Sunday, January 15, 2012

Safest Place to Be?

“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”  Have you ever heard this statement in a message?  I have heard it several times and have always agreed with it.  However, a missionary questioned this statement in his recent prayer letter.  He got me thinking:

Was John the Baptist in the center of God’s will when he was beheaded?
Was James in the center of God’s will when Herod killed him with the sword?
Was Stephen in the center of God’s will when he was stoned to death?
Was Paul in the center of God’s will when he received “forty stripes save one?”
Was Paul in the center of God’s will when he was beaten with rods?
Was Paul in the center of God’s will when he suffered shipwreck?
Was William Carey in the center of God’s will when his wife Dorothy died?
Was William Carey in the center of God’s will when his second wife Charlotte died?
Was Adoniram Judson in the center of God’s will when he was imprisoned for 17 months?
Was Hudson Taylor in the center of God’s will when his wife and five of his children died?
Were John and Betty Stam in the center of God’s will when they were beheaded?
Were Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian in the center of God’s will when they were murdered?

It seems that the only thing we can answer to the above questions is “Yes.”  Each of these people was in “the center of God’s will” when something bad (or “unsafe”) happened to them.  How do we reconcile what we see from history with this phrase that is so often preached?

1. Bad things happen to people in God’s will and out of God’s will.

I remember hearing this phrase in connection with a story about a missionary.  As the story goes, he and his family left for the mission field.  Because of the frequent threat of poisonous snakes, the wife became more and more worried for the safety of her children.  She eventually convinced her husband that they should leave the field.  After returning to the States, one of the children was actually bitten by a snake just outside their home.  In her haste to get the child to the hospital, the mother backed over another child with the car.  Both children died.
This illustration was given to show that “the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”  If this story is true and if God allowed this to happen because of the family’s disobedience, then it should be a lesson to us about disobeying God.  However, equally horrifying things have happened to people who were obeying God and who were (as far as we can tell) in the center of God’s will.

2. Being in God’s will does not guarantee safety on this earth.

I believe the phrase in question is dangerous because it plants the seed in our minds that if we follow God, we will be safe.  In other words, good will happen to us instead of bad.  In other words, life here on earth is better if we are in God’s will.  While it is always better to follow God’s will, it will not always seem better here on earth.  Often, doing what we want will be safer or better for this life.
If a believer takes this mindset (being in God’s will = safer life on earth), their faith will be shaken when bad things come.  They might question whether they really were in God’s will.  They may keep trying to be in God’s will, but bad things may keep happening.  Eventually, they may conclude either: 1) It is impossible for them to be in the very center of God’s will and they simply give up trying, or 2) There is no God and they may turn their back on Him completely.
Do I think this one phrase drives everyone to these conclusions?  Certainly not.  As I mentioned before, I do think it can plant a dangerous seed in people’s minds.

3. Safety is promised for believers after this life.

A believer’s life is not an exact replica of every others’.  One believer may live a life relatively free of hardship and trials while another seems to have nothing but those things.  We must realize that the safety that is promised us is not for life on this earth, but for our eternal life in heaven.  It is there that we will experience no more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow.  Until then, things might be very . . . unsafe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hughes News #32

Dear Friends,

Learning another language does not provide much exciting material for an update. However, we understand the importance of this phase of our work despite its monotony!

Being away from our families for the holidays made us appreciate it even more when Moldovan friends from church included us in their celebrations. The week of Christmas we were invited to two homes and New Year’s Eve we visited another. We enjoyed the fellowship, learned more about Moldovan history and traditions, and tasted some Moldovan holiday dishes.

We had not planned to have a Christmas vacation from our language lessons, but a two week break became necessary when our teacher had some health problems. During the extra time we were able to study on our own as well as tackle a few other projects. Although she is not completely better, we have been able to resume lessons. We are thankful to have such a dependable and punctual teacher.

Over the last few months we have seen that the time and money to maintain our website were worth more than the few advantages the website gave us. Having a blog allows us to keep our information on the internet while costing us much less time and no money. If you are interested, you may find it at In addition to posting our updates there, we plan to write other articles from time to time. Thank you for your prayers to the Lord on our behalf. May God bless you!

For Prayer:
1. Our Russian teacher’s health
2. Us to make progress in Russian
3. A family to work with us here

For Praise:
1. Moldovan friends had us over during the holidays.
2. Our teacher has been well enough to resume lessons.
3. We are still excited that the Lord allows us to be here!

In His service,
Jacob and Viola Hughes

"Tie your shoes and pray for the Hughes."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

[Note: Please realize my intention here is not to promote or condemn any political system. It is clear from Scripture that believers are to respect and pray for their leaders regardless of the political system. I simply want to show the importance of understanding the mindset of another person or group of people.]

Living for an extended time in another culture will bring a person face to face with many differences.  A different language, different foods, different clothes- all of these are surface things that are easier to identify.  The differences in a way a group of people think may not be so readily seen.  However, understanding those differences is of utmost importance- especially for one who is seeking to share the Gospel cross-culturally.  A good example of this is a person’s perception of the USSR. 

I grew up in free, democratic, capitalistic America.  I was taught that it was a good idea that our Founding Fathers created the three branches of government to check and balance each other.  We have presidents, not dictators.  I was taught that Communism is a corrupt system.  I heard about the religious intolerance in the USSR.  Looking back, I realize that without anyone specifically teaching me, I came to the assumption that all governments should be like the United States.’ 

It was a t-shirt that began opening my mind to a different perspective.  During our survey trip in Moldova in 2008, we saw a shirt with the letters “СССР”- the Russian equivalent to USSR.  As a freedom-loving son of America, it was hard for me to fathom why anyone would want to be back under the Soviet Union. 

Bit by bit I began to understand more.  A conversation with a Moldovan pastor this past week helped me put those little snippets of information in perspective and begin to see the big picture.  It would take too much time and thought to present everything, so I will just try to summarize a couple of key lessons I have learned.

1. While believers in general (and Baptist believers in particular) were oppressed and persecuted when the Soviet Union was in power, many unreligious and Orthodox people were not.  They had a place to live.  They had a job.  They had income.  They had plenty to eat.  Children got the best the state could offer.  People could afford the best health care that was available.  There was structure and regulation in society.

2. For many, life now in the Republic of Moldova is not easy.  Jobs are scarce.  Around one-fourth of the population works outside the country.  Housing, food, and health care are expensive.  There are societal issues that were never a problem under the Soviet Union, for freedom is only as good as the personal responsibility of those who live under its banner.

3. Because of the above two points, many Moldovans, especially the older generation, talk of their life under the Soviet Union as the “good old days.”  If they did not personally experience the oppression in the past, it is easy for them to look back fondly on those days.  Many would give up what they have now to go back to what they had then. 

My point: We are here to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to minister to people.  Each of those things is built on interaction with people.  If I do not understand what a person thinks, or, more importantly, why he thinks that way, I will be greatly hindered in my ministry to him.  It is crucial that my love for others is more important to me than my loyalty to my cultural ways of thinking.