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A cloud of Witnesses- Adoniram Judson

Anthony Elswick

On Tuesday I got the opportunity to share at The Collective, the combined youth group of three churches, two of which, are partners of ours.  My talk was on the heart of missions and as an illustration I shared the story to Adoniram Judson.  Adoniram was the first missionary sent from America.  He spent over 30 years as a missionary in Burma which was ruled by a dictator who didn’t much like westerners. But he didn’t fancy going alone, he wanted to get married to a woman named Ann.  In those days, you had to ask the father’s blessing before you could marry so Adoniram penned him a short but powerful letter which you can read below. 

Ok, so let’s just pause there and I want you to put yourself in Adoniram’s shoes and consider what you would say to a father when you are going to take his little princess on a wooden ship to the other side of the world to be missionary.  This was in the early 1800’s before vaccines, airplanes and such.  I don’t know about you but I probably wouldn’t begin it this way…

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world?” (emphasis added).

That’s pretty crazy, right?  Oh… it gets better…

“Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?” (emphasis added).

Adoniram sure was slick, right?  Well, he was honest anyway!  He wanted the father to know exactly what he was getting his daughter into!  The ending of his letter is perhaps its most powerful part:

“Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?”

Adoniram was convinced that sacrificing in this life so that others can have eternal life was a perfectly reasonable transaction because he already knew he was going to have an eternity in glory. 

They’re story of sacrifice and hard work is amazing!  If you want to read more, John Piper wrote a relatively short but powerful bio here or you can read one of the longer biographies of his life available at amazon (that’s what I would recommend).

When We Aren't So Brave

Anthony Elswick

At first it came as a surprise, but now I know to expect it that one of the way’s that people will react to us telling them that we are moving to Nicaragua is to say that we are brave.  The idea of moving a family to a third world country that was in civil war during my lifetime is not one people generally consider.  I like to remind people that the war is over and that Nicaragua has the safest Latin American capital and such but, if I’m honest, we still have fears. 

It shouldn’t be all that big of a surprise that our biggest fear is for the girls.  We’ve homeschooled them for a reason and sheltering them was certainly one of them.  They’ve been raised in a safe little small town close to extended family and they are happy.  So, yeah, it’s pretty scary to upset the apple cart when things are going well.  I’ve heard one statistic about children raised overseas, that they don’t follow the typical bell shaped curve of success that most people do, where there are a few people who are really successful and a few who are really unsuccessful and most end up in the middle.  Instead they tend to either be really successful or really unsuccessful.  So the pressure is on to help them land towards the positive side.

During one of our trainings, MTW told us that the single largest factor of whether kids thrive or fail on the field is their father.  While it’s nice to know I am important it also ratchets up the pressure.  Of course, knowing that means that it is important to plan to balance my schedule enough so that I get to spend adequate time with the girls.  After all, I won’t see myself as successful if in my efforts all of Nicaragua is saved but my kids aren’t.

The main hope I have for my kids, though, is not in my ability as a parent but in God’s grace and sovereignty.  Our fears can be debilitating if we don’t realize that the God who died a horrible death for us is the same one who orchestrates the events of our life.  All the great men and women of God whom I have looked up to and have wanted to emulate have a particular characteristic in common: they trusted the Lord implicitly.  And who else should we trust?  I may be on the conceited side, but even I know that I’m not good enough or strong enough… but I serve a God who is!  So we have fears, but our God is greater than our fears!

What Made the Cut - God's Smuggler

Anthony Elswick

When we moved out of our house we had to get rid of all non-essential items.  We don’t have a lot of room for luxury items because we have limited space.  That means that for every item we keep another item has to be left behind.  I owned a lot of books and so I had to downsize significantly… now I own fewer books.  However, one of the books that I kept was “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew.  If this book doesn’t inspire you – check your pulse!

 I still remember sitting in my bed, junior year of high school, and pouring over the pages.  Someone from my church worked for Open Doors Ministry which was founded by Brother Andrew and he gave me my first copy.  Of course, I say my first because I have given it away so many times that I’ve bought several.  I can’t think of another book that I have owned so many copies of!  I walked away from reading this book with a bigger view of God, His power and His work.

What is so amazing about this book?  It’s the true story of the daring life of Brother Andrew who smuggled bibles into countries where owning a bible was a crime worthy of torture.  He was risking it all.  In some ways it was no risk at all, because he trusted in the hand of God and accepted that God would be good whether He protects him or not.  Through its pages, you experience the tragedy of a Christian life without a Bible, the excitement of hair raising escapes, and come face to face with God’s amazing faithfulness.  This book looks you in the face and dares you not to trust God with everything!  Please do yourself a favor and read this book.  If you ask me before I leave, I might have an extra copy you can have.


Reflections from the Road VI - The Peacock and The Hubcap

Anthony Elswick

Every now and again, God doubles up on his lessons.  After realizing that I has left my wallet in Winter Haven while parked at Holiday Park in the Everglades (you can read about here), I noticed a peacock.  I was driving slow, looking at the peacock and thinking about the peacock’s vanity and then my own when all of a sudden, I felt a bump!  I had just run over something!  I nervously got out of my car, wondering what the penalty was for running over an alligator, if the alligator would be alive enough to bite me and if any of the bystanders were going to capture it all on their cell phones, when I saw it.  I hadn’t run over an alligator or any animal for that matter.  I had run over my own hubcap!

That’s right, the Missions Mobile lost yet another hubcap this time while people watched.  I grabbed it and quickly put it on the passenger seat then drove off feeling more than a bit sheepish.  The ole’ Missions Mobile is not much of a looker to begin with, but I still managed to be embarrassed about its changed state.  Although I am going to be getting rid of it when we move and I try to gain comfort by reminding myself that its beauty comes from the fact that it’s paid off, I still feel humbled by its physical state.

Isn’t that crazy?  Of all the things that can define us or that we can put our value in, a beater car has to be among the silliest.  I’m just thankful that part of this process of pursuing missions allows me to isolate those fears and hopefully grow in them.  Of course, we should put our treasure in Heaven and we should find our value in the identity we bear in our adoption by Christ but sometimes I don’t.  Praise the Lord that even though I tend to get caught up in vanity, he gently reminds me what is really important… by allowing me to lose a hub cap every now and again!

What I Love About Raising Support - Vol 3

Anthony Elswick

As a part of our support raising efforts, we get to spend a lot of time with new people.  The vast majority of times these encounters are positive.  Of course, there are those times when people want to tell us all their missionary kids horror stories, and by the sound of it, every binge drinking college student must have been a MK… homeschooled… or both.  Sometimes these encounters go above and beyond and the people become a huge and ongoing source of encouragement.

We met one couple and their kids at an event and got to spend a lot of time talking to them and our kids got to play with their kids.  They had been missionaries before and so we got to hear some of their war stories.  It was amazing how quickly we felt bonded to them.  Abigail said it best as we were leaving that event, “I didn’t know you could become such good friends so fast!”  They even chose a creative way to join our support team, by donating a portion of their business’ profits.

If we didn’t have to raise support we would never have met this amazing couple.  Of course, it shouldn’t be a total surprise, God calls us to a mission and as we join together in that mission our hearts get intertwined.  Naturally, you can’t help but like people who love the same things as you do but that force becomes even more powerful when aided by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Having strangers become good friends is one of the things that I love about raising support!

Team Elswick - The Back Story

Anthony Elswick

Today is a really significant day for me because it’s Amber’s birthday!  Of course, there was a time when her birthday wasn’t a big deal to me at all… there were 20 of those in fact.  So for Amber’s birthday, I figured I would share part of Team Elswick back story – so that you can learn how I came to celebrate September 16th.

It all goes back to the Maccabees… just kidding!  No, it was sophomore year… my first year at Florida’s premier institution of higher education - University of Central Florida.  I had met Amber through the Baptist Collegiate Ministries and was really impressed.  Not only was she beautiful AND a strong Christian she was also a rare breed in that she wanted to be a missionary.   I still needed to get to know her better, though, so being the slick gentleman that I am, I found out her favorite book and proceeded to read it (more or less).  I was “so moved by the book” that I asked her to coffee to get her thoughts on it.  So, there we were at one of the three Starbucks in the Waterford Lakes Plaza, talking about the Lord and missions and I was sold.

Now, what you need to know, is that although I was sold on her… she wasn’t sold on me.  We hung around the same group of friends and over the next couple of weeks I strutted around like Gaston planning our first date, marriage and subsequent conquest of the world for Christ.  What could go wrong, right?  So on a fateful Thursday night, I couldn’t push asking her out off any further (because I had a group of friends coming in town who were pressuring me to ask her out already) and she said… yes!  Luckily, nothing did go wrong, because in God’s providence, Amber decided that she liked me only the night before!  What a difference a day makes!

Well, I have celebrated her birthday every year since and plan to until the day I die!

What Made the Cut - Evidence Not Seen

Anthony Elswick

With our impending move to Nicaragua coming up we have had to jettison a lot of my books, only keeping those that were significant to me in one way or another.  “Evidence Not Seen” by Darlene Deibler Rose is one of those books.  It’s the autobiography of a young missionary woman who moves to Dutch New Guinea with her new husband before the outbreak of World War 2. After the Japanese capture the Islands, all the missionaries are put in internment camps.  The main bulk of the book is about her harrowing time in the camp and how her faith sustained her.

In the acknowledgments page of the books she says that she wrote the story primarily for her two boys.  “I wished them to know if ever difficult circumstances came into their lives, that their mother’s God is still alive and very well, and His arm has never lost its ancient power!”  That’s one of the reasons why this book has made the cut and we are taking it with us.  One day, I hope my girls will find this book on our shelf, read it and have their faith strengthened.  I know mine was when I read it!

The thing about this story that I really love is that Darlene doesn’t seem like an extraordinary person but an ordinary person who had extraordinary faith in an extraordinary God.  I hope that her example will encourage my girls that regular people can overcome great odds because we serve a God whose “arm has never lost its ancient power.”  You should definitely read this book, but you can’t borrow my copy, its coming to Nicaragua with me!

Reflections from the Road - Vol. V

Anthony Elswick

If you drive west on Griffin Road in Cooper City, Fl eventually, you’ll pass through US 27 and dead end into Everglades Holiday Park.  The park is fairly small, there are some boat slips, they give airboat rides, and there is a gift shop.  I happen to know about this park because my dad and I used to buy worms there when we would go fishing and one time I went on an airboat ride from there. 

Recently, I was there to find a little alligator souvenir for the girls, perhaps something stuffed or a book about the everglades.  But when I looked around the gift shop, I realized something was missing – specifically, my wallet.  The dark truth hit me, I had driven 3½ hours from Winter Haven to Fort Lauderdale without any means of paying for my gas home.  I didn’t have my driver’s license, my debit card, or credit card.  My only hope for food was to use my Starbucks phone app to get lunch, and that was only if they hadn’t sold out of food items.

Before I could figure that out though, I had a meeting with a local church. The meeting went well, but in the back of my mind, I was wondering how I was going to get home… perhaps the church would be moved by God to give me some cash.  Nope!  The meeting went well and all but no money changed hands.  No major miracles happened.

But one minor miracle happened.  I went to a local branch of my bank and introduced myself.  I explained my situation, hoping they could use the photo they had on record for me as an I.D..  Did I have my driver license, they asked?  Nope. Did I have any photo ID? Still no.  They had me fill out a withdraw slip and sign it.  Did the signature match what my bank had on record?  Nope.  Did my second try?  Still no.  Finally, they asked me to tell them some personal banking info… Yes!  Yes, I could do that!  They gave me the cash I needed and the rest of the trip went off without a hitch.

The moral of the story – sometimes God works out minor miracles through practical means.  That, and the signature at your bank DOES actually matter (or so I’m told).

Let’s Read the Bible Together!

Anthony Elswick

My home church, Church of the Redeemer Winter Haven, encourages us to read the bible together using their Community Bible Reading program.  You read one chapter in the Old Testament and one chapter in the New Testament.  If you follow the program, you will read through the New Testament each year and the Old Testament in three years.  It’s a long commitment but we can do it together!

If you don’t have a regular reading plan or devotional why not join us?  I’ll be writing a short devotional based on one of the chapters each day (it will be posted under the Community Bible Reading page on our website) and you can chime in with your thoughts as well.  We’ll also have a Team Elswick prayer item that we would love for you in prayer for that day.  Because of where we are in the schedule we will be starting Daniel tomorrow but will already be in the middle of Ephesians. 

I hope you’ll join us!

What I Love About Raising Support

Anthony Elswick

Early on in the support raising process I was given an exciting opportunity.   If I could raise enough support to get on MTW’s health insurance, two churches would come together and create a yearlong internship for me so that I could leave my job at the hospital and focus on raising support, going through MTW’s pre-field training, and to spend time learning from my local pastors.  It was an amazing opportunity.

A couple of weeks before the informal deadline I learned that there was a problem… in order to get on MTW’s insurance our support account would need to have a positive balance.  However, everyone in MTW starts out with a negative support balance in order to pay for our evaluation and training.  This meant that we were about $4,000 in the hole. 

That evening, as I was thinking about things and feeling down, I remembered that there was an old friend who I needed to call back.  I was hesitant to make the call, though, because I was a bit overwhelmed by the news but in the end I decided that I should.  We talked for a couple of hours, catching up and I got to share what I was going to be doing in Nicaragua.  At the end of the phone call, without my prompting, my friend told me that he had a check ready for me… and that it would more than cover our deficit.

What a great testimony to God’s faithfulness and His answering to prayer that our situation could be reversed in the course of one phone call.  Raising support puts you in a place where you are always dependent on God’s hand moving in people’s hearts in order to get to the field.  Seeing God’s faithfulness first hand is one of the things that I love about support raising.