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  • Writer's pictureBradley Bell

Moving Upstream: February 2024 Newsletter

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So Grateful

I just keep pinching myself. It’s hard to believe I get to work full-time with such great leaders and friends, Larry McCrary and Nathan Sloan. Here, we are pictured on a trip to IKEA to outfit our newly expanded office in downtown Louisville (come see us sometime!). We spent a chunk of this month setting up furniture and moving books—LOTS of books. Thanks to a little help from our wives and children the office is now ready to go.

I know it sounds silly, but this IKEA trip held something very meaningful to me. One of my favorite traditions over the past seven years has been eating at Giordano’s in Indianapolis on the anniversary of becoming a lead pastor. With my recent transition I was bummed to see this annual pilgrimmage come to an end. But guess where my new co-workers and I stopped to eat lunch... Giordano's. That's right, the tradition lives on!

If you haven't noticed, I do genuinely enjoy my job. I get to write, teach, create, and encourage. Just today I was sitting with Nathan reflecting on what we feel like we uniquely bring to the world of missiology. It's not so much our theological pedigree or missions expertise. We bring into this work our individual stories of brokenness. It's a posture that's passionate but lowly. In a field that is, well, quite serious, we're not taking ourselves too seriously.

Back to School

This month I travelled back to my alma mater, University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Sadly, it had been almost ten years since I had visited (though to my credit, I've been a bit busy). The college and community loved me well during my time there, and then were supportive of me while I served as a missionary. I knew that despite my absence there would be friends who would gladly join our support team.

I wish I had been able to stay longer. And certainly I got the message that next time I must bring my girls. Yet it was still an encouraging time. It's great to have a reason to reconnect with old friends. The long conversations were life-giving. And it means the world to have people you love affirm your new season of calling.

Just yesterday at a missions conference I was challenged to consider how God might be asking me to step out in faith. I listened closely for the Lord. And in my heart what I heard was, "Son, you're already doing it!" My Father's affirmation means the most.

On the Move

As I just referred to above, this week I was invited to be a special guest at the MOVE Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This is an annual event led by a dear Upstream partner, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. My role primarily has been to serve as a representative of Upstream. I have also recorded a couple of podcast episodes, "Living as a Missionary in Atlanta" and "The Inner Life of a Disciple-Maker," as well as led a breakout session on "Creating a Missions Culture in Your Church". It's been a joy to be with brothers and sisters from all over world and receive from the unique expressions of Christ in them.

In between sessions I have cranked out as much work as possible. There's a lot going on. Next week Nathan and I are recording an Introduction to Missions video series for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. I'm also working through the final publication stages of two Upstream books, as well as finalizing a table of contents for another book in partnership with Missio Nexus. This is not to mention that hundreds of people are currently working through our latest book, Lent and Missions.

In the midst of these good things is my sweet family. God's mission is exciting and travel is fun, but being away from each other is a true sacrifice. Also, doing this work while raising support weighs on Katie and I while our girls grow and their needs increase. We are trusting God to provide. We are hoping that he's forming something beautiful in us all through this.

Join Us in Prayer

You can be part of what God is doing in and through us by praying in the following ways:

  • God's blessing on our continued support raising. I must confess, I lost some steam in support raising this month. However, we're still finishing February around 60% funded. Pray for us to have renewed energy. Our goal is to be fully funded by the end of March.

  • God's blessing on March's big projects. No, I'm not talking about March Madness (Go Cats though). I mean my work on the publication of three Upstream books, shooting four Intro to Missions videos, recording another podcast, and leading a brand renewal project for Upstream.

  • God's blessing on our family as I work and travel. Almost every time I leave home something goes awry. Over the years Katie and I have come to see this as spiritual warfare. Pray for God's protection over our home when I travel. At the end of March we are all going to a minister's retreat house in the mountains for a week. We hope this will be a time of refreshing.

Thanks for your support!

Pictured from left to right (or on your phone, top to bottom): my little moving helpers, our Giordano's pizza, and an airport goodbye

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