December 2016 Prayer Letter

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Season’s Greetings from Kent! This year seems to have gone more quickly than most — but we’re grateful for everything that’s been happening, both personally and in ministry.

I’ve been especially enjoying the chance to reflect on the miracle of the Incarnation recently, preparing my heart and our church for the Advent season. Have you ever noticed the prevalence of dreams in the original Advent story (particularly in the account from the Gospel of Matthew)? Joseph is reassured in his plans to marry Mary through a dream (Matthew 1:20). The magi are disuaded from returning to Herod’s palace through a dream (Matthew 2:12). Joseph is prompted, through a dream, to take evasive action just before Herod’s horrible genocide against the children of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:13). Later on, he gets the “all clear” signal to return to Israel, also through a dream (Matthew 2:19). And Joseph ultimately makes the decision to veer toward Galilee instead of Judea because of another dream (Matthew 2:22). It’s remarkable to notice how heavily these dreams played into the early years of God’s dwelling among us!

Do you know where else I’ve noticed a prevalence of dreams in the world today? In stories of people from the Muslim World encountering Jesus, through dreams! I’ve heard many stories, second-hand and third-hand, from the Middle East and North Africa — but I also remember some personal friends in Amsterdam who were brought up in a Muslim context but who were persuaded to follow Jesus, at least in part, through the influence of encountering him in their dreams.

I’ve recently started praying for a prevalence such dreams here in Kent, Ohio, as well.

This year I’ve been getting to know a number of young men from Saudi Arabia: Bandar, Ibrahim, Abdulrahman, and Majed especially. Every Thursday evening, we meet for “American Culture and Conversation” at the Kent State University Student Center, and we’ve been having some conversations that are really quite remarkable. Even though we start each week with a worksheet that’s designed to guide us into conversation about American holidays, customs, and curiosities — pretty generic stuff — we never seem to get very far into the worksheet before our conversation takes a turn toward spiritual things (without a lot of concerted effort from me!). We’ve talked about religion. We’ve talked about translations of the Bible and the Qur’an. We’ve talked about specific stories from the Bible. We’ve talked about our wives, our children, and our attempts to live holy lives. In a couple of cases, I’ve even gotten to directly share about the sacrifices Jesus has made to provide forgiveness for our sins.

It’s been a joy and a privilege to sow seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of these young men, and their receptivity has surprised me. Still, I’m waiting for a break-through in their understanding and acceptance of the Gospel. To this end, I’ve recently started considering the way that they need to come face-to-face with Jesus for themselves — and I’m wondering if my friends’ dreams might be a part of that process. Of course, there will always be a need for on-the-ground personal interaction, like the time Majed and I connected the day before Thanksgiving. I was able to answer a lot of his questions about Christianity, and he was grateful to receive a copy of the Bible with parallel English /  Arabic translations that I brought for him. Ultimately, though, my witness for Christ will only bring someone along so far. God needs to reveal Himself in a meaningful way, especially in our cultural context. So I’ve started praying more in this direction, and I would love to have you pray with me.

I genuinely believe that we’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2017! God continues to provide opportunities for greater impact and broader scope, and we continue to trust Him for the resources to match that vision. As you may know, year-end giving is significant to our overall budget. This year, we are trusting the Lord for an additional $5,000 in year-end gifts. Would you please think and pray about helping to meet this goal? As you feel led, though, please consider helping us in the following ways:

  • A special gift. An additional gift of $500, $300, or $100 is a tremendous blessing at the close of the year, and it will be especially strategic in providing the means for pioneering new ministry initiatives in the year to come.
  • Giving via LifeLink. If you give regularly by mail, please consider a switch to this safe, easy, and flexible service. It saves significantly on administrative costs and ensures that more goes directly to Gospel work.
  • Increasing your regular giving amount. A new year means a new missionary budget. With an increase in your regular giving amount, you can help meet important and necessary increases for 2017.

We are very grateful for what you’re already doing to partner with us in life and ministry. As Kent State University’s Fall semester wraps up in the next couple of weeks, I hope to give you a call — both to catch up as well as to see if you’d like to help in any of the ways mentioned in this letter. In any event, though, I just want to say thank you for all your support throughout 2016! We look forward to everything God will do in the year to come. We’ll be in touch…

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