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Commit to Community

Growing up in America, children are taught that relationships are a balance – meeting halfway. Each party has something to offer and each party has equal share in the relationship. I think this has also how I have viewed ministry for a long time. I have something to offer and someone else has something to offer me, which turns out to be a very transactional relationship. While compromise is a healthy aspect of relationships, always compromising fails to allow for unconditional Christ-like love. Relationships shouldn’t be transactional, they should be unconditionally meeting someone where they are, regardless of what it requires from you. My worldview on relationships began to change after being a Summit Intern at East Mountain.

East Mountain Interns are required to live in an intentional community. Everyone lives and does life together all in the same house at the same time. If anyone has had a roommate, they understand the need for grace. Now imagine a dozen roommates of varying gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and language barriers (needless to say, one needs a little divine grace).

Within this context, a transactional compromise-based relationship isn’t enough. Trying to meet someone very different than you halfway does not promote a healthy living situation.

The wealthy white American male can’t have a transactional relationship with the colored Afrikaans woman from a township. There is too much of an unconscious power dynamic. In such an intimate setting, unconditional love is required to build a healthy community. We must be willing to go all the way regardless of what we want to offer or want to give up. The relationship must be one of a love so great that even if all I do is take from her, she must still be willing to offer me more.

Relationships are hard, it’s difficult to love everyone all the time. It takes a lot to even be willing to meet someone half way and even more to meet them where they are. However, Christ met us where we were, not on his way to us. He didn’t love conditionally, he loved selflessly then called us to follow him and do as he did. I’m not perfect in this pursuit of loving unconditionally, but the relationships that have been built and grown from an unconditional love have been so much deeper and richer than I would have ever experienced otherwise.

By: Jameson Coslow, Intern at East Mountain South Africa


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Being Shaped While Serving

After graduating from University, I had the opportunity to participate in the two month Avance summer immersion program in Mexico City. Fast forward two years later and I was still in Mexico City, still enjoying the times of sobremesa with obligatory sweet bread and coffee, and also serving as staff on Avance. Honestly, I am so grateful that God kept me in Mexico City longer than I had initially intended. As I look back, I notice that these years with Avance undeniably worked to grow, challenge, and shape me and my understanding of our Father. I would like to share with you two thoughts, which are still developing as I continue to learn, but were big themes during my time in Mexico City.

  1. To the Mexicans I became as a Mexican
    I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23

    Being an immersion program, Avance emphasizes becoming as the people you are serving, so that the Gospel may be lived and shared in a meaningful manner. Learning from Paul’s lived example – who I suppose learned from the example of our Incarnate God – we hope to become all things to all people that some may be saved. So when in Mexico, I learned how to roll a tortilla properly when eating, to greet the room with a kiss, to navigate through the Virgin of Guadalupe topic, and to wait patiently for a Mexican minute. The most difficult and most rewarding moments of learning to become as a Mexican, were those moments when I submitted aspects of myself which I thought were crucial pieces of my identity. Every time when those pieces of me were pitted against my ultimate identity as Christ-follower and its implications, they did not hold. I learned to surrender them with the hope that by doing so, by becoming as a Mexican, by all means, some might be saved. I have noticed that people often appreciate and respond more openly to others who attempt to understand and adapt to their way of life. They are likelier to listen more intently to the words of someone who has taken the time to get to know them first. Moreover, as we become as the people we serve, we also act as a living illustration, albeit a very slight fraction, of what Jesus did when he shed all to become as man.
  2. Before Anyone Else
    You shall love theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
    And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    Matthew 22:37-39
    Like Jesus said to the Pharisee, loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind comes before anyone/thing else. While in Mexico with Avance, I learned that this was surprisingly easy for me to neglect. It crept up on me like a frog sitting in water gradually getting hotter. As things got busier and other such excuses came up, loving my neighbours and the ministry in which I was serving become my first priority. The love for my neighbours and my ministry were no longer a result of the love I had for our Father which was a response to His overwhelming love for me. Needless to say, I became sidetracked with the love of the task and forgot about loving the One for whom all this was for. I learned that there can be a great difference between committing to Christian service and committing my heart, soul, and mind to our Father. It is something I continue to strive for, that before anyone/thing else, I may love the Lord our God with my entire being.

By: Isabel Tang, Avance Mobilizer for LAM Canada

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Invitation from God

Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” Winston Churchill said, “I act therefore I am.” Jesus said, “I am.” These are statements about identity. The rationalists tell us that we are the sum of our thoughts, our ideas, our visions and plans. The pragmatists tell us that we are what we do, the sum of our activity and action. But the one true triune God, Father, Son and Spirit says that he is the source of our identity. He is and therefore we are. Our identity, purpose and significance flow out of relationship with our Father in Heaven who loves and invites us to be with him.

I don’t know about you, but this is a hard truth to swallow for a recovering doer like me. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my soul I am so often tempted with the lie “you are what you accomplish”. At times I struggle profoundly to find contentment and rest in the midst of a ministry and life that seems to be so founded on the quantity and quality of my activity.

How refreshing it is to discover that the invitation to be with God is also an invitation to be with God’s people! The triune God who is in his very nature, community, invites us to find our identity in the context of community with himself and one another. For in the communion of saints – unity with and communion with the members of God’s own family, past, present and future – God reveals his glory, his power and his kingdom to a dark and dying world.

The centrality of a doing centered ministry philosophy unravels when we begin to understand that our mission – what we do – emanates from our being – who we are. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, members of his own household and the very body of Christ. We are a holy, righteous, redeemed, cherished people whose life together reflects the life of God.

This life together constitutes both the beginning and end of our mission. The community is the sacred space where the intermingling of personalities and gifts provide the environment for a person to encounter the living God, repent, believe and grow into spiritual maturity. From this position of affirmation, resource and example we go to exercise our God given assignments in the world.

But the community is not purely instrumental in nature. The fellowship of the saints is not a tool that God uses to accomplish the more important task of evangelism or social justice. Rather, the picture at the end of redemptive history is a community of God’s people living with God glorifying him forever. We are the chosen people, the body of Jesus who will one day participate in the wedding supper of the Lamb, finally, ultimately, made one with the bride groom. Until that day our life together is the space where the presence of God dwells in the world. We are the salt of the earth – the space where the hope of the world is preserved until God returns to reign. We are the light of the world – the place where the world must come to find their identity, worth and significance.

The preeminence of being over doing is one of the truths that guides our life together at East Mountain. The communal disciplines of table fellowship, reading Scripture, sharing authentically, and prayer are central in our weekly rhythms. These rhythms anchor our being and provide a place from which to offer our gifts and life to others. As we enter into a new year I am hopeful that together we will move more deeply into our identity in Christ and ability to be with him and one another.

By: Gabe Smith, Co-Founder/ Lead Visionary at East Mountain 
Serving in South Africa

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10 Reasons Why You Need Community

Written By: Debra Fileta
This article was originally published on TrueLoveDates.com 

I love to talk about relationships.

As a Professional Counselor and Author, it’s a topic that I’m passionate about and one that I feel led to write about, speak about, and even just think about. But sometimes I wonder if our culture at large tends to get fixated on romantic relationships, without remembering the other important relationships that God calls us into.

In order to learn about love- we need people.

The concept of Christian community is such an important part of love, because it’s within the context of relationships that we have the opportunity to express and receive love. God is so creative, in that He gave us a body of believers as a way to experience the give-and-take of love, no matter what our “romantic” relationship-status.

Here are some reasons why it’s really important to be in relationship with other believers:

1. Community challenges you to be more like Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25). Nothing makes you more like Jesus than the daily grind of interactions with others. We often think about marriage when it comes to this refining process, but the truth is God also gives us community as a way to become more like Him. God’s word reminds us that we are put in relationships in order to encourage one another in our pursuit of God and His Kingdom. It’s within the context of community that we are given the opportunity to be refined as followers of Christ.

2. Community meets practical needs (Acts 2:42-47). Just like in the early church, community is a place where we come to get our physical needs met. We need to learn to let down our walls and ask for help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we need someone to pick up medicine for us when we’re sick, cook us a meal at the end of a long week, or help us carry a financial burden- the body of Christ was made to support and love one another in practical ways. We can learn a lot about love within the exchange of practical needs.

3. Community carries you emotionally (Galatians 6:2). Just as important as physical needs- are the emotional needs we carry through life. We are given the the responsibility to support each other in hard times, and to carry one another’s burdens. As much as we need to be available for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we also need to have the courage to ask them to come alongside of us when we’re the ones in need of support, prayer, or a shoulder to cry on. It’s important to learn to be real with one another- because that’s what true community is all about.

4. Community reveals your gifts and talents (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Two are better than one, because there is double the strength, double the stamina, and double the talents. Within the context of community we’re given the opportunity to discover our gifts and our talents, and to use them to bless others. We’re each given a very specific role in the body of Christ and it is within these relationships that our roles can be used to glorify God to the fullest. We’re part of something really special (1 Corinthians 12:27).

5. Community opens your eyes to the needs of others (1 Thess 5:14). Within community we are encouraged to look around at the needs of those around us. We’re called to strengthen those who are weak and to and encourage those who are down and out. Community calls us out of our self-centeredness and self-absorption by giving us the responsibility to look outward.

6. Community empowers your relationship with God (Proverbs 27:17). There is something real about the concept of power in numbers. When we are surrounded by other believers, we feel empowered in our faith and may even be more sensitive to God’s presence in our lives. There’s something powerful about believers joining together, making each other accountable and being a sort of a witness of one another’s lives. We need people checking in on us, asking the hard questions, and challenging us to really live out our faith.

7. Community meets our need for love (Proverbs 17:17). There’s no denying that we are men and women who crave love. We were made to, by a relational God who longs for us to be in relationship with Him. But even more amazing, is that God gives us the gift of each other as a way to meet our earthly needs for love. This brotherly love (phileo) that we’re given is a beautiful representation of the greatest Friend who laid down his life for us. We’re also called to love each other in this beautiful way.

8. Community offers opportunities for confession which leads to healing (James 5:16). There’s power in confession. It gives us the chance to bring to light the things that have been holding us back in darkness. Within community, we’re given the opportunity to get real with one another, to confess our sins, and to break free from the things that are holding us back from living God’s best life. True community requires transparency, authenticity, and confession.

9. Community teaches you to work through conflicts (1 Corinthians 1:10). Bring any group of people together and one thing is certain- conflict is inevitable. But we’re called to work through our divisions with one another as the body of believers. We’re asked to be a united body, which isn’t always easy, nor natural. It’s a humbling experience that teaches us to lay down our pride, to learn assertiveness, and to enhance our communication. We need each other, because it’s within the messiness of relationships with one other that we’re reminded of our desperate need for Him.

10. Community gives you the chance to forgive (1 Peter 4:8-11). There is nothing more beautiful than the picture of the gospel displayed through our healthy interactions as a body of believers.  Within this body we’re bound to get hurt, and then guaranteed the opportunity to forgive. We get to feel what Jesus felt as He suffered wounds at the hands of the people He loved, and then loved them anyway. This is the hardest part about community, but it’s the part that makes us most like Him.

It’s time to recognize your God-ordained need for people, and then seek to build relationships with the people God has placed in your life. As you think through this list and read through the last few posts about community, ask yourself how much you’ve allowed your relationships with people to impact your life and your faith? What is holding you back?

By: Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author.

Generosity in Community

“But what do you guys get out of this?” A paradigm shift was about to take place in my mind.

Sitting at a table in Kauai in downtown Stellenbosch during late 2013, Gabe Smith (East Mountain Director) was explaining to me what the residency program they are planning to introduce at East Mountain might look like, while inviting me to consider becoming one of the inaugural residents. Staying in community with Christians from other denominations and backgrounds while completing my theological studies; being assisted in covering my living costs while asked to commit myself to intentional engagement with my community. “Ok, what is the catch?”, I wondered. “But what do you guys get out of this?”, I asked Gabe. “Well, we invest in your life during this year and wherever you go from here and whatever you achieve is what we get out of it.”

I understood from the beginning that generosity is one of East Mountain’s core values. In time, I would learn that generosity in community goes beyond that which is material. It is equally a generosity of space, time and essentially one’s person. The fact that East Mountain is an ‘intersection’ where the world meets, concluding that it is possible to encounter and impact the world simply by opening the door to one’s living room.

I would like to quote my grandmother as I consider generosity in terms of time and the self.

“The longest journey for every single person on earth is the journey from his own heart to the heart of his fellow men, or the heart of just one fellow man. That is a journey that lasts a whole lifetime, it can never be completed. Perhaps the answer lies to some extent in a statement a modern psychologist made recently: “We realise now,” he said, “that a person is a process rather than a set of habits”. In a process there is ongoing interchange. In the journey to the heart of another person your starting point and junctions have to change on an ongoing basis as well, because you have to adapt to continual growth and change. Therefore, it requires a whole lifetime…

…We live in an age of technological and scientific development as never before, an age of dramatic change, so dramatic that we could say it is a time of technological and scientific miracles. And yet, one thing remains true, has remained true through all ages of man: all great inventions made by man, great and seemingly immortal works of art, all great deeds done by man, all these can be destroyed, only one thing remains indestructible: the true goodness man has given and invested in his relations with other people. This is handed down from one generation to the other; this has a validity which never diminishes, a spiritual power which never fails, no matter how technology and science change the world. That, I know and believe is the love that St Paul describes as the greatest of all things in the world… …The economic constraints unique to the age we live in, makes people not only more frugal with their livelihood, but also with their time. When I give someone of my time, I give him of the most precious things I have; all I want to own or achieve, I need to buy with my time. Another unique aspect to this age is of course the ‘idiom of violence’, and it makes us all the more cautious and suspicious of one another. The result being that in our dealings with others we often have too little time for and too many prejudices towards one another…

…Establishing proper starting points among a people, a multi-racial country, a miserable world, lies to a large extent in the hands (of those) of us willing to do it because we are open to undertaking the longest journey, from heart to heart, person to person.”

East Mountain was not simply an intersection, a destination through which others entered my world, but also a starting point from which I began some of these ‘longest journeys’ and were shaped as an establisher of proper starting points.

I can easily look back at the journeys I set off on, to the hearts of those I got to share a house with; people very different from me, not only culturally but also different in terms of personality, gender and age. I also began experiencing South Africa in a very new way, as I was ‘tasked’ with the ‘job’ of showing visitors around the Cape Peninsula and Winelands, and in so doing really got to see the place for myself. Traveling with tourists could be a bit like journeying with small children. Not only because you have to make sure you don’t lose them along the way – which most certainly was part of the deal as well – but also because they question what I deem ordinary, considering it to be fascinating and not all that usual: in reality, extraordinary.

“One of my favourite things is talking to my grandchildren, even if they are still small. In this way one discovers a whole new world you did not know about.” – Alba Bouwer

Becoming more open to embark on these journeys, however, was because I found myself among people open to undertake that journey to my heart. A generous people; willing to give of themselves, their time and at times their possessions. People inviting me to take the journey to their hearts, knowing that ultimately our journeys properly walked together are not merely leading to our own hearts but is the process of being known by and knowing God in a vulnerable manner as His own people whom He calls to Himself.

I have begun to understand that, to a large extent, the journey itself is what we get out of it. The East Mountain community got ‘me’ out of investing in me, and I got each of them and the opportunity to invest in them out of allowing them to invest in me. We get to experience the living God among us as we are being His people.

And because it is at least a life long journey I greet you with, “Totsiens!”* *directly translated would be ‘till seeing (again)’, which is Afrikaans for ‘good bye’.

“Consider friendship. Friends are valued for their own sake; and the benefits of friendship are not what we value, but by- products of the thing that we value, obtainable only by the person who does not pursue them. In the scope of human life, purposeless things like friendship are supremely useful: they are ends, not means, the places of fulfillment and homecoming, the goal of every pilgrimage. Without them our purposes are null and void.” –Roger Scruton

By: Servaas, Served as an East Mountain Resident Advisor and is currently in England pursuing further studies and serving in various communities. 


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Remarkable Changes

My husband, Jonathan, has never had a desire to leave the country. In the past we have talked about going on vacations to Mexico, or the Bahamas, and his stipulation was that we go only if it were on a cruise where we could set up camp on an American boat-HAHA!  A few days after my 3rd short-term missions trip trip to Peru ministering to abandoned boys, God did something remarkable in my dear husband. He said to me, “Let’s visit Peru together. I know that God ultimately wants me in full-time Christian ministry, maybe this is the time and place.”  …insert complete shock from the wife (me)

At the time we knew only one thing, visit Peru and see where God leads. Our week in Peru was spent with dear missionary friends. They showed us the city, the poverty, the needs. Jonathan surprised me with his flexibility, doing things in a different country that I knew he was uncomfortable doing. Do you know what it’s like for a 6’4″ guy to take public transportation in a city of 10 million people? After our short time in Peru, we knew we were suppose to continue walking towards Peru, as long as God continued to open the doors.

We sought out United World Mission through the recommendation of current missionaries in Peru. We were accepted as missionaries with UWM (another open door) and entered Entry Point orientation with UWM excited, yet nervous about what/ who was awaiting us in Charlotte, NC. God spoke to us so clearly that week. Such kind, caring and authentic people who wanted to see us thrive as missionaries. When we left North Carolina to drive back home, we were confident that we chose the exact agency that God had planned for us.

So what was the next step for the Vining’s…support raising. What a scary thought. While at the Entry Point, we learned what our budget will be in Peru and the amount we need to sustain our family to be long-term missionaries. In my sinful nature, the first thing that came to my mind was doubt. How can we ask for our salary from other people? UGH…why did that have to be my first thought?! While going for a run one day, sweating to death, an incredible peace filled me. God spoke to me so clearly saying, “don’t be afraid, I am with your family and I will provide every cent you need to serve ME in Peru.” So I ran home and told Jonathan of my encounter with God. While I am crying telling Jonathan how God so graciously met me in my fear, Lance (our 6 year old) says something so incredible. He says, “mom, Jesus was talking to you and making you feel. Jesus is always good.”

Support raising…no one can ever fully prepare one for the journey that is support raising. Rejection, yet confirmation. Rejoicing, yet grief. Psalms 52:7, “I cry out to God most high, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” Months of prayer, meetings, perseverance and God’s hand as we raised support. The journey was not easy, but necessary for us to completely rely on His timing and purpose for our lives as missionaries. We would pray with our 6 and 4 year old often. “God please guide our steps, please provide people to surround us and support us, please be with the abandoned children and the lost in Peru.” Our son comes up to us one day during support raising, “mom and dad, I want to help the abandoned boys in Peru, I want to have Jesus live inside of me”. God continuing to move in ALL of us as we sought His will for our lives.

Now we are in Costa Rica learning Spanish. We are months away from arriving in the country that God has called our family. We are overwhelmed at all of the support we have received from a vast number of people. Mainly, it is humbling that God would choose us, such incredibly imperfect people, to do something so incredible.

David Wikerson says, “If you are a Christian, you are in a fierce war. In fact, you’re in a death battle for your faith. Satan is determined to shipwreck and destroy the faith of all of God’s elect. And the stronger your faith, the greater his attack will be. Unshakable faith in the Lord causes hell to rage. Nothing poses a greater threat to Satan’s kingdom than a Christian who is unmovable.”

It’s crazy to thing that the devil is afraid of people like us. At moments I feel incredibly weak, then I think of how far God has brought us and how He continues to walk alongside of us as we seek Him first. To God be ALL the Glory.

By: Amanda Vining, Serving in Peru

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Seek God First – Spiritual Exercise

sflogoScripture Focus: Colossians 3:1 17 (take some time to read through this as you begin)

What I Desire: To be formed deeply into the likeness of Christ and live into the fullness of who He created me to be. To love, lead and serve like Christ in every part of my life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the particulars of my sin and lead me into confession under the fullness of your mercy and grace. Grant me a deep desire to live into the virtues of Christ and to seek you first in all things at all times for your glory.

UWM Core Value: Seek God First – We pursue God’s Kingdom, presence, and sanctifying work in us as foundational to everything. We are intentional about spiritual formation, beginning with our own hearts.

Thoughts for Reflection

At the foundation of our spiritual formation is the sanctifying work of God to restore us into His likeness. This is a work of the heart. Our heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (James 17:9), marred by our sinful nature and attacked by the evil one. As a follower of Jesus Christ, we are justified by our faith in Christ, but the gospel doesn’t stop here. The gospel continues and invites us into a renewing of our heart and mind, a regeneration of the heart as we live out our daily lives. I like how John Wesley says this, “Justification is a doctrine ‘relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins,’ while regeneration relates to ‘the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature.’ Justification is for us, regeneration in us. The one restores us to the favor, the other to the image of God” (Fred Sanders, Wesley On the Christian Life). Therefore, as the people of God on mission with and for Him, we desire to be intentional about our spiritual formation and this begins with a deep work in our hearts. As my friend Brian Rice says, “This is a long, slow, deep, difficult and particular work of God’s grace.”

Why Seek God First?

Because He is our Sovereign, our Creator, our Father, our Savior, our LORD, our King, our Teacher, and our Friend. He calls us over and over again to come to Him, to seek Him over all the things of this world.

Because He first loved us and pursues us diligently with great longing so that we would desire, love and enjoy Him forever. He seeks to offer us love, life and liberation.

Because His Kingdom and presence are filled with ultimate love, fullness of joy and abounding grace. We are crowned with loving kindness, and in Him all things are made right. We are changed by the magnificence of His glory, and in His presence we find life.

We are intentional about our spiritual formation because it matters for us, those around us and the mission of Christ in the world. The degree to which we have been transformed by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit will be the degree of our influence and impact on the people around us. We will only be able to love authentically like Jesus to the degree that we have experienced and received His love for us and been changed by it. We will only be able to offer mercy and grace to the extent that we have first received it from Jesus. In other words, we will not be able to engage the world as Jesus did unless we are being deeply engaged by Him and allowing His work in our hearts to form us. Spiritual formation leads to transformation both within as well as around us, authentically demonstrating the nature and characteristics of God. This always leads to something glorious and beautiful because this is who He is and we were created in His image.

As we consider Colossian 3:1 17, we are invited to remember that we have been saved by grace through Christ’s death and resurrection, and then instructed to seek the ways of the Kingdom of God. Paul offers us a necessary process for the presence and work of God to be enabled. He points to the deep work we must do to deal with our sin ruthlessly and to desire and grow into the virtues of Christ. At any given time, as we do this, we hear the word of Christ spoken intimately to us, and it becomes the very Word that regenerates us. As this Word dwells in us richly, it is the Word we now have to offer others. It is our message of life in Christ, our story, meant for the praise of God and the edification of the body of Christ, the Church.

Colossians 3:1 17

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek (“zeteo” dzay teh’o – desire, endeavor and enquire about) those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears,
then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in

your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Suggestions for Reflection

As you move into this reflection, I encourage you to take several devotional times to give deep prayerful thought with each suggestion. Allow this to guide you to places Christ has been and is now inviting you. Return to it from time to time, for this is an ongoing process, and Colossians 3 is a beautiful doorway for dealing with your heart.

  1. Slowly, prayerfully read Colossians 3:1-17, listening for where the Holy Spirit is inviting you to stop and listen carefully.What is the Holy Spirit drawing your attention to? What is the Word saying to you?
    How do you desire to respond?
  2. Think about the word SEEK (to desire, to endeavor and to enquire).
    What things are you seeking regularly? Are they the things of Christ, heavenly things?What are the earthly things you seek?
  3. Put to death that which is earthly, sinful and destructive. Spend time with each sin listed.
    Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where any particular sin is present and the impact it is having on you, your relationships and service for His Kingdom. Write this out. If nothing changes, what destructive end will this lead to?Spend time in confession and repentance, allowing His grace and forgiveness to wash over you. This is where transformation occurs.
  4. Put on what is holy, righteous, good and life giving. Spend time with each virtue listed. Where do you see the particular virtue emerging in and through you naturally? Write these out. Which ones are lacking? What do you desire?Offer a heartfelt, honest prayer of longing and desire for the virtues the Holy Spirit is inviting you to grow in. Give thanks and praise to God for those that are already leading to beautiful ends. This is evidence of the redeeming, sanctifying and formative work of God in your life.
  5. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.What Word has Christ spoken to you?
    Has it become a song within you of thanks, praise and adoration to God?
    How is Holy Spirit giving you opportunity among others to offer the work and word that has occurred in you?Take time to write a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving and desire to your Lord. Share this great work with a friend, your family, someone you serve with or the community you share life in.Proverbs 8:17
    “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)Psalm 9:10
    “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

By: Chad Hollowell, Director of Spiritual Formation and Field Leadership

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Called to Seek Him First

We are two years into our first term right now and have experienced pretty much everything we were warned about before we left and a few other realities. Things like…

  • how dumb you’ll feel
  • how you’ll have to remind yourself you were a professional at one point; things on the surface will seem the same, but underneath things are very different
  • the wall you’ll feel not being able to communicate at all; the pace of life will slow way down; the reality that all things “church” as you knew it would be gone-there’s a reason you’re going there to church plant.
  • God doesn’t necessarily send us into another comfort zone, rather one completely opposite of us
  • the reality of how hard it is some days to step out of the house and face the culture again, how easier it is to just stay inside
  • it’s not just about our expectations-the culture may have theirs of you
  • in all attempts to not offend, you still will
  • how God calls us to love, but what about those days we can’t anymore
  • in every attempt to do things “right”, you’ll do it all “wrong”
  • the frustrations of everything don’t go away, they just become normal and what you expect
  • the reality of loneliness is an understatement
  • the reality of how intentional you have to be about everything
  • you may be having a good day, but your kids are not
  • it takes putting on your “tough skin” just to go out everyday, but in love, of course
  • every person in your family is experiencing all this too, it’s not just about how you feel
  • the literal pain and nausea experienced in flipping through photo albums and remembering where we were before God called us here, it’s all gone, just memories now.

My list could easily go on, but I think you get the point.  If our “call” were a feeling, we wouldn’t still be here. It wouldn’t have lasted. Because we can say without any doubt God directed our steps and spoke to both our hearts so loudly about making this change for Him, we can keep going. We must keep seeking Him first. We must “fix” our eyes continually on Him. If we don’t do this “first” we won’t make it. We don’t have it on our own. Our “love” for this culture can only come from Him; ours is conditional, His is unconditional. He helps us understand things we can’t on our own.

I’m so thankful for His Word and many promises. How I have clung to them to feel safe, sane, comforted, and strong.  I have written down several scriptures and placed them literally all over our home so that we see them all the time. They must be ever before us, in more ways than one.

I’m reminded of a morning last year when I was driving to my language class. I had the I AM They cd playing and the song “Make a Way” was on. I’d heard it several times before but suddenly the lyrics were loud and clear; “you brought me to the desert so you would be my water…” I thought “How true!” It was a great reminder to me about how it is about Him not us. He’s called us to a place where we literally need Him- how wonderful! What a place to be. So no matter how hard, frustrating or tough it may be- we have Him. That is all we need. Our hope is our reason. We may continue to struggle because we’re human, but one day we will not struggle anymore. We continue to obey and seek Him first and our hope becomes our destination.

By: Bethany Ely, Serving in Germany

Discern Your Calling

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Navigating Difficult Decisions

Many years ago when my wife and I were developing the LAM (now UWM) student ministry in Bogotá, Colombia we met Daniel Salinas, a student of mechanical engineering at the National University.

salinasDaniel came from a Christian home, was an excellent student, and participated with enthusiasm in the activities of the group.  He played the guitar, led worship, and formed part of a musical group specializing in Andean music.

As the time of his graduation came close, he confided to us a difficult decision he had to make.  His uncle had studied in Europe and had married a German lady.  He was impressed with Daniel and said that through his contacts he could secure a scholarship for him to study for a Master’s degree in engineering in Germany.  For a Colombian from a poor family, this offer seemed like a gift from heaven!

However, as Daniel had considered this unique opportunity, he remembered that he had promised the Lord to give Him two years of his life following graduation as a symbol of his gratitude for the Lord loving and saving him.  So he faced a very difficult decision.  How could he turn down such an amazing offer!  It could influence his future.  Not only what he would learn, but a prestigious master’s degree from a European, above all a German, engineering school!  Certainly the Lord must have been in this windfall!  But as he laid the matter before the Lord, he recognized that he had made a promise, and a promise had to be kept.

Therefore, upon graduation, he shared with us all that he had decided to serve the Lord for two years.  We were all amazed, because we knew of the offer.  But, he wanted to Seek God First.

One year he worked in our office using his photographic skills in putting together audiovisual materials.  Then, he responded to an invitation to go to Uruguay with two other young university grads to pioneer a university ministry in Montevideo, where there was no Christian witness.

As the years stretch on, Daniel never did make it to Germany.  In Uruguay he met Gayna, an American missionary involved in the student ministry. Shortly after they married, he accepted an invitation to work with students in Bolivia, and they have been serving together ever since.

Then followed PhD studies in the U.S., and more missionary service in Paraguay.  During the years he has become a recognized Latin America theologian/scholar, has written and published several studies on Latin American historical theology.  However, his first book was as a heart wrenching sharing of his and Gayna’s difficult years raising their child, Karis, born with cerebral palsy, who died at only 7 years old.

Daniel is now facing another big decision: whether to teach in a Seminary in Medellín, Colombia or a Seminary just south of the U.S. border in Mexico.  Significant and important reasons tug in each direction, but as we chatted the other day when he was visiting us on the way home from observing the situation in Mexico, it was evident to me that he was working through his decision, once again, putting God first.

As I think of Daniel’s difficult decision, so many years ago, I recognize that if he had gone to Germany, his life would undoubtedly have been far different from his experience today.  He probably would be a well recognized Colombian engineer, with a lovely home and all the trappings.  Life has not been easy as a Latin American missionary, living by raising support from the small churches of Utah, where Gayna was raised.  But I am reminded of Jesus’ words: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Daniel’s unique contributions to the church in Latin America must certainly be part of these “all things”, as well as the Lord’s words to him one day, Well done good and faithful servant. I thank the Lord for him and Gayna, and pray for their continued fruitful ministry.

By: Jack Voelkel, former LAM missionary in Colombia and current UWM Board Member

Pray for Colombia

Continue to pray for the Salina's family. Click the video below to be in prayer for Colombia.