Friday, June 26, 2009

Raising Children Who Transform Nations: A Lifelong Journey

After graduating from Gordon, Jeff Lander ’95 thought he would be a youth pastor for the rest of his career because that’s what he studied—youth ministry and Bible. In fact, from 1995 to 2000 he was the youth and children’s pastor at First Baptist Church in Manchester, Massachusetts. He served eight more years as the youth, music and young families pastor in Port Townsend, Washington. But God was working on his heart, preparing him and changing him to do a different kind of ministry.

Today Jeff is a full-time missionary with Children of the Nations (COTN), a nonprofit organization that rescues, raises and supports orphaned and destitute children in Africa and the Dominican Republic. COTN is partnering with nationals to provide wholistic, Christ-centered care, enabling them to create positive and lasting change in their nations. How did he get there? According to Lander, God was doing a work on his heart long ago, during his time at Gordon.
“It wasn’t just the classroom studies that made the biggest impact on who I am and what I’m doing now. It was Gordon’s professors, the extracurricular opportunities, the critical thinking, the friends, the disappointments, the opportunity to fail (and I did some of that) and the opportunity to get up and try again until I succeeded. I needed to think for myself and to make my own decisions. I needed chapel services to appreciate the diversity of God’s love and His extension of grace to all mankind.”
“I remember sitting in chapel and distinctly hearing God break through Reverend Dean Lee’s message, whispering to me, ‘I want you to go to Guatemala with World Focus.’ It was crazy, because I had already missed the sign-up date and had never talked about going on a mission trip with anyone. But He kept on saying it over and over. I truly believe God was calling me then to introduce me to missions, which is what I do for COTN today—I manage all teams going to Africa and the Dominican Republic. Amazing!”
Lander enjoys his work and finds a lot of things rewarding about his job. “I love exposing people to the mission and vision of Children of the Nations through Venture Team trips. I help create positive and lasting change for the children of the nations in Sierra Leone, Malawi, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. I can also attest to the daily provision from God by living out my faith as a full-time, self-supported missionary in one of the worst economies in recent history.” But Lander says the most rewarding part of his job is raising children who were once destitute and helping to transform nations. “I’m a part of a movement of people who aren’t interested in fortune, fame or glory. I’m a part of something much, much bigger than myself—a story God’s been writing for a long, long time.”
To learn more about COTN, to read about children’s lives they’ve impacted or to find out how you can make an impact, go to www.COTNI.org or call Jeff at 360.271.9393. You can also view his blog at http://venturingoutwithcotn.blogspot.com/.
Photo, entitled "Feet," is of children waiting for lunch in Malawi—a COTN ministry to orphans that provides care and lunch for thousands of children. Photo courtesy of Children of the Nations.

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