I Decided to Follow Jesus
It was 1968. Family tragedy had caused my mom to move us to another little town and from the only school and friends I’d known since 2nd grade; I was now in 11th grade. I came to the new school with a chip on my shoulder and an attitude that could cut glass. In time, I gathered a few friends and pursued a path of drinking, drag racing, and partying. I was an angry teenager to say the least…my poor mom.
In the spring of 1970, right before my high school graduation, my little brother, Dean, brought a tall, lanky young man to the house to get a soda. They had been playing basketball. My life was about to change dramatically. Little did I know that a movement that started in California, called the “Jesus Movement” or the “Jesus Revolution” that was sweeping across the nation was now influencing this little town in central Illinois. I heard the Gospel and the message of salvation for the first time and I made a radical commitment to Jesus. I was so excited to find out that I could know I was going to heaven! The tall, lanky young man…well, he became my husband 6 months later. Randy and I were swept up into ministry, which I knew absolutely nothing about. Fifty-three years later, the influence from that movement is still bearing fruit in my life and countless others. It’s my story.
The impact of these kinds of movements or revivals are monumental, historical events that transcend generations. We should continue to look for and expect continued moves of God as a means to impact people all over the world for Jesus! Reports are everywhere that this is happening right now across the nation and other nations as well. Don’t stand back with a we’ll see attitude. Jump in and participate. The world is hungry to hear the truth. The message of the Gospel must continue to go forth and each generation needs to feel the responsibility to influence their generation.
My theme song or mantra back then and continues to be, is the chorus we all sang exuberantly, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back…no turning back!” Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go see the newly released movie, The Jesus Revolution; it will stir your heart and light a fire of evangelism and missions fresh and new.
Did God Really Say?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
It’s the oldest lie in the Book, “Did God really say?” While it may be the oldest lie, it’s a lie that is quite contemporary. Attacks on the Word of God seem to be coming from everywhere these days. The Postmodern minds of our age don’t like absolute truth. Whether coming from the mouths of liberal bible scholars like those of the Jesus Seminar or the likes of learned men in seminaries and universities across the United States and the world, it is quite popular to cast doubt upon the authenticity and inerrancy of Scripture. We often hear of this popular “Christian” musician or that one, “deconstructing his or her faith.” While I can’t pretend to know the personal struggles, battles, or anything else of anyone else, I would be willing to wager that the vast majority of these situations that end in a loss of faith, begin with a loss of faith in the foundation of the Word of God. This is the battlefield of our day. If the Enemy of Our Souls can get us to doubt that the Word of God is the Word of God then trouble is sure to follow.
But God’s Word is Truth. All Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). We can trust God’s Word. Do not be deceived by the wiles of those who would bear false witness against God and His Word. Do not be deceived by the slithering serpents who tickle ears with their lies. We can trust God. We can trust His Word.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8).
Did God really say? Yes, yes He did. Let us “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
2022 in Retrospect
2022 was a wonderful year for us as a family and for the ministry. I started working on a master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary so I can be better equipped to teach and minister God’s Word. I also taught a mission’s class in the third year program at Christ for the Nations. In October, I led a small team to El Salvador to minister with and encourage our associate missionaries down there.
Susan continues to teach at Christ for the Nations and has been speaking in various churches in the Dallas area.
WMA continues to expand with new missionaries who are reaching people all over the world with the love of Jesus. Russia invaded Ukraine. WMA Associate Missionaries in Poland, Romania, and Austria, have been the hands and feet of Jesus to many refugees who have been devastated by this war. Please continue to pray for these refugees.
As 2022 comes to a close and we enter in to 2023 with great expectations, I am reminded of our tendency to act as though some magical thing happens with the turn of the clock at midnight on December 31st. We make New Year’s resolutions, we talk about darkness turning to light, we talk about our hopes and our dreams for the future. To be sure, those things are right. We ought to do them. It is good to hope. But we all know too well that the problems and issues we face in one year have a tendency to follow us into the new one. I love when Anne Shirley quips that tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it. She is swiftly corrected by her teacher, “there are no mistakes in it yet.” And so it goes. We do hope for good things in the future. But whether the issues you are dealing with right now change or not, be encouraged that we serve the One Who holds our future in His hands. Rest in Him.
I will pray with the old Puritan:
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year;
with thee, O Father, as my harbour,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Thank you so much for your support in 2022. We love and appreciate all of you!
The Ministry of Presence
"More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them." -Henri Nouwen
It was about 11:00pm the night we first arrived. We were in the back of a truck, feeding about 150 homeless people living on the streets of San Salvador and a young man who clearly had developmental issues came over to the truck and gave Kurt the biggest hug you’ve ever seen. Kurt is a WMA Associate Missionary who has lived in El Salvador for almost 19 years. The young man was Miguel. He was Kurt’s first transition house boy. Kurt has two transition houses for young men and women who age out of orphanages. They are being discipled, receiving job training, and living in a house where they can be a family.
On Sunday morning about 80 people, mostly kids, showed up for church at WMA Associate Missionaries, Beth and Oscar Algeria’s house. Beth has been a missionary in El Salvador for about 14 years. This was double the amount of kids she was expecting. I had the opportunity to preach the sermon that morning. Two little kids raised their hands for salvation. Then we had a picnic, two piñatas, and a great time of fun in the park.
Both Kurt and Beth first went to El Salvador on short term mission’s trips. They have now both been there for many years serving faithfully day in and day out.
Going Back to El Salvador
I love El Salvador. I’ve been going down there since 2010. I am so excited to be going back in October! I will be taking a small team of 4 people, myself included, to encourage our World Missions Advance associate missionaries there. Lord willing, we will help them with some of the work they are doing (feeding the homeless, visiting prisons, orphanages, and spending time with young people who live in transition houses) and make an updated documentary to use for fundraising that hopefully inspires more missionaries to go to El Salvador.
I was teaching in my mission’s class at Christ for the Nations the other day about the story of Jonah. If you’ve spent any time in church at all, you’ve no doubt heard the story a million times. It occurred to me, for the first time in my life, that Jonah was actually one of the most successful missionaries who has ever lived. Think about it, who else has ever preached such a short sermon… “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” …and seen repentance on such a grand scale? The whole city, including the king, repented and turned to the true God.
You would think any pastor or missionary or minister would be happy with such a successful altar call. Not Jonah. Look at his final words in this story, directed toward God, no less, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Jonah was not happy the city repented. The Ninevites were bad folks. I’m talking Nazi soldiers invading Poland bad. No wonder Jonah had such disdain for them. It’s easy for me to sit back and judge Jonah. How could he be so blatantly disobedient and have such a bad attitude toward God?
God is looking for our hearts. Does he have mine? Does he have yours? You can have the most “successful” ministry, or business, or family, in the world, but does God have your heart? The next time I read Jonah, I’m not going to be so quick to judge him.
Missions at Home
We had a great time of ministry in Houston with Pastor Nelson Perez at Templo De Alabanza. Chad spoke about Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the boy’s offering of five loaves and two fish. Sometimes the needs around us can feel so overwhelming. We don’t think we have anything much to offer, but the little bit we have is much when we give it to the Lord.
Chad will be teaching a class called, Missions: History and Current Trends, this fall at Christ for the Nations. He will also be starting work on a Master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary to get more fully equipped for his continuing ministry opportunities and responsibilities.
Susan will be teaching Effective Biblical Counseling and Developing Kingdom Leaders at Christ for the Nations.
We are so thankful for these ministry opportunities at home to reach the nations by pouring into future ministers and international students, some of whom have already become Associate Missionaries with World Missions Advance.
Meet Melody Downey
For sixteen years, Melody Downey has been working behind the scenes at WMA, taking care of associate missionaries, dealing with their finances, encouraging them, praying for them, and using her mission’s expertise to be a blessing to people all over the world. We are so thankful for Melody and the blessing she is to the Bozarth family, World Missions Advance, and ministers and missionaries everywhere! This is a portion of her story:
When I started Bible college in 1985, I had no intention of going on the mission field. I had a heart for the poor and for teenagers, and worked with the youth at my church, but the mission field was not on the radar at that time. When mission outreaches were announced in my first semester at Christ For The Nations in the Fall of 1985, the Lord spoke to my heart to go! I applied for the outreach to Russia; over 100 students applied and 15 were chosen. It was at that time God began to place Eastern Europe on my heart and I had this burden and knew I had to go. Due to Chernobyl in 1986, the Russia outreach had to be tweaked and we ended up spending most of the outreach in Poland; communism was alive and well. The next year, outreaches were announced and I signed up for England/Scotland. Both of these outreaches in 1986 and 1987 served as a catalyst for my mission’s calling and adventures.
In the Spring of 1987, I knew I wanted to serve in Eastern Europe but didn’t know how or where. A couple of opportunities were presented, but God closed the doors. I began to pray God would show me a family on the mission field that I could serve and gain experience. Shortly afterward, a couple on the mission field in Austria who worked in Eastern Europe, came to CFNI to recruit graduates to come and serve alongside them. This was my first “long-term” assignment. I served with this family for one year. After this commitment, I returned to Dallas and 2 ½ years later, the Lord opened the door for me to serve the Eastern European Director of a women’s ministry who lived in Berlin, Germany. We helped pastors and their wives begin women’s ministry in the churches and conduct women’s conferences at the time when the Berlin Wall came down, communism was falling, and doors for ministry were opening all over Eastern Europe. I ministered in Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, Czech Republic and many other places. At the end of the three years, I became engaged to a wonderful Canadian who pursued me in Berlin and was married shortly thereafter.
I knew I wanted to continue to be involved in missions and several years later, the Lord opened the door at World Missions Advance! I have been so blessed to be able to serve some of the best missionaries in the world and participate in short-term mission outreaches through WMA and actually serve beside some of these missionaries where they serve.
This June marks sixteen years I have served with WMA and I am so blessed and thankful!
A Strong Foundation
The intensity of the warfare Christians are facing is increasing exponentially. The assignments that God has given us individually may look quite different, but the one thing that is in common for us all, is opposition. The relentless hostility is not only regarding our foundational beliefs, but the opposition we endure, challenges our very right to have those beliefs. And thus, the battle rages…
Our foundation in the Word of God is the sustaining power that we must exhibit, day by day, hour by hour. I’ve said it before but will say it again, the Bible does not need to be ‘tweaked.’ Too many, I am afraid, have entered the muddy waters of trying to be relevant to a confused culture while abandoning the relevancy of the Word of God, and by doing so, have become totally irrelevant to the Kingdom!
There is no program, strategy, plan, policy, or tactic that will ever be sufficient to be a substitute for the enduring Word of God. One of the first scriptures I memorized as a new believer was, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)
I remember vividly the account that Randy gave after he returned from his first trip to Russia right after Eastern Europe had opened up to visitors. He and a team went for several weeks with suitcases filled with Bibles to distribute to the newly liberated Russians. He said that as they stood on the steps in front of an imposing building in downtown Moscow, the people clamored for the Bibles that were being dispersed. Their hunger for the Word of God was palpable.
Let us all, once again, treasure the Word that has so freely been given to us and study it diligently, for within the covers of the Bible are not only the words of eternal life, but daily direction for our path.
"Your words are a flashlight to light the path ahead of me and keep me from stumbling." (Psalm 119:105, The Living Bible)
"For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock."
Going the Distance
"The foundation of all ministry is a love for the Lord and a desire to spread his glory. This is the only motivation that will keep the missionary going for the distance.” -Thomas Hale & Gene Daniels
I’ve been reading a book by long time missionaries Thomas Hale & Gene Daniels called, “On Being a Missionary.” It is absolutely excellent. Thomas and his wife Cynthia are both physicians and have served as medical missionaries in Nepal since 1970. Gene and his family spent twelve years living among unreached Muslim people groups in Central Asia. So, needless to say, these guys know what they’re talking about when it comes to ministry and missions. One thing they said struck me in particular, “The foundation of all ministry is a love for the Lord and a desire to spread his glory. This is the only motivation that will keep the missionary going for the distance.” These guys have gone the distance, so something like this hits home harder for me than just some random quote from social media.
“Going the distance.” Isn’t that what we all want to do? Don’t we all want to hear those beautiful words one day? “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Systems and strategies, and statistics to back up those systems and strategies, abound. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with systems and strategies. We need them! Thank God for them! But it is the motivations of our hearts that, by God’s grace, enable us to run that extra mile, smile that extra smile, spend that extra hour, and give that extra dollar.
What is your motivation? What is mine? It must be our love for the Lord and the desire to make His Name famous all over the earth. It is in Him and for Him we live, and move, and have our being.
Lord, may you change our hearts and give us the motivations of Your heart so that we can run well, and finish the race you have set before us. May we fulfill our destinies. May we go the distance.