News Update – July 2016

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From this issue of News Update:

It’s been three years.

This summer marks three years since my wife and I stepped foot in Ghana. Due to scheduling conflicts and terrible things such as Ebola, the chance to go on another trip has yet to surface. But the experiences and faces that I met are still fresh in my mind. I think of Mada, the young girl with a severe case of bowlegs, whom we met in an impromptu stop at a village. I think of Nathan, the son of a pastor and district overseer, and his passion for more in life. I can still feel the stickiness of fresh fufu in my fingers and the pain as I burnt my tongue upon my fresh try. I can still hear the Muslim call to prayer wake me up in the morning as we neared Muslim dominated towns in the North. Then there’s also the chain breaking prayer of Pastor Mark as he showed us his prayer hut where he “shakes the heavens.” I remember drinking from a water satchel. Or salvaging the lost drops of water to rinse my hair as the tap stopped working. I can still feel the bumpiness of the unpaved roads, the sight of huts and goats – and the children – the handprints they left on our dusty van as we said farewell.

It’s still very real. That is what happens when you follow God on a trip to the other side of the world. That is what happens when a city boy born and raised in Vancouver, Canada steps foot into the rural villages of Ghana. Imagine this: Sitting on wooden bench under a mango tree with chickens and goats running around as you share your testimony. What on earth is a city boy doing here witnessing to Ghanaians? What do we possibly have in common? But God always has a plan. God is in the business of using simple people to do extravagant things. As Michael Palompo, pastor of New Hope Central Oahu puts it, “God puts the super in supernatural, and the extra in extraordinary.” That is really all I knew. I knew God has called us to follow Him, and He would do the rest. He has never asked for us to be sufficient but for obedience. With the raising of hands to accept Jesus, your world view changes and God shatters whatever box you place Him in. With one year left in my seminary training, I saw the things I learned about in the classroom come alive. We saw firsthand how the Gospel transcends time, place, language and culture. We witnessed how the Word is alive and active and sharper than any double edge sword. God moves when you are so far out of your comfort zone that you have to rely on Him. After all, we do hear God best at the edge of comfort.

I still remember the mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness as our team of seven met for the first time at the WEC Guesthouse in Ghana. Led by Pastor Isaac, our team consisted of another from Calgary, one from Edmonton, and three from Vancouver. And of course there was Daal, our trustworthy driver and fellow ministry worker in the Lord. Four of us have never been in Ghana before and did not really know what to expect. Let’s just say we learned the meaning of flexibility. Our first assignment was to share at an evening service at a local church. The congregation met in a humble wooden shack, which was their church building, and I was chosen to share my testimony. God is humorous, though, as whatever I had prepared was thrown out the window as the single light bulb hanging was not nearly bright enough to read my notes.

Whether we know what we have signed up for or not, I think that sums up what missions means to me: obedience. It is about following God to wherever He has called you to be. It is about following God out into the deep. Missions is about taking that step onto the water, where only God can walk. Yet it is not blind obedience for it is fueled by our encounter with the Mighty One. It is about feeling the heaviness of His Word and Gospel, so much so, that you must carry and live it out no matter where you are. Pastor and theologian John Piper once said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Where in your everyday life do you encounter people and places where the Cross of Christ has not yet been exalted?

That, simply, is why we go. When we have encountered God in powerful ways – we have to go. When we cannot physically go, then we support in whatever way we can. A church leader once told me, “I give because our money is able to go to places that I am not.” It was a blessing to be the hands and feet of those who sent us. When we are obedient, no matter where it is we go or what we do, I am thankful we are never left to our own devices. As you live out your life for Him, I pray that you will experience and remember this:

“… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

Though it has been three years, the trip still positively affects me today. I still consider the trip to Ghana a watershed moment in ministry, both in terms of spiritual growth and establishing lifelong friendships and ministry partners.

I was recently on an urban missions trip in our own city. Our youth spent some time serving at Union Gospel Mission, a local Christian street ministry. A man, somewhat distraught, walked into the soup kitchen and I found out he is Ghanaian. I went up to him and said, “Eti sen!” which is “How are you?” in twi, a Ghanaian dialect. You should have seen the mixture of shock and joy on his face to hear a Chinese-Canadian greet him in his language. A simple hello just opened up a long conversation with him about the Lord.

When we are obedient to His call, we are intentionally placing ourselves in front of God’s grace. How is God calling you to follow Him?

Sincerely,
Pastor Douglas Wong
English Ministry Pastor at Lord’s Love Church
CIM (Canada) Board Director