Wednesday, August 19, 2009

meet Sam & Shelley Spangler

Today's e-devotion is guest written by my friend Sam Spangler whom I met through Twitter.  He and his family will be with us this weekend at The Community Fellowship.  I will still be preaching, but the Spanglers will share their vision to reach the Twsana people of South Africa for Jesus. Enjoy the rest of the devotion and join me in praying for Sam and Shelley ...

We're all familiar with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch found in Acts 8:26-40.  Without a doubt this eunuch had a divine appointment.  I wonder how many of us seek out those opportunities that occur in our everyday lives in which we can be of service to the Lord by showing the love of Jesus Christ to someone else?  At the supermarket, at the gas station, at work, school, or play; each of these times we may have a perfect opportunity to share the love of Jesus with someone who is hurting, discouraged, or needing to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, more and more of us are active in social networking online.  There are numerous sites which we can visit, network, share and establish lasting friendships and acquaintances.  Late last summer or early fall, I became active on Twitter. The more I utilized it and took advantage of the wonderful communication medium that it presented, the more like-minded Christ-following, people-loving, service-minded folks I encountered.  There is no doubt in my mind that one of those divinely appointed acquaintances was Pastor Michael Harrison.  Somehow I came across someone who had Tweeted (a message sent out over Twitter) about Michael.  I followed him (an option on Twitter that allows you to see a person's Tweets) and quickly realized that his heart and passion is for reaching people of all walks of life for Jesus.  Then, I found out that he was in Collinsville, VA, which is just a short drive away from where we are in the Roanoke/Salem area.  We exchanged Tweets, talked about Jesus and what He is doing in our lives, and saw that we had a shared bond and burden for serving others.  A Twitter friendship quickly became a "real world" friendship, and Michael has been one of the most consistent and involved encouragers for my wife and me as we work to answer the call to the mission field.  One of the things that really cemented our friendship was that he has a burden to reach the lost, to show the love of Christ to those others often forget, and to mobilize, equip and energize his church, The Community Fellowship, to be a beacon of hope to their community. 

My wife, Dr. Shelley Spangler (a veterinarian), and I have answered to call to serve the Lord by showing His love to the Tswana people of South Africa and Botswana.  We are currently in the process of raising our prayer and financial support teams to make it possible for us to serve.  You can learn more about our call to the Tswana on our website: http://www.cvmusa.org/onmission

I have been blessed to serve as the College & Career minister at our home church: Lakeside Baptist Church in Salem, VA.  During my couple of years of leading this ministry, I have realized just how much I love working with this age group and how God has equipped me to do so.  As I was finishing seminary last December, my wife and I were praying about what ministry opportunity the Lord would have for us to pursue after my graduation.  Both of us came to the indisputable conclusion that God was calling us to the mission field; and, specifically, to the Tswana people of South Africa.  As we continued to pray and to explore what doors God was going to open up to us, we discovered an incredible opportunity for both of us to use our skills, education and passion to serve the Lord and to improve the physical and spiritual lives of the Tswana.  You see, the Tswana villages are poor.  They do not have running water or electricity.  There is practically no employment available in the villages.  Most of the Tswana continue their lives practicing the traditional religion of animism, ancestor worship, and seeking out the assistance of the witch doctor.  Animals and vegetables are often the only livelihood and sustenance that the Tswana have.  But they have no veterinarians and no financial ability to travel to a city or town where a veterinary office may be located.

This is where the providence of God really shows up!  Shelley and I found out that there is a program in Mafikeng, South Africa, at a college that serves primarily the Tswana people, in which the government of South Africa has placed a high priority on equipping and training Tswana college-aged students in animal health care.  This 4 –year program gives them the skills and training necessary to make a huge impact on the well-being of their villages.  Many of these students are at the school in Mafikeng, not because they come from wealthy families, but because the villagers pooled what little money they had together in order to send these young people to school so that they could come home and make a difference.  This animal health program is understaffed, underfunded and in desperate need of volunteers with a veterinary education to come and teach.  Perfect fit for Shelley!

Not only is the school excited that someone with a US veterinary education is willing to volunteer and move there to serve as an instructor in the program, they are also open to the both of us sharing the Gospel with these students.  Perfect fit for Sam!  It's amazing how God opens doors to incredible ministry opportunities.  You see, we have the opportunity to train these students in animal health care (a skill set desperately needed in their villages), but we also have the more important opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.  Our goal is to begin with campus ministry among these students, mobilize the new believers in Christ to go with us back to their villages where we'll be able to offer animal health clinics and present the Gospel to whole villages!!  This is a tremendous opportunity!  Less than 2% of the Tswana are evangelical Christians.  We literally have the opportunity to change the spiritual direction of not only the students who come to Mafikeng to study but also of their entire villages as we go back to them to minister to their physical veterinary needs and to their spiritual needs. 

We are passionate about reaching the Tswana for Christ.  We are passionate about what He's called us to do.  Shelley is passionate about training Tswana students in basic animal health.  I am passionate about spending hours each day working with them, sharing Christ with them, listening to their fears, worries, ambitions and goals and pointing them to the assurance that comes from the Gospel.  We are passionate about serving Jesus Christ among the Tswana. 

Not everyone is passionate about serving.  Not everyone is passionate about missions.  Not everyone cares about reaching others with the love of Jesus Christ.  One day, on Twitter, I had a divine appointment to meet a pastor of a church in our area who has those passions and who has a church filled with people excited about serving Jesus and about reaching others with the love of Christ.  And because of that incredible encounter, just like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:39, I have been able to go on my way rejoicing as we grow closer to serving among the Tswana people.

Learn more about Sam and Shelley Spangler at http://www.cvmusa.org/onmission and read Sam's blog at http://spangler5.blogspot.com/

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