Pillar

Pillar

Not Today

Usually, I try to be overly clever and write a blog about the Lego Bible, the history of Sunday School flannel graphs, or the neglected genre of Christian horror movies. Not today.

There is a column outside my office in the IMM basement. Now off-white, it was once painted white. It is stained. It is peeling a bit. Standing under a terrace next to the heater access door, surrounded by dusty stones and concrete pavers, it helps support the building. One day God brought it to my attention.

“I need you to be like this column – standing here beneath notice. Slowly, I’m going to place a heavy weight on your shoulders – more than you can bear alone. Stand and do not move.”

Yeah, I feel it. Many days I have to bear up and sip my breaths so I don’t hyperventilate.

There were dark days long ago when I could not bear weight. There were months leading into years when I could not stand, and I have spent a wealth of endless hours shifting and rolling, day and night, on cloudy days and sunny days, trying to find a cool breeze or shade from unreasonable and scorching fear that I did nothing to deserve. I could not function in the world, and the world had no use for me.

What I would have given for just one day to be bored, or the luxury to worry about being cool.

So how is it I am still standing? Actually, it is a Biblical truth. I am weak, and God uses me.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
— 1 Corinthians 1:27

Today, I see the trials and the unearned brokenness of my fellow laborers here at IMM. We are all weak and yet we stand… each bearing the weight of being as children in a foreign culture, each reaching for daily strength to pull through the day, to overcome a new normality and the crushing crisis. Sometimes at night I wake up and hear them, my brothers and sisters, trying to stand.

And the world… the world which has no place for the weak and the foolish, see how God uses us to send His shining Hope and His bright Love to millions of people in dark times and dark places all over the face of this Earth.

All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
— Revelations 3:12

At Home at IMM

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After 22 years on the field in Russia – mostly as a single missionary – plowing new ground and planting new ministries far from colleagues, I was more than a little leery of joining an established ministry in a “reached” nation. However, as I learned more about the vision and purpose behind IMM to put Jesus on Every Screen, in particular in the Muslim world, I could see why God would bring us here for such a time as this.

Also, God gave me and my husband two beautiful toddlers while we were home itinerating the last year and a half. I find myself in a new season of life. I wasn’t sure how I could contribute to the ministry within the limited time and energy I have left after meeting my kids’ needs. Plus, media isn’t my gifting. It's my husbands! But even before we arrived on the field, I was offered the opportunity to mentor incoming associates. I have enjoyed sharing my years of experience and encouraging others in the time I do have available.

With small children, it is such a blessing to have a community and built-in fellowship, especially at the beginning. I’m so thankful that we aren’t having to go it alone, and that I can make a substantial contribution despite my time limitations and my different gifts.

Our Next Guest... (part 5)

Our Next Guest... (part 5)

We don’t live in America any more. In fact, the closest thing to us that that remotely sounds like the name of America is our local grocery store that we lovingly call “Merican Donut.” (The name in Spanish sounds very close and is often mistaken by non-Spanish speakers as what we jokingly call it.) Because of that, we don’t celebrate special holidays like we would in the US of A. This year, for the 4th of July, we invited some very special guests to come celebrate with us, by way of a workshop.

Ladies and Gentlemen our next guests…Dr. Benson Fraser and Dr. William Brown. 

Dr. Brown is a Professor and Research Fellow at Regent University. Dr. Fraser is a Westminster Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning at Virginia Wesleyan University. Together they co-founded Brown, Fraser & Associates, a communications consulting company.

On the 3rd and 4th of July, these two brilliant communications researchers gave us a two day intensive workshop about “Transformational Media.” We had a group of people, who use media to share hope in some hopeless places. They came to participate and learn how to better use entertainment-education strategies and the indirect story method to shine a brighter light in some of the darkest regions around of the world. (*Note for safety reasons some were not photographed.)

This workshop was absolutely amazing and gave us so much information to process that we can only become better storytellers and artists. After this event, we invited our non-american friends to celebrate the 4th of July with us by sharing an amazing meal… smoked pork loin, grilled chicken, potato salad, baked beans, hot rolls, and cherry cobbler.

The House

How’s the house?

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This photo isn’t remarkable at all but it says something to me. They are building this house across from ours here in Spain. The ones further behind are much further along. This one has had to have the front torn off again. (See the pile of bricks on the ground as they chip them out?)

I kept thinking of how dramatic that someone was paid to build. Then they didn’t get it right and have had to tear out a lot of their own work and redo it. They added cement to the slab which doesn’t look very stable and inspectors have been around often. It doesn’t seem like it will be a good investment as a house.

All of this put me in mind of the verse Psalm 127:1

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain."

It is so important to put God’s agenda first, so important to have God watch over everything we put our hands to do. Sometimes we have mundane things to do in life, but it’s still important to do them the best we can with what we have at any given moment.

I think of IMM programs that have lasted through time and how someone “built” them with as much care and quality as they could manage at that time. The Lord has stood watch over them and brought the videos to many hearts through the years.

Everyday is a chance to let the Lord build the house, the video house, the life house. We need him in every phase and he shows his faithfulness!

IMM Forever, Family

For the first eight years of my missionary appointment I served in Siberia, Russia, where the nearest AGWM missionary was an eight-hour drive away. The second closest was either a five or six-hour flight. Or if you were in no hurry, you could get to either place in three or four days by train.

When we dealt with issues — culture shock, chronic headaches, or even burn out do
to the stress of missionary work and government hoops — a phone or internet call was all we had. Even then you had to be careful of what you shared, because it was always possible your emails were being read or phone calls were being listened to. Hugs, a kind hand, or a shoulder on which to cry on were few and far between.

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In April of 2012, I had the opportunity to attend Connect 2012, IMM's birthday
celebration. I remember being amazed and almost envious of the community and family
atmosphere that appeared present at IMM. From my first meeting with the Godwin’s to tours with Jerry (IMM's director at the time) and visiting the IMM office building, there was just something different, something special. Every encounter with IMM was like a warm hug.

Fast forward 6 years and I now find myself a part of IMM. What I thought was good back
then has been even better. I left family in the states, but IMM has become my new family. Having the ability to share my prayer requests, having someone to talk to, pray with, or just vent to when culture shock gets to be more than you can handle, feels even better than I could have ever imagined. IMM Forever is a phrase that has been stated a lot in recent weeks. To me it doesn’t refer to just a media organization, but a family and a culture that will transcend the test of time.

Our Next Guest... (part 4)

Our Next Guest... (part 4)

At IMM we have some very special audio equipment. Because of this a young group has come to us to help produce a Spanish Christmas Album. During the production of this album they enlisted the help of four musicians from Proclaim! — Russ, Greg, Steve, & Karl.

Russ is an audio engineer, Greg plays bass, Steve pounds the drums, and Karl slams on the guitar. These guys are missionaries called to proclaim the gospel with creativity, humility and boldness, in obedience to the authority of Jesus Christ. They spent a week recording drums, guitar, and bass to help push this album forward.

Please pray for these guys as they use their gifts and talents to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through music.

Our Next Guest... (part 3)

Our Next Guest... (part 3)

Our next guests are a very special couple… Mark and Susie Purkey.

Mark and Susie have been Evangelists since the 80’s. They have traveled the world bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. When they aren't traveling for their evangelistic efforts, Susie directs the Oklahoma District Council of the Assembly of God’s Women’s Ministries.

As the OKAG’s WM Director, Susie has helped promote and raise funds to help IMM’s “Women of the Bible” series move forward and be translated into more languages.

While they were recently at IMM, they led our weekly staff devotional giving a great word of encouragement and prayer. It's not too often that people come out of their way to come here and pray for us in the community where we live. This was a very powerful day for our team. Not only that, but Mark and Susie brought gifts for our three Oklahoma MK’s.

Thank you, Mark and Susie, for coming to visit!

We wish every IMM partner could stop by and see us! So, if you're ever in the neighborhood, give us a call.

Our Next Guest... (part 2)

Our Next Guest... (part 2)

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We have been so busy around IMM that we had to call upon our IMM Forever Family to come and help out.

Meet Ron and Mary Martens. Ron and Mary both served at IMM in the 90’s. This is where they met for the first time, and in 1996 got married. Now, Ron helps keep some very important radio stations up and running as an engineer. Those radio stations are K~love and Air1. Mary helps us with organization and encouraging the team. Ron has been a vital part of the IMM team by providing his engineering services. When equipment breaks or needs to be worked on, we save it for when Ron and Mary come to visit.

This visit, they have helped organize the IT room, rework the cabling for the Teranex (a machine that digitizes our old tapes helping to give them new life in the digital world), input data for some of our projects, and have been an overall encouraging breath of fresh air.

Thank you, Ron and Mary, for being part of the IMM Forever Family!

IMM Forever!

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The phrase “IMM Forever” began as a reminder to tell out-going staff that once they served here at IMM, they were always part of the IMM team. We still use the phrase when we say goodbye on the steps or at the airport gates. I’ve even heard rumors of mandatory IMM tattoos being part of the on-boarding process. In short, alumni will always be a valued component of what makes IMM tick.

However, I was musing on the phrase and realized that the meaning is much deeper than a loyalty motto. Our media missions endeavor that reaches out from this small, but potent, production house, reaches out into eternity.

I worked many jobs that used my creative skills to assist in the here and now. I edited cosmetic surgery videos, built infinity pool ads for glossy magazines, and even wrote a few feature stories for small circulation weekly newspapers. But when I began hearing and responded to the call, I realized that God wanted me to use these gifts for an eternal purpose. This has always been the passion of IMM, broadcasting the Gospel and bringing the people whom God created into eternity with Him.

There are quite a few days when I want to just make it to the end of the week. Busy schedules, roadblocks, logistical problems and cultural challenges that seem to have the mark of spiritual warfare upon them; many daily expectations not meeting my list of demands; this is the daily grind. But we must remember, the support invested in this passion and the work that leaves our hands will stretch into next year, and the next. It will stretch far beyond this broken epoch and reach into eternity. IMM forever!

Faithfulness: You Gotta Love It!

Kerry and I recently attended the Centennial celebration of our home district of Kansas. So many themes of faithfulness have been rolling around in my head because of this. It is a fruit of the spirit and a favorite with me. None of us serves God or lives in a vacuum. We support and encourage one another in many ways. That changes as lives and circumstance evolve around us but all along it requires God to sustain us in faithfulness which maybe isn't glamorous but it is so marvelous. 

We are so glad for IMM's 37 years and our time to get to be part of serving here. Think of all the faithfulness that has been on display for this to be a fact. It will be amazing to hear all the stories of people who saw a video on a satellite network or on a phone screen and found Jesus one day when we celebrate in heaven.

On this theme, I thought I'd share this video we did for the 100th Anniversary of Kansas Assemblies of God and I add to this, "Thank YOU!" (since the video was addressed to the Kansas District). 

Keep praying, keep serving, God is faithful and loves when we walk in that with him!

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction...!

Have you ever watched a show that is so intriguing that you were glued to the tv? Or how about, have you ever heard a story that was so interesting that you just had to listen? That is kinda what happens to me when I watch David Letterman’s new show on Netflix, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction….”

Last week at IMM, we had a special guest that should be on Letterman’s new show. Her name is Shahla.

SHAHLA’S STORY

 Shahla, a middle eastern woman, imprisoned for her faith.

Shahla, a middle eastern woman, imprisoned for her faith.

Shahla grew up in a sensitive country in the Middle East. One of the ones that the United States had troops in not too long ago. She lived her life like any other woman in her country. She worked, went grocery shopping, and spent time with her family and friends. You know, the typical everyday life kind of stuff.

One day in late spring, several years ago, Shahla was arrested by government soldiers. She was immediately tried, threatened by death, and stripped of her normal clothes. She was given a heavy winter wool prisoner's jumpsuit, blindfolded, and thrown in a small cell. The cell, as she described it, was dark, grungy, and had a repulsive stench that made her gag. She said that the cell was about eight hands wide by eleven hands long (measuring from the tip of her pinky to the tip of her thumb). Shahla spent four months in this solitary confinement cell only to be brought out blindfolded to use the restroom (if the guards remembered),  tortured and interrogated. After the fourth month of her time in prison, she was released into the normal ward with other prisoners. Her new cellmate was a prisoner who was a known murderer.

But what was the crime that fit a punishment like this!? What did she do that was so horrifically atrocious?

Shahla’s only offense was that she is a Christian, and helped the church evangelize in her country.

The first day she was in solitary, she cried out to God “Why is this happening to me!? Why!?” What happened next is completely mind-blowing. Shahla said that within just a few short hours of being in prison, she saw the wall move. The wall slid down, and on the other side was a man. The man said, “Shahla, everything will be ok. I am with you. Do not fear.” After He said that, the man disappeared, and the wall returned to normal. The man who appeared to her was Jesus Christ. After that, she knew that there was a reason she was in prison. She then had the encouragement she needed to continually worship God, and pray almost the entire time she was in solitary. And when she was released into the ward with the other prisoners, she led her murder cellmate to Christ!

After a year of being in prison, Shahla was released. Shortly after she was able to escape the country to safety. There are so many more miracles that she told our team about, that we can’t even begin to tell you all of them. What Shahla went through was simply because she believes in Jesus Christ (as her Lord, God, and Savior), and for following through with the Great Commision. Now she lives in Spain and travels to share her story in Churches, and to lead others to Jesus.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, OUR VERY SPECIAL GUEST… SHAHLA! A TRUE HERO OF THE FAITH!

This is why we do what we do. To give people like Shahla, who face the threat of death and imprisonment every day,  the resources that they need to effectively reach the lost in some of the most spiritually dark places around the world.

It has been a great honor and privilege to get to know Shahla over the past week and create her portraits.

Cutting Out the Junk

Cutting Out the Junk

If you would’ve told me last summer that by the following February I would be living in Spain working with a media ministry for two months, I probably would’ve looked at you funny. The saying has never been truer that God works in mysterious ways! I came with an expectation to learn where I could and help where needed in whatever area was necessary, and I have not been disappointed! Thus far, I have worked on many projects ranging from carpentry and photo editing to prop repair and others.

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Today I was faced with an overall theme for the day: cutting out the junk. While working on a small woodworking job this morning, I was tasked with enlarging some holes to allow thicker poles to pass through. Requiring several different tools and much time, the final result was a much cleaner and better fit. This afternoon I was taught how to Photoshop pictures and to cut out the background, leaving a neat and clear image by itself. It brought to mind how every day there is junk we need to cut out. The final result will always be a cleaner and more pleasing product than before, and this is God’s wish for us: that we might be a cleaner and clearer version of ourselves after we have eliminated the trash that tarnishes our character. I am grateful for IMM and their mission to provide mediums through which people can come to recognize the message of Christ and the hope that is found in Him.