In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of ten virgins who took lamps and went out to meet a bridegroom.
All ten virgins were in the right place at the right time with the right desire.
But only five were prepared to be faithful.
In the providence of God, we as His children will always be in the right place at the right time. If we are maintaining our relationship with Him, we will have the right desire. The real question is, will we be prepared to be faithful?1
As I ponder that question, I think of Matthew and Marsena Cunningham.
You may remember an earlier article we wrote about Matthew and Marsena: At the Center of a Strategic Opportunity in Edinburgh. In February of 2020 when we published the article, Matthew and Marsena had left the church in West Monroe, Louisiana where they had been lead pastors for 10 years. They were well into their support raising season for a future assignment in Edinburgh, Scotland. Their hearts were aflame for the people of Scotland and for what they believed God would do through them to establish a ministry training center to facilitate church-planting in Edinburgh.
And then COVID-19 began to take hold in the United States.
By late April 2020, almost 300 million people (about 90% of the population) were under some form of lockdown in the United States.2 Churches began to experiment with streaming their services online.3 Between sixty and seventy-nine percent of pastors and church leaders said giving had declined in their churches.4 5 And when overall giving declines, giving to missions often suffers the most.6
Fundraising was difficult and came to a standstill. The door to Edinburgh seemed as if it had closed, and other doors weren’t opening. But Matthew and Marsena were prepared to be faithful. In the following months, they:
- participated in youth ministry
- shared on podcasts
- participated in Men and Women of Action (MWOA) humanitarian projects
- painted and renovated a church building
- etc., etc.
Although they were struggling to understand God’s plan for their ministry, they did what their hands found to do, and did it with all their might.7
The story of the ten virgins is followed in Matthew 25 by another story — the parable of the ten talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Principles from this story are also reflected in the Cunningham’s ministry over the past fifteen months. While they waited for God’s direction, they did not bury their talents — instead, they used their talents to serve God and His people. And so God “put (them) in charge of many things”8 — through the opportunity they were offered in March 2021 to be coordinators of RIO Missions’ Firewall Project.
RIO Missions is actively pursuing the unreached in twenty-eight different countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Their strategy includes a school of ministry, bible distribution, church planting, disaster relief, orphanages, chaplaincy programs, building/construction, crusades, conferences, healthcare clinics, prison ministry, recovery programs, feeding centers, and street evangelism.9
Firewall Project is a church-planting initiative of RIO Missions. Firewall Project goes to hard-to-reach places and evangelizes the lost, disciples converts, and finally resources converts to go into their own communities and plant churches whose converts will then be discipled and resourced to plant more churches.
How to Join the Cunninghams in This Church-Planting Initiative
If you’ve read our pillar articles (which can be reached through the tabs at the top of the site if you are using a desktop or the three-bar/”hamburger” menu if you are using a mobile device), you know that our conviction is that all believers should be part of a team seeking to reach the unreached. Some will go, some will pray, some will provide financial support, some will provide logistical support — but all are called to give their lives to reach the nations.
Here are five ways you can be a part of Matthew and Marsena’s team:
- You can pray for Matthew and Marsena on an ongoing basis. The best way to stay informed of their prayer needs is by following them on Facebook and by following Firewall Project on Facebook.
- You can support Matthew and Marsena financially by signing up to support them on a monthly basis or by contributing a one-time gift. There are several ways you can give to their ministry: 1) Give through Church of God World Missions; 2) Give through RIO Missions (choose Project 5200 from the “FUND” drop-down menu — you can make a one-time gift or choose a recurring plan); or, 3) Send a text to 423-376-9818 and specify Project 5200
- You can consider going on a short-term missions trip with RIO Missions. Contact Matthew and Marsena for more information.
- If you are a pastor or missions leader in your church, we would encourage you to get in touch with Matthew and Marsena to see how they might be able to encourage your people for the cause of missions and also to find out how you can be of service to them.
- If your church does not have a strong, established missions program, contact Matthew and Marsena who would be more than happy to help you in that regard.
WORKERS IN THIS ARTICLE: Matthew and Marsena Cunningham
1 From a sermon by our good friend Steve Savelich.
2 “COVID-19 pandemic,” last modified May 20, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic.
3 Andrew MacDonald, Ed Stetzer, Todd Wilson, and Daniel Yang, “How Church Leaders Are Responding to COVID-19 Challenges: 2nd Round Survey,” last modified April 21, 2020, https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/how-church-leaders-are-responding-to-challenges-of-covid-19.html.
5 Emily McFarlan Miller, “Higher Attendance, Lower Giving: Survey Shows How Churches Are Responding to COVID-19”, last modified April 1, 2020, https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/higher-attendance-lower-giving-survey-shows-how-churches-are-responding-to-covid-19.html
6 Mandryk, Jason, “Global Transmission, Global Mission: The Impact and Implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic (Operation World, 2020), https://operationworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Global-Transmission-Global-Mission.pdf.
7 Ecclesiastes 9:10
8 Matthew 25:14-21
9 https://riomissions.org/about-us.html and https://www.facebook.com/RIOmissionsorg/
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