Friday, December 31, 2010

Trouble in Amish Paradise

My parents and I just watched a BBC documentary on the internet called “Trouble in Amish Paradise”. It was really wonderful. I would say probably the best thing I have seen on the internet in several months.

It traces the lives of two young Amish families who come to genuine faith in Jesus and get excommunicated from the Amish church. Yet they maintain a heart for their people and keep some of the external Amish cultural traits (haircuts, clothes, buggies) so that they are able to share the gospel with their family members more easily. (Somewhat reminiscent of the way Paul related to his Jewish kindred.)

Then there were a couple of twists to the story that grabbed my heart.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you. Suffice it to say that you may find it worth the hour it takes to watch the documentary. I think kids over about age 10 would also enjoy it and there are no “seedy” parts to the story that you need to cover their eyes for.

I think even the BBC film producers were impressed with these young evangelical families. The slant of the documentary is definitely favorable to them—does not make them look like crazy zealots.

Because of the YouTube 10 minute limit, the documentary is split into six segments. Here’s a link to the first. If you pay attention, you can follow the trail from 1 to 2 and from 2 to 3 and so on through all 6.

I hope it blesses you as much as it has me. 

After you've watched it, you'll want to check out a web site which gives further updates from Ephraim and Amanda:


Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Random but Stimulating Conversation about Missions

Recent emails exchanged between myself and a friend who leads a small but strategic missions organization.  I am blessed to have friends who force me to go deeper.

Hi B____,

Sure, if you have a way to use it this weekend, go ahead and keep the DVD!

A few other questions that have been rumbling around in my noggin lately (don’t feel pressed to answer these right now if you are in the middle of working on other things; I know you are busy!):

  • If the Lord ever opens the door for me to travel to a restricted nation, I am wondering if my Facebook posts and blog writings that are related to the persecuted church would prove to be a hindrance to me being able to get a visa.  To say it another way, do the people processing the visa applications ever search online to find out about the people who are applying for visas?  For better or worse, if you Google my name it doesn’t take long to find out that am a Christian and that I raise support for the persecuted church .  Should I try to start leaving my last name off of all of these web sites?  On the other hand, if I search under {your name}, {your ministry's} web site comes up fairly readily.  So maybe you haven’t found it necessary to try to stay “invisible” online?
  • I have been particularly burdened of late for those persecuted believers who are not strong in the faith and who may be Christian only in name/culture and not truly born again.  Often in these same areas it seems that illiteracy tends to be a problem, preventing these people from reading God’s Word for themselves.  I think particularly of Egypt and Pakistan, although I’m sure that you would know of more countries that fit this description.  I am more concerned about these churches than I am about the churches of say, Vietnam, Iran, Eritrea, Cuba, or China (which seem to be stronger spiritually?).  It would seem that these Christians are probably both the greatest barrier and the greatest strategy to the evangelization of the non-Christians around them.  Right now, they are not experiencing and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, so their witness (if they even attempt to witness) is powerless.  But if they do get genuinely converted and discipled and the non-Christians around them see this change, it would really catch their attention.  So I guess I have three questions about this.  First, is my perception of this situation correct?  Second, if so, what is the best way that we in the US can aid in the “evangelization” of these “Christians”?  (To some extent I fear the results of exporting typical American evangelicalism overseas.)  Thirdly, what might be some practical ways my own church could get “hands on” with this?
  • Have you heard of Paul Washer and the HeartCry Missionary Society?  They are a small organization with US operations based in Virginia.  They support native pastors and evangelists in many of the least-reached regions of the world.  They do a better job of training and discipling the native workers than any other missions agency I know of, including even {a very large one}.  There might be some way that they could be of help to {your ministry}.  I would be happy to send you a DVD and a copy of their latest newsletter if you are interested in checking them out.  
Because of Jesus, 


As you can see I am very behind in e-mail replies. Thanks for this note and your patience. Here are my concise answers to your questions.

1.        Yes, ultimately our activity on the internet may hinder us from getting visa’s and entering into some countries. I have only been denied one visa in my life and that was M______. I believe this will increase with time. But I do not believe we should hold back from being bold on the internet. Today is the day of ministry and our bold witness may affect ten others to be courageous in their faith. God is the one who opens and closes doors. Therefore continue to bold as a lion and shrewd as a serpent. You may be lead at time to have an alias. My pen name for Islamic site is ____________ ___________.

2.       Yes, you are right on the money with the cultural Christians with Pakistan and Egypt. You can include cultural Christians in any other country of the world certainly but those two do have a particular pronounced problem. Prayer is key. The spiritual bondage of human traditions must be broken. Only God can ultimately do the work. As we pray and God opens doors we can participate with better teaching materials, radio, TV internet etc are all tools. (But they are poor and the Holy Spirit must help in them getting these materials and using them) Visits and teaching is part of the solution as God allows because the Kingdom of God is about relationships. The old Chinese proverb is appropriate here. The start of a 1000 mile journey is the first step. None of us can “fix” the cultural Christianity problem in these countries but we all can take one step in alleviating it. How can you have hands on in serving these believers? 1. Invite a speaker like F_________ from Pakistan, or Brother J_________ from Egypt. Get your church interested and read books, videos etc from these countries. Arrange a short term trip with M______ to Egypt or a trip to Pakistan. God is awakening cultural Christians within these countries. They are and will be persecuted as they become more bold in their faith. We need to support and encourage them.

3.       I would love to know more about Paul Washer and the HeartCry Missionary Society? Please send me the information. By the way how have you been able to evauluate their effectiveness?  I appreciate your insight but want to know what that is based upon. I greatly admire {a larger organization} and obviously you believe this group is doing a better job. Can you tell me how you have come to this conclusion?

You are a wonderful and faithful servant of our Lord. I hope my notes helped. Keep up the good work,


Hi B_____,

Well, at least you now know that you are not the only one who has trouble keeping up with his emails!

Thank you for the insights you shared with me in answer to my questions.  This was very helpful.  

Your question about how I would measure the effectiveness of Heart Cry is a good one.  I certainly didn’t mean to denigrate {the larger organization's} work.  They are much larger than Heart Cry and for that reason alone, they are probably more efficient in their use of funds than Heart Cry, if measured as simply “bang for buck”.  I guess the main way that I see Heart Cry being effective – this is going to sound weird, and I’m not even sure this is the right way to measure effectiveness – is that they are very effective in bringing conviction to my own heart!  

HeartCry seems to have been gifted in clarifying the gospel.  Evangelicalism has slowly become enmeshed in its own traditions, similar to (although of course not as severe as) what happened to the Church in the Middle Ages.  The gospel has become “assumed” and surprisingly few evangelicals can even articulate it any more.  God has used HeartCry to awaken in my own heart a greater realization of my own tendencies to revert back to “religious formulas” (works righteousness), a greater reliance upon simply the cross, a greater amazement at God’s mercy in saving me, a greater joy in Jesus’ all-sufficiency, and a greater confidence in the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God rather than human technique in my own evangelism.  Of course, it isn’t just Heart Cry.  In recent years God has also used people like Ray Comfort and John Piper and C J Mahaney and even the leaders of my own church to clarify my understanding of the gospel.  HeartCry is just somewhat unique in the way they take this gospel clarity and combine it with a passion for native missions.  

The DVD and newsletter I gave you last week will give you an opportunity to evaluate this for yourself.  Many more videos and newsletter back issues are available on their web site at  Some of their field reports are a bit flat.  But often one or two in each issue will be really gripping.  

On another topic, thanks again for your hospitality last Thursday!  When you do future mailings, I may be able to help you with ideas on how to streamline, if needed.  I am sure you already know that there are paper folding machines.  Of course, some of the really big ones are very expensive, but some small ones are fairly reasonable (I found one that can do 1800 pages an hour for about $152 through Sears online (  It’s also possible that your church might have one you could borrow?  
I might also be able to figure out you could print addresses directly on to your envelopes.  And the date code could be printed directly on to your reply envelopes.  These ideas would save time—and the cost of the labels—but require more training for your volunteers.  And it would probably cut down some on the delightful fellowship among the volunteers as they work (partly because using machines to do the work would require more concentration, and partly because the work would go faster and thus give less time to talk).  This “efficiency versus relationship” trade off only you can weigh. 

May the Lord bless you and your family with a wonderful Christmas and a blessed new year!


    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Mom Gets Out (Hurray!)

    {Sent last Thursday}

    Hi {friend},

    I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for this afternoon. Because of all the craziness while Dad has been sick this week with his intestinal bug, I wasn't even sure until the last minute how many of us (if any) were even going to be able to make it. Thankfully Mom and I haven't gotten it, so we suspect it may have been bad food he ate at the church potluck on Sunday.

    You and {your wife} are great hosts! My mother loved her time there this afternoon. Even her being able to stay as long as she did is really remarkable. Your house is about as bad as they get for fragrances. But since the breakthrough at the Courageous Living Conference she's been steadily testing her physical boundaries. She's been to our own church (First Southern in Cottonwood) twice now. Last time was communion Sunday, and she got to have communion with the gathered church for the first time in at least 12 years. (People have come out from church with communion during those years, of course, but it was a special joy for her to have it in person.) She also went to Phoenix (Mesa, actually) with us on Thanksgiving and we celebrated Thanksgiving with my brother and his family for the first time in their marriage (they have been married 18 years). So today she decided to just see how she would do in an even more challenging (environmentally) building. She enjoyed being around normal people for a change. 

    So, thank you so much for your hospitality, and making her feel welcome. I'm sorry we couldn't stay longer.

    I'm hoping to have time to write you more later about some ministry things, but for now...

    the Lord's blessings to you, brother!


    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Microsoft's Free Antivirus Program

    For several years, Microsoft has offered a free antispyware program called Windows Defender.  Now, thanks to loyal blog reader Gerard, I've learned that they have released a new product that also incorporates antiviral technologies.  Best, it's totally free for home and small business users (up 10 PC's).

    Until now, I've recommended AVG for antivirus software.  But when my paid AVG subscription expires in February, I will switch over to Microsoft Security Essentials.  I recommend you do the same.