Focus (And Putting the Phone Down)

Even though she had on sunglasses, it was obvious that the woman driving in front of me kept looking up and down, from the road to something in her hand; from awareness on what was going on in front of her to focus on what she was holding. Every couple of seconds, a small break from operating a machine moving at 40mph to whatever was taking place in her lap.

If there is a sure-fire way to get honked at by yours truly, it’s to be texting and driving.

Though I could rant all day about the dangers of texting and driving (knowing full well that there are definitely times where I play the role of the hypocrite with deft ability), there are definite spiritual connotations to what we witness when we see this behavior. And I’m all too guilty of this kind of lack of focus, even more.

In our lives, our attention is constantly stolen away from where it should constantly be – focused on the person of Christ Jesus. Now, I realize that it’s basically impossible to have your mind solely focuses on Jesus 24/7…and that’s not what I’m getting at. What isn’t impossible is making choices and even thoughts that revolve around the Lord. When it comes to our day-to-day, how often we chase rabbits in every facet, versus letting our decisions and thoughts come out of the focus we have on Jesus.

On the road we walk as believers, our constant landmark is Jesus Christ. But, how often, in the world today, are we looking to our next text, Facebook post, or juicy tweet? How often are we actually playing a new game or checking out a fun app, rather than focusing on what lies ahead? How many times do we miss the present moments, because we’re too busy posting tidbits about something that happened in the past?

Isaiah 26.3 tells us “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (ESV)

Our peace is kept by our minds remaining focused on our God. The one in whom we trust holds everything in his hands, including our moment to moment lives.

It’s very easy to lose sight of this truth, as we’re bombarded with so much every single day. Our friends’ baby’s first birthday party highlights to the latest political news out of Washington, global heartache to hilarious memes, constant struggles to great celebrations – all things that can steal our focus away from the one who both sees us through those hardships and gives us great blessings to celebrate.

Put the phone away. Put the distractions where they should be – under the focus you have on Jesus.

Lives depend on it.


What’s the Telos?

In my personal reading over the past couple of months, one things has continued to come up – telos. The Greek term ends up being translated into “end goal,” but, the idea that has continually been coming up is “What is the end goal of your day-to-day?”

From how we go about our work, our play, our family time and our personal time – what are our end goals?

Are we focused on happiness? Are we focused on relaxation? Are we focused on chasing whatever it is that makes us happy in the moment to moment?

As believers, our ultimate telos should be to glorify Christ and to look more and more like him.

This thought has taken hold more than before, in what it looks like to set that hope before myself each morning. Whether that be in interactions I may have at the gym, how I talk to the baristas on the occasions I venture to one of the local coffee shops, how I encourage those within my small group and the larger body of our church or how I’m simply loving and spending time with my family – my telos must be Jesus. Harkening back to high school days and stylishly sporting my WWJD bracelet, my thoughts move more towards “How would Jesus do this?” What would it look like as Christ worked out? How would Jesus have spoken to that barista, this morning? What would Jesus have said to my friend, to my kids, to my wife, in the thick of getting things ready for the day?

He would have been bold. He would have been patient. He would have been loving, even in the hard conversations he may have had to have on a Monday morning.

And I definitely think he still would have snuggled his family just a few extra minutes. I think he would have taken a longer break from his sets to ask about someone’s family as they go through a really difficult time. I think he would have chosen to at least try to joke with a lady working at a government office, even after being told “This is a government office, we don’t do humor here.”

May we set Christ as our ultimate goal in every single thing that we do. And may that joy, that love, that holiness radiate so that all the nations might know the one who we desire, more than anything.

How We Operate (Evangelism & What We’ve Been Part of in SE Asia)

When there are literally hundreds of voices belting out praise songs in an area that has been unreached with the gospel, it is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Even when you just think about the significant impact that learning the English language will have on people, not to mention teaching them to sing gospel truth, it inspires one to continue the work set before them.

So many emotions come out of sharing the gospel in places where it has never been heard.

When it comes to evangelism within our organization, one of the primary avenues that we utilize to share gospel truth is through our ongoing work in ESL. Though we teach the English language to students (and administrators, teachers, families, et al.), it is simply a medium for sharing the gospel of Jesus.

SE Asia, and Thailand in particular, have for years been hard areas in which to share the gospel. The majority of the area continue to be entrenched in Buddhism and the Buddhist philosophy of life. Though they are truly some of the friendliest people one could ever encounter, there is always the reality that the message you share will be received with a smile, but no heart change behind that. Some of the most accommodating people on the face of the earth are still yet some of the hardest to reach with the truth of Christ Jesus.

And then the Lord moves and breaks through.

As our organization and especially the churches being planted in eastern Thailand continue to invest in the lives of those in their communities, more and more eyes are being opened to the truth of Jesus Christ. His Spirit has begun to move in ways that are simply incredible, and we have gotten to witness numerous new believers coming into discipleship in just our 2.5 years of working in this area. It seems that more and more people are excited about what they are seeing the Lord do both in and through their lives, and sharing that joy with others around them. This draws more and more people into community, and we get to behold the unity that they find in following Christ.

Though evangelism can often be incredibly hard and difficult, regardless where you may be, what a blessing to see the Lord’s movement first-hand!

Continue to pray with us and for us, as we partner with pastors and believers in SE Asia to continue to proclaim the glad tidings of Jesus Christ, and how he has brought salvation to his people. May the Spirit continue to add more and more numbers to that people, with each passing day!

How We Operate: What We’ve Seen in ESL

Today is known collectively as #GivingTuesday, as many non-profits (like LifeVesting International) are blessed in huge ways by the generous spirits of so many people. For our organization, it’s a great kickoff to the End-of-Year giving season that we pray for each year. EoY is vital to the ongoing work of our organization, in particular, because it buoys losses and pauses in support from the previous year, as well as helps us move into the new calendar year with particular projects.

One vital area where donations help us move forward is in the area of ESL. As we’ve mentioned in our last blog post, ESL is a huge component of what we do in sharing the gospel in Thailand (and further in SE Asia!). Here’s what we’ve been blessed to see over the course of 2017 –

When we first began our work in the area of Nong Nae, Thailand, there was a very small amount of work being done, when it came to ESL. On an initial vision trip to the area, I was a bit surprised to find that there was an ESL class being taught at one of the local high schools. However, when I asked what the students were studying, the main focus was still on basic nouns in the English language…pictures of “Cloud,” and “Cat,” and “Happy.” When we laid out the game-plan for what we would be focusing in on and teaching students, the administration throughout the area was more than excited to begin to have teams come in for English mini-camps.

As we’ve developed relationships among the school staffs, our systems have become more and more systematic for the students we work with. We have grown from seeing elementary-age students go from learning basic verbs, pronouns and nouns to having conversations, with us but also in spurts amongst themselves. Seeing this has, of course, opened the doors for work in other areas.

Though in many of these areas the work of ESL begins anew from scratch, it has been a huge avenue for local church planters to already gain relationships with schools – from students to teachers and admin staff to entire families. Committing to these areas for several different trips paves the way for continuation in students’ abilities to learn not only English, but more and more of the gospel, as it is a center-point around which our trainings revolve.

It is a beautiful thing to see students grasp something brand new, especially in these rural areas where learning the English language is considered by so many to be both a source of pride, as well as a piece of their future in international industry. But, the most glorious thing about this work is hearing songs about Jesus being sung where there was no gospel presence. Scripture being learned and recited where the Bible had never been read before. New disciples being made, families being brought into discipleship, and areas that at one time had been considered “unreached,” suddenly becoming more and more inundated by the presence of Christians who lovingly preach and live out the gospel.

ESL has just been one medium for that to happen, but what a medium it has become!

Be sure to check out our website at LifeVesting International. And, if you’d like to play a role in supporting what we do financially, consider giving a gift through the site, here.

On top of that, we are already filling up trips for 2018! If you would like more information or already know that you want to be part of being on a team in the field, contact Kyle Wiley.

May we be a people who continue to mobilize the Church, to multiply the Church. And may the name of Christ Jesus be praised!


How We Operate: ESL

“Why is English so important to the overall mission of what we’re trying to accomplish?”

The question got thrown out as we sat with our National Coordinators and family in a living room in Little Rock, AR. We were wrapping up our time of dreaming and planning through what launching LifeVesting International would look like, and they were soon headed back to Thailand. A valid question, my missions experience had been a handful of construction missions and then the numerous evangelism-centered trips I had led for the organization I worked for at the time. I, too, was really interested in this component of reaching people with the gospel, as I had seen it employed a handful of times, but never actually used it, myself.

“Because, for our people, it’s the future.”

Dui and Gift then dove headlong into explaining how, in the area of Thailand we have targeted, large international corporations are also targeting…to set up shop and build huge factories for producing everything from automobiles to industrial goods. Entire new towns are popping up in the countryside of eastern Thailand with names like “Industrial City,” “Gateway City,” and a host of others. Where small family farms had once plotted their rice paddies, companies like Toyota, Isuzu, and Hyundai have brought literally thousands of jobs to the area. Young people from all over Thailand (and other SE Asian countries) are flocking to these centers for jobs.

And how does one move up the corporate ladder in a place like this? By knowing English. English has continued to grow as the international language of commerce, throughout the world. Thai parents, wanting the best for their children, want to see them learning the language. Thus, teaching English has become an open door.

When we say that ESL training has become an open door, here’s what we mean – administrators in this area of Thailand have given free-reign to teach their students English. For church planters and pastors in these rural areas, it is an instant ability to not only teach the gospel by using scripture and song to learn the English language, but it builds gospel bridges into the community because of the investment being made in the lives of, not only the students, but the future of entire families. To see their children learning the English language, parents and others become interested in the overall mission of the church – to love their communities well and to point to Jesus Christ. This is almost unheard of in the Buddhist context of Thailand. Though there are numerous components of doing good works towards others in the state religion, the thought of promoting someone else (Jesus) rather than simply attempting to achieve something for self, an act of grace, is almost unheard of. And incredibly effective.

With each passing trip, we see more and more teachers and school administrators asking for our teams to come to their schools, to teach their students, to build into their communities. It has become the story of John 21.6 enfleshed in the lives of LVI and the pastors we get to serve alongside, in Thailand. The opportunities are seemingly limitless, and we need more and more teams to go and help both cast and haul in the nets.

As we look ahead to 2018, we anticipate being part of new churches being planted, of opening ESL camps in new schools, of seeing new worshipers of Jesus become disciples and of entire families being renewed by the gospel. What we are asking for is for more and more willing servants from the States to join us in this endeavor.

How can you be part? Here are several tangible ways you can be part of this incredible ongoing work that we, as LifeVesting International, are part of:

  1. Pray – it seems the most obvious and easy, yet we are constantly needing the prayers of many to “hold the line” for us. The now-famous missionary, William Carey, encouraged his supporters by saying how he would be willing to go, but he needed others who would “hold the lines.” These lines are the ropes of prayer. Like Carey, and countless others before us, we need those who will hold the line and petition the Lord both for us, and with us, for the numerous needs we have, both internationally and state-side, as well as for more and more disciples of Jesus to be made through planting churches throughout Thailand and further, in SE Asia.
  2. Go – with five trips currently lined up for 2018, we need those who understand our vision and want to be part of seeing ESL used in the context of planting churches. Whether it be part of our May, July, August, September or October trips, we can’t wait to see who the Lord knits together to form our teams!
  3. Give – there is a constant need to raise support; in fact, we begin our End-of-Year support raising push on Tuesday, November 28th, with being part of the #GivingTuesday movement. Our needs, this year, are large, and we know that the Lord knows each and every one of them and can meet each of them in turn. From putting an intern on the ground for next summer, to helping extend the reach of LifeVesting in Thailand, to simple needs we have here, at home, we continue to pray for the Lord to meet our needs, as he wills.

For more information on any of these things, or simply for more information, shoot a quick email to Kyle or check out our website.

Jesus’s words in Matthew 9 still ring true – “The harvest is plentiful, the laborers few…” (ESV). But we know that the God who is in control of the harvest is equipping more and more laborers to go into the fields that are ripe for reaping, and to continue to sow more seeds of the gospel!

May we continue to be a people who look to be used to bring more and more worshipers of Christ Jesus into his family!

Three Churches. One Heart.

“I feel like the sun is twice as intense here as it is back home!”

We had just finished playing roughly ten minutes of soccer with some 50+ boys from the local school and were still trying to catch our breath, popsicles in hand as we sat in front of oscillating fans that the school’s administrators had so graciously brought out to the gathering area. Sweat-soaked, we still had another three hours of teaching ESL to these students.

“Ready for Round Two?” I asked our team members. One of our National Coordinators graced the microphone and the afternoon session began in earnest, over 100 Thai students following along and belting out their newly discovered favorite tune, “Making Melodies In My Heart.” To the praise of Jesus! Not to mention the team of Americans hilariously acting out each and every corresponding action to the lyrics.

Just one avenue in planting churches.

Over the past two years as an organization, we have gotten to be part of helping strengthen the existing church in Nong Nae, Thailand, as well as helping plant two more churches in the rural areas of Khlong Trakow and Prachinburi. It has been an increasing source of joy for our organization as we work alongside Dui and Gift Limpanaphirak, our National Coordinators and the pastor of the Church in Nong Nae, as we see new disciples made in their community and those who were at one point “new believers” stepping into the roles they were blessed to take on in evangelizing and continuing to live out the Great Commission. Nong Nae has only continued to grow; an area that at one time missions organizations pulled away from, now being ripe for harvest. A hard area, for sure, but an area where the Lord has deemed it fit for new worshipers to begin to be added to the people of God…almost on a daily basis.

Two years ago, I was blessed to be able to see the ministry of a particular man, Pastor Pi Rat (pronounced “P Rot”). He and his wife, Moo, had felt led to start an after school ministry for children whose parents worked into the evening hours, providing them with tutoring, snacks, and the chance to hear the gospel proclaimed in story and song, every single day. Children who otherwise would have no Christ-centered discussion in any point in their days. Dui mentioned to me, at that time, that Pastor Rat had the markings of a church planter, and we began to pray in earnest for what the Lord might do in and through this man.

Fast forward to this past September, as we got to see in part how our prayers unfolded for this family. They had been led to leave the after school program in the charge of others, and to move their lives to the area around a small city called Prachinburi, in order to plant a church. Our organization was blessed to bring a team over with hearts to see new areas won for the sake of the gospel and, on this trip, got to be part of building gospel bridges into the lives of not only students, but entire families, in the area.

As Pastor Rat continues to preach the gospel and to begin to see disciples made of Christ, pray with us that this church plant would become well-established in the community in and around Prachinburi!

Similarly, Khlong Trakow is an area where we would be blessed to go into the local school to teach ESL and share the truths of the gospel, as well. Coming alongside a pastor who had already begun to plant, we got to share with over 100 students in this site, as well. Here, after seeing the effectiveness of the training and the openness of the team to serve students and families, as well as the administration, even more interest was stoked in what it might mean to be part of the newly-established community of Thatakia Baptist Church.

Tired as we were at the conclusion of our days spent speaking the gospel truth, singing the gospel truth, living the gospel truth and loving on others throughout our days, what a moment to get to pray with and for the work that would continue in this small town! Just another chance to pray for the Lord to continue his work in Thailand; continue to pray with us for the ongoing ministry of Thatakia Baptist Church and those who will come to know and worship Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit through his people!

In just one area of the world where the vast majority of people are unreached, what a blessing, what joy to be involved in coming alongside men and women who make much of the gospel. Who share and embody the gospel that we have been given. Who know well what it is to endure persecution and yet trust that the Lord is moving powerfully both in and through them, that the name of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed as Lord – not just in these communities, but throughout the nation of Thailand.

And you are part of this continued movement, as well! Through prayer, through your support, and through participating in trips like this one – thank you. Let’s continue to walk forward in this, together!

May we live our lives, may we give our lives away, that he might always increase.

Church Planting & LVI (Pt.1)

When it comes to the ongoing work of the Church in missions, there are numerous means and methods that we can utilize to advance the kingdom.

Working alongside an orphanage in a third-world country.

Helping give man-power to constructing a new church building for a sister church.

Sharing the gospel door-to-door in a particular area, either foreign or domestic.

Teaching pastors in countries where theological training may not be openly available.

Going into local schools and teaching ESL, utilizing scripture as a means for teaching.

In a nation of some 68.2 million people, 67.2 million of those people (98.6% of the overall population) are completely unreached. 113 different people groups, where 81 of those groups are unreached. This means that there is no native, self-propagating Christian church movement in over 70% of the people groups in Thailand!

To put it into perspective, the US has a total number of 488 people groups with only 84 of those groups being described as unreached. Out of a total population of 325 million people, some 10.8 million people are considered unreached. Often times, we can’t imagine the disparity between living here, in the US, and living in a place like Thailand. Whereas we can often take Christianity for granted, a Christian in Thailand is a gospel-living anomaly. But how the Lord uses his people!

When it comes to reaching a place like Thailand, though, there are always differences in thought in how to reach people with the Message of Christ. An open country in the legal-sense, Christianity is not outlawed. However, to be Thai essentially means to be Buddhist. To walk away from the Buddhist religion means, to many, to walk away from one of the central components of what it is to be Thai. Reaching into the culture through different social justice means is simply not enough. To truly develop disciples of Christ Jesus, a church must be planted where even non-believers can see discipleship taking place, Christians are growing in faith and life in Christ, and pastors are continually being trained in shepherding their people.

LifeVesting International gets to be part of all three of those components. We come alongside pastors to continue their training, both on “regular” trips and on trips where the primary focus is on giving theological training to rural pastors. We’re able to pour into our brothers and sisters while we are in country, making relationships that span the miles and further relationships that build gospel bridges into the communities where we serve. LVI is able to commit to furthering discipleship and supporting local planters, as well as drawing new disciples in through such avenues as ESL training in schools. All in all, LVI gets to be involved in an incredible movement that the Lord continues, bringing more and more worshipers from unreached peoples.

As time continues to move forward, our hope and prayer is that many of these unreached people groups will move into the “reached” category, and that the Lord would continue to use our organization as a small part in that movement!

Next week, we’ll introduce you to three of the churches we have been able to have a hand in planting and strengthening, over the last two years!