Thursday, December 4, 2014

Catching Up - Esikhaleni

Five years ago, in September of 2009, I drove for the first time up a bumpy, rocky road, through the military barracks to a stick structure on the side of the road where there were a few kids who were eating & playing...and crying because of the new white faces that were there.  Those first few weeks they would cry every time we went to do ministry there because the only white people they had ever met had given them shots for immunizations.  It has been a humbling experience to see God connect this carepoint & community with people who have invested physically, spiritually, emotionally, prayerfully, and financially in the community.  So that now when you drive up there, you see the large fenced in area, a building where the church meets twice a week, the cooking structure and small classroom that have become a refuge for the children of the community and a light of Christ's light to the watching community!  Here's a video that the visiting team made from this year's trip, and below are a few pictures from over the last 5 years of God's work in this community!
The carepoint in 2009 consisted of this wooden building
(notice the gaps between the sticks in the back!)

The carepoint in 2009.

Pastor Todd & Mxolisi serving the first communion
for the church in 2013.

The carepoint as seen from Tholiwe's homestead.

Everyone pitched in to help get the building
finished before rainy season in 2012!

Gogo Alexinah brought & planted these flowers around
the community building where the church meets. 

The small classroom a the carepoint.
The dedicated gogos (& Bhekabantu).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Swazi Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in Swaziland is never a dull holiday, but I have a feeling that in several years, I will forget the odd things that have happened over the years as I have celebrated this American holiday in a different country.  The count now is that 2 years I have celebrated with chicken and 2 years I have celebrated with turkey.  But this year, I cooked the turkey myself, and so am writing this for your entertainment but also because I don't want to forget the uniqueness of this Thanksgiving!  Though many parts of this are normal for life here, I know that it is so different from what a lot of you have experienced this holiday, so I thought I would share. 

How To Have Thanksgiving In Swaziland...

1.  At the beginning of November, start asking about pumpkins and turkeys.  You can't assume that either will be sold in a grocery store, so it's time to start asking around the community & keeping your eyes open for homesteads that have both.  I remember last year seeing a friend pushing pumpkins in a wheelbarrow, so she was the first person I asked where I could get one.  Unfortunately, people aren't growing them this time of year, but lucky for me, there were 2 pumpkins at the grocery store the next week!

2.  Once you find a homestead to buy a turkey from, negotiate the price and make a plan to go buy one.  I found out this year that you shouldn't tell people you are going to butcher a turkey, because then they will give you the sick or old one.  But you also shouldn't tell them you want to raise turkeys because then they will sell you one with small chicks. 

3.  The week of Thanksgiving, go buy the turkey.  We had made a plan to pick up the turkeys on a Monday, but when we called the homestead to tell them what time we would be there, they said no one would be home until Friday.  So...starting from scratch again, we called anyone we knew who had turkeys for sale.
Mxolisi making sure that he is understanding the
directions from our 10 year old guide down this
driveway/road/hiking trail.

4.  Find another turkey to buy.  On Tuesday afternoon, we found another homestead with turkeys for sale, so began the 35 minute drive to the homestead to get the (live) turkey.  We followed dirt roads, hidden driveways, and still couldn't find the homestead (though at one point we saw it from a distance), and so stopped to ask a 10 year old boy if he knew where the homestead was.  It just so happened that he lived there & was on his way home from the store, so we gave him a ride & he led us to the driveway (more of a hiking trail) to his home.  

5.  Pick up the turkey.  Once at the homestead, one of the young girls helped her older sister carry the turkey to us & tie it up, while another kid looked for another turkey to show us as well.  We explained again that we didn't want to buy a turkey with young chicks, so bought the one turkey, put it in the back of the car and left.

6.  Take the turkey home.  We drove the 35 minutes home with no incidents (and no turkey poop!), so much so that we forgot we had a turkey in the car and when it jumped as we turned, it scared both of us!
7.  Butcher the turkey.  Neither Mxolisi or I wanted to kill & clean the bird, so we asked Phindile if we could pay her to do it for us & she gladly agreed (knowing that her family would get the turkey feet, head, and all of the insides - which they fry up & enjoy!). 

8.  Pick up the turkey & put it in the fridge.  On Wednesday, we got the call that the turkey was finished, and so Mxolisi went (with a cookie sheet & trash bag) to pick up our Thanksgiving bird.  When he brought it home, we realized that it still had a lot of the neck on it, so we worked together to cut it down to a normal place.

9.  Give away the turkey neck.  I could muster up the strength to cook a turkey for the first time, but I wasn't about to attempt to boil the neck & do giblets, so we called our friend next door and offered him the turkey neck.  He was more than happy to take it & add it to the beans he was cooking for dinner that night!

10.  Stuff the turkey & put it in the oven.  On Thanksgiving morning, I got up at 5 with the hopes that the turkey would be stuffed & in the oven by 6am.  I had (wrongly) assumed that because the turkey fit on the cookie sheet that I use in the oven & had fit in the refrigerator, that it would fit in the oven.  But after I got it stuffed & the legs tied together & covered it in foil (no roasting bags here!), I tried to put it in the oven to find that it wouldn't fit at all.  I angled it & smashed it, but it just wouldn't work. *note to self, I should have made coffee first thing in the morning to make all of this more bearable*

11.  Try to make the turkey smaller.  So then I pulled it back out of the oven, uncovered it, retied the legs and tried again.  But it still didn't fit in the oven.

12.  Cut off parts of the turkey to make it smaller.  At this point, I was frustrated because Mxolisi was gone doing morning chores at his homestead, which meant that I would have to be the one to cut off the legs of the turkey!  I mustered up my courage & worked to get the legs cut off while wondering if the turkey would now fit in the oven & also how I would cook the legs.  

Phindile is the real hero of the day for
butchering & cleaning the turkey
but she also enjoyed the finished product!
13.  Call mom.  Thankfully it wasn't too late in Colorado, so I was able to call my mom & ask her advice.  I felt under pressure since there would be so many people at our Thanksgiving dinner & I was cooking one of the two turkeys to feed everyone!  I finally got the turkey wrapped in foil & once it was tilted at an angle so it wasn't too tall for the oven, I closed the door & started the timer.  The only option for the legs was to cook them in the crock pot, which actually worked well & had my house smelling great in no time!

Our Thanksgiving was a success & a memorable one - with 42 of us at one of the new families' houses down here.  And if I am asked to cook a turkey in the US, it can only get easier from here, right?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Random Ramblings- December 1

How in the world is it December 1 already?  I know I say this every month, but it seems like time is just flying by.  I have so many different thoughts & emotions that I am processing through in this season, but here are a few of them (that hopefully answer some of your questions too!)

~ Leaving AIM...Yes, it is true that after several years serving through AIM here in Nsoko, I will not be working with them anymore.  It has been a bittersweet decision and transition because the people I have served are like friends & family.  I can truly echo what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, where he tells the church that he loved them so much that He was delighted to not only share the Gospel, but his life as well because they had become so dear to him.  These words mean so much more to me now as I say goodbye to the children who have become a part of my life & my days here in Nsoko!  I am finished in day to day ministry, and wrapping up some admin work over the next couple of weeks. 

~ Nsoko Ministry...Many of you have asked what will be happening with the Nsoko ministry, and in the Lord's provision, the Swazi staff are equipped (those of you who have been here know that already!) and there are two new families whom God has called to move to Nsoko!  Our full time staff now consists of Smanga, Phindile, Velaphi, Sanele, Celimpilo, Thandi, Nelly, and Nombali.  The Lord has called and equipped them to serve their people in difficult situations, but it's amazing to see the different ways He has gifted them uniquely and how they work together as a team!  Pray for them, and the Malloy & Spragg families as they all transition into serving together!

~ Processing...It's impossible to begin to process all the different emotions that I have felt over the last weeks & months, especially as life continues to unfold here.  In the midst of preparing my heart to say goodbye, I have been confronted once again with the reality of life (and death) here as we lost a little one year old this weekend to pneumonia.  There is a sense of relief & release as I pass the baton of shepherding this ministry to the new families, but also a continued burden as I am accountable for the difficult things I have seen, the stories I have heard, the physical and spiritual poverty that I have encountered. 

~ Heading To Colorado...We are still in the process of getting things in order to come to Colorado (packing our house, selling belongings, etc. as well as finishing the visa process).  We still don't have plane tickets or a date for when we will be coming across the ocean, but we will keep you updated as we know!  We believe that it will be best for the new families, the AIM Nsoko staff, and the Nsoko community if we aren't down here when the ministry year opens in January, so we will be staying elsewhere in Swaziland until we head to Colorado.

~ What Next...we don't know.  We are excited to take a break from the intensity of ministry here in Nsoko, to spend time with family and friends (many of whom Mxolisi has never met), to be a part of a thriving church, to meet my newest niece, to enjoy some snow...and so much more!  We are in the process of beginning to figure out what life in Colorado looks like (housing, jobs, etc.) and we will keep you updated!

~ World AIDS Day...I never know what to think on December 1 because my mind flashes with so many faces of people who have been wrecked by this horrible disease.  My heart goes out to those who were born with it, receiving it as their parents made poor decisions; my heart goes out to girls who didn't have a chance to pursue purity because it wasn't a choice they got to make for themselves, and now they find themselves with AIDS; my heart goes out to the women whose husbands brought it home and infected them; my heart goes out to those who have been misled by their churches and culture into thinking that sexual promiscuity is ok; my heart goes out to the 15 year old girl, that is the backbone of her family, that I bought lunch for last month so she could take her medicines, and the life that she is living completely based on the results of other people's decisions and behavior; my heart goes out to those who have graduated from high school without a basic biology class to understand how germs (and diseases!!) are spread; my heart goes out to the older generation who are burdened with caring for and providing for grandchildren and neighbor children; my heart goes out to the kids who have seen their parents pass away from this horrible disease; my heart goes out to people in this country who don't get the best treatment or have access to quality care.

~ Holidays in Swaziland...It's still hard to wrap my brain around Thanksgiving and Christmas being the hottest time of the year!  It's now tradition that mango picking begins around Thanksgiving, and the papayas are growing like weeds!  This year for Thanksgiving, we bought a turkey from a homestead and had a friend butcher & clean it, and I cooked a turkey for the first time!  We joined the other two American AIM families here in Nsoko, with a world race team, and all of our Swazi staff (42 people in all!).  Mxolisi and I will be spending Christmas here in Swaziland once again, with no official plans yet.

~ How Can We Pray For You...Pray how the Lord leads!  You can be praying through all of the areas I mentioned above, pray for our hearts as we pass the ministry on to the new families, pray for us as we prepare to say see you later to Mxolisi's family, pray for us as we prepare to step into life in Colorado (in the last 2 years I have spent less than 2 months in America!), pray for us to be able to process through heavy things on our hearts from this season of ministry, pray for our marriage, pray for the Lord to continue to draw us deeper into knowing Him, pray for the Lord to go ahead of us in the details He has planned for our life in Colorado. 

~ God is faithful...The more I reflect on how the Lord has worked to prepare me for this season of serving here in Swaziland, how He called me to this country I had never heard of, and how He allowed me to have a front row seat in watching how He is at work in the lives of people in these communities, the more humbled I am at His faithfulness and how He is fulfilling His promise of drawing people to Himself from every nation!  I could talk for hours about stories of His faithfulness day after day over the last several years.  And I ask that you join me in praising Him for the ways He is at work to make Himself known in this community and worshiped above all else!  He has been (and will be) faithful in my life and I am humbled to be living through this testimony that the Lord is alive and active and has redeemed me to be an ambassador of His grace!

Friday, November 21, 2014


an·tic·i·pate: to foresee and act in advance of

  Less than a week until Thanksgiving...only a couple of weeks until my birthday...only a month or so until Christmas...and (hopefully) only a little while before we get to come to Colorado!  In this season of so much to anticipate, I find myself feeling so many different emotions.  I am feeling so excited for various reasons.  I am feeling nostalgic as I reflect on this holiday season a year ago, or 5 years ago or 25 years ago.  I am feeling impatient as I wonder if these days will really ever arrive.  I am feeling accountable, wondering if I have made the best investment of another year of life, of years pouring into this community through ministry.  I am feeling a little nervous as I think about the unknown that is to come in each of these situations & upcoming weeks.  AND I am feeling guilty and frustrated with myself and sad for my soul.  In all of this anticipation, I have been convicted that I have failed to truly anticipate & understand the ONE event that is truly to be anticipated above all other events.  Seriously, only a few other events in ALL OF HISTORY can compare to this one...Jesus is coming back!  

   Last Sunday at church, our pastor was preaching from 1 Thessalonians and talking about the Day of the Lord, and how Christ will come back to rescue His bride when we least expect it.  And it hit me - if I am honest, I have been anticipating a lot of other things more than this.  And it breaks me.  Makes me feel guilty, makes me realize how much further I have to go to better understand the Gospel, makes me sad to realize that I have been enjoying and anticipating earthly pleasures more than God intended me to.  My anticipation, excitement, expectation of these seasonal, earthly events should pale in comparison to my anticipation of my Savior, my King, my Lord, my Jesus coming back to earth.  
    I remember anticipating my wedding...getting ready to have my family come & stay with me in my house, making sure all of the details for the wedding & reception were ready, taking time to help make sure our Swazi family had a way of getting to the wedding, and then in the days before the wedding, making sure my dress was fitting well, working on decorations, finalizing the plans for the honeymoon.  I remember waking up so early on the day of my wedding, thinking about Mxolisi and our life ahead.  And that is barely a bit of the beginning of how much God wants us to anticipate Christ's return.  
    And so as I sometimes wonder why this process of getting to Colorado is taking so long, I am realizing how much more the Lord wants to teach me, not only about His perfect timing, but also about waiting, anticipating, and trusting in His sovereign timing.  As we enter the season of Advent and reflect back on the first coming of Jesus, God with us, God is inviting us to prepare our hearts once again and anticipate when He will come again.

"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves...groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as children of God, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved...if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
~Romans 8:22-24

Thursday, November 20, 2014


    When I begin to think about preparing my heart to leave ministry here in Nsoko and eventually head back to Colorado, there are so many things that come to my mind.  Bittersweet doesn't even begin to describe the many different feelings I have felt over the last weeks and months.  But the more I reflect on things and look back at pictures and think of times with different people, the more I am humbled and amazed at God's faithfulness.  
   In the grocery store today, one of my favorite gogos hugged me & wouldn't let go.  I first met her in 2012 as she was collecting caterpillars as we sat under the tree and she told us how she struggled to provide for the three grandchildren that she was caring for.  Two of them are double orphans, and it's been a blessing and a privilege to walk with them the past few years - seeing her cry tears of joy over a birthday cake and a wheelbarrow on her birthday last year, seeing her excitement and relief when we took the kids to get school shoes, seeing her cry and immediately start praying as we gave her an audio Bible earlier this year.  And even today, hearing her describe her gratefulness over a chicken we gave her 2 months ago to eat.  God has been (and will continue to be) faithful in her life as she has prayed desperate and mighty prayers to Him. 
   As we were walking through another part of the grocery store, we saw another old friend - who called us a month or so ago to ask us to come pray with him because he thought he was dying.  This man who we have known for years, and who we watched as he lovingly and selflessly cared for his disabled sister.  We saw his curiosity over the stories Jesus told in the Bible, and we saw his helplessness when his sister eventually died and he called us to help get her body to the morgue because they didn't have any options.  God has been (and will continue to be) faithful to him as he seeks Him in a land of brokenness.  
   As we were leaving the grocery store, I saw another friend - a young woman who was beaten so badly by her grandmother that she couldn't walk for many years.  She is a double orphan who cares for her older brother, who is disabled and also a younger sister who is still in school.  God has been (and will continue to be) faithful to them as they walk through a life of suffering, hoping in Him when there isn't much earthly hope for them.  
    As I have said many times before, I feel like I am sitting in the front row of a movie theater, watching the many ways God is at work here in Nsoko...and it just so happens to be my life!  And as the blog is titled - this is just one blink of my eye - one view of how God is at work here.  So as I reflect back on the last 5 years of ministry here with AIM and CHC, I am going to share some of those reflections here - partly to thank you for your prayers, support, encouragement, and friendships; partly to help my own heart process the different feelings that I am feeling; but mostly to praise and glorify God for the great things He has done (and continues to do) in us, through us, and around us in Nsoko.  Join me over the next few weeks as I share here on my blog some of the many ways He has been at work here in Nsoko!

"Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. 
For consider what great things he has done for you."
~ 1 Samuel 12:24

Monday, October 27, 2014

Where Do I Go From Here?

Over the past several years, I have had many people ask my opinion on how they should proceed, now that they are sensing a call to missions or ministry.  So I have condensed & compiled lots of email responses into this blog to hopefully bless someone who is asking that same question of where to go from here. There are many different suggestions, depending on a person's context & a lot of other details, but here are the basic 10 things I would tell to anyone.

1.  Press deeper into your walk with the Lord & intimacy with Jesus.  
It sounds cliche, but a lot of times we only give lip service to this and don't actually carve out time to make it a priority.  No matter what culture you serve in, what role you play in ministry, how many lives you touch, your number 1 job in life is to know God & seek Him first.  As you begin to walk down the road in discernment towards ministry & missions, satan is going to try to distract you, lie to you, frustrate you, and the only source to overcome that and stay in step with the Spirit is to pursue the Lord.  Don't wait until you are in ministry or on the mission field to start these habits - make them a priority now! 
"Spiritual disciplines are not obligations, they are delightful responses to the grace of God."  

2.  Pray 
Yes, this is different than number 1.  Be intentional about praying individually & corporately for people who don't know Jesus yet in your city & around the world.  There are many prayer guides for praying for your city & the nations, so find one and commit to praying for people intentionally & regularly.  This also is a muscle that needs conditioning as many times I have felt on the mission field that my main job is to pray.  Sometimes outloud, sometimes over someone, sometimes as I am hearing someone teach, sometimes as I enter a homestead, sometimes in the middle of the night. The battle in ministry & missions begins with our prayer life - establish patterns for praying for your community, your ministry, your team before you actually are in the full time setting.  Find people in your life that you can pray with, you can pray for (right there with them while they are there), and that can pray for you. 

3.  Serve
Again, don't wait until you get to the mission field or in a ministry position to start serving.  If you see a need, meet it!  This grows our humility & dependence on the Lord while reminding us that there is no task too menial for us.  Read Philippians 2 and get out there & serve.  As you serve within various ministries, learn from your leader & ask questions because many times there are a ton of things you can learn and then apply once you are in a different context or leading yourself.  Evaluate your motives for serving.  One of the ways that God prepared me for moving to the mission field was by having me be a church janitor while saving up extra money to move to Swaziland.  My pride was broken as I realized that I would be willing to clean a toilet for free in Swaziland, but I felt like I was too good to work cleaning a toilet for my job in Colorado. 

4.  Read
Some of the best training I received for being in full time ministry & missions came not from seminary lectures, but from books & biographies that I read.  Here are a few books to start with: Humility by CJ Mahaney; Serving With Eyes Wide Open by David Livermore; God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew; Heavenly Man; The Insanity of God; The Insanity of Obedience;  anything about Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, George Mueller, John Patton, Amy Carmichael and other missionaries; anything by Helen Roseveare; The Missionary Call; Reaching and Teaching; anything by Duane Elmer; What Is The Mission Of The Church; When Helping Hurts; anything by Sherwood Lingenfelter; You Lift Me Up; Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry.

5.  Build up a prayer team
 Start to build a prayer team that you can email or text prayer requests to once you are serving full time.  It's difficult to describe, but as you enter into different parts of Christian ministry & missions, the spiritual battle intensifies.  It's important to build this team before you enter into full time ministry or missions because you don't want to wait until a crisis or big battle to summon prayer.  For me, this has helped me to process things, verbalize needs, confess struggles, and recognize what is spiritual battle verses what is burnout, etc.  Don't make this team your overall support team, but keep this a small enough and close enough team of people that you can trust them to ask you difficult questions for accountability and so you aren't hesitant to ask for prayers even when struggling with mundane or seemingly crazy stuff.  Let them know what to expect from you and help them to understand what you expect from them.

6. Practice sacrifice & submission
In any setting that you step into to serve, you will spend tons of time learning - from the culture, from your co-workers, from other leaders.  Cultivate a heart that is ready to submit and follow.  Many mistakes in ministry & missions are made because people come in too quickly and make too many changes without taking time to learn from people and understand the context.  Also seek to cultivate a sacrificial heart, to recognize any idols, and to be ready to give up anything the Lord asks of you.  Maybe it's through fasting from meals, buying things or different habits.  From Africa to Asia to the US, I have seen people in ministry indulge in their lifestyles because they feel like they have already made a hard enough decision to serve God's people & sacrificed enough.  My concern is for their heart though.  If we expect people in our churches & ministries to be living a sacrificial lifestyle (financially, with time, etc), then we must also be ready & willing to have the Lord call us to sacrifice anything we have or desire.  2 Timothy 2:10 must become the prayer of our heart..."Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."

7. Interact with people of other cultures
No matter if we live in the US or another country, God has called us to have a heart for all nations.  It's obviously different to live around people from a different culture, but you can start getting used to it a little while you are in the US.  Go to different restaurants to try different types of food, go to cultural festivals, pay attention to people around you and get to know where different people are from.  Find a ministry that reaches out to immigrants, refugees or other populations and get to know people there.  Get used to understanding people with different accents & habits.  Go as a learner so that you can begin to see some of the key characteristics of your own culture as well.  Remember that every culture is a bit different and all generalizations are just that, generalizations.  Walk humbly & gently as you cross cultural boundaries! 

8.  Deal with your junk
Many times we have issues in our hearts that the Lord has prompted us to deal with that we just keep pushing to the side.  Sometimes we think it will go away on its own and other times we plan on dealing with it later.  You can't run away from yourself, so it's best to take time to examine your heart & let the Lord search your heart (Psalm 51) while you are still in the midst of a church family, close friends, prayer partners, accountability partners and people who know you.  As we walk through sanctification, there will always be issues we need to deal with in our lives, but it only gets harder as you are in ministry and living in a different country to find time & places where you can take time to deal with these heart things.  

9.  Work hard
If you are getting ready to move to another country or culture to serve, make sure you do take time to spend intentionally with friends and family, but guard yourself against becoming lazy.  I have known people who have been saying they are raising support, only to find that they are only actively working on that a few hours a week.  Make sure that you are working just as hard as you expect your supporters to work for you.  Ministry is not a 9-5 job or a job that you ease into - usually you hit the ground running and can't plan some of your schedule, so keep up your work ethic now to prepare yourself to give ministry your all.  And remember that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

10.  Prepare (Spiritually, financially, physically)
This should go without saying, but don't enter into ministry or missions lightly.  Remember that it takes doctors many years of school to best care for peoples' bodies, so how much more diligent should we be in our preparation to care for peoples' souls?  Don't focus your preparation solely on one area, but try to think through & make time for all areas.  Have a measurable plan in place to see if you are making progress in your preparations and take advantage of those who have gone before you.  (Check out sites like or

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Learning About Ministry From Ebola

Remember the old illustration that many pastors have used when talking about evangelism?  They asked people to imagine that there is a disease and that you know about the cure for it, emphasizing the importance of getting out there & sharing the cure to the sick & dying in the world.  I have been thinking about that a lot as the world reacts to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  There are many things that fall apart in that illustration, and many ways that the physical disease doesn’t relate to the spiritual war & pandemic that we are dealing with spiritually. 

But as I reflected more on it, I have realized that there are many things that we in ministry, in missions, in the church, can learn from how the world is responding to & reacting to this health crisis.  I am just reflecting & not assuming to know anything medically about the disease.  But after serving in ministry and missions for the last 15 years, I have seen that there are a lot of ways that I can grow in serving God’s people from reflecting on this and so that’s why I am sharing these 10 things here:

1.  Admit there is a disease, a problem, and a solution.
    There are many critics of the Ebola outbreak who are asking why the global community didn’t do anything to help with the disease until it was too late.  Even though it started in 2013, it didn’t make global news until more than half way through 2014.  Many people are questioning how we could have avoided it spreading so far, and the clear answer is that it should have been dealt with early on in it’s progression.
    In the Christian church today, we are slow to define the disease affecting humanity, the problem and the solution.  In attempting to be tolerant, Christians don’t want to call sin sin, we don’t want to point to Jesus as the only way for salvation, and in seeking to not offend anyone, we have lost our mission.  We are avoiding naming the disease and moving towards making sure everyone has a chance to about the solution - salvation through the grace of Jesus.  If someone in any country had a cure for Ebola and was withholding it, everyone in the world would say that they are doing an injustice to the world and causing many people to suffer because of their inaction.  Yet, look at how sedentary Christians have become - we know that Jesus is the only way to eternal life (only cure for the disease of sin & its eternal consequences), yet we still choose comfort & popularity over radically living so that we are constantly pointing people to Christ.  We know the cure for the disease yet we are too scared/comfortable/unsure to go out and share it with a dying world!   (See also Romans 3:23, Acts 4:12)

2.  Know the basics of what you are dealing with.
    There is a lot of talk about how exactly Ebola is spread, but no one is questioning the symptoms or the consequences.  If it’s not treated, it’s fatal; and if people aren’t quarantined, they are contagious & spreading it to those around them.
    It’s amazing to me how many people are in ministry & serving in missions without knowing the basics of the gospel.  One pastor says that every Christian should be able to explain the Gospel in one minute or less (but also be ready to expand on it).  It would be interesting to go around to different ministries around the world to ask them to explain the Gospel in one minute.  Obviously, many throughout history & still today are faithfully proclaiming the Gospel.  Yet if we aren’t willing to talk clearly about sin, hell, grace, God, forgiveness & redemption, we can’t take ministry seriously. 
    Nik Ripken says, “If you do not believe that Jesus is who He claims to be, if you do not believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, if you do not believe that Jesus is the very Son of God and the only way to heaven, then please do not go out among the unreached.  Do not get someone killed for something that you are not eternally sure about” (The Insanity of Obedience, p. 58).  (See also Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, John 3:16-17, Romans 10:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

3.  Train people before they go to the worst of the crisis.    
   It would be insane to send someone to West Africa, saying that we can train them to be a doctor or a nurse once they are there.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that every person serving there is learning a ton.  But it’s wrong to assume that we can train people effectively in the midst of a crisis.  We need to have a base of skills that people are familiar enough with that they can do it in a foreign setting, on very little sleep, in an isolated setting, with opposition around them, under pressure for time.  Once a person has those skills, they will be able to build on them in a context where they are using them. 
    Yet how many times do we put people in a ministry setting who have no experience doing what they need to do.   Yes, I can think of Biblical examples where God’s people were put out of their normal ministry & the Holy Spirit spoke through them, but there are many cases where people are already serving in their role before God calls them to do that same role in a different place.  If people aren’t already serving, teaching, praying, sacrificing, crossing cultural boundaries in the US, what makes us think that they will do that successfully once they are in a foreign culture? (See also 1 Timothy 4:2, 6-8, 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Titus 3:1-2) 

4.  Send qualified people.
    This sounds obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.  It would be prideful & dangerous to send someone who isn’t medically qualified to go and practice medicine in the worst of the Ebola outbreak.  Just because they are foreign, white, wealthy, or anything else doesn’t mean they are trained to practice medicine.  And by having them there, it could put a lot of people in various places in danger. 
    Unfortunately, many people in ministry & missions think that because someone has a servant’s heart, or has traveled across an ocean, it somehow qualifies them to do something they wouldn’t qualify to do back home.  Why not send our best & most qualified people to do God's work (at home & abroad) instead of settling for a warm body & a willing heart.  Just because someone is a Christian doesn’t mean they are prepared to handle & preach God’s word in a church service.  (See also James 3:1, 1 Peter 4:10-11)

5.  Make sure people know their role.    
   It’s not to say that only trained professionals should be in ministry & missions - no, not at all!  God has made it clear that everyone is gifted & needed to serve His church & build up the Body of Christ...but we must know our roles.  Just as an international engineer wouldn’t be called upon to care for people in a hospital, we must also recognize that people shouldn’t be relied on to serve in a role that isn’t there.  It’s not only dangerous & deceptive, but it’s also poor stewardship!  As short term teams come and go in ministry settings around the world, let’s make clear what their role is and isn’t.  And as pastors and missionaries serve long term, let’s make sure they know their roles & are serving where they are best gifted to make the most of their efforts for building the Kingdom. (See also 1 Corinthians 12:4-31)
6.  Send them to where there is need.
    Again, overstating the obvious, but it would be ridiculous to send a huge team of greatly qualified doctors and nurses to South America to fight Ebola.  If we want to help people get well, we must go to the sick. 
    Yet, statistics show that a majority of missionaries & Christian ministries are serving in largely Christian populations.  Don’t get me wrong, we need ministries in all parts of the world, just as we need medical professionals in all parts of the world.  But what if there was a higher concentration of missionaries & ministries in the darkest places instead of them being so close together in places that have more churches & ministries than they can handle or need? (See also Ephesians 4: 11-14, Mark 2:17)

7.  Make sure that people are protected, accountable, and cared for while serving.
    If the medical community isn’t taking care of their own professionals and is allowing them to serve while they are sick, it’s going to do more damage than good.  In the same way, the church must take care of it’s missionaries, pastors, and each other to make sure that people are spiritually healthy as they serve.  God can use anyone, but often times a pastor who is burned out or greatly struggling is going to do more long term damage than building up the church.  It’s important for us to remember that we are all vulnerable, and we are all still in process of putting off the old and putting on the new, but if someone is obviously struggling & spiritually sick, it’s often best for them to take a break and get healthy before coming back to serve. 
    It’s also important to make sure people have what they need to fight the battle they are entering.  Whether it’s protective suits or masks, or a prayer covering, accountability partner, or vacation time, it’s important that this is made known before the person is actually involved in serving.  (See also Ephesians 6:10-20)
8.  Make sure that people know the vision and are working alongside others with the same vision.
    If a lone person were to show up in West Africa to try to help with the Ebola crisis, they would be most effective by joining alongside people who are already working there & know the situation.  It’s the same in missions & ministry.  Many times, you aren’t the first person to be in an area, so it’s important to find churches & organizations that have a similar vision & see if you can work together to multiply resources and effectiveness instead of re-inventing the wheel.  No organization is going to be perfect, but it’s important to think through what specific qualities are essential and then join in. 
    “[T]he absence of a clear focus will lead to worker burnout, unrealistic administrative parameters, and, most alarmingly, unresponsiveness to a lost world” (Ripken, p.60).  (See also 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-20)

9.  Recognize the risks & the seriousness of the situation before entering it.
    It’s obvious to everyone who reads about the Ebola virus the severity of it as we read about the death rate and the symptoms.  So it’s important for people to weigh the risks and consequences before going to serve in a situation where they must be exposed.
    Yet many people enter into ministry & the mission field without realizing the intensity of the spiritual battle they are walking into.  Many approach it with the mindset of a vacation with Christians or a job with a prayer, only to find once they are in the midst of it that it’s a full out spiritual battle.  If we don’t take seriously the seriousness of a situation, we may quickly become another victim of burnout or leave the ministry & mission field all together.  The consequences of not taking a physical disease seriously are physical death for people.  How much more seriously should we take the privilege & responsibility of spiritual care for people when it has eternal consequences?  People’s lives & eternal futures are at stake.   (See also Matthew 16:24-25)
10.  Take care of people when they return from serving.    
    A lot has been talked about lately as health workers are returning to the US after working with Ebola and what the proper way to care for them is.  Whether it’s monitoring or quarantining, the same truth in every situation is that these people have been exposed to intense & dangerous circumstances physically, emotionally, mentally.
    Some people leaving the mission field or ministry are expected to adjust to “normal” life so quickly that they don’t have time to care for their bodies, souls, families and process and recover from all that they have been dealing with for their past service.  Just as  physical diseases may have lingering affects, serving in ministry or missions often takes time to transition back to “normal” life in a healthy way.  And sooner or later we are going to have to address those issues, so it’s better to allow people the time to recover & process through those things sooner.  (Proverbs 4:23, 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 5:18, Mark 12:30-31)