I walked through a door one day that changed my life forever. It was at the top of a flight of wooden stairs that hung off the outside of the feed store. I was sixteen and searching for something far different than what I found...
I walked through a door one day that changed my life forever. It was at the top of a flight of wooden stairs that hung off the outside of the feed store. I was sixteen and searching for something far different than what I found.
I had spent the summer between my sophomore and junior high school years on Grandpa Harry’s ranch in North Idaho, fencing. Not with foils or sabers, but with pliers and stretchers and sweat. I came home with an education in the vernacular that accompanies barbed wire; and with the desire to learn the old cowboy arts of leatherwork and braiding. My great-grandfather had been a rawhider. In Harry’s barn I found his long-forgotten tools, books, and notes; then began to ply my hand at the ancient art.
I was not good at it, and on returning home, quickly ran through the raw materials I’d brought from Idaho. That fall day, at the top of the wooden stairs outside the saddle shop, I hoped I knew just enough to appropriate the right leather and leave, without appearing as ignorant as I knew I was.
Ian Tyson was on the radio and a scrawny guy with big mustache looked up from behind a saddle-stand and studied me. He would have had to stand twice to make a shadow, but the knurled hands that held the carver belied a strength of character and iron poise that the years would allow me to later appreciate. This was Joe. He was a craftsman. And Joe had his ways.
On the third trip to his shop that fall, Joe offered me a job. Not really a job, an apprenticeship. A true, old-school apprenticeship. I would not be paid until I could produce something worth selling. Then I would be paid only in the leather I could use to educate myself and make myself better in the art. By this time, I had learned that Joe had three beautiful daughters and, despite the non-pay issue, I agreed to give it a try.
“For what it’s worth,
"...I think Heaven is riding stirrup-to-stirrup
with your best friends, through belly-high grass,
on your best horse, forever.
Jesus and I think you ought to be there.”
That singular decision, regardless of motive, turned out to be the best I ever made. Joe was more than a craftsman: he was a horseman, a farrier, a father, a philosopher, a teacher, a mentor, and a profound Christian. My education expanded beyond the saddle shop: eventually he agreed to teach me how to ride saddle-bronc horses and then to shoe horses, again as an apprentice all the while showing me what it meant to walk as a Christian.
Joe had his ways. Even now, the kernels of wisdom he imparted ebb and flow into my life as sage gems. As our relationship grew beyond friendship and mentorship, he taught with patience, love and respect. Everything had a double-entendre. Speaking of horses, he’d say, “You have to give to get.” I understood it to apply to horses, humans, and Christ. He taught me “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”; patience and diligence and effort, in waiting for the Reward. He’d say that he was alright to not be wealthy, because he was as rich as he ever hoped to be. This was just his way. He expected me to understand and he expected me to grow. In life, in manhood, and in Faith.
I worked for Joe for about three years. Somewhere in there he started to pay me, or at least he would sometimes let me bring in my own business. I spent more hours with Joe in the shop, in the truck, or bending over underneath horses than I have spent with any other man outside of family, before or since.
Joe loved me and I knew it. What I didn’t know then, was how he groomed me into the man I became. Gently, never harshly, never rushed, and always measured against what he thought I could handle. Between my first and second year of college (freshman and sophomore years denote a successful passage from one to the next), I came home to shoe horses with Joe, again.
That summer, I thought I would marry an Idaho rodeo queen but when she showed up with another guy’s truck and his ring on her finger, I lost it. I’ll spare you the details. I drove across four states for two weeks before I drug myself back around to silently (and smellingly) climb into Joe’s truck at 4:30 one morning for the day’s work; as if nothing had happened and nothing had changed. He took it all in stride. He didn’t pry. He didn’t judge. He was just there.
About a week into my silent brooding he finally looked at me over a bologna sandwich and asked, “Dave, what does Heaven look like to you?” The simple question rocked my shaken world. At that point, I was beyond recognizing normal, much less Heaven. I told him so. He grunted, and half the sandwich disappeared under his mustache. He took a drink of water and told me, “For what it’s worth, I think Heaven is riding stirrup-to-stirrup with your best friends, through belly-high grass, on your best horse, forever.” Then, “Jesus and I think you ought to be there.”
In my worst moment, Joe showed me he loved me the way Christ loves me.
Many things have happened since then. I feel, guiltily, that life swept me away from Joe. Years and miles have churned up between us. Happiness and sorrow; failure and success; the steady drum of time and place have pushed me on. I sometimes yearn for the soft eddies of our companionship: one quiet, humble man tutoring a naive apprentice about life and love; earthly and heavenly. The years make that horizon seem further and further behind.
But Joe has his ways. And Jesus and I look forward to that ride.
I don’t know why she called me. I don’t even know why she noticed me or knew I existed. She called to invite me to join a high school/college girls’ group she’d started. I couldn’t make it on the day and time they were all meeting. So she, with 4 children, a husband, a household to run and other ministries going on, rearranged her whole life to allow me into it. She offered to have me...
I don’t know why she called me.
I don’t even know why she noticed me or knew I existed.
She called to invite me to join a high school/college girls’ group she’d started. I couldn’t make it on the day and time they were all meeting.
So she, with 4 children, a husband, a household to run and other ministries going on, rearranged her whole life to allow me into it.
She offered to have me come over for a couple hours on a specific day. These hours would bleed into dinner time…a time that I now know is rather hectic when you’ve got any number of kids at all.
I often think of how inconvenient a guest I was. And I cringe. I often should have left earlier when kids were sick or she had a ton going on. I should have helped more with her kids. I should have brought dinner for them instead of just partaking in the family meal every week. I should have asked more about her and how she was doing.
But she never, ever made me feel that way.
Her goal was to obey Christ, of course…to make disciples. She did this so graciously and effectively with each of us who met with her. But I always truly believed that she really just wanted to hang out with me. I always felt that she genuinely enjoyed my presence and was glad I came.
I honestly had a very immature relationship with Christ when she began meeting with me. We began working through a Bible study book together….the first of many. I had so many wrong ideas about God, His word, and “truth”. She gently and skillfully corrected me in a way that made me want to seek out more and more Biblical truth. She was patient.
She welcomed me warmly and listened intently, affirming my feelings while pointing out truth…she was kind.
She hardly ever spoke about herself. If she did, she confessed her own sin to me. I’ve never known anyone who confesses so much and so often. She was always so aware of her sin and so repentant of it. She never bragged, was never arrogant, and never acted unbecomingly.
She made our time about Jesus and about me and whatever was going on in my life on any given week. I cringe again as I think about some of the things I said…sometimes silly or trite or just typical American twenty-something chatter. She placed importance on the things that were important to me. She prayed for me in those things. She didn’t think her opinion was something valuable enough to dwell on…she sought out Jesus’. She taught me how to pray scripture. She did this in the midst of parenting 4, then 5, then 6, then 7, then 8, then 9 children. She’d apologize for times she’d have to stop our discussion to discipline or comfort or direct a child. I was grateful for the instruction, and still am. The magnitude of the time, peace, and so much else she sacrificed to pour into me is completely humbling. She did not seek her own and was not provoked.
The magnitude of the time, peace,
and so much else she sacrificed
to pour into me is completely humbling.
I lied to her once. She asked me a question and I lied right to her face. I thought I could shake it off and forget it, but called her in tears an hour after I left her house. I was so ashamed. Her response was completely gentle and gracious, and soothed my broken heart that just yearned to crawl in a hole and disappear. She prayed for me on the phone and reminded me of the mercy bought for me through Jesus’ death. She did not take into account the wrong(s) she suffered at my hands.
She was there, in the dressing room, at my wedding. “You are stunning”, she sweetly said. She knew Matt and I had decided not to even kiss each other for months leading up to our wedding. She’d kept me accountable concerning the purity of our relationship for almost the entirety of it. She’d reminded me sternly at least once that Satan did not want to “mess” with us…he wanted to kill, steal from, and destroy us. She prayed fervently for our protection and resolve. And on our wedding day, she celebrated and rejoiced more than most of the guests present. She did not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoiced with the truth.
I called her right after I called my mom when my first son died. She sobbed on the phone right along with me. She visited me that evening in the hospital. She held my hands as I sobbed at her kitchen table. She wiped tears away when she saw me crying in church. She continued to pray, continued to encourage, continued to spur me on to seek the truth as she sought Jesus right along with me. And when my other children were born, she was there…to counsel me through the hard first weeks, the problems with nursing, the first illnesses, the puzzle of intense shyness, the potty training, the school decisions, and so much more. At my worst and my best, she was there at every step to lift my eyes, mind, and heart to the Author and Perfecter of our faith. She bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll say it simply: she loved me. And that is the way I always left her house…feeling loved. I left feeling confident in what God was doing in me, glad He made me the way He did, hopeful about the future, convicted about my sin, grateful for God’s grace, and empowered to walk the path He’d marked out for me.
This, my friends, is true discipleship. It is painful and trying and messy and beautiful. I can’t ever hope to repay Molly Malizzo for the way she loved me. I pray that she sees some of the fruit of her actions, as I learned to disciple others (my own children included) by being discipled by her. I learned to invite others into my life (though a natural introvert…like Molly) as she invited me into hers. She showed me how to love others in their mess by loving me in mine…over and over and over. She’ll never know all the ways those hundreds of hours impacted me. God used her mightily in my life; and through her love, I experienced His.
Discipleship is costly.
But if you and I are willing to
open up our schedules, our homes,
our lives to those God puts in our path,
we will be utterly shocked at all that God
does through our sacrifice.
Discipleship is costly. But if you and I are willing to open up our schedules, our homes, our lives to those God puts in our path, we will be utterly shocked at all that God does through our sacrifice.
To Molly and all those who have done the hard, glorious work of discipling (loving) us:
Thank you for picking up the phone and calling us. Thank you for making room for us in your lives. Thank you for loving us. We thank God every time we think of you.
I love to walk and hike and The Appalachian Trail has been a long-time favorite locale for adventure, so this year found me leaving Springer Mountain in Georgia headed north up the trail. My plan was to end up in Maine, through all 14 states of the trail, and its 2,192 miles, enjoying lots of the side trails on the way. I’d been on the trail four other years, so I had a good sense of the physical challenges and scenic highlights of this trek, but there were in addition three specific personal objectives I targeted. This is an account of how God fulfilled one of those ambitions...
I love to walk and hike and The Appalachian Trail has been a long-time favorite locale for adventure, so this year found me leaving Springer Mountain in Georgia headed north up the trail. My plan was to end up in Maine, through all 14 states of the trail, and its 2,192 miles, enjoying lots of the side trails on the way. I’d been on the trail four other years, so I had a good sense of the physical challenges and scenic highlights of this trek, but there were in addition three specific personal objectives I targeted. This is an account of how God fulfilled one of those ambitions.
Deuteronomy 10:12 asks:
“What does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
I would have seven or eight months hiking, and I wanted to learn how to better walk in the ways of God. I was looking forward to lots of time reading the Word, meditating on God’s ways, and opening my heart to Him in prayer. I did have wonderful times of scripture study, and I treasured the hours I had to meditate on the greatness of God’s creation and love, but my prayer life became a disconcertingly uncomfortable and unproductive experience.
"More than the 10,600 photos I took, or the multiple shoes I wore out, the joy of quieting my own talk so that I could hear Him was the greatest outcome of this adventure."
In the first couple months of my hike I had a well-organized prayer list and could spend a couple hours a day praying as I walked. God was just not ready for me to walk with Him this way. He kept trying to insert His way into my walk and prayer, and I kept ignoring it.
Finally, God got to the point: He wanted me to listen so that He could talk to me. I had been hogging the conversation, and He had lots of things to tell me. If we were to walk together, He wanted me to speak less and listen much more. But I was persistent in my attempts to pray to God my way, and it took me additional weeks to finally get His message, and He had to be very direct: SHUT UP AND LET ME TALK!
The remaining months of my hike were transformed by a real, continual joyful and loving conversation with God. There was so much He wanted to tell me that occasionally I’d need to stop to take notes so that I didn’t forget messages. My prayer time was a continuous time during the whole day and was a real two-way conversation as we walked together. The burdens of my heart could be poured out to Him as we talked, and I came to know so many previously unobserved aspects of Christ that deepened and broadened our friendship, and my love for my savior.
More than the 10,600 photos I took, or the multiple shoes I wore out, the joy of quieting my own talk so that I could hear Him was the greatest outcome of this adventure. I hope to keep growing and deepening the conversation over my years.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (PS 46:10)
This is the second in a two part series focusing on the impact of missions programs; both to create transformation in those who are sent and those to whom they are sent. We've seen repeatedly that as a mission trip changes a missionary's worldview and perspective, God transforms their hearts and relationship with Him even while changing the hearts and lives of those who the missionaries are there to visit! Read on to see why missions programs matter, how lives are transformed, and how you can get involved...
This is the second in a two part series focusing on the impact of missions programs: both to create transformation in those who are sent and those to whom they are sent.
Missions programs matter because we are specifically commanded by God through scripture to go into the world and share the knowledge of God and to preach the gospel in the whole world.
We carry out what God has commanded us to do through missions programs by going ourselves, sending others including our loved ones, supporting those who are sent, and praying for those who go and their work among the people.
Missions programs matter because they are a catalyst for spiritual transformation. Transformation being defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. Spiritual transformation is a fundamental change in a person's spiritual life which results in transformation of our thoughts, desires, and actions.
How do missions programs and transformation come together?
The process of transformation starts months before the airplane ever leaves the ground. As the missionary prepares for the trip, God is working in their heart to prepare them for the experiences they will have in a foreign country, as He is also preparing hearts there. And, in country, God is in control of who they meet, what they hear, and He gives them the very words to speak.
"Going on a short or long term mission trip changes, sometimes profoundly, the missionary and those whom the missionary visited, taught, and shared the Gospel."
Going on a short or long term mission trip changes, sometimes profoundly, the missionary and those whom the missionary visited, taught, and shared the Gospel. Without exception, every person we have spoken with after their return from a mission trip speaks of the impact the trip had on them, especially on their world view.
They talk about how their perspective on what is important in life changed from being self-centered and trivial to wanting to help others by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
They talk about seeing and beginning to understand how people living in one room houses with dirt floors are happy with few material possessions but knowing that Jesus Christ gave his life for their salvation.
They talk about how much it means to those in far-away places and living in difficult circumstances, to meet Christian brothers and sisters who travel thousands of miles to show their love for them.
They talk about how God changed them during the trip by giving them the words they did not know ahead of time to speak while visiting a sponsored child.
Those returning from mission trips share about experiencing the love of Jesus as they worshipped side by side with local Christians in a small one room church, they explain seeing the profound joy in those they meet who recently accepted Christ as their savior even though they are still in dire poverty.
Most importantly, returning missionaries discuss seeing the transformation of the people they meet and visit first-hand. These missionaries may not be aware of their own personal spiritual transformation until they return home and start to recognize that they are different, that they have been changed. They may reflect on how their perspectives on the world have changed, how what they used to think was important is now trivial, and what is now important was not even thought of prior to their mission trip. Upon more reflection, they realize that there is a fundamental change in their personal relationship with God.
Returning missionaries often talk about the change in their heart that pushes them into new pursuits or new careers that are focused on caring for others or even becoming a full time missionary themselves. Lastly, they talk about the power of prayer, learning to pray with specificity, and learning to trust God to answer their prayers. What they all describe is their own spiritual transformation.
"Missions programs matter because people come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord and because they also are a catalyst to our own spiritual transformation."
Missions programs matter because people come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord and because they also are a catalyst to our own spiritual transformation.
Paul wrote in Romans 12:2
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
For many Christians, a mission trip is an opportunity to renew your mind, to alter your world view and your relationship with Jesus Christ. Is it time for you to go on a short term mission trip? MCC has multiple short-term missions trips planned for next year. For more information on those trips or any MCC Missions Programs, click here or contact Tom O'brien.
This is the first of a two-part series focusing on missions; what scripture tells us about them and the effect of mission’s programs to create transformation in those who participate in missions themselves and those who are interacting with missionaries...
This is the first of a two-part series focusing on missions; what scripture tells us about them and the effect of missions programs to create transformation in those who participate in missions themselves and those who are interacting with missionaries.
As a baseline for our discussion, what is a missions program and what is the difference between missions programs and community outreach/evangelism?
First, not everything we do as Christians to share the gospel is considered missions.
That may or may not be a surprise to you. That does not mean that evangelism and community outreach ministries, for example, are less important. It simply means they may not fall under the umbrella of missions.
Nobody can deny the importance and the impact of our evangelism and community outreach ministries. For example, the far-reaching effects of Vacation Bible School, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and our involvement with A. Montoya Elementary School through the Shine program are profound and transforming. Through these programs we are sharing the gospel and demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and our community.
"While missions, community outreach, and evangelism
are extremely important parts of a vibrant church,
they are not the same thing."
In general, evangelism and community outreach are typically done in your native language, with people that you likely know or have some knowledge of, and who have been exposed to God’s Word but have chosen for one reason of another not to listen or embrace it. While there may be some apprehension or uneasiness in how you approach sharing the gospel, there is little physical danger in what you are doing when you talk to your co-worker, relative, or neighbor about Christ.
In comparison, missions programs are cross-cultural, may require learning a foreign language or use of an interpreter, may require long distance travel to remote and hazardous areas, and may involve some level of temporary or long-term personal danger. Depending on the country, there may even be laws against sharing the gospel, establishing churches, and actively demonstrating your faith in our Lord. And, depending on the location and the people group there may be little or no access to Bibles, other believers, pastors, or even knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
While missions, community outreach, and evangelism are extremely important parts of a vibrant church, they are not the same thing.
What does the Bible tell us about missions?
As Christians, we are commanded to spread the gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue. One of the most well-known verses regarding missions is found in Matthew 28 verses 19-20 where Jesus directs his disciples:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.
But the message of missions, getting the word of God out to the world, carries throughout scripture. When God called Abram (Abraham), He said:
“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen12:3)
The prophet Isaiah’s song of praise says “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. (Is 12:4)
And David wrote “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”. (Ps 96:3)
In the new testament the apostles record conversations with Jesus where He is very explicit about what He expects them to do. The words of our Savior leave no doubt that He told His disciples to go throughout the world and share the gospel. Consider the following:
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2
Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” John 20:21
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Scripture is clear. We as a church and as His people are commanded by Him to spread the news of His saving grace for man to the far corners of the world. In practice, we do this through our mission’s programs at MCC. God has commanded we do it and we as a congregation faithfully obey His command by going, sending, and financially and prayerfully supporting our missions programs.
If you have questions about the difference between missions and outreach, we hope you will reach out to one of our mission team members or learn more by reading Denny Spitter and Matthew Ellison's book "When Everything is Missions".
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MCC’s Annual Thanksgiving Potluck is Sunday, November 24 from 1:00–3:00 pm at the Los Vecinos Community Center in Tijeras! This year we will have a fun photo booth AND an ultimate frisbee throw-down! It is going to be an afternoon of fellowship, thanksgiving and fun! We need people willing to cook turkeys, sides, pies and all your other Thanksgiving favorites! Sign up forms are in the foyer. Volunteers begin set-up at 12:00 and clean-up is from 3:00-4:00pm; help is always welcome!
The Women’s Serving Team is hosting a Christmas Celebration on Saturday, December 7th from 3:00-5:00pm at The Kenney’s House. We will have hors d'oeuvres, apple cider, a white elephant gift exchange and lots of time for great conversation! We hope you will join us! Contact Jodi Kenney with questions.