IN THE FIELD
“And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14)
I remember the first time I read those words in the book of Romans. I was a mere teenager, a tenderfoot in my faith, and up until that point it never really crossed my mind that there could be people in this world who have never had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus. It struck me as profoundly unfair, and I wrestled with the thought. I even wrestled with God to some extent. I remember my arguments in the form of repeated prayers; about how God should do something about this state of affairs. How he should go and tell all those people – make a way to reach them. How this was his responsibility and he couldn’t merely turn his back. Strong words from a boy of fifteen.
I also remember the moment when my prayer unexpectedly turned around on me. When I was no longer speaking to God, but He was somehow speaking to me; about how I should go and tell, make a way, and live up to my responsibility as a follower of Christ. My argument dissolved at that point, and this was the beginning of a “call to missions” for me.
25 years later and after nearly 15 years in Africa, Paul’s words in Romans 10 still stir me. I understand now that the “call” was an invitation. An invitation to join God in what He was already doing – in ways I could not understand and had no right to question. I learned that, in the end, people like me were somehow both essential and incidental to the task of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And in this I’ve come to see our contribution to the Great Commission simply as a privilege. We are caught up in something awesome, and especially so when the work takes us to the farthest and hardest to reach people who truly have never heard.
I’ve been reminded of this in recent months. When our media team wrapped up the video project from my epic trip to Madagascar last year, the finished piece was then sent off to fulfill its purpose of raising awareness and support for several ministry teams moving in among two of Madagascar’s unreached people groups. The teams are still being assembled, and even though it will likely take years, I can already imagine those first Antakarana fisherman who will one day hear and believe and be transformed.
The project I talked about in our last newsletter (which I did not name for security reasons) still returns with reports of how its powerful message is reaching into one of Africa’s most closed and belligerent cultures. The film is in the process of being translated into 2 more languages, and though we may never know, we hope this piece of media will be a messenger of Good News in a land where no missionary is allowed to live.
And today we’re in the midst of a new project, bigger than any before it, but with the same ultimate end: to make a difference for the millions in Africa who are still unreached. This project started with a question: What could we do to stir the heart of the African church toward greater involvement in missions? Would it be possible to create a film to that end? And this has led, over many meetings and many months, to our team taking on the challenge of producing a feature-length movie which we hope will turn into a movement across sub-Saharan Africa. My coworker Andy wrote up a great blog about the film project here, and there’s a website promo for the project here: distantboat.com
We take this on in addition to our typical media tasks for AIM, and the increased load is only possible because our team has grown this year. Even so, we’re sufficiently over our heads, trusting God with each step, and asking for a lot of prayer. We’ve got a rich and moving story, and a nearly-finished script. We are still looking for actors and locations to shoot. And we are simultaneously raising the extra funds needed for the production. This particular project will be a long-running one. We won’t be finished until early next year, but I’ll have updates and maybe a trailer to share in the near future.
ON THE HOME FRONT
Working with the media team has kept me busy, and like the flying ministry, it can be hard to keep the whole family connected to the reason we are here (See Romans 10 for the reason). But the nature of my work in “telling AIM’s stories” at least gives me compelling stories to share when I come home. You might even say that Renee and the kids get the “director’s commentary” on some of those stories. And sometimes they get to know the players too. I had an opportunity to take Amelia on a media trip last month to Northern Kenya. I was kept busy filming, so she was tasked with a good share of the photography we needed. She did a great job. You can see her pictures here.
At home, our family is doing well. Renee continues to work part time as a librarian for the mission’s counseling center. She’s still homeschooling, and based on the kid’s standardized tests last week, she’s still doing a great job. Amelia is now enrolled to attend Rift Valley Academy in the fall for 8th grade. We are excited for her, but with some mild trepidation. (RVA is a boarding school over an hour away from our home). I’m sure we’ll have specific prayer requests for Amelia as she transitions into her new academic and social environment. Zach is growing taller and smarter and increasingly extroverted. He’s recently found an interest in 3D computer modelling and animation (the stuff of Pixar and Dreamworks) and has wowed both mom and dad as he’s begun to master a piece of software that’s beyond my abilities.
Kenya is wet and green and beautiful right now. Yet there’s obvious hardship all around despite the blessing of rain. Many Kenyans are struggling with hard economic times and political uncertainty. To the east, strained relations with Somalia have led to regular terror alerts here in Nairobi. And to the north, questions linger about the future of the brand new state of South Sudan – on the brink of war or social collapse or something else. These are all items for prayer. As well as a reminder that with all the things Africa needs, it needs Jesus most of all.
THANK YOU for being here with us in prayer and support and encouragement. Our financial support is stable – remarkably so for a global recession. And we see God’s mercies in our life and work, a testament to your prayers. May you share in some of the joy in being carried along in God’s great redemptive work here in Africa.
Mike, Renee, Amelia, and Zach