Harmon Schmelzenbach III remembered

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A week ago I shared about the impact that the nazarene missionary Harmon Schmelzenbach III made in my life and particularly in my call to missions. Today we want to share an article published by NCN News that honors the memory of this great man of God. 

At 12 years old, Harmon Schmelzenbach III spoke to Swazi evangelist Joseph Mkwanazi at a camp meeting in Endingeni, Swaziland. Harmon later shared that this conversation confirmed his call to be a pastor and missionary like his father and grandfather. He would spend the next 13 years preparing for this work.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III was born in Nampa, Idaho, in 1935. His parents, Elmer and Mary, were about to become missionaries in Swaziland, where Elmer was raised. They took Harmon to Africa when he was only a few weeks old.

He spent his early childhood in Swaziland. When he was 11, he and his sister Marilyn began attending boarding school in the Republic of South Africa. Boarding school was a common experience for many missionary kids. In their case, the school was close enough to their parents that they could come home some weekends.

In 1952, Harmon returned to Nampa and enrolled in Northwest Nazarene College. He met Beverly, two years younger, and they married while they were students. After graduation, he served as a pastor in the area until Beverly completed her degree.

They received their assignment as missionaries to the RSA in 1960 and worked at first among the Pedi people of the Northern Transvaal. Harmon later commented that the Pedis spoke “a difficult, guttural language that I had been unable to pick up as a child.”

The next year, they moved to Blouberg, the northernmost Nazarene station in the RSA. The area’s rugged terrain required a jeep for travel. Southern Africa remained their field of labor for a quarter-century.

They stood, to some degree, on the shoulders of two generations of missionary predecessors. His grandfather, the first Harmon Schmelzenbach, opened the original Nazarene missions in Swaziland, South Africa, and Mozambique in the early 20th century. After a half-century in Africa, though, Nazarenes had barely reached beyond their base in the south.

By the late 1970s, there was a growing sense that expansion into West and East Africa was overdue. Implementing these initiatives would call for entrepreneurial leadership, and Harmon had been demonstrating precisely this.

In 1971, he took personal initiative to register the Church of the Nazarene in Botswana. In 1977, he and Beverly moved to Namibia to build a new district there. They remained there until 1984.

At that time, the World Mission Department chose Harmon to guide Nazarene expansion in a new area. He became the East Africa Field’s first director. They moved to Kenya, purchased property in Nairobi, and began directing strategies that led to opening new missions and churches in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Zaire.

In Kenya, Harmon established a school to train preachers but dreamed of something grander — a Christian university for East Africa. His early planning laid the groundwork for others to build Africa Nazarene University, which the General Assembly and the Kenyan government authorized in 1993, which then opened in 1994.

“Dr. Harmon Schmelzenbach personally chose the land on which the university sits, claimed it for God and the Church of the Nazarene by faith in prayer and later arranged for the purchase of the land. Today, the building that houses the university’s administration is named after him — the Harmon Schmelzenbach Building,” said Stanley M. Bhebhe, vice chancellor of Africa Nazarene University.

By then, the Schmelzenbachs had been in Addis Ababa for two years, pioneering Nazarene work in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A Marxist regime had closed Ethiopia to new Protestant work for nearly two decades, but the regime had changed. Ethiopia would prove to be a productive field.

In 1994, Harmon was appointed “Missionary at Large” and began traveling widely, speaking at conventions and assemblies, raising mission awareness among Nazarenes generally by retelling family stories from Africa.

Harmon and Beverly retired in 2001, establishing their home in Clearwater, Florida, but they contributed to missions even in retirement. The Eurasia regional director at the time, Franklin Cook, asked them to train new Nazarene leaders in Hungary, and they lived, without complaint, in a cramped room in Budapest for a season.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III died on 2 January 2019 at age 83. He is survived by his wife, their three children, and their grandchildren.

This article was originally published at: NCN News

Urban Evangelization – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

We must be a continual presence in our city.

Jeremiah continues his prophecy and tells the Israelites to involve their children in marriage ceremonies and to increase in number. We are talking about generational impact in the city – our evangelism must produce transformation and change that will be seen for generations in the city.

In order to impact generations through our evangelistic methods, we must embrace a posture of challenging the broken social systems of our day. We must begin to know the young people that are being courted by the gangs in our neighborhoods, the children that are being forced into human trafficking, the broken families that seek healing in alcohol and drugs.We have to get our hands dirty. Urban evangelism is not easy – it’s heartbreaking. When we begin to see the people that NEED the good news of Jesus, we begin to respond to those environments differently.

Recently I spoke with some urban church planters that are in an area that is filled with apartment buildings. They told me about the building that they felt the most comfortable in – the building where the neighborhood gang is in charge of who’s coming in and out!  At first, they were nervous every time they thought about going into that building.  But because they are now known by the neighbors as “good people who are serving God”, the gang extends their “protection” over them. I smile to think about the day when we hear that the gang members have given their lives over to Christ, and they start to see generational and societal changes in their lives. 

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We must pray for our city.

Perhaps the most blatant instruction we can take from Jeremiah is: seek the peace of the city and pray for her prosperity

Praying for the city is one of the most important parts of urban evangelism. The spiritual forces at work in the city are battling every day, and we engage in spiritual warfare when we step into its realms. We must pray and truly long for the SHALOM, the holistic well-being, of our city. And to pray effectively, we must deeply know our city. We need to know her rhythms, her hurts, and her people.

God is already at work in the city, and prayer is our connection to Him and His work.  When we engage in the prayer of peace for the city, God begins to guide our path to the daily encounters that He wants us to have, and He replaces fear with love. Then and there, in the supposedly mundane and secular, God uses us to evangelize: to bring His good news to the people of our city.

Evangelism in the city is not about the latest and greatest technique (we wish it were that easy!). Urban evangelism is based on creating strategic and intentional relationships. And quite simply, that takes time. If you are called to urban evangelism, you are called to a long-term vision. Consider moving into a neighborhood where you see God already at work. Spend time with people in their places of work and times of entertainment. Get to know the people that are involved in systemic sin and befriend them. Above all, pray for peace in your city. Trust that your city is on God’s heart and that He desires to use your daily testimony and interactions to bring peace to your city.

Urban Evangelization – Part 1 of 2

By Scott and Emily Armstrong

The city has it all, doesn’t it? Schools and universities, hospitals and doctor’s offices, theatres and shopping malls – the list goes on and on! With more employment opportunities and access to health care and education, it’s obvious why people want to live in the city. Global statistics tell us that the Mesoamerica Region is already URBAN.  Over 80% of our people live in a heavily-populated city, and many of these people are unchurched.

You might be thinking that city evangelization is no different than in the suburbs or rural areas, but you’d be wrong. How do we make Christlike disciples of people that live a fast-paced life and don’t have time for Jesus? How do we create relationship and gain the trust of someone that works 7 days a week? What does hope look like in the midst of substance abuse, gangs and poverty?

First things first: God has a plan for the city.  You have to believe that truth if you ever want to be a successful urban evangelist. Oftentimes when we think about the city, we think about the problems found there – everything from traffic jams to air pollution to stressful schedules to gangs.  However, we must begin seeing the city as God sees it: a place of influence where righteousness and peace can be obtained.  Imagine with me for a minute the vision revealed to us in Revelation 7:9-10,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

That’s the CITY of ZION that we are reading about!  God’s infinite story goes on forever IN A CITY.  We will gather together with every nation, tribe, and language and praise God forever! Isn’t it interesting how our cities are already becoming the home to so many cultures at the same time?  Could we even imagine that maybe, just maybe, God is already giving us an opportunity to experience a glimpse of heaven on earth right in the heart of our cities?

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Jeremiah 29:4-7 is another passage that speaks to us about God and His desire to use His people to impact the city:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”

This passage offers us three principles we must keep in mind when we evangelize the city:

We must live in our city to love our city.

We must be a continual presence in our city.

We must pray for our city.

We must live in our city to love our city.

Jeremiah bluntly tells the exiles of Jerusalem (city dwellers by the way!) to “build houses and settle down…”  He didn’t say to enjoy a short respite there or to view it as a temporary tourist destination. He told them to settle down there. 

I recently sat in a workshop listening to urban church planters tell of their experiences and one of them said, “If you are commuting to the city, it means you work there, not that you care for the neighborhood.”  What he was saying was that the city is a hurry up, come-and-go environment for so many people that are only there for 10 hours during a workday. But the people that LIVE in the city? They are always there!  The decisions that are made in local government affect their personal lives, the school systems mold their children, and the lack of public transportation there affects their employment capabilities.

How are you going to care about all of the dynamics of the city if you don’t live there? Often times we see evangelism as a task to accomplish, but this model will not work in the city.  If you are only coming into the city to evangelize every once in a while, the neighbors will begin to see your evangelism as WORK and not as love.  And every neighborhood is different: a single city can be home to hundreds of different communities that all have their own culture and opportunities.  Thus, it’s so important to live where you are evangelizing, because it’s the normal everyday interactions that speak loudest.

Because life moves at such a fast pace, our relationships in the city are typically built around economic activities.  We purchase our groceries every few days, and we go to the same supermarket and get to know the local employees. We go to a sporting event and meet fellow fans that hold similar interests.  We enjoy the community of a local mall and come into contact with others that are enjoying free entertainment as well.  Our interactions with people are numerous every day, but turning it into an intentional meeting is key to evangelism in the city.  One contact – or even a dozen contacts – does not necessarily make a lasting relationship.  We must live in the city, allowing us to live life with our neighbors as well, which then opens up the door to deeper spiritual conversations and continual evangelism through our daily testimony.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III: A Missionary Legacy

A few days ago much of the Church of the Nazarene worldwide was informed of the death of Harmon Schmelzenbach III on January 2, 2019.h schmelzenbach  NCN News published a worthy obituary of Harmon, which should certainly be read by any Nazarene who wants to become familiar with missions in our denomination.

I was never able to formally meet Harmon III, although I have ministered alongside his son, Harmon IV, and his grandson, Quinton, in different settings during the past several years.  However, without knowing me, Harmon III made an impact on my life.

I grew up as a part of Central Church of the Nazarene in Lenexa, Kansas, USA.  We often had 8-10 missionaries a year preach in our services (side note: I cannot fathom when churches who receive one or two missionaries a year complain of “having too many missionaries”).  All were important in building the foundation for what later I would recognize as God’s missions call on my life, although I would not say many were memorable, per se.

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Quinton and Harmon Schmelzenbach IV have carried on their family’s missions legacy.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III was the exception!  As an adolescent, I remember his tales of traversing the African landscape in order to preach the gospel to new villages and people-groups.  I remember some of the perils of the wildlife he encountered on those trips.  By the time he told us he had crossed the fourth river, I looked down at my watch and realized he had literally been preaching for an hour and 45 minutes! That may seem shocking, but what stuns me even more is that at that age I had not even noticed!  He had our entire youth group (and the rest of the congregation) entranced by his evangelistic passion and ability to tell the story of missions and of God himself.

Needless to say, when God called me five or six years later to be a missionary, I was ready.  It was not an “out-of-the-blue” thing.  If God was calling me to be like Harmon, my answer would be an immediate “yes.”  And now, having ministered cross-culturally for 16 years, I see how I have been influenced by this “giant of the faith” both on the field and as I share with churches on home assignment.

Missions has changed in the past three decades since then and now more of us live as missionaries in big strategic urban centers.  Many of us will never need to cross many rivers and fend off venomous snakes at every turn.  But the passion for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ must never wane.  Harmon III learned that from his parents and grandparents and passed it on to future generations of Schmelzenbachs.  But he also passed it on to me as well.

Third Wave: Running the Race

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“The Glory of Heaven” by Giovanni da San Giovanni in the Basilica di Santi Quattro Coronati in Rome

Hundreds of teens and youth leaders from around the world are traveling today to the Third Wave youth conference that will be held in Hyderabad, India.  This initiative is one of the most significant events that the Church of the Nazarene holds every 3-4 years in order to raise up and equip emerging youth leaders.  Although I will not be participating this year, I had the privilege to travel to Bangkok, Thailand and San José, Costa Rica in 2012 and 2015, respectively, and those Third Wave conferences made an impact on all of us who were there.2019 3rd wave

One of the most influential moments in Thailand occurred on January 8, 2012 when General Superintendent Dr. Eugenio Duarte gave the closing message entitled, “Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations.” With youth from 56 different countries represented and the Lord’s Supper being served, this sermon was far from mere theory.  This was a challenge to those present and to all youth of every nation to engage in our core mission.

For young people who want to see the world changed in a blink of an eye, Dr. Duarte reminded us from Hebrews 12 that we are running a race, and that this race is a marathon, not a sprint.  Although there are many reasons why people race (to be healthy, to participate with others, or to compete and win, for example), we as Christians race to change the world.

Hebrews 12 is clear, as well, that this is a race that requires encouragement, clarity, perseverance, skills, discipline and motivation.  Many of these are in short supply in the world around us.  In fact, we may feel at times so weary that our goal seems unattainable.  But Duarte stressed powerfully that winning will come.  We will win the world!  We do recognize that there will be deep valleys during this race.  Yet, we do not overlook the blessings that come in disguise in the valleys.

As we race in this marathon, the question arises as our bodies and spirits tire: how are we able to run with perseverance? Hebrews 12 gives us the recipe.cloud of witnesses 1

  1. Remember the great cloud of witnesses (v.1).  Hebrews 11 is the encouragement we need: it is a chapter full of real people with real difficulties serving really faithfully.  But who are the people that have also gone before us in our lives: those mentors and leaders who have invested in us? We must not forget them! They gave their best. We must give our best! They gave all.  Jesus gave all (vv.1-2) and we must give all!
  2. Get rid of sin and travel light.  Many of us think of our need for forgiveness as a one-time thing.  But an app on a smart phone must constantly be updated.  There are bug fixes and new software tools. We also be constantly sensitive to God’s provoking and prompting.  We must never grow complacent.  We must not admire holiness, but rather PURSUE holiness.  Sin is not defined by culture.  Sin is defined by God and his convictions.  Susanna Wesley wrote to her son, John, in 1725 with this definition: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”  We must update our app constantly!  We must throw off all that entangles and hinders!
  3. Be disciplined and possess a singular focus. Faith is the subject of chapter 11.  But faith goes hand in hand with discipline.  The best marathoners say they cannot ever miss a day of training.  Why then are we so nonchalant with our spiritual discipline(s) and training? We must fix our eyes steadfastly on Jesus!  What are the goals that He has set for you? Consider him, know him, love him, and be a true follower of Jesus Christ!  Even as we think about and admire our mentors and the great people of faith who have gone before, we do not fix our eyes on them, but rather on JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith.

We responded to the message from Dr. Duarte by praying at the altar and sharing a meaningful time of Holy Communion.  But I believe we all responded afterwards, too, by running the race.  Let’s pray this Third Wave in India helps create marathon-running, disciplined and persevering world changers once again.

Real Life Church in Quito, Ecuador

Some of our friends and colleagues in ministry have planted a new church in the heart of Quito, Ecuador. A few weeks ago they described their initial months and their strategies and philosophy in an article published by Ardeo Global. What do you notice about their approach? Can you see this working in your city?

Greetings from Quito, Ecuador! Our team has recently begun our church planting work here with our first church service in September, 2018. The name of our church, Iglesia Real Life, reflects our mission to show how the message of the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ provide real life solutions to real life problems. I think that is the goal of every church, but our focus can get clouded with church logistics and we can begin to focus on the upkeep of a physical church building and its programs. Our team is looking at church planting from a different philosophy. We’ve studied Jesus’ ministry and found that most of His time was spent ministering to non-religious people outside of religious buildings. Our goal is to break free from non-biblical traditions in order to focus on what really matters: loving on people as Jesus did.

So what does that look like? Most noticeably, we don’t meet in a church building. We want our area of influence to be unrestricted by the geographical location of our church, we want to be free of distraction from the work and resources required to maintain a church building, and we want to be welcoming to people who would never feel comfortable entering a church. Our goal is to eventually have various teaching points throughout the whole city so that every new person we meet can attend a worship service and Bible study near where they live.

Currently, we’re meeting at a really neat place near the commercial center of Quito. It’s a food court with a central area for concerts and other events. It also has a playground and separate area where the kids can meet, and the owner is letting us hold our events there for free! So far we’ve had one church service there, and we did our best to make it really feel like a celebration. We had upbeat music and balloons and confetti poppers. At the end of the service, Pastor Josué closed with a prayer but didn’t close his eyes, so people were a little surprised when they realized he was praying. But why not talk to God as though He were standing in the room with us, since we know He is? In the big things and the small things, we want moments like that in our church. We want to get to the root of why we do things and challenge people’s ideas of what the church is. We simply want to be the hands and feet of Christ, loving and serving the people of Quito unconditionally.

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How exactly are we going to serve and meet the needs of the people here? Well, first we have to learn what their needs are, and to do that we have to start by just getting to know them.  Quito is the capital of Ecuador and in many ways is very modern. There is a large downtown area filled with businesses and people living a metropolitan lifestyle. So far we’ve found that many of the issues of people here are pretty similar to those of people in the US: marriages need help, teens need guidance on what to do with their lives, and it’s difficult for families to spend quality time together amidst the many demands of everyday life. However, Ecuador is also a country with a developing economy where many people face underemployment and struggle to simply provide for their families. Problems with drugs and teenage pregnancies are increasing, crime makes it dangerous to be outside after dark, and Venezuelan refugees here face blatant racism every day.

When we first started planning our outreach strategies, we expected that we would be reaching the people in the modern, business-focused, post-Christian part of Quito, and based on the location of our first teaching point we definitely will have opportunities to minister to them. However, in our day-to-day interactions we’ve met people from all walks of life with various needs, both spiritual and physical.

The need for hope and love is universal and does not discriminate across socioeconomic differences, and neither will we in our efforts to reach anyone who is ready to hear of the immense love that God has for them, whether that looks like hosting a marriage seminar or paying for someone to see a medical specialist that they couldn’t afford on their own. Our daily challenge is to stay flexible and open to where and to whom God is leading us.

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This article was originally published at Ardeo Global.

Time to Raise an Ebenezer

By Carla Sunberg

When was the last time you saw an Ebenezer? “A what?” you may ask. It’s a rather old word about which we hear quite little. It does appear in the Old Testament in the book of 1 Samuel. On two occasions the word is used and we read of Samuel setting up an Ebenezer between Mizapah and Jeshanah, after God helped the Israelites and kept them safe from the Philistines. Quite literally, eben means “rock,” and ezer means “helper.” This is a rock that reminds the people that God is our helper. It also lets us know that Ebenezer Scrooge’s name was an oxymoron.

Over time the people of God marked their journey with an Ebenezer. This rock became a continual reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.” Every time they saw the rock, generation after generation would recount the way in which God had helped in a particular circumstance.
 
Throughout the years, it appears that there may have been more than one Ebenezer. Whether God had led the people out of Egypt, across the Jordan river, or helped to defeat the Philistines, a rock was set up as a reminder to God’s faithfulness. This rock was placed in a conspicuous location so that it wouldn’t be missed by God’s people.

Let’s fast-forward a few millennia to the time of John Wesley, where the physical rock, or Ebenezer, seems to have been replaced by testimony. The early Methodist societies encouraged its members to regularly speak a word of testimony, a verbal reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.” Weekly they would gather for a time of accountability and witness to the work of God in their lives. They spoke these to one another, and to anyone else who might be willing to hear the story of God at work in their lives. They engaged in an age-old practice, that of storytelling. It’s something that God’s people have done throughout history.

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Whether it was Samuel or John Wesley, it was the leaders who helped the people raise their Ebenezer. Samuel was a sensitive servant who spent time in God’s holy presence, therefore he was able to effectively lead the people. Wesley subjected himself to the rigorous accountability of his own Methodist societies.

Leaders must always have their own testimony so they can point out the Ebenezers along the way. A nearness to Christ is necessary if we are to lead a people of God. Occasionally becoming vulnerable before our people and pointing to dependence upon God is not a bad thing. A good leader recognizes that they don’t have all the answers but he or she demonstrates reliance, glorifying God in the process.

While the old testimony service may no longer be in vogue, maybe we need to recapture the value of Ebenezer. Space needs to be created for testimony, so that individually and collectively we can recount God’s faithfulness. There should be no monuments to ourselves, but only to God who regularly helps us in this journey of life. God has brought us this far, we will go no further without the Lord leading us, and so, we must provide the opportunity for our people to raise their Ebenezer.

The promises of God were not just for one generation, but for all. We are all to become active participants in telling the story, and there should never be just one Ebenezer. The rocks of God’s help should line the pathway of our lives, and that of the church. For the generations to come, we should continually point to the rocks, telling of God’s help. The Ebenezers become our lifeblood to the future. If we can’t point back to a time that God was our helper, we may just die. It’s time to raise an Ebenezer.