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The Annie Armstrong Easter offering is part of the North American Mission Board annual campaign to support more than 5,000 missionaries serving in the United States, Canada and U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. That encompasses some 363 million people, who speak 350 languages.

It is estimated that more than 75 percent of those people are lost. 

That is why missionaries Matt and Arrica Hess from Northwest Mississippi are serving in Toronto, Canada. Here is his story:  

In 2010, I was serving as pastor to a rural church in Northwest, Mississippi just outside of Memphis, TN and completing my final year of seminary as well. God was saving people in the church, we were seeing growth, and we were leading quite comfortable lives. But suddenly, my wife Arrica and I began to sense that God was calling us to something new. As we sought the Lord through prayer and fasting, we knew our hearts were being pulled towards church planting. But of course the question was where?

That question weighed on our hearts heavily for several weeks. And then one day as I sat in seminary chapel, I heard a clear and distinct calling from the Lord. The preacher was talking about the need to plant churches in difficult regions around North America. He mentioned Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, and then finally he said there was a need to plant churches in Canada. Now I’d never visited Canada and I knew nothing about Canada but in that moment the words of Isaiah 6:8 rang crystal clear in my ears and in my heart! “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” In that moment I knew we had received our orders.

Who’s Jesus?

There are fewer places in North America more different than Memphis, TN and Toronto, ON. Around the world Memphis is known as “Home of the blues.”, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and yeah you can find some pretty decent barbecue around those parts as well. While the Greater Toronto Area is known for its incredible multiculturalism, beautiful and clean architecture, and of course Canada’s national sport, hockey. However, we quickly discovered that the spiritual climate was quite contrasting as well. We went from serving in the most churched state in the Southern Baptist Convention, Mississippi where there is 1 church for every 1,395 people to one of the least churched regions of North America with 1 church for every 117,000 people.

I’ll never forget one day while going door to door and sharing the Gospel we asked a young teen around 14 years old what he thought about Jesus? He replied, “Who’s Jesus?” I said, “you know Jesus Christ from the Bible”. He said he had never heard of Him. Afterwards, we realized that we could no longer assume that our new friends and neighbors were familiar with the Christian faith. But what we once viewed as obstacles, the Holy Spirit has turned into opportunities to make stronger disciples! We now think in steps. As a church we communicate “next steps” very clearly. We simply want to invite our community into taking one step closer to exploring who Jesus truly is. When we shifted our frame of mind into journeying with people regardless where they are on their path towards Christ, we began seeing God move in some amazing ways!

Of course you can’t do it!

One night, shortly after we had moved to Canada, we put the kids to bed, and Arrica and I settled in to relax and read. I was reading a book on church planting. In the book the author suggested that you should have a core group of at least fifty people before you start a church. My heart was immediately filled with anxiety. Our core group consisted of five people all from the same family…mine! And we hadn’t even taught our toddlers how to tithe yet. We were in trouble! Where would the money come from? How would we reach this vast community for Christ? Where would we meet for worship? Would anyone come?

The next morning I woke up early and went downstairs to our basement to pray. As I quieted my heart before the Lord all I could utter were five words, “God, I can’t do this.” Truth is, I didn’t know a thing about planting a church. Sure, our sending church First Baptist Church in Collierville, TN defines what a sending church should be about and had done a great job preparing us in our residency program. But the reality is, nothing can genuinely prepare the church planter for the difficult realities awaiting for him and his family once on the field.

As I spoke those words to the Lord, the Holy Spirit recalled a verse that we try to live our lives by found in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s as if the Lord was saying, “Of course you can’t plant this church…but I can.” And when I gave up, that’s when God showed up.

We launched Fellowship Pickering in October 2013 and by the grace of God we have started two additional churches. Fellowship Church Rouge Park in 2015 and Fellowship Oshawa in the fall of 2016. We have seen over 100 baptisms, the beginnings of a church planting network on the East side of Toronto, seventy percent of Fellowship Pickering’s congregation comes from an unchurched background, and multiple lives impacted by the Gospel all for the glory of God. And the best part? We believe He’s only getting started!

Weakness equals strength.

We have learned some things about planting churches over the past few years but in return, planting churches has taught us much more. The Holy Spirit revealed idols in my heart that had to be uprooted for God to use me more effectively. I have learned that success can look like an overflowing worship service on Sunday morning but more likely in our context it looks like a one on one conversation with the spiritually curious on a Saturday afternoon at a soccer field. And most importantly, we have learned much about the character of God. Specifically, that He delights in using the weak. That “He opposes the proud but honours the humble.” He always has, and He always will. You see it wasn’t until I realized that our calling to plant churches had nothing to do with my ability and everything to do with His that He began to work in ways we never dreamt possible. May God keep us weak and fill us with His strength, in order for His Kingdom to advance!

“Fellowship Pickering launched in October 2013 and by the grace of God we have sent out two more gifted planters and their families along with a core group from Fellowship Pickering. Pastor Kesavan Balasingham and wife Viji started Fellowship Church Rouge Park which launched in 2015. While Pastor Jared Huntley and wife Jennifer started Fellowship Oshawa in the fall of 2016. We have seen over 100 baptisms, the beginnings of a church planting network on the East side of Toronto, seventy percent of Fellowship Pickering’s congregation comes from an unchurched background, and multiple lives impacted by the Gospel all for the glory of God. And the best part? We believe He’s only getting started!”

Hess, Matt. "Here Am I!" Send Me!" Annie Armstrong, North American Mission Board, 2017, https://www.anniearmstrong.com/here-am-i-send-me/

 

 

Posted by Glen Locklear with
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Spring will come, the grass will grow

Where yesterday was ice and snow.

The flowers will bloom, the birds will sing,

The sun will shine, warming everything.

Is anyone else looking forward to spring getting here? From my viewpoint, it seems like it has been a long winter. Compared to those living farther North, St. Louis winters are actually rather mild. Our unique “weather pattern,” however, gives us a rollercoaster of weather – from cold – to warm – to very cold. It first teases us then gives us a good, hard slap! Perhaps it’s my age, but it seems like there has been a lot of sickness this past winter (colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.). I guess we could all get together and have one big “Pity-Party.” But, we know winter is almost over and spring is just around the corner! It’s not only a time of “renewal” for nature, but also for us!

The Apostle Paul knew something about needing “renewal.” He had a long list of hardships, including being stoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, and imprisoned. He learned the secret of being renewed through the “winters of life!” This is what he had to say about it:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”.

These are wonderful verses. As we grow older, we sort of begin to die out as far as the body is concerned. However, we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. I said to my wife no later than yesterday, “I wish that I were thirty–five years old and knew what I know now.” This old body that I have is dying. I can tell it all over. I'm ready to trade it in on a new model. It is beginning to waste away, but the inward man is renewed day by day. Down here we seem to have a lot of trouble and, my, it does seem to last a long time, doesn't it? It seems so hard. But, when we begin to measure it by the weight of glory that is coming someday, it is a light affliction compared to that weight of glory.

I remember reading a story about a dying man who insisted when they laid him in the casket to place a fork in his hand. He explained, “At the end of a meal when the dinner plates were being taken away, my mother would tell us to keep our forks, because something better was coming! I may be leaving this old world, but I know something better is coming!”

The thought of spring helps us to make it through the winter, but regardless of the weather or circumstances, we can always know “something better is coming!” In another scripture Paul says:

Ephesians_4:23 “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;”

I’ve referred to it before as having a “Heavenly viewpoint” versus a “Worldly viewpoint!”

With a worldly viewpoint, we tend to focus on the “here and now” and end up having a pity party for ourselves. With a heavenly viewpoint, we know that whatever we are going through today is only temporary. “This too shall pass!” We have a blessed hope that we will experience glory with our Savior for eternity!

Colossians_3:10 “And having put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

A person who hasn’t accepted Christ as their Savior doesn’t have the knowledge of this “eternal hope.” Therefore, they live in a “here and now” broken world where almost every hardship is a crisis! As Christians, we need to share our knowledge and demonstrate our faith as we pass on to others God’s peace that the world cannot give!

I love the “hope” the following scriptures give:

1 Corinthians 2:9: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Isaiah 64:4: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waits for him.”

Revelation 21:4-5: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”

This is the glory we have waiting for us! It makes whatever we are going through now trivial and temporary. Thank you, Lord, for this “Blessed Hope.”

I am writing this as an encouragement to anyone reading this—and to myself! Does all this mean that a Christian never gets discouraged, or weary of life’s problems? No, we are all human, with emotions and anxieties, but when we do start feeling sorry for ourselves, we need to read God’s word and “renew” our minds.

I know that spring will come, and I know someday I will have a “glorified body.” With that hope, I can look forward! “Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just Because He Lives.”

When spring does arrive, we won’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past winter. And, someday, all the ailments, trials, and anxieties of this world will all be forgotten!

Isaiah 65:17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind."

I hope this is an encouragement to you. Writing it has helped me “renew” my mind and focus on God’s promises.

God Bless, Dan

Posted by Dan Hubbell with 1 Comments

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