Adults

Proving My Faith Genuine

Fear consumed me.

I spoke to my dad on the phone, sharing with him that I’d be enduring surgery early the next morning—exploratory surgery to discover the cause of my infertility. His humor sliced through my fear. “Put on your bravery button,” he said.

Bravery? I felt everything but brave.

After hanging up the phone, I buckled over, crying, my hands covering my face. Only in my mid-20s, I’d never faced surgery. Would I survive this? Would I wake up? I trembled.

I’d grown up in church and accepted Christ at an early age, but suddenly a question loomed over me—“Do you really believe?” I’d never had my faith put to the test. Life had been so easy. But I had to answer that question, for myself.

The lyrics of every song I had learned in that precious hymnal flooded my mind and soul:

  • “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”
  • “Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms.”

Yes, Lord, I believe.

Connecting Stories

Stories are powerful. They connect us in deep ways. In our relationships, we may agree or disagree on many things but our shared experiences often are the glue that keeps us together. And in the middle of our very real stories, God is working. He is working in amazing ways. What God is doing in and through us is more than we can imagine, more than we realize even now. Many stories are still unfolding. What about you? What’s your story? How might God be working in and through you, beyond what you can see?

I recently talked with a new friend who is Vietnamese. God has worked in her life to bring her to a new place of service. She has been asked to be a leader in a fellowship of Vietnamese churches. She is leading women to be on mission for God. She never dreamed she would be doing what she is doing now. God guided her one step at a time. At each point, He gave her just what she needed, just at the right time.

The Campus Calls

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, Sarah Martinez had a close-up view of what full-time ministry looks like. Yet she never thought that would be her calling until Christian Challenge recruited her to work at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, as a collegiate missionary.

At first, Martinez felt unworthy and ill equipped for the task God was calling her to do. However, she soon learned the wisdom of Hebrews 13:20–21 (NIV): “Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will.”

The mission and vision of Christian Challenge is to evangelize, disciple, and develop leaders. It shares the gospel and walks with students, equipping them to lead ministry and plug into local churches to utilize the talents and gifts God has given them. Martinez had no training in these areas, but God knew exactly what she needed. The hardest part came when she learned she would have to raise her own support. Her family and friends did not support her quitting her job to go into full-time ministry.

Mie’s Hope for Japan

Mie was born and grew up in Osaka, Japan; attended the University of Findlay in Ohio; and then returned home. She got a full-time job that moved her to Kobe, where she met Mark Busby, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary. They married in 2001 and in 2003, she became the first Japanese citizen to be appointed to Japan by the IMB.

One way Mie helps Mark lead the IMB team in Tokyo is by helping the other missionaries understand the life and culture of the Japanese people. Since Mie is Japanese, it’s natural for her to talk with the Japanese women and that’s where her ministry focuses. For the past 10 years, God has used her to minister to women who have children the age of her 2 children—John and Michelle. The work moves slowly; only recently did one of the women ask Mie to pray to Jesus for her family. Once when she tried to talk to a close friend about Jesus, she cut Mie out of her life and never spoke to her again.

Making Bible Stories Come Alive

The girls and I walked into the small, empty chapel. “Let’s sit up front,” I said. I led the way, and we took our seats. I smiled, taking in my surroundings—my teenage daughters were with me at a women’s retreat. I’d just signed them up, without their permission, and they hadn’t given me any flack over it.

Through the stories of David and Goliath and the prodigal son, the speaker shared about leaving an abusive relationship and going home. Her parents had moved to Texas, and she didn’t even know their city or address. After driving through several states and passing the Texas border, she stopped and made a phone call.

The Original Storyteller

As an English major, my life is inundated with stories. From the beginning to the end of each semester, I can read anything from historical nonfiction, such as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, to English Victorian gothic fiction, such as Wuthering Heights. In many ways, I’ve always understood that our lives are rooted in the stories we know and tell. Stories shape who we are and how we relate to others.

Plan a Recognition Service That Celebrates Everyone

I remember recognition services where proud parents beamed as their children’s achievements were celebrated. Little boys squirmed and little girls smiled at the attention from the adults. Where did those days go?

Recognition services are out of sync with our sophistication today. But what have we lost? The entire church was enlivened by the simplicity, beauty, and joy on the faces of its children. Adults saw the fruit of their hard work and were encouraged. Those who worked with children and youth were celebrated and honored for their faithfulness. Children and teens felt as if they were part of the whole church and that their service to God mattered.

But what about the children with developmental challenges? How do they and their parents feel?

Our church was celebrating the end of the semester, before the holidays, with a special Sunday night service and fellowship time. The children had memorized their verses and made posters of their missions projects. They were excited and a little scared about Sunday night’s service. Their leaders were, too.

Meeting Challenges and Opportunities in Ukraine

Linda Gray faces daily challenges as she serves as a single missionary in Kharkov, Ukraine. Whether dealing with vehicle maintenance problems, overcoming preconceived notions about Baptists as a cult, or working with leadership in the churches, Gray knows where to seek help, where to give a strong witness, and where to cooperate for the proclaiming of the gospel message.

Almost 98% of Ukrainians would identify themselves as Christian because they were baptized into the Orthodox church as infants. But only a small percentage of Ukrainians are born-again followers of Jesus. Though Gray has been a missionary for 18 years, she has spent 13 years in Kharkov. In previous years, she worked with church women’s groups, small-group Bible studies, and English as a second language, but now much of her focus is helping to minister to more than 200,000 Ukrainians in her region who have been displaced by war.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Hernando Cardenas

Church planter Hernando Cardenas might say while everything changes, in many ways, everything stays the same. Families come to Chandler, Arizona; some are brought into Cardenas’s church; but after a short time, several families leave the area. Although Cardenas is reluctant to see these families leave, he knows this is one way believers take the gospel to other areas. In the meantime, new families join the local Hispanic community and the challenge is renewed.

Cardenas continues his ministry of friendship by helping local Hispanics find jobs and housing. By offering them help with basic needs, he and others show the love of Jesus in the most practical ways.

“We are adjusting to these changes and changing our mentality to see that the church in Chandler is a missionary hub for the Hispanic world. As for me and my family and the leaders I am training, we live to spread the good news of salvation.”

Cardenas continues to have chronic health problems. Pray he is able to continue his vital work among Hispanics in Chandler and Casa Grande. Ask God to encourage him and other believers as they provide a vital ministry to this transient population.

Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo

Location: Riverdale, Georgia

La Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo, pastoreada por el Dr. Rubén A. Torres Terán, fue establecida hace más de 14 años. Las GA® (Girls in Action®, Niñas en Acción) se reúnen semanalmente para aprender acerca de las misiones y crecer espiritualmente en el Señor con su líder Estéfani González.

La Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo participa mucho con los viajes misioneros, la Ofrenda de Navidad Lottie Moon y la Ofrenda de Resurrección Annie Armstrong.

En la foto vemos a las chicas con su líder y las camisas que diseñaron para llevar al campamento.

Y también hay una foto con las líderes de la WMU de su iglesia, Patricia Barrios y Anna Smith.

—María Warren

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