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Rich and Jo Ann Davis on August 12, 2016

293px-Eric_Liddell Eric Liddell - London, July 1924

For the Glory

That is the title of a new book (May, 2016) by Duncan Hamilton about the life of Eric Liddell. While the Christian testimonies of some of the Olympic athletes in Rio this summer are wonderful, it would be hard to match the testimony of Lindell in the 1924 Paris summer Olympic's and how he rocked the world with his decision to honor the Lord by not running on Sunday. Some of you will remember the powerful movie Chariots of Fire that told the moving story of his God-given talent and his commitment to God. It is his"second life" that many people are less familiar with. The following quote was taken from a book review on the Christianity Today website written by Owen Strachan and posted a couple of days ago on August 10 of this year.  

Liddell’s vision of an all-out life was to assess his options, count the cost, and then take the most risky step in the name of Jesus Christ. The calculation was a simple one: “Each one comes to the cross-roads at some period of his life,” Hamilton quotes Liddell as preaching, “and must make his decision for or against his Master.” This Christocentric logic made great sense to Liddell, even if it made little sense to the world. Liddell faced fierce skepticism for his attempts to live out his faith, whether in his famous decision not to run on Sundays or his withdrawal from competition in order to answer the missionary call.

Eric Liddell returned to China as a missionary teacher in 1925 after having won the Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter race. While serving the Lord in China, he became a prisoner in a Japanese civilian internment camp where he died a modern martyr in 1945. 

Liddell is quoted above as preaching that "Each one comes to the cross-roads at some period of his life, and must make his decision for or against his Master." It may be possible, though, to find yourself at a crossroad more than once in a lifetime. Recording the missionary journey's of the Apostle Paul in Acts 16, Luke underlines the point. 

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:6-10).

Paul came to the crossroad that Liddell mentions in Acts 9 but Luke records Paul coming to another crossroad and seeking the Lord's will concerning where he should take his ministry next. More than once the road was closed until the call to Macedonia. Paul took the gospel to Europe for the first time. 

11209617_907135209334641_3356639998889801154_n University Divitia Gratiae - Moldova, Eastern Europe

Our Crossroad

Having completed our commitment in the Caribbean, we found ourselves back at the crossroad asking the Lord to reveal His will and direction for us. "Liddell’s vision of an all-out life was to assess his optionscount the cost, and then take the most risky step in the name of Jesus Christ." For the last several months, we have been in much prayer, following a similar process to Liddell's, and watching the Lord work.

Assessing the Options

First, we began to follow up on ministry needs and opportunities that had come to our attention during the last six months. For example, did the Lord want to send us back to South America to contribute to the development of a Christian University startup?

We also scheduled interviews with ABWE administrators overseeing the global operations of the mission. We learned of a Bible College startup in Africa, for example. Did the Lord want us in Africa?

We learned of needs in Egypt, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. Was the Lord calling us to any of these places?

Then, a couple of administrators became truly animated about the possibility of our serving in Europe. We too began to realize the tremendous need that could be filled and the great opportunity to use the specific skills and experience that we have gained in a lifetime of serving on the foreign fields. 

The Christian University in the capital city of Chișinău, Moldova (Eastern Europe) has been praying for qualified personnel to come and live in the country as professors and mentors. At this point, many of the visiting professors from England, Canada, and the US teach modules of a week or two which make mentoring difficult. Given our training and experience in Christian Higher Education, we would be blessed to not only teach but also to love and mentor these students during their college years. 

But the call for mentors goes beyond the university campus. There are over 700 towns and villages in Moldova without a gospel witness. Some of the students and graduates are highly motivated to start churches in these needy places. The leadership of the Baptist association of churches has been praying for experienced church planters to come alongside these young Christian leaders to mentor them in the church planting process. There couldn't be a more attractive call for us as church planting is our heartbeat! This was our primary ministry in Peru which was transformed into mentoring church planters in India and later as the ABWE Executive Director for the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico (CCAM). The most successful example of that mentoring ministry in CCAM was in Nicaragua where we helped to implement the Institute for Church Planting along with our ABWE missionaries and Nicaraguan leaders. New church plants are continuing to sprout even today under godly Nicaraguan leadership and ABWE personnel. 

Another very attractive aspect of the call to Moldova is the fact that some of the students are Muslim Background Believers (MBBs). These students are being trained in ministry and are called to carry the saving message of the gospel back to their original cultures. We are now being given the vast privilege of training believers to go into limited access countries with the message of salvation in Christ. Helping to reach "unreached people" will now be a significant aspect of our new ministry in Moldova. Even though ABWE missionaries have been in Moldova and helped significantly, none has actually lived in that country. We would be the first ABWE missionaries to live and serve there. The new ABWE Director of Global Operations, David Woodard, told us that we would be opening this field as a new country being reached by our mission. Thankfully, as veteran missionaries, we are able to do that. 

Counting the Cost

One of the first things that a missionary must consider is the language. Will we need to learn a new language - at this stage of our lives? Wikipedia reports that "The official language of Moldova is Romanian, a Romance language related to Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. . . . In the 21st century, the primary foreign language taught in the schools is English. In 2013 more than 60% of schoolchildren took it as their first foreign language." Most of the administrators of the university speak English as well as the leaders of the association of Baptist churches. Normally, when a professor comes to teach a module at the University, a translator is provided to translate into Romanian. Because we are fluent in Spanish and also speak some English, we have great faith that we will be able to assimilate much of the Romanian language. However, we have no illusions of becoming fluent in Romanian. 

What about our health? By God's beautiful grace, we continue to experience excellent health and high energy. We have just finished all of our annual medical checkups and can honestly say that we feel like Caleb when he told Joshua: "As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain . . . (Joshua 14:11-12a)."  Caleb was 85 years old when he said that and apparently, he did not believe in "retirement." Rather, he was asking for a new "ministry" of capturing that mountain! We are nowhere near Caleb's age, but we certainly do agree with him. The Scriptures know nothing of what our culture calls "retirement" and the Lord has made it clear that He still has much for us to do.

What about financial support? We have been reporting a shortage in our support level for a good while. In hopes of alleviating some of that shortage, we took our SS benefits. However, even supporting ourselves in this way has not met the actual need and we have recently dipped into the red in our accounts on a couple of occasions. 

We are looking forward to reporting in all of our supporting churches during the next few months how the Lord surprised and amazed us by recently placing it on the hearts of some dear friends to begin providing $1,000 a month in support. That was half of our support shortage and was a huge confirmation to us that "my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). We sincerely believe that given this time in God's plan, and the incredible opportunity that we have to accomplish so much in Europe, that the Lord will also place it in the hearts of our prayer partners and supporting churches to raise the remaining financial need. Please continue to pray for this need and if the Lord should place it in your heart to help, please advise the finance department at ABWE. 

Taking the Most Risky Step in the Name of Jesus

Once we had spent much time in prayer and came to the conviction that the opportunity in Moldova was a good fit for us and would allow us to continue fulfilling the Great Commission, we contacted our home/sending church in Denver, Colorado seeking the counsel and approval from the church to continue in this direction. The pastor responded within a day or two to let us know that the church was very excited about this ministry opportunity and was giving us the "green light" to proceed! 

The administrative leadership at ABWE related to Europe have met with us and are also enthusiastically behind our transition. It just "so happened" that one of them is going to Moldova to teach a module from September 2-10 and encouraged us to join him for the trip which leads us to the final step in the confirmation process.

We have booked our flights and are scheduled to be in Moldova in three weeks from now. We will have a chance to meet with the national leadership of the University and of the association of Baptist churches. By God's grace, these men and women will also perceive that the Lord is indeed bringing us to their country and in a real sense, they will be like the Macedonian man in Paul's vision calling us to come and help them. Is there any doubt that Europe and Asia (Euroasia) needs Jesus Christ? Please pray for us as we travel to Moldova on this survey trip. We are very excited to return and begin scheduling meetings in our supporting churches from coast to coast.