How to Improve the Needy American Missionary

Help him see the treasure in Christ's local earthen vessels.

Mark Roth preaching at Emanuel in 2008Before I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to return to Mexico as a missionary. Yes, return.

My parents had entered missionary service in Mexico when I was less than two months old. Our family left the field when I was almost seventeen years old. A little over five years later, my wife and I joined a pioneering missionary team (led by Dad) going to another area of northwest Mexico. Over the next ten years, Ruby and I had two stints of service totaling some five years on the field. We last left in 1991, expecting to return to service soon. (We didn’t.) The last twenty years I’ve served on our congregation’s Mexico mission board.

I tell you all that to help you understand why a title such as this would grab me by the nose: “What’s Wrong with Western Missionaries?” The author reports on a lesson learned when he put this question to a bunch of believers in some Muslim countries: “What makes a good missionary?”

Finally, with great hesitation, one of the believers looked at me and said, “I don’t know what makes a good missionary, but I can tell you…”

No, I won’t reveal the answer here. 😯 😀

I was quite enthusiastic about the article well before I was done reading it. It motivated me to write my own piece addressing the self-imposed distortion suffered by the self-sufficient missionary. I snatched some snippets from it and put them here as a preview: Read it all

Cheers for Cash-Free Oregon DMV

Wherein the papery place finally offers a paperless payment option

If you’re an Oregonian, you may know the feeling of being in to DMV to renew license plate tags, change a vehicle title, or otherwise part with your money in one way or another. You fill out the paperwork with info and your version of John Henry. You hand over your plastic bank-in-a-wallet to pay, and . . .

“I’m sorry. We only take cash or checks.”

Oh. Right. Of course. You knew that. Great.

No more. I just saw this big, fat headline: Read it all

The Christian Bares of Trillium Lake?

Laid bare: a lake, a mountain, and other handiwork of the Creator

Yesterday we had a family outing to Trillium Lake. (It was a birthday thing.)

Summer Bare Country
Summer Bare Country

This morning early I thought back on the other vistas of God’s creation which awaited us there. And I wondered…

  • How many of those nude legs belong to women worship team members?
  • How many of those barely covered breasts have the heart of a female Sunday School teacher beating behind them?
  • How many Christian male eyeballs tracked back for one more discreet look?
  • How many Christian men wrestled with wistful wishes, treacheous thoughts, and deadly desires?
  • How much ache in the Creator’s heart?
  • Will His heart have any revulsion in church services today?

You could read that as me looking down my nose on fellow Christians or fellow fallen humans. You could accuse me of being a Puritanical prude. You could charge me with contemptuous condemnation. You could slam me for sanctimonious something-or-other. And you’d be wrong.

I’m not blind to the beauty of forbidden fruit, OK? But in my other-world moments I look beyond eyeball-grabbing displays and feel compassion. Read it all

The Fog Below: Thoughts of Mortality

Ponderings from within an overwhelming sense of creeping sadness.

Early this morning, I sat in the kitchen, propped — elbow on table, chin in cupped hand. I stared, unfocused, out the window. Thinking. Remembering yesterday…

clouds in the sky, fog in the river bottom, clouds and fog in my head
I gazed out the window, thinking…

Late yesterday afternoon. Barely Wednesday in the week. Rocking news upon shocking news.

A friend in our congregation left this life. A friend to our congregation fell backward into a service pit, breaking his hip and fracturing his back. A third friend in our congregation learned of his brother’s terminal brain tumors. A fourth friend, just recently of our congregation, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Four cases! Far more than that many friends! All since early Monday morning!

An overwhelming sense of creeping sadness. Of deep ache.

And my wife and I struggling with our own health issues.

So now it was early this morning. I had just read the first 11 verses of Psalm 34. Here, read them… Read it all

Esther Boss: A New Creation

God exchanged her ruined body for something new.

Esther Boss in 2010I got word early this morning that she died during the night.

In the last few days, we prayed often for God’s best for her, deeply hoping that meant a miraculous healing of her long-running rheumatoid arthritis and just-discovered bone cancer.

Instead, God’s best for her meant exchanging her ruined body for something new.

That faith does not erase the pain of loss for her husband Marvin and the rest of her family.

Such reassuring Christian hope does not eliminate the emptiness they feel.

They. We.

But believe and hope we shall.

Meanwhile, in Heaven, such glory for Esther!

And such glory for the Redeemer-Lamb who won her back to Himself and kept her for Himself! Read it all

Resurrection Morning

Jesus lives and all is well!

Today Orpha Tice Smucker would have been 67 years old. Now she is eternally ageless.

Below this photo of her and James’ grave is a poem written by one of her granddaughters. I took this picture at 7:29 the morning after their April 9 burial.

James and Orpha Smucker's grave at 7:29 am on April 10, 2016

Resurrection Morning

They put Jesus to death on an ugly tree,
He endured the pain for you and me.
He loves us! His grace will be enough,
So in Him let us put all out trust.

The women, weeping, went to His grave,
To put spice on the One who is mighty to save,
But the cold, death stone was rolled away,
And an empty place where Jesus lay.

An angel told them, “He is not dead,
But He is risen as He said.”
The women rejoiced and ran to tell,
That Jesus lives and all is well!

Jesus is alive, today and forever,
His love for us no one can sever,
His blood can cleanse from every sin,
Just open your heart and let Him in.

–Kaitlynn Yoder, then 10

Why God Stepped Down

A simple overview of the Eternal Spirit's objectives in taking on mortal flesh

The Scriptures say in Matthew 2:23 -- That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophetsHere is my second draft summary of some of God’s purposes in the Incarnation:

  1. Live a sinless life.
  2. Learn obedience through suffering.
  3. Be touched with the feelings of our infirmities.
  4. Give us an example.
  5. Defeat the devil.
  6. Vanquish death.
  7. Bear our sins and make atonement for them.
  8. Become our faithful High Priest.
  9. Rise again for our justification.
  10. Redeem us to God.
  11. Gain our victory over the flesh and sin.
  12. Make effective blood shed in the Old Testament systems of sacrifices.

Please help me refine the list with your comments below. Read it all

Above all, love God!

since November 9, 2005