Antigua & Barbuda’s Most Fragile Natural Resource

“The children are Antigua & Barbuda’s most fragile natural resource” – This quote was shared to me by the Child Evangelism Fellowship national board chairman during my recent ministry trip. August 14-18, 2017, I (Sean) went to meet with the CEF national board and national staff there in Antigua. Fitzgerald Semper is the national director, and he has served as both board chairman and then national director when the Lord called him to serve full time with CEF.

 Fitzgerald Semper and me (Sean)

There has been a CEF ministry in Antigua & Barbuda for some time, but officially incorporated in late 2012.

They have ministry in a number of primary schools and preschools, and God has used the local chapter of CEF (nationally run) to help the local people reach over 1,800 children with the Gospel! These are children that are also being discipled in the Word of God.

August 28-29 they (CEF Antigua) will be holding CEF training here
at this church/school

Monday, August 14:

My plans began to change big time when my cell phone battery died that morning and I had to spend time (and money) I didn’t have getting a new battery installed before my flight. Because of weather delays, the flight to Charlotte was delayed over an hour and I missed my Miami flight by Only. Five. Minutes. I almost was placed on standby but thankfully was given a confirmed seat on the 10pm flight to Miami. Long story short, with the CLT weather I did not arrive at my Miami hotel until 4:30am. Only got 2 hours or so of sleep and it was off to catch my flight to Antigua.

Flew directly over St. Kitts! Saw so many familiar places from the air!

Tuesday, August 15:

Running on adrenaline, I had a thankfully uneventful flight to Antigua, where I met with Fitzgerald all afternoon, stopped by the CEF office and we said hello to Ianthe, the CEF office manager and teacher trainer. She is doing a great job!

Tuesday night we went to the church where we were to have a meeting with the national board. Unfortunately the key was in another vehicle, so ultimately the meeting did not begin until 8pm. It was a good, healthy discussion with the national board about the CEF ministry there in Antigua & Barbuda, developing a strategic plan of action and how to grow and develop a thriving national board and ministry.

Board development is a primary part of my missionary responsibilities, and these face-to-face times are vital as I interact with board members throughout the year.

Wednesday, August 16:

Wednesday I was able to spend the full day with Fitzgerald, as he had a number of errands to run. It was a privilege to see parts of Antigua I had never seen before, meet his mother, his mother-in-law, nephew and sisters. I have been friends with Fitzgerald for almost four years, but it was amazing to hear more about the history of Antigua & Barbuda, his upbringing, the culture and current state of the country. Fitzgerald has a deep heart for the children of Antigua & Barbuda, he said many times “I enjoy traveling to the USA and other places, but I love my country of Antigua and I love living in Antigua.”

He also stopped downtown at the local market where I picked up a bounty of local fruit that I missed!

A guinep!

Thursday, August 17:

Thursday we stopped by Fitzgerald’s church that he pastors (separate from him being a full-time national director for CEF)! I am thankful for local churches that reach the local community and faithfully teach the Gospel.

We also drove to his sister’s home, which is near where Fitzgerald grew up. I was able to see his stomping grounds and get a better appreciation for what local children experience there in Antigua.

The beautiful view from Fitzerald’s sister’s home of Antigua’s country area

Wax Apples/Plum Rose from their tree

My flight back to the USA was uneventful, but there was an hour & a half delay at JFK with the baggage that led to me arriving quite late to the hotel (past 11pm). Needless to say, I have been quite tired this week.

Friday, August 18.

Traveled back to Montgomery!

Was able to deliver these Teaching Children Effectively Level One
flannel figures for CEF Antigua to use as a backup when power outages occur
and the projector cannot be used.

Again, in partnership with The Gospel Coalition: International Outreach,
I was able to get a case of Tim Keller’s Galatians for You (an EXCELLENT book)
to give away to the leaders in Antigua!

A big thank you to Fitzgerald for being such a gracious and hospitable host, he opened up his home to let me stay there and I am grateful.

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Two VERY important things to understand:

  1. This was an incredibly needed trip because as an Area Director it is vital to have face-to-face time with each of the national workers we serve at least once a year. In addition, it is important to have face-to-face time with national boards because instead of emailing or calling strangers I am speaking to friends, to co-laborers.

So much of what I do on a daily basis from Montgomery, AL is done via Skype, email, phone call, WhatsApp and other technological methods. But these things are limited. With a visit, even if it is short like this one, I can spend over three hours with the national board, and over 27 hours of discussion and conversation time with the national staff (which is what I did August 15-17). Visits like this are vital and help me assess better the current state of the CEF ministry and how I can best serve these national workers along with the regional team.

  1. Spiritual warfare is extremely real and can be very much in your face at times. I experienced this heavily this week. This week I had the cell phone battery distraction Monday morning, the physical exhaustion from the many flight delays and severe lack of sleep on multiple days, I could not find my passport for almost five/ten minutes on Tuesday, our mortgage payment incorrectly posted twice to our bank account which caused me to spend over 30 minutes on the phone Wednesday (plus the emotional distress of what in the world we were going to do), the car back in Montgomery had the brakes go completely out, there was not a quorum of the national board because 3-4 members were sick, among other things. The enemy does not want the children of Antigua & Barbuda to be reached, and Satan will stop at nothing to distract, hinder or throw curve balls & roadblocks in your way. Everything is on the table for Satan. However, God is infinitely greater and infinitely more powerful! We saw His hand of providence & protection in countless ways this week.

This is why prayer is so important; please remember us as missionaries in your prayers!!! Also, pray for the local CEF staff of the countries we serve, and pray for the local volunteers who teach the children in Good News Clubs & 5-Day Clubs. Pray for their families. Pray for their health. Pray for favor in their travel and pray against the evil one that seeks to devour. Pray all of these things for us as well! Prayer is a vital way to partner in ministry with us as missionaries; so many battles in our ministry are deeply spiritual.

Pray for Fitzgerald, Ianthe, and the entire CEF Antigua & Barbuda family today!

Encouraging Ministry in The Bahamas!

June 22-26 CEF Regional Director Myron Tschetter and I (Sean) went to Nassau in New Providence, Bahamas to encourage the national board and national staff! Lots of pictures in this post, sharing the story of all that God did during this visit to serve the amazing local folks that God has called to serve with CEF there in the Bahamas.

Prior to the trip, Myron Tschetter and I sent out a very detailed assessment form that would be helpful for everyone to get a sense of what the strengths and weaknesses are with CEF in the Bahamas. We had discussed the results on the phone for weeks leading up to the trip, but it was nice to visually see it all printed out! Quite a bit of information to say the least.

As soon as we got there, Dr. Willamae Miller and her daughter Eunice was there to meet us at the airport and bring us to the apartment where we would stay. Dr. Miller has served faithfully with CEF as the national director for the Bahamas for over 25 years!

That afternoon we met with Dr. Miller in the CEF national office to hear her heart for the ministry face to face and better understand more ways that we can best help and encourage her efforts.

It was awesome to meet one of Dr. Miller’s sons, the famous Darold Miller! Darold has the most popular radio show in the Bahamas, Darold Miller Live! A major talk radio show that is very influential in the country.

We then went to have a meeting with the CEF Bahamas board chairman, Pastor Geoffrey Wood.

As the main meetings began, Myron and I praise the Lord that there were so many people who came out from the national board. It was very well attended!

We dove into key topics about systems, vision, strategic planning, board development, fundgathering and staffing.

Everyone was very engaged in the discussion, God has brought key people together that we are looking forward to seeing how God uses in the months and years ahead on the National Board.

One of the board members shared: “I am a new board member, you really clarified quite a bit for me.” Another person said: “This just made my role (on the board) so much easier!” That was our heart and passion, to help address issues they said were in need of addressing, to serve them and encourage them by clarifying roles and expectations. We want to make sure everyone is operating out of their gifts and strengths so that every child in the Bahamas hears the Good News!

At an evening CEF event Saturday, I met this great pastor, Pastor Everette Brown, who went to school in Selma! Small world!

So thankful for all the great local volunteers we were able to meet!

A very special meeting was with the VERY FIRST Good News Club kids ever in the Bahamas! Deandre and Oscar were the first kids to come to a GNC 25 years ago. Now it has come full circle and they are teaching a Good News Club themselves!

Myron gave the morning sermon at Temple Baptist Church!

We were treated to a fabulous brunch with Lisa and Cornell Moss (Lisa is a new full-time staff person with CEF Bahamas) and Dr. Miller after service!

As before, I partnered with The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach and brought plenty of John Piper’s book “Finally Alive” to give to all the CEF National Board and Staff. Very thankful for that amazing ministry of getting Gospel-saturated books into the hands of His people!

Pictures around town!

While we were there in the Bahamas, I read about how a man from Lee County, Alabama was shot while walking on the beach of Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos. An incredibly tragic story that gives an excellent example of that fact that paradise is not what HGTV makes it out to be. It is urgent that the local churches reach out to the next generation in their island, the doors are WIDE open for the Gospel and the future of their country depends on it!

I give God praise for all that He did through this trip to encourage and develop the CEF ministry taking place in the Bahamas. We pray with them that children on every island would hear and know King Jesus!

Will you pray for the Bahamas today?

Celebrating 80 Years of God’s Faithfulness!

1937…a great year by God’s grace! In that year, the beautiful and gloriously delicious Krispy Kreme donut was available for public consumption.

 

The Hobbit is published by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1937.

Cost of a gallon of gas in 1937 was 10 cents.

Also in 1937, Child Evangelism Fellowship officially started with the mission to serve and work with local churches as they reach out to the children in their communities. The goal back then and now is every child in every country hearing the truths of the Gospel, being discipled in the Word of God, and the children and their families being established in local churches.

May 8-13, 2017 Mandi, Charlotte and I went to the triennial CEF International Conference in Ridgecrest, NC (thanks to Sean’s Mom for taking care of RG and Maddy!). Over 1,500 people were there from over 100 countries! It was by far the largest CEF international conference ever held, and it was a special conference because we celebrated 80 years of God’s faithfulness to CEF ministry around the world. We also give praise to God that CEF has nationally led ministry in almost every country of the world!

I had the opportunity to lead two workshops on “Zeal Without Burnout“, a workshop based on the amazing book by Christopher Ash. I gave away four of those books, and the first workshop was translated simultaneously in three other languages. This was a little distracting at first, but it meant that this session was going to be taken back to many other countries and used to serve and encourage CEF workers in their own language!

CEF is made up of 96% national missionaries, people serving in their own country. This is a foundational belief with CEF, that it is God’s design for the local people to reach the local children.

That is why we do what we do now as missionaries, we help the national leaders and board members in the Caribbean to make their jobs as easy as possible.

We want to free up their time by assisting with eliminating red tape, board/staff issues, logistics, materials, fundraising, strategic planning and vision casting.

We daily ask the question, how can we help these workers in the best way possible so that every child on every island in every nation is reached?

It was a joy and a privilege to have face to face time with nearly every CEF national worker we serve, and see so many of our fellow CEF friends and coworkers!

Thanks to technology, as long as I have access to the internet and/or a phone, I can do my job from almost anywhere in the world. However, there is nothing like spending invaluable face-to-face time with someone, praying with them and hearing their heart and vision for ministry in their country! That was the highlight of this conference for us.

Praise God for the past 80 years of CEF ministry! Please continue to pray for CEF, that the next 80 years would be marked with a further resolve to have Gospel-centered literature, wise leadership decisions and a focus on being a humble servant to the Church globally.

God is faithful!

 

Helping Bermuda Reach Every Child!

October 27-31 I was able to help serve CEF of Bermuda as they seek to reach every child in their nation. Dr. Melvyn Bassett is the national leader and he volunteers his time to help develop the CEF ministry there.

More pictures of the national CEF office!

Dr. Melvyn and the CEF Board Chairman

Dr. Melvyn asked me a few months ago if I would consider helping them conduct their first ever event to help raise awareness for CEF in Bermuda. Additionally, I was to help discuss with their new national board the role and function of a thriving national board and best practices in strategic planning.

More pictures from the board meeting, this is the view from the board room they get to use for their meetings!

I was thankful for the opportunity, it was a humbling honor to sit across the table from many highly influential people who care deeply about the future of their country. On their national board they have people who have served as teachers, principals and ministers of government, including one who served as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly. God has arranged the right people to lead the CEF ministry in Bermuda so that every child can be reached with the Gospel! It is a privilege to serve them and to help them in ministry as much as we can.

It was a relatively short trip, highly focused and we made the most of our time there. We were able to spend a good bit of time with Dr. Bassett and hear his heart and vision for Child Evangelism Fellowship in Bermuda. We were able to understand better the unique challenges the children face and how a thriving CEF ministry can help local churches meet those needs.

We were able to go to an evening social where we met numerous current ministers of government, doctors, lawyers, the true “movers and shakers” in Bermuda. We were able to tell them about how CEF can help their country’s future by churches reaching out to the children in their communities!

We visited a local church and saw one of our good friends who we went to church with in Turks and Caicos, Abria, who also attends there. That is what is so exciting about ministry in the Caribbean, wherever you go you likely either know someone or have a mutual friend in nearly every country!

The briefing dinner we helped conduct went extremely well by God’s grace, it was a packed house and cast a strong vision for the CEF ministry being established there.

The Christian Youth In Action team shared both their testimonies and in song and they were inspirational to all who attended. We are looking forward to how God uses the results of that dinner to help further the local CEF ministry in Bermuda!

Lastly, on a personal note, I was thankful to have with me a childhood friend, Benjamin Hughes, who was able to assist in ministry and see what we do as missionaries firsthand. It was encouraging personally to have a friend travel with me and was wonderful to introduce him to the people in Bermuda that we have the joy of serving!

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!