One of the things I have taught my students is that each one needs two mentors: one living and one who has passed on. I have had both. My living mentor was Dr. Avery Willis, a well-known name among Baptists worldwide. For some reason, Avery picked me to travel with him to teach MasterLife, a very popular discipleship process. He told me never to call it a “program,” because a program has a beginning and end; discipleship is a process, and it continues to grow. I have traveled overseas with Avery, watching how he walked out the faith under a microscope. I couldn’t have had a better mentor. Avery went home to be with the Lord in 2010.
A dead mentor is someone whose whole life we can study and evaluate from beginning to end. From them, we can learn how to respond in different circumstances, learning from both their strengths and weaknesses. I encourage students to find a dead mentor such as Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon and Mary Slessor or my favorite, George Mueller.
The story of George Mueller touched me early in my Christian walk. He was an incredible man of faith. He never requested financial help but through prayer, took his needs to God instead of men. He believed God would lay that particular need on someone’s heart. During his lifetime, he cared for 10,024 orphans by faith, and he established 117 schools that offered Christian education to more than 120,000. If you have not read his story, I encourage you to do so.
The way Mueller lived the last years of his life is my road map. After 39 years of marriage, his wife passed on. A year later, at the age of 66, he remarried and began traveling the world as a missionary, teaching the Bible until his death at 92 years of age.
I tell you all of this because I have recently been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. The good news is that it hasn’t spread, and it is a treatable cancer. I will spend the next 18 months going through radiation and hormone therapy. So as I enter this season, I turn to my mentors to see how they would handle it:
I’m with you, B.J. No matter what happens, my heavenly Father is in charge, and that’s OK with me.
#TeamGambia is seeing God move! During the medical clinic today, God set up many conversations, and He is drawing people to Himself!
During the clinic, one of the missionaries, Laina, was able to talk to a Muslim woman. This woman's Christian friend had been talking to her and sharing the gospel, and today as Laina shared the gospel, the woman's eyes were opened, and she prayed to receive Christ!
There have also been several conversations in which people were seeking the truth and very interested in the gospel. Please keep praying for dreams and visions, eyes opened, hearts changed, truth revealed and salvation to reign! We know God is able; please join us as we cry out to Him for the souls of these precious people.
"Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20, NLT).
God is moving in Hungary, and His purpose is evident in this team. Today, we experienced the nations coming together to proclaim the name of Jesus. What are the chances of bringing Awe Star alumni to a train station in Budapest? When planned by the Lord, 100%.
The team began ministry this morning in a square where there were many who speak English. The team engaged with many people as we shared the greatest news of all. After lunch, we recited memory verses but also learned why it is important to get our hands dirty for Jesus: Jesus did the blood, so we can do the mud. This teaching focuses on Jesus' ministry and why it important to deny yourself and take up your cross daily to make Jesus known. The team engaged in meaningful worship together as we spent time in small groups to continue ministry for the afternoon.
The team then met a man from Nottingham, England, named Terry, and a former military officer, Laury. These gentleman work with Youth with a Mission and engaged the people of many nations in Budapest. As the team joined to engage the people, you could hear about Jesus loving everybody from the banjo playing in the square. It was powerful to see people stop and engage in conversation, and the team has seen the brokenness of people struggling to believe God is true and exists. Today, the team saw God draw a man closer to the Lord through salvation. The team rejoiced and celebrated this man's decision, as he is now a child of God.
The Lord wasn't done yet encouraging the team as Isaac Valdes (Panamanian translator/contact and Awe Star alum), his wife, Ingrid, and daughter, Janna, who serve in missions in Barcelona, Spain, came to see the drama and encourage the team. The team then met another Awe Star alum, Jason Teboe, who serves as a missionary with his family in Budapest from Germany. Jason prayed over the team and shared his heart about reaching the nations no matter what comes your way. The team traveled the metro to practice engaging the city but is amazed at how God is answering prayers.
Would you join us in asking for more prayers to be answered in salvation? The team has grown more excited to experience what God has planned and cannot wait to tell you more of the great things God has done!
Your prayers are cherished,
—Eastern Europe Leadership
#TeamGambia had the opportunity to worship with our Gambian brothers and sisters this morning. We always love worshipping with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
Today in the medical clinic, we saw God set up some amazing conversations. There was a young Muslim lady who came into the clinic because she couldn’t get pregnant. She had been to other doctors and they couldn’t figure out why she was having trouble, so she came to the clinic to see if we could help her. The provider talked to her and said, "I can’t heal you, but I’m going to pray in the name of Jesus Christ for you to become pregnant." A little while later, she returned to the provider and said, "Who do I come to when I become pregnant?" The provider told her to come to the church, because Jesus is the one who gives life!
There was also a Muslim man who was about 80 years old. He had health issues in the past, and his current health is not great. The provider said, "I’m going to pray that tonight, this man would have dreams and visions and would come to accept Jesus Christ as Lord."
While the clinic was going on, we had missionaries sharing their testimonies, Bible stories using the story cloth, and care providers loving on people.
Would you please pray that the lady would become pregnant and that the old man would have dreams and visions? Pray that Jesus would stand out so boldly to all these people that they would want a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Thanks for your prayers; we are counting on them!
Ahoj, (Hello!) from Slovakia!
We are so amazed at all God has done today in Sturovo, Slovakia, and in Esztergom, Hungary.
The team traveled by railway this morning out of Budapest and began to see the countryside. Small European villages peeking around curves in the mountains and farm animals crossing train station walkways are just a few things we found along the way. Ultimately, the encouragement being shared between the team members began the day in ministry.
The team joined with Golgata Church, a church plant from Budapest Golgata Church (Calvary Baptist Church). The members were so encouraged and thankful to see the drama and to worship with the family of Christ. The team engaged the streets of Esztergom with music/worship and then took the first step toward another country.
Though one bridge connects two different towns in two different countries, the differences in buildings, landscape, and language are vast. The team had an incredible opportunity to spend an afternoon in a children's home. These children were rejected by parents and family but have been exposed to truth today as the greatest news was shared, even in the pouring rain. The team also prayed for the pastor of the church and workers who volunteer every week to help these children.
Please continue to pray for the children's home manager, Zollie. He takes care of 11 children who did not know how to speak any language when they first arrived to the home. Zollie continues to strive to seek what is best for these children, but we were able to encourage him as he continued to see the Good News.
The children's home ministry was not the end of the team's work in Slovakia, though. An almost bare town square met the team after spending quality time there. The team began to look for people to invite to the drama and as they began drama ministry, they saw people coming from all different sides stop to see and hear the gospel.
Though the team traveled to each of these sites today, the Lord has begun to move our hearts for the people of Eastern Europe, seeking more time to engage in conversations of seeking truth. As we prepared to leave the country to head back to Budapest, the river view of the Basilica across Slovakia was a must-see. The team saw a large group of people standing and admiring the same view, but as one of our leaders was asked to take their pictures, a man asked where we came from.
"We are a group from the United States sharing a drama that has been all around the world."
This man's name is Yury, and we asked if he was Hungarian. Yury replied, "We are proudly Slovakian."
Next, the leaders were asked if the drama was in Slovak, and what are the odds? We happened to have the drama in Slovak for the people to hear the good news. This large group of people was intrigued with the hidden message you see with your heart and pieced together the truth of Christ, but the families, we found out, go to church every Sunday together and believe in Christ. This drama was a vast encouragement to them, but as the team began to encourage them, God had brought other people from many places to hear the good news for the first time.
We thank you for your prayers and continued encouragement! Please join us in prayer for continued divine encounters and opportunities to share.
—Eastern Europe Leadership
(Note: This post was written on our Saturday, June 22 but not received until June 23). #TeamGambia arrived in-country safely! We still have two medical bags in customs. Please be in prayer that the police would release our bags; we hope to hear from the police on Monday.
After getting some much-needed rest, the team worked together to get everything ready to do ministry at the first medical clinic. We spent most of our afternoon serving our brothers and sisters in Christ and some of their Muslim friends in the clinic. One of the men we saw was a man who does masonry work for the church. A church member had invited him to come to the clinic so we could help share Christ with Him and so he could experience the love of Christ.
Please be in prayer for the people we come in contact with at the clinic. Pray God would create visions and conversations and that He would draw all people to Himself. Pray for hearts to be changed and people to see their need for Christ. Pray for true healing to happen.
(This post was written Saturday night, June 22, 2019)
Today, we visited another English school of elementary-aged kids. The kids watched eagerly and followed every move: the creation, the rebellion, the crucifixion and the resurrection. The reality of the crucifixion made one of the kids, when he saw the Good Prince rise from the grave, run to him and give him a hug as the drama continued.
The innocence and simple faith of a child.
This gave fuel to our team as we went to the parking lot to perform the drama multiple times. Our students looked for seeking souls as they performed the drama. Many responded to the gospel.
Our last stop was a park. Due to an event happening at the park, we were unable to perform the drama, but our team directors directed our team to do street ministry—simply hanging with those at the park and sharing the gospel. What was to be a short stop on our way back to our hostel turned into a great time of ministering to many individuals in the park.
Tonight during our team time, we spent a lot of time in prayer and worship sharing all of the great things God did. We also spent time praying for another. What a great night of worship.
Would you pray for us tomorrow (Sunday) as we go to an area of town (Cinco de Mayo) where we will have multiple opportunities to share the gospel? Pray for strength for our students. Pray for divine appointments.
Thank you for your continued prayer for our team!
—Team Panama Leadership
Sziasztok! (Hello!) friends and family! We are settled in Budapest and have finished our first day of drama ministry, but our ministry started in the airport on our way. Right before we boarded our last flight from Philadelphia to Budapest, our team started talking with an elderly couple named Sam and Kay. They commended us for going on a mission trip, but after talking a little bit longer, we realized they were definitely not Christians. They believe all religions are equally good and true and our souls are really just energy that go up to nothing when we die.
Although they did not change what they believed right then, our team got to plant seeds of truth in love. We got to love them by welcoming words and smiles and prayer. This was such a foreshadowing of what we will face in this country. Many people in Hungary believe that all religions lead to the same thing or that religion does not matter.
We definitely encountered these beliefs during our drama ministry in Keleti and Deak Ter. While we are in Hungary, we have three Hungarian students joining our drama. It was so neat to partner with Hungarian nationals to reach the people of Hungary. At our first drama site, Keleti, a guy came up to us to ask if we really believed what we said we believe. It was an incredible conversation, but God was not done blowing our socks off!
In our next ministry site, Deak Ter, we heard the "Cupid Shuffle" as we walked up to our next drama … who could it be? It turns out that another Christian group from Texas is in Hungary for a month doing drama ministry also. Then we discovered another team from a church in Hungary doing ministry as well. That means three teams were sharing the gospel and partnering together! That is such a picture of the body of Christ working together. After we performed the drama there, one of our ministry groups talked with a man who saw the drama last year, but never got to talk to anybody. That conversation was such a divine appointment!
There is so much more we could share, but it would fill too many pages. Our team is doing well and is excited to see what the Lord has in store for the days to come! Thank you all for your prayers!
Continue to pray for our team to have more divine encounters as we travel to Slovakia tomorrow to work in the children’s home.
Kosonom! (Thank you!)
-Eastern Europe Leadership
Awe Star’s summer of missions has almost begun.
This week, we host our leaders for specialized training here in Tulsa, then transfer to Dallas where we’ll welcome the next level of leadership (MOMs and POPs) and then all our students and other missionaries. We’ll spend the next few days at Dallas Christian University for intense training in chronological Bible storytelling through drama, medical clinic administration, personal and lifestyle evangelism, language training and cross-cultural ministry. It’s an intense but powerful and personal time where students will also have the opportunity to embrace their rite of passage and move from childhood to emerging adulthood, laying down their adolescence and stepping up to adult tasks and responsibilities.
But we’ll also take time out for praise and worship, because worship (one of our four Awe Factors, along with prayer, Bible study and fellowship) makes us stronger. And we know we need strength as we face the challenges of overseas travel, new foods and cultures along with the spiritual battles common to those on the front lines of the gospel. Please pray for each aspect of this very full time of preparation for the vital work to which God has called us. We know He will use this time to equip us for the days and weeks ahead.
Our families need prayer as well. Many of us are leaving parents, grandparents and siblings behind to embrace the task of taking the gospel to the nations. We’ll miss them, but we’ll be busy doing Jesus ministry. They’ll miss us, but we also pray they’ll see the significance of our work and journey with us through prayer (text 81010 with @AWESTARMIN in the message to receive prayer update, and keep up with these blog posts for specifics on our adventures!).
And of course, as we look at the immediate future, we’re also looking months ahead. Applications have now opened for our annual Christmas Break Mexico trip (Dec. 26, 2019 - Jan. 2, 2020) as well as a brand-new addition to our schedule, a special, space-limited mission trip to East Asia, also during Christmas break (Dec. 27, 2019-Jan. 10, 2020). Check them both out under the “Trips” tab on our website.
By the power of the Holy Spirit and through the ministry of prayer, we’re gearing up—preparing to go and tell.