Surprises and Gospel Opportunities

Life for global worker Joan has always been full of surprises and gospel opportunities in her host country. This morning, Joan muses about a neighborhood wedding, English clubs and the Apostle Creed—all in a day’s work for Joan.

A few weeks ago, there was a wedding reception for the son of the M family who lives next door to me. Since I hadn't received an invitation, I asked a friend who lives a few houses from me, if I should go. She said, "Yes, you must go or you will offend them since you live next door."

Reluctantly, I put my gift of money in an envelope and headed to the wedding. Much to my surprise, when I arrived, the groom's aunt met me, took my arm, found two chairs and sat me down beside her. She stayed with me throughout the reception and introduced me to everyone as her friend next door. We took pictures and they insisted that I was in the middle of each photo.

Later, she walked me home, came inside and we chatted some more. She has already returned for another visit, invited me to her home and was delighted when I gave her a copy of the photos I had taken.

This is a miracle since we have lived next door to this family for 16 years and they have never spoken to us. Pray for this new friendship to grow.

On another front, the English Club continues to be a blessing to the students and to me. One of the young M students recently said that he was born a M but didn't really believe any religion at all. When he comes to the English Club, he enters in to the discussions of the Bible. We have a mix of Catholics, Christians and Ms who come each week. God is working in their hearts as we study his Word together.

I have several more groups of global workers and pastors’ wives who are eager to learn English. What a blessing for all of us as we pray together for people in this country to know Esa (Jesus). God is building his church.

And there’s Siwi, my M friend, who works in another city but messages me every day. Please pray for her and her brother, Angga, that God will continue to grow our friendship and they will open their hearts to know Esa.

Last Sunday, I attended an English service in a church here. As we read the Apostles' Creed, together, I thought, Here I am in another culture, in another country, reciting the same creed in the same way as I did at College Church. This is what heaven must be like.

On this Missions Festival weekend, Sunday’s Connections features an article by Cheryl Warner, “Living in the Sun Rise.” It's a good read,too. Cheryl and her husband, Charley, live in Ukraine and serve with Barnabas International. Enjoy this special weekend with our missions people.

Wandering: 1968/2018 by Wil Triggs

There’s so much I don’t get about 1968, but then, there are plenty of things I don’t get about 2018 either. What I really grapple with is how to fit social discord and sin with the place of the church in the world.

Last fall, we went with Pat and Lin Fallon to see Ken Burns and Lynn Novick talk about their PBS Vietnam documentary before it aired. The Auditorium Theater had equal parts anti-war folks and those who fought in the war—and both groups expressed appreciation for each other. 

That would not have happened back in 1968. The two segments covering that year were called “Things Fall Apart” and “The Veneer of Civilization.” Those titles seemed to perfectly describe what a chaotic year that was. And the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., just a few days ago, brought me back to that time.

I remember it. Sort of. I was alive, but a little kid—so little in fact, that racial injustice and our involvement in a war on the other side of the world really didn’t mean anything to me. I just wanted to play with my friends.

But swirling all around us was, well, 1968. The war. Assassinations. The Democratic Convention. As strange as it seemed to me as a child, it must have been truly bizarre for adults—so much change on so many levels all at once.

Vietnam was far away, but issues of race were as close as the block where I played and lived.

As a white boy, I didn’t feel privileged. In fact, in my neighborhood, I was the minority. My friends identified themselves as Japanese, Black, Chinese, Filipino, Mixed, Mexican. I can’t think of a single friend who was white and stayed in our community. None of us seemed to be ethnically in a majority position when it came to the classroom or the playground.

I loved to visit Demetrius, whose mother would come home from work and make cookies and pour glasses of chocolate milk for us. After watching the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr., on television, I ran a few doors down to Demetrius’s home. I wanted to shake off the sadness and play. The mother, who usually looked happy and beautiful as she happily offered homemade snacks, opened the door, tears streaming down her face. She was stricken and could barely talk. “The children can’t play today,” she said. “I’m sorry,” I said. I felt stupid even trying.

It wasn’t until I went to my evangelical Christian college that I experienced a truly white majority living situation. Where were the other ethnic groups? Many of the students who were not white had come from countries overseas. 

While onstage with Russell Moore at a conference this week, John Perkins said, “You are serving God absolutely when you love like God. …There is one way to get rid of sin and that’s the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.”

We can’t fix everything, but we can show our own love and point people to the King of Love, the one who shed his blood for us all.

Just a few weeks ago, we invited Lonnie to our Easter services this year—part of our “Each One, Bringing One” outreach. She is an African American woman we’ve gotten to know at the grocery store. Lorraine and I go there on Saturday mornings and split an omelet before our weekly grocery shopping.

Lonnie’s job was to cook the breakfast orders. We began to visit with her week after week. She got to know us so well that when she saw us walk in, she started our order before we placed it. At Christmas, we gave her our traditional gift to friends—chocolate ice cream sauce. When we gave her the sauce, she pulled out her cell phone and showed us photos of her newborn granddaughter.

So when we gave her the Easter invitation, we were hopeful. But she said right away that she had to work. We told her about College Church and she said, “Oh yeah, I know that church.”

We told her to visit. And if she ever visits, Lorraine said, “you dress up that granddaughter of yours and bring her with you and show her off to us.” We told her where she could find us when she visits.

And inviting her, even though she didn’t come, has meant that we pray for her more consistently than we did before. Join us in praying for Lonnie.

Maybe in the days ahead, we’ll see her on a Sunday morning when she doesn’t have to work.

At the same conference where John Perkins spoke, Russell Moore said, “Sometimes we say ‘If only we could have multi-ethnic churches.’ The church is multi-ethnic. The church is headed right now by a middle-eastern homeless man.”

I need help. I don’t really get this.

Let’s ask God to guide us to truly serve him by loving others like God loves us.

March Madness by Pat Cirrincione

The month of March begins like it does every season--snow storms and then days that just hint of spring. The sun is shining, you put on your walking shoes, and out the door you go to enjoy the few hours of sunshine before the next blizzard comes along. And with this month comes the crazy college basketball games and the ending of the college wrestling season. March is just loaded with madness, but none seems as mad as the few weeks Jesus spent preaching, healing and praying right before the Crucifixion.

Today, the magnitude of the crowd that followed Jesus would have placed him in the realm of super stardom. Wherever he preached, crowds went to listen. Many more came to be healed or asked for family members to be healed. And Jesus did it all. He healed the sick, he fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a few pieces of fish, he raised people from the dead. In short, he was becoming Jesus Christ Superstar.

Yet Jesus needed respite from the crush of those who wanted to touch him, but did not really want to believe, truly believe, in what he said about “being the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). I image that the true hearts of the crowd had to sadden Him. Even his own apostles did not truly comprehend how great the person was they were hanging out with. Soon it would be too late. Soon Jesus enemies would have their way. Yet the time had not come.

In the meantime, many Jewish people had witnessed what Jesus did and believed in him. On the other hand, the Pharisees gathered to plot Jesus’ death. After all, it would be easier “that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50).

So, began Jesus’ last week on earth. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Can you see it? The throngs of people who came out to meet Him? Waving branches of palm trees and singing “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13) The people were praising God for giving them a king, a national leader who would restore their nation to its former glory. Imagine the excitement in the air.

Alas, devotion based on curiosity and popularity fades quickly, particularly when people don’t really listen to what you are saying. They want the easy solution to their problems. Sound familiar? Don’t we still do that today? The people in Jerusalem, like us, would not believe, despite the evidence, that the Messiah was in their midst! How easy it was for them to be manipulated by the religious leaders of their day. Again, how this must have saddened our Lord to know that “every branch in me that does not bear fruit His Father takes away.” (John 15:1) If the people could not abide in Christ and bear fruit, they could do nothing, and their branches would wither. Would you have understood this at the time?

The True Vine knew what was coming, and in his final days warned us about the world’s hatred, promised the Holy Spirit and instructed his followers to pray in his Then Jesus prayed—for himself, his disciples and future believers (that’s us). All this in the few days He had left before He was betrayed, questioned, denied and dragged before Pilate, only to be led away and crucified.

Jesus died on that that cross, to give his life for us. Do you get it? Do you get the madness that can drive people to kill the Messiah, the Son of God, their Savior, upon a tree? To hang upon it, nailed to it, stripped of all dignity for you? Do you see it? When you look at the empty cross in church, devoid of Jesus’ body, can you imagine the scene of that tree with Christ's body hanging from it, dying for you?

Think about the madness of that Passover season of long ago. It wasn’t cheers for a favorite basketball team, but the frenzy of a crowd gone mad calling to crucify Jesus. When March madness comes along each year, remind yourself to not be a part of the frenzy that happened so long ago, and instead remember the power of the cross for salvation.

Even the Dogs by Wil Triggs

Throwing down my coat

Onto the foot-worn path,

Hoping for a second or two

The donkey he’s riding on

Might step onto it instead

Of the dirty road underneath,

Just a second or two, a gentle

Step, the prized hoof print

Marking the coat,

Forever marred and blessed,

Then scurrying to pick it up

Following him as far

As I can, the sounds of blessings

And hosannas echoing in time,

A connection early in the week

Before he went

where no one else

would, could go.