Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Joining God Where He's At Work

There are many diferent focuses to a church mission trip. Some go to dig water wells. Others work in orphanages or schools. Still others build homes or churches. Many go to feed the hungry and care for the sick. Our purpose for our recent trip to Malawi was to share the Good News of God's love through Jesus Christ. We went out each day and visited in neighborhoods and homes. Most of the homes were made of mud bricks and straw roofs. Few had electricity. Most got their water from a neighborhood water pump and almost all had an outhouse out back.

We found the people to be incredibly receptive to the message of hope found in Christ. Their cultural value of hospitality made it easy to find people to visit with. Their unhurried lifestyles made them available for guests dropping by.

We were out making visits one day. Because the rainy season is still on through May in Malawi, we got rained on most days. Paul was interpreting for me (a leader and deacon in his church) and used the familiar “odee” greeting as we approached a house. The greeting meant something like, “Anybody home? Are you open to guests?” The woman at the door (the doorway covered by a sheet as were most homes) invited us in. With the rain falling outside and no lights inside, it was dark and hard to see. As my eyes adjusted I was able to see three other women inside and several children. One of the women left and returned with eight or so more and their children. In a room that was 12X12 it was a crowd.

I thanked them for welcoming us and began with the EvangeCube to share the gospel message. At each major pause they would shout “AMEN” and applaud. They were the most enthusiastic crowd we ran into. In the end, all the women and the older children (they didn’t count kids younger than 12 years) accepted Christ as their Savior - forgiveness of sin, relationship to God, and eternal life in heaven. While we were gathering follow-up information on them all I asked Paul if they were related…an extended family. He basically said, “They are all in the same business…” It wasn't until then that I realized I was in a brothel. The photo is of a portion of the group.

We had prayer with the women before we left. Their prayer requests were for their “husbands” to not beat them – we saw two with broken arms and several swollen, blackened eyes. The kids had been beaten as well. They prayed that God would give them husbands…their only way of escape from this life. The church I was partnered with was following up to help them begin a new life. Pray they will be set free in Christ.

I thanked God for giving me this opportunity to share with this unique congregation on a rainy day in Malawi. It reminded me again of the core message of the Bible...that God is a God of new beginnings, fresh starts, and second chances. I was also reminded that Jesus "was a friend of sinners." My prayer is that I would have a ever-growing heart for people who are far from God and without hope. Jesus is the hope of world.

What's Really Important?

I've been back from Malawi for a month now. My head and heart are still full from the experience. I believe everyone needs to spend some time in the third world in order to bring perspective to our lives in America. I know I need to be in that world once a year or so. Living in prosperous North Texas in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, I need to experience life in a place like Africa to help me find freedom from selfishness and the grip of materialism. Annual household income in Malawi runs around $200 per year. The people were doing well for the most part because of good rains. Most survive by subsistence farming. A drought or one failed crop and the people would be in trouble in a hurry.

While in Malawi, I met someone who showed me this bill from Zimbabwe. The currency is severely inflated and the economy troubled. He gave me a $1 million bill to carry with me. It's just a reminder of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:20-21, NIV). Be sure and focus some time today on what is really important and let go of something that isn't.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Planning for the Lord's Day

In his book Expository Listening Ken Ramey offers a list of ways you can "Plan Ahead, and Schedule Your Week Around the Ministry of the Word." For many families Sunday becomes a stressfull, hurried experience and "getting to church" takes away from the worship that should be happening at church. He offers several practical suggestions on how to prioritize the Lord's Day:

Monday, May 3, 2010

5 Reasons You May Not See Spiritual Growth

Are you growing spiritually? Maybe it just doesn't feel like it. Jonathan Dodson offers five reasons that you may not be seeing spiritual growth at the moment.