I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
“The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)
Dear Friend & Partner,
I am writing this special blog entry on “New Years Eve” - which is also my 66th birthday. By God’s grace, I have come to the end of another full and fruitful year of travel and ministry. In the last 12 months of travel and ministry the Lord took me to Nepal, India, Hong Kong, Mali, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Haiti and Andros, Freeport and Abaco in the Bahamas. And I was in most of these countries more than once in 2007. Also, when I was not out of country, I was traveling and speaking domestically. So it has been a very busy year of travel and ministry for the Kingdom - all made possible by your prayers and partnership spiritually and financially.
I especially spent a lot of time on the African Continent this past year because of all God is doing there. The Twenty-First Century is already being called the “Century of the African Church” because of the incredible growth of the church there – as well as the counter-challenges of radical Islam.
And as many of you know, I also spent 5 days in the hospital in September from Falciparum malaria – which is the number one killer of people in the world today especially children. I apparently contracted it in Sudan – where I will be traveling again in mid-January. Even though I have had malaria several times before, this was by far the most serious case – which almost took me home to heaven! But because of the prayers and intercessions of friends and partners in America and around the world, God was pleased to raise me up to continue to “fight the good fight of the faith” (I Tim. 1:18; 6:12). And He did the same for my friend, Kelly Cantrell, who had a far more serious case than I had – and spent 15 days in ICU. Both of us are now back to our full schedules – well almost, as a result of your prayers and God’s sovereign grace!
During my recovery from malaria, Stuart Briscoe wrote me an email of encouragement which said: “J.L., think of it as being laid aside for stillness rather than laid aside by illness!” Only Stuart could express it that way! So Patt and I thank all of you for your prayers for both of us this past year. Because of God’s incredible grace and goodness, we have now experienced our 65th and 66th birthdays respectively – as well as our 43rd wedding anniversary! God is good – and marriage is too!
This has also been a strategic year of ministry transition for me as I have moved from being “Founder and CEO” of NDI to being “CMO,” or Chief Ministry Officer. My son, Joseph, is now the CEO and has capably been at the helm of NDI since last January 1st – leaving me freer than ever to travel and minister as God leads. And I have been ANYTHING but retired – which my travel, preaching, teaching, writing and mentoring schedule shows! That word is not in my vocabulary! I intend to keep traveling and preaching as long as God gives me health and strength. I feel as intently as ever the words of the Apostle Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16).
At the beginning of this New Year I want to remind you that 2008 is another historic year for us because it is our “40th Anniversary” as a ministry. We are awed and humbled over God’s graciousness to us for these 4 decades. As I have pondered these many years of ministry, God’s words to the Children of Israel that I shared above echoed over and over in my mind. I have chosen them as my theme verse for this anniversary year. While it is only one verse, it is pregnant with implications for the Children of Israel – and for us at NDI. Let me unpackage that verse with you word by word and phrase by phrase…
So beloved, we look forward to our continued “partnership in the Gospel” in ’08 (Phil. 1:3-5). We believe this “40th Anniversary Year” will be our greatest year of ministry for His Kingdom and glory yet! And we thank God for the part you will play in everything we do!
In His Faithful Love,
For a number of years now I have spent the first part of December ministering somewhere in Africa. It always helps me get into the real spirit of Christmas. That’s because God is mightily at work on the African Continent—in spite of great problems like political corruption, poverty, tribalism, joblessness and AIDS. The church is growing exponentially all over sub-Saharan Africa today. Already the Twenty-First Century is being called the “African Century.” Some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the world are now in Africa. And they are generally more evangelical, Biblically centered, Spirit-filled and socially conservative than their American or European counterpart.
As a result of this African spiritual vitality, many Christians in old line Church traditions in America are withdrawing from their declining denominations because of the “leaven of liberalism.” And they are doing something unthinkable a few years ago. They are putting themselves under African Bishops and joining African Episcopal confessions. This is an unprecedented spiritual and ecclesiastical phenomena in Christian history!
Also, Christmas is inseparably connected to Africa. It was the “flight to Egypt” that saved the Christ Child from the murderous intent of King Herod. And all of this was in fulfillment of the ancient prophecy about the Messiah that Matthew related to this event when he quoted the prophet Hosea: “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:15). So if it were not for Africa, we would not be celebrating Christmas! We Christians then, owe an eternal debt to the African Continent for sheltering Joseph, Mary and Jesus when they were political refugees from their homeland.
So Africa and Christmas have a lot in common—especially spiritual growth. You see, the Christmas Story does not end when the shepherds and Magi return home and Mary and Joseph relocate from Egypt to Nazareth. It transitions into the childhood and adulthood of Jesus with this telling verse that is pregnant with implications for each of us: “And Jesus GREW in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
Certainly there is a great mystery here! How can the incarnate God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent grow?! It is a mystery too deep and profound for us to fathom. But we know that since God took upon Himself the limitations of our humanity during the years of His incarnation, He grew. And His growth was to be a pattern for our growth. He grew in “wisdom”—which means mental growth. He grew in “stature”—which means physical growth. He grew “in favor with God”—which is spiritual growth. And He grew “in favor with man”—which means social growth.
As history and personal experience clearly reveal, Jesus Christ is the only human who has ever lived who perfectly modeled this kind of holistic growth. All of the rest of us fall far short of this growth pattern because of our sinful and selfish nature. But it is still the kind of balanced growth that we should all strive for. And Christmas opens to each of us the possibility and potential of that kind of holistic growth from infancy to maturity. The Apostle Paul called this “mature manhood,” or “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). That’s my constant prayer for myself—and the Christmas present I want to give to God, to Patt, to my children, grandchildren, NDI staff, national partners, friends and supporters!
This African trip that I just returned from this past week stretched me more in that Christ-like direction. I believe it also did the same for the men who were with me. So I hope you will be blessed and encouraged by the following pictures. Each one represent some area of Kingdom Growth that your prayers and support have helped make possible over the past year. So God bless you for growing in Christ with us through local and global missions for His Kingdom and glory in 2007!
Growing in Christmas Love,
PS: As this year ends we will enter our “40th Anniversary” as a ministry. We are awed and humbled by God’s graciousness to us across these past 4 decades! And each year He has been pleased to grow us as a ministry and increase our influence in many countries. We believe that this next year will be our greatest year of growth for the Kingdom ever! And you can help that ministry and mission growth through a special “Christmas Gift” as well as a generous year-end gift. So may God bless you as you continue to grow with us in depth and breadth in this next year.
My associate Daniel Newby, with some Samburu tribal school children we have a growing ministry with in northern Kenya
Wells Thompson, professional Soccer player from the New England Revolution, enjoys time with some Samburu children at our Sports Center which has a growing ministry with children, teenagers and young adults.
Here Wells teaches Samburu children soccer skills—and soccer is a national passion in Kenya.
NDI alumni, Steve Allen, plays with a cripple child. As a Physical Therapist, Steve knew just how to help this child who has only been able to crawl his entire life.
Daniel meets some Samburu Morans or warriors, who regularly enjoy the Sports Camp which has a growing ministry to this formerlly unreached group of young men.
NDI partner, Andrea, preaches and teaches to remote tribal people using Bible Story telling. He is also the cook for the Sports Camp.
Our growing drip irrigation garden at the Sports Camp where we are introducing pastoral people to farming for a better diet
Here one of our two gardeners plants new seedlings in the garden. He was trained at the Genesis Farm in Ethiopia that NDI has been involved in for several decades.
We thank God for Stakwell Yurenimo who heads the Samburu Sports Camp and has an ever-growing ministry in northern Kenya
We praise God for this Samburu Church which was the first NDI project in this area among these pastoralists dating back to the early 1990’s.
Our team visiting a remote Samburu village with Stakwell—African safari style on the top of the Land Rover
Our team with Stakwell and Francesca Yurenimo before our departure from South Horr and the Samburu people for Korr and the Rendille Tribe
Preparing to fly from Samburu country to Rendille country to meet with our partners in Korr
Dr. Bill Kern from Columbus, Ohio, and Steve Allen visit with Grant Swanepoel at the Korr Church built by NDI partners. We are now seeking funding the roof of this latest addition to the church.
It is always a joy to meet with this Rendille sister who was one of the first converts to Christ among the Rendille tribe in this area. She literally radiates the love and joy of Christ!
We are thankful for the growth of this Bible School and feeding program in the slums of Kenya.
Our team visiting one of the several NDI sponsored feeding programs for slum children in Nairobi.
Wells enjoys some sports moments with the young men from Victory Tabernacle in Mutare, Zimbabwe, founded by NDI partner Bishop Trevor Manhanga.
Wells divided his time between sports seminars and sharing his faith in Christ with the youth of Victory Tabernacle.
It is always a joy to preach at the Victory Tabernacle in Mutare, Zimbabwe, that NDI helped fund
Bishop Trevor Manhanga is one of the great servant-leaders in Africa today and a treasured partner of NDI since 1983
After I preached on Joseph from the Christmas Story, Bishop Trevor calls men for commitment. What a joy to see men give their lives to Christ and deepen their commitment to Him
NDI is so privileged to be in partnership with Victory Tabernacle, one of the great churches of Zimbabwe and Africa.
We thank God for the growth of this Bible College in Hwange, Zimbabwe that we have just added two new classrooms to.
Our team tours the new buildings with Pastor Simon Mkolo who has been an NDI partner for over 3 decades
Taking a “walk on the wild side” with lions—which is a real adrenalin rush!
Wells enjoys a personal moment with a young male lion
I never had a course in “lion taming” in seminary—so I love this on-the-job-training!