1. These friends gather periodically to celebrate birthdays, eat good food and pray together. 2. Josué used to deal drugs. Now he and I make disciples together of drug dealers’ kids. 3. Mike the Swiss missionary gives the best hugs. 4. Shary is an Iranian missionary with ABBA who blesses me with his friendship.

In 29 days our family will leave Brazil after 21 years.

We’ll miss our jungly house and Charles Barkley, the big red dog, and our work with children and families here, but other things will take their places in our hearts.

The loss we’re feeling most deeply is leaving our friends behind. We pray for new friendships where we are going, but no friendship replaces another.

One of the best things about ACTION is serving the Savior with good friends. Susanna and I served four other mission agencies before joining ACTION in June 1996 and we immediately noticed what good friends made up this organization. We played table games together after business meetings. People took us out to eat and opened their homes in hospitality. And Doug Nichols was always handing us money!

In one important sense friendship IS our mission. Maybe our motto should say, “Know God, make friends.” Jesus took the greatest commandment (Love God with all you are) and the second (Love your neighbor as you love yourself) and made a new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:3415:12, ESV).  He called his followers friends, not servants (John 15:14,15).

1. Christer and Petra celebrate their anniversary with Susanna and me every year. 2. Robert is a Scott. I’ve watched him fall in love, marry, have three kids and build a fruitful children’s ministry. 3. Pete and I play tennis and ride motorcycles together.

Our primary mission method – perhaps even its goal – is friendship. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

Paul takes it even further and says any ministry sacrifice, faith or service we do for God lovelessly is worthless (1 Corinthians 13). God doesn’t live in temples or orphanages or programs or doctrinal statements or organizational structures made by human hands but in human bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19) built together like living stones (1 Peter 2:5) through loving, Christ-centered friendship.

How’s your friendship index?
Do we only love those who love us or who have something to offer our missionary agenda?
Do people gravitate to grace in you?
We don’t have to be popular but we do have to be loving.
Who would miss you if you left suddenly?

People liked to be near Jesus. He didn’t just talk all the time.  He listened – even to his enemies. He went about doing good. He went out of his way to touch people who needed touching. Sometimes I picture him camping out with his friends on the beach or splashing around playfully with James and John on a hot afternoon. He never seems more interested in making a convert than in making a friend.

What if ACTION is just the environment – the stage – for building loving, eternal relationships? I’m afraid sometimes I’ve gotten it backward and used relationships to accomplish my work for God.

Let’s make ACTION a place for nurturing deep, eternal friendship. What a recruitment plan! What a great method for member care! Not to mention it’s his command.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love..”  (1 John 4:7,8, KJV).

Know God! Love well.

Your friend,