I think we’d all agree that we shouldn’t text and drive though some of us do it anyway. Much less should we drink and drive – at least not alcohol. But we can and should make the most of our time while traveling especially when we travel alone. I’ve tried to do that on this trip to Haiti.
I took two days (Thurs-Fri, Feb 17-18) to drive to Dallas because I needed to take materials for Dallas Seminary’s missions conference. (I took part in the conference on March 7-10, immediately after my time in Haiti.) Two days of driving gave me time to listen to good worship music (for me, mostly Selah and Matt Maher), pray, listen to Scripture and also listen to Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students. I also spent brief but wonderful time with our youngest son, Kurt, and daughter-in-law, Jen. They graciously put me up for a night at their home in Memphis, Tennessee.
Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students captures his weekly lectures to young men training for ministry at his Bible college. His talks are personal, practical and often witty. Every church leader – and most Christians – would benefit from reading (or in my case, listening) to this classic. Although Spurgeon pastored in London in the mid-1800s, he still speaks clearly to church life today. To sharpen my tools for encouraging and training church leaders in Haiti, I wanted to refresh my memory of Spurgeon’s biblical and practical advice to young pastors. I wasn’t disappointed.
On my flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale, I started reading another book written in the 1800s. Dr. John Nevius served in China and wrote The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches after 25 years of mission ministry there. I heard about this little book at the Evangelical Theological Society conference in November, ordered it immediately afterward. I have been looking forward to reading it.
What a gem! Dr. Nevius speaks biblically and practically to church life and leadership today in the United States and in countries like Haiti. His main point in the book is that Christians like us from wealthy nations should be super-careful in how we use mission money in poor countries. Specifically, he’s convinced by long experience that our paying or “sponsoring” pastors and other church workers in poor nations makes a mess. It creates dependency, expectations, laziness, disrespect, and jealousy among other negative results for gospel work. We end up with “mercenary pastors and Christians.” And, man, have I seen this in Haiti – and heard and read about it in countries around the world. With the best of intentions, we can do more harm than good for the progress of the gospel, discipling of believers, and training of church leaders. We need to give generously but invest wisely in training and resourcing – precisely what PPI is committed to in Haiti and other developing nations.
While in Haiti, I used the little free time we had to focus on learning more Creole – speaking with our team, looking up words in my travel-sized Haitian dictionary and writing notes. Being immersed in the language with our Haitian team moved me forward piti piti (“little by little”)!
I also took time to review my notes and highlights in another book – Gospel Patrons by John Rinehart. I recommend this book to all of you – and anyone else interested in supporting Jesus’ mission around the world. Rinehart tells the inspiring stories of the supporters (“gospel patrons”) behind John Wycliffe’s translation of the first English Bible, the revival ministry of George Whitefield, and the reformation of the English church under John Newton. The subtitle captures the heart – and challenge – of this book: People Whose Generosity Changed the World.
Traveling back from Haiti, I needed a change of pace so I picked up Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, a gripping account of Winston Churchill’s leadership through the year-long bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany. Although it’s a longer work, it’s an easy and informative read.
Where are you reading in the Bible right now? Are you following a reading plan? That’s great! I also encourage you to focus on one book of the Bible – read and re-read (or listen and re-listen) to that book. Ask God to teach you, make notes and share with others what the Lord is showing you. I’m focusing on the book of Nehemiah right now.
What book are you reading or listening to? I recommend the books I’ve mentioned here, and I know many other good books are out there. Let’s make the most of our time to grow in the Lord and sharpen our understanding of His mission. Speaking of, I need to sign off for now. I want to get back to my reading . . .