Monday, January 22, 2007

Yesterday I visited two churches. I don’t usually do such a thing, rather preferring to rotate among the 7 congregations, spending a full Sunday worship with each assembly. But this week, I wanted to share a special Word with both congregations who happen to be close to one another. So I joined one a little after 9a and then left there about 11a (after I gave my lesson). I arrived at the other 11:20a and worshipped with them and shared the same lesson, finishing up at almost 1p. I was encouraged by the size at these small communities of faith…these are not mega churches…churches of 200+ in the States seem like mega churches to me now. But considering the size of the small villages, I think the size of these congregations represent a significant beacon of light in the midst of a sea of darkness. Practices offensive to the One and Only continue to stun me as we shine the Light of Christ, but not because I’m unaccustomed to voodoo (I’ve walked these dirt paths for 8 years now!) I am continually arrested with the thought that what we do and who we proclaim is truly as different as Light and Dark. In one village, I parked my truck about 10 feet from the gigantic village shrine, freshly adorned with its recent chicken sacrifice. In the other, I always park next to the home of, and greet a voodoo priestess decorated with an array of amulets warding off the evil spirits. We minister in a place where we Christians are the minority; we are the ones who stand out as peculiar, different, bizarre and even wicked (we come here with an impression of how wicked voodoo is…then we find ourselves counseling new persecuted believers who themselves are deemed “wicked” for refusing to join the rest of the village in the annual sacrifice to appease the gods and the host of ancestral spirits).

These two churches also invited me to attend a meeting they were having together to discuss the growth of the church in their particular region. I drove a half dozen from Gbotayidohoue back to Dandihoue were we joined about 15 from there. They addressed the strengths and struggles of their two congregations, noting that while that while a strong group of members have remained faithful through the years (Dandihoue, “donny-way” was planted in 2004; Gbotayidohoue, “bow-tie” was started in 2005), they were quick to acknowledge that many baptized believers have failed to continue in their journey of faith, and as well, there were no new churches planted in 2006. I appreciated their humility to recognize their weaknesses. I was very blessed to hear of their desire to not stay the same, but to move forward. They briefly discussed plans for organizing a workforce of believers committed to reaching out to former baptized believers who have lapsed in their activity in the community of faith. As well, they promoted the idea that in early 2007, they wish to collaborate together to reach another nearby village for Christ! I love their missional spirit and their heart for strengthening existing churches.

This coming week is filled with opportunities to encourage. On Tuesday, I am looking forward to spending the entire day with 3 of my favorite leaders. We are making a road trip to the capital city where we are going to pick out some quality Christian books, commentaries and theological dictionaries (in the capital city, the evangelical and Catholic presence is much stronger and thus more access to resources for believers). Our leaders are trying to strengthen themselves spiritually for when I depart; we are partnering together to provide them biblical literature that will help them in their studies, lesson preparation and spiritual growth. I have other scheduled meetings with other leaders throughout the week and then a baby dedication on Friday evening (gotta come up with a Scriptural boy name by the end of the week…any suggestions?)

I also start another study through the gospel of John this coming Sunday night. This time it is at the congregation of Aflantan (ah-flah-TAHN), each night from 6-10p. I’ll spend a lot of time this week in preparation.

We continue to think so much of the family of the missionary and church leader in Uganda who lost their lives this past week. We pray for the families of Adam and Moses, and for the many believers who were impacted by their Kingdom service. Last night, Kelly and I were finally able to watch the “End of the Spear” DVD. In light of the week’s tragic events, the emotions of that movie were almost too much. In the 1950’s, missionaries in Ecuador were killed by the very people they were trying to reach for Christ. In the movie, we see years later, that those same faces express deep remorse for their actions, repenting for having taken the missionaries lives. In the end, the son of one of those missionaries reconnects with the Waodani tribe and has an intense encounter with the very man who had speared his father to death. The Waodani man is weeping wildly, asking forgiveness from the son. The son, while fighting the rage of facing his father’s murderer, ultimately relents, poignantly speaking a profound truth about his father’s service in the Kingdom: “No one took my father’s life,” said the son to his father’s killer. “He gave it.”

We ask your continued prayers for Lael’s adoption…we continue to ask God to open up the doors as the courts in Benin have been on strike for the past few weeks. We’re praying for patient perseverance!

Blessings!
-Randy

1 comment:

CommentRV said...

What a blessing to read, Randy!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Our prayers for all continue. More later...I am trying to call!
sj