Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thank you!

"It was a blast, God was truly exalted, seeds were planted for the kingdom, and we had a great time!" That is typically the answer given to the expected question, "how was your trip?" The experience that the seventeen of us shared in Albania this past month cannot be fully grasped in a few short paragraphs, but with God's help I pray the following will give a tiny glimpse into the ministry that God directed through us this past July, and is continuing as we speak.

Since last November God has been graciously molding the seventeen of us for His ministry this summer. Whether it was devotions from our team leader, team outings and meetings, or merely "hanging out," God's hand in the preparation of our team became more evident to us while we served in Albania than before we left. As the ministry exists, our primary focus was building relationships with students and peers, and then sharing with them the love of Christ exampled primarily in the message of His death and resurrection. As we were allowed to teach english at a foreign language center, the students in our classes were given the opportunity to hear the amazing truth of the gospel as we spent time with them outside of class. At the beginning of our first week of ministry, many of us were shocked with the fact that our first students were no more than 12 years old. This concern quickly disappeared when over 40 kids came to a youth rally we put together! After hearing worship music, a skit, a gospel presentation, and a real-life testimony from a team member, God's abounding kindness was exampled to us through the innocent and pressing questions of these kids. "Have you ever heard this before?" we asked. "I've been to a church before, but I've never heard about Jesus like this."

In the following weeks the ministry turned from ice cream with kids to coffee with teenagers and young adults, yet God's faithfulness was equally as prevalent. As countless opportunities for ministry opened up almost daily, it's clear that every situation was another opportunity to glorify our Lord still more. Almost every situation was another open door to share with people the glorious message of the cross. From playing basketball, helping at a pre-school, painting an orphanage, or even eating fast-food, God's sovereignty in the proclamation of His Word became more obvious with every passing moment. As seeds were planted, God's goodness and grace will only be illuminated still more through His people that remain in Albania.

Picnics, outings, evangelistic field trips, and every other means of spending time with people was the constant focus of every motion of our team, and our prayer is that the unchanging goodness of our God would not pass from our minds here at home. As jobs pick back up and school starts soon, it will be easy for us to quickly forget what we've learned in the past month. As God grows each one of us more for the advancement of His church, we will always remember the dear brothers and sisters on this team, and in Albania. We speak of "our team" as the seventeen Americans that left Los Angeles, but there are countless people across the globe that were invaluable to the effectiveness of God's ministry through us. To Robb, thank you for your faithfulness over the past thirteen years and your willingness to share this amazing opportunity with us. To Genci, thanks for your unfailing dedication to serving the church and our hearts in countless ways. To Peter, thank you for serving us during our time there, and all the preparation before and during our time in Albania. And to all of those who supported us in this unforgettable opportunity, THANK YOU, and grace to you on behalf of our team, and all those who have and continue to benefit from your ministry this summer. Lastly, it's the unfailing prayer of all of us that before all things our holy God and sovereign Maker would be exalted and worshipped more than ever before! Once again, thank you for everyone's patience and diligence in serving our amazing Savior in this way, we look forward to seeing all of your faces soon. "
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care of how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:7,10-11).

Because of grace,

Morgan Pixley

Monday, July 11, 2005

2 Screwdrivers, an Outlet, and a Hubcap

Walking through the market yesterday my friend Roger said, "look at that guy over there, all he has to sell is 2 screwdrivers, an outlet, and a hupcap - what's his secret? How does he get by?" As I sit here watching a missionary's Land Rover get pelted with rain, I can't help but think about the state of the church here in this tiny post-communist nation. I hear many people here, many university students, speak about getting an education - or even going to America in order to get a "better life." It is a glorious but tragic reality that outside of the grace and sovereignty of our Great God there will be nothing better. Someone once said, "for a believer, earth is the only hell we will even know. While for the non-Christian, earth is the only heaven they will ever know." Life is not going to get better. Your country is not going to get better. Nothing in this world is ever going to "get better." As the song says, In Christ Alone our hope is found. Some say I'm pessimistic. Others tell me that I can't say these things to an unbeliever because it will "make them feel hopeless." I surely hope so. It should be our prayer that every unbeliever would realize, truly understand, the gravity of their decision to rebel against their Creator, and to be reconciled to God! Paul said in 2 Corinthians that it's as if God were pleading through us! Friends, our team is witnessing here everyday the utter depression of an entire nation. The devastating effects of a people told that there is no God. I have an endless list of people willing to explain to me the absurd notion that God doesn't exist, and the earth and all things in it came about by a random act of a cosmic lottery. It is absolutely disgusting, even sickening, the hopelessness seen on the faces of the children here. But to what end? Do we throw them a few bucks and say, "have a good day?" Do we walk around like gods expecting for everyone to listen to the Americans - simply because by some incomprehensible act of grace we, children of the Devil, were allowed to grow up in a free and prominent nation? By no means. It is mine and the prayer of everyone on this team that we would only seek to example the love of Jesus to these people. Whether they are 8 years old or 80, the reality remains the same. If they do not recieve Jesus Christ as their King, are supernaturally transformed from self-serving, self-loving, self-worshipping people into ones that seek to know God, and to truly worship Him as God, they will die and be sentenced a punishment that has not yet been paid for. As I write this I can't help but get mental pictures, knowing so many of you are at this very moment praying for us, and specifically for the ones that God is ministering to through our team. On behalf of all of us, and Grace Church of Tirana, thank you, thank you, thank you! One week from today the 17 of us will be going back to America, but these people are staying here. There are about 6 men ready to be trained, starting this September, to teach and preach the word. These are Albanian men who understand the importance of being trained to bring the truth of the Bible in their own tongue, to their own people. Pray for them, and pray for Southeastern European Theological Seminary. Praise be to our amazing God and His Son who paid our penalty on our behalf - because we couldn't do it for ourselves. Soli deo gloria!


"But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15).

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Why do we have trials? Why does God test our faith? James 1:3 tells us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. This idea is what the 17 of us are learning as we speak. In the past week we have come to realize that not everything is going as smoothly or easily as we had anticipated - not due to God being unfaithful or unkind - may it never be! - but merely because in our own pride and self-righteousness, we assume that we will always know the best way or the right decision to make. A few of us even in the past hours have learned by God's grace that with a team the size of ours, there will always be insurmountable ideas, opinions, and suggestions on what or how to do something. Sitting on the back porch of the Lincoln Center a few moments ago brought about a discussion between a small group of us that in every situation, without regard to the circumstances or possible consequences, we cannot seek to make decisions without first remembering that our primary objective in every situation is to FIRST bring all honor, worship, glory and exaltation to our Savior and King, Jesus Christ. There is no time in life, no situation that warrants any higher priority or thought. I echo once again Jonathan Edwards by proclaiming that our team wants to be "Resolved, that [we] will do whatsoever [we] think to be most to God's glory" (Crossroads). Some say that decisions involving other people must first take into account other's feelings or sensitivity. The Biblical reality remains the same, though it is our first priority to even eat and drink to God's glory (1Cor 10:31), these two concerns cannot be divorced from one another, rather they exist in what Pastor MacArthur calls a "divine tension." The concern for the glory of Christ and the consideration of others' sentiments is not divided, but unified in the reality that we can exalt Christ by considering other's feelings and ideas. I pray this mindset that God has put in the hearts of our team would echo throughout the next 2 weeks, and that we would continue to remind each other daily of the abounding grace of our Lord, first exampled to us on the Cross at Calvary.

Thanks to all of you for your continuing prayer and loving support of our team. It is our prayer that God's Word would continue to dwell in your hearts for His worship above every other priority that so easily creeps in due to our filthy depravity. Soli deo gloria! 2 Cor. 5:16-17

- Morgan P