REVIEW: At the Foot of the Snows

“We live at the foot of the snows. And even our own king had never heard of us. But the King of Kings knew us, and one day, He visited us.” – Kham believers

NOTE:  This review was completed with the cooperation of the Watters family. It has been edited slightly from its original version. All images were used with the permission of the Watters family.

BY:  TRAVIS K. KIRCHER
MAF Advocate

The more you read “At the Foot of the Snows” by David T. Watters, the more you realize it doesn’t make any sense. The book, published in 2011 by Seattle-based Engage Faith Press, tells the harrowing story of American David Watters, his wife, Nancy, and their two boys, Stephen and Daniel, as they make a home among the isolated, tribal Kham-speaking people hidden deep in the mountains of Nepal.

It was the 1970s, and Watters was a linguist for SIL International. (Think J.R.R. Tolkien, but in the Himalayas — and no hobbits.) SIL’s mission was two-fold. Its mandate was, “the documentation, development and preservation of minority languages.” At the time, one of the ways it accomplished this was by translating the Christian Scriptures into those obscure languages.

So in the late 1960s, when a rare opportunity arose for SIL linguists and their families to partner with Nepal’s Tribhuvan University, it was an answer to prayer. It was an open door. It meant that for the first time, they could have a presence in the country – a country with less than 100 Christians in a population of 13 million. Watters and his clan took the plunge.

Of course the overwhelmingly popular language in Nepal was…

Wait for it…

Nepali.

But there were rumors of another language. Of a tribal people so isolated in the mountains that one would have to travel a long, rugged mountain trail to get to them. A trail that posed several dangers to the uninitiated.

That language – and people – were known as Kham.

David Watters and fellow linguist Gary Shepherd would spend weeks in the book’s early chapters, trudging through the snowy mountains — living on rice, flour and smoked lamb sausages – trying to find the Kham people. In the dead of winter, it was a quest that very nearly cost them their lives. Watters’ bizarre explanation for how they ultimately made their way to the Kham village of Taka-Shera will prove problematic for the agnostics among us. Believers will see is as God’s sovereign hand.

 

Culture Crash

But the book’s most harrowing chapters aren’t about Watters’ lonely treks through the icy mountains. They come when the Watters family first settles in with the Kham tribe.

Imagine moving to a mountain village of primitive people that is so isolated it takes weeks to hike back to civilization. Where there’s no plumbing. Limited radio communication. Where a white person sticks out like Darth Vader at a rodeo. And the sewage disposal is… well, we won’t go there.

When the Watters family arrives at what will be their new home in Taka-Shera, they are surrounded by hundreds of villagers, gibbering in an unknown language, poking, prodding, yelling, pulling at their clothes and demanding to know what they have in their supply boxes. Night falls, as the Watters family hunkers down in their new squalid home, so do their spirits:

“The distant sound of a shaman’s drum broke the silence, and Nancy slipped her hand into mine,” Watters recalls. “Grasping it firmly, I tucked it into the warmth of my coat pocket. ‘I’m scared,’ she whispered quietly as she shivered next to me.”

We’re scared too.

These chapters are filled with both hardship and humor. You will be startled awake by a rat stampede at two o’clock in the morning as the bulky critters rampage through the Watters’ village home. At one point, speaking in broken Kham, Watters tries to explain to a villager that the Earth is round, but will succeed only in inadvertently confessing that he and his family are demons from the underworld. A villager will steal some of the Watters’ laundry detergent to use as seasoning.

And you’ll just LOVE the part about the tapeworms.

 

“Our hearts are black…”

Watters begins deciphering the Kham language, one syllable at a time. He starts with a list of 100 words. And as he continues to “do life” with his Kham neighbors, that list grows.

So does his rough translation of God’s Word. Watters is up-front about the challenges of translating words originally written in Hebrew and Greek into a primitive language that evolved continents away.

“How in the world can I translate the gospel into a language like this?” Watters asks, bluntly. “Their language might be enjoyable to speak and hear, but it’s somehow lacking. Love, hope, faith, forgiveness, mercy: these aren’t grand notions from advanced philosophy; they’re just basic human concepts. If the Khams can’t talk about these, how will they understand theological notions like justification or redemption?”

For their part, the Kham people are less than enthusiastic about literacy. At one point, a leader in the village asks Watters, “Sahib, if we learn how to read, will we ever be white?” “What do you mean, ‘Will we ever be white?’” a frustrated Watters replies. “Being white is not what it’s about.” “That is what it’s about,” the leader retorts. “We’ll always be black, because our hearts are black.” They’re not speaking in racial terms. Even here deep in the Himalayas, thousands of miles from the nearest theological seminary, these people already know they are sinners in need of a savior.

But persevere as he will, Watters can’t find anyone interested in reading the Scriptures he is translating. Only Hasta Ram, a former Gurkha soldier he met in a nearby village. Ram agrees to go with Watters and teach him his language – but there is a price tag. Ram makes Watters promise to tell him everyone he knows about the one called Jesus.

“After a while, I began to believe that perhaps I was translating for the sake of this one man alone,” Watters writes. “Nancy and I decided that that was okay.”

 

Breaking Point

That translation – be it for one man or many – will not come without hardship.

Watters is clear that those first few weeks living in Taka-Shera were among the most miserable for he and his family. The Kham are slow to welcome them. They fight with his children. They pile into the family’s home unannounced, often pinning them to the wall to mock them while they eat. Privacy – what Watters describes as “the most highly prized commodity in our Western societies” – is nonexistent.

“But the most disturbing thing was our own response,” Watters writes. “We had come halfway around the world with idealistic visions of what it would be like to serve these people, and now that we were here, we found ourselves secretly hating them more and more every day. What’s the matter with these idiots? we thought. Can’t they see what we’re doing this for them?…At first , we refused to admit our feelings even to ourselves, but we couldn’t avoid them forever. At night, together, Nancy and I began to cry out to God to help us love this horrid people. Was it even possible?”

Even Watters’ own faith will be shaken. On one occasion, a teenage girl who claims to be possessed by the spirit of a goddess will taunt Nancy in perfect English. Watters’ account of the incident is chilling.

But the spiritual battle will eventually take a much more personal turn.

One day, the Kham shamans (think witch doctors with their “witch sticks” and headdresses) conduct a ceremony at a nearby cemetery. Nine years earlier, a shaman had died, and according to Kham folklore, a shaman’s spirit had nine years to find a new host, or be lost forever in the netherworld.

One-by-one, several of the young boys in the village are overtaken by what the shamans say is the spirit — or “gel” — of the dead shaman. As potential hosts, they fall into trances. They prance about like animals. In some cases, they scream as they are overcome by horrific hallucinations and visions. It was not unheard of for children to be driven to suicide by these experiences.

Watching from his window, Watters says he was intrigued by the display. That is, until he and Nancy began hearing screams coming from the bedroom of Daniel, their own toddler. “Daniel saw leopards, he saw serpents, and all tried to devour him,” Watters recalls. “He was crazed, and his eyes were filled with terror. He was being called by the gel, but we didn’t know it. Only later would we learn that, according to shamanistic lore, no one shakes ‘the call.’ You accept it or you die.”

The terrifying trances and hallucinations would continue for months. With his family under spiritual attack, Watters would ultimately gather his wife and children and flee Taka-Shera for the safety of Kathmandu.

They were beat. They would admit defeat.

 

Shepherd of the Kham

Which brings us full circle, and back to my original point: The more you read “At the Foot of the Snows,” the more you realize it doesn’t make any sense.

If you’re going to evangelize Nepal, why would you start with an isolated tribe on the backside of nowhere? Why suffer the unnecessary hardship of living with them – of going without some of life’s most basic necessities? Would it not make sense to focus on people of some influence?

And while we’re on the subject of language, why pour so much blood, ink and tears into translating the Bible into a dying language so obscure only a tiny fraction of the population can read it? If the mission field is so large – again, there are less than 100 Christians in a population of 3 million – why not focus on the Nepali people who actually speak Nepali, the language of the future?

After all, doesn’t Scripture clearly teach us that, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?”

Oh wait. That was Captain Spock*.

Actually, Scripture teaches that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one. The one who is forgotten. The one who is lost and afraid, who lives on the backside of nowhere, and cowers in terror from the spirits of animism. The one whom British colonialists deride as “wild, quarrelsome and of inferior intelligence,” who never sees a dime of the foreign aid money that pours into the country, and is hated and despised by his own countrymen.

In other words, Watters tells us, the Kham people.

 

The Acts of the Kham

The Watters family will eventually return to Taka-Shera – but not before a lot of prayer, fasting, spiritual battles over their son, and a heart change that only God can provide.

The Kham people undergo a major change as well. And it’s a change that isn’t accomplished through literacy or education. Or greater access to resources. Not even by the faithfulness and dedication of the Watters family.

It will be accomplished by their access to God’s Word.

Against all odds and a backdrop of David Watters’ doubts, the Kham church is born. It happens on page 207. And once that flame is lit, not even the full force of an adversarial Nepal government can snuff it out.

If the first half of the book is about the Watters family and their struggles, the second half tells the story of the fledgling Kham church. In a series of events that closely resembles that of the early church in the Book of Acts, the early Kham believers will face persecution, imprisonment and assassination. They will write their own hymns in a language the government doesn’t want them to speak. Against the backdrop of the growing Maoist uprising, they will stand before dictators and preach the gospel.

“At the Foot of the Snows” is their story.

 

Conclusion

David Watters died in 2009, before he was able to finish his book, but don’t worry. Whether through his own skill, or massaging by subsequent editors, his final chapter does manage to bring a satisfying conclusion to the story. A couple of brief epilogues by his sons, Steve and Daniel (now adults), tie up the remaining loose ends.

My verdict?

If you’re a believer in Christ, as I am, you need to read this book. You will be both challenged and uplifted. If you feel you’ve been serving the Lord year after year, with no result, be encouraged. God may take his time – but He is faithful. If you feel forgotten and alone, be encouraged. God DOES see you, and He draws near to the brokenhearted. If you’re not serving the Lord in some way, be encouraged. There’s still time to get onboard.

If you’re not a believer, and you’re coming at this with a more secular humanist point of view, you also owe it to yourself to read “At the Foot of the Snows.” Watters makes no bones about the fact that he is an evangelical Christian – and you may be frustrated by his naked belief in the supernatural – but he was also widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on Tibeto-Burman linguistics. His “A Grammar of Kham,” “A Dictionary of Kham” and “Notes on Kusunda Grammar” are still recognized as solid, scholarly works in academic circles.

Finally, regardless of your worldview, “At the Foot of the Snows” is a reminder that – in a world of increasing division and fracturing communities – we should take time to show kindness to others across cultural divides.

As David Watters states:

“It is no small thing to live with a primitive people – to learn their language and thought processes, and to participate in a way of life that is soon to pass. You begin as an outsider, but if you stay long enough, there’s no end to laugh with those who laugh, to weep with those who weep, and to become a part of them.”

To purchase your own copy of At the Foot of the Snows click on the following links: Amazon and Wycliffe.

TRAVIS K. KIRCHER is an advocate for MAF based in Louisville, Kentucky. He can be reached at tkircher@maf.org.

*  EDITOR’S NOTE:  No doubt several of you will point out that Spock was actually First Officer – and if you’re talking about “Star Trek: The Original Series,” you would be correct. But the quote actually comes from “Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan.” By that time Spock had been promoted to Captain of the Enterprise, while Kirk was admiral. So take that, smart-alecks. Sheesh.

Going to Hell. . . For God!

Turn to the end of Romans 8 and into Romans 9. Now I want you to notice this striking difference. The end of Romans 8 is occupied in comforting us with the fact that we shant be separated. Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Comfort yourselves—it’s all right. No one can separate you—tribulations, distress, peril, nakedness, and so on. That won’t separate you. It’s all right! And then verses 38, 39, “For I am persuaded that neither death, life, etc., shall be able to separate you. You’re all right, all right. All right, be comforted, nothing will separate you.”

Look at two verses later on, 9:1. This man changes his whole tone. He says, “I say the truth in Christ. I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost . . . .” In other words, this is coming from the Holy Ghost. My conscience bears me witness that this is the Holy Ghost. “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, for I could wish that myself were separated from Christ for my brethren.” The word “accursed” is in the margin. “Separated.” The same person who just said, “Comfort yourself. It’s all right. You can’t be separated,” says, “God, I’ll say that to you. I am ready to be separated from yourself. Separate me yourself unless you save Israel. I don’t want a union with you if it doesn’t include Israel.”

That’s intercession. That’s the Intercessor within who says, “I don’t want to go alone to heaven, and I don’t intend to go alone to heaven.” That’s separation. You know, when a person talks about eternal security and is sort of very anxious to get to heaven, I say, “Brother, forget it. Don’t be anxious about you getting to heaven. Be anxious over getting other people to heaven.” You know, old C.T. Studd was strange. He was so strange some of his missionaries thought he had more of the devil than the Lord in him. And so he said to them once, “Oh, some people say that I’ve the devil in me. That means I can go and live where the devil is.” “My,” he said, “if I go live where that devil is, I’ll so preach the gospel in hell, I’ll make it so hot for him he’ll open the door and say, ‘Clear out quick before you get my devils saved.’”

That’s the way—he wasn’t thinking of any eternal salvation, he was thinking of the salvation of other people. We’re a poor lot. You meet people who say, “Oh, I don’t know if I’ve lost my salvation.” I say, “Brother, if Jesus wants you to go to hell, go to hell for Jesus! Don’t moan and groan about it. Go, go where He wants you. I don’t want to go to heaven for heaven, do you? I want to go to heaven for Jesus. The golden streets don’t mean that [snap of the fingers —Ed.] to me! The golden Person means something to me. I know one thing—if Jesus wasn’t in heaven, I’d rather not go there, that’s all. I’m not going up to a place, and if Jesus would walk with me better in hell, by His grace I’d rather Him take me to hell.

So I’m not out to get myself secure. I’m out to forget all about that business and get somebody else in. That’s this life. That’s intercession—that’s priesthood. Clean out of comforting yourself in sanctification, comforting yourself in salvation. Clean out of that. Immerse in, “I’ve to get these people saved!”

By Norman Grubb

Change Ahead

As  2020 begins with new leadership and focus! The restructuring of our department brings excitement! We are excited for the Advocate Wing to collaborate with other departments.  We are in the process of reviewing the 2020 calendar. There may be changes to previously planned events.  The Advocate Summit and the 75th Anniversary Celebration at headquarters dates may change.

Keep your eye on your email and the Connect for more information regarding these events and more. Please contact your Regional Manager before making any event travel plans.

Extra Extra! Read All About it!  Alexis Adams named new manager for MAF Ministry Advocates 

I am overwhelmed with excitement to have this opportunity to partner more closely with my favorite MAF people – MAF Advocates! In early December Mike Snodgrass, previous Ministry Awareness Director announced there were changes coming January 1 to the structure of the Ministry Awareness at HQ. But rest assured, I’ve been through many changes with the Advocate Wing and this is the best one yet! 

 

A quick recap of the changes are 1) Susan Davis, former Western Region Advocate Manager has accepted a position in the Development Division as a Development Officer, 2) Martinah Brown, the former Ministry Awareness Assistant is continuing to provide wonderful service and support to the Advocate Wing and is also supporting the Marketing Department, 3) I, Alexis Adams, in addition to my role as the MAF Events Manager am leading Advocates. 

 

For those who may not be familiar with my history, I started with MAF as the Advocate Wing assistant in 2014. I journeyed with the Advocates as we grew to over 100 and as we transitioned into Ministry Awareness in 2016. In 2017, I accepted the position as Events Manager which allowed me to work face to face with Advocates at events. It has been such a blessing to lead and grow MAF events alongside you. 

 

2019 marked the beginning of a new Advocate and Events partnership with the first advocate led Experience MAF event! Illinois Advocate, Bill Koss, coordinated an exceptional event featuring flights in the Kodiak and a presentation from President & CEO David Holsten. This past year, we also saw an increase in Advocate involvement in other types of events ranging from homeschool conferences to international airshows. 

 

As we look toward 2020, I hope you will consider how together we can create a synergy to make MAF known from coast to coast. When we share about MAF we are the voice of the isolated and bring hope to those who have been cut of physically and spiritually from the healing of our Great Physician.  

 

I’m excited about our future together! I’m here to serve and am blessed to be serving such a wonderful team of Advocates! 

 

If you have any questions, concerns or ideas please don’t hesitate to contact me (aadams@maf.org), Craig (ctalsma@maf.org), or Dina (dparris@maf.org). 

 

By Alexis Adams

More Jesus . . . Less Busy

This past year, our Ministry Awareness leadership team spent time discussing and reading a book together about “soul care.”  Taking care of our soul can be extremely challenging with the many demands for our time.  One of the main facets of soul care involves silence and solitude, which fills our soul and allows God to speak to us.

As we enter the holiday season, it can become even more difficult to have silence and solitude with Jesus as we attend and prepare for parties, plan holiday meals, shop for gifts, wrap those gifts, watch Hallmark Christmas movies, decorate gingerbread houses, drive around to see the best Christmas lights, go caroling, the list goes on and on and on . . . Our stress levels begin to rise as we look over the calendar for December.

This year will you say “no” to busyness so you can say “yes” to Jesus?

Slow down and savor the true gifts of the Christmas season.  Unpack the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love Jesus has promised and given to you!  Be intentional about staying focused on what’s most important during this busy season.

Praying for a deeper, more meaningful Christmas for each of you this year!

– Mike

 

Indonesian Adventure

On September 11, 2019 I read the following in an email from Mike Snodgrass:

 Team,

Anyone want to jump on a plane?  If you’re interested, please let me know.  Thanks.

– Mike

The trip was to Tarakan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia to deliver parts for two Kodiaks. I answered Mike’s email with, “Hey Mike, depending on when, I would go!” I thought that there would be a bunch of people jumping at the chance. So, imagine my surprise when a few days later I received an email telling me I was leaving that Saturday, September 14! I left a day later to ensure I received the parts in time.

HQ forwarded the parts to my home, arriving in plenty of time. To my chagrin, our giant red/pink suitcase I often tease my wife about proved to be exactly the right size to fit the Kodiak parts. So Big Red and I headed out off to Tarakan.

This was a long a flight…I a very long flight. As I tried to get comfortable in the too-small seats on the various legs, I thought of the MAF missionary families traveling around the globe who not only fly the miles but do so with small children… Wow!

I arrived at Juwata Airport in Tarakan on Tuesday morning (Monday night back home). It was overcast, smoky, and quite warm. Isaac Rogers (I think) picked me up from the airport, but honestly, I was so jet-lagged, it could have been President Joko Widodo! I grabbed the big red suitcase, which had made the trip unnoticed and unharmed, and brought it to the waiting A & P team where they unpacked the box of parts and went right to work repairing the Kodiaks.

My time in Tarakan, although brief, was such a blessing. I toured the town and school with Isaac, had dinners with the missionary pilots/mechanics and their families and one day flew with Ian Rojas to a remote village… where he left me! But the villagers accepted this tall Dutchman, fed me, gave me a cool vest made from plants, and invited me to a wedding. Ian did return after his runs, picked me up and we flew back to base.

Would you like to take a trip like this sometime? If so, let your RM know and next time an email comes asking for a volunteer to go someplace amazing, maybe you can be the one to go!

By Craig Talsma, Regional Manager Northeast US

 

AmazonSmile: Making Your Purchases Matter More

One of my favorite internet memes shows a mat with the words asking the delivery driver to “please hide the packages from husband.” The picture in the meme shows a welcome mat with a not very well-hidden package under it. Well-hidden packages notwithstanding, Amazon is a popular way to enjoy easy shopping!

A very cool thing about Amazon that is often over-looked is AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), which offers the same benefits of its sister website, Amazon.com, but with one distinct difference. When users shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation contributes .05 percent of eligible purchase to the charity of your choice. Especially for frequent Amazon users, this addition perk is a great way to give to MAF effortlessly.

Granted, .05 percent is not a ton. My 20 purchases on AmazonSmile have only generated $2.68 for MAF. But, the AmazonSmile Foundation, through people choosing MAF as their designated charity, has to date donated $14,224.19. That’s a good amount generated by just a few clicks!

AmazonSmile is a great way to supplement your regular giving to MAF painlessly while you shop. The website is the same and you can even use your Amazon Prime for free shipping. You pay no extra on your purchases, it is a win-win! So, use AmazonSmile whenever you shop online and encourage your friends and family to do so, too.

You can look up more information on AmazonSmile. I checked out, ”thebalancesmb.com” for info for this article.

By Craig Talsma, Advocate Wing Manager

Northern Region

A Tale of Two Villages by Nathan & Becky Fagerlie in Papua, Indonesia

What difference does the Gospel make? Journey with me to two villages that MAF serves in Papua, Indonesia. These villages are home to two different tribes and host two different cultures. The people speak two completely different languages and currently have two different understandings of God.

Turumo

The sun stretches across the horizon on Sunday morning in the lowlands of Turumo; the air is heavy with heat and humidity. Soon, the rain rolls in providing some relief from the heat. Church will start late because of the weather. To be cleansed of your sin, you have to bathe before church starts and nobody bathes in the rain.

Finally church starts with rhythmic chanting. Nobody knows what the chants mean, but they believe they are pleasing to God so they recite them every week. Singing is followed up by prayer. Prayers work better if you pay the pastor, so offerings are given to him.

Today’s message is about curses. Those who are good Christians should not be cursing others, but those who are bad Christians should be cursed so that their gardens don’t produce food. Those who are sick have been cursed, and we need to figure out who cursed them.

After church, the village chief meets with the MAF pilot. He apologizes to him for the state of the airstrip, but blames it on the people who live upriver who won’t come help maintain it. He also believes they cursed his son, causing his sickness and death. He asks that the pilots not to fly the people who live upriver because they refuse to help on the airstrip and because they caused his son’s death. The village chief offers land for the MAF family to build a house so that they can visit more often.

The Turu people have had missionaries for five years. They have been learning language and culture, but have not yet presented the Gospel. They desire to have a full understanding of the Turu language and culture so that they can present the Gospel in a way that will make sense to them, rather than further confusing them about who God is.

Mokendoma

The sun peeks over the mountaintops on Sunday morning in the highlands of Mokendoma; the air is cool and crisp. Soon, the rain rolls in, cooling the air even more. Church will start late because of the weather. Many people make long hikes through the jungle to hear about God.

Finally, church starts with songs in the tribal language that the people have written themselves, giving thanks and praising their Savior. Singing is followed by prayer. Genuine prayers lifted to the God who hears.

Today’s sermon is from Acts 3, the story of the lame man outside the temple who is healed by Jesus. Just as the man was lame from birth and could only be healed by the power of Jesus, so are we separated from God by our sin from birth. And only by the power of Christ’s death on the cross can we be saved.

After church, the church leaders meet with the MAF pilot. They share their testimonies of receiving the Gospel for the first time. They thank him for helping them spread the Gospel by flying them to places too far away to walk. They express their gratitude to God for giving us all a job to do for his Kingdom.

The Wano people have had missionaries for fourteen years. After several years of language and culture study, the missionaries presented the Gospel and now have a growing and thriving church. The Wano are becoming missionaries themselves, reaching out to other Wano villages throughout Papua.

30% of the New Testament translation is complete, and they hope to have another 30% completed this fall.

Bible translators in both Turumo and Mokendoma rely on MAF to carry out their work. It is our joy and privilege to play a part in bringing the Good News to these isolated villages. Join me in praying for these translation projects.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NIV

 

By Nathan and Becky Fagerlie serving with MAF in Papua

First Day at MAF

First Day is a day set aside at the beginning of each month where the MAF family, guided by the principles of Sabbath, stops its normal work routine to enter into a time of rest as we seek to delight in God and contemplate on all He has done for us. We accomplish this through times (individually and corporately) of worship, prayer, recreation, and fellowship. We do not seek to be legalistic, but to be intentional. As an organization desiring to walk with Jesus, we believe First Day can serve as a spiritual discipline for us leading to better discernment, wiser decisions, greater unity, and increasing awareness of all God has in store for us. It stands in subversive rebellion to the spirit of the age which seeks to distract us with a never-ending flow of information and tasks while distorting our identity by saying what we do is more important than Who we are loved by. It is our belief First Day will strengthen the soul of MAF.

We’ve adopted the Four Elements of First Day from The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team and the World.

The Four Elements of First Day

  • Stop.  First and foremost, we cease all work – paid and unpaid. On First Day we embrace our limits. We let go of the illusion we are indispensable to the running of the world. We recognize we will never finish all our goals and projects and that God is on the throne, managing quite well in ruling the universe without our help.
  • Rest. Once we stop, we accept God’s invitation to rest. God rested after His work of creation. We engage in activities that restore and replenish us. The key is to rest from both paid and unpaid work.
  • Delight. God invites us to join in the celebration, to enjoy and delight in His creation and all the gifts He offers us in it. The innumerable gifts come to us in many forms, including people, places and things.
  • Contemplate. Pondering the love of God is the central focus of our First Day. We are not taking time from God; we are drawing closer to Him. It is an invitation to see the invisible in the visible – to recognize the hidden ways God’s goodness is at work in our lives. In contemplation, we are acutely focused on those aspects of God’s love that come to us through so many gifts from His hand.

For many of us who grew up in a Christian home, Sunday was a day different than the other days of the week. It typically included going to Sunday school and church, followed by a family dinner, and family activities we did together.

While your Sunday may have looked different, it is likely the common element was that this was a day where work was set aside. While there were always chores to be done, we were quite intentional about limiting the work outside to what was necessary. This was a day to focus more intentionally on God and to step back from the hard work that characterized our normal routine. First Day is not intended to replace your personal Sabbath.

For First Day we’ve been watching a series of videos from John Mark Comer, the pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon. During our October First Day we watched the Sabbath: Rest for Your Soul video. In November, we watched Sabbath: Sabbath as a Rhythm. In December, we plan to watch Sabbath as Resistance.

To give you an idea of how First Day at MAF HQ looks, here is the schedule we’ve followed:

8:00 to 8:30         Worship Music

8:30 to 8:45          David Holsten shares

8:45 to 9:00          Break – to turn off your cell phone, answer any pressing emails, set your “out of office” message.

9:00 to 10:00       Sabbath video

10:00  to 12:30    Rest and Delight

12:30  to 1:30       Feast

1:30 to 1:45           Worship Music

1:45 to 1:51            MAF International Day of Prayer Video (Click to watch)

1:51 to 2:15            Contemplate and Prayer Time

2:15 to 3:45          Individual Prayer Time

3:45 to 4:10          Group/table prayer

4:10 to 4:30          Executive Leadership Team closes in prayer (prays over their team members present)

We launched First Day at HQ first to work out any possible kinks before rolling it out to the MAF Field Programs in February 2020. Our field staff needs a margin. Their commute to work is much different than those of us living in the US. Oftentimes, our field staff arrives at the hangar already stressed by navigating the roads, traffic, motorcycles, and protesters.  We would like to provide them with time to focus on the Lord.

We invite you to pray alongside us for our staff as we participate in First Day. We also invite you to join in First Day by creating margin in your life. Is God asking you to stop, rest, delight and contemplate Him? If you feel called to participate in your own Sabbath or First Day, let us know! We would love to pray for you.

 

Building Your Prayer Team

All MAF missionaries in the field have great training, a home base, supporting churches and a number of people regularly pray for them and their ministry. As Advocates, we are missionaries in our own sphere of influence. Our base is our home and we have been through some great training as well. All we are missing is the most important part of our ministry – PRAYER PARTNERS!

Before I go any further, I must give credit to our Southern Regional Manager, Dina Parris for the idea of building a prayer team.  She encouraged me to build a personal prayer team. The size and composition of your team may vary based on several factors and can certainly change over time.  It could include family, friends, or your spouse but most importantly fellow Christian brothers and sisters, strong in the faith, who you respect and whose opinions you value and trust.

It’s important to be very intentional about your prayer team. Don’t just simply ask them to pray for you – meet with them, explain your Advocate ministry to them and the importance of MAF’s part in building God’s kingdom and very literally saving lives. You may want to make sure they get a copy of FlightWatch every quarter to see in action MAF is doing on an ongoing basis. I recommend everyone on your team sign a form you create outlining both their duties and responsibilities, as well as your part in reporting back to them on the events you have coming up.  Also vital is feedback on how the Lord has blessed previous events and answered specific prayers. The accountability between you and your team helps immensely to keep you on track. An added benefit is team members occasionally share a fresh perspective on problems or issues that arise.

My prayer team also helps me stay engaged and more focused on my efforts as an Advocate. The routine of regular communication and periodic updates effectively serves as a continuing review process in the direction and results of my efforts.  It’s also nice to get positive reinforcement from your team after events to keep you motivated as the months go by. As so clearly stated in Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”, that is the goal of a good prayer team.

Click HERE to access a sample Ministry Description for your Prayer Team members!

By Advocate Mark Harris