Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: I feel so ineffective, all I can do is pray!

I was driving home from my doctor's office this morning. It was so clear blue sky, with fresh snow down to the Hood Canal on our Olympic mountains. I had to drive to the water and look West for a few minutes.

I was praying after talking to my doctor. I have something medical that is very painful and inconvenient and there is not much that he can do to help. I can tell some days as we talk that he is a bit frustrated. Today I said, "don't worry about it Doc, we'll just look at the whole picture and you do your internist thing. This stroke and burning thing we'll just keep an eye on and not worry about 'fixing' anymore."

I was understanding his frustration because I am a trained and experienced minister and missionary who feels so incapable in doing much about the big problem we face: preaching the Gospel amongst the 100's of millions who have not yet heard. My physical condition makes 'going' much more difficult. I ministered in 27 countries during my time overseas. But I dreamed of visiting and preaching in 100 countries before I was 'done.

So, a couple of days ago (during Christmas) I was thanking God my Father for all He has done for me. But I was actually crying about things a bit. Because there is not much I can do in response to all He has done for me and my family. As a young missionary I generally had five or six projects going, in five or six countries, all the time ever! I hoped to see something big happen for Jesus. Now, my work is a lot of reading and a little bit of writing.

As I complained I had a thought that was pretty funny to me. I'm pretty sure he got the humor too, because I feel like I've learned something through all this. I thought to myself, "In 2014 I feel so ineffective, all I can do anymore is pray!" No more orphanages or drug treatment centers going up. No more training events for pastors from all over one country or another.

What's funny to me is that I remember discipling young followers of Christ and emphasizing as strongly as I was able that prayer, talking to Our Father, was probably the single most important part of our faith, our walk, and certainly our ministry. Hearing Him was the hard part. But hearing started with pouring out our hearts. Just look at how Jesus did it!

Building the Kingdom soul by soul always begins with someone praying hard for that soul. I was so busy at times, flying around and helping to build and administrate missionary endeavors, that I was too busy to pray like I always wanted to. I firmly believe that presenting every aspect of every ministry that concerned us, to God, is the secret to any ministries effectiveness. I always prayed at least one hour before I preached. Simple.

When I was a pastor in my home town I found time, 6 to 9 am. But when we saw exciting results (souls without hope getting saved) I felt and experienced the biggest slap down I've ever known: two more strokes (after 2 overseas) and  brain surgery which left me useless. No longer mobile. No longer raising thousands of dollars. No longer preaching to people everywhere we could.

All I can do now is pray! Yet perhaps that is the high point and not the low point of my life of service. I'm going to talk to my Father about that.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Family and Holidays - A Big Priority

Merry Christmas!

As I looked over plans for next year I realized that, just as I have been slow trying to 'keep up' with 'ministry' over the past few years, I am still slow in keeping up with myself. I can't do it like I used to. I have to ask God for strength every day, just to get up and (very painfully) get moving.

Yes, for 30 years I have been a recognized minister. And I have always had high hopes, a born optimist. As my first term of ministry on the mission field came to a conclusion in 1998 I was so stoked! I had five job titles because I had five very exciting areas of ministry. Our ministry stretched to 21 countries in Asia Pacific.

But this year we had to focus on a re-start from last year, because it is a battle to try and be on the front lines of God's Kingdom. Think about it. What we want I think, more than anything, is to see powerful prayer focused on large groups of Unreached folks. That is what Satan hates more than just about anything.

So, I looked at the last time I sent out a little Twitter note, November 19th! I have been fighting the pain, family challenges, fundraising, my disability and what that means, and now it is almost Christmas! Wow! I used to be embarrassed when I couldn't keep up with plans. Now I am simply trying to keep some hope.

So, if you read this note please bear with us. I am only allowed to work about 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. Beyond that though I must realize that many days I am not even able to do that much, because like it or not I am not as able as I once was. So God is reminding me: You want to be a man of prayer? I have given you the time and the freedom to pray more than ever before! Don't be discouraged.

I still hope to drop our friends who have encouraged us so much a little note each week. And a few little 'tweets' to pass along things we find interesting each day if possible. I will not give up. Because Jesus never gave up.

Merry Christmas to all (someday)!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back Into Action

I love ministry! Jodi and I have spent the last few weeks talking, negotiating, and being excited about things moving forward. That has taken a lot of time, away from building and shaping areas of communication.  That part I very much dislike! But I am determined to become an 'online' (although 'volunteer') minister. So, keep an eye out. Maybe something interesting will come along!

Basically we must decide now if we are going to return to being AGWM missionaries (as Missionary Associates), or it we will continue to be missionaries that are 'independent' or 'non-denominational'. Missionary Associates go overseas for one or two year assignments. Generally they are not credentialed ministers. There are advantages and disadvantages for both means. I am currently disabled, so I am volunteering, while Jodi works hard and we hope we can raise a salary for her. And possibly, we may be allowed by our missionary leaders to do both. But we are being offered an 'official' connection with our denominational mission, which we served for over a decade as career missionaries.

What are we interested in (besides the fundraising that all 'new' missionaries must deal with)? We have three projects very close to the ministry we did as Director of Southeast Asia Research Center (SEARCH). Of course our part is much smaller now.  We are focusing on serving the goal of moving our mission toward UPG's, unreached tribes.

1. 'Change the Map' Buddhists Prayer Newsletter - We are now helping to publish an e-newsletter for folks who want to pray with wisdom for Buddhists to be reached. It is published by our Area Director Mark Durene and the PenAsia office. Each month a special prayer time on specific days important to Buddhists is highlighted. Jodi and I are going to pray on those days specifically to reach lost Buddhists.

Next month Jodi will be taking over the mailing, and eventually expanding the mailing list, but also the quality and quantity of information. Mark has a vision for this newsletter to equal one sent by our mission to inspire those who desire to see Muslims reached. We love serving vision! Soon I will pass along how to subscribe.

2. Transformational Research Toolkit - We have already completed an 'interview worksheet', a sheet with questions and summary spaces which would allow a new missionary or teams working in a new place to better understand folks who live there.

It is obviously also an evangelism tool. I hope to add to that, sheets that lead to deeper reading, online links and bibliographies, even who to try and talk to, so that the foundation for a deep cultural understanding can be built.

Our hope would be that new teams, reaching into people groups without Christianity, would take their interview data, collate it, and begin choosing strategies that might be effective. Water wells in some places, medical treatment in others. What do they think of Jesus? Knowledge and wisdom always led by the Holy Spirit.

3. UPG Prayer Focus - This is the project I am most excited about. 25 people groups in the region Asia Pacific have been chosen, first for study, then strategically placing missionary teams amongst them.

I am preparing basic information for these groups which will be placed at beyondreached.com, the unreached peoples imperative of the AG. Also the Asia Pacific website, apspendyourself.com. The idea of these sites is to develop prayer and support for specific unreached groups that are being targeted.

I hope to add infographics which can be downloaded and provide much greater detail than a few paragraphs on a web page.

So, we have begun back in missionary activity by asking the leaders we formerly served, how can we serve your vision? And they have gladly thrown activity our way! We have much vision beyond these first projects. We have tons of 'grunt junk' just to get our mission going. But how wonderful to be accepted back into the activity we left 11 years ago to Pastor our home church for a decade. We are excited to be included.

Please pray with us! And you can keep up by following on Twitter @scottfont, Facebook.com/scottfont, or subscribing to this blog at scottfontenot.com Let's Finish The Task!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Back to School

I am 54 years old now. I guess that is about as 'Fifty-Something' as I can get. And I am starting many new things. Probably one of the most exciting is going back to college!

I graduated from high school with a full scholarship to Cal State. My scholarship was in engineering. I had taken mechanical drafting all through school and then architectural drafting in my senior year. I was in the 'Honor Society', which meant at least 3.5 GPA. Mine was 4.0 until I joined a rock band in my Junior year. I wrote an essay about my qualification and need on the last day the scholarships took application. But I didn't really want to be an engineer.  I enrolled near my home at Cal State San Bernardino to stay close to my girl Jodi Nance.

Once in school I realized I did not care for math. I could do it, but did not enjoy it. What I loved was philosophy and music. My philosophy professor promised me a graduate scholarship for a Masters degree at Edinburgh Scotland. Wow! I sang in a Performance Choir directed by Vincent Persichetti, head of the Juilliard School of Music in NY City. I asked my scholarship provider if I could change majors and keep the scholarship. Nope.

So I left college after completing my freshman year, giving up a scholarship to perform in a rock band being paid for by my good friend David, whose dad is a gastrointestinal doctor at Stanford. He had setup a 'Life Fund' of $250,000 for his son to seek out what he loved as a career when he turned 21. Much of that paid for drugs, sadly. But hey $250k is a good deal.

When I left college I was determined to: 1. Learn something new every day. 2. Never stop reading and learning. 3. Follow my heart - learn what really interested me. I have followed that 'education plan' for 25 years now. It has paid in big ways. I was talking at a formal dinner one evening in Saigon. The chairman of UNESCO Vietnam, Dr. Pham Nguyen took me aside and asked me for a lift to his hotel. We talked for several hours more! He was sure, after hearing me talk at dinner, that I must have a degree in Vietnamese History! No, but I had read close to 300 volumes on Vietnam!! He became my 'cultural mentor' and took me places a foreign visitor could never go, to Ho Chi Minh's cave near the Chinese border! I loved him.

So in 1989 we were asked to lead SEARCH - the Southeast Asia Research Center. A guy with a high school diploma ran a research center whose two previous leaders were working on Missions Doctorates at Oxford, England. Why, because I loved research. Not the kind with big words that make us sound good. No, I love research that provides great ideas for moving the Kingdom of God forward, serving mission-focused folks who practice so involved, that they don't have time for research. We are doing that again.

So I have enrolled in EdX, a free online college being offered by Harvard and MIT. The long term goal is to have the entire curriculum of both schools online, free, for anyone with English and internet can get a Harvard-qualified degree certificate! I am enrolled in 'Ancient Chinese Thought'. I am putting together a tailored degree plan, perfect for a missions research director. I will take one 8 week course at a time.

Check out EdX - if nothing else have fun studying with a very real Harvard or MIT professor. Cool!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Getting Busy in Ministry

Good Day Friends!

This week has been very exciting. For ten years Jodi and I were part of Peninsular Asia, a group of about 60 missionaries (and our families) working in five pretty tough countries.

This week we have been in touch with two leaders from PenAsia asking us to begin serving much as we did with Southeast Asia Research Center (SEARCH). That is very exciting to us, as we were called and began our overseas ministry in Vietnam.

We are beginning with:

•an Interview Sheet for collecting data and thoughts about what is most important to people. It will also help our workers find best ways to share the Gospel with folks.

•a monthly prayer tool

•a database filled with data on particular projects around the world reaching different UPG's. This database will allow our team members to check for places and people like where they are, with project possibilities to be adapted and used. We were planning to build this anyway as part of our reach the unreached plans.

•Research Sheets for countries, regions, cities, people groups etc. where we have gathered excellent link collections for a worker who wants to dig in to research the area where they plan to work.

•prayer sheets on specific people groups we are reaching or hope to reach on the website: www.beyondreached.com

We are also working on fundraising and getting our office and meetings going! So, Jodi and I are each working about 20 hours each week. I am not allowed to work more than that, so reading fills in much of my time.

We are just excited to have our first client be the team in the place that we love!

Thank You Jesus!

Scott

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Never Too Late To Make Things Right

Robert Atherton, a 67-year-old engineer from Phoenix, was reliving the glory of the summer of 1964 when he and two high school buddies bought Vespas and cruised across Italy. Going through his old suitcase, though, Atherton discovered an old injustice: An unpaid parking ticket he got in the Italian village of Lerici. The Los Angeles Times reports Atherton found the ticket when went looking for a journal he kept of his Italian adventure as a 17-year-old. Being no ugly American, Atherton adjusted the $1.50 fine for inflation and sent $50 and an apology letter to town officials. Marco Caluri, the current mayor of Lerici was surprised to receive the payment and in another twist of fate, Caluri is actually the son of the police officer who wrote the original ticket. The story has taken on a life of its own in the town with Atherton receiving many notes of gratitude and appreciation from residents.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Launch of World Unreached People Day (UPG) and Northwest Christian Research Center because Holy Spirit said GO!

Last night I spent several hours in prayer and finished with a strong gut instinct that it is time to GO, to do what God has called us to do! I kept waiting till my painful syndrome would improve, but the Holy Spirit clearly said,"You will be waiting until I return",this physical challenge teaches and reminds me that he said to Paul, a great missionary with chronic illness "my grace is sufficient for you as my power is best demonstrated in your weakness"!

So here goes, here's what Jodi and I, and a team that Jesus is assembling will attempt:

 The Northwest Christian Research Center is a Center for Professional Excellence in World Missions. We seek to serve bright, young career missionaries who are called to go to Unreached People Groups (UPG's), providing resources, cross-mentoring (learning from each other) and encouragement in every possible form.

 Our simple mission is to:

  Inform - By serving the Body of Christ in raising a clear and focused awareness of the unmet needs of Unreached People.

 INFLUENCE - Individuals, Families, Small Groups and Churches all together building a cradle-to-grave path of commitment to the least-reached in our world.

CHALLENGE -Christian people to a lifelong passion and commitment of influence, expertise and giving for those in unreached groups who need to hear Jesus.

 Our team is also committed to several projects and events to accomplish our mission:

 World UPG Day - On the Sunday closest to 9-21 (today is Nicole's b-day)!!) each year we will challenge churches and believers to emphasize the mission of Jesus to pray, give and go, specifically to those people groups who have not yet heard the Good News.

 A Million Give A Million - We will work every day leading up to World UPG Day to recruit 1 million believers who will commit simply to pray for a specific group each day, give at least $1 a day (the family budget of many unreached people) for this day and more if God leads, to reach a crowdsourcing budget of at least $1 million per year, to help send committed and trained career missionaries to UPG's, and be open to God to take part in finishing the task. PRAY-GIVE-GO!

@CHURCHTWEET-One of the first attempts at providing an online 'church' gathering on a social media platform. CHURCHTWEET will be a missions-focused church, with all of it's offerings used to send young missionaries to UPG's.

 Research Resources - Each week a blog post will highlight important events that effect finishing the task, each day several links will be published using social media, a 'Missionary Drudge Report' (same format as Drudge but currently the 'Missionary Fudge Report'!) will be available to team members with 100 current links to news and other information.

 Finally, our team is prepared to do deep research, such as Cultural Analysis in the Context of Current Events and History to help prepare the young missionaries that we serve.

I hope you can see that we have one focus: Love Jesus so that we can love and serve young missionaries who commit to a specific Unreached People Group, with financial, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual resources to not only help send them, but walking alongside to help them survive many terms.

Here we GO!

Monday, September 15, 2014

What (specifically) do we hope to do?

I have been working on this question for a long time! Because we talked and brainstormed and wrote stuff down. I went to our universities to talk to missionary majors and look together at how we might help them. Then I became overwhelmed at the challenge. Things have changed in missions.

But if we just do our best, and trust the Holy Spirit, we can see the 'lightbulb' pop on, when we are able to pass along something real and important to our young friends. What do I wish they would have told me before I went? Who treated me with such respect that it galvanized my call, just when my call was barely making it! I still remember those things so clearly.

Once a missionary focuses on a specific people, area, and country, by calling or assignment, they want to soak up all they can about those places. Meet the people here at home who have come from where they are going to minister. We went to Vietnamese Christian conferences, and worshipped in our broken Vietnamese.

Those who are scholars dig into what has been written, what has happened if previous movements had sent missionaries into the area of their call. Who were the heroes and who were defeated and why.

So we want to encourage and empower young candidates for the unreached field, along with all who are interested in general. Pastors to homemakers but they want to know how to do more and pray better.

Specifically (to start):

1. Sending 1 to 3 links daily, which lead folks to important and useful news, resource, and background.

2. Send a weekly 500 word blog post highlighting where we are and what we are doing.

3. Maintain a 'Missionary Drudge Report', basically using very similar format and structure, black and white, with three columns of headlines which link to current stories. Filled with great and interesting links to deeply found (not everyday news, but stuff specifically for people interested in 'finishing the task'.)

Next week I'll share a bit more details on how we hope to support our dear friend and colleague as he trains teams aimed at large unreached groups (500,000 +) in Asia.

I'm excited. Jesus is coming soon!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to My Calling

16 months ago I resigned the pastorate at my home church. After preaching nearly every week, every Sunday (at least, often 3-5 times in a single week!) since 1988, I needed some time to rest. 25 years of talking where scheduled, to those who came to listen. I have spoken the gospel at nearly 500 unique venues, in 37 states, and 28 different countries.

It all started as my little family moved to Kitsap County to escape California, where sex and drugs and rock'n'roll were truly what our lives had been about, until we met Jesus. Took us a while to find a church. But once we felt God direct us, we stay until he directs us differently. 30 years now, 15 years an associate and lead pastor, plus the ten years that our fellowship sent us as missionaries.

That last pulpit I had responsibility for, and privilege to serve, was in the only Protestant church I was ever a member at, since I became a Christian in 1980, Hillcrest. After preaching in several different places each week as a missionary I was called to the same pulpit for ten years. That felt very biblical to us. I was a pastor again! Yet, somehow in the middle of all that, which I still don't understand, things got more difficult than I ever expected.

I had three strokes in nine years, the first under the stress of living in Vietnam, growing the underground church that I still love. The third while leading a staff meeting at Hillcrest. Then brain surgery to try and fix the 'leak' in my brain. A fourth, and most debilitating stroke occurred in the process of the surgery. Somehow that stroke got 'missed' in the hospital, and for nine months things got worse instead of better, till a caring doctor helped me understand what happened.

I have been struck, with the most horrible pain, over the entire right side of my body. When this nerve issue was discovered after the Civil War it was considered the most hideous that doctors had seen, with a huge rate of suicide. A small 2"x 2" lesion, in just the wrong spot on my brain, torments me night and day. It is impossible to adequately describe.

But here goes:

The pain? Imagine you got sunburned real red on the entire right side of your body. Draw a line down the center from the top of your head to your right foot and toes. Then someone mistakenly rubs you with Ben -Gay instead of sunburn treatment so it sinks in, over that entire area. Then that evil person rubs the bottom of your feet with sandpaper, nails, glass, he let's ants fill up and bite really hard, easier as you go up the leg, but still bad.

Sometimes it feels as if someone with big scratchy finger-claws has grabbed a hold of my chest on the right side and has a firm grip. Can't breathe or sleep.  I also have an area on my right ribs that feel like (again depending on weather or  stress or  fatigue) somebody punched or kicked me right there, BAM. And, a bad headache most of the time along with the burning, yeehaw!

I had a broken collarbone twice playing football. I was a linebacker! Each time it ached and I had to wear a strap that pulled my shoulders back, for 10 terrible weeks. I wanted to play football. I was impatient, that's why it broke twice! I am still impatient, so try to imagine whatever broken bone you have had, that deep aching pain, for three years without stopping! Being kicked, with a jackboot, every morning, from now, until Jesus sets me free. With painful burns, fresh, over 50% of your body. How would you respond?

I have responded by resting, trying to control the pain, and resolving my anger with God, myself, and the world in general. I have gone back to the basics: Do I still believe in God? Why? Has He called me? Why? Can I still preach? Maybe a few times a month.....we'll see. Until then, I can write. We do have an internet thingy...

Now my wife and partner Jodi are missionaries again. What we desire to do, more than anything is to encourage young missionaries. We meet with them, encourage them, and we hope to raise funds for them. Hillcrest is our base, and we will go from here to wherever he sends us. I will be sending one little note a week, via this blog. If you or your church would like to hear my theory about why and how God allows pain, we'll come and talk. Or, if we can preach on 'completing the task', our mission, we will.

We cannot let the pains of this world stop us!