Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moment for Missions

On Sunday I spoke in front of thousands of people over the course of five different Sunday services at my church. Speaking in front of a large audience goes straight to the uncomfortable zone of my introverted personality. Last week, whenever it came to my consciousness that this was coming up little twinges of anxiety pinched me. A few days before D-day, the church coordinator for such things edited my submitted presentation to reduce the text to fit in a tighter timeline. It was to be exactly 3 minutes long. I had also submitted about 16 pictures to use….it’s so hard to choose…there were so many good pictures to help give the message. I opened with reluctance the suggested edits…writers have trouble giving up things they’ve created. But I was pleased to see the job she had done. She really captured the most important parts and left it with a good flow. I understood the picture thing...I knew I had included too many. But I found it harder to give up the pictures than some of the words I’d written.

I was mildly nervous the night before, but found solace in knowing prayers were being said on my behalf: prayers for confidence and receptive ears. Morning of, I came early to meet with the coordinator, get my directions on where to be, when to step up at the five services (introduced by five different pastors) and to do a sound and AV check. And then I did it. Anxiety took a back seat as I gave my fears no energy and focused on the message. Strangely, I felt, as I was doing it, a peace and confidence that I hadn’t expected (I know…I need to have more faith in prayers). The parishioners seemed interested (or maybe they were just being polite) and there was a little snicker when I talked about painting toenails and then an audible gasp when the close up of the panted toenails projected on the huge screens. I knew then I had them. Below is the text of the talk and the accompanying photos that were shown.

1. Several Sundays ago, Dean Wagoner and I were commissioned here, as we prepared to go to Southern Sudan with members of other churches to deliver education materials and medical services and to share the love of God to the people in this war ravaged country.

Your prayers for our safe travel, health and good experiences were fulfilled. Thank you!

In Sudan, our team was split up; I was at the SIM compound near Yabus, which has been helped by the Ripple Effect campaign. In SIM, men and women are receiving the first formal (or only) education they’ve received since they were forced to flee their war torn country as children.

2. After reading many of the books written by the “lost boys of Sudan,” I wondered what I could possibly offer these people who had suffered through so much loss and devastation, my own personal struggles paling in comparison to what they surely must have suffered. Would connection even be possible with immense language and experience gaps? And were we doing the right thing by introducing computers to the students of the school?

3. Our team brought in and set up the school’s first computers, donated by Bellevue Christian School. My concerns about the appropriateness of bringing computers into their lives were alleviated as I read their first typed words, “The Lord is so good. …I want God to be with us in all our life… Let us love with one another…For me I want to be a preacher in the Word of God…I use a computer to write…and When I was child my father told me that education is power.”

4. The most moving was the time spent with the women and children in neighboring villages, sharing time and a few words in the shade of a tree. We were served tea and coffee, and through some interpretation from the SIM missionary women, a little insight into their lives. They gave us beautiful beaded bracelets made from the heart. And we, in turn, painted their toenails, which may not sound like much, but touched these women who live such a hard life and rarely, if ever, are lovingly touched or cared for.

5. This was our ministry of pampering and it has been adopted by the missionary women in Yabus as they reach out to the women of Sudan. In this moment, when I held these worn and dirty feet with love, I fully understood what Jesus has done for me.

6. Though I came with one set of questions, I left with another. When I saw the hardships and sacrifices the SIM missionaries make in order to be the living hand of God in this difficult place in the world, I question how I can make more of a difference here in my own back yard. As I experienced the cheerful faithfulness in these people who have suffered so much and live such a hard life, I question my own lack of trust in a God who has promised to supply my every need. And I thank Him for bringing us all back safely to give me more time to figure that one out.

We’re in the narthex if you’d like to hear more about what we experienced. I’d welcome the chance to talk to you. Thank you!

1 comment:

U Can Still Play in the Rain said...

THE BEST post EVER... so glad you shared it with all of us. The pictures tell a thousand stories...