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Missions 101

A Short History of Student Missions

May. 25, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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Power Encounters: Would You Know What to Do

May. 24, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

One of my closest friends on this earth recorded the following event. He is not Pentecostal. His is not Charismatic. He has a master's degree is biology from Georgetown University and is serving with the Anglican Church in Kenya where he works with youth. 

On the evening of Thursday, 5th December, I was attending a Youth Rally in Ywaya near Nyalwanga Primary School at Mzee John Oduor Odero’s homestead. The meetings continued late into the night as many young people responded to the message of salvation. At one point, seven young adults came forward and knelt at the front of the meeting hall to receive prayer and publically confess faith in Jesus Christ. I was seated in the front row and was directly next to the youth and reached out to pray with them. As the evangelist prayed, two of the young women began to shake and then went into convulsions, their bodies twitching and rolling back and forth across the ground. Their eyeballs turned upwards in the sockets and the women were unable to speak but occasionally let forth loud shrieks. The noise and movement created quite a disturbance, but the women were allowed to roll and convulse freely as we continued to pray with the others. 

Several minutes later another young woman seated directly behind me entered a trance like state and fell to the ground. She lay there shaking in one spot for about ten minutes and then became still. Next, one of the young men who had come forward for prayer also collapsed to the ground. He started rolling back and forth across the dirt floor at an incredibly rapid (physiologically impossible?) rate, knocking over the PA system and tearing his white t-shirt into pieces. His nose and mouth began to release large quantities of clear mucous and eventually a foam substance. Several leaders tried to grab hold of the young man to prevent him from disturbing the meeting, but they were unable to either hold him still or carry him away. The worship team began to sing songs of praise in Dholuo and KiSwahili as the four young people continued to convulse on the ground. Pastor Emmanuel, John Okidi and others around them prayed. We began a period of intense deliverance ministry with several of the leaders exhorting demons to depart in the name of Jesus. One by one over a period of about 30 minutes, each of the youth regained normal consciousness and were able to confess Christ and enter a period of worship. The young man climbed to his feet, wiped the mucous from his face and staggered to his seat, covered in dirt. 

A short time later, the evangelist reiterated the call for repentance and salvation and asked if anyone else would come forward for prayer. With wet eyes, one teenager came and knelt quietly at the front. As the music continued, however, the girl’s countenance and demeanour changed dramatically. As the music stopped, she stared forward with a fierceness in her eyes and clenched teeth as her cheek muscles pulsed. She then began to shout and curse the evangelist in Dholuo(?). She attempted to stand up and made an effort to slap him repeatedly with the front of her right hand, but was unable to get up off of her knees. Many present began to rebuke the demon and the woman fell onto her back. Her body began contorting violently, such that her clothing came loose. Several members of the worship team including Rosemary Ogonya (?) came forward to cover the girl with blankets and tried to hold her still. However she continued to contort and kick and push people away. After about 10 minutes, a group of male and female ministers picked up the girl, having wrapped her in blankets. They then carried her to a secluded place near the gate of the compound, to avoid disturbing the meeting. The team continued to pray and engage in deliverance ministry with this girl for the next 30-45 minutes. 

As worship continued, the man who had earlier been rolling on the ground asked if he could speak. He came to the front and was given the microphone. Pastor Emmanuel translated for me into English as the young man shared a story of how he had come to this place. He was with friends at a disco in Rabar when he heard the music and preaching outside and felt like he just needed to leave and follow. He walked with several friends from the disco to the Revival Meeting. His friends left upon arrival, but he stayed and heard God speak to him to turn from his sins and put his trust in Jesus Christ. He found himself kneeling in front and experiencing God’s gift of salvation. We finished the meeting around 12:30 a.m. with 10 having put their trust in Christ and 5 receiving clear deliverance from demonic bondage.

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When Missionaries Come Off the Field

May. 23, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Carla Williams reflects on why missionaries leave the field and how you can help them. She notes that they leave the field primarily for three reasons:

• Forced exit—Many missionaries find themselves back in the States for reasons completely outside their control. Closed countries do not hesitate to deport missionaries with little or no notice. Sometimes a crisis in the family gives them no other option. The missionaries didn’t choose to return, and if they could choose, they’d still be on the field. Most of these missionaries have had no time to process the sudden change in their lives, and their grief is often intense.

• Healthy transition—There are good, healthy reasons why workers return from the field. Maybe they have successfully handed the ministry over to local believers and no longer need to be there. Maybe they recognize serious red flags in their family life and are wise enough to return before there’s an emergency. Maybe they realize they are ineffective in their role, and rather than stubbornly persisting in unfruitful ministry, they come back to the States to evaluate and pursue a better fit. Maybe they simply know God is closing that chapter. For these people, even though they believe it was the right decision to come back, they are still grieving the life they left behind.

• Potentially avoidable reasons—Situations like team conflict, moral failure, loss of vision or passion, and others may seem as if they could have been dealt with before the problem led to attrition. In these situations, it’s easy to make assumptions about what should have happened, but none of that can be changed once the family has returned.

Because of this they can feel burnt out or hopeful as they make a transition. She then offers ways you can help them. Some include:

Pray—Pray for their family to adjust. Pray for the friends, teammates, and people group they left behind. Pray for their decisions and future. Tell them you are praying for these things. Ask to pray with them, and ask them what they see as their greatest needs. The most influential thing you can do for them is stand next to them in prayer.

Tangible steps—There are a number of physical ways to help the missionary family in their transition back to the States. Your church can encourage and pay for formal debriefing. This will give the family the tools it will need in the next few months and years to properly process, celebrate, and grieve their experiences.

You can also find out what physical things the family needs and provide them. Usually, when workers come back to the States, they lack most of the standard household furniture and supplies they need to create a normal life. You can help with finding a house, moving expenses, and physical labor. Offer to babysit the kids to allow the parents time to talk and plan. You can also provide normal activities like hanging out over dinner or renting a movie to all watch together, without expecting them to feel completely natural or at ease. Don’t be offended if they need to decline for awhile.

Listen—Ask about their lives in the field, about the everyday things and the defining moments—and then let them talk. Give them a chance to remember, laugh, and cry. Recognize the value of their experiences by letting them share with you—even when you don’t understand.

Don’t give suggestions or try to encourage them until you’ve listened for as long as they need, which is probably going to be longer than you expect. Be a safe place for them by deliberately refusing your impulse to fix the situation.

You can validate their experiences and decisions simply by letting them share those with you. In an interview for ExpatWomen ( in 2007, Ruth Van Reken explained, “Comfort is simply acknowledging the loss, validating its reality, and giving the person space to grieve properly before pushing him or her to move past it.”

Withhold judgment—When missionaries come back, it’s important to remember you do not know what God is doing. It’s easy to judge whether they should have stayed, done something differently, or come back a long time ago, but we simply don’t know. The returning missionaries can’t change any of those things now anyway.

Read the whole thing here.

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Fun Friday: American Hand Gestures in Different Cultures - 7 Ways to Get Yourself in Trouble Abroad

May. 20, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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The Changing Faces of Persecution

May. 18, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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