See, “Every year…” their religious devotion was evident “as usual.” But in the familiar, we often forget. In the routine, we grow rote. In the everyday, we tend to overlook. And it is in our religious rhythm, we don’t notice that Jesus went missing.
Yet, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but there is this whole world outside of ourselves that we can not
control, and situations that we can’t see coming. I do not like this one bit. I am often found dangling
between the steadiness of the safe world I’ve created for myself and the chasm of reality below me like a
rock climber on the face of a cliff.
Well we've sold over 30 straps now, which just helped Guitars For Glory place a 3rd guitar with someone who could really use it. We don't do many local placements, but this need just happened to coincide with a local request for an instrument.
We'd like to introduce you to Matt. Matt has a true heart for worship yet over the past few years he has been serving his church behind the scenes by heading up a greeting ministry. He has played guitar and lead worship for some time, but recently gave his acoustic guitar away to a family member who didn't have a guitar of their own. Matt not only selflessly serves his church every weekend, but is a husband and proud father of six kids. Guitars for Glory had the privilege of giving Matt a beautiful Rainsong acoustic this past weekend. We wanted to thank Matt for being the true definition of a leader by serving in areas of need and always putting others before yourself.
Matt had been eying the Rainsong being used at his church. Our team member, Jesse, who serves as the Worship Director at Grace Road Church uses a Rainsong to lead with on Sunday mornings. Jesse asked if we could partner with him to surprise Matt with this beautiful guitar. It couldn't have happened without the help of Growley Leather and those of you who have purchased straps. Big thanks to Rainsong Guitars for helping us out on this one.
For more information on Rainsong Guitars, Growley Leather, & Grace Road Church, please visit:
James and Sarah easily could have used their American resources to feed the local Haitian children and leave. But instead, their goal was to make this idea of bread sustainable. To “break the cycle of poverty with income generating-projects.” They built ovens in Haiti. They imported wheat to Haiti. They taught people how to make a product that would fill bellies of their precious children and provide proper nutrients for them to grow.
They say “It takes a village.” And what they say is true. Over the last four years, you may have heard us mention how much we value our amazing team members…Upwards of thirty people that tirelessly and freely give their time to ensure that guitars come in and guitars go out, that our recipients are encouraged, and ultimately every aspect of our ministry gets the attention it needs. New York, South Carolina, Maine, Indiana, Belize, Netherlands, Spain, and Illinois…All places where our GFG family resides. Distance hasn't kept the family from growing. In fact, it's allowed us to be more intentional about communication. I can personally attest that it's these people that have provided me with the greatest encouragement of my life when I needed it most. As my immediate family and I have walked through difficult trials, it's these people that have stood in the gap on our behalf. Today, I am eager to share about one of these people in particular and let you in on some exciting news!
If we were figuratively to rewind the film on the GFG story to the very early days of our ministry, when our vision was foggy, you would see that the only thing we really knew for sure was that God wanted us to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward and confidently with the vision He had instilled in our hearts. Around that time, we received a knock on the door. Of course, it was just a metaphorical knock, since we didn't even have an office or any sort of space at the time. But the message was quite clear! In fact, I just looked back to the very first email correspondence we had ever received and upon reading it again thought it best to share it verbatim with you:
My name is Joshua and I have a little guitar pedal building company called midnight30music that is beginning to do well. I follow you on Instagram and would very much like to be part of what you do. My proposal is to dedicate 100% of the sale of one of my pedals to Guitars For Glory. I was thinking one pedal per month. Is this at all something you would be interested in? If not, I would love to know another way I can get involved in getting guitars in the hands of worshippers who need them. And I've got to tell you, I love giving guitars away!
As they also say, “The rest is history”. Some of you reading this, who knows Joshua, whether it's through GFG, Midnight 30 Music, or his church, know that what his email expressed is a perfect word-picture of his beautiful heart. Joshua is never involved in anything for recognition or notoriety, but genuinely and intentionally desires to help people. His pedal company, Midnight 30 Music is a stunning reflection of who he is. One can easily see this; not only in the beautiful pedal soundscapes he's spent countless hours perfecting, but also in the culture he has so carefully created with his customers. A few months ago in a moment of transparency Joshua shared about his discouragement with Midnight 30. It’s not uncommon for a person to have moments where we question whether or not the work we are doing has value. "Is this really making a difference?" It’s a question I think I ask myself almost daily. It's a good thing to ask oneself. A healthy dose of questioning may help ward off the risky status quo and dangerous complacency that so easily besets. Asking these same questions to a trusted supporter is especially beneficial, as they can often see what we cannot, both hard and good things. In this case, Joshua needed to hear how his work had impacted our Guitars for Glory ministry. So naturally when Joshua shared his “wonderings” with me, I shared this story with him...
A couple years ago in my own moment of "Is GFG really making a difference?" and during a time where money was so tight that I was unsure whether or not we were going to be able to meet the needs of a guitar applicant, I received a PayPal notification in our GFG account that Midnight 30 had sent us a donation. It was that donation that allowed us to fulfill that need and our promise of a guitar. How beautiful is that? While we may not always feel the value of the work we are doing in every moment, others might. Let me also say, this happened on more than one occasion. You see Joshua and his boutique pedal business have been woven into the fabric of our small non-profit from the very beginning. While others question the impact that a guitar can have in a ministry or person’s life, Midnight30 stepped in and said, "I believe in you." And on more than one occasion, that is all it took to keep us going.
Two trips to Belize, dozens of pedal donations, bringing our team to his home church, involving and engaging his congregation to be supportive of GFG, worshipping together, and sharing family meals in his home brings us to realize that Midnight 30 Music IS Guitars For Glory. After a recent conversation with Joshua, the opportunity arose for Guitars For Glory to absorb Midnight 30 Music into a new arm of our ministry. We are incredibly excited and honored to transition M30 into the daily operation of GFG, while keeping the brains of the operation (Joshua) at the helm of his creations. What does this mean? It means that 100% off the profit of each pedal sold will now assist Guitars For Glory in reaching more people than ever before. Each time you step on that switch on your M30 pedal, you can picture a smile on someone’s face that now has access to a guitar. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Each pedal will also be forever linked to a guitar recipient by a unique serial number. That serial number will be housed in a database which will be linked to our website. Simply type in your serial number on our site, and see who your pedal helped bless.
For all you loyal Midnight30 customers, you may be wondering how this will affect business. We’re here to assure you that it’s business as usual. It will be a seamless transition over the next month and production lead times will not change. We are grateful to Joshua and excited for this opportunity.
Much love to you all! Stay tuned for more on this...
You're probably familiar with the phrase "It was right under your nose the whole time." We had one of the moments this week. It was a good reminder that sometimes the people with the deepest needs are often the ones right next door to us. We all want to have an impact on the world. It seems like we're all on this never ending quest to find the place where the needs of the world best meet our greatest gifts. It's through that process that we just might overlook those needs nearest to us. It's not that hopping on a plane and flying 2,000 miles over the Atlantic isn't important. In fact, I believe the art of loving our neighbors is both a local and global calling. However, it's easy to convince ourselves that we're more validated in our world-changing, when the task at hand requires long distance travel. Let me tell you why that's not always true.
Guitars For Glory has been providing guitars, instruments, and training for over four years now. Man, time flies! Unfortunately, you all only get a very small glimpse of what these guitars mean to the people receiving them. Privacy and safety reasons sometimes keep us from sharing full stories, but let us reassure you, you are changing individuals, towns, cities, and even WHOLE COUNTRIES! We receive requests for instruments almost daily. 95% of them are locations outside of the US. Naturally, because of this the majority of our guitars end up outside of the states. Just last night, we had the opportunity to place a guitar just 10 miles from our little office here in Rochester, NY. What a privilege it is to work with this ministry.
A few weeks ago we received a guitar application through our website from the Open Door Mission, based in the inner city of Rochester. The Open Door Mission is a Christian Rescue Mission founded on the belief that with proper resources hope can be restored and lives of impoverished men, women and children of Rochester, NY could be forever changed. This incredible organization has been serving these people with deep needs since 1952.
Open Door Mission's focus is primarily on providing shelter, food and clothes for the homeless. For their recovery program that focuses on rehabilitating those with strong addictions, most of their funds goes towards administrative items. Shayne Priddy, Open Door Mission's Program Administrator shared, "We have received donated instruments but most of them are unplayable, broken or not good enough quality to play". When we asked him, "Why a guitar?" Shayne responded, "Addiction affects the mind, body and soul. We try to help men who struggle with connecting to their creator on an intellectual level through Worshiping God with praise. This is one way they can encounter God and have the gospel message go deep into their hearts."
Our team was honored to hand the guitar over to Shayne during our weekly meeting. Shayne hopes that over time, the Open Door Mission will grow this guitar initiative at their rehab program through regular guitar lessons. What you may not know about Rochester is that it has a rich musical history. The Eastman School of Music is just around the corner and is often ranked right next to schools such as Juilliard and Berkeley. Shayne shared that some of the people they work with were once thriving musicians with no shortage of tools to practice their craft. But addictions have all but stripped them of everything they once owned, including instruments.
We heard from Shayne today, just one day after he brought the guitar back with him to the mission. He placed the guitar with Brian, one of the men at the mission with a passion for music and worship. Shayne asked that we continue to pray that Brian answers God's call on his life and pursues serving Him by worship.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot wait to further partner with the Open Door Mission as they continue to love the people in our city, not only through meeting their most basic needs, but providing an outlet for creativity. Thank you Open Door Mission to opening our eyes to the needs of the City we live in.
Finally, we are so excited to say this guitar was placed through our Leather Guitar Strap program.
For every 10 straps sold, we can place one guitar with someone in need. Huge thanks to our supporters with serial numbers of A001-A010. Thank you for making this moment possible!
We're a couple months removed from our trip to Spain this Summer, and we're still reflecting on the new friendships that were started. We always leave these trips wishing we had more time. A week never seems quite long enough. There are always a special handful of individuals that seem to leave a imprint on your heart that will last a lifetime. It's these people that end up teaching us more than we could have ever imparted on them. We'd like to introduce to Dutch friend Marit, one of those special people and a recipient of a GFG guitar this Summer. Marit shared in her own very honest words below of her ongoing worship journey.
"I love the fact that God is molding us into the image of Jesus and I believe that as we worship Him, He's transforming us into that image. We can work our hardest to be the best person we can be, but as God has promised: I will transform you into that image. Just keep company with me and enjoy every minute of it.
Over the past two years God is taken me through a difficult process where He is changing my foundation of rejection into a foundation of being so incredibly loved by Him. The process of God changing my foundation has made me learn that no person or thing can ever satisfy me or make me feel whole. Only He can restore and satisfy me, because I was made to be with Him in the first place. And as I keep company with Him in worship, God is working on the inside and changing that foundation. He's teaching me so much about how He sees me. It’s a process of becoming more real.
To be honest: this process takes a lotttt of time and - I don't always like it. Some days are hard and painful - and of course there are times when I fall back and let negative thoughts of rejection rule. But I know the One who is leading my process and building my character through it. He's telling me over and over again that He loves me, that He will bring me from glory to glory, and that He will make all things work together for my good. That's why I can rejoice in the midst of this, because I know that He is with me and the outcome will be good.
Worship is the place where I can be with Him and is the place where my soul comes home. It is the place where I am transported from the natural world into the spiritual world - where I can encounter the love of God and meet Him at a deeper level of intimacy. That’s where my soul finds rest. Worship is not about singing songs, it’s about connecting my heart with His. Through this - He restores and refreshes my soul. In this place - He builds me up, strengthens me and gives me the energy and joy to step back into the natural world - to live and enjoy my life. Meanwhile, He's building my character and transforming me into the person He created me to be.
I often have to remind myself that no matter what comes in life, God is always good and I am always loved. It doesn't matter how I feel or what I think, this is the truth. Truth rules above all and is meant to lead us, guide us, and give us hope. We are called to set our minds on things above - and when things below try to get us down, this truth will transform us - if we let it. God doesn't know how to be anything but good. He is always good, and we are always loved. I need to believe that He is on my side, that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He will never let me down. I need to trust Him, because He knows what is better for me than I do. All I need to do - is to be with Him and to make sure that my soul is where it belongs; close to Him.
Guitars for Glory, words cannot describe how grateful I am for this incredible gift. Thank you so much for investing in my life and the lives of so many people around the globe. Thank you for connecting our hearts to Jesus and bringing us to a deeper level of intimacy with Him. Your teachings about worship were incredibly powerful, but more than that, being able to worship and experience the love of the Father as a unity was beyond measure.
Thank you guys for being such an example, not only through what you do, but through setting an example of selflessness, humility, and closeness to the Father. I will keep praying for all of you, that He will give each one of you new revelations of who He is and of the love He has for each of you guys individually."
On the very last day of in Spain, our team was able to hand out guitars. Marit was an obvious choice for a recipient. We love you, Marit. Thank you for sharing your heart with us this Summer. Thank you for teaching us what it means to be faithful despite our feelings.
We say this over and over again, but moments like these are not possible without the support of the people and companies that pour into our ministry. Prior to leaving for this years trip, we were struggling with finding electric guitars to bring with us, that is when Moniker Guitars out of Texas stepped up and sent us two of their new Rival Series guitars. Moniker, thank you for your hearts to enrich the lives of others like Marit.
For more information on Moniker Guitars, visit: https://shop.monikerguitars.com/rival-series/
ROCHESTER, NY- July 13, 2017 - Guitars For Glory, Inc, the not-for-profit ministry whose mission is to place guitars and other instruments with people in need around the world, today revealed that Google has awarded them with a $10,000 USD per month of in-kind advertising with AdWords. Google AdWords is Google's advertising system in which advertisers bid on certain keywords in order for their clickable ads to appear in Google's search results.
Google's Ad Grants program takes aim at helping non-profits generate more traffic to their website, attracting more donations and improved volunteer recruitment. These two things are the lifeblood of every non-profit.
The SOS Children's Village, another Google AdGrants recipients, uses Adwords to magnify the impact of online campaigns. Through their grant, they've seen 100% increase in monthly website visits, $40,000 increase in monthly donations, and 30% growth in annual website traffic.
"Google Adwords will help GFG pursue our mission by increasing our online presence on a greater scale. Many who have not heard about us or what we do, will now have an avenue to discover GFG by visiting our website, reading our core values, and finding opportunities to get involved." said Guitars For Glory Director of Grants, Dave Kooistra.
ABOUT GUITARS FOR GLORY, INC.
Guitars for Glory's sole desire is to put guitars and instruments in the hands of churches, schools, missionaries, and orphanages. Our hope is to enhance their musical experience and build up worship leaders within the community; through the giving guitars and musical training.
A GFG guitar was recently placed in Ghana Africa with a wonderful girl named Esinam. Esinam suffers from a condition involving benign facial tumors. These tumors have resulted in severe disfiguration and Esinam being exiled from her community. Her passion to use her voice to lead others in worship. Just last week she was surprised with a new guitar.
(Recap of Worship Night)
Last night’s Night of Worship was amazing. It started off with some local worship groups with dancing, flag waving, jumping for joy and just plain worshipping the Lord. What many would perceive as strange in the States is quite amazing to witness. Just plain carefree worship. One of the worship groups was from the church in Belmopan, the place we visited last year. It was great to see those that have never played a chord in their lives on stage playing worship music with skill. One year has brought so much. One of the local Belmopan students from last year was onstage last night leading worship, what an amazing voice! At this same time last year, he was in a very depressed state and hardly ever spoke, now he is praising God in front of many. It is great to see how far he has come.
We started our day with another excellent breakfast of Johnny Cakes. All of our meals have been prepared and served to us by Pastor Jaffa, his wife, and their children. It isn't often that you get to experience the kind of joyful serving that they have been showing us this week. They are quite an incredible family!
After breakfast we met in the church as a group to recap the last few days. Many affirmations were given to members of the team. It was reiterated several times about how nice it was to have such a great group of people, some of which have never even met, work so well together. We also reflected a little on Psalms 40:3 which reads, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
We received an update about Miss Charlotte’s house this morning. We have so far raised approximately $1000 dollars to help her rebuild her house. It would be amazing to see our GFG friends and family able to completely fund her repairs. She has such hope and joy in spite of losing almost everything she owns.
We have been able to bless two individuals so far with new guitars. One to Pastor Jerome who drove 4 hours to get here. He is following a vision that God gave him 5 years ago to go and minister to people through worship in southern Belize. With the lack of resources his vision wavered, but through prayer and the Lord’s leading he is now fully devoted to this mission. God has generously blessed him with a van and GFG was able to provide him with a guitar to further the mission of worship around the world!
We also met Marvin who leads vocally in his church and doesn’t currently know how to play any instruments. He has the desire to learn guitar in order to help him with leading worship. He has a tender heart and loves the Lord. He teaches here at Kings Park High School where we are staying.
Next we went into the town for some Choli’s. This is basically an iced coffee drink with tiny ice chunks (like a Dunkin Donuts Coolata). It has ice cream and whipped cream on top. It’s a nice little novelty down here and is very refreshing when the real-feel temperatures this week have been reaching upwards of 115 degrees.
The rest of our day continued with more music lessons, electives and fellowship. It’s great to see people sticking around at the end of a session not wanting to leave. They just want to stay and learn as much as they can while we are here. Our audio/visual elective was not offered today and we were approached by a couple of students to ask why. Two of the team members immediately stepped up and pulled it together to teach it again. It was great to see how flexible, yet again, our team has been this week.
It’s hard to believe that the last day of our ministry is upon us already.
Belize Day 1
We have arrived!!! Today our teams were finally able to meet for the first time after several weeks of emails and phone meetings. The plan was to have all of the groups meet and start getting to know each other at the departing gate in Atlanta, but due to delays in the flight from Maine, some introductions needed to be done on the plane just minutes before takeoff. Once we arrived in Belize, we were greeted by our good friends Marcos, Herman, and Marion. We flew through customs without a hitch and headed off to grab our luggage and gear. Our first challenge, we found Matthew and Melissa’s luggage hadn’t made it to Belize, and it would be a day before they would see it. No bug nets, no sleeping bags, no clothes. They would have to rely on some of the other members of the group they had never met before.
From the airport we immediately began sweating and loaded the bus with luggage and a ton of guitars and other musical equipment and started towards Kingspark Nazarene Church and School with some stops along the way to see Belize City and the Ocean. During our drive we were able to see the aftermath of Earl. Some buildings were blown over while their neighbor’s home was still standing. Such a devastation for many.
Thankful to have made it to the school we unloaded all the gear and equipment and began setting up in our new home for the week. Sound checks took place and the team came together to worship and prepare for Church that night. Church was amazing. We were blessed to be led in worship by the church, our GFG team led worship as well. Our worship group that night consisted of musicians from all over the east coast who have never played together. The youth of the church had just arrived home from Camp we were able to hear their stories of what God had done for them that week. Some of the girls performed a dance of joy. The pastor preached a message and we were honored to worship with our brothers and sisters in Belize.
Our first day although long was amazing. We love being here and serving together. And we have all come to terms with the fact that we will be sweating the entire time. The real-deal temperature average is about 112 degrees F.
Day 2 and 3
We have survived sleeping in Belize! We were not attacked by giant bugs, although there was a scary shower moment with a big spider, a gecko, and a cockroach all at the same time and needless to say their shower didn't last that long. And thank the Lord we had fans and a breeze. Due to the slight time difference most of the team was up and ready by 6am. Thankfully, there was a coffee station in one of the classrooms where we enjoyed our morning pick me up with some amazing Guitars For Glory coffee (which is still available to be purchased on our website here. Some of the team took advantage of the time before breakfast to play music, read and pray, and prepare for the day. There were moments in the mornings where some of the team felt the impact of travel, heat, slight culture shock, as well as spiritual attack. Members of our team came together to encourage and pray for one another. Its been great to see the unity on the team especially knowing some of us met for the first time on the way to here.
Monday we started our classes and electives.
Here is a picture of our day:
We start our day at 8 AM with breakfast. So far the food here has been amazing. They are feeding us like kings and queens. At 9 AM we have our team devotionals being led by different members of the team each time. This time has been great! Getting to hear from the hearts of team members that some of us don’t even know. At 11 AM we met with some of the locals in the church to worship together and learn more about the heart of worship from members of the team. It has been a blessing to watch people using the gifts God has given them.
1-2:30 PM we offer music lessons for the locals on the following instruments:
- Acoustic Guitar
- Electric Guitar
- Bass Guitar
2:30- 3:45 PM we offered special electives which included:
- Encouraging the Worshippers Heart
- Leading From the Front
- Help! I'm the Worship Director
- Guitar Maintenance
- Adding Creative Elements to Your Worship Service
- Spontaneous Worship
- Song Writing
- Kids Time
Today (Tuesday) before our classes and electiveswe were able to visit Miss Charlotte who lives here in Belize City. Her house was severely damaged by Hurricane Earl and she lost so much because of the storm. Her house currently has no front wall and no roof. Most of the inside is either damaged, or has been blown away by the storm. We came by to pray with her and give her encouragement, but instead we were the ones encouraged by her amazing faith. We came up with a couple of ways that we and our friends and family could help her. We will be donating some clothes to her family and have set up a gofundme page located here so our friends and family will be able to help out as well. She is very involved with her church and has stepped up to lead since they just lost their pastor. What an encouragement she was to our team. Please keep Miss Charlotte and her family lifted up in prayer.
We are currently setting up for a night of worship here at Kingspark Nazarene Church and are looking for to see how God will show himself tonight.
Please continue to pray for our team, our hearts, and the hearts of those we are ministering to. We have been so encouraged by their faith.
It's been too long since our last blog post. It seems like no matter how hard we try to make it a priority, the blog finds it's way to the bottom of our to-do list. We promise we'll get better with it. Some of our guitar recipient stories find their way to Instagram, some don't. But you often only see snippets of some pretty incredible testimonies. We wanted to make sure that this particular story about a young boy in Uganda was shared. As I write this post, there is a sweet little Fender parlor guitar on it's way to this young man and we're ecstatic about it.
We first learned about Immy's story through our ministry partner, Love One Another Project. Love One Another Project works in Uganda & Kenya, caring for vulnerable children, intentionally spending time with them, and even building homes for them. A few months ago we worked with them to place a guitar with a different recipient. We love building partnerships with organizations who understand the needs of their local communities. So the opportunity to do this again with them was a great privilege, especially with Immy!
One day, Love One Another Project had sent their missionary son out to work with street children. Their son would spend time researching areas of the community and they would then have him send photos and stories back of the kids in the area. When they first met Immy it was obvious he had been through some tough situations. He had been intentionally burned on half of his body; his arm melted to his side and his cheek melted to his neck. He was considered to be cursed and had been forced to a life of begging on the street. Immy is 13. He's lived more of a life at thirteen years old than many of do in all of our years on this earth.
They tried to place him in 3 different homes, but all turned him down. They knew then, that God was calling them to adopt Immy, though they do not know how or even if there is any chance of adoption. Never the less, they consider him to be theirs in their heart, and their Ugandan family is raising him. They will be together with him off and on, until God opens a way to be together permanently. Immy has just gone through his first of two surgeries and is so excited about his future! They talk daily by phone and will meet him for the first time in April! They tried to start guitar lessons for Immy as he will be responsible for doing missions outreach with the missionaries, but due to his injuries is unable to swing his strumming arm over the back end of the guitar. That is where this beauty comes in!
He has not had many positive experiences growing up, and Love One Another Project is enjoying helping him experience things for the very first time! He has just recently had his first apple that was not from a trash pile, first pizza, first bicycle and first time to ever watch a cartoon! Soon he will have his first guitar! This new guitar will help him pursue this passion to reach others through music in his community. He inspires us. He is a reminder that our circumstances do not change who is in control. People like Immy humble us and remind us that guitars don't change lives, hearts do.
We'll be sure to share some photos of Immy as soon as he receives his new guitar. Thanks for your support. For more info on the Love One Another Project visit: www.loveoneanotherproject.org
or on social media @loveoneanotherprojectorg
Jeff & The Team
We're excited about this story. This is a short post, but what you'll see here is enough encouragement to last a lifetime.
Recently some of the GFG team was able to meet up with missionaries David and Michelle Heed and hear about their ministry. Based out of Rochester, NY, they both serve in Tanzania as a teacher and a nurse. The Heeds have also been faithfully serving in children's ministry with a local church in their village. During their past two years serving, they became aware of a need in a church for a guitar. The young man who will be leading the church is extremely talented but has never had access to a guitar. Always learning what he could when other westerners would come through his village, playing their guitars as they were available.
When the missionaries returned to Tanzania they presented Kazuramimbia PEFA church with a guitar. This video is a glimpse at the joy the church had upon receiving it. This guitar in particular was a donation from a great friend of GFG. Your support is what makes moments like this happen. This is the first instrument that this church has ever owned. Thank you to all that make this possible.
One of my favorite things about working with Guitars For Glory, is having the opportunity and privilege to network with other great ministries. There are many organizations doing incredible work around the world that often go unnoticed. And while it is not recognition that drives us to do something greater, there is a sense of encouragement that we receive when shining some light on the positive things happening in the world when it feels like national media outlets would rather share the bad news.
After months of failed attempts, I finally was able to schedule a phone call with Erik Laursen. Erik is the Executive Director of New Covenant Foundation. I was blessed by our 30 minute phone call, and once again blown away by the gift of music and worship.
NCF who does the majority of their work in Ethiopia, provides a new model for partnership, a new way to empower people, and a new way to keep them going. It connects people together across geographical, cultural, social, and religious boundaries. This connection is centered on Jesus Christ who brings all things together under him. NCF empowers 143 Ethiopian Church Planters to establish churches in the Unreached areas of Ethiopia. Over 300 self sustaining churches have been planted among the 20 million Unreached! What an incredible accomplishment! As talked more, one story specifically stuck out surrounding the power of worship on a recent medical missions trip Erik had gone on with NCF. I asked Erik if he would be open to us sharing this story, and he obliged. I hope you are as encouraged by his testimony as I was. Read below for Erik's story, in his own words.
NCF Medical Missions Trip
When I was initially approached about doing a medical mission in Ethiopia, a few things entered my mind:
1.) I know nothing about medical missions!
2.) How does this fit with our ministry to Ethiopia?
3.) I know nothing about medical missions!
To be quite honest, I wanted to run away from the idea but God spoke into my heart with that gentle but loud whisper– GO!
At that season of my life, I found myself stuck in the parables of Matthew 25. In Matthew 24, Jesus is having some serious discussion with His disciples about the end of the world, He then goes into the parables of Matthew 25 to describe the Kingdom of God. As I prayed about the concept of doing a medical mission alongside our Ethiopian Church Planters, verses 37–40 continued to ring in my heart!
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 37–40
Just a few days after I felt God say "GO", I found myself in Arsi, Ethiopia hearing the testimonies of our Church Planters working in some of the darkest most difficult situations I had ever imagined. My heart was deeply moved by their willingness to sacrifice their own personal safety to make sure their fellow countrymen had an opportunity to hear the Gospel. As I began to build a relationship with these men, I had no idea that God would orchestrate the MT25 Medical Mission to be done in these communities!
In fact, one of the communities they had begun work in was called "The Blood Village" by locals because it was known for human sacrifices! I truthfully did not fully realize this was the same village we would do our medical mission in until a couple of days prior to our arrival.
Part 1: The Lord's Favor
From the moment of departure God began to intervene in incredible ways! I knew during the months before that we were going to face intense spiritual battles as we set foot onto the front lines. What I didn't know is how God would intervene and overpower every attempt of Satan to destroy our mission!
As we sat on the tarmac in Denver for over an hour due to a snow storm in mid–April and faced the reality that our whole itinerary was going to be messed up because we were certainly going to miss our next flight, I felt peace knowing that all of this was out of my control and this was in fact God's mission.
To my surprise, not only did we miraculously make it right in time to connect with our next plane, but our luggage was successfully transferred to Ethiopia. When we arrived the Customs station was shut down due to a mechanical failure of their x-ray machines and we were allowed to enter with hundreds of Amharic Bibles and various gear for our mission that would have most certainly held us up for hours in Customs on a normal day. The favor of the Lord was becoming more and more evident as we took each step forward.
After months of preparation and nearly 40 hours in airplane seats we had finally arrived and the reality of the mission was staring us in the face as we drove into the gates of our first stop: Shashameme Prison. As we unpacked our bus and began to set up our clinic site, I looked around at the multitudes of Muslims with a sense of wonder mixed with fear. How did I get here? Why did God send us to this place? I could feel the nervousness in our team of six Americans and seven Ethiopians. We had initially been told that there were about 400 prisoners, but it was quite clear that there were over 2,000!
As the lines began to form and our teams began to serve, I quickly realized the spiritual severity of this mission. On the outside of the clinic rooms I witnessed the brink of chaos as prison guards attempted to keep things in order by beating prisoners with clubs and sticks. While, on the inside of the clinic, I witnessed the Glorious Love of Christ as our team sacrificially served these men with basic medical care and most importantly finished each individual session with prayer! I just couldn't believe my eyes!! This was more than I was ready to handle and I didn't know how to react!
As strange as this is going to sound, I felt God say to me "sing over them" and I argued, "my wife could if she were here, that is not my gifting", and not a moment later chaos began to erupt in the line as people were impatiently cutting and forcing their way to the front. I began to reconsider my argument with God at that point, out of fear and hopes that as David calmed King Saul with a harp perhaps the same would happen here.
Almost as if I didn't have a choice, I grabbed a guitar and I walked through the line of hundreds of Muslims and I just sang over them that God would open their hearts, and their minds and Salvation would pour out on our clinic! My heart was truly breaking over the fact that so many of these men had no idea that Jesus was God! As I continued to sing and play, many of the men who were so intimidating at first, began to clap along with me and smile with joy as the miracle of music and the mysterious power of worship prevailed over the chaos.
After each prisoner would finish their visit with the medical staff, they would have to go through our counseling room prior to receiving their prescribed medications. This was where we took the time to present the Gospel of Salvation to each and every one of them. Truthfully, by the looks of these men I did not expect any to respond well. This made me quite nervous.
At one point I was called into the room with urgency by the prison staff psychologist who was actually a Christian. As I walked into the room I found an old Shiek (pictured above with yellow hat) requesting my presence. I nervously awaited translation of what he was saying to me to find out that he just wanted me to pray over him! I was wrecked as this man, who quite honestly scared me, humbly requested that I pray to Jesus for him. While he didn't accept the Lord at that moment, I knew that God was doing something and I found myself walking hand in hand with him throughout the rest of the day.
It was shortly after this that something completely unexpected began to happen. Nearly every single prisoner that came into that room started giving their lives to Jesus! One after another lifted their hands to the Lord and said "Iyesus Getano!" (Jesus is Lord). It felt too easy, there was no convincing, no arguing, no questions, it was just as if they had been there waiting for someone to invite them into the Kingdom!
I realized that coming into that prison I really didn't have faith that any of those Muslims would accept the truth of who Jesus is. In fact I thought they might throw rocks at us! At the end of the day I realized that I did not understand how much God loves them and how much it breaks His heart that they follow Islam. Each and every one of them with their own lives, their own struggles, their own desires to know and walk in the truth, yet trapped in a life deceived by Satan.
Miraculously in one day out of the 178 prisoners we were able to serve and share the Gospel with, 117 of them gave their lives to the Lord! We ended the day with a small worship service in the Chapel and encouraged the mature Christians that God would use them in that prison to disciple these new believers and continue sharing the Gospel with the other prisoners.
For more information on Erik, and New Covenant Foundation, visit http://newcovenantfoundation.org
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