April 2013 Update
Kurt & Barb Mathews (1990)
CINDY'S HOME VILLAGE
Last week, Kurt wrote about how some other missionaries and Sarah and I were traveling about two and a half hours away to a village near Keta, Ghana called Gagbamate. You can look it up online. They have a website. This is the hometown of our dear friend, Cindy. Cindy's father is the chief there and this village is known as the center of traditional worship.
There is a huge building in the center of the village that is devoted to worshipping the ancestors. Cindy refers to this place as a "shrine". Cindy is regularly asked by the village elders and her grandfather why she hasn't yet gone through her initiation rites for this shrine. It has been difficult for Cindy, with her new-found faith, to stand up under this immense pressure, but she has been successful in avoiding this initiation so far. We were a great encouragement to her last Sunday when we visited.
Her father, the chief, and her mother both received us warmly. It was important to her father that he mention to us that they don't judge people in their village, but they let people worship however they want. He also told us that they strictly follow the ten commandments in their village. Cindy has shared her faith with her father and he listened to her and is not pressuring her to worship the ancestors, but told her to be careful not to judge those who don't follow her faith. Please continue to pray for Cindy, that she would continue to live out her faith in front of her family. She doesn't see her father very often as he lives in London and only comes to Ghana twice a year, but I believe that he has noticed a difference in Cindy's life. Cindy has been a great encouragement to us missionaries and we love her, so it would give us all great joy to see her family come to Christ.
Yesterday we were invited to the Volta Region Fellowship meeting of all of the leaders of the ABWE planted churches. We thought it was great that we were being invited to this meeting as the national leaders formed this fellowship some time ago and the missionaries have never been invited to one of their meetings. They began the meeting by telling us how they appreciated the retreat that we invited them to a few weeks ago where we shared that we want to have one mind and one voice. They agreed that we should be meeting together to accomplish God's work here in Ghana. That was so exciting! Then they got straight to the point and stated a problem that they all see in the churches. The pastors are not being regularly supported by the churches. Some of the churches have expressed a desire to support their pastors and some of the leaders have gotten some support here and there, but it's not regular support, and the pastors are suffering financially. We too see this need, but we just don't know what the best solution to this problem is. One of the leaders said that the missionaries should raise support from North America to support the leaders until the churches are ready to do it on their own. So, I'm curious to hear what you all think? Do you think it's a good idea for missionaries to get support for national pastors? Why or why not? I'll be waiting on the edge of my seat to get all of your responses to this question.
Kurt recommended that we form a committee of a few national leaders and a few missionaries to work on solving this problem. The first meeting will be next Thursday, the 18th of April. Please be in prayer for this meeting. Pray that we will have wisdom to come up with a solution to this problem. Pray that hearts will be prepared to flex as this can be a very sticky subject to discuss without feelings being hurt.
AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed and is a wonderful children's ministry that teaches the kids to memorize God's Word and apply it to their lives everyday. Right now, only one of our churches is blessing children through this ministry - Grace Baptist Church in Ho, but we would like to see others follow. This church currently doesn't have a pastor, but they have a service committee of several regular church members. One of those is a young man named Seyram Agboga. Seyram grew up in this church and went through AWANA as a child himself. Now he is leading it and training others to follow in his footsteps. Now that's what missions is all about!
Our children have enjoyed being part of this program since we returned to Ghana and have been staying in Ho. My missionary friend and colleague, Vicki Greenfield, has helped with this ministry for some time and enjoys teaching the children.
So, they all pile into Vicki's truck on Saturday at noon and head up the mountain to Grace Baptist Church to enjoy AWANA for several hours.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining them and observing a bit. It just so happens that I got to be there on the first week that our son, Noah, led the game time. He did such an excellent job and I'm so proud of him. I remember when we first arrived in Ghana and Noah was only three weeks old. We were observing all of the churches at first and we came to this same church and I observed AWANA with little Noah in my arms. Now the children have all grown up and those who were in AWANA are leading.
This ministry has been a great encouragement to our family and I'm especially grateful for it during this time of transition for us. The kids have something to look forward to each week and it gives the older two an opportunity to minister to other children. I praise the Lord for AWANA!
Thank you all for praying with us and supporting us in this ministry that God has graciously allowed us to be a part of. Please keep praying that He will direct our steps and make His will of where we should live very clear to us very soon.
Barb, for the Mathews' clan
April 14 Update
A NEW WAY OF THINKING
Being a missionary involves a lot of thinking, planning, or strategizing in order to grow a new generation of passionate Christ followers. In the beginning of our time here in Ghana, the way it seemed that the missionaries were reaching out to the communities was by invitation. Usually the missionary would meet someone and share the gospel. That person would accept the truth of the gospel and begin to grow in their new faith. That new believer would then start to get a burden for some family member who lives in another area, to share the gospel with him. So, he would come to the missionary and ask if they could go to that town or village to share the gospel there. So, the missionary went. The gospel was shared in that village and people received it. Sometimes a church was born there. Maybe one missionary could start three or more churches like this. But can that one missionary effectively help all of those churches to become mature? Our problem now is that we have churches in many villages all around the city of Ho who are struggling financially and Spiritually. These past several weeks, we have slowly been changing how we look at things here in Ghana and how we are going to proceed from here on out.
We see the importance of starting works in the bigger towns and cities where there are more resources. Once those churches are strong, they will have the means to reach out to the villages to start churches there. But we already have many struggling works in the village and only one church in the town of Ho. These past weeks we have been praying and seeking advice and counsel from another pastor who has worked planting churches in Ho for many years. We also met again with our ABWE West Africa administrator, Phil McMillen, this weekend. He presented an idea to us to help us both strengthen the current works and make preparation for new works in the city.
Along with this new idea, we have had many discussions about the question that was presented to us by our national brothers last Saturday, about supporting the pastors financially. Thanks to many of you who responded with your thoughts to that question. This is an ongoing debate, probably in more places than just in Ghana. Please pray for us, that we will have wisdom and Biblical and cultural insight into this issue. Our proposed meeting to discuss this issue is this coming Thursday. Pray that we will have something to present to them (with one mind and one voice from our team) by Thursday. Part of the idea that our administrator presented to us includes some kind of financial help. So, pray that we will think through this whole idea well.
When our planning team met yesterday, we presented part of this new idea to our national planning partners. We told them that each church needs to go through an evaluation process to see where they need strengthening the most. Is their leader even qualified Biblically to lead them? They immediately connected this question with the support request they presented recently and responded with "Why now? Why haven't we evaluated the church leaders before they asked for support?" I could see where they were coming from, but that isn't where we were coming from. We aren't trying to do an evaluation of the leaders to see who is going to get support and who isn't. We want to know where we have failed and how we can help them move forward from here, with growth and maturity. Some leaders are struggling with family issues and other things that affect their testimonies. Should they continue leading the churches if their households are not in order? That is another reason why an evaluation needs to be done in each church. Finally, our partners understood and decided that they would like to do the evaluation themselves. We decided to invite a mature Togolese pastor over here on April 27th to present a seminar on church analysis. Then the churches will do a self evaluation and come back to the fellowship with a report. There they will answer questions from their colleagues as well as missionaries. I hope from there we will be able to target two churches that we as missionaries can pour ourselves into, who can in turn also help two other churches each. If we do that for a three year cycle, then we can strengthen twelve churches in a six year period. That's the plan that was presented.
You are our partners in this ministry. Many of you pray and support us financially. That's why I want to share all of this with you. I would love to hear your thoughts on what we have been working through so far. I'll look forward to hearing from you.
Barb, for the Mathews
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