Just a week away: Quick praise and prayer request for furlough

Thanks for your patience with all of the updates, but it is easier to answer many of your questions via the website. We have received many answers to prayers and we do have a couple of requests.

Praises:
We had a generous gift given to the girls for their special request. Thank you!

Our passports all arrived. We are officially dual citizens. (Funny, the accent did not come in the envelope, all that money and no Aussie accent.)

Prayer requests:

Van:  A van while we are in Iowa (13 August – 5 November) We have to turn our rental in on arrival from the East Coast.

Funds for our travels across US:
Four of us will be on the road from 10-13 August. Funds can be sent to ABWE (for tax benefits) marked ‘furlough’.

Traveling mercies:
We will be flying from Sydney to LA (15+ hours), laid over for 8 hours and then flying overnight to Baltimore. Pray all of the family will do well in this wild flying experience. We are grateful for some great friends in LA who will be there to greet us on the West Coast. We will be driving to ABWE & churches on the East Coast then traveling across the US to the Heartland, Iowa.

Cultural experience: I have been spending quite a bit of time explaining US geography this month. No one knows where Iowa is, but they know where Radar O’Riley & Capt. James T Kirk grew up. You have got to love pop culture sometimes.

Thanks for all of your prayers and support. We look forward to seeing how the Lord will provide for these requests and seeing our friends & family in the US.

The adventure continues…
Russ Matthews

Why Australian Citizenship? Top five questions asked in Australia

We became citizens of Australia on Tuesday 29 June, 2010. We will be dual citizens of Australia and the US. Many have asked why we went to the effort. We were permanent residents and did not have to become citizens to do work here in Sydney. It is a valid question, but all it does is open a series of other questions that will lead to the answer of the ‘Why’ of citizenship. So I will leave it to answering some of the top questions asked by people who hear our ‘funny’ accent. We get asked these questions weekly and, yes, they do asked very bluntly.

Question 1: Are you Canadian?
Cathy & I grew up in Maryland & Iowa and we do have a ‘softer accent’ than our friends from other areas of the US, but that is not where the question is based. Most Australians experience this,when asking someone from the North America about their accent. Canadians get quite offended if asked if they are from the US and Americans do not get offended either way. Americans just tend to be louder and verbose in their clarification of their country of origin. So, the safe call for most Australians is to ask ‘Are you from Canada?’

Question 2: What are you doing here?

Ah, the beauty of the accent. We are able to get into a gospel conversation without even having to ask any questions ourselves. We do not call ourselves missionaries here (sounds too Mormon-like), but as ‘ministry workers’ we get to share the reason for living here and the work we do in Sydney. We are able to share the name of Jesus and the work He can have in the lives of the people we come in contact with in the city. What a gift this silly accent provides for us to share the Gospel. God has a plan.

Question 3: Which country do you like more?

A very wise woman gave us advice on how to steer this potentially loaded question out of dangerous waters. The standard and genuine answer to this question would be, “Which do I like more? How do you choose? It is like picking which of our children I love more. I love all of our children equally for their unique qualities and unconditionally.” The same could be said about Australia & the US. We love them both equally.

Question 4: When are you leaving?

Finally, the answer to the question of our citizenship. Depending on how people respond to the first three questions, we could take this question in different ways. Generally, it is in reference that Americans do not immigrate. Americans represent the smallest immigrant population in Australia. Most Aussies are used to their American friends moving back to the US eventually. Our answer can now be, we are citizens. We are ‘all in’ and committed to being here as long as the Lord wants us to be here. If you study James’ epistle, it is foolish to commit beyond the will of God. So, if he wants us here for the rest of our days, we are  committed to being here. Also, it does communicate commitment to our friends in Australia. We love this country and look forward to seeing how the Lord will use us here, even to the end of our days.

Question 5: How do you like our football?

Australia is a sport crazy nation and it has four codes of football. Rugby, Rugby League, Australian Rules Football & Soccer. This question is another potential challenge, depending on the state you are living. First pitfall for most Americans is to rave about NFL. There are pockets of people who like grid iron, but generally the only time people care about NFL is around Super Bowl time. Our response comes from a love for two of the codes, they are more exciting and faster than NFL. We started as Rugby League fans (Rabbitohs are my team – I will tell you that story someday) which is a NSW and Queensland code. Then Josh started playing AFL two years ago and we all have become hooked. So, we cheer for Josh’s team, the Southwest Tigers and for the professional team, the Sydney Swans. Like food, sport is a great way to reach into the hearts of people and see what they are most passionate about, then we can begin to share about the passion in our lives, Jesus Christ. Also, it is great fun to watch the various codes of footy. Go Rabbitohs, So Swans, Go God. Not necessarily in that order.

There are more things to share, but I will leave that to another day.

Hope this answers the questions about our citizenship in Australia & a fun cultural education.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi,Oi, Oi! (If you do not understand the cheer, ask us about it when we come to a church near you.)

The ‘Aussie’ adventure continues…

Russ, Cathy, Becca, Hope, Joshua & Caroline

Citizenship application

We wanted to update you all with our application process. We have officially applied for citizenship to Australia. We have to take a test and have an interview on 18 March. Please pray that all would go well with this process and that it will be processed prior to our leaving for furlough in July.

Answer a few inquiries:

Why would you apply for citizenship?

Great question, one minor benefit is ease of travel and other minor benefits. The key reason would be show our commitment to the people we work with and are reaching for Christ to the ministry of serving in Australia.

Why now and not when you arrived?

We have to wait for four years of residing in Australia to be able to apply. So, it does add a bit of stress onto the year, but it is worth the effort.

You have to take a test?

Yes, it is newly introduced. It is a means of learning some of the history and details of Australia. It is not too hard, but it is a test.

Please pray for the process to go smoothly and we would love to show you our Australian passports when we come back to the US.

The adventure continues…

Russ & Cathy Matthews

A great season in ministry

For those in the frozen Tundra (The Northern US), to give you a warmer perspective on things. We are currently in the middle of the hot season here in Australia. It has been unseasonably humid, but February is generally hot every year. (30+ Celsius everyday) Also, this is the time of year when things start to ramp up in ministry opportunities. We would appreciate your prayers on many items that are on our plate at this time. It is exciting to be part of all that is going on in Sydney. [Read more...]

Just the other day…

(A good friend asked for a recent story from our ministry, I thought I would share it with all of you.)
Inspiring people: We have been working with a new concept of outreach in the Sydney area. It is a panel discussion with key leaders in various fields in Sydney, who are Christian. The events were held at various locations throughout the city. The panel would draw a certain crowd due to their notoriety in specific fields of work.They would address life issues and how Jesus is key to their lives. How do they tackle life’s challenges and achieve results—from the boardroom to the sports field. This is an opportunity for people to hear a panel of some of Australia’s most inspiring people discuss their successes and failures, celebrations and difficulties, faith and doubts. It is called Inspiring People. The crowds have ranged from 40 to 160 people for the for the twelve events we have had in Sydney and we have three events left. Please pray for the upcoming events.

The amazing thing has been we have close to 150 people interested in an evangelistic course called ‘Life of Jesus’, a six week course to be run in the city. Great to be part of what the Lord is doing through this initiative. Pray for the coordination of all of these courses.

But that is not the full story…

It has been inspiring, but quite exhausting for our team. The other morning I started out in Parramatta at 6am with one event, then had a pastors meeting with the Glorious Hope Baptist team (which ran late–surprise) and after the meeting, I had to rush into the city (45 minute train ride) to lead a Bible Reading Group (A new evangelistic tool we are using in the city–I can send you the details). I was tired, late, hot, had to make all of the copies for the group, I wanted to postpone the class, and needless to say, I was not in the best mind set to lead anything, much less a Bible Reading Group.

It was a bit too late to cancel, so sweating and tired I came up to the building for the meeting. The group was small that day, but the faithful few came wandering into the room. Linda, who is a regular attendee and is very evangelistic minded, had brought a friend that day. Linda turns to me and says, “My friend Olivia is enquiring about Christianity. She is here to ask some key questions about Jesus and the Bible.” With that statement, all of my frustrations, concerns and weariness seemed to fall to the side.

For the next hour we studied through 1 John 2. Olivia started in with all of her questions, ” If I am to love God first, how about my family?” “Do we ever achieve perfection in this life?” “If I love God, can I still have my material possessions?” “What does it mean to love the world?” And the questions kept coming for the next hour.

What was encouraging about the morning, was not just to get to answer the questions for Olivia, but to see the people I have been working with over the past months in action. They assisted in handling the apologetic answers beautifully. Gently, but without compromise. Olivia went away from the group with solid answers to her questions. Also, she asked to come back next week. Please pray for her and that she would come to the saving knowledge that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

The rest of the day involved getting ready for another event with close to 100 people coming to hear another Inspiring People panel. I got home about 10pm that night.

It was a great day. To start off and finish the day with big events that proclaimed the Gospel to a large audience in Parramatta and in Sydney. But the thing that excited me most about the day was that dispite my attitude and weariness, I had the priviledge to sit down and share the Gospel and the finer points of the Bible with a young lady that I hope to see in a relationship with Christ one day. Me, a man from small town Iowa, sitting in a boardroom in the largest bank in Australia, sharing about Jesus.

That is what it is all about. Without sounding trite or cliched, it was not how good I was feeling that day that made the difference. Quite the contrary, despite me the Lord was able use this former businessman who had a stinking attitude to share the most amazing gift in the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a young lady in Sydney, Australia. Figure that one out. It can only be with God.

This makes me thankful for all of you that support us. This is an amazing priviledge. God is utilising your financial giving and prayers in mighty ways. God is amazing! Thank you.

The adventure continues…

Russ Matthews

Visitors, talks and a dust storm

We have had an amazing time with Kevin and Jeanie Thomas. These good friends came to serve from Saylorville Baptist Church for the past two weeks. The plan was for them to serve in Australia and it has been an encouraging, intense (in a good way) and incredible journey. Kevin and Jeanie have been a blessing to the church and the team that does outreach in the city. They have assisted with all of the evangelistic events in the city over the last two weeks, which has been exhausting and fruitful. Then on top of that work they have done a parenting seminar, spoken to a mens and ladies groups at Glorious Hope Baptist Church, Kevin preached on Sunday and has given three seminars on effective, Biblical communication. Their service has been amazing.I think they might need a bit of rest when they get home and I do not think they will have a problem sleeping on the plane.

They have had some great experiences with the people, the city, the beaches and we will be going to the Blue Mountains this weekend. Yesterday morning, as we were waking up, the sky was red. Thankful it was not a bushfire, we came to realise it was  the worst dust storm in 40 years. It dumped 1000 tonnes of red dust on Sydney. Trains were covered, cars were covered and it made its way into everything. We felt like we were walking on Mars. Kevin and Jeanie have had quite an experience here in Sydney. Our family, friends and church have been grateful for their time and service. Caroline said to them, “Why can’t you just stay here?” Thank you to Kev and Jeanie for this time in Oz. It will be hard to let them go. Please pray for their safe journey home on Monday.

Thank you for all of your prayers and recent correspondence. Here are the latest prayer requests from our family and ministries.

1. Seven more evangelistic events and follow-up courses in the city in September and October. Please pray for strength and perseverance of our team throughout the preparations, promotion and attendance for all these events. The events are called Inspiring People. We have had close to 400 people come to the past five events and 65+ people desiring to be in a follow up course called ‘Life of Jesus’ (Six week course on the life of Jesus). Please pray that many people would come to know Christ through these events and courses.

2. Russ will be preaching an evangelistic message at Glorious Hope Baptist Church on Sunday, 27 Sept. Please pray for many to come and that the Lord would be glorified in the talk.

3.Russ will speaking at five evangelistic events in November; the talk will be ‘Lightening your Load”.  Based out of Matthew 11. A talk on rest, but with a twist. Please pray for preparations & many would be in attendance.

4. Cathy  working through current children’s Sunday school curriculum at Glorious Hope Baptist.

5. GHBC’s church camp in October. Looking ahead to 2010 and how we will reach our community for Christ.

6. The kids will continue to have a servant heart at church. Also, Little athletics (Track and Field) has started for Josh and Caroline. Also, Karate will continue for Cathy, Hope, Becca and Josh, they all have achieved their orange belts.

Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your prayers and support.

The adventure continues…

Russ & Cathy Matthews

“The most godless place under heaven”

Psalm 10:4

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

In the past few months, I have been asked by different people, “Why Australia (as a ministry field)?” Many determine it does not have the physical difficulties that third world areas present, so,  it cannot be that tough. Without being cheeky and answering the question, “God.” It would be easy to communicate in a defensive or condescending manner, but that gets us nowhere in the discussion. So, how to answer people on this topic? Finding a satisfactory answer has had its difficulties, then we received the newspaper this morning…

A book review in the Sydney Morning Herald helped to strengthen our position within the discussion.  A new book came out called, “Losing My Religion: Unbelief in Australia authored by an Anglican bishop, Tim Frame. One of the quotes from the book states that throughout history, Australia is considered to be “the most godless place under heaven.” Wow, quite a statement. I have not read the book yet, but that seems to be an extreme category to place a whole country. If we did not live it everyday, I would think it was a bit sensationalistic. After the past three years experience, I do not think Tim Frame is too far off in this statement.

In the article they say this can be one of the most discouraging places for ministry work  in the world. Tim Frame states, “Australians seem to have been perennially immune to enthusiasm about belief.” The difficulty for the people asking the question, “Why Australia?”  think that Australia is merely the USA with a different accent, but this could not be further from the truth. The statistics would support the argument presented by Frame. The Christian population of Australia is approximately 3% of the total  compared to the 40% Christianity in the USA.  So, where does that leave this discussion? Well, it could leave us in one of three positions:

1) Defeated: Historically, Australia has been known to be one of the most difficult places to reach people for Christ. Some have even called it the missionaries’ graveyard. Solution: Give up and go back to the US.

2) Apathetic: Just accept things as they are and go about business and hope for the best. Solution: Complain about the ministry field, talk about how great we had things in the US, stay isolated from the people and wonder why we do not see fruit.

3) Amazed: Being sent to an area of the world like this with such a dire position on God must mean God has something He wants to accomplish. The realisation that we are nothing special, but the Lord we serve is capable of all things even when things seem at their bleakest. Makes us take notice and continue in life saying, “watch and be amazed.” Solution: Commit to being here for life, the life that He gave us for His purposes, then work & watch.

This may seem a bit simplistic, but in analysing the solutions it came down to these three categories. So, we choose category three. We might not see the fruit directly, we do continue to go through ups and downs, but we look forward to all God will do for His glory. During this time we do the work we are called here to do. This supports the discussion and continues to give us the determination to do the work God has called us here to do. What an amazing gift from God.

Psalm 10: 17-18

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Here are some of the solution steps for what we are doing here in Australia. Please pray for the action in the coming months in Australia:

1. Six to nine Evangelistic events and follow-up courses in the city in September and October. Preparations, promotion and attendance for all these events.

2. The next two series at City Bible Forum from Ruth (On the wings of refuge) and on Work & Rest (Genesis 2).

3. Russ speaking at five evangelistic events in October and November. Please pray for preparations & many would be in attendance.

4. Cathy developing and working through current children’s Sunday school curriculum at Glorious Hope Baptist.

5. Key decisions at GHBC with leadership and training.

We are grateful for all your financial and prayer support. Your partnership is an encouragement to us. Thanks to those who ask the questions. It is great to think through how we can answer them for the glory of our Creator.

The adventure continues…

Russ & Cathy Matthews

The Lord does work…

If you have followed our updates of the past few years, you may remember and evangelistic event at Chatswood Baptist last year. I had the opportunity to speak to at an annual event put on by the church after a large dinner. English was the second language for many in attendance that night. I was not sure how my accent and lack of knowledge of Chinese would work with the group. I gave a talk on ‘ Connecting with God.’ Some came to know the Lord that night and many began courses to investigate more about Christianity. It was an exciting evening.

The annual evangelistic event is coming up this week. A friend of mine, who attends the church, told me an encouraging story. One of the men who came to know the Lord after my talk last year was giving his testimony during the dinner this year.*  In the church newsletter, he stated that after hearing the talk last year he came to realise that he had no more excuses for not accepting Christ as his Saviour. He had been putting up barriers all of his life. After that night he was left without any excuse. He accepted Jesus as His Saviour on the evening.  He is growing and hungry to know more about the his Saviour everyday. My friend has been amazed to watch the growth of this man and how he continues to seek what the Lord wants to do with his life.

It is exciting to be part of this process. It is humbling to see the Lord doing His work and to think he wants to utilise us for His glory. What an amazing privilege. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. This is how the Lord continues to include you in His work  around the world. This is how you get the Gospel to people who do not know Him, ‘yet!’

The adventure continues…

Russ Matthews

*I cannot give names out over our website. If you want more details contact me.

How do you minister to a community of hurting women? Pamper them!

Our church meets in an economically & spiritually challenged area of Sydney. Most of the women in the area live hard and fearful  lives. To be treated with respect and love is a rare thing in many of the lives of these ladies.  On Saturday 2 May, 2009; Glorious Hope Baptist Church held their third annual Pamper Day for the ladies of the community around our church. Women of all races, faiths, economic and social backgrounds arrived for a day of hand & foot massages, makeovers and haircuts. Also, included in the day were a delightful morning tea, a delicious lunch and a gift bag. A speaker shared her testimony of hope through here family’s journey to coming to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Over 70 women came through the doors on the day and many left changed.

Cathy was overseeing one team of service. She was able to talk and pray with most of the women who came to the day. One of the highlights of the day was having the opportunity to share and pray with two Muslim women who had come for the day. Hope and Rebecca were able to serve child care and with whatever areas needed assistance on the day. Every woman walked out feeling and looking transformed and all were given the opportunity to know the transforming power of the Gospel.

All the ladies of the church came away exhausted, but encouraged by the opportunity to touch and pray with women of our church community in a unique way. Touching many women that this world considers untouchable. They arrived in the morning to bless the people of the community, but at the end of the day, came away blessed indescribably  by the opportunity to be the hands and feet of our Saviour, Jesus.

Yes, it was a good day!

Thanks for your prayers and maybe consider being  part of this incredible ministry in years to come.

Fires and new initiatives

Thank you for your continued prayers. It is an exciting new year for us in Australia ’09. Yet, as many summers in Australia begin, this year has been extremely hot (40-44 degrees Celcius). With extreme heat comes forest fires and unfortunately loss of life and property. Please be praying for the victim’s families of these devastating fires as they continue to burn in Victoria. Thank you for all of the enquiries, but the worst of the fires are about ten hours away from us. New South Wales (our home state) has experienced fires, but in the outer portions of the State. No one has been hurt in NSW. Our family is safe and a cool front has come in this week. So, our request is that you continue to pray for the people of Victoria, Australia. Through this tragedy, God would be glorified.

Additional prayer requests: New Initiatives

City Bible Forum: We will begin a new season at CBF and the first series will be Connections for Life. A look into the first four chapters of Revelation and how people can have life in Christ. Our usual attendance for CBF can be approx. 150-200 with 40-50% being non-Christian. Pray for great attendance and many non-Christians would come to hear this year’s series. Also, many would come to a realtionship with Jesus.

Investigating Christianity: (evangelism) I have started a new class in the city. We have eight people in attendance and five of them are non-Christian. Please pray for the class and that people will come to have a relationship with the Saviour.

Glorious Hope Baptist Chruch: (Church) We have many new initiatives at the church. Changing things around for the congregation to attend an additional prayer meeting, new kids outreach programs and Helping Hands (caring for the needy in our community).

Urban Fight Club: (Mentoring) This month we will be having an Action Day within the community to assist with cleaning up the community for Australia clean up day. Next month will be a movie event, showing the ‘FIREPROOF’ film for the community.

An exciting new year and we look forward to all the Lord has planned for our family. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

The adventure continues…
Russ and Cathy Matthews