Our Mission Statement

As a family of servants of God, we seek to Glorify Him by offering our lives as living sacrifices, being intentional about engaging people with Christ and the Gospel, and using the talents and training He has given us through grace to proclaim the Gospel of Grace to those near and far.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Visit, A New System... Same Calling


Hello friends and family!

We are currently gearing up for our first trip as a family back to the USA to reconnect with many of you!  Next week we will start making our way over for a  3-pronged trip.

The first week, our family will be spending some much-needed time in Fairfax with JR's side of the family.  We have not seen JR's sister's family since July of 2012 and his grandparents from California since January the same year.  Debby (JR's mother) will also be joining us after a 16 month gap in visits.  Excitement is really building for our reunion!

The second week of our trip, 6 young adults from Peterhead will join us in Fairfax.  (If you would like to read more about the plans for the Peterhead Mission Trip to the States/DR, please CLICK HERE.)

The third week, JR and 3 of the Scots will head to the Dominican Republic with a team from Fairfax. At that time, the children and Daisha will head to Arkansas to reconnect with the Stockstill-side of the family.  Daisha's sister's family will be meeting up with them in Searcy where Gideon and Naomi will get to meet their youngest cousin for the first time!  There is also a plan to head up to Branson and connect with many more Stockstills. :)


Fairfax church of Christ's involvement in our ministry here in Peterhead continues to be the blessing we prayed for from the beginning of our exploration into being full-time, supported missionaries.  Far from being just a name on a payroll, we truly feel cared about and supported.  Their handling of our fund-raising has lifted a responsibility from our plates that frees us up for more on-the-ground ministry.





Here is a truth that we acknowledge everyday:

We could not be here doing the work we are doing without your love, support, and generosity.

Thank you.



Fairfax is changing on-line giving systems.  

For those of you who are already giving:
You will need to go in and create a new account.  This system may recognise your e-mail address, it will not know your password.


The process is really straight-forward.
1.  Follow link above.
2.  Type in your e-mail address in the box provided.  (Hit "Continue".)
3.  A pop-up box will ask you to either sign in as a "Guest" or "Create an Account".
4.  Follow the prompts. :)

If you currently do not contribute to the mission here, but would like to, this is a perfect opportunity to partner with us.

Again, thank you for partnering with us!  We hope to see many of you in our up-coming travels.

~The Sheets Family


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 2014 Catchup

I know. It’s been way, way too long since the last post. I have failed in my original goal to provide more new and information along the way. Please forgive me!

Nonetheless, we are excited about the work here and continue to really appreciate all the support we receive stateside. Thank you so much for your attentiveness and sacrifice on the behalf of this work!

After 13 months on the ground, our roles and mission have become a little clearer. I am aware (as was written a few posts ago) that the normal bell-curve of acculturation and real-work movement begins around 2-years but there are increasing signs of clarity at this point at year 1.

As I have stated, my time teaching and preaching in both small and large groups is a highlight in this work. I truly treasure my time with those in my discipleship group. To watch spiritual growth happen because of the power of His Word is an honor and a blessing. Those in their early and mid-20s are the future of the Gospel in this location, and their strength and stamina in following Jesus daily, in mind, heart, and soul, is a paramount concern of mine. It is very difficult in this post-Christian culture to maintain that desire. But God has been faithful.

Along the way at times it has been difficult to navigate the path before us. It’s funny, being a missionary. There is no real “job description”. You just have to walk forward, stumble along the way, but walk forward nonetheless. At times I have found periphery issues and concerns to take me away from the core of the work; but half the victory in the battle in the last few months has been the recognition of those marginal things and how to proceed wisely.

The relationship among the ministry team here, I feel, has strengthened for the good. To pray with and talk with those who daily minister to both believer and non-believer has been such a blessing. You can’t fake heart. And a heart for the Kingdom is clear amongst us.

There have been a number of deaths within the local body; I believe four since our time here began. Some very strong and longstanding servants of God are now resting in Paradise. The hope we have in Christ and that they showed in their last days was grand. No fear. Just hope. And joy. And to watch the response and activity that surrounds such occurrences are a blessing. The women among us are dedicated servants to Christ in the way they serve others in times of sorrow. I love our women. Our sisters. Daughters of the King.

I had the privilege of baptizing two new brothers into the death and resurrection of our Saviour and Lord. God saves. We are unworthy servants. And that is the way it should be.

In the first 13 months I have taught verse-by-verse through Mark, Galatians, and Acts to various groups. At other times we have also spent a quarter in Luke and 1 Thess 5, and are now searching the truths in Isaiah, the temptations of Jesus, and what it is to be a people of God. Daisha has been teaching through Genesis, the Gospel of Mark, and the letter of James. She will have to fill you in on her thoughts in future posts. But this is true: His Word will not return void. It hasn’t.

Last September I had the blessing to talk at a youth retreat in Aberdeen. Looking back, I pray fruit is seen from the messages and time I shared with the 80-100 or so that were present.

We have become closer and closer to a local business owner and his family in recent months. We've been to their homestead. We use his coffee shops as our “office” many times. Out of the 150 or so lessons I have taught here, I lost count how many were prepared there. It is also a wonderful place for meeting new people, holding small groups, and counseling others through life and faith.

We are really looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us regarding a few other non-believing young families we have been engaging with. We met them through our children, who befriended their children. Our children are missionaries. They do great work. We are so very proud of them. And it is through their fruit of relationships we have been able to reach others with the Word of Christ. We are really looking forward to the home group time to come, where we can engage with them further. We know it is God working in us, because on one particular occasion the normal salty language was peppered with comments like “you seem at peace… we want that.” This only comes from what is inside.

We are ready to engage with Fairfax further, as a team of 6 Scottish young adults will accompany us to Fairfax for about 9 days this summer. Following that, 3 of them will continue with me and a team from Fairfax to the Dominican Republic. This is the first of its kind for all of the Scottish disciples, and for the Peterhead church. I know what God did to us during our time in the Philippines, and I know the impact the DR had on Daisha well before that. I am cautiously hopeful for the time to come in Fairfax and the DR for this crew. To be a church, no matter the size, is to be not only hearers, but doers and senders/goers. I pray we see lasting fruit from our time that will spur on greater things in the months and years that follow. To be a church is to be on mission; locally and throughout the world.

I don’t think we comprehended the toll of the darkness. How literal darkness can spread inward. The winter here wasn’t bad weather-wise. But having only 5 hours or so of light a day for a time was taxing on the soul. The light is gaining fast now, though. And before we know it we’ll have about 18 hours of light a day. We’ll definitely take that. We feel a sense of rejuvenation and encouragement as the light gains. Funny how that happens.

If there is one regret that I have, it is a regret due to expectations on us that, admittedly, I tend to place upon us. I still do not believe I am as bold and “busy” as I need to be. Sometimes I am and wouldn’t you know it, it works rather well. But other times, for some reason, I feel prevented. Whether it is the Spirit or my own flesh halting my lips and my feet I do not always know. But there is always that thought in the back of my mind that says: “you should be doing more”. I can’t help it. I seek clarity there.

As the weeks and months pass, we will want to share individual stories (as appropriate); just quick tidbits here and there about our interactions, thinking, and insights as we continue in the field. I pray we are faithful in this endeavor!

We want you to be blessed through this. More to come!

We love you.

Justified by faith –
The Sheets

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Flow of Reflections

As we approach the 11-month mark since our move to Peterhead, there are many directions this post can go. But I’ll let the mind and heart guide what will flow out of my fingers.

It has been an amazing ride so far; with challenges expected and challenges unforeseen; joys had and disappointments clear. I (Jr) have grown in my patience and pastoral abilities; as God has chosen to gift each. I love teaching the Word of God. The more I do it the more I love not only doing it, but the more I grow closer to God. As a missionary (and we as a missionary family); it often seems that at times we’re on God’s team but we fail to stay connected to the Head Coach as often as possible. So many ideas; so many ways to move forward; so many people we care about here; the mind is always racing 100kph. Get out of the head! Oh… and then there is my own precious family.

It has become increasingly clear that my “niche” of giftedness is in preparation for teaching and preaching; the act of teaching and preaching; and with discipleship training in small groups and one-on-ones. I also love the pastoral work of counseling; reconciliation-guiding; encouraging; listening… and as it turns out the way I do these things also fits nicely into discipleship.

How do we follow Jesus in this increasingly wicked and twisted generation? The West is dark. Europe; UK; America. So very, very dark. Hard as rocks. But God can turn rocks into children of Abraham.

We have been able to see some amazing spiritual growth in a group of people. Oh to see God at work is such a joy! I baptized my son early last fall. He is now my brother. We fist pump and everything. I also baptized another new brother into Christ in December, and the growth I have seen in Him is nothing short of divinely inspired. It was, among other influences, the Gospel of Mark. Thirty-two lessons to walk through the text. And go figure, the Word did its work. The Holy Spirit is moving; shining and blowing into the darkness of this world.

Never doubt God is working. Ever. Never doubt His Word. Ever.

The desire that has increased among those we are involved with is so inspiring. People crave the Word. People crave the Christ. I need to stay focused on that, and on them.

Jesus. How did He do it? When He exasperatingly asked, “how long am I to put up with you?” – what was He feeling? And Paul. He was in Corinth for just 3 months and wanted to get out of town. It took a dream from God to tell Him to stay.

Jesus. The way He did ministry. I’m growing increasingly inspired by the way He did things. A series of concentric circles of relationships and connections. He would teach the big crowds filled with onlookers and disciples concerning the Kingdom of God and following Him; realizing that many simply wanted their fill of bread. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Then He had His Twelve. His closest Twelve. The ones He called to follow Him, and they did. He would be more intimate with them; and even though they didn’t fully understand; the desire was there to stay and follow and listen and grow.

Then He had the three; Peter, James, and John. He took them to special places the other nine were not invited to. Healing people; and climbing mountains to see the confirmation from the Father that Jesus was greater than Moses (the Law) and Elijah (all the prophets).

And of course, he would leave those who needed Him most just to have time with the One. In the Spirit with the Father. The Trinity, alone together. Imagine the peace and glory in moments like those.

I love these circles. It works.

He would walk among the sinners; eat and dine with them. I love this. Isn’t this what we are supposed to do? And so we do here. Those who maybe had a little experience with “church” back in the day (30 years ago) but rejected it outright before they were ten. And those who have no clue or record about Jesus and the Gospel. We have increasingly engaged with couples in the “middle-stage” of life; which is our own (30s/40s). We meet a lot through our children and it doesn’t take long for the inevitable question to be asked: “Why are you here?”

It’s because of our accent. We’re the ones who sound different here.

And so without hiding, we say why we are here and what for; and it strikes many as very odd. “Why?” They will ask. “Because we want to introduce people to Jesus,” we think to say. Though admittedly, it doesn’t always come out that way.

In these places of contact is where we are most encouraged and see the greatest opportunity. Watching young adults in their late teens and 20s really start to “get it” about what it is to follow Jesus. Middle-aged adults increasingly aware of their own emptiness; and they seek the peace. Home Bible-studies beginning. Older-generations and their growth in grace. It’s all happening.

We have found very clearly that people are interested in the Jesus of the Gospels. They can see right through the other versions: The Jesus we make in our own image; the Jesus of Hollywood; the Jesus of the 21-century pseudo-intellectual liberal emotional zeitgeist. Those versions of Jesus are lame.

They really are lame. And weak. And fake. People want to know about Jesus. The one in the Bible. The rough, loving, brutal, true, uncomfortable Jesus.

Also: Christianity. Not Churchianity. We follow a man; a God-man --- not a “system” or subjective cultural construct. Church is a healing place for the sinner; not a rest home for the righteous. It is a place to worship the God of the Bible; not manufacture an idol of comfort in the mind.

We love the work here so far. We were taught about the bell-curve of cultural experience. I think I mentioned it in the last post or something. Two-years, they say, before one feels settled enough to really move forward in the work. I’m too impatient for that. Honestly. God might be too.

Our support (probably many of you reading this) is tremendous and Godly. Sometimes I shake thinking about the thousand-plus people who are engaged with us in one-way or another. The congregations supporting us and invested in this work are models, I believe, for how missionary works should be attempted. Growth needed? Sure. But my family is well taken care of. The genuine concern for our own spiritual health and the spiritual health of the work is top-notch. And the people are engaged. God’s people. What a family! --- and to all those friend and family who support and keep tabs on us. It’s very humbling, and frightening. In a good way.

As we approach the end of year one; we are excited for 2014. Some things are becoming clearer and we are growing increasingly desirous to see how God will work. He is Spirit. He blows wherever He wishes and we do not always know where He is going or when He is going to go. But man is it fun (and frustrating?) to be a part of!

Teaching, preaching, discipleship. So much wrapped up in each of those three areas; but there it is just now. People are entering the Kingdom. People are following Jesus. What will God do next?

The people for whom Christ died are here. We’ve seen it. May their number be added.

“… if only I might finish my course, and complete the work I was given to do to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God…”

---

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 2013: Finding Our Way. And Pray!

First, we apologize for the long delay in blogging. We know that we had a goal of once-a-month entries but that has not happened. A part of us feels like with all the social media contacts, the recent visit from FXCC, the video-chatting, and all the rest that we have been apart of, the blog can be kind of redundant. However, we know this is not the case and that many more wish to get caught up on everything. Here’s an attempt at that! :)

Recently, there has been a lot of recollection about how we are “finding our way” here. This is still being done. After looking through some notes I had, Daisha and I were blessed to be reminded how we learned from Dr. Stan Granberg (lifelong missionary in Africa and current Executive Director of Kairos Church Planting in Portland, Oregon). He taught us a few things while at grad school, including how it was shown that in such a work as this (though nothing is “fixed”), it can take up to 2 (two!) years (years!) to be enculturated enough re: language/socialization, social rhythms, message formulation, and on-the-ground ministry experience to actually get to any form of being “settled”. We’ve been here a total of 5-6 months now so we are well into our first year; and in this it becoming more and more true for us. So in this first year we know that we are to be concerned mostly with family issues, mission issues, and target-people issues. This is a huge step in “finding our way” in year one. Then after the first two years, it is usually not until years 3-7 that systematic evangelism is fully established, church-growth and planting is seen, some kind of stabilization occurs in life and ministry, and the fruits of maturity are recognized. Then there are the issues built in underneath each of those items: Leadership, communication, teaching, fellowship, planning, vision casting, relationships, counseling, family dynamics, education, structural and ministry diversification, base building, etc. Again, no times are fixed, but what is clear is that this is a long-term work.

Patience, Sheets. Patience.

This kind of knowledge of a Holy Spirit-led strategy is helpful as a reminder to us and to all involved in this work.

So for now here are what you can be involved with in praying for God’s Kingdom here in this place:

An increased desire and heart for vision and mission within us and the congregation. Many servants of Peterhead have gone before us and are active today. We are blessed mightily to be a part of something like this at this time in history. But where do we go from here? An engaged and intentional look at what God’s work in this world is (through His Word); how we have seen God move and work most recently; and a recognition of the post-Christian realities around us; all melded together – shaken and stirred – and out comes a purpose, a direction, a vision, and working partners. Pray that the Holy Spirit will be our guide and that when He moves, we will move; even if it is risky, new, intense, or all the above. Pray for wisdom and discernment and a Spirit of unity, peace, love, desire, and commitment.

Pray that the fire that God is burning in the hearts of the young here who are craving the Word more and more will flame up all the more! To see the desire is so uplifting! To know the labor put in to these youth by Billy Strachan is humbling and encouraging as well. There is planting. There is watering. There is growth. We will fit in wherever on the line God so determines!

Thus, my days are loaded with teaching and discipleship time (preparation and/or engagement). There have been nights lasting until 2-3am in committed study or counsel. So pray for my mental health and stamina. I love (LOVE) doing this work, but at the same time our family must be of first importance in ministry. So pray also that we don’t neglect each other; and that our home will continue to be a home of laughter, togetherness, and love.

Pray for the non-believers who have continued to come in to the on-going work with Billy; and the new ones who I have had the wonderful opportunity to help guide already. God is moving in the hearts of unbelievers here. And this is a huge reason for us being here anyway (of course!). So pray that God moves to change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36).

Pray for the young families we are continuing to befriend; couples as well as single mothers. Brothers and sisters, there is so much darkness in the stories of many. Oh that they come to know the light of Christ and the fresh air of peace found in the gospel! Pray we are bold in our friendships, relationships, and witness.

Pray for our children. Oh how precious Gideon and Naomi are to the Lord. We know it. We see it. But they have already met resistance for being who they are; as Gideon especially is bold in his language about why we are here. This doesn’t fit in an ever-increasing God-ignoring culture. We love them so much. Pray for their strength and that God will keep them in His mighty arms as they interact with their friends.

Pray for the disciple-making. This work is built in-to all the other works, but it is a work that is not just about disciple-making, but in training new and old disciples to then become disciple-makers! In our day there is no more room or time for pew sitters. God wants disciples! “Follow me…” He said.

Pray for the other leaders here and their works. Those like the aforementioned Billy Strachan, and of course Michael Gaunt. Pray for their families, as the ministry has, can, and will take a toll on any man. Pray for their families – the spiritual health, mental health, and physical health. Pray for continued strength and the on going seeing of fruit from their decades of work here as faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

Pray for those here who are suffering physically. There are many who are struggling with various ailments.

Thank God for the FXCC campaign, and for leaders like Phil McKinney, Sammie Young, Andy Morris, the Millers, and many more. The teens at FXCC are something unique and special; and the fruit of their labor here is springing up. In many ways we are trying to keep up and decipher what exactly is happening! :)

Thank you, dear reader, for your support. Whether you support us in prayer or in prayer and finances, we thank you. We love you. We NEED YOU.

As I said a couple weeks ago, we must be a people of powerful intentional prayer. This world is at war; and we cannot treat prayer like it is some domestic intercom. We must treat prayer for what it is: Firepower from above. Alone we are hopeless and without strength. With God’s power nothing can stop us; any of us! So please pray specifically, and with intentionality, and with desire, and with forcefulness, and with love at the core. Be bold in your prayers! 

Love you all – The Sheets

---

Monday, June 17, 2013

Johnny Coull and His Boats

This is John Coull (pronounced "cool"). He's a former fisherman and a lover of the Gospel. And well, he is a pretty cool guy too. He builds model boats from scratch, piece by piece, and either sells them or races them. You should see how detailed they are. I really enjoy getting up in his attic (I have to duck) and checking out his latest creations. And I'm looking forward to catching a race soon!




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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Physical vs. Spiritual Worldview and its Affect on Missions (Part 2 of 2)

See Part 1 of "Physical vs. Spiritual Worldview and its Affect on Missions" below this post (or, click here).

Continuing from the previous post... 
Our worldview: Why do second things become first and first things become second? Because we have exchanged a spiritual worldview for a different worldview; a cultural worldview that views life and the world through dollars and cents; through the physical, rather than through the Spirit of Jesus.  

Being a missionary in Scotland I can testify to the true nature of this issue...
Because we are such a materialistic people, the first question asked to us when we told others where we were going was usually: “Why Scotland?” And it is not hard to assume the underlying assumption behind that question: “They are first world; they have money and technology and cars and food; and aren’t they Christian anyway? I mean it’s not poor folk in Africa or SE Asia with buckets of mud. It’s Scotland.”

As much as we would deny it, the glasses of materialism have tainted our view of missions. It was difficult speaking to people at first. This, when so many missionaries that we personally know, love, and support are in or are going to places like Bolivia, South America; or Tanzania, Africa; or various places in China; or the Philippines; or Thailand; or Vietnam. Scotland, or anywhere in Europe, just doesn’t sound as “missionary” as those other places. And why? Well, for the most part it comes down to this: First world economy vs. third world/semi-third world economy. The question asked has little to do at first with the spiritual reality on the ground, but is filtered through, as Gary said, a “cultural worldview that views life and the world through dollars and cents; through the physical, rather than through the Spirit of Jesus.”

Yes, Scotland has a first-world economy (though it’s still a bit different from the US). But it also has the following spiritual realities:
1)According to a European Commission “Eurobarometer” study, in 2005 only 38% of the UK population believed in “a God” while 40% believed in a “life force” (whatever that means). In other words, 13 years ago, about 60% of the UK were more or less non-believers; and we cannot automatically assume that belief in “a God” equals biblical Christianity either.
2)According to a British Social Attitudes Survey by the National Centre for Social Research, in 2009 only about 43% would self-declare as “Christian” on a form (that is, check a box – not necessarily go to church or follow Jesus).
3)In 2009, a study showed that 66% (a full 2/3rds) of all teenagers would self-declare as either atheist or agnostic. This is the next generation.
4)With all this, trends are showing that by 2025 (that’s just 12 years from now), only about 25% of all people in the UK will even self-declare as “Christian” on a form. If we conservatively half that number for actual attendees of churches and practicing followers of Jesus, we can foresee perhaps only 10-15% of the UK population as regular church attendees and disciples of Jesus by the year 2025.
5)The fastest growing belief systems in the UK are atheism and Islam (the latter mostly by immigration, women marrying Muslim men, and the prison population).

If we look at other countries in Europe we see the following according to the same 2005 Eurobarometer study. Belief in “a [general] God”: Estonia (16%); Czech Republic (19%); Sweden (23%); Denmark (31%); Norway (32%); Netherlands (34%); United Kingdom (38%); etc.

What worldview do we have when we consider missions? May the Lord of the harvest send out laborers into His harvest in Estonia! In the Czech Republic! To Sweden, Denmark, and Norway!

Here’s another amazing reality to leave you with, and it deals directly with what Gary talked about. Consider this: For those who at least “attend services” in Scotland, the majority of those belong to the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian by tradition. Now consider this: There were more Presbyterians worshipping last week in Ghana, Africa then there were in Scotland. 

Read that again. There were more Presbyterians worshiping in Ghana than there were worshiping in the highest attended Church of Scotland.

But I ask: Which would the US Church mobilize quicker for; or which mission-front do you believe would receive greater support? Scotland – or Ghana?

How about Maine? Vermont? Rhode Island? - or Ghana?

May we put on the glasses of the Spirit of Jesus and either go or support those who will to both first world and third world!

Grace be with you -
Jr

[I do want to close with this note: Fairfax Church of Christ (along with Falls Church Church of Christ and dozens of friends and family), was quick to hop on board with this mission and has become well aware of the reality on the ground in the UK. FXCC has supported work in the Czech Republic (as well as the Dominican Republic and China). And many in the congregation have lived all around Europe and have noted the drastic spiritual change and decline in just the last 15-20 years. I’m glad to say they “get it.” We are very blessed to be with them on this mission.]