Friday, October 12, 2012

The Approaching Whirlwind



Between now (Oct. 12) and Dec. 4 we will be speaking or sharing 16 different times at 7 different churches across SC, NC, and CT. This includes two different mission conferences. We anticipate that these next seven weeks will be amazing, wonderful, and crazy all at the same time.  We love sharing about the growth of God’s kingdom throughout the world, particularly His work in and through Tyndale Theological Seminary. We especially look forward to reconnecting with many friends we have not seen for years.
   
Please join us in prayer for the following requests.
  1. That God would give us and our boys emotional, physical, and spiritual stamina throughout all of the traveling. It can be especially difficult on the boys to constantly be on the move and visiting different churches.
  2. That God would enable us to effectively communicate exactly what needs to be said in each situation. Our goal is to pass on a vision and passion for God’s global kingdom.
  3. That God would raise up the remaining financial support we need to be able to move to the Netherlands and begin training pastors at Tyndale full-time. We need 30 more friends to join our support team at $100.00 a month (or 60 people at $50.00 a month) to be able to move.

We will continue to post updates as we are able. Thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Journeying Home


The summer has rushed by and we have reached our final day in the Netherlands! Please pray for safe travel as our flight takes off this evening to return to the States. There are so many thoughts and emotions rushing through us as we reflect upon the past two months and look ahead to the future. 

Most pressingly, we are fired up and excited about returning to the Netherlands full-time as soon as possible. From our youth Jenny and I have both felt called by God to cross-cultural missions and the past ten years have been a long process of preparation as we have sought to discern how and where we could make the most effective impact for God’s global kingdom. We have found the place a Tyndale; our primary impact will be through the students that will be trained, equipped, and sent back into the entire world in fulfillment of 2 Tim 2:2! Over the next few weeks we will post some more reflections on our time here and the road ahead.   

Amsterdam Church Plants


This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at Christ Church South, a local Amsterdam church plant. It was a nice change of pace from the intensive summer classroom teaching! There are over 200 church plants in the greater Amsterdam area, many of them among the immigrant population. Many of Tyndale’s 100 or so part-time and non-degree seeking students serve in these immigrant church plants. We need to pray that as these immigrant churches grow they would have an increasing positive impact through evangelism on Europe. In addition to our ministry at Tyndale we will join in serving with one of these church plants when we are able to move here full-time.

Student Highlight: John

John hails from Myanmar (Burma), a primarily Buddhist country that has experienced serious social, political, and economic difficulties this past century. Because of the economic situation it is very hard for students from Myanmar to get advanced education outside the country but due to Tyndale's scholarship program (supported by Christian individuals and churches) he, along with many of the other residential students, are able to further their studies. John will return to Myanmar at the end of his studies to teach at an underground (figuratively speaking of course) Bible school and train Burmese evangelists and to continue work on a Bible translation of his native language based upon the Hebrew and Greek.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Student Highlight: Assel

Assel was not raised in a Christian home but after coming to faith in Christ as a teenager has worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Kazakhstan for the past 11 years. She is pursuing further education at Tyndale in order to be better able to train and equip Christians in Kazakhstan to reach out to and evangelize children.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Student Highlight: Jean-Pierre

Jean-Pierre is a pastor from Rwanda with an amazing story of God's grace. When he was four he was abandoned to the streets by his mother who could not take care of him. He was rescued by his grandmother at some point and came to faith in Christ. In the aftermath of  the Rwandan genocide he felt God's call to  pastor and help meet people's serious spiritual needs. He is deeply concerned with helping the church meet the needs of people in Rwanda, particularly in light of country's past and present political and social turmoil.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's a Bike...It's a Windmill...no, it's Noahs Ark!!!

When one considers what they might see in the Netherlands a bike is certainly expected!  Okay, let's be real hundreds of bikes is more like it !

Bikes in Amsterdam...and this is only a few!



A Windmill is yet another item on the list of things you will see.  Beautiful, big, powerful, in the city, in the country in the ocean in the...you get the idea.

Some very dear friends, Clermont and Johanna, took our family to Kinderdijk to see windmills that have been there since the mid-1700's!  We even got to go inside of one and it was quite an amazing experience!


...and then of course there is the ark...until recently it would not be on the list of things to expect while in Holland but now you can add it for something you have to see to believe along with the countless bikes and windmills!  It wasn't just any ark but one built to the exact size that Noah would have built!  How cool is that!?  It was big...big, big!



Many people have asked what the boys and I "do" during the week while Alex is teaching...well I do a lot of what  I do while at home!  For example: Homeschooling!  It CAN happen anywhere and math can be learned with pretzels and army men ;0)



























We have also watched our baby grow...during our time here Micah has gotten 2 teeth, rolled over, mastered holding his head up and outgrown almost every outfit I brought (he weighs 20 pounds!). 


We have also learned our way around Badhoevedorp with our many trips walking to the grocery store, meeting friends at the park and getting to know some of the other Professors families at Tyndale!


One of the canal roads we walk...forget worrying about being hit by a car it's the bikes you have to watch out for!
So, it's true we have seen some amazing things both expected and unexpected!  We are thankful and excited to have been able to be a small part of the Dutch culture while we are here this summer!  It is hard to believe that in just a week we will be heading back to the States to continue support raising so we can be a part of what God is doing here "full-time"! 


Friday, August 10, 2012

Student Highlights: Fai and Manuel

Meet Fai and Manuel! They are two of our Dutch students who are currently serving God in the Netherlands and are both hoping to become missionaries after their studies at Tyndale. Manuel works as a youth pastor at a large church near Amsterdam and loves to engage in street evangelism and Fai works as an actor/singer/performer and witnesses for Christ among the many seekers he comes in contact with through his work. Although the Netherlands is a very spiritually needy country it is not devoid of Gospel witness! Please pray for the growth of God's kingdom in Amsterdam.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Student Highlight: David

Meet David from Ghana. He has a passion to return to Ghana after his studies at Tyndale to teach and train others for ministry and outreach. David notes that technically over half of the population of Ghana would identify themselves as Christians, but that many of these people are nominal Christians in name only and desperately need to encounter and be transformed by Jesus. I think that Ghana could become a great missionary sending nation in the future; please pray for David as he prepares for future ministry and service in his home country.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Student Highlight: Evan


Meet Evan from Serbia and hear his story; God rescued him from heroine addiction and has called him to missions. He cares deeply for God’s truth and keenly understands the spiritual/psychological issues involved with drug addiction and the power of God to bring salvation and transformation.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Student Highlight: Tadesse

Meet Tadesse from Ethiopia! He has been thrown into prison 2 different times for preaching the Gospel, has planted four churches in Ethiopia, and has a passion for training and equipping Christians in Ethiopia to effectively reach out and share the Gospel with Muslims. Persecution of Christians by Muslims is quite intense in Ethiopia so please pray for Tadesse along with his wife and daughter in Ethiopia. As a Christian living in America I have never experienced persecution or known what it is really like to suffer for Jesus' name. I am the teacher in the sense that I have studied and am teaching a technical subject (New Testament Greek) but I am also a student.

Student Highlight: Timothy

It has been a busy yet wonderful three weeks since we arrived in the Netherlands to teach at Tyndale Theological Seminary for the summer. Tyndale trains and equips pastors, evangelists, church leaders, and teachers from around the world. The best part of the ministry here is interaction with the students: they are passionate followers of Christ from diverse countries and cultures. It is so easy in America to lose sight of the global nature of Christianity and to think that God's kingdom is focused on America (hint: America is not God's Kingdom; God's kingdom is so much larger and grander, greatly surpassing any human geo-socio-political boundaries).

I want to give you a glimpse of the quality and passion of Tyndale students along with the ministry we are involved in here so I am beginning a series of blog-posts that will highlight various students through informal interviews. Please watch, listen, and pray for the ministry here and throughout God's world.



Timothy has a passion to evangelize the least-reached areas of Cameroon; please pray for his wife and children who had to remain in Cameroon during the course of his studies.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Celebration and a SIX hour time jump!

Well, finally here it is...the tale of our trip!  The beginning to the beginning of our great adventure!  It all started with chocolate chip pancakes and the singing of Happy Birthday to our sweet Benjamin who turned "5" on the day our plane flew out!  



Chris and Sarah saw to it that we arrived at the airport in time and before we knew it we were seated on the airplane and taking off!  I need a moment to brag on the boys.  They were amazing travelers!  Oh, if you could have seen the grim faces of everyone who saw us coming...it made me laugh.  No really, I laughed all the way to the back of the plane where our seats were!  Thankfully God is all about details and as He planned it the lovely lady sitting next to me had two grown sons and was excited to hold Micah to give my arms a break.  Elijah, Benjamin and Paul all agreed that riding on an airplane must be like riding a big roller coaster because it "tickles the tummy".

Our first flight ended in Iceland with a 16 hour layover so we decided to stay in a hotel type place (it used to be a US Airforce base) and get some rest.
We brought just a few things with us!
Micah and me with a beautiful Iceland sunset at midnight...I don't know when it got dark but I know it was not until after 2am according to the time there!
Iceland was a very wild and "untouched by man" type place...as we flew over it Benjamin asked if we were going to be camping because for as far as you could see there was nothing but flat fields of lava rock with grass and purple flowers sticking up every now and then.

Flying from Iceland to the Netherlands was peaceful.  Watching the landscape change between the two countries was amazing!  God's creation is so diverse and beautiful!  When we arrived and went through customs at the airport I was overwhelmed by the variety of languages I heard around me!  My sweet little Southern USA raised boys kept asking "is he speaking Spanish?"


We were greeted by one of the staff and a student from Tyndale and they helped us settle in at the home where we are house sitting for a wonderful family from a Church nearby.  We are so thankful for them opening their home to us!  We finally convinced the boys and ourselves to go to bed by 2am (8pm in the US) and slept until Noon (6am in the US)!  Needless to say the time change has been a bit of a challenge but almost 2 weeks later and I think we have adjusted!

We are house sitting this lovely place for a month and then to a one bedroom apartment we go!
 Our first day we got to experience the life of not having a car, not speaking the language and having no idea where the grocery store was!  God is good and provided what we needed for the day...legs, Dutch dictionaries and maps!  We also had the thrill of meeting the summer students who, as Alex posted earlier, are from 15 different countries!  Tomorrow will be the start of Alex's second week teaching and he loves it!  God is so good to PREPARE us for what He wants us to do, PROVIDE for what we need to get there and give His PEACE as we go through the changes!

Alex, Elijah and Benjamin with some of the students from Tyndale!



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Modern Day Hospitality


In the ancient world hospitality was a highly valued virtue. Many Jews in the first century viewed hospitality as one of Abraham’s defining characteristics and the growth of the early Christian movement took place as traveling apostles and missionaries found lodging and rest among other believers. This practice is reflected in 3 John 5-8 among many other texts (lol; how often do you see 3 John cited). We have been blessed and aided beyond words by two dear friends and members of God’s people in Nyack, NY, Chris and Sarah Kotecha, as they opened their home to us last night (no small endeavor in light of the energy possessed by our boys), are taking us to the airport later today, keeping our van for the summer, and picking us back up again at the end of the summer.

It was also exciting and encouraging to hear how God is using and leading Chris and Sarah. They have recently joined up with CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) with the vision and goal of starting an after school Bible club in each of 39 elementary schools in Rockland County, NY, an ethnically diverse suburb of NYC. They do this by networking and partnering with local churches which supply the volunteers and resources. This ministry is compelling for several reasons: First, it powerfully brings the Gospel to children; a desperate need at this point in America. Second, it brings together and unites various churches and denominations in a single cause—watch out if churches from different denominations begin to work together for the Gospel! Third, Chris and Sarah are uniquely gifted and trained for this networking and training ministry; they bring a lot of skills and passion to the table. If you are interested in being placed on their mailing list to further partner with them in prayer or with financial support please drop Chris a line at cskotecha@gmail.com.   

Chris and Sarah

 

International Ministry


I just received the registration list for the classes I will be teaching this summer and students are from the following countries: Cameroon, Ukraine, Suriname, Romania, Netherlands, Ghana, Ethiopia, USA, Serbia, Finland, Georgia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, and Brazil. What an international student body! Jenny and I are so excited to be a part of God’s global kingdom!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dissertation

Since most will not read the actual dissertation I want to share the “Acknowledgements” page below with a wider readership. I would be happy to send a pdf copy of the dissertation to any interested readers. It is entitled “Soteriology as Motivation in the Apocalypse of John” and applies Toulmin’s model of argumentation analysis to the text of Revelation. I hope to get it published sometime in the next few years but that will depend upon finding a willing publisher.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Looking back over my life and the road that led to the completion of this dissertation, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to those who have contributed and sacrificed not only to help me complete the project, but to shape me into the man that I am today.
            To my beautiful wife Jenny: there is no doubt about it, I married up. You have shouldered the weight of sacrifice for this project far more than me; and that with unflagging love and without a single complaint. My respect, admiration, and love for you has done nothing but increase since the day we said “I do.” Thank you! To my boys Elijah, Benjamin, Paul, and Micah: thanks for your patience—daddy’s big book is finally done!
            To my parents Michael and Debby Stewart: thank you for your consistent support, love, and encouragement from diapers to diploma—I am who I am today because of you. To my other mom, Karen McAlister: thank you for entrusting your daughter to my care and for embracing me as a son.
To the professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Columbia International University that have personally guided and mentored me along the way: Dr. David Alan Black, Dr. Andreas J. K√∂stenberger, Dr. Chip McDaniel, Dr. William J.  Larkin, Dr. John D. Harvey, Dr. Bryan E. Beyer, Dr. Don N. Howell, and Dr. Joel Williams—thank you for approaching your work as a vocation and ministry and not simply as a job. I have benefited as much, if not more, from observing the sincerity of your lives and faith than from your teaching and research, which was, of course, also exemplary.
To the leaders and members of Tabernacle Christian Church in Southington, CT: thank you for instilling within me, from a young age, an insatiable longing for God’s presence and a focus on the heart, not just the externals, of walking with God. To Carey Baptist Church in Henderson, NC: thank you for embracing my family as your family. Your love and support made this project possible and made our ministry in Henderson a joy.
           Finally and preeminently, thank you God for including me within your people, loosing me from my sins, redeeming me from among mankind, and placing your seal upon me thereby enabling me to overcome. I long for your salvation—the coming of the day when you will finally, fully, and completely set everything right in your creation.      

Graduation


The long doctoral journey has finally been completed. God has led us through four years of undergraduate study, three years of graduate study, and four more years of doctoral study. My doctoral research focused on the main point or purpose of the book of Revelation so if anyone has any apocalyptic questions feel free to contact me. I certainly do not know everything about the book but I have learned a few things over the past few years :-). The graduation ceremony was a bit surreal and definitely memorable.

The “hooding” part of the ceremony.

My two bosses: Dr. Andreas Köstenberger (on the right) was my second reader; I worked as his research assistant for 3 years. Dr. Benjamin Merkle (on the left); I worked as a graduate fellow with him for a year.


Dr. David Alan Black; my major professor and a full-time academic missionary (follow his ministry and musings at http://daveblackonline.com/blog.htm). Dr. Black, more than any other person I know, models a sold-out missionary lifestyle for king Jesus.

Dr. Al James; Professor of Missions and pastor of Carey Baptist Church (our home church for the past four years—we miss yall dearly)

 Paul loves hats and stole it at the first opportunity!










Micah also seemed to enjoy the celebration!
 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

All that paperwork!

Well, they finally arrived!  Passports in the mail!  Yippee! 


All that paperwork and filling the same document out 4 times was well worth it.  There was great excitement as the boys "carefully" ripped into the heavy envelope containing the long awaited documents. 








Now we are just waiting on Mommy's to arrive...apparently the marriage certificate I have is a certified copy and not a court ordered certified copy therefore not enough evidence Alex and I were hitched 10 years ago (happy anniversary to us!).  Prayer request: that my (Jenny) passport would arrive soon!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Missionaries as the Scum of the Earth

I had some interesting thoughts reading Scripture this morning regarding 1 Cor 4:9-13. Paul is reflecting on how he felt in relationship to the Corinthian church ("apostles" here likely refers more generally to "sent ones" or missionaries than to the original 12 disciples).


9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

First, I was incredibly thankful that I couldn't identify with his feelings; I have never felt particularly hungry, buffeted, homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, or the scum of the earth and refuse of all things (the language is a bit more colorful in the Greek). This could be because we have only recently began the journey of a full-time missionary lifestyle completely dependent upon God through his people (perhaps the worst is yet to come); but we have always felt loved and supported by the churches and Christians we have been blessed to know. 

Second, I wondered about our own willingness to suffer, and by extension, the willingness of the American church in general to embrace suffering and sacrifice as the way of discipleship. We as Americans recoil from any thought of genuine suffering and feel persecuted when we can't find a good parking spot. It seems that the work will not get done without a greater willingness to live and become sacrificial Christians. God's way of victory is not through comfort and self-satisfaction.   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Carey Baptist Commissioning Service

I have been to many different missionary commissioning services, but never one quite like our commissioning service at Carey Baptist Church on April 15th. I meant to blog about this earlier but life has been a complete blur over the past few weeks with the move, dissertation defense and submission, and trying to settle in at our new temporary home.
The service wasn't unique simply because we were the ones being commissioned; although I am sure that contributed toward it being more memorable! After speaking for a few minutes, Pastor James invited any person in the congregation who wished to come forward to pray for us. Many of our dear friends came up, held our hands or placed their hands on our shoulders, and encouraged us with genuine, heartfelt prayer. This process took quite a while and I felt briefly sorry for any in the congregation who just wanted the service to end so they could go eat, but nobody seemed rushed or annoyed.
It is hard to put into words, but we felt completely overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support. We keenly sensed the family love and support, not biological, but spiritual--united as one family in Christ in the cause of the Gospel. We treasure the relationships with our Carey family; along with the sure knowledge that there are people praying for us and loving us from a distance.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life is like a book?

Life is like a book...or so I am told lately!  Closing of a chapter, turning of a page, a new line in the story.  These are just a few of the book to life comparisons I have heard recently.  I suppose they are all quiet true but if you want to be correct in the whole "what came first" thing books are like life!  Life came first, then some clever person decided to write it down...but I digress.  Why all this chapter, line, page stuff?  Well, we just ended/started quite a life changing "chapter".  We recently sold a lot of our belongings, ended our ministry time at Carey Baptist Church, said good bye to dear friends who had become very much a part of our family and moved from Henderson.  All of this in preparation to begin full time support raising to go as missionaries to the Netherlands!



Where to begin?  I suppose the reality of this chapter change of life first hit when out of my house rolled the piano I worked so hard to save for   As far as possessions go I loved that piano.  I spent lots of quality time hammering away (or at least trying to) on its slightly faded and crayon marked keys.  We sold most of our big furniture items and lots of "stuff".  Oh, the things we acquire in life that are so not necessary!  Yet, it was rather sad to see some things get piled into the back of the cars of those seeking great finds at our yard sale.

Benjamin with Mommy's piano
The next reality check was saying good bye to so many precious friends. Sunday, April 15th, was our Commissioning service at Carey.  Alex preached a sermon that would make Dr. Jack Layman quite proud to know he was paying attention in Progress of Redemption class.  At the end our pastor, Dr. Al James, prayed for our family and countless other Church members and youth came up and prayed over us.  It was a beautiful, tearful time.  We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to love and be loved by our Church Family in Henderson, NC.  God is so good to put us in the places He chooses! 


Easter Sunday


And so a new chapter starts...not sure of its title just yet.  We don't know what new characters God will bring into these pages but we are thankful and trusting Him to write as He sees fit!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Called to Missions!

We are excited to share with you what God has been doing in our lives!  For the past three years we have served as Youth Pastor and Children’s Director at Carey Baptist Church in Henderson, NC. During this time Alex has worked toward a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is set to graduate in May! 

As Alex's PhD studies have come close to the end we have talked and prayed a lot about "what's next" for our family.  We were both very involved with overseas missions as teenagers and felt God's call on our lives to go overseas, but when we talked with various Missions agencies they encouraged Alex to complete  a PhD if that was something he was interested in doing because of the great need for teachers with that certification. After lots of prayer, local ministry experience, academic preparation and hoping—we are excited to announce that we have been accepted to serve as full-time overseas missionaries with European Christian Mission!

 Alex has been asked to serve as the professor of New Testament and Greek at Tyndale Theological Seminary located in the town of Badhoevedorp in the Netherlands. Tyndale trains students from around the world and most graduates return to their home countries as leaders, pastors, church planters, and teachers at local Bible colleges and training centers! In addition to the ministry at Tyndale, we will have opportunities to
minister locally in the Netherlands and throughout Europe.

By training leaders who will train leaders, we will have the opportunity to literally impact the world in direct obedience to Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 and Paul’s instructions in 2 Timothy 2:2. There is no more effective way to strategically multiply ourselves in ministry than to train and disciple those who are motivated and called to train and disciple others! As many parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia are experiencing rapid church growth it is imperative that churches train leaders who can accurately interpret and apply the Word of Truth.

The need at Tyndale is immediate! The schedule at this point is for us to spend the summer teaching at Tyndale (June 28-Aug. 28, 2012). We will then begin making plans to move and work at Tyndale full time as soon as we have enough financial support.

Please be in prayer for our family as we get ready to make many changes with moving, traveling and traveling some more!  We have listed links to our missions agency as well as Tyndale Seminary if you would like more information.  

Newest Addition!

We are excited to announce the arrival of Stewart boy #4!  Micah McAlister Stewart was born February 11th at 5:05 am and weighed in at 10lbs and 5oz!