Set the table

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This is a guest post by Michelle Harris Suter.  Wife, Mother of three and Follower of Christ.

Priscilla Shirer began her day of teaching last Saturday with this visual…”God has prepared an enormous banquet for you but you have to get your own plate, fork, knife and cup and take a seat at the table in order to benefit from this grand meal.”  I like what she’s saying already.  God has the goods, but we must take action as well to take advantage of it all.

The day was full of great teaching, studying the story of Elijah, his prophesy in front of King Ahab and notorious Queen Jezebel, his escape to the brook where he was miraculously cared for by ravens and shielded from King Ahab’s search party.  We looked at his transformation from leaning on his own ability to trusting God through impossible circumstances to see miracles happen — God ability. 1 Kings 17 and 18.  Go read it!  I loved how many great visuals Priscilla brought to light through this passage.

I am a visual person, cannot sit and read directions, just show me how to do it, right? Beside “setting the table” she talked about “slow cooking with Jesus” taking time to go through the process with Jesus so that he builds the character in us needed to do the tasks He’s prepared for us.  Ephesians 2:10

She told a story of her son who found a treasured acorn in the bottom of a mason jar, but when he tried to retrieve it, his clenched fist wouldn’t fit through the mouth of the jar. Sometimes God asks us to let go of something because He sees the bigger picture that we can’t.  Sometimes we need to separate ourselves from something that might be keeping us from the next step in our process with Jesus.  The idea being, trust God and let go. Can you see why I enjoyed all this so much?  Setting the table, slow cooking, mason jars….this southern girl is hooked.

The last image to leave you with was her morning cup of tea.  She talked about her tea kettle, how she starts the water and walks away to work on something else, coming back when the water is ready. On one particular day she decided to stand by the tea kettle waiting for the water to heat.  At the first sign of steam, she poured her cup only to find her tea lukewarm after just a few minutes.  I loved this, because she mentioned that we do this with God, we don’t always walk through the process of being prepared, developed — heated up, that we head off to fight the giants at the first sign of steam.  “Everyone wants to be sent, not everyone wants to be separated to walk through each stage of the process so that our character will be ready for the task.”

There’s a lot for me to still think and pray about, but this makes me ask, where am I in the process?  What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?  Gonna go get my plate and fork and sit at the table for a while.

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Heaven Is For Real

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The Beauty Within

pic courtesy of bing/Beautiful Flowers in Sky Background

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Campfire: Be Light

IMG_8543Having someone shine a flashlight in your face is no fun. Just thinking about it, my face curls up into that shape. You know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you have seen people shine the light of Christ in the face of others. The same facial expression is made.

God wants us to be light, but not to shine our light in people’s faces. Light in darkness does not need to be directed at people. In fact, it is not really serving its purpose when it does this. Light is meant to be in darkness to guide, direct, serve.

If you have ever been in the woods at night, you know the value of light. The best kind, of course, is a campfire. Oh yeah. Campfires provide not only light, but warmth. In a dark and scary place, campfires are a refuge. People are attracted to campfires in the woods.

Do you know what kind of light people are not attracted to in the woods? Forest fires. They run from those. Forest fires will hurt you at best and have the destructive power to kill you.

As Jesus followers, God calls us to be light. Choose to be a campfire and not a forest fire. Be light in darkness that guides, directs and serves rather than consumes, overwhelms and destroys. May you be light.

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Monday Prayer

pic courtesy of bing / heavenly father

pic courtesy of bing / heavenly father

Loving Lord, you tell us in the Bible that whatever wrong we have done you tread down our faults to the bottom of the sea.

We know there is no need to keep thinking about what we have done in the past, because you pardon the wrongs we have done, and you delight in showing mercy.

You bind up all our wounds and you renew us by your love.

Lord, you love all that you have made, and it is your very nature to love and forgive.

Lead us to be generous in accepting and forgiving others in the same way as you accept and forgive us. Amen.

~ Accepting and forgiveness in the scriptures (Micah 7:18-19, Isaiah 43:18, Psalms 147:3)

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The Prayer Movement: Costa Rica

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Should Missionaries Write Newsletters or eNewsletters?

courtesy of bing / world of communications

courtesy of bing / world of communications

With the increase in use of social media, blogs and smart phones many missionaries are wondering if there is still a need for the old school paper newsletter. Some missionaries have ditched their snail mail Newsletters and only use an eNewsletter. Is this the right way to go? If you are just starting out as a missionary, should you begin with an eNewsletter? Which will best accomplish the goals you have for your mission? I will answer these questions in this post.

Purpose of Newsletters
Personally I believe there is a shift happening with supporters. More and more supporters want to do more than pray and give financially. They want to give their time too. This is actually not new, but technology is making it possible for donors to connect with you (the missionary) and the people you serve. Previously this was not the case. This will impact the role of updating supporters, but more on that in another post. For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that the role of your Newsletter/eNewsletter is to get prayer and financial support. Again, other things happen when you send your letter out, but these are foundational to the sustainability of your ministry.

A Story
A missionary, who has been on the field for a couple decades, recently told me that someone had advised him to stop doing his paper Newsletter and only do an eNewsletter. The reasons given were that it is easier, faster and cheaper. These are all true. However, there is something about a paper Newsletter that still connects with people. In fact, I only have one supporter that has told me they do not do anything with paper, everything is online. I have several people tell me just to send them an eNewsletter, but typically they do not actually support the ministry.

To my missionary friend I told the story of a supporter of mine who had planned to give at Christmas time. Now this donor is very technologically savvy. In fact, he is in the tech field professionally. He replies to my eNewsletters and I think he reads my blog posts. His plan was to split $3,000 between our ministry and another. As he went to write the check, he had our newsletter return envelope, but could not find the other ministry’s envelope. Merry Christmas to us…he wrote one check for the entire amount to us.

Why?
Here are five reasons why you should start with or continue using a paper Newsletter over an eNewsletter.

  1. People spend more time reading mail. Think about it. How many emails a day do you get? How long do you typically spend on emails? My philosophy with my eNewsletters is to make them readable, or at least scannable, in about 30 seconds. Most people will not be spending much more time on yours. Trust me. With mail, though, people will sit down and read the whole thing. They plan to spend several minutes reading mail.
  2. Newsletters are for everybody. An email is personal, yes, but then it gets deleted from that person’s email, phone, etc. Rarely are eNewsletters shared. Also, sometimes I do not have the email information for both spouses. This is why a Newsletter is so much better. It can be placed on the table or fridge for everyone in the house to read (including the kids). Even if a supporter tells me they prefer email, that does not mean their spouse does.
  3. Convenience, convenience, convenience. Yes it is easy to read an eNewsletter from one’s phone, tablet or desktop. Like I said before, though, your window of time is much shorter. Most people either try to clear out their email inbox regularly, or they don’t and your email disappears into the abyss of messages. A Newsletter, on the other hand, can be taken with you to the office, on a trip, to family events. When one has five or ten minutes they can sit down with it.
  4. Email is work. Mail is a treat. It is true. Email has become an essential part of many jobs. Your eNewsletter is being thrown in with the TPS Reports, the mass email chains your supporters are required to be CCed on at work, and those annoying emails they get from friends they haven’t seen in years. However, who does not love opening the mail?! It is more personal than email, in the fuzzy good kind of way. Also, you can mix it up from time to time. Add a personal PS, a photo, etc. Once a year, send out postcards in addition to the newsletters.
  5. Connection. People just build a deeper connection with those who send them mail. When it comes to raising prayer and financial support as a missionary, personal connection is essential. Do not be surprised if some of your supporters begin sending letters back to you. This is a good sign!

Technology Is Your Friend
Don’t get me wrong. I do eNewsletters. I also blog and use social media. These have helped increase my connection with supporters and my financial support. However, the homebase for support raising is the paper Newsletter. Everything else supports this very important tool.

Do you agree or disagree? Which do you think is more important Newsletter or eNewsletter? Please share in the comments section.

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