Thursday, October 27, 2011

Uganda Trip Travel Update

Dear Prayer Team,

 Wednesday we said goodbye to the Whitmers and Bogans after going with them to pick up a couple of very important items. For the Whitmers, it was a washing machine. They have just moved into their permanent residence and had to purchase the machine to be able to do laundry. The only other alternative is to pay someone to wash your laundry by hand. While this seems like it would be a good, viable solution, it is extremely hard on the clothing which would need to be replaced often.

We then rode with the Bogans to pick up their “new” vehicle. It is a 1996 Toyota Hiace van. It had to be prepared for Uganda by getting heavy duty shocks, struts, and tires, as well as several other upgrades. It was great to see them head off to their home in Jina for the first time in their van.

 As you are coming to the end of your day, Linda and I are in the middle of what I have come to call “the longest day.” Our day started at 6:00am Ugandan time. That is 7 hours ahead of you on EDT.

 Our flight leaves tonight at 11:30pm which is about 4:30pm your time. We gain an hour as we arrive in Amsterdam at 6:45am. This is one of those connections where we really need your prayers. Our flight to Detroit leaves at 8:00am, which is only one hour and 15 minutes after we arrive. Pray that everything happens on time with this flight. If we stay on schedule, we will arrive in Dayton at 1:11pm on Friday, which will be approximately 37 hours since our day began Thursday morning in Uganda. If anything happens to delay us, this time can stretch into 2 full days fairly easily. Therefore, please pray for safe planes that leave on time with alert crews and all our bags!

  It has been very productive to be able to visit our two Urbancrest families in Uganda. We were able to hear their struggles and bring the love and resources of Urbancrest to them. They have each shared with me that our visit has been such an encouragement to them, and that it came at the perfect time in their deployment. Thank you for allowing me the honor of visiting our servants on the field. I know souls will be in Heaven because of your faithful giving to our church and to the Faith Promise Fund.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Urbancrest is in Uganda

If it is normal for the church to be a point of departure to missions and ministry (and it is, see my previous blogs: The New Normal Part 1 & 2) then it is also the responsibility of the church to care for and encourage those they send as extensions of the ministry of the church. As the Bogan family and Ron & Darlene Whitmer were moving and adjusting to their new life and ministry in Uganda, it was a great privilege for me to be able to go visit them.

Linda and I arrived in Uganda on October 14, 2011. Our first days were spent with Aaron & Dana Bogan and their four children Nicholas, Dylan, Marie, and Joey. It is amazing to see how quickly they have adapted to missionary life in Uganda. Aaron has begun his teaching duties at the Uganda Baptist Seminary. He is teaching a course in Old Testament Survey to two different classes each day. He is up every morning at 5:30am and in the classroom by 6:30am. His day usually ends around 4:00pm. Of course, he then has to prepare his lessons to teach the next day. This is his schedule Monday through Saturday, and he has Sunday off. It sounds pretty grueling, but when Aaron talks about his work it is with joy and excitement. You can easily tell it is his passion, and passion is never work.

Dana is home schooling the children and has already found every resource available for that in Jinja. There is even a store that sells the chemistry supplies that keep Nicholas and Dylan busy with schoolwork. Marie and Joey are the happy, outgoing children they have always been. It is a blessing to see this called and obedient family interacting with their new environment in such positive way. Contentment is a promise of God for those committed to follow His plan for their lives.

God has blessed them with a beautiful home that their IMB missionary partners found and made ready for them. It is much more that they expected, and at much less cost than believable even for Uganda. Their lives here have already touched the Ugandan neighbors near them as well as those working with them.

The Whitmers were out of the country for a short time the first days of our visit. Ron & Darlene Whitmer returned to Uganda on Tuesday from Thailand. Caren, their daughter-in-law, went to Thailand on a medical mission with Caring Partners from Franklin, Ohio. Darlene’s brother lives in Thailand and they had all met up for a small family reunion. In Uganda since June, the Whitmers have been busy hosting mission teams on Bavuma Island, strengthening the work that is being done in the schools, and ministering in the prisons.
Settling in has been a bit slower for them. They just this week moved into their apartment. Up to now they have been staying in a guest house. Aside from the inconvenience of not having a place to unpack, they too are adjusting very well. Since they spent much of their summer on the island, they were too busy to notice.

Urbancrest is in Jinja, Uganda. That seems unfathomable to me, but it is true. Whatever God calls these missionaries to do, He calls Urbancrest to do. They are obedient. We must be obedient as their resource. They are His instruments of the gospel, and we hold the ropes. May God help us to be obedient to pray for them, to encourage them, and to resource their needs and the needs of their ministries.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

The New Normal ~ Part 2

At his commissioning service, Aaron Bogan stated, “Take a look at us. This is normal for followers of Jesus. We are to follow Him wherever He sends us.” The “new normal” for sending those called to missions or ministry is not really a new occurrence in the Church. Historically we have always had those people who would leave their churches to follow wherever God would lead them. Yet, in our churches today we seem content to remain stationary rather than be sent. Eric Mock said, "Somehow the church has become a point of destination [rather] than a point of departure." Departure is normal. Our Christian service can never be about location (living and serving where we want), but rather about obedience (living and being God’s instrument wherever He chooses).

The "new normal" doesn’t come easy. It is a process the church must embrace. It takes time, but it is worth the investment. Urbancrest began the process many years ago and has sent many families into the ministry both regionally and overseas. Ironically, just two weeks before we commissioned Aaron & Dana Bogan to leave for Uganda, we had a reception for Charles & Bonnie Hailey to welcome them home from the Ukraine.

Charles and Bonnie originally left for two years of service with the IMB, but ended up remaining there almost nine years. Prior to moving to Ukraine, they had been in ministry most of their lives. Charles served as a worship leader and Bonnie worked with both youth and women’s ministry. Just when Charles was looking forward to retirement, Bonnie received an invitation from the Lord to join His work in Ukraine ministering to teachers and teaching them to instruct with a Biblical worldview. She founded Hope in Education that today is led by Ukrainians. Charles’ response to Bonnie’s call was, “I will carry your bags wherever the Lord sends us!” For those nine years, God used Bonnie to help transform the old Soviet system one teacher at a time. God used Charles’ giftedness in the administration office as he arranged the travel and housing logistics for missionaries so that they were free to engage in the ministry God called them to. Charles & Bonnie pioneered the way, showing us that it is normal for the Christian to follow closely the call of God. The full impact of their ministry and witness will not be known until we all stand before Christ. Even after returning home from the Ukraine, Charles & Bonnie continue to serve the Lord in new ministry assignments. Bonnie is now the Director of Mission Education at Urbancrest. Charles will serve the spiritual needs of folks coming to the Resource Center as well as help with any travel logistics in our missions ministry. Well done, Charles & Bonnie!  

In the past two years, our church leadership has become very serious about helping church members who are sensing a call to mission service explore that call through our Mission Intern program. Our first group of interns completed their preparation in June of this year. Shortly after completing their training, Ron & Darlene Whitmer departed for their ministry assignment on June 21, 2011. They have been members of Urbancrest for over 16 years and always envisioned themselves enjoying a relaxing retirement, traveling the country in an RV and riding their motorcycle. But, God had other plans for them!


Darlene was born to missionary parents in Laos and has always been an avid supporter of all things missional. The Whitmers began serving in the missionary hospitality room during our Global Impact Celebration where they became friends with many missionaries. Then, their plans began to change following a motorcycle accident and Ron’s position at DHL being downsized due to the economic downturn. This free time allowed him to begin serving at the Urbancrest Resource Center. They noticed a prayer request from George & Geraldine Smith who were hopeful that another couple would come to minister with them on Bavuma Island in Uganda. In 2009, the Whitmers joined the short-term mission team from Urbancrest that was going to work with the Smiths. The trip fanned the flames of mission service in their lives and the Whitmers joined our Mission Intern program in January of 2010. For their intern project in the summer of 2010, the Whitmers returned to Bavuma Island for nine weeks of service. The extended time on the field solidified their call to Uganda. Darlene retired from her teaching job, they sold their home and all their personal belongs, and they became part of the “new normal.”

Many other Urbancrest members have joined the “new normal” over the years: Joe & Liz Veal, Bryan & Karen Byrd, Erik & Michele Stapleton, Chris & Janella Straw, Larry & Elizabeth Bergeron and many others. Soon Matt Prichard will depart for Haiti, and Shawn & Michelle Peoples will move to Hawaii to plant a new church. What do all of these people have in common? They have a heart to follow closely after God. They have chosen to leave everything that binds them to this world: homes, jobs, vehicles, and even family. All of these things pale in comparison to the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ. They have come to understand that the flow of God’s power and His promises are directed toward the lostness of this world. The power to live our lives victoriously is given in great measure as we live within the flow that draws us to the lost and hopeless in the world. It is to those who have not heard that we are sent. Our minds, hearts, and souls must become bound to the mind of Christ, which is to seek and save that which is lost. The cost becomes irrelevant. The prize is only His “Well done!”

Please don’t hear me say that to be in the “new normal” we all have to leave Urbancrest or whatever church you are a part of. We do not. As a matter of fact, most of us need to stay. But if that is good news to you, it may be that you are still a part of the old normal. The departure is not to a location, but to a new level of spiritual desire to love those who Jesus loves, to be doing what He desires us to do, and to be where He wants us to be. The new normal will pull you into the flow of God’s power. It may lead you to the ends of the earth or to the nursery on Sunday morning. It certainly includes giving our tithes and supporting our missionaries through the Faith Promise Fund. The “new normal” for you may be a life given to intercessory prayer for missionaries and ministries around the world. Many are called to give up a week or two of vacation to go on one of the many mission trips that Urbancrest sponsors. Some feel led to open their home to an orphaned child or give up their day off to pack food for A Child’s Hope International. The new normal may prompt you to start a new church plant in a community that has no church, or you may bring glory to God by sorting clothes at the Resource Center.

Whatever, however, and whenever the Lord calls, we need to be ready to lay aside the desire to stay sedentary, and we need to follow Him. The new normal begins with this prayer of surrender: “Lord, I hear your voice. Here am I, send me!” Have you put your “yes” on the altar?

"So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you!
As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'” ~ John 20:21

I hope you are ready to be part of the “new normal.” Let me know if you are. I can help!