One of the luxuries of becoming a teacher straight out of college is that you already have roughly 16 years of “in-school” experience to draw from. There have been countless times in my three years of teaching middle school Bible at the International Christian School of Budapest (ICSB) when my teaching was directly influenced by a previous experience – good or bad – as a student. One of those instances was Valentine’s Day of this year, a day when – fittingly for the holiday – God showed me his love in a surprising way.
I will always remember English class on Valentine’s Day 2008, which was my junior year of high school. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, our teacher decided that she would spend the majority of class telling each student what she loved and appreciated about them. I remember expecting something vague, like “You’re always kind to everyone,” because I preferred to stay in the background, and I didn’t feel like teachers paid all that much attention to me. Then my teacher said,
“Brian, I love that you don’t see people on a surface level… when you see people, you see their souls and their deepest spiritual needs.”
I was shocked, because it was true… and not only had she recognized that, but I had never realized that about myself, nor had I ever stopped to think that it was significant or unique. It was a simple sentence, but it still stands as one of the most important things that anyone has ever said to me. It made me feel noticed and appreciated for who I was as the deepest level, and it motivated me to continue seeing people as souls that needed Christ.
So then, as Valentine’s Day approached this year, I remembered my English teacher’s words and decided to give the same words of personalized love and appreciation to my own middle school students. However, the class that I was teaching that morning was seventh grade. While the majority of our students at ICSB are from American missionary families, seventh grade is composed mostly of Hungarian students, and while most of them speak English fluently and a few of them are Christians, it still makes for a very different and sometimes challenging class dynamic. Nevertheless, after two years of teaching them, I had learned to love and appreciate things about all of them.
Mostly because they are middle school students, it is often difficult to hold their attention in class for more than 15 minutes without changing activities. I went around and spoke into each of my 20 seventh-graders for 35 minutes, and it was silent. Every student was locked in and listening, nodding in agreement as I would talk about their classmates. Students I addressed would listen – some making eye contact and some avoiding it – and reactions ranged from smiles to quiet tears. I was already inwardly praising God for what he was doing through this, when they shocked and blessed me in a way I had not expected. As we finished with 10 minutes until the bell and I began to transition to other things, they protested, “we didn’t get to say anything about you!”
Have you ever felt like the time, commitment, and sheer work you put into your ministry is unrecognized at best and unprofitable at worst? I don’t think I’ve met anyone in ministry who’s managed to avoid this nagging feeling. Granted, God does not promise that we will be appreciated and praised for our work in Him; in fact, we are to often expect the opposite (see Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:5-8, and Gal 1:10)!
As a teacher, I don’t expect to hear daily appreciation from students, but it can be exhausting to pour my heart and soul into them over long stretches where it seems they simply do not care. There are a few students who I can count on to encourage and affirm my teaching, but it often happens that those I fight for the most are also the ones who don’t show appreciation.
Before my seventh-grade students asked to share what they loved and appreciated about me, I wasn’t sure if they had even really considered what I did for them. (At one point towards the end of the fall semester, after I had prayed for reduced stress in teachers and students, one of them had asked, “Mr. Dicks, how could teachers get stressed?”) However, I sat and listened for ten minutes as every student raised their hand and shared something they appreciated about me, as a person and as their teacher. Some personal favorites:
- “I feel like when you teach, you’re not just talking through notes. It feels like you have a message from God that he wants you to give to us.”
- “You talk to us and treat us like individuals, not just like a bunch of the same students.”
- “You are willing to change plans or do extra work to help us learn better.”
And so, on a day when I planned on showing love to my students in an intentional way, they – and likewise, God – surprised me with their love towards me. They shared their words out of their own love, but God used them to love me in His own way, affirming my investment in the ministry he had given to me.
I believe we can all learn two major truths from this.
- Make it a habit to tell others what you love and appreciate about them, especially in regards to the work in which God has called them. Do it in a way that is intentional, personal, and sacrificial.
- Pay attention for ways in which God loves you through the words and actions of others.
He does not promise that we will be loved and appreciated by the world around us, but he does promise that his love will never leave us.
By: Brian Dicks, Serving in Hungary at ICSB
See what God is doing through United World Mission’s missionaries and partner, Viento Fresco, in Colombia. Lives are being changed as they experience the surprising love of Jesus through this ministry.
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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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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.
Daniel 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.Colombia
Our first value is to Seek God First and with that in mind we decided to make a Staff Playlist of our favorite worship videos for you to enjoy.
Rilla: HR & Finance Manager
Cheryl: Finance Assistant
Desiree: Donation Support Specialist
Bill: Volunteer Finance Assistant
Wendy: Director of Mobilization
Callie: Mobilizer for Latin America
Jennifer: Business Manager & Mobilizer for Europe
Spanky: Mobilizer for Africa
Jordan: Mobilizer for North America & Coach
Robin: Mobilizer for Avance
Amanda: Business Operations Analyst
The mountain hostel’s small meeting room was filled with twenty-two local pastors and church planters, all eager to learn and grow during our retreat. A national leader from another country in South Asia joined us to lead sessions on creating bigger vision as part of our “Breaking Tradition in order to Enter the Kingdom of God” theme. During one of our evenings together, we challenged these amazing leaders to seek God through a new form of prayer. Most had never thought of prayer as being creative or interactive, and freedom, joy and vision resulted as they experienced prayer and encountered the Father’s presence through the stations we set up around the small room.
At one station that explored our identity in Christ, Brother W, a rural Asian church planter who has worked among the poor for 20 years, stood before the mirror and asked the Lord how He sees him. He heard the Holy Spirit say one word: “Smart!” Brother W felt so happy and free as he wrote “smart” on the large white paper next to the mirror because he has been called stupid ever since he was a little child. At the end of our prayer time, the paper next to the mirror was covered with true identity statements like Brother W’s, and we left it up as a reminder for the rest of the retreat.
Another prayer station had four pots with different kinds of soil set out with an invitation to ask to the Lord about the soil in our hearts or the hearts of those for whom they wanted to pray. One sister, who believed her inner heart was filled with bad soil, received encouragement from the Holy Sprit that her heart is good soil and is producing fruit. She walked away with joyful tears in her eyes.
To replace the common habit of complaining to God in prayer, we challenged everyone to write down declarations statements and thanksgivings on a large piece of paper at another station. The room filled with a tangible sense of hope and faith, and at the end of our hour of prayer many cheerfully shared their encounters with the Lord.
We have been promoting 24-7 Prayer here for 5 years now, and the momentum continues to grow. During the second 24-7 Prayer Asia Gathering in June, I again had a strong sense that Father God wants to birth a new prayer movement in this Asian country. I confess that sometimes I wonder how this could happen in a nation this size. The people here are known around the world as people of prayer, particularly in intercession in the midst of intense persecution. Often, however, prayer takes the form of shouting a list of requests instead of interacting with the Father. Now, we regularly hear testimonies like these of local people encountering God and connecting with his heart in remarkable ways as they seek Him in prayer rooms. During the retreat, as we listened to leaders from all over the country share testimonies of how they encountered God, a friend leaned over to me and said, “This is how a fresh prayer movement begins in Asia!” Let it be, Lord!
By: Worker Serving in Asia
Would you take a few moments to pray along with us for the church in Asia:
1. To experience continued freedom in Christ through the Holy Spirit
2. For those who are lost to accept Jesus into their lives and make Him Lord
3. For the pastors and church leaders to be encouraged and persevere
A WOMAN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY: HELEN ROSEVEARE (1925-2016)
“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.”
Written by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition on Dec 7. 2016
Helen Roseveare's inspiring story through traumatic suffering while serving in the Congo is a present-day challenge to all of us who follow Christ.Read Now
We’re so thankful for all God is doing in Brazil through Victoria Ministries. Click below to check it out…
By: Marcos Pereira, Serving in Brazil
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In this Central Asian country, the welcoming hearts of the people are as beautiful as the snow frosted, rock faced mountains that cover much of the country, but the road to them accepting the gospel can seem as impassible as the paths through these same mountains.
With persistent demonstration of love for God and love for them, and invitations to read and hear the way of grace from the prophets in the Holy Book, we want to see not only individuals understand Father’s lavish grace in Jesus, but also families and communities accepting His love and gathering to follow Him. Along with simply entering into life with friends and neighbors, the medical work at the clinic allows opportunities to both demonstrate love and sow seeds of truth.
Being the primary referral center in the country for complicated retinal disease opens many doors to sow seeds widely. Patients come from villages across the country. At times we later have the opportunity to go to their homes and villages to visit, sharing stories from the Holy Book and getting to know not only them, but family, friends, and relatives. One of our physicians goes with a team weekly to Gypsy villages and by opening doors through advice on eye and general health problems are able to read stories from the Holy Book. The gypsies are an unreached group known only as beggars and looked down on by the other people groups here. For over a year they have had small groups in two villages reading and discussing God’s grace and love for them and the freedom from shame they can have through Jesus.
Partnering with local churches and leaders in village outreach projects has been another way of reaching out. I still remember one of our first projects – two days visiting a couple villages in the north of the country. In the evening, after giving glasses to over 100 people, four of us were sitting in a room: a woman tormented with fears and nightmares, her relative from the city who was a believer, the pastor we were partnering with, and myself. As I heard this woman’s story and the pastor speak of the love, peace, and hope that Jesus brings, I thought that if 2 days, a 6 hour drive, and 100 pairs of glasses will open doors for even one opportunity to facilitate the gospel spoken into a broken heart that has never heard, it’s a great investment. This woman received God’s love that day and a few months later the pastor returned to the same village with another friend to train teachers in the school and saw several others trust in Jesus.
- The believers like our head nurse, “Kind-Heart”, and administrator, “Star”, being trained in disciple multiplication principles and stepping out in the relationships provided by the clinic to pray, share, and invite patients to take further steps toward hearing the incredible news of God’s grace.
- One of our Muslim medical trainees seeing how different the compassion shown is compared to other places she has worked: listening to patients, taking time to teach them about their disease, and praying with them. After a few weeks she was eagerly asking if we can do studies from the Holy Book on forgiveness, love and other topics she had heard us talk about and was seeing lived out.
- The new guard who joined us in a day of praying for wisdom on resolving an issue with the ministry of health that could close the clinic. He saw the staff praising not complaining, seeking to honor authorities not put them down. Since that day he has been open to beginning reading stories from the Holy Book together regularly and has said he wants to tell them to his wife.
These are just drops compared to the flow of living water we want to see Father pour out into hearts in Central Asia. Pray with us that He will give the love, perseverance, and wisdom to continue living out His character and speaking the light in ways people here can see and understand.
By: Worker in Central Asia
We have a few urgent prayer requests:
1. Pray for the staff of the clinic – that those who know Father would be equipped and eager to share in ways that speak to the hearts of patients and are conducive to disciple multiplication. Pray that those staff who don’t know Father would seek, find, and spread His grace.
2. Three times recently the clinic has been subject to extortion or threatened closure. In this atmosphere of oppression from some officials pray that Father would give wisdom, help us to honor the authorities well, and watch over the continuation of the clinic work.
3. To reach out to physicians more broadly we are focusing our training and seeking to cooperate more with some government hospitals. Pray for this process of planning and building relationships.
“Sylvia” sits on the edge of a hotel room bed. Numb. Her most recent client, moments out the door on his way to whatever comes next. She needs to clean up before the next one arrives, but just can’t move. Her phone continues buzzing every few minutes with clients responding to ads on public websites offering her “services”. Hundreds of calls all day. At night, even more.
Sylvia is one of an uncountable number trapped in a cycle that leaves her prey to both buyers and managers better known as “pimps”. She’s fearful of authorities, and only a shadow of the young girl she was months earlier. Once in “the life” she’s not expected to last 7 years due to disease and a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.
At the Life of Freedom Center in the city of Miami, it’s our job to provide Sylvia with a way out, though most like her can’t imagine an exit other than death. They’re held by emotional, psychological and even chemical bonds too hard for them to break. It takes an average of 7 attempts to leave the life behind and not return. This is due to emotional and psychological trauma, arrest records, little or no education, inability to land a job or rent an apartment and countless other barriers.
Victims like Sylvia start down the path to trafficking for a variety of reasons. Often as minors (under 18) they’ve drawn in by a “Romeo Pimp” convincing a young heart and mind that they are in love. More often than not, though, youth are in love with the idea of being in love, and desperate for a first romance or some simple attention, making perfect targets for predators.
Others may see it as an easy way to make ends meet. Fueled by a society that increasingly considers sex and those providing it to be commodities, a girl may cover college bills by dancing at a strip club. Here in Miami, one particular club advertises “Tuition Tuesdays” to local colleges, even picking girls up by bus right from campus and delivering them to clubs that become recruiting grounds for buyers and traffickers alike.
Not all towns relate to having strip clubs, and most are shocked to learn that sex trafficking is present in every community across the country. The “red light district” is no longer off Main Street. It’s accessible from any smartphone or laptop, making purchasing sex as fast as a pizza, and at times, even more prevalent. Yet the real horror lies in the statistics of those being consumed:
- The average age of those being drawn into sex trafficking is between 12 and 14 years old.
- Half of all sex trafficking victims are children (under 18).
- In the US alone an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 children fall victims to sex trafficking every year.
These numbers continue to grow as our country’s hunger for sex is fueled by the internet, popular media, and an increasingly seared national conscience. Appetites with no boundaries seek satisfaction in ways considered unthinkable to previous generations. Yet in all this darkness, there is hope. There is a future for those currently being sacrificed in the name of selfish, unbridled lusts.
A few years ago, Claudia and I were introduced to the immense need closer to home. A trafficking epidemic in our communities, schools and with millions of at risk children throughout the country due to a crisis of broken families. In 2014 we joined the Life of Freedom Center in Miami, with the vision of “reducing the presence, influence and results of sex trafficking”. The LoF Center’s education and equipping programs train volunteers to do the heavy lifting in their own neighborhoods.
We provide churches, businesses, student groups and alternative break teams with tools to meet the needs of those at risk or already affected by trafficking in their community. The “Sharing 1 Love” campaign has been adopted by churches in Miami and visiting groups from around the country, enabling them to re-create much of our program and become beacons of hope to girls like Sylvia.
For those who want to go deeper, the mentor program trains and prepares women for something I refer to as “dirty discipleship”. Girls coming out of trafficking know only two types of relationship: the abused and the abuser, making healthy relationship nearly impossible. Mentors are trained to understand the effects of prolonged, repetitive trauma, since survivors have essentially experienced rape 20 times or more a day for months or even years on end, resulting in catastrophic damage to the workings of their mind and entire being. Mentors begin with an understanding that only the Creator and Sustainer of our souls can bring the profound healing needed, and then walk alongside survivors as they discover, fail, and re-discover what healthy relationships can look like.
Mentors also reach into the darkness with a simple candle of hope by actually responding to the very same advertisements that solicitors use. With training, women learn where to find ads, recognize patterns, call girls up to offer alternatives, and record responses allowing us to track their phone numbers though they are moved from city to city. That means if one team reaches a particular girl, the next team to contact her, even if she’s hundreds of miles away, will know how to approach her on the next call.
So, we come back to “Sylvia”. Sitting in the dark on the side of her bed.
She picks up her phone for what seems like the millionth time, and forces out a seductive “Hello”.
She expects the all too familiar opening lines. But then she hears something she’s never heard before. A kind voice says: “Hi, is there anything you need? Can I pray for you…”
It’s God reaching into the darkness to rescue one of His lost children.
By: Kevin Abegg, Serving in Miami, FL
The Life of Freedom Center, located in Miami Florida is a partner ministry with United World Mission.
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