished our series at Concordia titled “Heaven.”  For the final Sunday of this series, Pastor Tucker and I answered some of the most common questions people have about heaven, hell, and eternity.  One of the questions I tackled was, “What about people who have never heard about Jesus?  What happens to them?”  This question is not a new one.  Indeed, questions about how God can consign certain people in certain circumstances to hell or judge them in His wrath are as old as Scripture itself.  Already in Paul’s day, people were asking, “Why does God still blame us” (Romans 9:19)?  Some people cannot fathom a God who will call to account every sin in every situation.  Surely there are instances, these people clamor, where God will just let sin slide.  Surely God will not blame us for our sins – at least not all of them.

As I explained this past Sunday, the truth of God’s judgment is this:  God will hold someone accountable for every sin in every situation – either you or Jesus.  Those are the only two options.  There are no others.  Thus, one cannot be saved apart from Jesus even if one has never heard of Jesus.  For apart from Christ, you will be held accountable for your own sin in hell.

This being said, we also learn that God does not want to hold us accountable for our own sin in hell.  He does not want us to perish (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).  This is why the task of evangelism is of inestimable importance.  For it is through people preaching the Word to other people that God normally reaches out with His love in Christ.  As the apostle Paul says, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them” (Romans 10:13-14)?  People need someone to tell them about Jesus so they have the opportunity to believe in Jesus!  This is where you come in.

The other day, I stumbled across an article by the president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, Thom Rainer, titled, “Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make about Christians.”[1]  The last of the seven comments jumped off my computer screen at me:  “I really would like to visit a church, but I’m not particularly comfortable going by myself. What is weird is that I am 32-years old, and I’ve never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life.”  Here is a comment from a person who wants to learn more about Jesus – who wants to hear from His Word.  All he needs is an invitation to a place where that Word is preached…maybe your invitation.

Thom Rainer concludes:

Non-Christians want to interact with Christians…It’s time to stop believing the lies we have been told.  Jesus said it clearly: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke10:2).

Satan is the author of excuses.  There is no reason to wait to reach those who don’t know Jesus Christ.  We must go now.  The harvest is waiting.  And the Lord of the harvest has prepared the way.

I couldn’t agree more.


[1] Thom Rainer, “Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make about Christians,” www.thomrainer.com (9.15.2012).

October 8, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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