Bring FOCCUS to Your Conversations and Enrich Your Marriage

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Shine Crossings Ministry now offers another powerful tool to help dating and engaged couples prepare for marriage and for married couples to enrich their marital commitment. Although many couples are led by their feelings of love to walk down the aisle, a sustainable life-giving marriage requires preparation, which typically starts with key meaningful conversations. If premarital coaching was not part of your wedding preparation, it’s never to late to have those important conversations, even after having said, “I do.” The health of your marriage and of your family and its legacy depends on your relationship choices.

FOCCUS: Pre-Marital

The FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study) Pre-Marriage Inventory requires non-married couples to independently take a relationship enrichment inventory. Afterwards, a trained facilitator will lead a couple through their report in a safe space over 2 to 5 sessions—making room for deeper conversations and increased understanding. Questions cover lifestyle expectations, friends and interests, personality match, communication, problem-solving, spirituality, personal preferences, sexuality, parenting, financial, readiness issues, and commitment.

The couple report summarizes agreement levels in important relationship areas. Even if couples don’t agree, identifying those areas of disagreement or uncertainty eliminates surprises and provides an opportunity to talk through those issues. There are also questions for specific circumstances such as interfaith, re-marriage, co-habitation, and couples with more than one set of biological children. These areas can become hot topics and should be discussed before marriage.

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REFOCCUS: Marriage

Married couples looking for ways to invest in their marriage can take the REFOCCUS Marriage Enrichment Inventory. With spouses being pulled in many directions, especially those with dependent children, their conversations trend toward transactional topics such as “who’s got that” and away from the more enriching and connecting. A certified FOCCUS trainer can guide a couple to have those conversations that grow communication and marriage connection. Core sections include marriage as a process, intimacy, compatibility, communication, and commitment. There are even special sections for ministry marriages and empty-nesters. REFOCCUS is ideal for key life moments or transitions when a marriage relationship may need to be redefined such as birth of a child, major illness, job change, moving, retirement, and empty-nester.

Ready to Start?

You can learn more about the program by visiting FOCCUS. If you have questions or are already excited to pre-invest in your marriage or strengthen it, reach out for a conversation at 281.793.3741 or coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com. Shine Crossings Ministry is ready to get you on your way. After collecting some contact information, you’ll be sent a link to take the online survey. Once your report is ready, we’ll schedule your first session.

If you think investing in your marriage is a step you want to take, but not sure whether the FOCCUS approach is the best way, Shine Crossings has other premarital and marriage strengthening programs to choose from such as Prepare & Enrich, Save Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS), and Marriage on the Rock. We can also develop a customized program based on your unique couple needs.

 

 

 

 

How to Strengthen Your Marriage When Your Spouse is Incarcerated

DSC00765I struggled with a title that would do justice in describing my experience volunteering as a relationship coach at a marriage seminar for 30+ couples in Lockhart’s Women’s Prison. What words could I share that would capture your attention to read and embrace the incredible impact that Greg and Melissa Alvis have every month on the couples who spend a full day in prison with the intent of strengthening their marriage.

Statistics show that the likelihood of a couple divorcing increases by 32% per year for every year that one spouse is incarcerated. With an average divorce rate already nearing 50%, you can safely assume that most marriages never survive through a spouse’s incarceration. Prison truly tests the strengthen of a marriage, and Greg and Melissa are slowing down that divorce rate to keep families not only surviving but thriving.

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The Ministry

Greg and Melissa travel the state of Texas with their self-created marriage strengthening seminar–knocking on prison doors and selflessly offering their personal testimony, program, and time. Spouses are invited to spend a Saturday with their incarcerated partner as the Alvis team and volunteers lead the couples through powerful material delivered in the form of lectures, exercises, and small group discussions. Oh, and the seminar ends with the couples renewing their vows! Wow, you can’t help but shed a few tears of joy.

DSC00786Greg and Melissa relate to these couples, because they are the heroes and authors of their own marriage story. The defied the marriages statistics. Greg was incarcerated for over 20 years, entering prison at the age of 26. Without a doubt, they struggled to keep their marriage alive, but their marriage survived 22 years of incarceration. They now have a powerful marriage testimony to share with other couples, who can travel their own path but end up in the same position as Greg and Melissa. Under the ministry of Ephesians 521, they taken their powerful learnings on the road, and the feedback is both emotionally moving and priceless.

The Ministry Impact

I could share my thoughts, impressions, and the words shared with husband, Darin, and me, but I’ll let the couples own words, in the form of direct quotes from the evaluation forms, sing praises for the program and its impact on their lives.

What was your favorite part of the day?

  • Spending time with my husband, incorporating God, being given healthy tools to meet our needs moving forward, and the volunteers’ perspective. Learning to love my partner the way he needs.
  • Tools on how to make my marriage better while incarcerated, because I was in fear of losing my husband.
  • I enjoyed the small groups, because we were able to learn more about each other’s needs.
  • Besides seeing my wife for a full day, receiving the training we both know will help us and the encouraging stories.
  • Renewing our wedding vows. I think it is exactly what we needed.
  • The renewal of our vows, because it was what we needed to move forward in our lives.
  • Looking into my husband’s eyes and holding his hands as we re-affirmed our love and commitment for one another.
  • Group discussions. I loved watching and listening to my husband talk about his opinions and feelings about our relationship, and it opened up our communication.
  • Spending time with my wife made us realize how important family is to stay together.
  • Enjoying my husband and renewing our vows and learning more about our needs and where we stand.
  • Eating lunch with my wife.
  • The gathering in small groups and finding out about others’ experiences.
  • The renewing of vows. I believe I have a new beginning in my life and my marriage.
  • Identifying personality types and traits. It seems helpful for day-to-day living.
  • Holding and touching my wife.
  • Spending the day bonding with my husband. We needed to have the physical touch.

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What is one thing you can take from the day that will help you move forward?

  • All that we have been through has made us stronger. Now we get to go from this with a stronger relationship and faith in one another…
  • I am not alone, and I have tools!
  • We’re not alone in our struggles.
  • Knowing how we still feel about each other in our relationship and what we have to look forward to.
  • Knowing we are not alone, and it’s only going to get better.
  • That my husband was committed to our marriage so much so that he put everything on hold in his life to be here with me, for us, for an entire day.
  • Listening to his feelings and working on his relational needs.
  • The book Growing Together as One. Learning about it and taking this advice home and practicing it towards our life.
  • Not lose faith in my spouse and enjoy life and the love we have for each other.
  • The actual real stories they spoke encouraged us.
  • To keep believing and staying together through it all–iron sharpens iron.
  • Knowing that I can move forward in faith and work with my husband and have a new relationship.
  • What my wife requires to feel loved.
  • Five love languages—learning to love him the way he needs.
  • Our commitment.
  • Recommitting and learning my husband’s feelings and our future is growing stronger.

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Importance of Marriage Support in Prison

Supporting any marriage is important, because so many relationships are at stake. If the marriage is strong, the family is strong. If the family is strong, the children are strong. If the children are strong, there is a greater chance the children will continue the legacy of a strong family. Keeping families together in a healthy marriage helps with mental health, financial security, and general well-being.

DSC00864AAs a marriage coach (www.shinecrossingsministry.com), I have a passion for strengthening marriages. As an executive volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (www.pep.org), I have a mind to invest in felons who will eventually be released and need a hand up. As a marriage volunteer (www.ephesians521.org), I have a heart to help prison inmates take what is surely a first big step in investing in their marriages.

The Future

If I had to boil it down to its core, what Greg and Melissa bring to prison for the incarcerated and their spouses is hope–hope that their marriage can not only survive but thrive. They are the walking testimony of this fact. Go back and re-read the messages from the couples. They primarily speak of hope for a better future in their marriages.

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There aren’t many ministries that have this magnitude of impact in just one day. If you are as moved as I am on what Greg and Melissa are doing in the local mission field, I encourage you to visit their website (www.ephesians521.org) and make a donation of any amount. They are funding these seminars, primarily from their own resources and could use your encouragement in both word and donations.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

The 5 Respect Languages that Make Men Feel Loved

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Inspired by the books The Five Love Languages and Love & Respect, my marriage and relationship coaching have revealed what I call The Five Respect Languages that Make Men Feel Loved. Our culture talks endlessly about love but doesn’t talk enough about the love languages that speak specifically to boyfriends, husbands, and fathers. These five languages all reflect concepts of RESPECT. Respect is such a big word that if you ask five different men what it means, you will likely get five different definitions. However, I would guess that each description would refer to one of my five respect languages. What are they?

Let Him Lead

In today’s culture, many women are leading their families and letting their husbands take a backseat. In some cases, this role reversal stems from family modeling during childhood, where mothers made most of the decisions. In other cases, wives grab the leadership reins, because they don’t trust their husbands to lead well. Men want to lead their wives and families. Depending on their personality, some will fight for the leadership position while others will disengage. Husbands feel loved when their spouse shows their faith by entrusting them with the leadership role.

Support His Decisions

Every husband knows that his wife isn’t going to agree with every decision he makes. But if he honors her by seeking her counsel before making a decision that’s in the best interest of the family, he wants her support. The goal is not agreement but consensus. When a wife supports her husband’s decision in words and actions and is an active team member to make his decision come alive, a husband feels his wife’s love.

Appreciate Him

A husband likely makes personal sacrifices of time and money to provide for his wife and children and secure their comfort and security. He may choose to work two shifts to pay for college, take a job to make enough money so his wife can stay home, or secure a second job to pay for his kids’ sports fees. Giving words of affirmation, gifts, or serving him in ways that make his life easier lets him know that his wife recognizes and appreciates his efforts. Appreciation is a key metric in showing a man respect for what he does for his family.

Praise His Accomplishments

Men are designed to be hunters and conquerors. They set their sights on a goal, develop a plan, and then act. When a wife recognizes her husband’s accomplishments with her words to him and speaks positively of him to her family and friends, he feels appreciated. Good job! Well done! Men like to be acknowledged for what they achieve whether at the office or in the home. Praise makes him feel valued and that he’s doing the right things.

Have His Back

Stand by him. Every man wants to know when the times get tough, and it’s only a matter of time before tough times come, that his partner won’t leave. Husbands want a teammate, cheerleader, and someone who will be by his side. When the world is against him, he wants a wife whom he can count on, and one who is praying for him.

Next Steps

In my practice, I find women prefer to be loved and men want to be respected. It’s as simple as that. If we truly love one another, we will love people in the language that speaks to them. If you’re a wife, ask yourself how well you are loving your husband with the respect languages. Then ask your husband what he thinks. See where the conversation goes!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

He Needs Respect and She Needs Love

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Love and respect are like the head and tail of a coin—conjoined yet with their backs to each other. In some ways, they are viewed as opposites, yet they are the glue that keeps a marriage together and strong. Which side do you gravitate toward: love or respect? Let me guess. If you’re a man, you want respect, and if you’re a woman, you said love. Am I right?

What’s the Difference Between Love and Respect?

When I coach couples and enter the discussion on marriage needs, in the top five for men, and usually in the number one position, is RESPECT. For a woman that number one position typically involves an expression of LOVE such as caring, affection, and intimacy. As I always tell couples, Respect and Love are big words—meaning if you ask 10 people to define love and respect you will get 10 different answers.

When I ask a wife, “What does love look like in action from your husband?” I get answers such as (1) share your feelings, fears, and joys with me and ask about mine, (2) listen to me without trying to fix my problem, (3) spiritually lead our family by going to church and setting an example for our children, and (4) create a marriage environment where I feel safe.  When I ask a husband, “What does respect look like in action from your wife?” I get answers such as (1) support me in my work and ability to make money for our family, (2) don’t turn away from me sexually, and (3) share your opinions and thoughts with me but support my decisions.

These answers are quite different. You likely never hear a woman complain she’s not getting the those things the husband wants and vise versa.

Are Men’s Needs Getting a Backseat to Women’s?

On the micro-level, I don’t see that men or women are disadvantaged, but on the macro-level, women’s needs are getting more attention than men’s. Why do I say that? Our world talks about love, love, and more love, especially, if you’re a Christ follower. We quote Scripture about love such as “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and go so far as to advocate that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Bible is full of stories about love, and we are encouraged to love unconditionally.

On the other hand, our world doesn’t give the same emphasis to respect.  When was the last time you hear someone say, “We should respect unconditionally?” You probably can’t recall a time, because we don’t usually say those two words together. In fact, it’s more common to hear what Rodney Dangerfield made famous, “How come I don’t get no respect?”

The Balance of Love and Respect

Happy and connected couples operate in a continuous cycle of love and respect. A husband gives his wife love, and in return a wife gives her husband respect. When the foundation of the marriage is built on love and respect, both are getting their most important need met. Dysfunctional marriages are those where the wife says, “I can’t respect him until he loves me,” and a husband says, “I can’t love her until she respects me.”  Both need to stop behaving as children and grow up.

Wedding vows usually include some version of the classic togetherness “until death do us part” after committing to weather the storms of “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.”  If I was in charge of writing wedding vows, I’d add “to respect him unconditionally even when he hasn’t earned it and to love her unconditionally even when she doesn’t deserve it.” Do you think anyone would dare include it?


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

 

Will You Use Your Influence to Transform a Life?

2019-04-02 Sandi 1Everyone has an opinion on the U.S. prison system, thoughts on how it should be run, and whether felons can be rehabilitated? I know, because I’ve had enough conversations over the past 6 years on this topic. Most people’s opinions aren’t changed through conversation but through personal experience. So, I’ve invited quite a few people to spend a day in prison with me, and as is usually the case, my friends and colleagues walk away with a different world view.

Where Can You Volunteer?

PEP is transforming lives. Although originally focused on incarcerated men in the Houston and Dallas areas, they started a women’s program inside the Lockhart Correctional Facility (southeast Austin). The program teaches not only business skills so they can start their own businesses after release, but they also spend time learning and practicing servant leadership.

I feel fortunate to have been invited to the women’s unit between graduating classes to lead half-day workshops, helping these women do deep personal dives into their character, beliefs, and behaviors. They learn about core values, worldviews, personal boundaries, visioning, goal-setting, and communication.

Consider this your invitation to join me in prison to shake hands and give the PEP students encouragement and feedback on their business plans that are under construction.

They Will Thank You

When was the last time you received a hand-written thank you card—not an email? While the speed and ease of technology has driven our appreciate to email and text, the art of hand-writing a note of appreciation hasn’t gone out of style—at least by those enrolled in PEP.

“I am so glad there is people like you in this world…people who still believe in us and still believe we have a future and something to offer…”

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“There are few moments in this life that we can bookmark as life changing…but it is people like you who care and who selflessly give of your time to encourage others and to see lives changed.”

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Let these penned words resonate with you in terms of the difference you too can make in the lives of these temporarily incarcerated men and women. With your help, they can become upstanding men and women of their communities. You too can inspire someone through your words and actions.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

 

Support Rescuers’ Suffering from Compassion Fatigue

Dedicated to my 18-year old rescue, Mr. Butters, whom I lovingly helped over the rainbow bridge today

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Compassion fatigue? I first learned of the term while reading the book Toxicity Charity which defined it as the emotional distress that results from the constant demands of caring for others. Some sources claim it as the feeling of apathy when continuous charitable giving doesn’t meet expectations. Regardless of which definition you lean towards, the rescuer’s energy and mindset are exhausted. While doing good, the caregiver gets emotionally and/or physically hurt or burnt out.

Who’s to Blame?

Some believe rescuers are at fault, because they should have personal boundaries and stop when they get too tired. Those in the rescue field feel they have no choice; their big hearts care too much. Who will step up, if they don’t? The problem of unwanted dogs and cats is bigger than any one or group of people can manage. If you’re a family member or friend watching a loved one playing on the field with compassion fatigue, what can you possibly do?

 

Those in rescue need to wrestle with compassion fatigue and figure out what they can and cannot do. As fans from the stands, we can’t play the game for them. This isn’t our sport, and we likely don’t know the rules. We can, however, support from the sidelines. We can be the water-boy in football or the ball retriever in tennis. We don’t play the game, but we can be there to help.

What Does Help Look Like?

What does help look like for someone suffering from compassion fatigue? I would encourage you to offer your services to lift some of their burden. Can you give them a gift card for a personal service or a meal? Many of these caregivers are using their own funds while also giving their time.

My daughter has been involved in animal rescue for several years. It all began when she browsed the local SPCA and Human Society shelters looking for a dog in need of a forever home. After adopting 2 dogs and 1 cat, she then took in her first heeler mix as a foster. Volunteering has become a full-time job, and she works with several non-profit rescues to:

  1. Serve as a board member
  2. Search and pull dogs from shelters
  3. Arrange dog transport from other states to Colorado
  4. Foster several dogs
  5. Arrange fostering families
  6. Transport dogs to foster families and for vet care
  7. Administer vet care
  8. Process adoption paperwork

She is well connected in the rescue community and routinely get requests for help when people find abused dogs. Alex gets paid nothing for her time and routinely uses her own money to help the animals. My daughter is one of my heroes for her selfless giving and ability to organize through this complicated ministry. And yes, she suffers from compassion fatigue! She’s commented that working in rescue is both the most rewarding and depressing job she could imagine. Alex exemplifies a true servant leader who selflessly gives of herself to bring dogs and families together in need of each other.

I’m grateful for servants like my daughter, who’ve made it possible for me to have 17 rescue cats [Frisky, Missy, Midnight, Butterball, Tigger, Popcorn, Slurpy, Tigger, Rascal, Fiddler, Little Girl, Toby, Tigger 2, Mr. Butters, Felix, Zipper, and Zoey] and 2 rescue dogs [Crystal and Duffy] over the last 40 years. Without rescues, I wouldn’t have had the companionship, love, and laughs of these furry friends.

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Thank you to all the caregivers serving in the world. If our paths cross, I hope I can find a way to ease your burden. If you’d like to learn more about the epidemic of rescue fatigue, read this article: The Fatal Epidemic of Animal Care Workers That No One Is Talking About


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Defend Your Marriage: Give It a Mission

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Couples sometimes ask, “What are the two or three things we need to pay attention to in order to have a successful marriage?” Although relationship success can only be defined by the couple, my typical response to hundreds of people who’ve sat on my couch: “You need to actively live out your written marriage mission and intentionally strive to meet your spouse’s primary marital needs.” Everything else within the marriage can be managed.

Marriage mission and fulfilled marital needs work together synergistically to prevent couples from uttering the words, “I want a divorce,” and instead asking, “What do we need to do to get our relationship back on track?” Divorce in not an option, because husband and wife already know the purpose of their marriage and are intentionally trying to support their spouse’s needs. I believe we’d see a sharp decline in divorce rates, if more couples were required to submit their marriage mission statement when they applied for a marriage license.

What does a Marriage Mission Do?

The concept of a marriage mission is completely foreign to most couples, unless of course, they’ve sat on my big, comfy couch. You’ve probably heard of a mission statement for companies but never for a marriage. A mission statement is just a purpose statement. God made each of us for a purpose, and when two people are joined in matrimony, their marriage also has a purpose within God’s Kingdom.

By God’s design, the marriage relationship is the most important earthly relationship. All other relationships spring forth from the marriage: family, community, and world. When you choose to marry, without a doubt, you will have trials and tribulations. By Satan’s thinking, if he can take down the marriage, he can take down the family. Your marriage is the target for the Devil’s attack, and your best defense is a solid definition and understanding of your marriage mission.

Couples without a Mission Statement

Without a formal mission statement, many couples become distracted and husband and wife start to live parallel lives. It’s not uncommon for wives to focus on the home, raising the children, while the husband goes out to make the money. Although the couple’s intentions are honorable, soon both can slowly start to feel like strangers, unfamiliar with each other’s worlds.

The compass that helps a husband and wife take their marriage through the storm is a mission, and the glue that keeps them connected is the knowledge that each is meeting the other’s marital needs. When connected, spouses easily turn toward each other for support as opposed to away. When one is weak, the other is strong; they are united. Without a mission, it’s easy to fold and give up when the going gets tough.

How Do You Create a Mission Statement?

Creating a mission statement first starts with understanding why God created you and what you’re called to do. You can then explore together how God can use your marriage.  A few questions husband and wife can ask:

  1. What has God called me to do?
  2. What overlaps with my spouse’s purpose?
  3. Where can our strengths be multiplied together?
  4. What are we both good at? How can we put that to use?
  5. How can our strengths and weakness be combined so we have an arsenal of talents?
  6. What core values do we share? How are we different?
  7. What are we passionate about together?
  8. What do I see that is broken in the world and needs to be fixed?
  9. When I pray, I hear God telling or showing me his heart for fill in the blank?
  10. When I worship, I hear the Holy Spirit telling or showing me fill in the blank?

Your mission statement should consider all areas of your life together, because Satan will seek to enter your marriage through the weakest.

  1. Your health
  2. Your family and close friends and church community
  3. You career
  4. Your finances
  5. Your physical setting & lifestyle
  6. Your spiritual relationship with God
  7. Your ministry

These areas are finely inter-connected. Your career can impact your finances, and your health can impact your career. Define together how you will both enhance and protect your marriage. No one is immune from struggle, but how we respond makes all the difference. How well are you prepared for invasion and what weapons have your brought to battle. Anticipate the enemy, have a plan, and build your marriage as a fortress.

Have fun with your mission statement! When you complete it, I’d love to hear from you. Send me your marriage mission statement to coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com, so I can celebrate with you. If you need help in creating your marriage mission statement, let’s have a conversation. Reach out to 281.793.3741.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. If you’d like to explore relationship or marriage coaching, you can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Call to Help the Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia

World Changers on Mission: Part 4 of 4

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are stepping out in faith to serve the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

Half the world’s population is located in Asia, dominated by the world religions of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Animism. My 2 hands and 2 feet joined those of 9 other Christians to deliver encouragement and training to a spiritually dark country in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA). ARNA comprises the world’s unreached people, mainly because of the governments’ opposition to Christianity. Ethnos Asia Ministries is one catalyst for change—supporting local pastors and Christians to bring The Good News.

Don’t miss the earlier blogs of the mission team’s travels, challenges, and successes

Thailand: A Breath of Fresh Air in the Persecuted Christian Countries of Asia

Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

Mission to a Christian Persecuted Country in Asia

Before our team would depart to our God-chosen county, a speaker at the EAM conference reminded us of the eagle’s story of determination and struggle to survive. If an eagle is brave enough, persistent enough, and willing to get uncomfortable enough, it can live for nearly 70 years. However, to do so it must make some hard decisions in its 40’s, requiring it to transform its body to live a second half.

By its mid-life, an eagle’s long and flexible talons become curled, so it cannot grab prey. Its beak becomes mangled, so it can’t tear and eat food. Without a functioning beak, the eagle cannot pluck out its old-aged feathers that stick to its chest and can make flying difficult. An eagle is left with two options: die or go through the painful process of renewal.

If it doesn’t transform, the eagle will not survive. When an eagle chooses to live, it flies to its nest to undergo a 150-day process by tearing out its talons and beating its beak against the rock until it’s knocked out. Eventually, a new keratin beak and talons grow back, so the eagle can then pick out its dead feathers. This is the rebirth of the eagle! Biologically this story doesn’t hold water, as a bird cannot live without food for 150 days; however, this story has circulated the internet for years based on its ability to inspire the human spirit.

I love this eagle story, because it represents so well the transformational work that EAM is undertaking in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia. Traditional ways of sharing the Gospel in religious tolerant countries don’t translate well in ARNA. EAM has to continually transform itself to make this life-long journey and catch the wind of the Holy Spirit.

Who is EAM?

Ethnos Asia Ministries’ mission is to strengthen and serve the Body of Christ in ARNA. Their visionary goals are to:

  • Mobilize the Body of Christ worldwide for ministry into ARNA
  • Provide training, Bibles, and other Christian literature to national leaders
  • Help meet the physical and material needs of Christians who are persecuted and in difficult situations

Do any of these goals tug at your heart? Can you see your passion and gifting coming to life in supporting the following goals?

  • Network with local and national churches and other Christian organizations to develop missionary partnerships
  • Leverage prayer mobilization programs [prayer conferences, monthly prayer guides, prayer net, and prayer journeys] to minister to the ARNA
  • Develop and host mission conferences, creating an opportunity to hear and respond to the voice of the persecuted Christians in Asia
  • Launch national and regional leadership training and other programs through the Church Empowerment Program (CEP)
  • Mobilize Christian business communities who have a heart for serving ARNA
  • Implement relief and development programs as a result of believers’ persecution, poverty, political unrest, calamities, famine, and illnesses

Could you see yourself involved in any of these initiatives? EAM is looking for partners. What is God putting on your heart? What do you need to say yes to?

Visit http://www.ethnosasia.org to learn how to get involved in Ethnos Asia Ministries


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Mission to a Christian Persecuted Country in Asia

World Changers on Mission: Part 3 of 4

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are acting as the Lord’s hands and feet in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

As I learned from attending the Ethnos Asian Ministries (EAM) conference in Thailand, spiritual darkness is the norm in many countries in Asia, especially those identified as the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA). My mission journey continued after the conference to one of those not-to-be-identified Asian countries, further referred to as “Country”, that was suffering from severe spiritual oppression. I was blessed with the opportunity to experience what it’s like to walk among Buddhists while cloaking my Christian faith under the disguise of a tourist.

Our mission was to encourage and bring 2 days of training to Christian pastors across the Country. Luke [pseudo], the EAM Country Pastor, called in 50 pastors of the underground church from across the country to convene with our team at his church. Our team sponsored their transportation, lodging, and food for this time of connection.

When our team of 10 arrived in Country, I was impressed with its beauty and how the people welcomed its guests. We got to explore the town, settle into our hotel, and ask lots of questions about the culture.

Saturday: First Day in the Country Mission Field

On the first morning I wondered where we would be training. We drove a short distance and parked in front of a multi-level tenement. Where were we? We’re here! Where’s here? The guide pointed toward an open doorway.

We walked breathlessly up 5 flights of stairs until we reached the top-level. Piles of shoes were scattered in front of a closed door on the left. Behind the door in front of us was a bathroom. And the third door to the right was open with much food prep and conversation by women cooking in the kitchen. This enclosed area also included a bedroom, office, and more bathrooms.

The fifth floor of the building, which would normal house 2 apartments, had been converted into a church and its administration areas. We heard music coming through the door on the left and took off our shoes to enter. What would have been an apartment with several rooms was converted into one big area with a small stage of instruments and pulpit and carpets laid out for the congregation to sit.

The praise and worship on a Saturday morning had already started with the voices of 50 pastors and 20 church members. With only an estimated 12,000 Christians in this country, we felt awed to be fellow-shipping with so many at one time. We were told some pastors spoke English, but we had hired a translator, Kevin [pseudo], to ensure our messages were understood. Kevin was originally from Indian, 10 years a pastor, with a wife and son living in the United States. He was working towards a VISA so he could join his wife. I couldn’t imagine being separated from my husband for such a length of time, but these are the common stories of those with restricted freedoms.

The initial plan was team introductions, then half the team would stay to train, and the other half would tour the city. The next day the team members would reverse after the church service. After the greetings and team introductions, John [pseudo] led an ice-breaker to get the pastors interacting as many did not know one another. He asked each pastor to share (1) a personal fact, (2) a gift or passion, (3) a hope/need for the training, and (4) a hope/need for 2019. I loved hearing the cacophony of conversations in the room as the pastors opened to one another.

As everyone settled cross-legged on the floor, Andrew [pseudo] and Sarah [pseudo] delivered a combined message about fear and our identity in Christ. I briefly added how I too had an irrational fear of public speaking. Satan will always attack you where God wants to use you most for His glory. I knew I had to overcome my fear of public speaking, because God wanted to use me to help others through my training, words, and messages.

The remainder of the day was earmarked for Darin and me to share on the topics of (1) leadership, (2) marriage strengthening, (3) sharing the Gospel, and (4) spiritual warfare. Having a marriage ministry, we decided to start with relationship strengthening. Little could we have imagined that we’d be closing the day without even finishing the topic. The pastors were thirsty for this information, and Kevin couldn’t have delivered the content any better with his humor and passion.

The touring half of the team returned to the church, and we ended the day by breaking the team into men and women, so we could minister to their gender needs. I wasn’t privy to what the men did with the pastors, but the women crammed into one big bedroom with their children, and Nancy [pseudo] led a discussion about the Father’s love through the concept of love letter. The women were excited to receive their Love-Faith-Hope necklace and small gift bags. Because women are treated as second-class citizens in this culture, they are in desperate need of encouragement. It’s common for husbands to have mistresses with wives getting seconds, and we wanted to make these women feel special even if only for an hour.

The team was happily exhausted by the end of the day, because we were able to serve our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Going into this mission, I thought “leadership” would have been the most sought after topic. Who knows, it may have been, but we never got the chance to deliver it. Marriage strengthening was definitely on their minds once the pastors got a taste of it.

We said our good-byes, grabbed dinner, shopped, and then drove back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest. As Darin and I laid in bed about to turn out the light, our room phone rang. Hello? It was our team leader. Mary [pseudo] said she’d just gotten off the phone with Pastor Luke, who’d debriefed with the pastors. All 50 pastors said they only wanted to hear more about marriage. Others team members would give up slots, if Darin and I would dive into marriage strengthening for a second day. We were there for the pastors, so yes, we would make it happened. I hung up the phone and turned to Darin, “We’ve got some brainstorming to do.” Within a short period of time, we’d developed an outline of more material we could cover.

Sunday: Second Day in the Country Mission Field

“Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory!” Excited for another day in this beautiful country, fellow-shipping with beautiful people. I just wished I could take them home to the United States, even for a brief time, so they could experience the peace of openly professing and sharing their faith. I can only imagine how wonderful the contrast must be to someone who must always suppress their beliefs.

When we returned to church the second day, the team was greeted with smiles and many more faces. A Sunday service and the message that our team was in town, drew more women, men, and children into the church. It was standing room only with about 120 people. After praise and worship, Mark [pseudo] gave a sermon about love, and then Susan [pseudo], along with the Sunday school teacher, escorted the kids to the big bedroom for an age-appropriate lesson. I knew there was a reason I packed my favorite fable, The Three Trees. Susan used the story as part of her time with the kids.

Darin and I were up on stage once again, writing on the white board while the pastors took notes. We continued with the 5 Love Languages and His Needs/Her Needs. We were surprised to learn that the local language didn’t have a word for “romantic”. In this culture there are few romantic terminologies. Sorry ladies!

We then talked about Biblical marriage, and I emphasized that Christians need to look to the Bible for God’s definition of a successful marriage and how to treat our spouse. Satan owns the earthly world and will distorted the role of man, woman, and marriage. Afterwards, the pastors wanted our notes and told us that they felt more equipped to handle married couples, who were coming to them with marriage problems.

When Pastor Luke wrapped up the day, I did appreciate his “assumptive close” as he shared that the pastors were looking forward to our return next year, so they bring their wives. We’d love to host a couples’ workshop, but unfortunately, God put a vision on our hearts for next year to bring marriage strengthening to the African nations. I would love to return to this country within the next couple of years to further invest in these folks who so enthusiastically want more.

Our goodbyes were bitter sweet. What a wonderful journey to this country to meet so many of my geographically separated brothers and sisters. I will miss them, but at the same time I know that I’ll see them again. They are family who just live half way across the world and where we don’t get to spend every Christmas and Easter together.

What Did God Show Me?

God always shows me a truth or gives me a message when I go into the mission field, and this mission was no exception. He showed me once again how thirsty the third world countries are for marriage strengthening. We had an indication of this when we went to Bogota, Columbia in July 2018 and were guest marriage speakers at the Coffee for Two church event. The EAM mission solidified that marriage message.

About 9 months ago, God also put a Marriage Vision 2020 on our hearts to take the perspectives and tools that we use for our marriage ministry to east Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania). The thirst of the pastors in this country overwhelmingly validated what we are called to do. Although Africa is in our sights for next year, we told our team leader we could return to Asia in 2021 to deliver more marriage strengthening and spend 2-3 days in 3 or 4 ARNA countries.

When you cry out to have a meaningful versus a comfortable life, God will stretch you and take you places beyond your imagination. I expect to be stretched in how to develop and unfold the marriage strengthening material into third world cultures where (1) women have a different status than men, (2) tribal affiliations create barriers, and (3) where socioeconomic caste systems create divergent lens in how to view marriage. As confident as I feel about delivering marriage strengthening to America couples, I believe I am early on the learning curve to take it to the nations.

To learn more about Ethnos Asia Ministries and their work in the ARNA field, visit www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

World Changers on Mission: Part 2 of 4

If you got out a world map, would you be able to place your finger on the country of Nepal? What about Bangladesh? Or what about the small country of Bhutan, which is the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Like most Americans, I feel geographically challenged with countries half way around the world, which explains why I also feel disconnected from what’s going on in that region. Ethnos Asia Ministries (EAM) changed my perspective through the stories told by underground Christian pastors from each of the countries in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA).

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I’ve been a Christian for almost a decade, heard accounts of Christian persecution, and attributed most of the horror stories to radical ISIS followers. What I learned was the ugliness of Christian persecution is wielded by Satan’s grip on the hearts and minds of government leaders and citizens who live in fear. At the EAM conference, stories unfolded of the struggles and successes in bringing the Gospel to the unreached tribes. My learning curve is steep, and my words limited, so in the interest of only starting the conversation, I will share a few points about each ARNA country with the hopes that your heart would be stirred by the Holy Spirit to learn more and act on God’s calling.

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are acting as the Lord’s hands and feet in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

East Asia

China: Socialist Republic—1.3 billion people—50% don’t identify with any religion

  • Christianity still growing despite the government’s control; the middle class has a strong spiritual hunger for the Lord
  • Anyone preaching the Gospel without a government license can be fined $1500 US and a property owner, where underground house church services are held, can be fined $3000 US
  • Facial recognition cameras are installed in all churches so pastors cannot leave the country

North Korea: Socialist Republic—25 million people—99% atheists

  • Rampant poverty and 80% of children are undernourished
  • Christians considered hostile elements in society with the government as the primary driver of persecution
  • Freedom of religion and its ceremonies are constitutionally guaranteed but are government restricted. Only 4 government-sanctioned churches exist and are used as a showcase for foreigners

Himalayan Region

Bhutan: Constitutional Monarchy—0.7 million people—75% Buddhist

  • Wangchuk dynasty has ruled Bhutan for over a century and only allowed its first tourists in 1974
  • Bhutanese Christians face loss of citizenship, free education, health care, employment and access to utilities. Despite harassment and beatings, groups of believers are increasing
  • Buddhism, animism, and mysticism have dominated the country since the 7th century with a non-Buddhist typically practicing Hinduism

Nepal: Parliamentary Republic—29 million people—80% Hindu

  • Over 125 languages spoken among 125 ethnic groups/castes
  • Christian population small but growing with each of the 75 districts having a church plant
  • Fastest growing Christian population in the Himalayan region
  • Religious freedom is allowed under Nepalese law, but restrictions are imposed on non-Hindu groups in which Christians can be fined and imprisoned for sharing their faith

Northeast India: Parliamentary Republic—45 million people—55% Hindu

  • Many young people are moving to mainland India for study and work
  • No opposition to spreading the Gospel but experiencing a general spiritual decline
  • The three major Christian denominations are Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterians

Indian Subcontinent

Afghanistan: Islamic Republic—34 million people—99% Muslim

  • Widespread child marriage and serious drug problems with the country growing 90% of the world’s opium producing poppies
  • Blasphemy is punishable by death for males over 18 and girls over 16 years and conversion of Islam can be punishable by death
  • Majority of Muslim’s are Sunni (80%) and Shia (15%) with limited numbers of Christians
  • Most Afghans live in poverty with little employment, so those who fight for the Taliban do so for wages

Bangladesh: Parliamentary Republic—159 million people—90% Muslim

  • Country is quite secular although culturally the citizens observe Muslim festivals like Ramadan and take the pilgrimage to Mecca
  • The constitution permits freedom of religion but conversion, openly sharing the Gospel, and criticizing Islam is not allowed
  • Bawm tribe celebrated 100 years of Christianity in 2018

Maldives: Presidential Republic—0.3 million people—99% Muslim

  • Has one of the highest divorce rates in the world with rising crime, gang activity, child abuse, and pervasive drug use
  • While some freedoms have expanded through democracy, Islam is the official and only religion
  • Traditional belief in spirits combined with Islam leave many citizens trapped in fear and no access to the Gospel in these isolated islands
  • Visitors can bring their Bible and practice religion at home but cannot invite a Maldives citizen to join

Pakistan: Constitutional Republic—207 million people—96% Muslim

  • Most heroin-addicted country in the world
  • Has the most notorious blasphemy laws against Christians and is the center of the unevangelized world
  • Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, this is the world’s most persecuted nation for Christians
  • Most women have never been to school and children are arranged to be married at 7. Wives see their husbands on their wedding night and can be returned because of their skin color

Sri Lanka: Constitutional Republic—2 million—70% Buddhist

  • Significant increases in alcoholism, suicide, violence, and rape
  • Converts from Buddhism and Hinduism suffer the most discrimination in the form of harassment, discrimination, and marginalization from family and community
  • Converting a Muslim to Christianity can invoke capital punishment

Indo-China

Cambodia: Constitutional Monarchy—16 million—97% Buddhist

  • Rapid adoption to the Western lifestyle of materialism in the city and rampant drug use
  • Freedom to worship and preach the Gospel with young people comprising 80% of the church members
  • Islam is perceived as gentle because Islamic militancy has not yet influenced Muslims in the country

Laos: Socialist Republic—7 million people—65% Buddhist

  • Run by the communist party and led by eleven people
  • Thai culture has a heavy influence because of similar language
  • Government-approved Lao National church plants numbered 100 in 2018 and hundreds more of underground churches
  • Buddhism is considered a Lao religion and Christians need government permit to celebrate any Christian festival

Myanmar: Constitutional Republic—55 million people—90% Buddhist

  • Drug production second to Afghanistan; opium and methamphetamine are widespread
  • Many churches have buildings but fail to reach out to surrounding areas
  • Rohingya, refugee community, are Muslim minority of 1 million not recognized as citizens
  • Infighting for Buddhist positions between older and young monks

Thailand: Constitutional Republic—68 million people—95% Buddhist

  • Thai, Buddhism, and nationality tightly intertwined which hinders the conversation to Christianity
  • Monks receive special status and government benefits

Vietnam: Socialist Republic—97 million people—no faith declaration

  • Persecution is not as intense as it has been in previous years
  • Buddhism is still the predominant religions along with Cao Dai and Hoa Hao

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What Now?

Pray! Across these 15 Asian countries, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslim are keeping their citizens in spiritual darkness by squeezing tighter around their minds, hearts, and souls. Pray for the people of these nations who live in fear and ignorance, that they may hear the Gospel and know the love of Jesus. Pray that Christians will be invited and willingly go into these countries to share the Gospel. Pray for spiritual revival and the Holy Spirit to sweep through these Asian countries. Pray that the lives of Christians will shine in contrast to the hatred and prejudice of extremists and draw people towards Christ.

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To learn more about how Ethnos Asia Ministries, their mission, vision, and goals visit www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com