Archive for May, 2006

Christine

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Christine

As I write, I am in a hospital room in Pasadena, California where our daughter, Christine has been admitted for a severe infection, the source of which is puzzling the docs. There is apparently something going on with her that has them stumped, according to the CAT scan and other tests, and we are awaiting an array of consultations today with specialists.

Of course, anytime a parent hears the team “oncologist” or “surgeon,” your knees get a little weak and the inevitable knot begins to form in your stomach. That’s what yesterday felt like.

But when I had a chance to walk and pray, God brought to mind again a decision we made when Christy was less than a year old. It was when we had her “dedicated to the Lord.” In some traditions, it carries similar meaning to the baptism of a infant (as it was with our oldest, David). From God she came. And to God, we entrust her.

She is 23 now. But when she was 2, we almost lost her to a severe allergic reaction. And back then, when words failed, God brought the same event of consecration to mind and reminded me “I thought you gave her to me. My care for her exceeds yours.”

We wait today for more information from tests and the doctors’ evaluations.

Apostolic Ecclesiology

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

St. Michael the Angle.jpg

One of the commonly overlooked aspects of ecclesiology (the study of the church) in standard seminary and graduate education is the structural component. Usually this deficiency is remedied by good missiological studies which consider the core task of the church in the world.

Unfortunately, most pastors and those preparing for vocational ministry study ecclesiology as part of systematic theology but rarely do they ever venture into the realm of missiology. That’s unfortunate because if ministry in the postmodern world is to have any hope of being effective, it must be missiologically informed.

A biblical and historical understanding of ecclesiology that is missiologically informed invariably embraces an understanding of apostolic structures.

Apostolic structures are those forms of the church—distinct from the church in its local, parish, or diocesan form—that God has always used throughout redemptive history to accomplish specific purposes across geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers.

Such an understanding of the term “apostolic” goes beyond the macro usage of the term—meaning some elevated spiritual office where one has oversight or jurisdiction over some type of territory, religious structures or group of people. It is also distinct from concept of apostolic succession which means for something to considered apostolic, it must be related to one of the original 12 apostles or their successors.

Rather, the term apostolic in its broadest sense simply means sent one. It can be argued that such is the meaning of the term in Ephesians 4. Such a use of apostolic has been synonymous throughout history of the Christian movement with “missionary.”

*Photo, by CRM photographer Peter Schrock, is of a statue of “St. Matthew, the Evangelist” which sits atop St. Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Anti-Movement Dynamics

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

This painting, by French artist Jehan-Georges Vibert (1840-1902), “The Missionary’s Adventures,” is of a Franciscan in the inner sanctum of the eccleastical hierarchy. It is a striking, visual representation of how to kill a movement.

It is also a graphic depiction of the dynamic that can exist between the church in its missionary, apostolic form and the the church in its ecclesiastical or “modalic” form.

Missionary Report

“Vibert is best known for his satirical scenes from ecclesiastical life. Here he draws a contrast between the inspired and modest missionary and the prelates in the midst of their comforts. The cardinals lounging on the sofa and purple-robed bishop savoring his tea are indifferent to the monk’s account of his mission and to the wound he received carrying it out. Ribera’s terrifying ‘Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew’ (Museo del Prado, Madrid), on the wall in this luxurious interior, adds a harsh note of irony to the scene below it.” – (from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City).

Partners International

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

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Jon and Anita Lewis are friends from the days when we were newly married and before childrren. We knew them before they went to Africa with Mission Aviation and flew in Zaire where they gained tremendous understanding about the needs and challenges on that continent.

Later Jon assumed responsibility for MAF’s work in Africa and eventually returned to the States to head up the organization’s research and strategic planning.

Most recently, he has become CEO of Partners International, one of the most respected agencies that serves and works in tandem with national mission entities throughout the world.

Although we don’t see much of each other (which we hope to remedy), Jon and Anita have been a respected friends and peers over the years. I have great respect for their missiological insight and the experience they have garnered in so many international settings. I’m hoping through some ongoing conversations we’ll find ways for Partners and CRM to cooperate in a variety of cross-cultural contexts.

New Sent Ones …

Friday, May 26th, 2006

Three times a year, I have the privilege of meeting with those men and women who have come on board with CRM as new staff. I spend a couple of days with them during our New Staff Orientation helping pass on the essentials of organizational culture.

This is a a great group. It consists of people heading to life and ministry all over the world: in Cambodia, the inner-city of San Francisco, Venezuela, Romania, Vancouver, Guatemala, and various CRM ministry locales throughout the States.

May God graciously bless them with the presence and power of the Spirit as they begin this grand adventure!
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Sent Ones

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Overseas Travel

From our friend, Ronnie Stevens, pastor of the Danube International Church, in Budapest, Hungary:

“We [the Christian church in North America] should be shamed by the American business and foreign service personnel who go around the world. They do it to serve a mortal and fallen master. They do it without serving anything eternal. We go to be with the One we love.”

Recruiting with Power

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Elijah Prophets
J. Robert Clinton writes:

“It is important to note that Jesus demonstrated power ministry as part of his recruiting technique. You must be able to move with power as you challenge people.”

I believe the “power” that Clinton refers to has two aspects:

First, is gifted power. It may emanate from an exhortive or prophetic gift where one can speak with unusual force into a life. Or it may be a gift of knowledge where information is utilized that could only be available through supernatural means. This is what we see in the first chapter of John’s gospel in how Jesus interacts with Nathanael.

Gifted power may also be demonstrated through the types of signs and wonders missiologists refer to as “power encounters” where the power of God directly and overtly confronts the powers of evil. Elijah and the confrontation of the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18 is a example.

Secondly is spiritual authority. Clinton has written much about this. According to him, Effective leaders value spiritual authority as a primary power base…” and “Leaders who dominantly rely upon spiritual authority as the major power base will usually have good followership.” Simply put, spiritual authority results in a leader journeying deeply with God, being able to hear from God, and then acting accordingly.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it:

“Genuine authority realizes that it can exist only in the service of Him who alone has authority… The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren…”

Recruiting from the Fringes

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

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J. Robert Clinton writes:

“Jesus recruited from the fringes, in terms of leaders who could be shaped, and not from the current religious leadership which had very fixed paradigms.”

This week I spent an evening at a large event that was realted to one of Southern California’s prominent mega-churches. Driving home in silence, I was sobered by the celebrity-satiated scene. Shallow …plastic …superficiality …all are words that seemed to describe the fare. Nothing really bold. Although his name was invoked, his attachment to this venue it was far from the Jesus I see in the context of 1st century Palestine.

That evening was a representation of a contemporary religious establishment in which there appears to be little spiritual authenticity, reality or power. The pool for potential leadership in such a context seems sorely lacking in genuine spiritual authority. It was sad. Very sad.

I have little hope that the leadership of the future will be able to percolate up through such a system. Consequently, we may need to look elsewhere for people who are dissatisfied with the establishment – “on the fringes.” Those are the men and women in whom we need to invest …those on the edge and those willing to go there! God has always used such individuals to shatter the status-quo and bring vitality and health to the Church in every generation.

“One of the most important lessons from history is that the renewal of church always comes from fringes, and we mean always.” – Hirsch and Frost in The Shaping of Things to Come, pg. 194.

Jesus and Leadership Intentionality

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

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J. Robert Clinton writes:

“Recruitment refers to the deliberate effort to challenge potential leaders and to engage them in on-going ministry so that they will develop as leaders and move toward the accomplishment of God’s destiny for their lives.”

I see the intentionality Clinton describes as sadly lacking throughout the Christian movement of our day. It is one of the greatest shortcomings in the traditional, institutional church. Regardless of what continent we observe, the leadership gaps are daunting.

In the Western world, the problem persists in new expressions of the church as well. In my exposure with the “emerging church,” this seems particularly true as the movement reacts to the top-down, autocratic, hierarchical models of modernity. But I fear in this reaction, what is lost may be worse than the distortion which has rightly provoked the reaction.

There is no way, if we are faithful to the historical texts, that we can get around the intentionality of Jesus in the cultivation, selection, and development of those who followed him and who were to be the leaders of the movement he left behind. His strategy was elegant and highly intentional. it was not democratic. It was not consensual. It was not egalitarian.

While not mechanistic, Jesus was incredibly deliberate in this pursuit because he knew the future of what he had begun depended upon its outcome. And his “recruiting” to his Kingdom cause was a profoundly spiritual undertaking.

One of the more thorough studies of this theme, overlooked in our time, is Scottish theologian A. B. Bruce’s The Training of the Twelve. First published in 1871, its original extended title – in true 19th century form – was “Passages out of the Gospels Exhibiting the Twelve Disciples of Jesus Under Discipline for the Apostleship.” Nevertheless, for over a hundred years it has been considered one of the major Christian classics of the 19th century.

*Painting is by the Italian master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) depicting the resurrected Christ and Thomas the doubting disciple.

Jesus and the Recruitment of Leaders

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Galileeseaof Edited
J. Robert Clinton, in his commentary on John’s Gospel, states three principals regarding how Jesus was intentional about selecting and recruiting potential leaders for his movement. Clinton writes:

1. Recruitment refers to the deliberate effort to challenge potential leaders and to engage them in on-going ministry so that they will develop as leaders and move toward the accomplishment of God’s destiny for their lives.

2. Jesus recruited from the fringes, in terms of leaders who could be shaped, and not from the current religious leadership which had very fixed paradigms.

3. it is important to note that Jesus demonstrated power ministry as part of his recruiting technique. You must be able to move with power as you challenge people.

*Painting is Jesus and Apostles on the Sea of Galilee by Eugene Delacroix, early 19th century.

Apostolic Passion

Friday, May 19th, 2006

In this brief article, Floyd McClung presents one of the best treatments I know of regarding the nature of what it means to live “apostolically.” McClung is the founder and director of All Nations Institute in Trinidad, Colorado. For many years, he served as International Director of YWAM. He began his international ministry in Afghanistan.

This is well worth the read.

Apostolic Passion.pdf

Beyond the Cosmos

Friday, May 19th, 2006

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Beyond the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross, is particularly compelling as it focuses on God’s multidimensionality and how that impacts an array of difficult doctrines such as the trinity, God’s proximity, omnipotence, sovereignty and free-will, the incarnation, the atonement, and the problem of evil and suffering in the world.

It may take some mental slugging to get through dense scientific jargon in the initial chapters, particularly for those of us who gave up on the hard sciences early in life.

But Ross—a Cal Tech astrophysicist—draws on the latest in cosmology and astrophysics to make a case for the existence of at least ten dimensions, six more than our four-dimensional universe. He then goes on to demonstrate how such a possibility impacts our understanding of God and the reality of his presence in our existing universe.

Ross summarizes:

These “how can it be” doctrines have for centuries tested the faith and love of those who believe in the biblical, personal God and often have served as stumbling blocks for those who do not.

However, the scientific discoveries of the past two decades offer new insights into God’s mind-boggling capacities in his mind-boggling beyond ten (the newly proven minimum) dimensions of reality.

Comprehension of these capacities can launch us into greater heights of rejoicing and new depths of appreciation, individually and collectively, for the immeasurable gift of eternity with Him.


From Desolation to Consolation

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Cosmos

“The biblical pictures of the new creation suggest the absence of virtually all relationship-limiting factors … we might gain the capacity to communicate and relate intimately with billions of others all at once – and agree perfectly with each one … Our present dimensionality makes such simultaneous communication and fellowship impossible. But with one extra dimension of time or its equivalent, we could acquire this capacity.” – Hugh Ross in Beyond the Cosmos

Throughout the years in my journey with God, I have gone through cycles. There are times when I feel the nearness and presence of God … where His reality is not a question. And then there are other times when He seems silent and distant.

Ignatius coined the terms “consolation” and “desolation” to describe these conditions and they have been used in the currency of spiritual formation and direction for centuries to describe such spiritual states.

During the latter, my normal MO is usually to endure and push on trusting in that what I have affirmed in the past is true although not something I am existentially experiencing. It is usually a matter of time before God will graciously pull me out of such a slump and allow me to reconnect.

Nevertheless, those “down” times can be difficult and characterized by questions and a plethora of doubts … doubts about God, the reality of the spiritual realm, life after death, God’s sovereignty, his manifest presence and power and other “ultimate” questions.

I know I am not unique in this. But sometimes it is not real easy to admit. To question whether we’ve been sold a bill of goods and are giving our lives to fairy tales doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in those who may depend upon one for leadership, or more disconcertingly, support us financially.

The last time I came out of one of those “down” stages – which was aggravated by watching some people die some rather ugly deaths and my wife’s serious health challenges – God interestingly used two books to reconnect me with who I know to be true. Both were re-reads but are powerful apologetics for the reality of God and His presence in our lives: The Creator and the Cosmos and Beyond the Cosmos, both by Hugh Ross.

These two volumes did much to re-ignite my confidence in the veracity of historic Christianity, the reality of God, and the trustworthiness of the Bible. They were a shot in the arm to my devotional life and have given new meaning to prayer. They include some of the most accurate, encouraging perspectives on the reality of the supernatural and the eventuality of “heaven” of any writings I’ve recently come across.

I know Hugh Ross won’t appeal to everyone. But God has used his writings in my life so I can recommend that others take a look.

“O God, Send Help.” – Luther, 1521

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

Martin Luther Zum Reichstag In Worms
He had been held up at gunpoint for the second time in a month in his neighborhood.

He’s one of our younger staff and I was made aware again of the challenges and difficulties that those who’ve chosen to follow Jesus as missionaries face around the world … dislocation, cultural adjustments, unusual family pressures, support raising, health problems, etc,. Add to that the inevitable spiritual warfare and obstacles in the unseen world that rise up in violent opposition when we commit to the growth of the Church and living as Kingdom men and women.

But it is encouraging to know that we are not alone. What we face is consistent with all the saints that have gone before us. May God grant us the same courage and perseverance to not only endure but to thrive because “The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – Ps. 46:7

“Oh God Almighty, God everlasting, how dreadful is the world. Behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up and how small is my faith in you. Oh the weakness of the flesh and the power of Satan. If I had to depend upon any strength of this world all is over, the knell is struck, sentence has gone forth.

Oh God, Oh God, Oh you my God, help me against all the wisdom of this world. Do this I beseech you. You should do this by your own mighty power because the work is not mine. It is yours.

I have no business here. I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world. I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace but the cause is yours and I am yours and it is righteous and everlasting. Oh Lord, help me. My God, my God do you not hear? My God, are you no longer living? No. You cannot die. But you hide yourself.

You have chosen me for this work. I know it. Therefore, oh God, accomplish your own will. Forsake me not for the sake of your well beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defense, my buckler and my stronghold.

My soul belongs to you and I will abide with you forever. Oh God, send help.”

– Martin Luther, April 1521, at the Diet of Worms

Leadership Selection

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Baton Pass

“The skills involved in selecting and training church leaders on the
mission fields of the world are without question the most important skills that apostolically gifted missionaries can take to most fields today.” – C. Peter Wagner (commentary on Acts, p 326).

Wagner highlights a component of ministry that determines the survivability and health of the Christian movement, regardless of setting. While critical and essential, such a function is not flashy. It’s slow, behind the scenes, and often unnoticed. It’s not emotionally gripping and the type of activity at which people throw lots of money. It demands intentionality. It demands priority. Bobby Clinton articulates this as one of the major leadership lessons of the Bible:
“Effective leaders view leadership selection and development as a priority function.”

– J. Robert Clinton

I know of no better way to invest a life for God’s kingdom purposes than in pursuit of ministry that contributes to such strategic results. At its core, that is what CRM is all about. And personally, wherever Patty and I live, wherever we ministry, whatever team we are part of, whatever we do, this particularly ministry focus is what consumes us.

Celtic Passion

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Celtic Cross And Church

“I will kindle my fire this morning,
In the presence of the holy angels of heaven,
God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall …”

- Celtic Prayer to begin the day from the Carmine Gadelica

“The Celtic Christian Movement proceeded to multiply mission-sending monastic communities, which continued to send teams into settlements to multiply churches and start people in the community-based life of full devotion to the Triune God.”
- George G. Hunter in The Celtic Way of Evangelism

There is much to learn from the Celtic movement as we seek to re-introduce authentic, expressions of orthodox, biblical Christianity in the increasingly postmodern, “neo-barbarian” Western world. Hunter’s book, and other studies, provide provocative case studies of a movement replete with missiological implications for our era.

For CRM, there are striking (and deliberate) parallels between this ancient movement and InnerCHANGE and NieuCommunities. May God multiply all such movements.

The Honor of a Missionary Calling

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Calling Of Paul

“The Christian ministry is the worst of all trades, but the best of all professions.”- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

“A person should only enter the Christian ministry if they cannot stay out of it.” – D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)


There were several distinct turning points over the years when it became very clear that God’s calling was to life as a missionary. Unlike some other forms of ministry, inherent in this calling (and sometimes unarticulated) are some unique features: raising funds and living on support, social and geographical mobility, a lifestyle of simplicity, living flexibly in environments of ambiguity (sometimes cross-culturally), stress and risk, and the likelihood of considerable sacrifice both emotionally and physically.

Patty and I made that jump in 1976. While I’ve never had a doubt or a serious regret, I have had my moments wondering, “What did I get myself and my family into??”

It’s been costly by some of the world’s criteria. But the returns continue to amaze and astound me. Some of God’s payback in the here and now, which make ministry “the best of all professions” has been:

• Freedom and flexibility with my time to respond to those in need
• The privilege of seeing parts of the world others only dream of (or run from)
• My children being exposed to cultures, ethnic diversity, and the worldwide Christian movement in contexts unavailable to their peers
• Being able to trust God for money and physical things in a different dimension than if I had a 40 hr/wk job.
• Watching God invade people’s lives and move in ways that will affect the history of our times.
• The freedom to learn, to study, and to grow.
• Relationships of depth and like commitment that are rare to unavailable across the breadth of the Christian movement,

And the list could go on and on…..

In the pressures and crucible of everyday life and ministry, I regret how little I pause to consider the great privilege God has given us in being set aside for such a glorious pursuit. It is a marvelous privilege to give one’s life to issues of ultimate significance. It’s so easy for those in missions to moan and complain about what we lack and how tough it can be and what we are “giving up.” But when the scales are honestly examined, what a wonderful trade-off. What an incredible honor.
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Painting is Carvaggio’s famous work depicting the calling of the Apostle Paul, circa 1600.

Three Anglicans

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Stott-01 David Watson Tom Wright
In the early years of my spiritual growth, there were two Anglicans that God used to make a rich contribution to my development. First was John Stott, (left above) rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. In that generation, no one could rival him for his clear, articulate, and gracious exposition of the bible applied to the pressing issues of the era. John Stott represented everything that was the best in the Anglican tradition. His writings did much to shape and form my convictions as a young follower of Jesus and the several times I was privileged to hear him speak were highlights.

David Watson (above middle) was his charismatic contemporary and the rector of St. Michael-le-Belfrey in York. I had the privilege of studying under him during my doctoral studies at Fuller Seminary in the early 80s. He was an Anglican and a charismatic which, at the time, was an oxymoron to me. I had a tough time putting the two together. Exposure to David Watson did much to open me to the reality and power of the Holy Spirit.

And now in this decade, I am growing to appreciate the writings of N.T. Wright, prolific New Testament scholar and the present Bishop of Durham. As the Church struggles to navigate the transition from modernity to postmodernity, I suspect N.T. Wright may make an immeasurable contribution in keeping us grounded in historic biblical orthodoxy yet engaged with our culture as effective ambassadors of the living Christ.

Influences like these could almost persuade to become an Anglican.

Passion

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Fire-1

“Let others complain that this age is evil. My complaint is that this age is paltry. It lacks passion.

Soren Kierkegaard

“If there were only one prayer which I might pray before I died, it should be this “Lord, send Thy Church men filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Give to any denomination such men, and its progress must be mighty: keep back such men, send them college gentlemen, of great refinement and profound learning, but of little fire and grace, dumb dogs which cannot bark, and straightway that denomination must decline.” Charles Spurgeon

There are a variety of criteria I look for in those who should be serving Christ in ministry that is missionary or apostolic in nature. Most of those competencies can be grouped into four broad categories:

1. Spiritual maturity and character
2. Emotional and social Maturity
3. Theological, ecclesiological and intellectual acuity
4. Leadership giftedness and apostolic ministry skills

But there is one intangible woven throughout these characteristics to which I am instinctively drawn. This intangible is, at least for me, a game breaker. That attribute is passion. Passion for God. Passion for God’s calling on one’s life. Passion to make a difference. Passion to live a life of ultimate significance …

Certainly, passion can be misdirected and immature. It can be misused, manipulated and expended foolishly. But even when less than perfect, I would much rather pull-in-harness with those who have a sense of holy unction than be held back by those unmotivated, stifling souls who “cannot bark.” I want to labor the rest of my days with men and women who are, as Spurgeon describes above, “…filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire!”

Principles for Spiritual Formation Based Churches

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

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In the same Renovare newsletter, Foster goes on to articulate three principles related to “spiritual formation based churches.” In summary, he says:

1. God alone is the One who creates and grows spiritual formation based congregations ...we don’t create it or make it happen. In Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer wisely notes that Christian community “is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”

2. Spiritual problems demand spiritual answers …we can never solve a spiritual problem with a programatic answer.

3. We must never use spiritual formation efforts to shore up a dying institutional structure …our focus can never be institutional survival …structures come and go.

Spiritual Formation Churches

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

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One of the major influences and trends throughout the North American Church in the past several decades has been the growing understanding of and emphasis on spiritual formation. And one of the leading voices in this movement has been Richard Foster who started and leads Renovare to help foster (no pun intended) such ministry.

In the May 2006 Renovare newsletter, Foster outlines a fascinating list of what he believes makes up a spiritual formation based congregation. It is a good pardigm and worth repeating. In such fellowships:

1. The process of Christian spiritual formation and life-long discipleship is the foundation of individual and congregational life;
2. Everyone is encouraged to be involved in an intentional process for formation in Christlikeness;
3. The natural outcome of events for individual participation in the fellowship is ever-increasing formation and transformation into the ways and heart of Jesus
4. Spiritual formation in Christlikeness is a process not a program;
Pastors and lay leadership are fully committed to and participating in the spiritual formation process;
5. There is great diversity of sources to draw from for Christian faith and practice;
6. The classical Spiritual disciplines—such as prayer, fasting, service, and guidance—are highly valued, taught on, and practiced; and
7. All are encouraged to explore the writings of the great devotional authors of the Church such as Saint Augustine, Julian of Norwich, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Missionary Types Do Have Fun!

Monday, May 1st, 2006

I gotta confess that life as a missionary can have some great times!

While in Venezuela, I took a day off and with the folks serving with CRM, both North Americans and Venezuelans, experienced some of God’s magnificent creation off the coast. Despite the stereotypes, missionary life is not all dowdy, full of hardship, and self denial.

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