Taking the Word to the World

Eight weeks has passed for the Next Steps participants in Togo, West Africa. They have been challenged, convicted, convinced, changed, and leave more committed than ever before. Here are a few of the parting words these fine young people.

Abby Mustread:

Today is my final day in Africa. I cannot believe it! These past two months have been absolutely incredible! The memories and friendships made will forever hold a special place in my heart. Today I was honored to attend my final church service in Africa. The service was incredible and I think I spent the entire time in tears as I realized it was good-bye. I will be heading to the airport soon and saying my final good-byes to my fellow next steppers and the Togo team. I know it is going to be one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. I don’t even have the words to describe what these individuals mean to me. Africa has completely changed my life, and I pray that I will return again. I know I am leaving a huge piece of my heart here with these beautiful people.

Alana Killman:

As I say goodbye to all these beautiful smiles and faces, my heart is literally being ripped in two. I have been crying all day, and we still have seven hours until we fly out. My time here in Togo has been the most life changing experience. I am forever changed. I have made lifelong friends, and I have fallen completely in love with working in the harvest field. My passion is deeper, and my vision is greater. Togo, I love you. Revival is sweeping all over this country, and will continue until the Lord comes back. If I never come back to Togo, heaven will be so much better. As I said goodbye, it is not goodbye for good; we will meet again. 

Brandi Young:

Saying goodbye never gets easier. I can’t believe my time in Africa is over. My heart has broken in two again today. I literally don’t think I have another tear to cry. Why does this have to be so hard?! 

Elycia Ruggiero:

I cannot describe what this trip has done for me. To say the least it was life changing. A piece of my heart will always be in Africa whether or not I step foot on African soil again. I will miss all of the next steppers, aimers, and missionaries dearly.

Jessica Green:

Eight weeks was not enough. No time probably would be enough. I’ll miss everything about this place, even the not so pleasant things. But most of all, I’ll miss the people and sweet faces.

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Brier Scott:

At the beginning of this Next Steps journey we were told saying “goodbye” wouldn’t be easy, but I never imagined it would be this hard. It seems so surreal that all of it has come to end, but I feel so blessed and honored to be a part of the amazing Next Steps 2014 team. It has truly been a once in a lifetime experience with some of the most incredible people that I know. There are just no words.

Africa has given me a whole new heart for Children.

After this flight I’ll be back in the U.S., but my heart will still be in Africa.

In the midst of tears and on your journey home, take this word from Dr. Seuss:

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I love this picture of Courtney Boyd, a creative young lady from Arkansas. Also note the pages out of her journal.

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While I impatiently patiently wait (yep, that is a thing…with me) to speak to the national board in Ghana, Linda (my queen) sauntered around the missionary coordinator’s office hauling books off the shelf. I think she was on some sort of “Bible Study Methods” adventure (or so I discerned from the type of books she was gathering). She would sit down, glance at a book or two, and speak to herself (pretty common occurrence. Perhaps, she was listening to an expert opinion). She would then jump up and scurry off to get another book. Like I said, I took it all in impatiently-patiently. She started giggling…to herself. Remember, I am doing my utmost to be impatiently-patiently. I’m not really given to noises, even happy ones, when I am in preparation mode and a holding pattern to speak to the country’s elite. But, she ignored my impatience-patience and started to read aloud the subject of her morning humor.

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“The Bible has made monumental impact in our society. Once a South Sea Islander proudly displayed his Bible to an American soldier during World War II. ‘We’ve outgrown this sort of thing,’ the soldier said. The Islander smiled back and said, ‘It is a good thing that we haven’t. If it weren’t for this book, we would have eaten you by now’” (What You Need to Know about the Bible in 12 Lessons, by Max Anders).

I chuckled too and politely grabbed the book (yep, that’s a thing…with me). I hurriedly jotted the quotation down and proudly proclaimed, “That is going to become part of a new blog.” All because my wife industriously searched, surveyed, and sampled treasures from the bookshelves while I was impatiently-patiently waiting. (Don’t worry she meticulously put everything back in proper order). No-one will ever know I copied a great story from one of her findings. Oh, yeah, unless they read my blog. In that case multiplied hundreds will know. Potentially! Right?

Bottom line here: thank God for the Book that radically transforms lives. It has certainly impacted mine through the past thirty-five years. (Yep, that’s my current age. Spiritually, that is!) It’s still the world’s best seller. In the last century alone, about five billion copies have been printed and portions have been translated in over 2,100 languages.

Here’s a sampling from the Word concerning its power to transform: 

“The entrance and unfolding of Your words give light; their unfolding gives understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple” (Psalms 119:130, AMP). 

“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, AMP). 

“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, AMP).

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105). 

“Establish my steps and direct them by [means of] Your word; let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalms 119:133, AMP).

“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5, KJV). 

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb” (Psalms 19:7-10, NIV). 

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Commitments made in the past must be renewed in the present: daily. So, it moves from “I was” to “I am.” The same applies for those of us in ministry; any type of ministry.

Remember, the seven times Jesus proclaimed “I am.”

  • Bread of Life (John 6:35).
  • Light of the world (John 8:12).
  • Gate (John 10:9).
  • Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
  • Resurrection and Life (John 11:25).
  • Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6).
  • True Vine (John 15:1).

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I have seven proclamations of things I am. These apply to any and every minister of the gospel

  • I am qualified through being FAT (faithful, available, teachable).
  • I am addicted to ministry.
  • I am a debtor.
  • I am a servant of this gospel.
  • I am on the winning team.
  • I am equipped with the message.
  • I am chosen by God.

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The future is very bright! I know; you’ve heard the old cliché countless times. By now, it’s probably lost its punch. But, this time it’s so true! Proclaiming those words reveal the global impact we’ve seen, heard, and experienced. What’s our basis? Well, Brother and Sister Howell, Sister Poitras and I have experienced first-hand Next Steps 2014, AYC-Sri Lanka (Howells), and AYC-Ghana (Poitrases), and we assure you the future is very bright. (The old cliché strikes again!) We can tell by looking at the noteworthy caliber and character of participants in these programs that we rubbed shoulders with, prayed with, interacted with, and saw in action reaching their world. They love God, love people, and love each other.

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Our general director and his wife, Brother and Sister Howell joined our general youth president and his wife, Brother and Sister Michael Ensey with the twenty-five participants in the AYC group in Sri Lanka. Brother Howell was overwhelmed with the young people as they shared how their trip impacted, challenged, and changed their lives—for eternity. Life challenging!

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Then, Brother Howell traveled on to the Next Steps Program in progress in Togo, West Africa. There, twelve Next Steppers, and four AIMers (along with three missionary families), Africa regional director and his wife, Brother and Sister Richardson, with Sister Poitras and I, were involved in the three weeks of cross-cultural and intercultural studies, which is followed by five weeks of extensive practical experience. Pentecost Kids Crusades were held several weekends. Already, at the time of this writing, over ninety have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Five were baptized in Jesus name. Another highlight of the program was a visit to a local orphanage with more than sixty-five kids. Life changing!

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Next Steps Ghana (Above)

Brother Howell in Altar Service in Togo (Below)

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Here is what one of the Next Steps participants, Courtney Boyd, said in her monthly letter to me, “At the altar call, we were all praying for kids, but then I needed to step away because I got a little overwhelmed and claustrophobic. I stepped with my back against the walls, aka bamboo tied together, and closed my eyes to begin praying. All of a sudden, God’s reverent and holy presence overtook me and I was truly lost in Him, and I fell down on my knees. 

For some reason, I remember opening up my eyes real quickly and right when I looked up I locked eyes with this little girl. She was a few rows away on her knees praying, and as soon as we made eye contact a tear streamed down her face. I motioned for her to come over. So she got on her knees beside me, hands raised, and I began praying over her. Then, praying led to travail. Next thing I knew, her head was nuzzled in my side, and she was speaking in tongues and bawling. I’ll never forget that. EVER. I don’t know her name, but I’ll always remember her and that moment God gave us. This place has humbled me so much more than mere syllables or words could ever portray. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to go home the same.”

Life impacting!

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Brother Howell and Brother Kofi Mawusi Preaching the House Down

We left Brother Howell and our missionary team with the group, after program graduation, and rushed to Ghana to meet with the fifty young people that were part of AYC-Ghana working with the Nick Sisco family. On that Friday night, we listened intently to young people as they shared their experiences. One young lady said, “I came to Africa thinking it needed me. What I found was I needed Africa!” In the previous few days twenty-one had received the Holy Ghost. A security guard at one of the hotels was witnessed to by one of the young people. He agreed to be baptized in the hotel swimming pool in the middle of the night. The Book of Acts lives on in the actions of hundreds of young people traveling overseas each summer. In fact, AYC is experiencing their highest enrolment ever this year. It continues to climb each year! Add to that Next Steps and the various districts that send out teams. 

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AYC-Ghana Participants (Below)

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A pair of new shoes was presented as a going away gift for one of the missionary wives. The question was asked, “How did you know my size?” The answer, “We found your footprint in the sand and measured that.” Hundreds of young people this summer have left their footprints in nations, and nations have left their marks on hearts of hundreds of young people. Life altering!

Someone in the archives of time has said, “A church without young people has no future. A church without old people has no history.” The generations bring together our past, present, and future. History intersects with future producing a glorious hope-filled destiny. Go, General Youth Division! Go, Global Missions! Go, United Pentecostal Church International. Go, taking the whole gospel to the whole world by the whole church!

AYC-Ghana Participants

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Sixteen young people were heavily involved on our Next Steps program including four AIMers.

Already nearly 100 have received the Holy Ghost.

I wanted to share just one of the reports.

This past month has been the most impeccable time, eye-opening experience, and biggest blessing of my life. What an honor to be here on Next Steps Togo 2014! Not only is it a gorgeous, tropical location. But, the Togo Team is seriously top notch! Hosted by Bro. & Sis. Adams, Bro. & Sis. Sully, Bro. & Sis. Sarsfield, and the awesome aimers Amber Davenport, Logan Blackmon, and Rashe (who’s last name I don’t currently know). Month one down, one more to go in Togo.

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Right when I stepped off the plane I realized I wasn’t in Arkansas anymore. It honestly wasn’t at all what I had cracked up “Africa” to be like. I had put it in this little bubble of desert sand everywhere, and the “brush” being common. However, it’s actually a rather beautiful location here! I was greeted with palm trees, a sea of motos, glorious sunsets that Picasso couldn’t even fathom, and constant access to fresh fruit! Simply amazing. And can I just say, the people are the happiest people I’ve ever encountered my whole entire 21 years of existence. I think we all had assumed they’d be sad since they are “poor” in our first-world perspective, but they are full of pure joy. Always smiling, always waving, and saying “Bienvenue, yovos!”I love it here, I really do. So, I can’t really say that culture shock in the way us Americans do with a negative connotation, it was more like, “Thank God, for culture shock because I now know what true happiness and simplistic living really is!”

On another note, the classes were phenomenal! It was seriously so humbling to be able to sit there and listen to tons of real-life, superhero missionaries pour their hearts out to us, and be so personal. Also, I was appreciative that they weren’t all topics we wanted to hear, but all topics we needed to hear. Like the good, the bad, the ugly. It’s necessary to focus on the whole picture, not just the pros of it. And what a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to fellowship with Bro. Howell (no big deal!), The Poitras’ (my faves), The Richardson (whom made me feel at home), and some of the local pastors who are the hands and feet of the work here in Togo. I’ll never forget those classes! Especially when they’d just be teaching, and God’s presence would just sweep over us in such a marvelous way. And hearing all of the Next Stepper’s devotions was so the perfect way to start our days! Oh God is just so good! We’ve all bonded and literally it’s like we’ve all known each other prior to this trip. There is indeed unity in diversity, because we are all here for the same cause. We are family.

The outreach that we’ve done here is by far, my favorite part of the trip. The Kid’s Crusades every Saturday are SO powerful! I can’t even tell you the total number of people getting the beautiful Gift of the Spirit, because its happening left and right. A moment, more like a memorial that I will always have from this trip, was from last week. We went to the “village” church; it was super duper tiny but a load of people to fit. At the altar call, we were all praying for kids, but then I needed to step away because I got a little overwhelmed and claustrophobic. I stepped with my back against the walls, aka bamboo tied together, and close my eyes to begin praying. All of a sudden, God’s reverent and holy presence overtakes me and I was truly lost in Him, and I fell down on my knees. For some reason, I remember opening up my eyes real quickly and right when I look up I locked eyes with this little girl. She was a few rows away on her knees praying, and as soon as we made eye contact a tear streamed down her face. I motioned for her to come over. So she gets on her knees beside me, hands raised, and I begin praying over her. Then, praying led to travail. Next thing I know, her head was nuzzled in my side, and she was speaking in tongues and bawling. I’ll never forget that. EVER. I don’t know her name, but I’ll always remember her and that moment God gave us. This place has humbled me so much more than mere syllables or words  could ever portray. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to go home the same.

So there’s a little sliver of my experience here in Togo. I could honestly right a book, but the connection is decreasing so I must send this now. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this opportunity. Peace + Blessings to you all!

- Courtney Boyd

So they went over to him and asked:

  • Who brought you here?
  • What are you doing in this place?
  • What is keeping you here?” (Judges 18:3, HCSB).

It is often therapeutic, directive, and beneficial to pause to reflect for a moment concerning the why behind what we do. This lesson caused me to do just that.

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There are at least seven reasons why I became a minister. This blog post covers the first two. 

Because: 

  1. I was qualified. At first glance it appears the basic qualification of a potential minister is being unqualified (1 Corinthians 1:26; 2 Corinthians 12:10). I was FAT enough.
    1. F: faithful; willing to obey (1 Samuel 15:22; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Faithfulness is an old word for “trustworthy” and is required in God’s ministers. 
    2. A: Available (Romans 12:1). I was a willing vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:4). Our availability is a predictor and prerequisite of our usability.
    3. T: Teachable. A young man recently, “If you had only one word of advice for young ministers, what would it be?” Simple: Be teachable. That is good advice for young, middle-aged, and even elderly ministers alike. We shouldn’t grow out of being teachable. I’m sure being “humble” is a factor or ingredient in being “teachable” (1 Samuel 15:17; Proverbs 15:33; 1 Peter 5:5). 
  2. I couldn’t help it. It was something I had to do. I was addicted. 
    1. Jesus felt that way (John 4:4; 9:4). 
    2. I detest people who use the word “must” in their writing. In editing I often soften it with words like “should” and “could.” Ministry wasn’t something I should do or could do but something I must do. Necessity is laid on me. I must preach (1 Corinthians 9:16). Like Jeremiah of old, there is no way I can hold His word within me (Jeremiah 20:9). It must be let out to a lost world.
    3. I became addicted to preaching and teaching the Word (1 Corinthians 16:15). 
      1. Addiction is the state of being enslaved to something.
      2. It is an unusual great interest in something. 

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Sitting here writing on a verandah in Guatemala, the land of eternal spring, with early morning birds chirping in God’s heavenly and majestic orchestra in the background. Green is everywhere: plants, lawn, shrubs, trees of all shapes and sizes.

The solitude is interrupted by distant fire crackers. I have been here for less than twelve hours and I have heard those sounds several times. Holidays magnify the sounds. Loud. Roaring. Boisterous. Irritating. The problem, or perhaps, the blessing is you get used to it. You learn to ignore.

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Some people are like that; complaining constantly. The result is they are seldom heard. They may even label themselves as missions’ or organizational activists or even leadership change agents. That approach may work at least in the beginning. I guess that is one of the key words: “approach.” Take a reality check. Does your approach turn people off or motivate them in a positive way? Your answer makes all the difference in the world. It’s all a manner of approach: the birds chirping or the firecracker approach? One is pleasing and attracting; the other antagonizing and alienating. One approach opens doors; the other, quite frankly, closes them and slaps you right in the face while closing. One opens the ears. The other closes them. Quickly!

“Wikipedia” is complimentary when it refers to “activists” as “watchdogs and whistle-blowers.” I’m not overly impressed with either. They “promote, impede, or direct change.” Honorable motivations. Sounds great. Again, it is all in the manner of approach. The word “activist” carries with it a contentious feeling and is a close cousin to antagonistic. I presume activists are after a revolution. Problem is revolutions do not frequently effectively take place in the church. It is one place where incremental change and evolution is preferred and safest. Revolutions produce leaders and no followers. So, is it even leadership at all? Not if you buy into the concept that all leaders have followers. Or you can tell a leader by the number of followers trailing behind.

It is certainly noteworthy when people—like the old saying goes—look at things and ask, “Why not?” Remember what is oft quoted. There are three types of people in the world: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that sit around wondering what happened. I want to, with the Lord’s help, make things happen. I do not want to sit idly by while the world happens. But, neither do I want to cause an explosion with my approach.

Activist: does your approach hinder, hurt, or heal, help your level of influence? Does it bless or blister? Strengthen or splinter? Aggravate or advance?

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