Thank you for your nudge, reminding me that it is time for a Boston and Beyond update. It would be helpful to do so, (nudge us), in the future as well. Many a time prayer letters are built upon personal correspondence–seems more natural that way, and easier to write. As you will see, I am using your nudge to write my prayer letter.
I can characterize what is happening in Boston and Beyond, a globalized cities initiative, with the phrase, slowdown,in order to speed up. In some ways, it seems like things in our life and ministry have slowed down. Each step forward seems to take more time. It’s kind of like walking a mountain trail rather than a city street. (It’s a good thing; we love mountain trails.) Recruitment, internships and deputation takes lots of time, so while very good progress is being made, it seems to be one slow, methodical step at a time. Forming teams and making plans to travel as teams is also not done quickly. Because efforts are spread in several areas, evangelistic relationships and Bible studies also take longer to develop, which means results take longer.
Yet, we are sure of the Lord’s leading, and confident that in the end, much more will be accomplished in the pursuit of the Great Commission, the building of the body of Christ globally:
1) We have many great gospel-centered relationships. Some of these are related to our work with Urban Peaks, which is a non-profit secular organization which raises funds to help kids take a step up. (Rock climbing is leveraged to help underserved kids have an opportunity to learn living skills by climbing.) We view this as an authenticating ministry, demonstrating our desire to help people, in general. This work forms the environment for gospel ministry. It helps the climbing community (and others) know that we don’t just proselyte, but that we are concerned for the whole person–for people in general. We do this because we understand that the Bible teaches us that all are made in the image of God, and therefore, valuable. That God views every person as of inestimable worth is made clear by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Working with Urban Peaks and the climbing community takes time–seems slow, but it is producing opportunities.
New friends are coming to our home, even to church. And, by the way, the rock-climbing community is a tight- knit global community. Working for Urban Peaks may be an excellent way to travel to other major cities, even in countries that do not allow ministers to travel. In a culture that is post-Christian, Urban Peaks is a gift from God.
We also are developing gospel relationships in our centrally located Boston neighborhood called the South End. We live in an owner-occupied apartment building, where I have become a trustee, which means I am partially responsible for overseeing the operations of the building. As in all things, Deb works closely with me in this, and by doing so, the Lord has helped us form many friendships, some of which have developed into more “sharing of life” relationships. These kinds of relationships produce gospel sharing opportunities. Again, none of this happens quickly, but the relationships, which are being formed will eventually accelerate the building of the body of Christ, globally. After all, Boston is a global community, and we live right in the middle of that community.
As you pray for us, also remember that we have a Friday night evangelistic Bible study. This study happens in our studio, and our desire is that it will include folks from all parts of the world. We also have a Bible study on the campus of Northeastern University on Wednesday nights. This study is inhabited by young Christians who desire to invite friends who are not yet Christians. Our desire, again, is that it will develop into a time when the nations gather to hear from God’s Word.
2) We also are continually trudging up the mountain, slowly gaining new heights as we work at recruiting workers for Boston and Beyond. Next week, Deb and I will attend the Refresh Conference at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary. While there, we have at least two meetings with prospective workers. It seems so cold calling made-in-the-image-of-God people “prospective workers”. Actually, we consider each person who shows interest in working with Boston and Beyond, as an interesting human being who may join us, and be used of God to minister the gospel to a global community.
Currently there are two individuals raising funds to work with us in Boston. Part of our stewardships is to encourage them as they move through the arduous journey of support raising. One way we do this is by staying in contact with each one and by hosting a regular online video conference where those interested in Boston and Beyond are able to share their burdens and praises. Our time of prayer and fellowships has become a great blessing to all of those involved. Not everyone who attends are planning on becoming a missionary with Boston and Beyond, or even living in Boston. But all these folks believe in the concept of ministering in the city as a conduit to ministering the gospel to the world. So, we meet together, encourage each other along life’s journey, and we pray for our world.
3) As I write this, Deb is across the studio in the kitchen preparing food for our Chinese New Year celebration to be held in our church facility in East Cambridge. Later this afternoon, we will pack up Deb’s lamb dumpling filling, head across the street to the Back Bay, subway station and take the Orange Line across the Charles River from Boston into East Cambridge. The work of building our local manifestation of Boston and Beyond, the International Baptist Church, a Christian orthodox association, continues. Our ministry responsibilities in this regard are varied and complex. We seek to nurture, encourage, counsel, work, whatever it takes to help our fellowship become what it needs to become, as the foundation for globalized cities church planting. The work is slow, and we need to make progress more quickly. It is important that Deb and I do a good job of evangelizing and discipling through baptism. We also must be successful at recruiting laypeople and tentmakers to become part of our church family–this is essential. Most of our disciples end up leaving Boston, as we planned, but these do not make a good foundation for a self-supporting church. We need mature, flexible, qualified workers to come and live/work with us in Boston–again absolutely essential.
4) Deb and I have the potential opportunity of traveling to at least three international urban centers/cities over the next year. Two of these are in places that are not open to Christianity. All three have great potential for Great Commission ministry. As the Lord leads and enables, we will be helping young believers be faithful in cities to which they have returned. In other places, we will be learning about new areas of opportunity and hopefully developing ministry relationships with the body of Christ in those cities. One step at a time, up the mountain path, slowly ascending, but in the end, the ministry will peak:-)
5) There are other very important things going on that are both difficult to describe and unwise to share. All I can say is that God seems to be moving in fascinating ways, which may result in accelerated ministry. Confidentiality is mandatory here, but after having been co-laborers with some of you for over thirty years, or longer, I think you can trust us when we say, pray for these undefined, unfocused requests. We need wisdom, patience, and, above all, increased Godliness. Climbing the mountain includes looking into mysterious fog-shrouded canyons.
6) We do have needs. Firstly, after we leave for Iowa next week, a construction crew will be installing a loft in our studio. Since we live in 310 sq. ft., every inch gained is helpful. The construction and related cost will be around $6,000.00. Secondly, our traveling for Boston and Beyond is expensive and gifts towards our traveling/passage fund would help us. Thirdly, we always need to maintain our monthly support needs and are, therefore, on the lookout for new financial partners. We are not actively pursuing deputation meetings, but if a church shows interest, we would be excited to present Boston and Beyond to that church family.
7) Finally, many of you gave special gifts to us at Christmas time. Thank you so much. The gift is helpful, the charitable heart is life-giving.
Things seem to have slowed down so that we can speed up. We are ascending a rough upward mountain trail, but the view from the top will be…. In the case of Boston and Beyond, it will be ten thriving discipleship centers/churches in ten cities ministering to ten civilizations the gospel of Jesus Christ. These will be places where all sorts of people find shelter, the rich and the poor, the educated person and the simple man, the sophisticated and the addicted, folks from all places and of all ethnicities—a little bit of the kingdom in the church.
We love you, ,
Bill and Deb