As Jesus Walked
Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked. 1 John 2:6. Jesus cares for the whole person: spirit, soul, emotions, mind, and body. These precious children are loved by Jesus. As missionaries, we endeavor to walk as Jesus walked. As our lives intersect with theirs, we must walk in Jesus' footsteps. Looking through His eyes, we see precious souls who are made in God's image. We see kids who would enjoy a healthy bowl of champorado! We see youth who need a Savior, Provider and Protector. We see friends who have a future!
It is such a privilege to teach children to pray. Prayer is a means of grace that will connect them to their Heavenly Father. Through faith in Jesus Christ, each child has access to the throne room. There is only one Being who can solve every problem, provide for every hunger, and give each child a future and a hope! And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
... From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 The most important part of growing up is learning the Bible, which is able to make each of these children wise for salvation through faith which is is Christ Jesus. It is an honor to teach the Word of God to these young people. Each one is made in the image of God and is wired for a relationship with God. Each one has a God-shaped hole in their heart, which can only be filled through faith in Jesus Christ as God, and Savior. It is our commission to walk as Jesus walked, bringing hope and love to these children, who are cherished by their Creator.
We're thankful for the gospel of peace! There is nothing better than teaching eager listeners about the atonement, redemption, adoption, and acceptance purchased by Jesus Christ. It is amazing to see the Holy Spirit bring youth and families to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
We're thankful for the relationships that God has grown in our lives. Discipleship is natural when you are studying the Bible with friends. It is our privilege and honor to be working with youth through our scholar program.
There is a profound joy in our hearts when we get to minister to kids, feed them, and teach them the basics of the Bible. Jesus seems to show up in a special way when we minister to children! We're thankful for the teachable hearts of children!
We're especially thankful for our team-mates in the harvest fields. God is so kind to put our team together with a variety of personalities, giftings, and talents. Yet, we have one passion, one vision, and we have friendship.
We're thankful for God's gift of the Holy Spirit, who is our Guide, Teacher, and Protector. He is kind, gentle, wise, powerful, and loving. He brings fellowship, worship, prayer, and discipleship to life, as He empowers the Scripture and pours God's love into our hearts!
We're thankful for God's gift of you! Our joy in ministry is made possible by God through your persistent prayers, shared vision, and generosity.
Bringing Kids to Jesus
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 While we disciple and teach adults throughout the week, a major focus of our ministry is bringing God's gospel, love and blessing to the little children.
This little ones came to a ladies fellowship at our house with their moms and were such a joy to watch, as they cut out cookies and iced them! It is so sweet to see children glorifying God with their creative talents.
We are carefully laying a foundation of gospel truths for these precious little children to build lives of faith upon. Above, you see children learning about trusting God in difficult circumstances at our Friday Kids Club.
This past week over 30 youth showed up on Thursday evening for fellowship, food, and to study the Bible. It is a privilege to see the Holy Spirit bringing children to learn about Jesus Christ and His love for His children!
One of the blessings that God has sent to us is these Tagalog Bible Story books. It is really exciting to give these to Christian parents to read with their children in their family times. "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he won't depart from it!"
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1b-2.
Who Should Go?
Francis Chan is moving his family to Hong Kong to be a missionary. His quote in a Christian Post article about an experience in Myanmar, summarizes the feelings that I have about ministry in developing nations: “A few months ago, we were in Myanmar and my wife and I and kids, we were just with a translator going from hut to hut in these slums, trying to explain to people who Jesus is. These people had never even heard of Him. And the eagerness, the way they listened, seeing people get baptized — it was just like, wow, what do we do on a normal day (in the USA) that even compares to this?”
Who Should Go?
If Francis Chan, who is at the top of his game, is going, what should the rest of us do? How do we know if we're ready to go? What are some indicators of spiritual maturity that we should be looking for? It helps if one has some of these in place before he goes to the front lines, especially in cross-cultural missions. Obviously, we are all in process and great strengths and hidden weaknesses, so this isn't a list asking for perfection. It's my thoughts on what helps a missionary be successful. I think you'll find that some of them resonate with you. If you have others, leave them in the comments section.
#1 An intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit is a must when moving to the front lines. A missionary is working to bring spiritual change to people who've lived for generations in darkness. The powers of darkness do not release control of their prey without a fight. That fight must be fought from a position of intimacy with God. Spiritual warfare will be often and intense. For many, it will be felt physically, fought mentally, and worn emotionally. Vigilance will be an absolute necessity, with strength for the battle sourcing from quiet intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
#2 Tenacious and teachable: The ability to stay the course even if the world falls apart around him. This isn't a bravado. It is a quiet strength that comes from either upbringing or walking through trials. Ready to listen and understand the backstory of cultural practices, and seemingly-strange situations. There are times when a situation must be held up like a diamond and examined for hidden angles. This person must take the time to listen to others before making a judgement or taking action... and must be able to consider waiting as a plausible answer. Working cross-culturally requires quiet reserve and the ability to listen. Sober strength that is accountable to others and knows when to submit and when to stand will be invaluable for a missionary.
#3 Willing and able to pray, teach, clean, serve, cry with, laugh with, and disciple. A servant leader who isn't afraid to lead and is comfortable teaching others to lead. Always, the missionary must remember that he is building Christ's kingdom, not his own kingdom. Territorial spirits and spirits of control must be rejected and sent packing. The missionary must keep in mind that discipleship is a process of multiplication, not addition. The Holy Spirit is to be trusted with the process and the results.
#4 An effective missionary must seamlessly move from mentor to coach to peer, as he/she ministers and disciples a variety of people with varying levels of spiritual maturity.
#5 Internally healthy and relatively free from past issues and oppressive spiritual strongholds. This process takes humility and the ability to be honest and real with the Holy Spirit and the people closest to him. When one goes on mission, Satan will attack the cracks in the armor, which usually are festering wounds from years ago, areas of unresolved rejection, and emotional. I recommend that all missionaries work through a couple of books on spiritual freedom before heading out.
#6 If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! The last one is simply this: You must be able to do the three types of activities outlined in the great commission. Make disciples and preach the gospel. Bring spiritual freedom to people who are oppressed by Satan. Help people find healing from Jesus Christ.
Francis Chan is going to Hong Kong. The Swansons are on Mindoro. African and Asian missionaries are going to the United States and Europe. Why does the Holy Spirit mix up the harvesters in the different fields? Wouldn't we do a better job reaching our own people?
I'll leave you with this to chew on: All of us have ethnocentric blind spots in our cultural upbringings which eclipse aspects of Biblical truth. When we make disciples together, we get a chance to see where those blind spots are. As a multi-ethnic church, we can grow into a more accurate Biblical Kingdom culture. After all, the goal is to make disciples for Jesus who keep His commandments and glorify Him in their communities.... and are equipped to go where they are sent.
Adonia Music Camp
The Camp is About Worship
This week, Swanson Mission sent 10 students to the Adonia Music Camp here in Puerto Galera. This 7-day camp immerses the youth in the gospel, focusing on empowering the kids to praise God and lift up the name of Jesus. Through a 15-song, 1-hour presentation, the youth learn and teach the good news of Jesus. This year, Adonia used the true story of the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof to meet Jesus. He left that house forgiven and completely healed!
One of the strengths of Adonia Music Camp is that the youth are divided into small groups, and they spend the week with their Christian group leader. These group leaders are role models who do devotions with the students and debrief the large-group sessions with the kids. Throughout the week, the youth learn about Christ in the context of this special relationship.
Time Well Spent
Camp is a special time when youth spend a week with God. They grow in their knowledge of God and develop in using their talents to glorify Him. It's exciting to see students move out of their comfort zones to act, dance, sing solos, and discuss life issues with their small group leaders. The youth spent a week seeing authentic Christianity modeled in the camp staff. Some youth made decisions to profess Jesus Christ openly. Thank you to our team of supporters around the world that made a week of music camp a real opportunity for spiritual and personal growth for ten students!
Hugs From Jesus
One way to say, "God loves you!" is by giving a little child a stuffed animal. A stuffed animal is like a hug from a friend that you can take with you. As we bring the love of Jesus Christ to children in tangible ways, they have concrete context for hearing the good news that God loves them and sent His Son Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. A teddy bear is one way to say, "Jesus loves you!"
Over the long-term, our lives and relationships will provide context for the gospel, as youth and families see the heart and mind of Christ shine through. In the meantime, let's give these kids something to smile about! Jesus loves them and hasn't forgotten them! In fact, He just handed out some Teddy Bears a Kids Club in a little village called Bignayan.
These hugs from Jesus were sent by our friends at Cornerstone Fellowship in Sweet Home, Oregon. Thank you especially to the Jonas and Toth families.
Blessings With Trials
2019 has been a year outpouring of blessings here in Aninuan. As the waters of blessing rise, the storms of spiritual warfare rage.
God has supernaturally started a discipleship ministry here in Aninuan that ministers to people who we love very much. Generations of unBiblical strongholds are colliding with the gospel and its hope, freedom and worldview! Jesus Christ is the ROCK and He breaks the strongholds, crushes the enemies, and sets the captives free... free to follow Him and be discipled into new, truthful ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Since the first sin of Adam, all abundant harvests must be sown by the sweat of the brow. In our case, the sweat of the brow is an onslaught of spiritual attacks that have lasted for about a year. As we have stood against the lies and bondage of Satan in the lives people in Aninuan, we've been attacked daily. Freedom and life are flowing into the hearts and souls of youth and families, as the Holy Spirit gently and firmly regenerates hearts and minds with the truth of the Bible.
This past week, I checked into a hospital in Manila and found out that my pancreas wasn't producing enough insulin. My blood sugar was at 765 and my body was in a critical state of emergency. While this physical illness surprises me, physical attacks within spiritual warfare do not surprise me. As I take the insulin and change my lifestyle, I know that this is a direct spiritual attack on Christ's mission here in Aninuan.
This area of the Philippines is home to occult spirits, animistic spirits, and spirits of sexual perversion. Our mission is to stand and shine the LIGHT of the gospel through love, relationships and discipleship. Our mission is to bring generational freedom and healing, as the Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to shine Jesus' authority and truth into the lives of those we are ministering to.
How can you help? Prayer. It is that simple and yet, it is that difficult. We need prayer to surround us and build an impenetrable wall around our family, our team, and those we disciple.
We do not fight Satan and his forces from our own wisdom or strength. Jesus Christ already cut off the head of the giant. It is from a place of victory that we fight. This is difficult because the attacks of the enemy create an unrealistic facade of defeat. Thinking, speaking, and acting from truth is paramount to dispel the lies. And, although we fight and stand in truth, it is the LORD who fights for us. We are like David against Goliath: "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."
Here's what you can pray:
1. Pray for armies of angels to invade Aninuan to battle with us, and to protect us and the sheep here.
2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to boil over inside of us and take over the battle.
3. Pray for 100% physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental soundness for our family and team.
4. Pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to flow unhindered.
5. Pray for us to have balance between healthy personal lifestyle and our ministry lifestyle.
6. Pray for the strongholds and spiritual bondage we encounter to be penetrated and demolished by the Holy Spirit.
7. Pray for Holy Spirit wisdom for the Father's will for every ministry activity.
8. Pray for our vigilance and growth in spiritual battle. We must fight in the name of Jesus Christ, from a place of His victory.
Reward Party for Our Scholars
Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won’t need to compare himself with someone else. Galatians 6:4
This past month, our scholars have been working on stewarding their time by attending school and the learning center. After a month of attendance, many of the scholars had the "personal satisfaction of work well done!" They were invited to an exclusive pizza and pool party extravaganza! Talk about satisfaction!!
There are some common obstacles to attendance. One is having no clean clothes. During rainy season, clothes sour on the line before they dry, which can be a challenge. Often, there is torrential rain when you are walking to school, with water running in the streets. It's hard to dry off when you're soaked to the skin. Other times, you are leaving for school without a lunch or lunch money. Some kids will just stay home and hope for something to eat there. For some students, attending school is optional and there is no one insisting on attendance, so when the going gets tough, you take the easy way out and hit the streets. Another major obstacle to attendance is not having water in your neighborhood for several days.
To give you an idea of how challenging living without water is, think about how much you use water as you go through your day tomorrow. The water is turned off at the public spigot for days at a time. Your 5-gallon paint buckets are almost empty. Today, as I drove the kids to the pizza party, we passed people at the public water spigots, as they took bucket baths in their clothes. To get an idea of how difficult this is, try to take a shower wearing clothes out at the spigot in your yard and then walk back to your house carrying two buckets of water. As you can see, having a lack of water can directly impact your morning and sidetrack you from school.
If we go back two verses to Galatians 6:2, we read, "Share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord’s command." This is where we all come in! You are sharing these precious scholars difficulties through your interest and support of Swanson Mission.
Many of our scholars are at our house daily. They study the Bible with us, sing with us, eat with us, do homework, and are prayed over. Our vision is to provide a Christian family environment where our scholars can learn how to steward their talents and gifts for Jesus Christ. We work with each scholar to assist them with their academic, emotional, physical and spiritual needs and gifts. We go to their homes and schools, helping them bridge the gap between their skills and their successes.
We use two words from Jeremiah 29:11 to decribe our discipleship team: future & hope. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." In Tagalog, future is 'kinabukasan' and hope is 'pag-asa'. We call our outreach team to the community Kinabukasan at Pag-asa, which means Future & Hope. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ is the source of a true future and hope for youth and families.
Above, Jen Bunquin, a midwife and missionary on our team, works on a homework assignment with three scholars.
I had an ah-ha moment with Jesus' words that the harvest is ready and for us to pray for God to send harvesters into the field. When you harvest, you reap individual rice or grains. When you finish reaping, you have many, but those many are composed of individuals.
A harvester reaps through discipleship and discipleship depends on close relationships with few. This is why the overwhelming need for mature Christ-followers to live in the fields with a harvest mindset.
Harvesting isn't church. Harvesting isn't evangelism. (Although, it includes both.) Harvesting is reaping through walking with individuals in close daily relationships.
In our life, the need for harvesters is magnified because the individuals are many. There are too many individuals for us to harvest through discipleship.
There is one more reason why we need multiple harvesters in the same field. God doesn't always use the same person to plant, water, and harvest. He likes to use a variety of people to harvest one person. This requires individuals reaching out to individuals to reach each one with the gospel and freedom of Jesus Christ.
Missionaries and pastors try to fill this gap by intentionally doing a variety of harvesting activities, including from wide-spectrum medical ministry and evangelism to small-group discipleship of individuals and families. Jesus did this when he traveled from town to town, teaching, healing, and casting out demons, and at the same time investing in seventy, in twelve and in three. As he multi-tasked in harvesting, He clearly saw the need for more harvesters. Why? What do you think He saw?
Can you imagine being called to harvest? There are individual people with names, birthdays, and spiritual futures who are willing to be discipled. They wake up every day and fight their battles without Christ. Why don't the Swansons help them? Why don't the local churches help them? Jesus saw the problem clearly: There are many, many individuals waiting to be discipled.
There are many involved in the mission. Jesus and His disciples were harvesting and there were many in the background who were providing hospitality and other resources. As you read the gospels, you see them serving quietly. The truth that needs to be remembered is that it takes a team to harvest. Some of the team are sending, some are going. All are part of the harvest! The thrust of this article is to shed light on the reason why Jesus calls for us to pray for harvesters. It is equally important to realize that all members of the mission team are uniquely important, whether they are support team or field-workers! God's call is for faithfulness in listening to Him!
To sum up, mission is a mindset and not a location. The quest that I'm calling you to is to seek God's call to harvest! If you seek His call to disciple, He will clearly direct you to the location where the Lord of the Harvest needs your skills, talents, and personality to reach individuals with the good news of new life in Christ!
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
Why is this true? Is it true in all relationships or just in relationship with God? Perfect love throws fear out of the house, when you are living in a relationship with infinite love, infinite good, eternal justice: God. The only way that perfect love can cast out fear is if you trust the Being perfectly loving you. If you are imperfectly loved, it is hard to trust. If you are loved by an imperfect person, it is hard to trust, so fear can find residence in your relationship.
Do you trust God? Do you live without fear? If you're like many of us, you navigate fear. How do you fight fear? By TRUSTING. Start in the smallest circle and work outward in your how you trust God.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 John 4:18
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.