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Category Archives: Missions

The field is the world

On Saturday, Carol and I were driving around the area and found ourselves at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. We decided to search for the Haystack Prayer Meeting Memorial, which was the site of the birth of American Foreign Missions.

The Haystack Prayer Meeting, held in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in August 1806, is viewed by many scholars as the seminal event for the development of American Protestant missions in the subsequent decades and century.

Williams College students Samuel Mills, James Richards, Francis LeBaron Robbins, Harvey Loomis, and Byram Green, met in the summer of 1806 in a grove of trees near the Hoosic River, in what was then known as Sloan’s Meadow, and debated the theology of missionary service. Their meeting was interrupted by a thunderstorm and the students took shelter under a haystack until the sky cleared. “The brevity of the shower, the strangeness of the place of refuge, and the peculiarity of their topic of prayer and conference all took hold of their imaginations and their memories.”

In 1808 the Haystack Prayer group and other Williams students began a group called “The Brethren.” This group was organized to “effect, in the persons of its members, a mission to” those who were not Christians. In 1812, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (created in 1810) sent its first missionaries to the non-Christian world, to India.

Samuel Mills was most influential among the Haystack group to direct the modern mission movement. He played a role in the founding of the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society.

Through the work of Byram Green, in 1867 a monument was erected in Mission Park in Williamstown, Massachusetts to honor the five men involved in the Haystack prayer meeting. In 1906 a centennial gathering took place in Mission Park at Williams College in celebration of the earlier prayer meeting. In the summer of 2006, contemporary missioners celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Haystack prayer meeting.

The 1806 meeting was the first documented by Americans to begin foreign missionary work. In addition, this meeting has been seen to have led to the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). The ABCFM gave students an opportunity to go abroad and spread the teachings of Christianity.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2020 in Massachusetts, Missions, Photos

 

Moscow 2019 Conference – Trip Report

Here’s a report of the 2019 Moscow Conference on mentoring. Read and rejoice in what God did!

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Photos, Russia

 

Russia 2019 – Moscow Conference – October Update

Pray for Pastor Mark & Carol Wheeler serving in Russia

From October 16-26, Pastor Mark & Carol will be serving in Moscow, Russia. Mark & Carol have served in Russia on numerous occasions with John & Naomi Musgrave, missionaries who lead a ministry called “Mentoring Matters.” This ministry follows the example of the apostle Paul in Acts 13-14, helping to strengthen and establish churches by training leaders.

Mark will be teaching a week-long seminar for pastors on the topic of, “How do we identify and train the next generation of leaders in the church?”

Thanks to your prayers and generous gifts, the trip is fully funded. Following the conference, Mark & Carol will be stopping in the U.K. for a week of vacation, which they are paying for out of their own funds.

Here’s the schedule for the trip:

October 16-18       Travel (Boston – Amsterdam – Moscow)

October 19-21       Recover from jet lag; prep for conference

October 22-26       Conference (7 Sessions – 1: The biblical mandate for mentoring; 2: Case studies—biblical examples; 3: What do you look for in a trainee? 4: What do you try to develop? 5: How do you train them? 6: Failures—not everyone you invest in will turn out well; 7: Q&A)

October 27            Travel (Moscow – London)

October 28-November 3         Visiting London, Oxford, Edinburgh

November 4          Travel (London – Boston)

Please pray for safe travel, good health, effective communication, and mutual encouragement with the participants.

Internet permitting, Mark will try to provide periodic updates and post them on his blog

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Russia, Scripture

 

Moscow Conference 2019 – September update

Dear friends,

Thanks for praying for the preparations for the October Moscow conference. Carol and I leave in six weeks on October 16.

As on previous trips, we will be working with John & Naomi Musgrave, missionaries sent out and supported by Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. We will also be joined by Marc Fournier. Both John & Marc were elders at Crossroads when I was on staff at the church and we have worked together previously.

The focus of the conference is on identifying and training the next generation of leaders in the church. Here’s an outline of the lessons I’ll be teaching during the conference. We will be combining lecture, small group discussion, and some other creative learning activities.

  1. Session one – Why? The biblical mandate for mentoring.
  2. Session two – Case studies; biblical examples of training and mentoring.
  3. Session three – Who? What do you look for in a trainee?
  4. Session four – What? What should you develop in a young leader?
  5. Session five – How? How do you train them?
  6. Session six – Failures. Not everyone you invest in will follow through.
  7. Sessions seven – Panel discussion; Q & A.

Thanks to your generosity and God’s provision, the trip is fully funded. Enough funds came in that allowed us to do something special for the attendees. We purchased a quantity of relay batons and we added a label that says, 2 Timothy 2:2, in Russian. At the end of the seminar, we’ll give each participant two batons, one to keep as a reminder of the lessons and one to give to someone that they train.

Here’s some ways that you can pray for us:

  • Praise God for his generous provision.
  • Pray that God guides me as I develop the content for the conference and determine how to teach each session. Pray for insight and creativity.
  • Pray that God will bring the right pastors and leaders to the conference and that he begins to prepare their hearts to receive the material.
  • Pray for Carol and me as we head to California in two weeks for a short visit with our kids and Carol’s parents and sister. When we return, we will finish preparations for the Moscow conference.

Thanks so much for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

 
 

Celebrate the Milestones and Keep adding to them

Yesterday, I celebrated another ministry anniversary and milestone. If God allows, I want to keep adding to them.

September is a month when I look back and celebrate the grace of God in my life and look forward and recommit myself to following God. It’s a time when I am reminded how much I need his grace and strength in my life.

September is a milestone month for me because it is when I began my first full-time, paid position in ministry. I’ve been doing ministry for over 46 years. But I started getting paid for it in September 1986, 33 years ago.

I began serving in ministry during my freshman year in college in 1973. From 1973-86, I taught Sunday School for kids, served as a youth sponsor, discipled high school students, led ministry trips, sang in choirs, coached sports teams, chaired committees, did a summer internship, participated in evangelism outreaches, and other ministries I have long since forgotten.

I taught one class in each of two semesters in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Lay Institute from 1983-84, and even got paid for the privilege. I also served one year as a part-time intern at Nutwood St. Baptist Church in Garden Grove, CA, in the mid-80’s.

In September 1986, I was called to be the Pastor of Christian Education at College Church in Wheaton, IL, and began my full-time career in ministry. I served the first 18 years as an Associate Pastor. I served three years at College Church, Wheaton, IL, as the Pastor of Christian Education (9/86-7/89), and over 14 years at Crossroads Bible Church, Bellevue, WA as an Associate Pastor—Singles, Adults, Missions, Senior Associate (2/90-6/04).

In September 2004, I transitioned to the role of Senior Pastor and have now served 15 years in that role. I served almost 8 years at United Evangelical Free Church, Seattle, WA (9/04-3/12), and the past seven years at First Central Bible Church, Chicopee, MA (9/12-Present). If God should permit, I would like to keep going as long as possible. I will keep serving and preaching as long I am healthy and effective.

In addition to my pastoral ministry, I have served as an instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 32 years (1987-Present). I also led or participated in 20 ministry trips (15 to Russia, 2 to Ukraine, 2 to Spain, and 1 to Nigeria). Since 2011, I have gone to Russia once a year to help train pastors and emerging leaders, teaching a three-day course on a book of the Bible. Carol and I will be heading to Moscow next month on yet another ministry trip. Since Spring 2017, I have had the privilege of mentoring students as an adjunct professor, teaching online courses at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.

Somewhere along the line, I developed the following purpose statement for my life.

My Mission is to serve the purpose of God in my generation, thus bringing glory to his name. My Life Vision to train and equip others through preaching, teaching, writing, and leadership development. I want to bring all to maturity and many into leadership.

To be starting my 34th year in ministry says more about God’s grace than my ability. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed nor the smartest person in the room. I am a plodder who strives to run the race God called me to run (Hebrews 12:1-4). I want to serve God faithfully and use all of my gifts for his glory (Matthew 25:14-30). I want to finish well.

I thank God that he called me to be one of his children. I thank God that he called me into his service. I thank him for the privilege of serving him in a wide variety of ministries—at First Central, Walk Thru the Bible, Regent University, and in Russia. I thank God for grace.

May God grant me the grace and strength to continue serving him for many more years to come.

 

Moscow Conference 2019 – July update

Dear friends,

Thanks for praying for the preparations for the October Moscow conference. Because of your prayers and generosity, the trip is now fully funded. We’ve purchased our tickets and made our hotel reservations.

As on previous trips, Carol and I will be working with John & Naomi Musgrave, missionaries sent out and supported by Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. We will also be joined by Marc Fournier. Both John & Marc were elders at Crossroads when I was on staff at the church and we have worked together previously.

The focus of the conference is on identifying and training the next generation of leaders in the church. I am starting to work on the lessons for the conference. The sessions will include: (1) Why? The biblical mandate for mentoring; (2) Who? What do you look for in a trainee? (3) What? What should you develop in this person? and (4) How? How do you go about doing it? I want to combine biblical teaching with creative activities and small group discussions so as to make the conference practical and helpful.

This past week, I sent in the preseminar assignments. If the participants complete the work, they receive a discount on their registration fee. To get them thinking about the topic, they are to answer the following questions:

  1. Read Exodus 18. What was Moses’ challenge? What was Jethro’s recommendation? What type of people was Moses to look for? What was the result?
  2. Read Exodus 17:8-16; 24:9-18; 33:7-11; Numbers 11:24-29; Numbers 13:1-14:45; Numbers 27:12-23; Deuteronomy 34:1-12. What kind of experiences did God and Moses use to prepare Joshua to lead Israel? What lessons did Joshua learn? What skills did he gain through those experiences?
  3. Read 1 Timothy 2:2. What did Paul instruct Timothy to do? What kind of character qualities was Timothy to look for in the people he was to invest in?
  4. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. What gifts and/or gifted people are given to the church? What is their role? What happens when they do their job well? What happens if they don’t carry out their responsibility?

Here’s some ways that you can pray for us:

  • Praise God that Carol and I have our visas, airline tickets, and hotel reservations. We praise God for his provision.
  • Praise God that the trip is fully funded!
  • Pray that God guides me as I develop the content for the conference and determine how to teach each session. Pray for insight and creativity.
  • Pray that God will bring the right pastors and leaders to the conference and that he begins to prepare their hearts to receive the material.

Thanks so much for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

 

The Ministry of Presence

Some time back, one individual questioned why I was going to Russia. They said that short-term ministry trips were “a boondoggle.” “They are a waste of time and money. Why don’t you make a video and send that instead of going yourself?”

Yes, it is expensive for me to go to Russia once a year to teach. Yes, it takes up two weeks of my time. Yes, it pulls me away from home. Yes, I have to raise the funds in order to go. Yes, I am not 20 or 30 years old anymore and it takes longer for me to bounce back from jet lag. Yes, I could send a DVD or teach via Skype or Face Time.

But there is no substitute for being present. There is no substitute from sitting across the table and sharing a meal and listening to a Russian pastor or church elder share about the challenges of ministry. There is no substitute for laying your hands on their shoulders and praying for them specifically. There is no substitute for putting your hand on a church leaders’ shoulder and saying you understand what they are going through and looking them in the eye and sharing what God taught you through similar circumstances. There is no substitute for living with them for a week or two and identifying with their challenges.

As Westerners, we pride ourselves on being “efficient” and “effective.” We want to do things as quick and cheap as possible. But you cannot put a price tag on the ministry of presence, of showing up, and being “with you.” The ministry of presence is priceless.

Yes, it is expensive for me to go to Russia once a year to teach. It costs time, money, and wear and tear on my body. But it is well worth the cost. And I will gladly pay it again.

Philippians 2:17 – “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Russia, Scripture

 

What in the World? – Anapa & Elista, Russia

Rather than preach a normal sermon today, I shared with the congregation about my recent ministry trip to Russia. Here are the PowerPoint slides I used in the presentation.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Russia, Videos

 

Russia 2019 – Trip Report

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Photos, Russia

 

Breakfast conversations

While staying at City Chess in Elista, John, Naomi, and I had breakfast each day at the Royal Park Restaurant, which is part of the complex. Over breakfast one morning, a gentleman approached our table. He said he overheard us speaking in English and was curious as to who we were and why we were there. He explained he was from Germany and was traveling through the area. John responded that we were missionaries who were encouraging pastors. The gentleman said he was a Lutheran pastor who had been trained in the States. He was now retired and was traveling through Russia meeting with Lutheran pastors to build up and encourage them.

The Kingdom of God is being established around the world.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Russia