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Monthly Missions Update | April

4/30/2021

Visit our new Missions Wall to see how your praying, giving and going are making a global impact.  This month’s featured partner is IJM, working to end slavery around the world.  Hear how the Black Rock Family has creatively been connected with child rescues in Ghana and how you can help our Kids Ministry save another child by donating to their rescue fund. 

Kids Rescue Challenge

The children of Black Rock’s Kids ministry are taking up the challenge to fund the rescue of another child through our Missions program. Will you help them reach their project goal of $6,300 by the end of this year (if not sooner)?

Click to donate to Kids Rescuing Kids

Prayer Matters - Healing | 3/26/2021

Does prayer matter?  Yes, absolutely!  It’s hard to fathom how our small, human prayers somehow move God to act and change things in the heavenly realm, but we are told in the Bible to pray in the Spirit on all occasions, we are told to pray that the Lord of the harvest would sent out laborers, and as missionaries who often wonder if we are bold enough in our witness, we see that even Paul, the model missionary, asks his readers to pray for him that he would declare the Gospel fearlessly as he should.  (Eph 6:19-20)

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

I take courage in noting that even Paul seemed to have some doubts or fears about his witness.  And his prayer request is often our very same prayer request. So although we don’t fully understand how our prayers move God and change things, we pray in obedience to his Word and in faith that He hears, and answers.  

For us personally, one of the stories that is still most dear to us is when Kristen had her brain aneurysm back in our host country.  We asked you all to pray, and I know that many at Black Rock were praying, together with many more around the world.  God spared Kristen’s life, and restored her to full health with no lingering effects or neurological deficits.  The statistics at the time were that as many as 50% of people don’t survive the brain aneurysm rupturing, and of the 50% who survive that, at least half of those have lingering neurological problems.  We believe that God heard your prayers, and restored Kristen to full health.  I’m sure that there are many other stories we could share, but that one will always be one of those events in our family that we will always remember, and thank God for, and we are thankful to you all for your fervent prayers for her at that time.  

We appreciate you all very much!

Blessings,

Brad & Kristen C.

Prayer Matters - Specifics in N. Africa | 3/19/2021

Here’s a story on the power of specific prayers.

During one of our weekly mentoring sessions with a couple from North Africa who live outside their country and are responsible for a growing media work to reach their country, we learned that another one of their media team (a relatively new believer) had quit working with them. Over the past few years there had been other young believers who helped for a while, but when the ministry became tough and demanding or they had unsettled issues in their own lives, they drifted away and all the burden of the ministry fell back on our friends.

In our prayer letters we asked people to pray for local believers to help with the media ministry. As I thought about that request, I started to pray more specifically. “God, the media ministry (and our friends who are responsible) need mature believers from their country for this ministry!” I hardly had faith to pray this because being one of the least reached countries in North Africa, most of the believers have only known Jesus for a few weeks, months or years.

The next week when we met with our friends. They were bursting with good news about a believer in the country whom he just learned about! A well educated man had travelled to Europe years before when he was young and accepted the Lord there through the witness of Egyptian Christians who were his neighbors. When he returned to his country he had no fellowship and experienced persecution from everyone he attempted to witness to and he became a secret believer. But . . . he kept on reading and studying God’s word. It was an answer to prayer for him to find a “mature local believer”. Now we are praying that God will call this man to join the media ministry!

Vivienne & Clint S. | Serving the N. Africa region and U.S.A.

Prayer Matters - Generations | 3/12/2021

Does prayer matter?  We feel as if our lives on the field, as well as now, have been and are simply living out the answers to peoples’ prayers.  So many times when in Austria we would receive a letter from one of our prayer partners saying, “this is what I am praying for you” and it was a list of all of the things God was currently doing in our lives!  There were times in the lives of EACH ONE OF OUR SEVEN CHILDREN when they had near death experiences, and we were SO SURE someone was praying at that time.  

During our 22 years in Austria, we were always praying, asking, begging the Lord to send more workers into His harvest…with our first mission people were always leaving and we kept wondering how the ministry to refugees would ever be able to continue, so we asked Him to send more!  Terry and I both felt as if we could have each kept 10 people busy with the opportunities we had to reach out, to share, disciple, mentor, but there was only one plus one of us.  So we kept on praying, asking the Lord to send more workers!  For 22 whole years that was our constant request.

When our mission asked us to consider relocating to Virginia to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity at Liberty University, to mentor students interested in missions, we prayed many months before agreeing to at least go for Global Focus Week there to see if the Lord would confirm.  The week started with a weekend retreat where 45 students who felt God calling them overseas came for “Next Steps.”

As they were introducing themselves, each one stating where in the world or to what kind of ministry they felt the Lord was calling them, and most adding that they were willing to go WHEREVER He might send them, I felt the Lord tapping me on the shoulder.  “Remember how you’ve been praying for 22 years that I would send out more laborers?  These are all 22 years and under.  Look what I did!  Do you want to be part of this with Me?”  How could we say no to that?

For the past 8 years since then, we have seen Him continue to raise up laborers for His harvest right here in Virginia (coming from all over the place), many are already on the fields where He is sending them, some are still receiving training and preparing, and a large number are just about to be sent out.  It is something we never dreamed was possible, and we love every minute of what we get to do.  He has done all the work of drawing them to Himself, and then placing in their hearts the desire to GO…we get to encourage them with stories of His faithfulness, His provision, the dear ones we’ve seen come to Him, and we get to show them the things they can be doing RIGHT NOW to prepare:

ABIDING in Christ, His Words abiding in them, loving each other, sharing Christ with whomever they meet, and more.

Black Rock is where Terry attended his first missions conference, at age 15, where he was discipled in an amazing youth group where the leader encouraged the students to spend as much time in God’sWord as they did watching TV!

Black Rock is where he made a commitment to go wherever the Lord called him (scary as a teenager), where we were sent out as a couple, to go to Austria to work with refugees, where we saw the Lord answer the prayers of our prayer partners, beyond anything we could have imagined (Eph 3:20-21), drawing people from many nations to Himself, watching the Austrian church grow in their outreach to the nations, leading us through many challenges, and most lately, bringing us to Virginia where the next chapter of His faithfulness in our lives would happen.

We have so deeply appreciated the continued prayer and financial support of Black Rock, and we have continued to live out the answers to those prayers.  God has continued to pour out His blessing on our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren, also in answer to those faithful prayers.  Knowing how faithfully our prayer warriors have prayed for us, we also pray for Black Rock, for those prayer partners, and we ask the Lord to bless AS RICHLY and overwhelmingly as we have been blessed by their prayers!!

Donna Jeanne & Terry Schneider | Mobilization | Virginia (formerly Austria)

Prayer Matters - International Students (PA) | 3/8/2021

On November 16th, the day after enjoying a “hot pot” meal (kind of like fondue) with our students at our weekly community dinner, we found out that one of our students had tested positive for the COVID virus.  The ripple effect of this diagnosis caused a bit of a stir in the house since we had all been exposed and needed to get tested.  We asked for prayer that our house and ministry would be protected.  I had already been going through a devotional series based on one of my favorite Psalms with the kids – Psalm 91 and this Psalm seemed especially appropriate for our situation:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,  my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

Every last student, my husband, and I, who had eaten out of the community pot the night before, tested negative and our student who was subsequently quarantined to his bedroom only experienced minor symptoms and fully recovered.  

God was indeed showing us that the promises in His Word can be trusted and that the prayers of His saints are powerful and effective in seeing those promises applied. What is even better is that our students – some of whom do not yet know Jesus personally, also saw the power of prayer and of God’s protection over our home.  We continue to be COVID free despite welcoming new students and an occasional guest to our home –all for which we are praising God and are deeply thankful to those who are praying.

Lani Borgman Shade| International Students | Philadelphia

Prayer Matters - South Sudan | 3/5/2021

I could not imagine doing ministry without others and myself praying. I appreciate the support of Black Rock Church faithfully praying for me and my ministry concerns. I am unable to list all the examples where prayer has made a difference. Most recently, on my latest trip, your prayers for my dad on his own has helped. He texted me that he fell on black ice late at night and one leg was bent underneath him. He prayed and was able to get up and “walk it out”. It was a miracle that he did not break his leg and spend the night outside in the frigid cold. Also, on this trip, God has sustained me and opened opportunities to minister to people. These requests seem minor to the suffering I see but God answers all prayers. 

Will you pray with me for lasting peace to come to South Sudan? They became their own nation on July 9, 2011 and then in 2013 civil war erupted. Some of the effects have only been seen in our area of the country. Over a year a peace agreement was signed but it is slow to be implemented. Part of this process is that the two armies need to be integrated. At the same time the soldiers are not being fed or paid. Our state is under the governance of the opposition and the people here are not thrilled with this. We recently had many people displaced because of fighting. Many had homes burned and looted. They are not allowed to go finish their harvest and collect their food. The militia has given grazing rights to some nomadic people and received money. Yet, the people go without. The UN supports the refugees in our area but there is not much support for displaced people. I have seen some of the places where the displaced people are living. Some have no shelter and they have lost everything including all their livestock. These people experienced the long civil war with Sudan before independence and now they are experiencing their own civil war. 

So much suffering, yet the Christians are joyful. I worshiped with Christians who have lost everything and they did not complain but instead testified of God’s love. 

Thank you for praying!  
Vicki Beattie

Pat Butler - Arts & Uber | 6/8/2020

My ministry focus began as church planting and evangelism, which led directly into ministry with artists. Then I blended pastoral care counseling into spiritual formation of artists. I became one of the founding directors of OM Arts.

After serving in France for 12 years, I was deported and had to return to the States. I now have citizenship through another country, which enables me to work in Europe. I serve in Europe, around the Mediterranean basin, with one trip into Central America, and support artists globally through remote training, networking, encouraging, and mentoring.

When I was deported, I transferred over to the only known arts-in-mission ministry: OM’s Artslink (now part of Inspiro Arts Alliance). I’ve stayed with them ever since, working pastoral care experience into spiritual formation of artists.

When our leadership team transitioned, the desire was to scatter leadership around the world. I looked for my next place in ministry, with a view towards retirement. That changed when the Latin American field decided to change from a receiving to a sending field. I continued with trainings in Italy and began work on a discipleship book for training, using its materials to mentor remotely.

At a recent BRC mission conference, we focused on digital communications. I learned more as we all interacted on the theme, and I picked up a book at the book table—The Social Church—which refined my vision for digital missions. I launched in 2019 with one theme, with a new theme in 2020: healing. I’m a bit in awe that two months into the year, COVD-19 roared into our lives and we all went remote.

What I thought was a sort of side hustle that could follow me into retirement years went on fast track. I’m piloting one online course how and scrambling to keep up with pushing content. Retirement delayed but I’m a happy camper to be in a sweet spot. My audience has widened considerably to include non-believers, LGBTQ, and gamers.

Just as I was building a head of steam with the book and remote discipleship, my finances crashed. While I worked on rebuilding support, the book went on back burner and I prepared some donor trips for 2020, but things worsened and I couldn’t wait. In October, I applied for Uber and began driving to supplement income. My goal was to get to March when I could draw Social Security at a better rate—two years earlier than my retirement goal, but available as an option.

It was a funny unique challenge in that I hate driving but discovered I loved Uber driving—welcoming people to my car, offering to pray for some need if it came up, sharing faith when possible, and giving materials to some. I met my community on a deeper level, discovered how many internationals were here, some of whom I could greet in their language.

Within weeks of driving, finances reversed and continue strong, even though I’ve had to stop Uber because of the pandemic. I still shake my head over what happened. Never thought Uber would be part of my missionary resume!

Sign up now to pray for Pat and receive monthly updates: blackrock.org/iwillpray

How a pandemic has opened new doors | 5/1/2020

We posed the question to our Global Partners, “How has this global pandemic been used by God to open new opportunities & conversational doors and encourage you?”

Here are a few of their replies:

COLBY PUTNAM | Students in Southern New England

I actually do have a fun story for you. So I’ve still been doing ministry with my students (albeit virtually), but I’ve been in NH with my folks for the lock-down.   Now it’s been years since I’ve spent a lot of time up here, but I still know a number of my street neighbors.   Anyway, as I had been doing leadership team meetings with my students, we asked how we could be witnessing during this time and I decided I would write a nice letter offering a chance to talk or to pray with any of my neighbors and drop it off in each of their mailboxes.   That’s 24 letters!     Since doing that about a week ago, I’ve had a number of people see me or my folks out for walks and share how much they appreciated it.  I even have a phone call later today with my next door neighbor, which I hope will be a great opportunity to talk about deep things.   For now, it’s mostly seeds being planted, but we’ll have to see what happens as the next several weeks come to pass.

GARY & ELAINE A. | Diplomats and Global Leaders

I don’t think I have ever been busier. In the past 15 hours, I have received correspondence from the presidents of two countries. I labor intensely over every response as every one is a call for help and I dare not answer from the flesh. The one last evening was so urgent that I had to answer before going to bed. Sometimes I am asked what an average day is like. It is about hanging on to the Holy Spirit’s coattails.

JAMES HUNT | Students @ Fairfield U.

I have been the recipient of radical generosity in a time when financial situations are uncertain. My previous laptop began to breakdown sometime in January. It would turn off for no reason in the middle of my work! When the shut downs began to happen due to COVID-19, I began to become anxious as I could not afford to fix my laptop and knew that I would need a new one to do my work as we began to transition to virtual ministry. In the middle of March, I sent out an update letter to my donors letting them know how the ministry was being impacted due to virus, as well as asking them for prayers regarding my laptop situation.

In less than 24 hours, a donor responded offering to buy me a brand new laptop! I couldn’t believe it! I accepted their offer in disbelief and in less than a week I had a brand new laptop.

Definitely a move of God that I didn’t expect! Praise Him!

REAGAN DYKHOUSE | Ukraine

Something exciting happened yesterday. One of my friends, who works at the café right next to my apartment reached out to me because he needs financial assistance with his rent. I am pretty sure he is not much into faith, so this is a really cool opportunity to impact his life in a small way. My prayer is that he recognizes God’s work in my life that makes me willing to help. He even asked me “why are you so good-natured?” My response was, “Because, bro. God!” I certainly praise God for this opportunity! It’s kind of a great, and encouraging, fulfillment of the relationship building God has lead me in.

EMIL & SARAH H. | Europe

I have spoken with our neighbors more in the past 5 weeks then during the previous 5 years.  I have had some meaningful conversations, but it will take time to develop relationships.  We have been locked in our houses for six weeks, but this week we finally got all of the authorizations to reopen our food bank which is a collaboration between several agencies here in our city and we had three days of distribution. On our first day, the first lady who came to pick up food was so grateful and she kept saying over and over how grateful she was that we were there to help. She is the only real interaction that I witnessed because I was inside preparing bags of food.  The rules of the quarantine dictate what we can do, and we had to keep a distance from the people receiving help.

One really sad thing: One day while we were distributing food, a man jumped from his balcony to his death some 75 meters from where we were.  We couldn’t see anything, but it struck me that as we were trying to provide hope there was someone so close who we were not able to help.

ANNELI J. | Sweden

A couple of weeks ago, we moved our Thursday night Bible Study and conversations activities online with the goal of mostly meeting the needs of our Christian students, though also having a space that seekers could be a part of regularly if they wanted. We are using the Bible Project’s Church at Home material, watching the video as a large group over Zoom before going into breakout rooms for discussion over scripture. We’ve seen more people show up consistently for these online calls than showed up for in-person Bible study regularly! And a couple of our seeker friends (who were not coming to Bible study) have been consistently showing up as well!

“Jakob”, a guy in my breakout group, has been journeying with one of my teammates, regularly having philosophical conversations around the argument for God and for the Gospel. He has been an incredible addition to our breakout group. He missed this past week and I actually really missed his contributions to our discussion. He pushes back on some ideas because he isn’t a believer, but some of the insights he has about God are deeper than what some of my Christian friends believe to be true about God. The first week we talked about God’s generosity and Jakob told us that generous was not a word he would have used to describe God. A discussion followed about how God, being high and lofty, mighty and sovereign creator of all things, ruler of all worlds, would stoop to concern himself with us even for a moment let alone coming as a man to die for us is unbelievably generous. Another week we were talking about Isaiah 53 and suffering, and Jakob brought up the idea of even when life is difficult and we experience suffering, God is absolutely good and so even in our suffering he is still good. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Jakob could articulate God’s goodness in the midst of pain. I’ve been so encouraged by the steps he’s made this year towards Jesus, and it’s been fun to personally be brought in more to his journey, getting to see firsthand and influence his approach to God. From talking with my teammates too, they’ve had similarly encouraging experiences with the few seekers who are in their breakout rooms. These students and friends are engaging with the material while still asking questions and confronting their doubts about God as nonbelievers. Deep conversations are continuing outside of our Thursday night Zoom calls whether over email or one on one video calls. 

E & K| North Africa

I serve as part of a ministry that does outreach on the internet using social media. Since the pandemic started, we have had an increase of and they have been regularly asking the same question,“Is the virus God punishing us?” Our colleagues who respond to the seekers have been able to have dozens of conversations and opportunities to share about how the source of freedom from all punishment and condemnation is in Christ Jesus.

One of these seekers, who reached out questioning God during the pandemic, was a man name “Y” from a closed country. He had been seeking God for some time in his life. Over the period of several days, while having regular conversations with a responder, “Y” prayed that God would reveal his Truth to him—and God did just that! Jesus graciously burst into his life, pulling him from the darkness of Islam and ushered him into Christ’s glorious light. He couldn’t help but tell others how Jesus changed his life. He shared the gospel with his friends and they accepted Christ. Now, one our team members in another country is virtually discipling a group of new believers from a Muslim background—“Y” and his friends. They come together virtually online weekly to study God’s word.

 PIVOT Ministries | Recovery & Growth | Connecticut *

Its hard to keep track of time.  Every day feels the same.  But roughly, about 7 weeks ago, all of our food donations dried up at Pivot Ministries.  We were accustomed to getting expired food from Big Y and Target and making meals from them.  And suddenly, there was nothing.  Our program staff and kitchen staff rallied quickly and made an emergency trip to the grocery store, but the shelves were bare.  We had some frozen foods and dry goods and we were able to manage, but we were scared.  Our Executive Director decided to reach out to Black Rock and see if they could help.

Suddenly, I had people ordering meals for us, grocery shopping for us and donating funds to us.  Truthfully, the response brought me to my knees in gratitude.  The surge of love was like a tidal wave. As Development Director, I’m responsible for raising the necessary funds for the program.  Imagine the gripping fear of not being able to do that.  Our Prayer Breakfast is also a fundraiser for us, and we had to cancel our live event.   And, of course, when we moved our event to virtual, Black Rock was right there supporting us.  Just imagine the gratitude and relief I felt when your folks started to respond.  My personal faith has sky rocketed.  God provides.

*Please pray for Pivot Ministries as they grieve the unexpected death, this week, of their Spiritual Director.

URBAN IMPACT | Inner City Outreach | Connecticut

Of course, due to COVID19 and with the recent closing of the schools, Urban Impact has had to switch gears.  We are serving the PT Barnum community by starting a program with our amazing partner, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, to distribute groceries to families.  We are also trying to transition to remote tutoring and mentoring by using zoom, face-time, phone call, etc. sessions with students.  These programs are in the early stages, but we have started them and things are moving forward – thanks to God!

It has also been a blessing to check in on the moms of our program attendees who come to our Bible study (held biweekly during Primetime), we are impressed by how they manage work and supervision of their kids and the schoolwork.

BRIDGEPORT RESCUE MISSION | Inner City Outreach, Recovery & Growth | Connecticut

From the onset of this crisis, our volunteers expressed concern for the men, women and children who come to our doors for help and many wanted to continue to serve meals and help with our Food Pantry distribution despite the health risks for themselves.  We ultimately made the decision to suspend these volunteer roles.   At the same time, the number of families we provided groceries through our Food Pantry tippled AND we became aware of a related need – that there are seniors and shut-ins who need groceries, but cannot come to our Pantry.  In response, we quickly connected with some volunteers who felt called to “do something” to help those who are most vulnerable.  Volunteers and our front line staff are now packing ADDITIONAL bags of non-perishable groceries and fresh produce and DELIVERING these groceries to housing communities to help those who can’t come to us for help.  Recipients are grateful and volunteers are being the hands and feet of Jesus.

 GOSPEL WAVE MEDIA | Central Asia

Since the start of the pandemic, more people are asking questions regarding the meaning of life, as they see just how fragile life is.  There has been more traffic on our evangelistic website and social media platforms, like Facebook and Odnoklasniki (a Russian based social media platform).  Over the last few weeks, I have had more friend requests from an unreached people group.  Daily, I am engaged with at least a dozen people directly in chat rooms where they ask questions about God and the current health situation.  I have been able to share the Gospel with these people directly.  We continue to share the Gospel and encourage people to seek God and His righteousness in Christ.  We have also produced a special program regarding fear, worry and anxiety based on the current situation around the work.  God wants His flock in Central Asia to be encouraged and to rely on Him and to take this opportunity to minister to others with the hope of the Gospel.

INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION | Working to End Slavery & Trafficking

At IJM, we’ve been intentionally turning our attention towards the faithfulness of God, which is why we launched a “Stories of Hope” series to bring encouragement to our partners and supporters and to highlight how God is still moving across the world.

One encouraging story involves 44 children and 32 adults that were rescued from a factory in SE Asia. Our investigations team helped the police in India to arrest the four factory owners. When the boys heard the good news that they would be returning home, they danced, excitedly packed their belonging, and hugged IJM’s staff with joy. 

In Ghana, the team is providing masks to hospitals and food to five shelters that we partner with to care for children rescued from forced labor, in order to ensure that they will have sufficient food while on lockdown.

BRIDGES INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS | Connecticut

We have been working to rebuild ourselves entirely as an online ministry for the foreseeable future. This looks like: Zoom Bible studies & Discipleship, online daily devotionals, virtual game nights (to replace Friendship dinners), preparing to build a website that will help us link International students from local campuses together, and building our prayer ministry virtually now (instead of meeting in person).

Honestly, we’re just trying to keep in step with God, and seeing how he is leading us to creatively minister in this very unique season. We’ve seen a huge uptick in our “Alumni” involvement. Since our Bible studies have been online, we’ve been having former students from around the U.S. and around the world joining us… pretty cool! Such a good opportunity to see them once again.

RON & BARB CLINE | Reaching Asia from California

We are safe and well and things could not be better under the circumstances. In December we moved into a senior village with about 400 other seniors. Since the California ‘shut down’ hit, we have stayed in our apartment.  Meals have been brought to us each day.  We have no virus in the village and we want to keep it that way, so we all stay in and, if we happen to go out, wear a mask.  I have started preaching on our closed circuit TV system on Sundays bringing a worship service to each apartment and the response has been wonderful.  We may continue after this is over with an actual service for those who don’t have a home church close by. I am also still managing the training programs in Asia for Reach Beyond.

SUKHWANT B. | Seek Partners | Resourcing churches in SE Asia

Since we are discussing the COVID-19 virus and its impact, one question people are asking us is if this is God’s judgement on the world.  This has given us the opportunity to talk about the plagues in Egypt, when God’s people were not allowed to leave. Even in that situation, people did not turn to God, but instead, hardened their hearts against Him.  We have talked about God’s judgement (Revelation 16) that will be poured on the world during end-times and how to escape God’s wrath by putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.