Sunday, October 25, 2015

Encouraging discouragement

Pastors' Conference
Have you ever been encouraged and discouraged at the same time? Several weeks ago I was invited to present a Quichua pastors' conference in Guayaquil. All pastors and church leaders from the AIEBUME church association were invited. This week I spent three days there challenging and encouraging pastors from God's Word.

The most discouraging part of the week was the small number of pastors who showed up. The numbers gradually increased until I had 15 by the end. For the size of the city and the number of pastors who were invited, the group was very small. At least the group increased over time instead of decreasing! And it was very encouraging to see the deep appreciation expressed by those who did come. In the face of discouragement the biggest encouragement was the rock-solid commitment of the men with whom I shared fellowship this week.

We talked about the characteristics of a good pastor—his love for the written Word, his love for the Word incarnate, and his love for God's people. I encouraged them to increase their passion for delivering the Word to their flock. In several ways I challenged them to continue their education by taking opportunities to study the Bible. I took a few discounted books that are key resources for their ministry and sold five. We also discussed some specific doctrinal errors that are showing up in their churches and how to address them.

Pray that these pastors will be able to avoid discouragement from the lack of interest in their peers. Pray that God will move in this association of churches producing a greater hunger for truth.

A planning meeting in Babahoyo for restructuring the seminary program.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Explosive History

History is being made in Ecuador. Cotopaxi is a volcano located 37 miles from us which has a history of several large eruptions. Last month it began spewing steam and ash again for the first time in 70 years. The last two weeks have seen nearly constant emissions. Geologists have been constantly monitoring the mountain for decades and warning of a potentially major eruption. It's been 138 years since the last big one. Cotopaxi is considered among the world's most dangerous volcanoes because of the effect it will likely have on populous areas of Latacunga and outlying parts of Quito. There has been much talk of evacuation and safety measures in the past weeks. We live in a safe zone, but things could definitely get interesting if a big volcanic event occurs. The biggest impact for us could be ash and knowing how to respond to nearby communities affected by the disaster. Pray for those who live in danger areas, and pray for God's people to be prepared to react in time of need.
School Starts Our lives might not be quite as explosive and hopefully not as dangerous as a volcano. Nevertheless, God gives his people the responsibility of making an impact on history. Yesterday, for example, was the first day of school at Alliance Academy. Kristi is starting another year of teaching Math for 5th and 6th grades. Lindsey is really excited about having her mom as a teacher. Luke is starting 10th grade and has already been very involved with student government and the beginning of the volleyball season. Pray for all of the staff and students at Alliance to have hearts that are sensitive to what the Lord wants to accomplish at the school this year.

Missions Opportunities
If you are looking for a way to be involved in changing history, the time might be right for planning a trip to Ecuador. Alliance Academy is looking for work teams to come and help with several different needs including:
  • Painting
  • Construction
  • Renovation
  • Sports camps
  • Vacation Bible School
  • English classes
  • Helping at an Orphanage
  • Discipleship
  • Evangelism
Visit this webpage for more information I (Scott) also know of opportunities for teaching Bible, theology and other helpful courses in Spanish. If you are only able to teach in English, we could work as a team; I would be glad to provide translation if the course fits a need in one of the seminaries or a local church. Surgery This summer was significantly out of the ordinary for me. I spent most of the summer recovering from ankle surgery at the beginning of July. True to the doctor's word, the surgery was not a big deal, but the recuperation was and continues to be a long, slow process. I spent a larger percentage of time than usual in front of a computer screen, but now I'm back on my feet and almost walking normally again. Pray for full healing in my ankle.
One of the ways I occupied my time while I was most limited involved a writing project that I have had on the back burner for a while. I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing, and I'm getting closer to completing a book. The finished product will be a book on Christ-centered biblical theology, based in part on things I have been learning from teaching seminary courses. I hope to have it ready for purchase sometime in early 2016. If you might be interested in reading what has most impacted me from God's Word, let me know and stay tuned for more information.

Transfer of the Chillogallo property was completed last month. That's the last big step on property issues for now! Anyone want to cheer along with me? Administration work has been slowly decreasing, and I am excited about the chance to be involved in other things that I am more passionate about. Next Saturday I'm traveling for a planning meeting, and I have a class to teach on the 18th. Pray for the ability to prioritize ministry opportunities well.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Changes for Summer

Joel seems to be adjusting fine to life in Chicago, but he is still looking for a job. Pray that God would give him wisdom to know where to look, and that he would find the right match.

Although most of you are enjoying the changes that come with summer vacation, we haven't quite made it there yet. The school year here is winding down this week. Luke and Lindsey are anxious to have a few weeks off, and Kristi is looking forward to a break from teaching. This school year for Kristi has been full of challenges and joys in her Math classroom.

Luke and Lindsey were both part of some dramas at school this spring. Luke played the part of Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Excerpts of Luke's part in A Midsummer Night's Dream:
View the entire production:
Lindsey's class did a smaller play called The Toothpaste Millionaire.
Lindsey is excited about a three-week drama camp that she is enrolled in for the summer.

Luke has plans to help with summer school and some summer missions teams that are coming to Ecuador in the next weeks. Pray for meaningful ministry and growth for Luke.

Scott helped fill in for one of the Bible teachers at Alliance a couple of weeks ago. He taught a week of classes on the book of Revelation. The passion of his students for learning was contagious! It's also been great to see steady growth in the members of his Bible study. There have even been some new people coming, some more regularly than others. Continue to pray for this ministry.

We have also seen progress on property issues. The Makuma property is now entirely transferred to the national church. The Chillogallo property has also been moving forward by little steps. Scott has also done a little extra work lately to help a fellow missionary couple with renewing their visas.

Scott has had some discomfort in his ankle for over two years. Since it didn't seem very serious we didn't work very hard to figure out what it was. But since it wasn't getting any better he finally saw a specialist and learned that he has Osteochondritis Dissecans. He needs surgery to repair damage from a small fracture of the talus. The surgery itself isn't very intrusive, but in order to promote healing of the cartilage, Scott can't use that foot for 6 weeks afterwards. He'll be in a cast and using crutches for most of the summer. His surgery is scheduled for June 30 and he'll be quite dependent on the rest of the family until school starts again. Pray for patience for everyone, and healing for Scott's ankle.

Faithful Servants
Two faithful women of God who served as missionaries in Ecuador passed away this month: Elizabeth Elliot
and Marian Reed.

Elizabeth was much more well known than Marian, but they both left a huge impact with their lives. It's a good reminder that we all can make a difference simply by being faithful in the situation where God has placed us.

Active Volcanoes

Both Pichincha and Cotopaxi have shown recent dramatic increases in volcanic activity. Obviously no one knows when these two mountains will have their next big eruption. Pray for wisdom for scientists who are monitoring and for protection of human life and property.

Unrest in Ecuador
President Rafael Correa has plans to implement some controversial financial policies in Ecuador. This has resulted in some significant protests during the last week. They are difficult issues that are hard to sort through. Pray for peace in Ecuador, wisdom for leaders, and for God's people to have a great influence in all levels of society.

You can help us fulfill our ministry by making an online donation to Avant Ministries here, or by printing this donation form for mailing in with a check. Thank you for all the prayer and financial support you give!

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Burning Heart

Erik August Skogsbergh had a burning in his heart to win souls for Christ. In 1876 the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Association on the north side of Chicago invited him to come from Sweden and be their pastor. He had a powerful evangelistic ministry among the Swedish immigrants in the new land and soon became known as “the Swedish Moody.”

I (Scott) am thankful that Skogsbergh followed God's call on his life because of the impact he had on my great-great-grandfather and—by extension—on my own life. On November 12, 1876, A. G. Gustafson gave his life to Christ as one of many young Swedish immigrants who were touched by the revival in Chicago. His commitment to the Lord included sharing his faith with his family, and we who follow in his footsteps know that Grandpa Gustafson left a strong heritage of a burning heart.

Today I'm sitting in Chicago just outside the loop reflecting on those who were here before me and those who will remain after. Joel and I came two weeks ago to visit David, establish Joel as a resident of Illinois and start looking for work for him. During the past few days in this city, I couldn't help but wonder when I might be walking some of the same streets that my great-great-grandfather knew when he was here. Only 700 yards from this apartment is the site where, in 1871, The Great Chicago Fire began to smolder in the barn of Mrs. O'Leary. I'm not sure when A. G. Gustafson first arrived in Chicago, but the fire was only five years before his conversion. Could he have been here then? Might he have walked past this very property to observe the damage from the two-day blaze? Eventually, the burning in his own heart proved to be equally as productive as the destructive power of those flames.

Wes Gustafson
Although I haven't found A. G.'s name inscribed on the streets of Chicago, I did find his imprint on the life of a man near here. You see, A. G. had a grandson named Wes who gave his life in ministry. He was a missionary to China and a pastor in St. Paul, Minnesota among other places. When I was visiting a supporting church an hour from here, an elder of the church casually mentioned his spiritual mentor, Wes Gustafson. After comparing notes we confirmed that my relative and his pastor had been the same person.

God has allowed Skogsbergh's burning heart to be passed to A. G. Gustafson, to most of the Gustafson family, to his grandchild (Wes), and through Wes to others whom his life has touched. Seeing the effect that can be produced through the generations has renewed in me a desire to fan the flames burning in my own heart.

Those Who Will Remain
On Wednesday I'll be leaving David and Joel behind in Chicago and returning to Ecuador. I sense a burning in their hearts that makes me proud. I pray that they will leave an impact on this city and everywhere else they might go. Their impact will likely not be as visible as that left by Skogsbergh and certainly not as rampantly destructive as the Great Chicago Fire. Nevertheless, if they fan the flames it will no doubt be just as powerful as the impact left by Wes in the life of a man who now serves as elder of a church. May God put men and women in their path who need the holy fire they can spread. And may God give me tremendous opportunities to do the same in Ecuador.

Quite obviously, Mrs. O'Leary's barn is no longer here. I've been past the site several times this week and even stopped once to look at the monument. But even more prominent than the monument is the new building that now occupies the property—the Chicago Fire Academy. About two hours ago I saw some firemen in training—learning to rescue people from a tall burning building. One might say they were fanning the burning flames of a passion to rescue people from destruction. Let's also look for ways to fan our own passion. Let's look for opportunities to turn the ruins of life into a holy burning fire to reach other souls for Christ.