Category : Mike Schrage

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Pumpkin Seeds

Do you know the principle of the pumpkin seed?

I refer to Seth Godin regularly because I really respect many of the things he writes.  In a recent blog he shared thoughts about pumpkin seeds:

“You can do two things with pumpkin seeds. Eat them, an excellent source of protein, or plant them, and watch a successful seed bring back 100 more. The farmer who plants the seeds aggressively, without regard for, “Hey, be careful, I could have eaten that seed,” often ends up with many more pumpkins and many more seeds. On the other hand, the person who guards all the seeds and then eats them ends up with not much.”

Isn’t that a great illustration of how we’re to regard the hope that we have in Christ Jesus?

Godin continues:

“Isn’t it true with us, as Christians, we can binge on the Gospel ‘seeds’ of Christian music, prosperity from living in a free-enterprise country, and freedom to worship at any time. It is true that we are supposed to consume some of this goodness and blessing, but the bulk of these ‘pumpkin seeds’ should be willingly shared with others.”

Seeds of faith, family, and funds can be shared freely, and there will be more when we give them away! The Apostle Paul says when you give them away they are “credited to your account” in heaven!

For nearly four decades, GNPI has been sowing seeds by producing and distributing relevant Christian media with unique delivery tools. We can have confidence that this seed sowing is going to produce more fruit (though I never thought of pumpkins) for the kingdom.

Praise God for his marvelous plan.

From Rock Chipping to Radio Production

“… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

— 1 Corinthians 9:22

Martin, a Sudanese Christian, visited a local missionary and GNPI partner.

He asked if he could work on a rock pile, chipping larger stones into smaller ones used in construction. This is incredibly hard and tedious work, especially under a hot, African sun! Why would Martin want to do such tiring work?

When asked, Martin he said needed extra money to hire a recording studio. His plan was to use the studio time to record Christian teaching materials he was preparing. The teaching materials would be shared on local FM radio and through mini SD cards on mobile phones!

To me, there are great illustrations of the several truths in this story:

  1. National Christians know best how to identify the spiritual needs of their communities and are willing to go to great lengths to meet them!
  2. Media is a powerful tool, boundless in ability, and able to reach hundreds and thousands of people!
  3. Mobile phones are an increasingly crucial channel of media distribution, even in a remote, desolate country like South Sudan!

Martin’s heart makes me smile. He reminded me of what Paul spoke of in the first letter he wrote to the Corinthians. Martin is chipping rocks and using all possible means to tell other Sudanese people about the “Rock” of Jesus, the One that can’t be broken, and upon whom the church will stand for eternity.

Upholding Garissa, Kenya

Recently terrorists attacked a college in Garissa, Kenya, killing 147 college students, making a statement of their hatred toward Christianity.  Garissa is located in the dry, northern part of Kenya. The news was especially disheartening for me, as Kenya was my family’s home for almost 20 years.

Though we’re hit by a torrent of emotion when we hear of devastation like this, the first thing we need to do, and the best thing we can do, is pray.  We should pray for the grieving families. We should pray for the Lord’s wisdom to guide Kenya’s government leaders as they process this act of terror. We should pray that through this devastation, hearts will be turned toward God.

That this atrocity happened around the time we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus underscores his teaching that “this is not our home.” It causes us to draw, more than ever, on a deep-seeded hope that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

In the face of all the evil the world offers, the death of our Messiah brought forth boundless joy, remarkable forgiveness, and eternal hope. The death of these students punctuates the reality that all Christ followers need to consider, that conflicts and tests of our faith are real, and will come our way at some point. These conflicts test our faith and resilience, reminding us that ultimately, God wins!

Therefore, in light of this bad news, which is temporary, let’s hold fast to our celebration of Jesus and our commitment to accelerate the Good News. That brings eternal hope.

Connecting the Dots

Has God ever connected important dots for you? He did for me not long ago.

In 2002, before I left my time of service at GNPI-Kenya in Nairobi, GNPI International Director Bob Sartoris (then production manager at GNPI-Kenya) asked me an important question.

“Mike, before you leave Kenya and resettle in the States next year, what one message would you like to leave with the Kenyan Church?”

That question birthed the production of the Swahili film, Dume Halisi (Fatherhood).

The film stresses God’s desire for African men to tend to the physical and spiritual needs of their wives and children. “Of course,” you say, but in Africa, wives were viewed only as “assets” and a means to produce children. It was a far cry from God’s design.

This film, completed using local actors, was added to dozens of Swahili films produced through GNPI-Africa’s partnerships with missionaries and African evangelists over the past two decades. I hadn’t fully realized the impact possible from these films until just recently.

A few months ago we received word from Joss, a Tanzanian evangelist. Joss said,

“Many men from the Mangat tribe here in Tanzania saw the need to change their lives after watching Dume Halisi produced by GNPI in Nairobi, Kenya. Though the film focuses mainly on men, women too felt touched by the film.”

People were not just touched by the film; they were changed.

“In all, 17 people gave their lives to Christ that day. One girl, who had been raped by her father years ago, forgave him on that very day,” Joss said.

The impact of media resounds long after the last scene of a film is produced. Eleven years later, Dume Halisi is still proclaiming biblical and relevant teaching about marriage and family.

Christ-centered media is remembered. It knows no bounds and often travels hundreds of miles across national borders to touch the eternal destiny of people we’ll never meet.

 

Only God can connect such dots!

 

Unshakable Commitment

A security guard stood outside the doors. We worshiped once inside, but it was the workshop topic announced afterward that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was titled, “How to encourage your family to stay faithful when persecuted.”

The audience was filled with men and women from northern Africa. I had read words from Jesus stating the price for following him could be persecution, but it was becoming more real to me. Pictures I had seen on CNN were a daily possibility for my friends here. I was greatly humbled I haven’t had these worries.

I thought of our partners in northern India facing persecution and of workers who have to be extremely careful in northern Africa and Southeast Asia. I remembered a NOMaD team leader, Protus, in Kenya, hiding for several days during dangerous tribal riots after the last elections.

Yet, I also remembered this: persecution and danger usually result in an unshakable faith. In fact, the prayer of many people who experience persecution is not to be removed from those situations, but that they would be able to glorify Jesus with their lives.

What an honor to serve with these heroes of the faith!

Next Generation Partners

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. — 2 Timothy 2:2

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Though not her native tongue, Angela shared in perfect English her hopes and dreams as a new international student attending Bible college. It was memorable how she started addressing our staff by saying she thought her father was handsome on the cover of our newsletter, and she wanted to go to college in order to help her father in ministry!

This is not uncommon in our experience with GNPI’s international leaders. Many times their children “catch” their passion for media and naturally help reach others. These “family traditions” are building in Angela’s home in Southeast Asia, as well as in Ukraine, Kenya, Mexico, and Thailand.

 

God’s Word is true. The passage we find in 2 Timothy 2:2 is being played out in real time, with real families. It’s an exciting story about a new generation of “living letters,” and it is creating confidence in the next generation.

Holy Ground

We have so much in America: freedom of speech, freedom to travel, and freedom of worship. I forget that simply isn’t the case in much of the world. In more than 50 nations around the world, it’s not safe to wear the name of Christ.

I was reminded afresh of my “unalienable rights” recently while traveling internationally. The discussion, in a highly guarded room, turned to persecution.

Honestly, I was overwhelmed. I felt I needed to leave (and I did). The room’s polished wooden floor was suddenly host to the suffering church, sharing her trials, and I did not feel worthy to be present.

I do not know what they discussed, but I know now more than ever the importance of the task God has given GNPI. Media is one way the Message of God can go forth and touch hearts in places where freedom of speech is wishful thinking, the freedom to travel doesn’t exist, and worshipping Christ can cost you everything in this life.

In so many places around the world, following Christ is risky and requires counting the cost. As I studied the wooden floor and felt unworthy to be in the room, it felt like I was on holy ground.

New Friend From Finland

She stopped by our booth one evening to learn about The Global Gospel. I explained the purpose of the 88 stories from the Life of Christ, and that they were free to take. She was humbled by the gift.

Then she looked at the Solar Kit on the other end of the table and asked what it did. I explained it was a solar-powered projector with speakers to play teaching materials like The Global Gospel. She asked, “But how much does it cost?”

I learned that she works with refugee children and could envision the program and the Solar Kit helping greatly. As I insisted that she could have both free of charge, she caught herself choking up, began to shed a tear, and walked away.

I assured her it was true, and that I just needed her business card so we could stay in contact. She said, “I’ll come back, this is just too much to take in, because you insist this is all free. You see, after coming out of a camp where everything comes at a cost, I just need to think about it.”

It reminded me that if I would have totally appreciated the gift of grace Jesus gave to me one winter day in 1976, I too might have been overwhelmed. Like this woman, I might have walked away wondering if it was too good to be true.

We don’t have to wonder. It was true then, and it is true today.

It’s also true that you help us offer free-of-charge programs and tools that make a difference. You are making a difference not only to the listeners in refugee camps, but also to the worker from Finland serving those refugees.

Being Found Faithful

They spoke in hushed voices in a corner. As they sipped Arabic coffee, they laughed when they felt safe. Soon, though, the conversation became serious. A little while later their eyes were closed. Some were kneeling. All were praying.

As I’ve traveled with GNPI the past few years, I’ve been privileged to experience these types of gatherings. In limited-access, dangerous countries, believers in Jesus meet to encourage one another, despite hostility toward anything Christian.

There’s a common denominator to all of these meetings – prayer.

The more persecution, the more prayer. I’m absolutely convinced it’s the fuel that’s firing growth in God’s kingdom throughout the world. We all have our strategies and cleverly designed efforts, but one thing remains more powerful than anything else: prayer.

Should I dare to say that prayer is not just the hope for growing the Church in places like the Middle East? It’s also the solution to breaking through the ambivalence we’ve seen in reaching souls for Christ in North America.

Should I go out on a limb to say that when we are faithful to practice prayer and fasting, emerging from being deeply engaged with God’s Word, we will unquestionably make disciples?

These prayers and practices tend to flourish in times of persecution. When the only thing we have is God, we tend to turn to him like never before.

What’s impressive, if not surprising, is that people in these challenging circumstances are not asking to be delivered from persecution. Instead, they ask to be found faithful in the midst of it! What if we joined them in realizing fire brings refinement, and what emerges is something very valuable.

Like we read in Scripture, our brothers and sisters building God’s Church in the midst of great tribulation knew they had found the pearl of great price. They knew it might require selling all they had.

However, they deemed the kingdom to be worth it all.

Do I?

God’s Great Transformation Story in India

unnamed-7Current research indicates that only somewhere between two and six percent of the people in India are Christian. There is a huge need for the continuing work of the Holy Spirit to transform lives from darkness to light!

Another impressive truth is that even with the small percentage of people following Christ in a populous nation like India, the aggregate number of believers makes India the eighth largest Christian population in the world! Yes, God has been working in India, even at a time when it is more and more dangerous to follow Christ!

Several years ago, a colleague in India was sharing about how the Good News was impacting the Dalits, or low caste people of India. After teaching hundreds of seekers through public teaching, then distributing recordings of the teaching through media via our GNPI regional center, several thousand Dalits made commitments to follow Jesus. A year later, several thousand more made commitments, and the stories of transformation continue!

There is still a massive need to create, share, and distribute culturally relevant, biblically based material in India. Yet, what a joy it is that we have already been involved in God’s great transformation story in the incredible country of India.

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