September 4 – Missions Spotlight – Ely and Nikki Ducatel

Read Mark 1:10-11

Ministry: We serve multiple campuses within the East Ohio area. We provide spiritual support, missional training, and developmental programs to students, staff, and faculty that are advancing the kingdom of God on their campuses.

Missionaries: Ely & Nikki Ducatel

“Jesus was seen before sent out.”

In today’s reading, John the Baptist fulfilled prophecy by preparing the way for Jesus to go on mission with God to create disciples and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Before all of this takes place, God affirms Jesus through the Spirit, Sonship, and Love. In this devotion, we’ll explore what it is like to be seen before sent on a mission with God.

“Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with You, I am well pleased.’” Mark 1:10-11

Here are 4 God affirmations in this text:

1.“The Spirit descending like a dove.” The Spirit descended on Jesus as a sign that He was the chosen one and that ministry would only be done through the Spirit of God.

2.“You are my Son.” God established His relationship with Jesus before He was sent out. Jesus knew who He was beforehand.

3.“Whom I love.” God told Jesus, ” I love you!” Jesus knew that He was loved.

4.“I am well pleased.” Jesus had not yet started His ministry but the Father was already pleased with Him.

Although college students are sent to college, they may not feel seen. We want college students who come across InterVarsity on campuses in East Ohio to know that God sees them! When students hear that, they are surprised because they don’t think God has time for them. We follow that up by saying that, not only does God see them, but, more importantly, He loves them! God loved them before they were even born (Psalms 139). Lastly, God can only be pleased with them through Jesus. It is true of you too. God is pleased with you when you accept Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. I believe these God affirmations are game-changers for college students. This creates a safe space and a soft heart for college students to hear the Gospel message.

We have the privilege of creating spaces for many college students to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Please pray that God would prepare the hearts of thousands of college students, staff, and faculty to return to college campuses all over East Ohio. May they know this year that God sees, loves and desires deeper intimacy with them.

Ely & Nikki Ducatel

September 3 – Missions Spotlight – Abby Radcliffe

Read Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Ministry: Training and evangelizing young adults in Taiwan

Missionary: Abby Radcliffe

The fragrant aroma fills my nostrils each time I walk out of my home. It’s a combination of spices that, over time, has become familiar. This is the smell of incense burning slowly as the Taiwanese people worship their gods and ancestors. Ancestor worship is deeply woven within the Taiwanese culture.

My name is Abby, and I have had the privilege of being in Taiwan since March of 2020. I work as an intern at an English and Bible training center. Our aim is to raise up young adults to be leaders and disciple makers in their churches and communities. Specifically, I have been teaching English and Bible classes to Taiwanese adults, college age and up.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. One of my former English students, Stanley, is an active worshipper of Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Many times, worship of these gods is motivated by the desire to be blessed. Who can blame them? Everybody wants a good life.  

As a Christ follower, I am grateful that I don’t have the pressure of this ritualistic worship. Still, in Christianity, the motivation to worship for blessing may still be there; it just looks different when played out. In my own life, I can feel as though God will bless me if I do what He wants. If I spend time with Him in the morning, He will reward me with a good day. Often, I need to take a step back and evaluate my motivation.

In Deuteronomy 10, God shows the people of Israel who He is and the type of worship He requires from them. It’s interesting that God specifically mentions that He does not take bribes. He cannot be bought with our worship. I cannot offer to Him 30 minutes of my morning in exchange for a day that is problem free. His exchange rate isn’t based on my performance, rather it is based solely on His grace.

We see in Deuteronomy what God requires of the Israelites, “to fear the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” (vs. 12, ESV). They were to do that, not because of what God will give them, but simply because they know who He is (vs. 14), and they have seen how He has worked (vs. 21). So, we can still offer Him 30 minutes of our morning, but for a different reason.

Abby Radcliffe

September 2 – Missions Spotlight – Jason and Christy Carmean

Read 1 Peter 5:1-5

Ministry: Training a next generation of spiritual leaders in Africa

Missionaries: Jason and Christy Carmean

There may not have ever been a time when it has been more difficult to pastor a church in the United States than our current time. On any given current subject, a variety of thoughts, opinions and positions exist. Pastors seek to navigate all of them to give effective spiritual care to the flock.

As we read Peter’s words to the dispersed church of his day, we are reminded of the priorities of the pastor as he ultimately gives an account to the Lord for his work.

The command that is given is to shepherd the flock of God that is among you (verse 2). Just like a real shepherd, they were responsible to the owner of the flock (God) for the care of the sheep. In Cameroon, we have shepherds who move flocks of animals from one place to another. The animals do not belong to the shepherd, they care for them for a season. The shepherds are rewarded if the animals are healthy. They are punished if the animals are unhealthy or have died.

Here are some observations from the text:

  1. Being a spiritual shepherd is hard, but good shepherds are motivated by a deep sense of God’s calling in their lives. 
  • Spiritual shepherds are responsible to the Lord only for the way they shepherd. At the same time, the life of the spiritual shepherd is to be lived as an example to the flock that is under their care. Pastors are not perfect examples, but they are good examples. 
  • The sheep are called to be subject to the shepherd. They are to willingly place themselves under their spiritual leadership. 

Here in Cameroon the church has gone a generation without pastors and qualified spiritual shepherds. The impact of that is often seen in the church. Most Grace Brethren Churches in the U.S. do not have the issue of not having pastors and so the tendency can be to underestimate the importance of good spiritual leadership in the life of a local church.

We have the privilege of investing in a new generation of pastors here in Cameroon and hope that we are helping them understand the importance of being good spiritual shepherds who will give an account to the Lord first for the way they lead.

Pray:  Please pray for a second promotion of students who will graduate in January 2022 and be called into spiritual leadership of the local churches in Cameroon, Africa.

September 1 – Missions Spotlight – Nate and Luisa Harley

Read Colossians 4:3-6

Missionaries: Nate & Luisa Harley

Ministry: Making & Developing Disciples in Uruguay

We serve in a context where we need constant prayers for open doors! In light of the overall resistance to the Gospel, Uruguay has been called the “Graveyard of Missions,” with nearly half of the population identified as “non-religious” (highest in the Western Hemisphere).

The New Testament lets us in on a secret. Paul often speaks of this “mystery,” but the part he thought was of first importance was the resurrected Jesus being the first person to cross from lowly body – to death – to life in a new glorious body…and that those who love Him would be changed like that too, as a result. Throughout his letters, Paul gives some tips for sharing this incredible open door with others – here are two things to not be afraid of and two things to not get weary of. We’ll use Colossians 4:3-6 as a base.

Let’s not be afraid of our own limitations. Many would consider Paul the greatest theologian and/or the greatest missionary, but he often admitted his shortcomings and weaknesses. Here, he needed prayer to be able to articulate the message clearly (Col 4:4). He even expressed the need for God to give him the words so he could communicate without fear (Eph 6:19). Pray that God would give us the words and the reminder to rely on Him for the results!

However, in that reliance, let’s not get weary of learning. Paul encourages us to “know how to answer” (Col 4:6). So not being afraid of our limitations and relying on God doesn’t negate the need and responsibility to learn what we can. Pray that we’d continue to learn and grow in experience to know how to answer each individual effectively!

Next – let’s not be afraid of opposition. Paul says it is because of this message that he is “in chains” (Col 4:3). That was a very common situation for him. In most of our contexts, this extreme physical opposition isn’t our reality, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t experience opposition. Pray that we’d have the courage andpray for those who might oppose us!

However, in that courage, let’s not get weary of doing good. Paul reminds us of the importance of being “full of grace” when we interact with people (Col 4:6). In another letter, he says not to become weary in doing good, but to do good to all people whenever we have the opportunity(Gal 6:9-10). Actions of love authenticate a message of love!

Nate and Luisa Harley

August 31 – Missions Spotlight – Mark and Roxanne Johnson

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Ministry: Winning college students to Christ, building them up in their faith, and sending them out into the world to do the same for others

Missionaries: Mark and Roxanne Johnson

College students are one of the most unique groups of people on the planet. They sit at a crossroads in life, figuring out who they are and what they believe. The choices they make will affect the rest of their lives, for good or for ill. Furthermore, many of them will eventually become leaders in their businesses and communities. If we can reach the campus for Christ today, then perhaps students will help reach the world tomorrow.

In this Bible passage, we see Paul praising and thanking God for how the gospel impacted the lives of the Thessalonians. Paul brought the gospel in conviction and power to Thessalonica over the course of a few weeks (see Acts 17:1-9). In turn, the Thessalonians received the gospel and believed this good news with joy despite afflictions and persecutions. Notably, the gospel then multiplied from those original believers. Paul colorfully writes that the gospel “sounded forth” (like a gong!) from the Thessalonians. Previously, they had walked in darkness and worshipped idols. Now, however, the gospel had changed them in a radical way, and they served the living and true God.

The gospel is glorious good news! It changes lives wherever it is embraced. People under wrath become people under mercy and grace. Our desire is to bring this powerful gospel to college students. When a young person begins following Christ and begins to win, build, and send others in Christ’s name, what kind of impact will they have for the next fifty years? How many others will hear this good news because of them? Therefore, what we do on campus is designed to help students hear the gospel, share the gospel, and train others to do the same since the gospel should impact lives. We long to see the gospel “sounding forth” from the campus to the world!

We serve with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) on the campus of Indiana University. For the past 15 years, we have sought to proclaim Christ and help others do the same. Mark has led the missionary team as the Campus Director since 2012. The Lord has blessed us with three lovely girls – Kyla (8), Eden (6), and Selah (1).

Prayer: Please pray that we will be able to find new and spiritually interested students this Fall semester as the university lifts COVID restrictions.

August 30 – Missions Spotlight – Mike, Michelle and Evan

Read: Luke 14:1-24

Ministry: Inviting People with Intellectual Disabilities to the Banquet 

Missionaries: Mike, Michelle and Evan 

Jesus isn’t a safe person to invite for dinner. One Pharisee found that out the hard way. 

Good dinner guests compliment the host and avoid controversial topics (religion and politics). Jesus isn’t a good dinner guest. Even before entering the house, things get awkward. Mosaic Law was clear about people with skin diseases; they’re unclean and untouchable (Leviticus 13). So when a disabled man appeared “suffering from abnormal swelling of his body,” everyone was nervous. 

Jesus broke the silence with religion and politics, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” More silence. Then Jesus does the unthinkable. He wraps his arms around this unclean, disabled man and heals him. Has Jesus just defiled himself? I’m sure the host was thinking, “What was I thinking inviting Jesus to dinner?” Jesus asks more awkward questions with more awkward silence as everyone shuffles inside.

While the guests start jockeying for the best seats, Jesus tells them a parable about a bunch of self-righteous people jockeying for the best seats and then turns to the host and criticizes his pathetic choice of guests. Controversy, defilement and insults. This dinner is a train-wreck.

Next, Jesus launches into another equally insulting parable about a great banquet. The respectable invited guests had better things to do. So, the host instructed his servants to hit the streets to round up the poor and disabled and “compel them to come.”

The parable symbolizes “the feast in the kingdom of God,” the end goal of the Great Commission (i.e. people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathered at Jesus’ Marriage Banquet). Though everyone is invited, the poor, disabled and others on the margins get special invitations. And, we (Jesus’ servants) are commissioned to “compel them to come.” 

Since Jesus asked awkward questions, I will too. But, they are equally awkward for me as well. Who is seated around our church’s tables? Mostly respectable members of the community? If so, I’m not sure Jesus would be a safe guest around that table. 

In Southeast Asia, we are building an inclusive community that welcomes people with intellectual disabilities and their families to Jesus’ table. Most of the families we are currently connecting with are not suffering from poverty. So, I’m challenged to find ways of including the poor as well.                      

Pray: Please pray for God to send out more servants specifically to invite the poor, the disabled and others on the margins to the Great Banquet. 

August 29 – Missions Spotlight – Rob and Nichole Plaster

Read John 13:34-35

Ministry: Loving people to Jesus in the City of Light (Paris, France)

Missionaries: The Plasters of Paris, Rob and Nichole Plaster

In our home, the Gospel is about sharing God’s love with people who have often never met anyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus.

Discipleship is often about growing alongside those who have never touched a Bible before and having the privilege of offering them their first Bible and accompanying them to learn to read it for themselves.

Here, church planting means cultivating a community of discipleship with people who have never seen a loving relationship modeled but who are willing to commit themselves to grow together.

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.
All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)

Here are some observations from the text:

  1. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16). You are God’s first choice in modeling His love to the nations.
  2. God loves when you let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). God is asking you to live your loving relationships in the public eye.
  3. God’s grace is enough for you. When you are weak, then His power is made perfect in you (2 Corinthians 12:9). God loves using our imperfections and messy relationships. If we pretend to have it all together, how will our neighbors know WHO really holds us together? 

How do you love someone to Jesus? By walking with them through the good times and the bad times, by weaving eternal truth into everyday conversations, by sowing large quantities of the word of God into their lives, and by teaching them to be students of the Holy Spirit every day.

Thank you for sending us to shine the Light in the City of Light, Paris, France.

Pray: Pray with us that the Lord of the harvest would send workers into the harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Our hearts are burdened to start a new church plant near our home. May God raise up kindred spirits who love discipleship, urban centers and the organic growth of Life Transformation Groups®.

Rob & Nichole Plaster

August 28 – Missions Spotlight – Bekah Hilty

Read John 10: 7-10

Ministry: Engaging, Equipping, and Empowering women to make healthy pregnancy decisions and provide alternatives to abortion

Mission: The Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County

On March 19th at 3:27 PM we received a call from “Ashley” in which she said that she was 4 weeks pregnant and needed the abortion pill and needed it as soon as possible. The urgency in her voice was nothing like we had heard before. After 20 minutes of counseling Ashley, she hung up the phone abruptly because her friends worked next door to the Pregnancy Care Center, and she could not take the risk of them seeing her come in and know she was pregnant. Less than 24 hours before that call came in, the PCC had launched a new marketing strategy to reach more abortion vulnerable women. Since that call we have counseled over 15 women who wanted a surgical or chemical abortion.

John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came that we would have life and have It to the full. We like to replace the word full in that verse with abundant because we aren’t just Pro-Life, we are Pro-Abundant Life. We are committed to transforming lives physically and spiritually. The true Shepherd, Jesus, is the protector and promoter of life. The false shepherds take it away. The false shepherds pressure these women into thinking that abortion is their only option. They tell them that their quality of life will be compromised if they have a baby. These false shepherds seek to carry away the sheep.

Saving lives for this world is critically important. But saving lives for eternity is the most important thing we can do. Additionally, true and lasting transformation of those involved in making pregnancy decisions (moms, dads, family, friends) comes only through a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Pray: Please pray for the women who are desperately seeking to have an abortion. Pray for our staff and volunteers that we can speak the truth in love to these women. Pray that we can Engage with them, Equip them with accurate information, and Empower them to make a healthy choice for themselves and their baby.

Bekah Hilty

August 27 – Missions Spotlight – R and Y

Read 1 Peter 2:9-25

What does the Bible say about how we are to live among unbelieving neighbors and co-workers?

Peter’s words in verses 11 and 12 hit the nail on the head. Having just described us as chosen people belonging to a holy nation, he uses the word “foreigners and exiles.” I found the words here extremely helpful in understanding how to live in a Muslim country. The passage describes being accused of doing wrong. My wife and I live in a country where the Christian presence is below 1%. In fact, in the school where I teach, I am the only Christian.  In our neighborhood, we are the only Christians. The people in my work place and around us have grown up in a culture where they have been told many false things about Christians and what evil people we are. How can we be a presence in a community like this and make an eternal impact? Peter gives clear instructions where his readers were in a situation similar to ours.

Whether we live in a Christian community where we are surrounded by unbelievers or living in a Muslim country where we may be the only Christian a person may ever meet, the principle Peter lays out is clear: our actions and conduct speak louder than our words. By living above reproach and doing my job with excellence, I have been able to rise to a level of leadership at the school where I work. My wife has been the assistant to the president of the kickboxing association and traveled in a leadership position to a number of countries with the national team. Through these opportunities we have been given a platform for many to see the difference Christ makes in our lives. Would these opportunities have ever arisen if we were not careful to walk in a manner that was pleasing to God?

What about you? Are you living such a “good life” among unbelievers that they see your good deeds and glorify God?

Paul tells the Ephesian church in Ephesians 5:15-16: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” If we seek to be used by Him, we must take stock of how we are living our lives. May we live in such a way that those who don’t know Christ will glorify God on the day He visits us!


Pray: We are in a time of transition, pray for Y as she is seeking to begin a new work among the elderly.

August 26 – Missions Spotlight – Southeast Asia

Read Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Our family has been serving as missionaries in SE Asia for six years, and, while our day to day jobs or activities have changed, and, while even our location and context has changed, our desire and calling to love God completely and to love our neighbors as ourselves has been constant.

We are firm believers that the whole of a person is important and loved and redeemable by God. Jesus was the incarnate God. God loved us so much that He sent His Son as a human! He touched this earth and those around Him physically as well as spiritually. This perspective, alongside the greatest commandments, has been a constant for us in the ever changing realities of life. Life is messy, relationships are messy, the economy is messy, work is hard, politics etc. etc. Nevertheless, these are real and important aspects of our lives. If we, as followers and imitators of Christ, are to love our neighbors well, we must be attentive to these, all of their realities. We hope in Christ and ground ourselves by loving Him with our all. We love our neighbors by opening up our home, sharing meals, culture, tears, and laughter. And, we love them as ourselves by sharing the hope we have in Jesus, that He loves us so much that He came and trampled down sin and death with His own sacrificial death and resurrection.

We can’t tell you a whole lot about who we are because of security risks in our country, but what we can say is that we love God, we love people, and we love where we live and know that God has made us for this purpose.

Our prayer request is for you, in your place of life (ministry), as much as it is for us!  That we would all continue to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves… and I would say to love our neighbors like Jesus loves us, in the nitty gritty hard realities of life. And, by making His name known.