Next month it will be ten years since we founded the church here in Ramnicu Valcea and in September, it will be twelve years since we left California to be missionaries in Romania. I don’t know about you, but anniversaries make me think back to where I’ve been. So out come the stacks of photo albums filled with photos of the past, photos representing our blood, sweat and tears (and of our ministry team) in this ministry. The faces of many of you who have come to visit us on teams (or just as friends) are in those albums too and frankly, it’s hard to put those albums away again without swallowing hard.
Those photos amaze me because they remind me of all the ministry you helped us carry out: VBS in orphanages, barbecue/sports days with the youth, preaching, conferences, evangelism, men’s breakfasts, visits to the elderly homes, hospital evangelism, children’s studies in the Gypsy neighborhood and more. What spiritual refreshing we felt with each team, though perhaps our bodies got a bit tired …okay, maybe more than a bit! I remember the team that came during a heat wave when the city turned off our water. We had air mattresses wall to wall in our living room that time. Everyone who walked in the door headed straight for the ice cube tray. I remember the time with one team when we had Sunday worship in the park and a military band came and set up right where we had gathered! Then there was the time we took the youth on a hike. No matter that it must have been 105 degrees that day. Then there was the team that came for the solar eclipse. How awesome to share Christ in the center of town with that as a visual aid! There was the time the three Blasingham sisters came to visit their sponsored orphans, and the day Ani gave haircutting lessons to some of the girls. One team washed our car and came with the ingredients for banoffee pie. Yum. And there was so much more! We have so many sweet memories of the past. But the thing is, what about the future?
I’ve been thinking lately that one of the enemy’s pet projects is to try to break the heart-connection between missionaries on the field and the believers at home. It’s actually one of the reasons for this blog: to fight the deadly rip-tide that would separate us from shore (edifying relationships, accountability, renewed strength and resources, prayer support). Dennis Johnson, although commenting on the way the early churches helped each other materially, has something to say that has application to every kind of support. He writes,
“This international dimension of the early church’s fellowship in material resources calls us to lift our eyes and see ourselves as part of the whole church. On the one hand, we [the church at home] need the gifts that Christ has given to the church in other parts of the world; on the other hand we are accountable for our stewardship of resources that we enjoy in abundance, which are needed by other parts of the body in other corners of the earth. These resources are not only material wealth, and what it can accomplish, but also such riches as opportunities for pastoral training and biblical education for all the people of God. When we learn to think, pray and care for the family of God globally, what needs of unseen brothers and sisters will we discover and hurry to fill?”
Of course I’d be dishonest if I said I don’t want to be on the receiving end of such care. I hope for reinforcements just like any little group of soldiers would do, who are stranded out somewhere in enemy territory, feeling the earth shake with incoming rocket strikes and seeing supplies diminishing. But I also want to be the one caring for others that have less. I pray that God will lift up my eyes and give me vision to see how that could happen more often.
But I’m curious what you think: what about Dennis Johnson’s first affirmation that “we [the church at home] need the gifts that Christ has given to the church in other parts of the world…”? Would you at home agree with that statement and if so, how might those gifts come to you? Leave your comments, please!
Meanwhile, I just want to say thank you to all of you who do care and who have shared so much with us. A special thank you to the Otsuji and Milligan families who recently visited and enriched our ministry. Just three days, but huge encouragement. Another big thank you to the Ambassadors Sunday School Class, who send cards, love and packages to punctuate their prayers. May God keep on giving you seed for sowing!