Winfrees Going South

The Last Push

imagesWe have finished all of the training that our mission agency, Mission to the World, has for us.  All that is left is for us to raise the rest of the financial support needed to get on the field.  The next several months are looking to be wild ones.  Becky and I have so much to do to prepare for Bogotá.  Because we have had so many obstacles over the last year and a half of our journey, we feel behind in the pursuit of the Lord’s call on our lives.  However, every so often the Lord lets me know that I need to rest in His sovereignty in all of these things and not put so much pressure basedon what I think is good timing. alg-bogota-streets-jpg

We are so excited about what the Lord is doing in Bogotá with the church plants and the Apprenticeship program.  Already three couples have finished the program and have gone to Arequipa, Peru to begin building the groundwork for planting new churches there.   Keep praying for the Kines, Bonham and Gutierrez families.  There is so much going on in Latin America.  The Lord is doing so many wonderful things.  We have had opportunities to talk with people about working in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Mexico once we finish in Bogotá, but we still want to wait and see what the needs are at the time and where we would best fit.

SONY DSCOf course, the Lord has given us so much to do here in Richmond.  We are thankful that we have been here to help our families during some very difficult times.  We are thankful that our church, All Saints, has been so supportive and given me the opportunity to serve there over these past two and a half years.  We are thankful for the love and prayers of so many friends and supporters.

There is so much to do.  Please do pray for us as we continue to raise the financial and prayer support that we need in order to serve the Lord in Colombia.


Take a Missionary to Lunch

1800420_10202915003897962_784866596_nI love missionaries.

I love spending time with missionaries.

This isn’t because I am a missionary.  You see, I enjoy being with people who are focused on seeing God work and who are passionate about being a part of that work.  I love to spend time with people who are more concerned with the Good News than a good golf game.

Missionaries know that there is much work to be done in the world.  Missionaries are people that understand that God is at work – that the Holy Spirit did not stop His work of Gospel proclamation after Acts 28.  Missionaries understand that they are called to be a part of that work.  They are usually people of vision – God’s vision.  They are people who love to see the coming of the Kingdom – who love to see the Father’s work done on earth as it is in heaven.  They are people who live in the light of these truths each day.  That is why I love them.  It is why I love to be with them.

The difference between missionaries and most Christians is that missionaries have these truths in front of them.  But here is the deal.  All of us who claim to follow Jesus are called to be a part of the work that He is doing in the world.  All of us are called to be focused on seeing God at work.  He is working all around us.  He is at work in Richmond, Charlotte, New York, Blacksburg and Charlottesville just as He is at work in Bogotá, Brussels, Tokyo, Cairo and Mexico City.  He is at work in our homes and in our offices.  He is at work in our neighborhoods.  But too often we live oblivious to this reality.  Being a missionary reminds me that my Father is at work all the time and everywhere.

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And we are all to be about this incredible Kingdom work.  We are all called to be about the Father’s work.  We are all called to pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  We are all called to be proclaimers and lovers and doers and followers.  This is not the special call of an ordained few.

We should all be visionaries – passionate about the Father’s vision for the world around us.

Do you want to be challenged and encouraged?

Invite a missionary to lunch.

Better yet, be one.


Through Your Prayers

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“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance…”  Philippians 1:19 (English Standard Version)

 When we missionaries visit your church, we are excited to tell you about what the Lord is doing in the places where He has called us to minister, about His work in our own lives and how he is working out His gracious provision for us as well.  As we visit and talk we often ask for your help.  There are two things that missionaries, church planters and other ministries need: financial support and prayer.  Of course, most of you are convinced that what missionaries and other workers want most is the financial support.  I mean, no one is going anywhere without the money – no plane tickets, no housing, no insurance…

But I can tell you that, as important as financial support is, for the work of Jesus Christ throughout the world today, prayer is more important.  Yes, churches and individual believers need to send money; but they also must pray – really pray – for the work of ministry.  Your own pastors as well need your prayers for fruitful and faithful ministry: not just your money.

The Apostle Paul here is writing a letter as a missionary who is being supported by the church in Philippi.  They have supported him for a long time financially (see chapter 4).  Later in the letter he thanks them for their financial support and how the Lord will bless them for being partners with him in the Gospel.  That is what we become when we support the Lord’s work – partners in the Gospel – partners in the Lord’s work of taking the Good News of Jesus Christ out into the world.  And this is such a great privilege.

But our partnership is more than money.  In the verse above we see how the prayers of the church in Philippi have also been used of God in the Apostle’s own life and the work of ministry.  As a missionary I am learning more and more that I need the prayers of our fellow workers in the work of the Gospel.  I am learning more and more that nothing is really accomplished of a lasting and spiritual nature apart from prayer.  Certainly money will build buildings and pay salaries; but it will not change hearts and minds and lives.  It is not raise the dead.  It will not give new life.

I would like to encourage you as individuals and churches to continue to give financially to the work of God in your own church and throughout the world.  Be generous.  Stretch yourself.  Understand God’s priorities.

But more than all of that, pray.


Living in Grace

0Becky and I were able to attend Mission to the World’s Living in Grace training at Ridge Haven in June.  It was an incredible week of fellowship and teaching as we were able to spend time with other missionaries preparing for the field.  There were men and women going to Ukraine, Australia, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Belize and even a couple working with Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.  These missionaries, like us, were in various stages of preparation for getting on the field. For us there really isn’t anything a whole lot more exciting than spending time with other missionaries.  The vision we share – the hopes and problems and struggles and thrills – give us a common ground.  But most of all we have a common bond of following Christ as he takes us away from family and home and comfort and language and so many other American things that we all depend on.  The Lord, in his wonderful kindness and grace, is leading us to new fields of service.

Dr. Paul Kooistra led the training as we worked through together what it means to live our lives in the light of the grace of God.  The teaching was a blessing to us in so many ways and was one more way that the Lord showed his grace to us.  We are so thankful that the Lord gave us this wonderful week of encouragement and rest in the midst of a pretty hectic year.

Becky and I now only have one more training event with Mission to the World before we can move on to Bogotá.  In January we hope to attend the Cross Cultural training in Brussels, Belgium.  This training is a month long.  We are excited to be at this point in our journey; but there is still so much to do.  Most of our work is raising the support we need to get on the field.  So far we have raised about 50% of the support we need in up front costs; however, we are only about 30% of our ongoing monthly support.  Please be praying for us as we pursue the Lord’s call on our lives.

 

 



Apprenticeship in Mission

ApprenticeshipMany Missionaries going onto the field for the first time have very little idea of what to expect.  All of the preliminary training and preparation can only take you so far.  Working in a different cultural context is about more than language.  Mission to the World (MTW) has begun a training and apprenticeship program that will give new missionaries to Latin America a deeper understanding of ministry in a Latin American culture.  As we move forward toward we look forward to working with MTW’s Apprenticeship in Mission program (AIM).  Upon arriving in Bogotá we will begin an intense language acquisition program that will last for about six months.  Without a sound understanding and use of the language, there is little ministry that can be done.  After the language part of the program we will focus on actual church planting activity in Bogotá with Colombian pastors as well as experienced missionaries in the area.  Below Gary Waldecker, the director of AIM, sets how his own vision for the program and how it works.gary-headshot

“The Latin America Apprenticeship in Mission program is designed to prepare our new missionaries for cross-cultural church planting ministry. Many of our new missionaries have a seminary education as well as some ministry experience. But the cross-cultural nature of ministries in Latin America affects every aspect of church planting in a profound way, thus making the program an important aspect of preparation. The program is illustrated in Figure 1.

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Figure 1. Apprenticeship in Mission Program

The program is represented in Figure 1 by the yellow rectangle. It is designed to provide a model of how to plant churches cross-culturally so that, once the program is over, the missionaries just keep doing in their ministries what they’ve been doing in the apprenticeship program. It has the following characteristics:

  1. On the Job Training: The apprentices are trained through participation in a church plant. That is, they help plant a church in Latin America. This is indicated in Figure 1 by the “Ministry” label in the blue triangle.
  2. Relevant classes: While the emphasis is not on classwork, the program includes readings, lectures, workshops and seminars that relate the daily church planting experience of the apprentices to a biblical worldview. This is indicated in Figure 1 by the “Classes” label in the blue triangle. However, it includes no more study time that would be expected of a pastor or church planter.
  3. Growth in grace: Cross-cultural ministry has a way of challenging people in ways that their home culture does not. The apprenticeship program takes advantage of this reality to help people deal with these challenges in a way that promotes growth in grace both individually and in relation to others. This is indicated in Figure 1 by the label “Character” in the blue triangle. This also includes character-in-community.
  4. A Christ-centered focus: When ministry skills, classes and character development are treated in parallel or separately from each other, an important element of Christ-centeredness is missing. It is only in Christ that knowledge from classes, experience from ministry and character development can fruitfully influence each other. This is indicated in Figure 1 by the spiral connecting Classes, Ministry and Character with Christ at the center. It is easy to fall into the trap of making an idol out of knowledge, out of experience, or out of character development. By emphasizing the ways these three are meant to inform each other to point us to Christ, we are more likely to avoid the following types of idolatry:
    1. Developing ministry skills that are not informed by a biblical worldview or by one’s character development
    2. Taking in information from classes that is not informed by ministry experience or by character development.
    3. Developing character in way that is not informed by ministry experience or by a biblical worldview.
  5. Contextualized: The apprenticeship program is contextualized to Latin America in that the training occurs within that context. This is indicated in Figure 1 by the green rectangle. Instruction in contextualization will accompany the ministry in this cross-cultural context. Since language acquisition is an important part of contextualization, I consider the language school module–usually lasting from 9 months to a year–to be part of this apprenticeship program. [5] During language school, the apprentices will focus on language acquisition in an approved institute. During this time the apprenticeship program leaders will also help the apprentices with cross-cultural adjustment and learning. For example, culture shock should be dealt with as it arises, and not put off until after language school. For a testimony of someone who is in the midst of language training.
  6. Ministry-in-Community: The apprenticeship program emphasizes the social nature of ministry. We don’t want to develop “Lone Ranger” church planters. The apprentices need to understand and experience the importance of using their gifts as complements to the gifts of a larger group. When our gifts are brought together in Christ, a Spirit-produced synergy is formed that is much more powerful than a lone church planter. Furthermore, working together provides an environment in which greater learning can occur. This social aspect is indicated in Figure 1 by the Character point of the blue triangle, and by the partners listed within the the green rectangle. It comes to concrete expression in the following ways:
    1. The church planting will be done in the context of and with a church planting team.
    2. The church planting will be done in the context of local partners with whom the missionary team is working.
    3. The apprentices will be working together in many cases.
    4. I would like to invite regional and team leaders to come visit, lend their expertise, and join with us in the program.
  7. Full-orbed: The apprenticeship program involves apprentices in most of the important aspects of church planting. This is indicated in Figure 1 through the two lists of (a) Areas of Training, and (b) Areas of Ministry. These areas are integrally related to each other, and the interconnections are included in the program. While everyone in the program will be trained in all aspects of ministry, some will emphasize certain aspects as determined by their call to ministry. For example, those who will be specializing in mercy ministry will be given more ministry responsibilities and training in that area.
  8. Closely Supervised: On-the-job training programs are often weak on supervision. In many cases the assumption is that if we give the opportunity to gain experience, that will be enough. But the Missionary Apprenticeship Program is designed to provide the apprentices with close supervision and feedback from more experienced missionaries. Missionaries with greater experience will regularly do ministry with the apprentices, and give them feedback on how they are doing. The apprentices will also get feedback from Latin American partners who work with them and observe them in ministry.
  9. In Depth: The full-time program will begin after the language school module and will last 8 months. There could be exceptions for special cases. For example, the program might be shortened to two months for short term missionaries.
  10. A Learning Posture: The more complex the challenge, the more teams and organizations should configure themselves in the learning mode, as opposed to the performance mode. The apprenticeship program models and promotes a learning posture that should be continued once the missionaries arrive to their respective places of service.”

Blindsided

unexpectedBlindsided.  That is the best way for Becky and I to describe our lives over the past 8 months.  Last September my brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It was inoperable.  The reality is that we really did not expect him to live through Christmas.  But, by God’s grace, we were given several more months together.  But, he finally went home to be with the Lord a few weeks ago.  He and I were very close; and I miss him so much.  However, back in December Becky and I jumped back into support raising for our mission to Bogotá hoping to get enough support raised to go to the Cross-cultural Training in July.  In late January Becky’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  That hit us hard.  Thankfully, both my brother and her parents lived near us in Richmond, so we were able to spend time with both.  Also, thankfully, Becky’s Mom was able to undergo surgery which should give her a decent chance for a longer term survival.  She is recovering well from the surgery and has begun chemo.  We are praying that she would have a long and fruitful life.

In the middle of all of this Becky and I did begin to wonder what the Lord was doing in our lives.  Did he want us to stay and help or should we continue to pursue our course to Latin America?  We prayed and sought counsel.  As Becky was reading in a book by the wonderful missionary to Africa, Helen Roseveare, she realized that we did have a call and nothing had given us any reason to question that call.   The Lord has called us through Mission to the World to serve Him and His people in Latin America.  We are so thankful for being here in Richmond so that we can serve our families who have been so supportive of us.  We love them so much.  It looks like we will be here for a while longer.  We will not be going to the Cross-cultural training in July, but we do hope to make the training when it is offered next January, 2014.  There is nothing in-between.  But our Lord is sovereign and good and He has His good plans for us.  The church where I am currently serving has asked me to stay through the end of the year.  So, we will stay and serve as we prepare to go early next year to Bogotá.

But there is joy and gladness as well.  Our middle daughter is getting married on June 1st.  We are so excited.  Becky has been working hard on making the wedding dress.  She can do pretty much anything with a sewing machine.  I have been asked to sing as well as walk her down the aisle.  So, there is much to do over the next month or so.  But we are excited and happy.

Your continued support is so appreciated.  Even though there have been so many interruptions to our support-raising, we have been blessed with generous friends and family.  Please do continue to pray for us as we move forward.  Pray that we will continue to love and serve our families during these difficult times.  Pray that we would be diligent in our Spanish studies and support raising.  Pray for our families who are in pain.  Pray that the Lord would be glorified in all of these unexpected providences.

 

 


One Step at a Time

bogota-columbia200Many of you have asked what will Becky and I be doing after we finish our language training and church planting apprenticeship in Bogotá.  That is a great question.  Our plan is to serve the Lord somewhere in Latin America; but beyond that, we really do not have an answer.  Latin America is a big place.  In 2008 when Becky and I sold our home and left Richmond for Charlotte to attend RTS we had no idea where we would go beyond that.  But the Lord has always given us the direction we need when we need it.  We are trusting the Lord as we move forward.  As I have mentioned to many of you, we call this part of our lives our Big Adventure.  The Lord is leading us in remarkable ways.  But He is leading us one step at a time.  And this is just not something that we are used to.

The reality is that none of us really knows where we will be next year, next month or next week.  We think we do.  We have plans.  Most of the time the plans work out as we thought.  But often they do not.  And for us this is alternately exciting and terrifying.  One thing we do know, wherever we are the Lord is with us.  That is what is important – His presence with us always.  Our plan is to attend training programs with our mission agency (Mission to the World) in June and July of this year.  Then our plan is to leave for Bogotá sometime in the late summer or early fall of this year.  Once in Bogotá we will be (Lord willing) working through language and cultural acquisition and the Apprenticeship Program for about a year.  Of course, all of that could change.  After this we will work with the local Colombian pastors, the local missionaries who have been working with us, and our own circle of mentors and prayer support to look through Latin America to see where we could best serve.  Then we will pray.  We will ask you to pray.   And we will see what the next step will be as we serve in Latin America.

The Lord is doing so much in Latin America.  We have spoken with missionaries in Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico City and Monterrey.  The Good News of Jesus Christ is moving.  And who knows, maybe there will be other opportunities for us to serve once we finish our initial training.  Of course, we could stay on Bogotá.  How exciting is this!?  There are just so many opportunities for Becky and I to minister wherever the Lord sends us.

imagesSo, for now our call is to go to Bogotá as soon as we raise the necessary financial support.  That is what we believe the Lord would have us do now.  And we serve Christ now, where we are, wherever we are placed.  This is our calling.

All Jesus asks is that we follow Him.


Please Pray

prayer_events_445x197“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”  II Corinthians 1:11

The Apostle Paul understood so well his own need for the prayers of his supporters.  Any blessings that he experienced in the ministry that the Lord Jesus Christ had called him to were gifts from a gracious, generous and great Father in Heaven.  He expresses this to the church at Philippi when he tells them; “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance (Philippians 1:18,19).”   As he experienced difficulty and struggle in the work that he had been called to do, he saw the importance of the prayers of the people who were praying for him and his ministry.

Becky and I are seeing the Lord at work in so many wonderful ways as we continue to follow Him to Latin America.  The work that He is calling us to even now – studying for ordination, Ambrose’s work at church, Becky’s job at Hobby Lobby, learning Spanish, various training opportunities, raising support, and all of the other important issues of life – is much more than we are competent to handle.  And, to be honest, we are not interested in any fruit or success that is built upon our own strength and our own efforts.  We are looking for true Holy Spirit fruit in this call.  This will not happen without prayer: our own, our church’s and yours.


On Finishing Well

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“Now Moses was 80 years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.”

Exodus 7:7

 Moses was on his third career at this point in his life.  First, he was raised in the court of Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, for forty years.  Then he was a shepherd in the wilderness for another forty years.  Now he was sent by God to deliver the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt and to take them into the land that had been promised to them by God.

No retirement for Moses or Aaron.  Both of them worked hard up to the point that they died in the wilderness doing the work that the Lord had given them to do.

At fifty-nine Becky and I feel that our lives are just starting a new stage.  Maybe we have another twenty or thirty years of real ministry and work for the Lord ahead of us.  And we are excited about this opportunity.  We do not want to spend the balance of our lives collecting retirement benefits – playing golf – wandering on a beach – clipping coupons – playing bridge – or anything else that we think that we deserve after a long career of hard work.  We do not want to retire.  There is just too much work to be done.  There are so many opportunities for real service to Jesus Christ and to the world around us.

I have a good friend who is a few years over sixty.  He is retired from a career in the Navy and another few years in the business world.  Two years ago he and his wife went to Japan to serve as long-term missionaries.  I have another friend who was raised by missionary parents in India.  After many years as a missionary in India and as a pastor in the United States and a teacher at a seminary, he has taken on a new task to help bring theological education to church-planting pastors in India.  He is in his seventies (at least).

There are so many opportunities out there.  The needs are great.  Jesus Christ does not set age limits on his servants.  We don’t retire from his service.  There is a great need for wisdom and experience in the world today.  Maybe you were not called to go as a young man or a young woman.  Maybe you were called to stay and work and raise a family.  That is wonderful.  But not that you have done that, what are you called to do?

Most of us in America assume that once we have finished our careers we deserve to rest until the end of our lives.  We are to enjoy our retirement.  I am not sure where this idea came from.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe that we can enjoy ourselves in our later years.  As a matter of fact, I am looking forward with great excitement to the next twenty or thirty or more years.  I believe that my Lord, my Savior, my King, my Commander-in-Chief has wonderful opportunities for me in the years ahead.  It could be that our most significant work is ahead of us – not behind us.

We will have an eternity to rest.