Month: March 2003

Caswells pray for friends in Philippines,

IRVING, Texas – The Caswells are familiar with pain. The grief they experienced after an Islamic terrorist opened fire on the Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen, killing three of their friends and injuring others still brings tears to their eyes.
During a chapel service at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention office, Mar. 3, the International Mission Board missionary couple recounted the events surrounding the fatal day in Baptist history and acknowledged the pain other missionary families are currently enduring after a terrorist bombed an airport in the Philippines last week (see page 15 for full story). Twenty-one people were killed in the explosion at Davao airport, including missionary of 24 years Bill Hyde. The Mark Stevens family, also IMB missionaries, were among the 148 injured.
Teri, the wife of Don Caswell, said God’s sovereignty is demonstrated through the death of Bill Hyde and the physical maladies that befall missionaries serving in other countries.
“One of the things that we learned from our experience is that God is sovereign and even though he saved Don, he chose not to save our three friends,” Teri said, holding back tears. “And it breaks our hearts.”
“Even though some might say the gunman took their lives, he didn’t. God called them home and even though they say this bomber took [Bill Hydes’] life, he didn’t,” said Teri, in an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan. “God called Brother Hyde home and hopefully will use his death just like he is using Martha, Kathy, and Bill’s deaths – to build the church and to make it stronger.”
The Caswells hope the incident at the Filipino airport will open the door for the gospel to be presented in that region. “People are usually so upset about those things happening, that it opens the door for other missionaries to talk about God’s love,” Teri said, calling on her own experience in Yemen.
“For the people of Yemen this has caused a lot of them already to be more open and a little bolder in some of the things they would say,” added Don.
Teri also said instances of political strife or religious upheaval impress Christians with the urgency of sharing the gospel, helping them to give a bolder witness.
“Teri and I are thankful that God spared my life,” said Don Caswell, who was shot twice by the terrorist in Yemen. “Another thing we are thankful for is that God allowed us to go there.”
Don acknowledged in the months that followed the shooting, many people have questioned missionary presence in restricted access countries.
“A lot of people don’t think we shouldn’t be there; they think it is too dangerous,” Don said. “Like we lost another friend over there, Bill Hyde. Two years ago, I was a lot like other people. I thought, ‘We shouldn’t be in the Middle East.’ But the Lord had a different idea and sent us there. Teri and I fell in love with the people there.”
For someone considering entering the mission field, the Caswells give a word of caution to be obedient.
“I would say to continue to pray for God’s direction and God’s leading. Be sure to listen to God and to obey him and not let this cause a lot of fear,” said Don, who after leaving Yemen for a few weeks immediately after the shooting experienced fear at the thought of returning to say goodbye to friends before leaving for the U.S. “We had friends there that got us out so quickly we didn’t get to see anybody. There was some fear for us to go back, but when we got there, because we were obedient to him, God took away the fear. We had a wonderful time that week with our friends and it helped us have some closure.”
Teri remembered friends telling her before leaving for service in Yemen that “the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”
“Well, we’ve experienced that it’s not always the safest place to be,” said Teri. “It is a dangerous place to be, but it’s the best place to be. If you are not in the center of God’s will and you are not being obedient, then you are going to be miserable. If God is calling someone to missions, then they need to be obedient to God.”
After returning to their home church of First Baptist Church Eustace to heal and await God’s direction for their lives, Don said a favorite Scripture verse now contains a special meaning for the couple. He read Hebrews 13:5a-6: “For he himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'”
This message of comfort rings true for the Hyde and Stevens family, who like the Caswells, experienced injury at the hands of terrorism. Although Mark Stevens escaped harm, his wife Barbara, son Nathan and 4-year-old daughter Sarah all sustained injuries.
IMB President Jerry Rankin echoed the sentiment that danger is inherent in mission work in a Mar. 5 Baptist Press release
“No location can guarantee safety and security. Missionaries will not be deterred from planting their lives in places of danger in order to take the gospel to those who need it most desperately,” Rankin said. “Many, like Bill Hyde, are willing to give their lives because the Lord of their lives, Jesus Christ, gave his life to bring salvation to the nations.
“God places in their hearts a love for the people that motivates them to go in defiance of the risk involved,” Rankin said. “They go with the conviction that God desires every person and every people group to know his love and experience the salvation and hope that only Jesus provides.”
While missionary families such as the Caswells, Hydes and Stevens cannot cling to a guarantor of safety in mission work, Teri said forgiveness is mandatory. Teri recounted that at First Baptist Eustace the women are going through a Beth Moore Bible study called “Jesus the One and Only.” Just a few days prior, Teri said a verse from the study stuck in her mind.
“[God] is still working on my heart about what we are supposed to do in the future,” she said. “I desperately want to be obedient to him – whether it’s to go back or to stay. But this is what he told me from his word – “[Luke 6:27-36] But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same… But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For he is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
The Caswells plan to continue as missionaries with the IMB and are prepared to return to Yemen or wherever God directs them.
“We are thankful that God allowed us to be there and hope that soon we’ll be going back on the field, whether that’s Yemen, or wherever the Lord wants us to go.”
Don shared that as he and Teri drove to the SBTC offices in Irving, the song “Press On,” was playing on a local radio station. “That’s what we and all the missionaries do. We press on in Jesus’ name.”
The Caswells also thanked SBTC churches for their encouragement in the form of prayers and support during such a dark time.
“First of all, I want to thank you for the prayers and support for us,” Teri said.  “We love you very much.  I was privileged to be in on the ground floor of the SBTC and signed the charter that day when we came official.”

Don said he is confident that the length of his healing process from being shot twice by the gunman has been shortened due to the prayers of churches affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“We’ve felt those prayers.  I had surgery that evening and the next day they took us to the capitol of Yemen, which is about a four-hour drive, but I was able to do that in an ambulance, but it’s a pretty rough ride,” he said.  “On Wednesday, we got plane tickets and I was in some pain, but I’ve never been in any real bad pain.  God has just helped us through that, and I know it’s because of all the prayer.”

“He’s healed so quickly, it’s been amazing!” Teri added.

“I was able, two-days after it happened, to go to the Memorial Service there [in Yemen],” Don added.  “Every day, he just healed me more and more till now I’m completely healed.”

Teri added that their three sons, Jason, Ben and Caleb are adjusting well in spite of the fear and anxiety of the previous months.

“They’ve adjusted to all this, and I know also that is because of prayer.  They talk about it, they express themselves about it and they are as healthy as they can be in a situatin like that.”

Although the Caswells are healing and preparing to return to the mission field, the couple asked for continued prayer in the area of wisdom to perceive God’s direction for their lives.

“It is our desire to be on the mission field again, if that’s Yemen then we’ll go there or wherever he wants us to go.”


Jill Briscoe shares lessons with staff wives

FORT WORTH, Texas – When Jill Briscoe arrived at the little church in Wisconsin where her husband Stuart pastored and grew Elmbrook Church in suburban Milwaukee for over 33 years, she had no idea how a pastor’s wife should behave. So she walked up and down the aisles of the church, asking women to write on paper their expectations of her.
“I took that paper home and made an English cup of tea which is what you do in times of crisis,” Briscoe shared with the Great Hills Ministry Staff Wives Retreat at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Feb. 20-21. “I read the paper and there wasn’t one of my gifts on it. I was devastated.” After explaining her frustration to her husband, she recalled that he looked at her unsympathetically and said, “‘Jill, the job has to be done. So just do it badly.'”
Arguing that she wanted to “do it goodly for Jesus and His church,” she realized she could not because she did not feel gifted to do all of the things listed by the women from the church. “He said it’s better to do it badly than to not do it at all,” Briscoe remembered. “He’s very logical because he’s English.”
She drew inspiration from Col. 3:23 to “do it heartily unto the Lord.” Briscoe soon began “doing it badly and doing it heartily for Jesus.” As a result, two things happened. “All those women looked at me and said, ‘Oh, that poor woman, she needs help. People who could do it ‘goodly,’ but had sat on their backside all those years came out of the woodwork. It was obvious I needed help and they came. Also, I discovered gifts I didn’t know I had.”
Briscoe said, “In England we have a saying–you have a go. You just have a go. You don’t have to do it excellently,” she added. “That’s the problem with American women, insecurity that if you can’t do it well, you don’t do it at all. Well, I’m British, so I didn’t care. It had to be done and I wanted to do it and I did it for him.”
At the age of 67, Briscoe said she is having the best time of her life as she and her husband serve as ministers at large for the church from which he retired three years ago. “My soul will never return to its original shape after these last three years. Never. It’s incredible,” she said, describing opportunities to minister in restricted countries where biblical training has never been available to pastors and their wives.
In her two messages to the 170 women gathered for the staff wives retreat, Briscoe related some of the lessons she had learned over a lifetime of ministry:
1. Make yourself time. Recognizing that there are never enough hours in the day to do all there is to do, Briscoe said, “We are distracted by the work of the Lord from the Lord of the work.
Setting aside 10 minutes a day to meet with God without an agenda can be lifesaving, she said. “When you’re in ministry and you’re giving out, preparing, thinking, and discipling– whatever you’re into-you get in a habit of reading everything with that in mind,” she warned. “We have to meet with him, just for his sake, not for Mrs. Smith, for her or him, but for his sake.”
2. Pray yourself quiet. “It’s my observation that the western church talks too much in prayer, in teaching, in everything,” Briscoe observed. “God is thinking, nicely, just shut up. Just listen,” she said, citing the instruction of Isa. 50:4 to get up early and receive a word for the weary.
“If I’ve gotten up and listened to him, He will give me a word in the morning for the evening and it will be the right word and it will do away with all our little canned formulas. I’ve often thought if I had missed that this morning, whatever would I have said to her? How would I have grappled with the situation I’m in now? For that you have to pray yourself quiet; have to learn to listen, and deal with some solitude which is something we do very badly in the West.”
By “taking your wristwatch off” during their times with God, Briscoe said the wives of ministers may conclude that they do not have to do half of the things that had previously considered priorities. “If the unexpected blessings [of extra time] happen in a crowded day, try not to dash to the washing machine. It doesn’t matter. Don’t sweat it. The tyranny of the urgent finishes off ministry people all the time.”
3. Keep your hands clean. From Ps. 24:4, Briscoe reiterated the need for clean hands and a pure heart. “I’ve got 13 grandchildren and there’s always a parent saying to one, ‘Go and wash your hands!” Similarly, God reminds his children to wash their hands, she said. “We often go straight to the selfish intercession first when we haven’t done the repentance bit first,” she said.
“If I don’t have clean hands there won’t be any fire on my ministry,” Briscoe said. “I’ll be like the prophets of Baal and will have to repair the altar of the Lord.” She added, “There is carnage in ministry today because people are not living with clean hands. And there, but by the grace of God, go every one of us.”
4. We know ourselves loved. At a recent conference for ministers and their wives, Briscoe learned that three-fourths of those present had been terminated by a church at some point in their ministries. “The pain in that conference was incredible. I was overwhelmed listening to stories I could not believe.”
Briscoe responded, “If you do not know that you are loved of God, affirmed by God and get your encouragement from him alone, you will not survive in a situation like this.” Just as a flight attendant advises passengers to secure an oxygen mask on themselves before aiding any children, Briscoe said, “Breathe in that wonderful air and then you’ll be able to rescue and help others. We’re too busy shoving oxygen masks on everybody else’s face.”
5. Think yourself clear. Briscoe recalled taking her preschool children out of their playpen as she stepped into the fenced area with her cup of tea and Bible. “I was away from their sticky little fingers for just 15 minutes,” she remembered, telling her children she needed to spend time with Jesus. Her oldest son, David, looked at his 2-year-old sister, asking, “‘Can you see Jesus? Mommy said she sees Jesus in our playpen.'”
Years later she heard her son recount the story while preaching, explaining that he learned to leave his mother alone when she was sitting in their playpen, because she was a whole lot nicer mommy when she got out than when she got in. “I was not deliberately modeling anything except desperation,” Briscoe added.
“Your husband is your head, but he is not your brain. We have to do the hard work of sorting this out before God, with our Bible. “Having observed that many pastors’ wives are just taken along on the coattails of their husbands’ calling, Briscoe said, “That’s not going to work.”
6) Hear yourself called. By submitting to each other following the pattern of Ephesians 5, Briscoe said, “You put on your gifting, calling, background, and training together and you will become formidable to God as partners; both submitting to Lord.”
As a result, assumed priorities may shift according to the demands of the day, she said. “I need to be obedient to the priorities God dictates in my life. If we can do that our family is going to do just great; so are our kids. If we teach our kids the world revolves around them, they won’t be ready to reach out.”
Warning against a tendency to sacrifice families on