More than Tourists

I am a tourist. I got my passport and fist full of Euros. For years I have been watching Rick Steve’s Europe preparing for such a time as this. I am reminded of my status every day as I navigate the greater Brussels area.IMG_20160701_185422598_HDR

But something happened during my walk back to the apartment in Diegem with my family. I had an epiphany. I realized that I was not living and commuting in a tourist trap, but rather in someone else’s hometown. Belgian streets may have postcard appeal, but ultimately they are home to ordinary people just like us. From that moment on, it all suddenly became ordinary — mundane. The thrill was gone.

But we don’t depend on thrills (as much as missionaries are ready for adventure). Ultimately we need to live by faith and not by sight nor by feelings. We need to see the world through kingdom eyes. More than anyone, we should be able to enjoy our Father’s world, even in its fallen condition. Still we should be able to recognize all the good culture has to offer, while searching for opportunities to communicate the gospel.

Seeking God’s Glory in the Mundane

IMG_20160629_150959022In God’s grammar of redemption, the Lord has chosen the mundane things to point us to heavenly realities. In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter draws upon the common building material of his day to describe the people of God, calling us “living stones…built up as a spiritual house.” God, our “architect and builder” (Heb 11:10) is building a dwelling place for himself amidst his people.

The common building material in Belgium is brick. As you walk the streets, behold the abundant variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns. Each brick has its own character. In every wall there is a story. Consider the ZavCenter where we are currently training. Originally a factory, there are parts of the building that date back to circa 1248 A.D.  From then until now, there have been additions, demolitions, renovations, and repairs. The 13th century brick layers had no idea their bricks were being used for a missionary training center nearly eight centuries later. Today the story continues.

Living Bricks

I don’t think we would be stretching Peter’s metaphor to compare us to bricks. Unlike Pink Floyd’s popular refrain, we are not “just another brick in the wall.” Our God knows who we are. We are not numbered but named, and he has carefully placed us exactly where we belong. Much of our work in missions is mundane. We may feel insignificant at times, but we have no idea how the Lord will use us as he builds his church.

IMG_20160709_153445543_HDRAs we walk the streets of Europe captivated by the great cathedrals and other architectural achievements, don’t let your wonder get snagged in the spires — however high they may reach. Let your wonder ascend into praise and adoration as you remember that God is building us into a “spiritual house” in which he will dwell forever.

Patrick Lennox

Note: This was written while we were in Belgium for cross-cultural ministry training.  More than Tourists was originally posted in our weekly newsletter for our fellow MTW missionaries.

Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions

Jonathan_Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758), Puritan pastor and missionary to the Mohawk and Mohican Indians, and author of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Are the best days behind us? Have we missed out on a golden age of missions to Native America? The history of missions to Indigenous peoples of North America is extremely complicated with much to rejoice and lament about.  One particular lamentable observation came from the revered Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century while reflecting on his predecessors. He said, “The English of Massachusetts were too interested in fixing the Indians…than giving them the gospel.” How true that was then, and sadly, that sentiment was an underlying motivation for many churches all throughout the history of missions in the U.S. And where has that actually brought us?

Why bother?

I’ve been reading Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life lately. It is truly one of those books that makes you want to pray. Really. I have been recognizing my own personal shortcomings in prayer. One thing in particular that Miller points out is that many of us have become cynical regarding prayer. After pondering that idea, it hit me. I realized that I was able to identify something I have been sensing over the years regarding a common attitude toward Native American missions. I just could not put a name on it, but now it is clear — cynicism.

Too often when I bring up the topic of Native American missions, I continually hear the predictable mentions of casinos, animism, alcoholism, and government handouts. When folks hear of the plagues in Native America such as alcoholism, addictions, violence, and suicide, they are so quick to attribute it all to government handouts that are keeping Native Americans lazy, which in turn causes them to drink because of all the time on their hands, and so goes the vicious cycle.

With that as the accepted backdrop, the shrewd potential donor would ask, “What is the point in sending missionaries to Native America? They are not really poor, just lazy.” I don’t have enough space to address that position, but if I am reading the tone correctly, it seems that many Christians simply have become cynical regarding Native American missions. Why do we keep giving to them? Is it really helping? We will never fix them.

Then there others who, although seemingly hopeful, speak very fondly of a short-term mission trip to a reservation where they helped build a porch, paint a house, or met some other material need. I hear those stories again and again, and I rejoice with them.

As much as I wholeheartedly believe in those outreach efforts, I am afraid that that is all those people imagine Native American missions to be about. I am proposing that they, too, are affected by cynicism without knowing it. They don’t really think there is anything else to do but to ease the pain in Indian Country with mercy ministry efforts. Is it that these folks don’t really expect anything more out of Native Americans other than to be passive recipients of a generous church group?

Let’s fix our perspectives

How about this? Let’s stop trying to “fix” people. Let us not be condescending or paternalistic. Let’s come along side our Native American brothers and sisters and walk with them. Let’s expect great things from the Native Christian church. Is it possible that such a suffering people empowered by grace can display and proclaim God’s kingdom in ways that we have not witnessed in a long time? Let’s believe that God can heal the brokenness in Native America.  Let’s believe that the Native Christian church can strengthen the rest of the body of Christ and teach us something about forgiveness and perseverance. Let’s actually believe that the best years are ahead of us starting today.

To learn more about how can help serve Native America, click Five Things You Can Do.

To learn how best to give to our mission and support us, click GIVING.

Footnotes:

*Source: Jonathan Edwards DVD series by Dr. Stephon Nichols, Ligonier Ministries.

**Tribal sponsored sign in the Crow Nation. Source: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com

‘Fade to Black’: Of Irony and Redemption

no-hope-beyond-point(Below is an appendix to larger and more important story, Hopeless in Native America. Please read that story.)

I remember running up to my room when I was six or seven years old. I was crying, angry at my mother. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember being so upset that I took a belt and wrapped it around my neck and yanked on it a couple of times. I remember cursing God and telling him how much I hated him. As far as I know, that only happened once, but I will never forget it. Later in my teen years, strong feelings of suicide would return, only this time they would relentlessly assault me.

I was hopeless. For brevity sake, I won’t speak of all the conditions that led to that, but suffice to say, drug usage only exacerbated problems that were already there. The point of no return for me was during a trip on LSD. One particular effect from LSD is that you are unable to lie. Amid all the hallucinations, there was one illusion I could no longer maintain – my life. While staring at myself in the mirror, I was awakened from a dream to the nightmare that I was not who I thought I was, nor was I going to be what I wanted be. Of the billions of all the other lost souls in the world, I was just one more nobody called Patrick Lennox. It was a moment of truth for me — a big ugly truth. Hopelessness penetrated my core. For the next four years I vainly attempted to create meaning and value for myself through music.

James Hetfield Fade to Black lyricsIronically it was a song about suicide that gave me hope. It was ‘Fade to Black,’ written by James Hetfield, songwriter, singer, and founder of Metallica. Let me carefully explain what I mean by that lest anyone take that in the worst possible way. First of all, in defense of the song, it does not prescribe nor recommend suicide. It is diary in song written by someone who has seen a lot of pain in his life. Hetfield grew up in a Christian Science home. His father left him when he was young, and shortly afterwards his mother suffered from cancer. Due to her Christian Science beliefs, she was not treated and finally died from her disease.

Although I did not know Hetfield’s story during my dark adolescent years, it became apparent to me through the song that he must have been writing from something deeply personal. For sure, I thought, James Hetfield must have felt this song before he wrote it. The song was not just another death glorifying theme in the thrash metal industry. It was authentic. It was written by someone who knew. When I came to realize that, I didn’t feel as alone as before, and I felt there was a glimmer of hope for me. If someone like James Hetfield can rise from the ashes, then maybe I could too. My ashes were rejection from a father and friends, depression, non-stop drug use, bitterness, hatred, and dissatisfaction with what the world had to offer. Over all it was just plain hopelessness.

And the point in all this? I would never recommend nor prescribe this song as a means of counseling anyone who is contemplating suicide. It could have easily gone a different direction for me or someone else. But I cannot ignore the fact that it was during that one dark night while listening to that song, I had a little bit of hope, if only for a little while. I must give glory to God for incorporating that song (and other Metallica songs for that matter) into the ‘all things’ in Romans 8:28. Music was something I wanted to create, and James Hetfield reminded me at a very low point in my life that just maybe I could do this.

But like everything else in this created order, not even music can give meaning and worth to anyone. Within a few years in the midst of my meager attempt to be someone in the music world, the Lord Jesus Christ found me and saved me from my sins, my self, and ultimately from God’s wrath. But he also saved me to his love, peace, and eternal life in Christ.

Essential After Thoughts

It is important to know that through those years, the Lord used the love of my mother to keep me from finally ending it. She was not the source of any of those feelings during those adolescent years. Quite the opposite. But ultimately I believed I was living in a world without God. I always knew my mother loved me. The thought of leaving her and my sister in this empty miserable world often kept me from following through. But as powerful as a mother’s love can be, it cannot give life to the dead. It was the love of God that penetrated to my core and gave me new life in Christ. For that I am eternally thankful.

Patrick Lennox

 

 

Mokahum: A New Beginning

Dear friends,

Mokahum is an Ojibwe word that literally means ‘sunrise’ or ‘new day.’ Metaphorically it represents a new beginning for Native American Christians as they set out on a journey walking the Jesus way.  The Mokahum Ministry Center provides discipleship and leadership training for Native American and First Nation Christians. By God’s grace, we were extended a call from Mokahum to serve among Native leaders (and non-Native), serving future Native leaders, in the middle of Indian Country. Below is a message from our brother in the Lord, Zane Williams:

A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Mokahum Ministry Center’s purpose is bringing Native American people to life and maturity in Christ by equipping disciples and training leaders through culturally relevant biblical education, ministry training, and life skills development. Together with students from all over the United States and Canada, you can come to Mokahum to learn from veteran ministry leaders, develop your gifts in a local church, and build lifetime relationships. Mokahum Ministry Center has a long history as a residential ministry training facility.
Zane Williams
It’s been rewarding to see firsthand how God has worked in the lives of the students who have received their discipleship and ministry certificates since our reopening in 2009. Our staff is committed to training tomorrow’s Native leaders today!
If you have a personal relationship with Christ, I invite you to consider being a student at Mokahum. Come just the way you are and see what God does in your life.
Zane Williams (Navajo)
Director of the Mokahum Ministry Center
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. We have not yet reached our financial goal that will enable us to get to the field. We are halfway there. Would you consider how you can financially help us get to Mokahum? By partnering with us, you will be a part of an essential ministry to Native America. Please take a look at the most effective way you can GIVE to get us to the field by reading our FAIR WINDS post. Once you have read that, please go to our GIVING page here. Please CONTACT US, we would love to share with you what the Lord is doing in Native America.

Please prayerfully consider being a part of the this vital ministry to Native America. Let’s see the name of Jesus proclaimed in all nations!

All for the Kingdom!

Patrick & Regina Lennox

Why Native America?

mokahum signPeople often ask me, why Native America? Of all the people groups in the world, what is it that makes you so concerned about Native Americans? Why not just pastor a church somewhere in Central Florida? The short answer is that God has given me a burden for Native Americans. Now that is the simplest and easiest answer I can give, but that does not exclude the countless secondary causes that God has providentially used in the course of my life. I will not list them here, but there are two things that compel me to serve the Lord in Native America.

  1. I believe Christ was poorly represented among indigenous people for five centuries in North America. This does not ignore the many, successful missionary endeavors of the various denominations, mission agencies, and good Christian neighbors throughout history. There are wonderful stories  But when we look at the overall scope of history, Jesus was poorly represented by His church. We must take a hard look at ourselves, identify our mistakes, learn what attitudes and thinking patterns caused those mistakes, repent, reform ourselves, and continue to pursue our Native neighbors with the love of Jesus Christ.
  2. We need Native Americans in the church. We don’t need a Native church, that is, we are not looking to create a separate Native church and/or keep the Native churches to themselves, although the location of local congregations may dictate that. All of us  in the church — both Native and non-Native — need each other. We are stronger when we are unified and diversified. That is New Testament 101. Part of the problem in the church’s mission strategy of the past (and dare I say ‘present’) to Native America was the notion that Natives need us. Well, they actually do need us, but we truly need them, too. Really! We need to be mutually edified as we unify with our Native brothers and sisters. This is where Jesus is glorified. He prayed for this in John 17. I want to worship and serve with my Native brothers and sisters and offer them whatever gifts our Father has given me to reach, serve, and build up more Native Americans for a stronger church.

I could list more reasons, but they would be sub-points to the two listed above. I will expand on these reasons in another post, but for now, I hope you would have a better idea of why Regina and I, with our family, are hoping to serve in Native America. Would it be enough to say that we just love Native Americans?

When will we get there?

We are still living in Sanford, FL until we receive our full funding. We cannot go until we have all of it pledged. We will be serving at the Mokahum Ministry Center near Bemidji, MN (the first city on the Mississippi). Please consider partnering with us with your prayerful and monthly financial support. We cannot do this without you!

To give sign up to be a pledged supporter or give a special gift, click here.

To learn about the different ways to give, please read the Fair Winds post.

To learn about other ways you can help, please read Five Things You Can Do.

Until next time…

A Better Ending

American_progress

This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress, is an allegorical representation of the modernization of the new west. Here Columbia, a personification of the United States, leads civilization westward with American settlers, stringing telegraph wire as she sweeps west; she holds a school book as well. The different stages of economic activity of the pioneers are highlighted and, especially, the changing forms of transportation. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny

We live and worship on land that once belonged to a diverse mission field. Living on this beautiful continent, which we now call North America, were many civilizations — great and small, peaceful and warring, admirable and some less admirable. We now commonly lump them together as one people called American Indians or Native Americans.  They lived here in great numbers until the American experiment decided to forcibly take it in the name of a superior civilization and progress–often with the blessing of the church, both Catholic and Protestant, under the pretense of God’s work.  Rome’s Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave birth to the Doctrine of Discovery along with the millennial theologies in Protestant circles created the perfect environment for Manifest Destiny and euphemistically, ‘westward expansion.’

Living Up to Our Values

We have told ourselves and the world that our country was built on Judeo-Christian values, yet when someone found gold in Georgia, for instance, the Cherokee and other tribes were removed from their home lands, marched away on the infamous Trail of Tears. Many of them were our brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank the Lord for the missionaries like Presbyterian missionary Samuel Worcester and the Moravian missionaries who fought tirelessly for the rights of the Cherokee and served among them for the kingdom of Christ.

American missions was once an exciting venture for our early forefathers like Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd, while the country was forming. It just seems strange to me that now our country is established, and so much damage has been done by a nation that declares itself to be Christian, that our zeal for missions to Native America has waned. Yet they remain. More than that, their populations have rebounded from 250,000 by the end of the 19th century to over 5 million today. Some chapters have closed, but the story is not finished.

God’s Perspective

Isaiah 52:10 tells us that our God is a God of the nations:

The Lord has bared his holy arm

before the eyes of all the nations,

and all the ends of the earth shall see

the salvation of our God.

Our Lord Jesus tells us to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:18). There are 566 sovereign Native nations within the borders of the US, and many more to the north and south of our borders. The Great Commission is to every tribe, tongue, and nation. To not recognize the 566 Native nations is to not recognize Jesus’ authority over the Great Commission.

By Grace, It’s Not Over

Let’s have a better ending. The first 500 years of missions in this country is a story of praiseworthy successes and dismal and lamentable failures. Sadly, it seems our failures have had the most lasting effect. But I believe we are in a new and exciting chapter of Native missions. There is a better ending to be written in Native American missions. The fields are ripe for harvest. The door is open, and the Lord bids us go.

I hope you will want to be a part of this new chapter and go with us. You can do more than you think. Please read Five Things You Can Do and Contact Us.

When Irish Eyes are Singing: A Tribute to Pastor Carl Guiney, part 2

Carl Guiney“God’s people ought to be a singing people.” This was the conviction of Pastor Carl Guiney. My first introduction to him was when I first walked into First Assembly of God in Woonsocket, RI, on a cold winter morning back in 1990.  As I took my seat, some dear singing soul behind me handed me a hymn book opened and awaiting my participation.  Embarrassed to say, I didn’t sing a note. I can’t even remember the song, but I know it was joyful.

A Musician’s Musician

The singing was led by Pastor Raymond Shepherd while his wife, Edna, played the organ. On the piano was Pastor Guiney, a man small in stature, but full of joy, wisdom, and meekness. I didn’t know he was the pastor until he took his post at the pulpit when the singing concluded. As a musician, I was very impressed by his musicianship. He had full command of that piano. He could play every hymn in the book and many more from memory. Not only did he play what was on the page, but he also had the ability to improvise and create beautiful bridges into other songs all the while admonishing the people with words of encouragement. He had excellent technique, full of power and finesse. His style was lively, tasteful, and reverent. Not only could he sight-read with ease, he could also transpose the song on the fly if it were in a key too high for us to sing. He would then call out the key to Edna on the organ with hand signals like a baseball catcher calling pitches to the mound. He really was a musician’s musician.

A Singing People

The music at First Assembly was a combination of hymns and praise songs. During those years, I was completely oblivious to the so-called worship wars. Under Pastor Guiney’s leadership, I developed a real appreciation for hymns mostly and other styles of music as well. I will resist a long discussion on the old debate of “traditional vs. contemporary,” except to say that as a young bass player in a heavy metal band during those years, I had no hang-ups about singing those “old-fashioned” songs. It was in that church where I first sung “What a Day That Will Be,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and “Sing Oh Sing of My Redeemer.” And our praise songs were usually taken directly from Scripture, “Therefore the Redeemed of the Lord” (Isa 51:11), and “As the Deer” (Ps 42:1). We sang every Lord’s Day morning and evening, as well as Thursday night Bible study — before and after. In fact, every time we were together, we sang. We were a singing people.

Teamwork

Pastor Guiney had a great team to lead us. Pastor Shepherd, who was Pastor Guiney’s father-in-law, chose many of the songs for worship and led us in singing with a powerful voice that really did not need amplification. Pastor Shepherd’s wife, Edna, faithfully played the organ. We were also graced by Pastor’s wife, Faith, as she offered songs of encouragement and praise, many times in duet with her mother, Edna. It was a family affair, of which we were all welcomed to join.

Pastor Guiney truly was inspirational and encouraged everyone to use their musical gifts. One day Pastor Guiney asked me to consider playing my bass in service. I was honored and terrified. I did not sight-read very well, and even when I was able to decipher the music, I had to figure out how to take piano bass clef and play it in a way that made sense on a bass guitar. So I set up my amp next to the piano and followed Pastor Guiney’s left pinky when I got lost, which was often.

‘Singing and Making Melody from Your Heart to the Lord’

I appreciate Pastor’s graciousness toward others like me who wanted to participate in the music. Because of that, we were blessed by a lot of great singing. All of us came with different skill levels, and we all played and sang a lot of bad notes. Now of course Pastor Guiney knew that the Bible teaches us that singers and musicians ought to perform skillfully, but he also knew that God did not require perfection to be pleased. So we sang and played at our varying skill levels with hearts to the Lord offering our sacrifices of praise.

Sour Notes

I have heard people express the belief that it is not proper for the pastor to be a musician during Sunday worship. Somehow, as the reasoning goes, the people will not be able to transition in their minds from the musician to the pastor, therefore the pastor will lose his authority and respect among the people. I can’t say this emphatically enough: If you believe that, you simply didn’t know Pastors Carl Guiney and Raymond Shepherd or the congregation they served. Their love of song and praise only added to our respect and admiration for our leaders. If anything, they set the bar too high for other pastors, but I speak in jest.

Forever Singing

I have been in churches that excel in musicianship. I have heard great choirs and ensembles. I have heard the giant pipe organs bellowing out heavenly and thunderous sounds that move the soul (O, how I wish Edna could have had one!). But for all that it is worth, I still hold those early years with Pastor Guiney at First Assembly most precious. It was there I joined the singing people of God and learned to make a joyful noise to the Lord.

Pastor Guiney was brought up in church and did not remember a day when he was not singing. Now ‘with no less days to sing God’s praise,’ he is singing with the heavenly choir in the Church Triumphant. I thank the Lord for his life, his deep love for music, and his ability to shepherd his people with ‘hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs’ (Eph 5:19).

You may read Part 1 of A Tribute to Pastor Carl Guiney here.