by Jenna Musgrove
What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘outreach’? A church evangelism event? A local food drive? A summer youth program? It’s easy to think of outreach as a planned activity or event, something you participate in every once in a while to serve those in need. But is that really what it ought to be?
As a believer, we have many calls. The call to grow in sanctification. The call to glorify God with our lives. The call to serve in the church. And, of course, probably the most famous call of all- to go and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations ( Matt 28:19-20). That, my friends, is your call to outreach. Or better put, to reach out. We are commanded to extend truth and grace to those lost in sin and darkness.
But, what does that look like? Considering our best example for life and ministry is Jesus Himself, we must first examine how He ordered His days. When reading through the gospels, it seems evident that to Christ, outreach was an interwoven part of His everyday life. It wasn’t an organized event. It didn’t occur once every couple of weeks. I find it noteworthy that more often than not, Jesus ministered to the lost in the most ordinary and unplanned moments. In fact, most of the crucial interactions in Christ’s ministry happened while He was simply passing by, walking through a city, or traveling from one place to another.
It is in those “insignificant” moments where we cross paths with others that we are presented with countless opportunities to reach out.
Now that’s all easily said, but let’s bring it onto a more practical level. What exactly does that look like? What does it require? Please hear me say that I am nowhere near perfect and my attempts to live intentionally and gospel-focused are often befuddled by my own shortcomings, lack of courage, and selfishness. Even as I wrote this, I was deeply convicted over the areas in which I struggle and fail to reach out. But, for the sake of painting a picture, allow me to share a few examples from my own everyday, routine moments.
Snapshot #1: The little moments matter
Our next-door neighbors are a vivacious, friendly European couple. The girl moved here to work for a health center and her boyfriend followed to be with her, soon after joining the local circus as a trapeze artist (just your average neighbors, right?). Every time we see them, it’s in passing. She’s coming home from work, he’s leaving to practice, we’re heading out to run errands, etc. But in those moments of hi’s and bye’s, we have little opportunities to reach out, to show the love of Christ. We chat, we ask questions, we share tidbits of our days. And every now and then, we get a chance to linger and dig deeper. In addition to these sprinklings of conversations, they also witness the way we live our lives by default as our neighbors. For example, every Friday afternoon they see my Bible study girls come and go like a herd of giggling, tromping elephants. In fact, they once asked me if our organization required us to study the Bible, since it seemed they always saw us leading, going to, or participating in some form of Bible study. Brief interactions, quick conversations, touches of outreach. Simply living our daily lives. Such small things. But in God’s sovereign perspective and plan, even the littlest of things matter. Who can say what foundation is being laid or what the Lord has in store for this relationship? As a matter of fact, we’ve now got pending plans to head to the circus in the near future.
Snapshot #2: The sacrifice of time
Saturday mornings for Adrienne and I consist of spending time with a handful of kids from Tamarindo. What began as a request for a little ‘tour’ of their community to better gain our bearings and begin relationships, quickly turned into a weekly routine. Now, somewhere between 9 and 9:30 am, we receive a loud rap at the door and know our slow morning of coffee and time in the Word has ended. What then ensues is fairly unpredictable, from walks through the community, read-alouds with kids we gather on the way, rainy day pancake breakfasts, or a much-needed hair washing in the tub. During this handful of hours, we reach out to these four particular kids who have become very dear to us, and more often than not, encounter a variety of other people along the way. These mornings are fun and sweet, but also purposeful. We choose to give of our time to invest in these kids, to live out the love of Christ, to look beyond ourselves, to plant tiny seeds that we hope one day will produce an eternal harvest.
Snapshot #3: Being intentional
Sunday afternoons, you might see Adrienne and I walking to the colmado (think Dominican 7/11) or catching a motorcycle taxi to the local mercado to get our weekly groceries. To any observing eye, there may appear to be no particular rhyme or reason to this ritual other than the necessity to purchase food. And to those who know I own a car, it might seem strange or even foolish to opt for public transportation over my own vehicle. In addition, fellow Americans could wonder why we don’t head to a bigger nearby city to find a wider variety of products and familiar brands. But, our decision to shop this way was actually made as a conscious effort to build relationships within our community, to create opportunities for conversation, and to live with a touch of solidarity with those we serve. As a result, we’ve been able to establish a budding friendship with the sweet couple that owns our local colmado. After various times making small-talk, sharing greetings and a smile, and simply taking interest, eventually we were invited to their home for lunch. But it took intentionality. Repetition. Time. And a recognition that even the most routine activities of life (such as grocery shopping) can be precious opportunities in the eternal kingdom.
Snapshot #4: It’s a choice
At least once a week, I receive a familiar knock on the door from a local wandering street kid looking for a way to fill his empty belly. And every time he visits, I have a choice to make. Will I open the door, knowing the next half hour of my evening will be taken sitting on the stoop chatting with my little friend until he manages to direct the conversation to his real desire, food? And then, I’ll be faced with the ever-difficult decision of either sharing what I have to satisfy his hunger or saying a gentle no so as not to develop a dependent relationship. OR, I can ignore the knock altogether and pretend I’m not home, continuing in whatever task is at hand, and avoiding the inevitable tough calls that ensue. In those moments, I am presented with a choice. Ease or sacrifice. Stay in or reach out. The opportunity is laid before me, how I respond is up to me.
Why do I share all of this? My hope is to challenge your perspective on everyday life, to show you that outreach is not as complicated or distant as you maybe thought. My prayer is that you’ll begin to have eyes to see the little opportunities that come across your path each day. In the end, the choice is yours. Will you reach out?
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
By Briana Sadowski, Cedarville University group member, guest post
We’re on the way back, and for me this time on the plane is always one of
reflecting on all that I saw, heard, and learned here in another country. First of all,
it’s important to mention that not all countries in one region are the same. There
can be a tendency to think that – for example – cultures are the same in all of
Central America, a region not too large. However, each country and people has
their own culture. This I learned since my first trip to the Dominican Republic.
When someone asks me how to describe the people and place of the Dominican
Republic, I always answer with the same word: community. The idea of
community is not as common in more individualistic countries. I mean, we have
neighborhoods – a concept of living close to other families.
But what does community mean? The Dominican people know how to define it
well. For them, community means three things: sharing generously, living
together (physically and figuratively), and loving others.
First: sharing generously. It is so clear from the moment one arrives at a
community that all the members share what they have. If someone is sick,
another comes to prepare them food. If one child goes to a neighbor’s house, this
neighbor treats him as one of their own children. Even when someone is selling
goods or services (this happened to me as well), they give without thinking twice
about the cost. One woman that braids hair on the beaches for a living offered to
braid mine. I responded that the braids were indeed beautiful but that I hadn’t
brought money that day for anything, so I could not. Without even hesitating, she
answered me saying that she would prefer to do a favor for someone because
life is not all about money. So I sat down for a time with her, and as she braided
my hair we talked about her and her family. She did not have to offer me
anything, but she desired to show me love.
Next: living together. When we visited the communities, often we saw that they
were caring for each other all the time. We came to a house to help clean it out
with the man, and the neighbors not only came out and helped, but also were
making decisions for him. We would ask the neighbors questions and they would
respond in his place. Why? Because they all live life together, and know the
needs, preferences, and persons that they are living with.
Finally: loving others. Even though the community members literally have been
born and grown up in the same community (and therefore know each other quite
well), they open their doors so that other visitors or new guests can come in. I
think this part could be the most difficult to implement. They are very close to
each other, and have no obligation to allow or invite visitors, but they go ahead
and do so with love and care. They build and maintain relationships not only with
those within their own community but also with those outside that desire to get to
know them. This impacted me greatly because, being my second time visiting, I
saw that I could continue the relationships that I had the privilege to make with
those there, and I also had the chance to meet new people who with joy invited
me to share in their lives and begin to get to know them.
Dominicans have shown me a great picture of what a community looks like, and
although I do not live in towns built such as theirs, I too can invite others to enter
into my life, with the hope of maintaining relationships and sharing whether it be
materials, time, encouragement, etc. We have the power to create community
wherever we live!
"We have the power to create community wherever we live!
What have you observed about community where you are? If you've served with Makarios in the D.R. in the past and have a special take-away about what community looks like here, please comment!
by Wes Holloman, Associate Pastor - Sagemont Church, guest blogger
Life and ministry are so much more fun when you do it with others! I have seen that in my own life so many times! I love Walt Disney World, but experiencing it with my family makes it all the more MAGICAL. I love serving others, but there is NOTHING better than serving hand-in-hand with another person.
A few years ago, my family and I were privileged to have dinner with Jon and Rachel Sawyer and with some of our mutual friends. Rachel actually went to Baylor University with Kelli, my wife, and me (a LONG time ago), and we had a great time talking about old friends and fond memories of the “Good ‘ole Baylor Line.” Our conversation quickly switched to hearing their hearts for missions and for the people of the Dominican Republic. The stories of what the Lord was doing were just incredible. At that point, I knew partnering with Jon and Rachel was not just a thought, but this needed to become a reality.
After meeting with our missions team, Sagemont Church moved forward in making Makarios one of our major strategic mission partners. Of course, everything looks great on paper, but you never know what will happen in reality. We sent our first Sagemont Church student group, and I can’t BEGIN to tell you how the Lord used this mission trip to challenge and transform a group of students in the most incredible ways. Over the past several years, our church continues go back and partner with Makarios because of the life-changing experiences that happen when you serve on mission with those of the same mind and heart.
What has happened at our church because of our partnership with Makarios?
· Students have shared the Gospel for the first time.
· Students have been called to the ministry and to the mission field.
· Parents have seen total transformation in their kid’s lives (I was so privileged to go to the DR with my oldest daughter. She STILL talks about this mission trip and will be going back to the DR next month!).
· Students are stretched and taken out of their comfort zone to challenge and strengthen their relationship with Christ.
· We have made life-long friends with incredible people like Jon, Rachel, Doug and Margaret!
Being a partner with Makarios has absolutely changed our church family! You can accomplish so much more when you work with someone, and you can accomplish a hundred-fold when you partner with a team who want to accomplish the same goal…to tell others about the love and grace of Jesus! For this, Sagemont Church is forever grateful for Makarios and their leadership!
We can’t wait to see you all next month!
If you would like to walk hand-in-hand with Makarios by officially becoming one of our amazing partners, click here for more information. Partnering with us can also be sponsoring a child, a missionary kid, a teacher, a classroom, etc. or by giving to a particular area. We are thankful beyond measure for the many ways that churches, organizations and individuals come alongside us in meaningful and impactful ways!
by Laura Simpson, guest blogger
In October of 2007, I was a brand new nurse with only 4 months experience living
and working in my hometown of Dayton, OH. This super fun, Jesus loving, PA I had
worked with for a couple of years had mentioned taking a medical mission vision
trip down to the Dominican Republic. He had gone to college and was friends with
the founder. I was fresh out of college, making actual money and always up for
international travel, so I told him I was in. To be honest, it wasn’t the thought of
going to a beautiful island, eating dinner on a gorgeous beach or even using the
skills my God had fashioned in me…what excited me the most was that of the 7 of us
that went, none of us went to the same church. While I participated in and loved
going on mission trips with my friends in youth group growing up (some of my most
treasured memories are trips/camps with my youth group…we were so fun)…there
was something so special about people saying yes to Jesus because the opportunity
presented itself…not because you knew all the people and all the details and
someone had gone before you to tell you what it was like, but simply because you
know God, you love God and you know that you know that you know…you are
always meant to love and serve people; it is an amazing way to love and serve God.
I had absolutely zero clue how this trip would go. The only thing I distinctly
remember from a meeting when Sharla was in town was that you can’t throw your
toilet paper in the toilet. It has to go in the trashcan beside it. No other options. Oh,
and always make sure you have toilet paper on you…it’s never a guarantee in public
places. I was subconsciously seriously concerned about the toilet paper thing.
The trip was amazing. It was rainy. We all thought we were going to die walking
back to our hotel at the end of the trip because it was so dark and sand is a blast to
hoof it in. I almost busted my tail on some wet tile. But, we saw the school, which
was one little building with two small classrooms inside. We walked through
Montellano, Pancho Mateo and Chichigua and I fell in love. We were muddy messes
by the time we were done. Something in me clicked and shifted forever. My heart
was swelling with each child I picked up, every hand old or young that I held. We
literally walked from house to house, being invited in, them coming out to greet us
and we helped teach them, remove stiches, clean and dress wounds, ect all out of
our backpacks. This, my friends is partnership. To come alongside, work together,
sharing what you know and helping without expectation of payback, but each doing
what they can.
I knew by day 3 that I wanted to come back. I had to pray about it before I talked to
Sharla. I needed to know that this wasn’t just a caught up in the moment high. When
talking about coming back for an extended period of time, I knew in my heart that
this is what God had for me at that time. At that time, there was no medical
personnel in the DR and I would actually be able to fill a role for a small amount of
time. Sharla was all for it and so was I. I now had to convince my job to let a new
nurse with very little earned time off to leave her job for a month to go serve in
another country. The Lord gave me some powerful and persuasive words. I went
over and over my speech to my boss. I entered her office with humility, but a bold
spirit to present the request. I was no more than one sentence in and she agreed.
Just like that. No pleading. No proving. This, my friends, is partnership. It’s when you
are willing to put in the work, praying, studying the word, saving money and
supplies…and believing with all your heart that God will do his part. You see,
whether or not my boss was going to allow me to go was not truly ever in her hands.
It was always in God’s. And even though He permitted it to be without me having to
put up a good case as to why this was going to be a catalyst for the future years to
change my life; He was pleased that I was willing.
My partnership with Makarios does not look like most. I wasn’t there from the
beginning, but I got to walk on roads of those that could see people like me coming a
few years later. Partnership. I have gone back twice a year since, sometimes with
medical teams, but mostly on my own. I have made friends with staff and in the
communities. I have always been welcomed in like family and we keep up even
years later. Partnership. This even allowed me to join Makarios as a few of us went
to Jimani after the earthquake to offer our love and skills in an orphanage turned
hospital in whatever ways we could and were sent with supplies from sponsors in
the States. Partnership. I’ve also seen children go to a safe school, being taught a
bilingual curriculum that sets them up for the future, and a meal they can count on.
They learn to love and respect each other. Partnership. But most of all, these lives
are changing the face of the Kingdom and more are being added all the time. These
are the training grounds for the rising leaders of their communities…and they are
our brothers in sisters in Christ whose very lives are sharing the gospel.
Partners come in various forms, with unique callings and specific gifts, and we couldn't be more grateful! Our partners are essential to loving, educating and empowering! Want to join in? Click here for more information on how to become a partner.
by Richie Sparling, Outreach Coordinator
Imagine you worked for a ministry and someone handed you the reigns of "outreach" and asked you to design and lead what that looks like in the community(ies) in which the ministry serves. What questions would you ask to start the ball rolling? How would you distinguish and target the various groups of people living in that community? What programs would you establish to meet the needs of the various people groups? How would you define spiritual formation? What would your vision statement be like?
None of these questions have simple answers. Yet, is this not exactly the call Christ gave to each christian when he said in Matthew 28 "Go, into all the world and MAKE disciples of all nations"? Perhaps many of you reading this passage before focused on the "GO". However the real emphasis in this sentence is on the word "MAKE". In fact the "GO" is an assumed "go" probably better interpreted as: "while you are going". In other words, this great command is not meant only for missionaries and preachers who leave their home to go to another area of the world, but for all men and women who are called by His name to follow in His footsteps and make disciples.
So how are you answering this call in your life; in the community in which you live? We are asking some of these same questions as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ here on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. What process does someone go through in order to become a mature believer? Well, first they need exposure to the gospel. Then they need an invitation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Once they have committed their life to Christ they need encouragement, teaching from God's word, involvement in a local church for continued growth, and perseverance. Then, Lord willing, they themselves will become a disciple-maker leading others to a knowledge of the saving grace that is found only in Christ.
This is no easy process. There are snares and pitfalls along the way. There is a powerful enemy who desires to distract and destroy. BUT, we have a powerful God through whom all things are possible. Even the worst of sinners can find forgiveness for their sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. We know that we are not alone in this journey and when the job of making disciples seems too overwhelming, we can turn to the One who does the REAL work knowing that our struggle is not in vain because we serve a mighty and wonderful God.
Pray for God's work to be done here on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, and pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields because there is much work to do! Then answer the call for yourself, in your neighborhood, at your place of work, and even in your own home.