January update and article

We’ve been on furlough for four months now.  In just over two months, we return to Portugal. While we miss Portugal, we are enjoying our time in America.

During January, we are staying in Kingsport, TN at a church’s mission house. In February, we will be in Chattanooga staying at a mission house there. Every Sunday and Wednesday we are at a different church sharing an update about what has been happening in Portugal over the past four years. In all, we will be in almost fifty churches during our six months in America. Here are some pictures from our recent journeys.

This supporting church of ours is over 150 years old.
This supporting church of ours is over 150 years old.
It's a rough life...
It’s a rough life…
Sarah speaking to a group of women that get together each month to pray for missionaries.
Sarah speaking to a group of women that get together each month to pray for missionaries.
Some of are good friends at a church in Ohio.
Some of are good friends at a church in Ohio.
Together at Christmas.
Together at Christmas.
Great to be with family.
Great to be with family.
With a good pastor friend.
With a good pastor friend.
Laura and Samuel are great travelers now.
Laura and Samuel are great travelers now.

Since I have a little more time on furlough, I have been trying to write some articles about what I have been learning as a missionary. Here’s what I have been thinking about recently.

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7 Qualities of Highly Effective Missionaries (or anybody who loves Jesus).

I Thessalonians 2 is one of my favorite passages because here Paul describes his life as a missionary. It is a powerful testimony and an inspiration to me as a missionary, but it really applies to anyone who is follower of Jesus and wants to share the gospel. Here are seven qualities of highly effective missionaries as seen in this passage.

1. They know the value of proclaiming the gospel (1). For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain.

Paul writes the church in Thessalonica about year after he first arrived in that city and began proclaiming the gospel. As he reflects upon his time there, he states with conviction, “My time with you was not in vain. Yes, there was opposition. Yes, I had to leave under dire circumstances. But today, you are testimony of how the gospel changes lives. You once worshipped idols; but now you worship the true God (1:8).”

What keeps missionaries on the field when they see few results and much opposition? Belief in the power of the gospel. How did Adoniram Judson and William Carey both work and wait more than six years before seeing their first converts? Because they knew that God’s Word was powerful enough to break through the hardest of hearts and the darkest of minds. Proclaiming the gospel is always worth it even when the results are sparse.

2. They are willing to face hardship and persecution (2). But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

Paul and Silas arrived in the Thessalonica shortly after being beaten and thrown in a Philippian jail. Perhaps the wounds on their backs were still tender. Despite this, they continued on proclaiming the gospel from city to city.

Highly effective missionaries won’t quit even when life gets tough. In fact, they know to expect opposition, self-doubt, and every sort of trial. If we wait for ideal conditions before we begin proclaiming the gospel, we will rarely do so. Instead, we must “speak the gospel of God with much contention.” Of course this willingness to face hardship and persecution is not some sort of bravado based on our strength. Paul himself often reminds us of his great weakness. Rather, this willingness to suffer is based Christ and his power through us.

3. They live lives of integrity (3-6,10). Our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak…

Paul reminds the Thessalonian church that he was not some sleazy swindler or salesman. His motives were pure; his testimony was above reproach. Highly effective missionaries know that there is no substitute for godly character and selfless motives. Rather than using people and resorting to manipulative gimmicks, a true follower of Christ will do nothing to bring reproach to the gospel.

4. They want to please God above all else (4). …Not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts.

Simply put, I like making people happy, and I hate conflict. However, I can never let this desire trump my ultimate aim of pleasing God. People-pleasers find their joy in making people happy. God-pleasers find their joy in obedience to God. People-pleasers are fearful and manipulative. God-pleasers are courageous and honest. People-pleasers will eventually get burned out and disillusioned with people because they feel used or let-down. God-pleasers know to base their self-worth on who they are in Christ rather than on peoples’ opinions.

Ultimately, God is the one who knows our hearts, sees our motives, and understands perfectly who we are. Pleasing him is enough.

 5. They love people (7-8). But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

It is heartwarming to see Paul describe his love toward these people. He compares his love to that of a nursing mother in verse 7 and to a caring, vigilant father in verse 11. Furthermore, Paul states that he was just there to impart information about the gospel. He was there to give his life for these people. Faithful proclamation of the gospel cannot be separated from deep love for people. Being a missionary is not just a matter of imparting knowledge to people. It requires love, service, and devotion.

Loving people does not necessarily mean you are a “people person,” but it does mean that you will seek to follow Christ’s example, put others before yourself, and use your life to love the people God places in your path.

6. They work with intensity and purpose (9). Ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

Again, Paul looks back on his brief time in Thessalonica and remembers his passionate work for the sake of the gospel. His primary concern was to avoid relying on the very people he was trying to reach with the gospel for his own income. Over and over again, Paul’s concern for the reputation of the gospel is evident. No matter your position or calling, proclaiming the gospel is worthy of your most focused and intense effort.

7. Their great joy is seeing other people begin to follow Jesus (13, 20). For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God… For ye are our glory and joy.

As he looks over his life, Paul says that the lives of these believers are his “glory and joy.” The crown jewels of his life, the summit of his achievements, and the greatest joy he had was wrapped up in seeing these people begin to follow Jesus. For those that love Jesus, we know that there are few joys deeper and richer than this.