CEF Regional Leadership Conference 2016

From August 15-19 the triennial Regional Leadership Conference was held at the international headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship. Mandi and I had the privilege of helping to coordinate this conference, and it was such a blessing!

It was a growing and stretching experience for us putting on a conference like this, there is so much that takes place behind the scenes that most people do not see when they go to a conference. Additionally, this conference usually takes place in the Caribbean, so planning can become even more complicated. Thankfully we had a wonderful experience working with the event staff at CEF headquarters, and it was a blessing for them to host our regional conference. It’s not everyday the staff at CEF IHQ gets to have fellow staff members from so many countries there in Missouri!

There were 64 people from 17 countries in attendance at this regional leadership conference, all either national leaders or national leadership volunteers (board members, etc…).

The conference was held under the theme “Together We Can”. The goal is to have trained teachers from local churches reaching 2 million children annually across the 27 nations of our region. Not that “we” can do it ourselves apart from Christ, but as all the national leaders and regional team have a singular focus together to “…declare His glory among the nations”, it is possible.

There were many testimonies given by the attendees of how this conference was used by God to challenge them, to encourage them and give them a broader perspective of CEF around the region. Additionally, there is something about getting people together and everyone knowing that they are not alone in ministry.

Often in the nations that Mandi and I serve as missionaries, these national staff members are the only CEF full-time staff serving in their country. If they do not have a good base of volunteers and a strong board, it is easy to get discouraged and even burnt out.

It is vital and essential to pour into the leaders of these countries so every child on every island is reached with the Gospel! Thank you for supporting us as international missionaries with CEF, you are directly a part of these national leaders reaching children and them pouring into local churches.

We give God all the glory for the great success of this conference! One board member said: “This conference has opened my eyes and broadened my vision for what CEF is and how it can impact my country.

Our vision is that each nation in the region has a strong, locally sustainable CEF ministry that is thriving in helping churches disciple children in the Word of God! You are a part of this ministry!

Helping CEF Bahamas Reach Out After Hurricane Joaquin

I received an encouraging email from the CEF national workers in the Bahamas while we were traveling earlier this month! In that email they gave us a detailed report on the distribution of Do You Wonder Why? booklets to children affected by Hurricane Joaquin. Helping to secure cases of these booklets and getting them to these national workers ASAP was one of my first responsibilities in our updated position with CEF.

The aerial view of Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the island causing major damage to homes, buildings and property.

The aerial view of Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the island causing major damage to homes, buildings and property.

We serve as international missionaries to help national workers reach every child on their island with the Gospel. We were saddened when we heard that one of those national workers, a CEF Instructor of Teachers, was one of the people who lived on an island that was devastated—Acklins. Kate had a school there and she also serves on the CEF Bahamas national board.

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Lisa Moss (one of the CEF Bahamas new national workers and is about to go to the Children’s Ministries Institute this fall) sent me this about Kate and what was happening there:

10/5/15, 8:25:56 PM: Lisa Moss: Well the reports are coming in, the south eastern Islands were hit really hard. many persons who were able to travel to Nassau are telling their story and it is a painful one. listening to them i can’t even imagine what they are saying.  Kate, one of CEF’s  IOTs was in Acklins and she told her story and it was heart wrenching. she talked about how they had to go up into the attic of her home away from the water coming on the house.
10/5/15, 8:28:19 PM: Lisa  Moss:  she is also a committee member
10/5, 8:48 PM Lisa  Moss: Pictures of homes flattened, roofs blown off, furniture, clothes, kitchen appliance all in the road. looks like a war zone but we are thankful there was no loss of life.
: the family and just Bahamians in general are coming together to help where ever they can. donations are high.: there was one pastor told of how they were in the church which was a hurricane shelter and the roof blew off. they moved from one area to another until they had to leave the  church in search of safe shelter.they prayed and prayed

The aerial view of Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the island causing major damage to homes, buildings and property.

In God’s sovereignty, this Hurricane provided an opportunity to show God’s love and share the Gospel to many children all throughout the Bahamas! We may not understand why it happened, but we do know that when these things happen, children wonder how in the world a loving God could possibly allow this to happen. CEF is there to share the truth with these kids!

Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation Leslie Miller views damage to a BEC power station in San Salvador. (Photo by Torrell Glinton)

Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation Leslie Miller views damage to a BEC power station in San Salvador. (Photo by Torrell Glinton)

Below is the unedited report from CEF Bahamas. YOU had a part in this by praying and supporting us financially! Thank you! 

The Bahamas is an archipelago of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays off the east coast of Florida. Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited. New Providence is the seat with where the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, San Salvador, Acklins, Crooked Island, Ragged Island, Cat Island, Long Island, Bimini, Berry Islands, Harbour Island, Inagua, Mayaguana.

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Hurricane Joaquin developed on September 27 in the Atlantic Ocean. The storm rapidly intensified as it moved toward the Bahamas.

Hurricane Joaquin strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane and remained at that intensity for several days as it lashed the Bahamas. 

Flooding from storm surge and torrential rainfall has been documented on Long Island and Acklins, among other central Bahamas locations. A Weather Underground personal weather station at Pitts Town, Crooked Island, reported winds up to 84 mph before it stopped reporting.

A total blackout was reported on the three hardest-hit islands of the central Bahamas. About 85 percent of the homes in one settlement on Crooked Island were reportedly destroyed.

Much of the damage was centered in the southeastern Bahamas, particularly Crooked Island, Acklins Island, Long Island and San Salvador. The storm ripped roofs from homes, flooded main roads and farms, spoiled wells for drinking water and forced the closure of small airports.

PM Christie said the government planned to ask the U.S., which flew teams out on Saturday, if they can once again assist, but this time with helicopters in order to access Acklins and Crooked islands where the airports were under water.

Flooding hampered government efforts to restore phone service and electricity. Flooding also has isolated residents.
Sean Miller CEF area director for the Northeast Caribbean forwarded 7 boxes of Do You Wonder Why? Booklets to be distributed to the children of the Bahamas.

Booklets were distributed in November 2015, to those islands that were hit hardest by the hurricane, schools and later New Providence.

CEF-Bahamas Board members were instrumental in the delivery of the booklets to schools and islands throughout the country.

Distribution List Report

Glory to God! Thank YOU for being a part of this!

Grand Turk Short-Term Ministry Trip!

On March 26 I led a short-term ministry team from Child Evangelism Fellowship of South Dakota! A team from CEF of SD came to Provo last year and God used them to reach many children in the primary schools. This year they came to Grand Turk, the capitol island of the Turks & Caicos Islands.

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Grand Turk is very different than Provo, as it is much smaller (only about 7 sq. miles) and only has about 5,000 people.

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Grand Turk is also the cruise ship port!

With Grand Turk being the capitol island, we felt strongly that we needed to reach out to the children and churches, expanding on past efforts in 2014 and 2015. We are still praying that God will raise up a local Turks & Caicos Islander to lead the CEF ministry and we are praying for board members that are passionate about seeing the children of TCI reached with the Gospel!

Here’s what we were praying for the trip:

  1. Reach children during their Easter break through 5-Day Clubs and through partnership with local churches.
  2. Train local Bible teachers and equip them.
  3. Cast the vision of reaching children in TCI with as many people as possible.

Friday:

I arrived ahead of time to make sure everything was situated properly, get groceries, etc. Also, before my flight to Grand Turk, I picked up 50lbs worth of CEF literature (printed freely courtesy of the Revival Movement), so that we could give it away at our teacher training night. I was also able to spend time and catch up with my good friend Raymond, an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel – TCI. My flight to GT was delayed, but I was bumped up to an earlier flight that was late, so I left at the same time I was supposed to leave ;-).

Saturday:

The team from CEF of SD arrived! They had a very long couple days of travel with very little sleep, so we kept it simple on Saturday and planned for them to rest that afternoon.

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I was also reminded just how involved daily life is on a small island, as that afternoon I had to go to four different places to get water, food and ice!

Sunday:

Though we were all away from our families, it was a blessing to spend Easter Sunday with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Salem Baptist Church. It was joyful to worship together as one people from different nations, and Pastor Chad Archbold clearly and powerfully shared from God’s Word. One memorable statement he made that morning to the congregation was “Children are not things you dress up and take to church, they are the next generation of worshippers“. Amen!

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(L-R) Pastor Chad, Nick Hauck, Hannah Cleveland, Blake Mendel, Kendra Baltzer, Sean Miller

I took them on a tour as well…and they got to see the Grand Turk Lighthouse!

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Astronaut John Glenn landed in Grand Turk in 1962!

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The team had fun seeing everything!

Monday:

Our first day of ministry through 5-Day Clubs was one that reminded us of God’s plans vs. man’s plans! We were quickly reminded of how hard it is to get children to come out on a holiday (Easter Monday), and actually did not have children at any of the clubs that day. We did however double our efforts of promotion, canvasing the neighborhoods, putting up flyers around town, and we went to Salem Baptist Church’s Easter Monday Funday!

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Drawing/Designing the posters

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This was a great part of the day as we were able to see and talk with many kids and parents…

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…and even spending time playing soccer with the children!

Also on Monday, we also had the first of a few “visitors”….

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The Caribbean Giant Centipede, which can get to be over a foot long!

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5-Day Club visitor

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Driving the infamous Grand Turk wild donkeys out of the yard…they would wake us up at 5am braying!

Tuesday:

This was our “true” first day of 5-Day Club ministry, and we had 52 children between all three club locations!

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As the Gospel went forth, a child about 12 years old came back for counseling saying: “I thought you had to do good things to go to heaven”. You could see the Holy Spirit working in his heart, and by God’s grace he professed faith in Jesus Christ as His Savior! He now knows that it is through Jesus alone that one is saved!

Wednesday:

As we came to the middle of the week, we were glad to see new children come to the 5-Day Clubs, and we went to Salem Baptist Church that evening for Bible Study. Another church member was there, and we spent time outside discussing the Gospel, life, ministry and the vision for reaching the children of the TCI! None of us knew that church had actually been canceled for that evening, but we were thankful that God allowed us all to have that hour and a half or so on the church porch.

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Thursday:

Such a joy to teach these children and also introduce some fun games before 5-Day Club begins!

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A version of “Duck, Duck, Goose”, except with a cup of water!

In addition to continued clubs, we scheduled a teacher training for Thursday night. We had representatives from the two public primary schools at the training, and equipped them with a TON of free CEF resources! We found out as well that from the materials given away in January, children were using the CEF 60-Day Devotional Book to lead their school-wide devotions! Kids reaching their peers! Praise God for how He is using these materials to communicate His Word in surprising ways!

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Thankful as well to partner again with The Gospel Coalition International Outreach—the team brought down a case of John Piper’s Finally Alive book to give to these teachers.

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We also frequented the local Grand Turk fish fry that is every Thursday night…people thought we were tourists at first but then many of the kids ran up to us! They were so excited to see us at the fish fry, and were helpful at showing us the best booths to get food and snacks at!

Friday:

We got to the last day of 5-Day Clubs, and were encouraged by the parent’s comments on how the children appreciated coming to club. One parent said: “I know y’all are trained for this, but I really appreciated how the team was able to keep the children’s attention. I even enjoyed the club as an adult.”

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Saturday:

As we flew over to Providenciales to make our final flights off island back to the USA, the team had a couple hours of a layover (I had about five hours) so we rented a car. I gave them a short tour of Provo and even grabbed a few of the incredible pastries at Crust Bakery.

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Final team picture, taken on beautiful Grace Bay!

After I dropped them off, I was able to spend time with the Cox family of Harvest Bible Chapel, discussing the trip and the future of CEF in the TCI.

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All in all God used the CEF of SD team to teach the very first 5-Day Clubs in this capitol island of Grand Turk! Apart from the most important results of 66 children being reached with the Gospel and local Bible teachers being equipped, this pioneering trip led to key TCI government and education leaders hearing about CEF for the first time through their children attending the 5-Day Clubs.

We continue to pray that God would raise up national board members and local staff in the TCI, the ministry still has a long way to go before it is fully established locally but this was a key step in ministry development.

Glory to God alone!

Serving the Antiguan CEF Board and Staff!

March 4-6 I was able to travel to Antigua to serve the CEF workers and the national board as they held a board/staff retreat. This was my second visit to Antigua, the first being the 2013 Regional Leadership Conference.

The trip had the following goals:

  1. Help the board and the staff to develop a clear path forward in ministry, utilizing everyone’s gifts, talents and abilities in a meaningful way to reach the children.
  1. Serve the board and the staff as they continue to lay good foundations for the new CEF ministry (formally established in 2012).
  1. Encourage the staff and board in ministry and help answer any questions they have, as the board had recently gone through a new training.

By God’s grace, each of the goals were able to be achieved, and the CEF board/staff in Antigua were given new resources to use in their ministry tool kit!

This was a crucial trip for the success of CEF in Antigua and a huge thank you to a generous ministry partner who helped provide the means for me to be able to go on short notice.

It also was wonderful to be able to go back to the Eastern Caribbean where we lived for two years (next door in St. Kitts).

The culture and atmosphere is still very familiar to us, which was further encouraging to me as I had not been back in that part of the Caribbean since January 2014. It was like I never left!

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Ianthe James and Fitzgerald Semper, CEF staff

This is what we do as CEF missionaries; we serve people like Fitzgerald and Ianthe in the Caribbean as they reach their island’s kids. As I asked the board and staff at the beginning of our sessions together, what would Antigua look like in 5-10 years if every child heard the Gospel and had the opportunity to be discipled in the Word of God? The entire country would change for the better! There are 64 primary schools in Antigua, and over 100 preschools. If every single one of those primary schools and preschools had a local church adopting it, the result would be Gospel transformation of an entire nation for decades to come! With over 300 local people trained by CEF in Antigua, God has already prepared the way for this to happen!

Principals of schools are pleading for CEF Good News Clubs to be established at their school so that their children can be reached. Pray for churches to answer that Gospel call in their neighborhood!

Day Before (Thursday afternoon travel)

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I arrived at JFK Thursday. “Welcome to New York”—-where there is snow!

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Day 1 – Arrival and first session

Friday afternoon after a very long flight that was delayed due to deicing the plane (no surprise!), I arrived in Antigua!

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Beautiful sunset from the Moravian church multipurpose center.

The first session began with an exhortation by a pastor who is on the board about all of us being clay in the potter’s hands. We concluded that evening’s session by spending over an hour in both prayer and praise. As Oswald Chambers said: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

 

Day 2 – All day sessions and time at the CEF office

Saturday was a long but meaningful day of sessions, filled with sharing and discussion. It concluded by having the first national board elections, with different people now in various positions of CEF service.

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Board Chairperson Camelda Michael

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Camelda and I

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Breakfast discussions!

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I also spent some time in town at the CEF office with national director Fitzgerald Semper. Here are some pictures of their downtown office!

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Downtown St. John’s

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You can’t see it, but the cruise ship port is just a couple blocks away!

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Day 3 – Sharing the message at a local church and departure

Sunday I had the privilege of sharing God’s Word with the Cashew Hill Moravian Church, in whose multipurpose facility we had the board retreat.

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As soon as church was over, I was on my way back to the USA!

On a side note, I was able to give five local pastors their very own copy of an ESV Global Study Bible through our partnership with The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach. One pastor said to me: “I have been wanting one of these so bad!” Praise the Lord for His provision for these study Bibles that will aid local pastors in their sermon preparations.

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All in all, this trip was successful by God’s grace and I ask you to continue to pray for the CEF ministry in Antigua as the Lord shows them a fresh and clear vision for reaching the children of their nation!

All That Happened on the Turks & Caicos Trip!

“Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands.” – Isaiah 42:12

We give God praise for what He did during this past trip back to the Turks and Caicos Islands!

This specific CEF ministry development trip had four main objectives:

  1. Take care of “behind the scenes” administrative and logistical matters
  2. Distribute recently cleared CEF materials to local churches
  3. Train local Bible teachers for ministry to children
  4. Prepare for the upcoming short-term ministry trip to Grand Turk

First, there were a number of things that needed to be taken care of on island. The biggest thing was that when we left Turks and Caicos in August 2015, we had left all the CEF TCI materials and equipment in a storage unit that had been paid through December 2015. Keeping the materials in storage long-term is a huge ministry cost that we did not want to continue incurring, so we are incredibly grateful for Harvest Bible Chapel opening up one of their storage rooms to us. HBC was the church we were a part of when we lived on island, and this also makes the materials more easily accessible when we need to distribute them. All of the previous and newly cleared CEF TCI material was moved during this trip.

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The material in the new space at HBC! Still needs to be organized better, but that can be a later trip.

Secondly, CEF TCI received its first shipment from The Revival Movement! The Revival Movement is an amazing organization in Northern Ireland that helps CEF globally with the printing of our curriculum to equip churches in ministry to children.

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No that’s not Irish butter…it’s free CEF curriculum!

During this trip, I was able to equip people from 20 different churches on 5 different islands with 914 different pieces of CEF curriculum and children’s materials! Out of those 914 pieces, 292 pieces were lessons and flashcards, a year’s worth of teacher’s packs! This is truly “above and beyond all we can ask or imagine”!

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Material about to go on a boat headed to North & Middle Caicos!

There are still more churches to give these teacher’s packs to, but this distribution during this trip means that a large majority of the Bible-believing churches in the Turks & Caicos Islands now have Gospel-centered curriculum to use in their children’s ministries. Many churches have to scrounge for good materials, or import them on island at high cost and a long wait. What a joy it was to freely give them away to people that both values them and will use them!

Here are a few testimonies!

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Sivil said: “I would love to have some more materials to work with in the Children’s Ministries at my Church.  The last stack of materials I received from you turned out to be very helpful and useful in our ministry.”

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Gerilane said: “I remember CEF material being used at my church as a child when some missionaries came…I was so happy when I saw that CEF was getting started here…we must get into the schools, we don’t know how much longer we will have these open doors!”

I also had the privilege of training local Bible teachers in ministry. Bethany Baptist Church, a fantastic church that we have partnered with in the past, desires to start an after-school Good News Club in the spring! I was able to meet with most of the team (four people were able to come), building upon the training they had already received.

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Training at Bethany Baptist

Grand Turk preparation was the fourth objective of this past trip back to the TCI. We have the privilege of hosting a short-term ministry team from CEF of South Dakota again this year, and we are focusing in on the capitol island of Grand Turk.

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Grand Turk is very flat, and it is where the cruise ships come, so you can see them from almost everywhere!

Over the course of the two days I was there, I realized that our initial ministry plans of school-based ministry needed to change. However, with the children being on Easter holiday, we have the opportunity to partner more with local churches and teach 5-Day Clubs!

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Ona Glinton Primary School in Grand Turk

This will allow greater discipleship to take place with the children and also build better relationships with teachers and leaders in the Grand Turk community!

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I ended up needing to rent a car (right hand drive) in Grand Turk…the roads are much more narrow!

Lastly, it was an eye-opening experience to be back in Turks & Caicos. It was the first time in our new missionary role to come back to a country that we used to live in. It is hard to explain, but I felt the same there as I do back in the USA. It was encouraging because there are so many friends there in TCI that love, pray and care for our family. Even when I was in Grand Turk, I walked up unannounced to a school that I had not been to in a year, and one of the teachers looked at me and said “Hi Sean!” Even after a year, people in Grand Turk still remembered the training conference that was held, and she also asked how the girls were doing.

I had the great privilege of sharing God’s Word at Harvest Bible Chapel Sunday morning. I also was able to distribute 9 ESV Global Study Bibles to local elders and pastors of 5 churches! This was through our ministry partnership with The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach and Crossway Publishing!

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Giving an ESV Global Study Bible to my friend and local pastor Pedro Williams of the Jericho Baptist Church. He actually just published his own book “Walking By Faith and Not By Sight“!

All in all, the trip was encouraging, an answer to prayer and helped lay a foundation for locally led ministry in the future.

Keep praying for the Turks and Caicos Islands!

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