Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bidding farewell

(apparently something got messed up with this the first time we sent this a couple days ago, so we're resending it)
Yesterday I had another one of those really cool moments with my friends down in Mibu. It was one of those moments where I got to see yet another part of the big picture come together in such a way that it really effects things and gets people excited!
We were having our weekly meeting to go over next week's lesson material and discuss various issues of the church. One of the things on my agenda lately has been to prepare them for an upcoming church planting consultation that we're having. In this consultation our efforts here will be measured against a model of what we see a mature church looking like. The purpose is just to get an experienced outsider's perspective on things and for us and the church here to be encouraged about how we carry on in our ministry. I need to prepare the guys for this consultation by just familiarizing them with the various points that will be used for the evaluation. However, at the moment, I'm not ready to give them the whole spiel. But I did want to start warming them up to the thought; kind of prime their minds for what I'll explain to them later.
So after we went through our study of next week's lesson I pointed them to Acts 20 where Paul is bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders. I've not been able to take my mind off this passage all week. It happens to be one of the passages I'm translating right now. But specifically one verse in the passage really has stood out to me. Verse 26 where Paul essentially tells these elders of the church, in which he labored hard for 3 years, that he is free from any guilt should any of them fall away. Most of our English translations don't make this very clear, but that's what Paul was saying. He's labored hard and didn't hesitate to teach them the whole will of God for their lives. Now it's time for him to go and he KNOWS that his job is done. He's confident that he's done everything that he could possibly do there. It's totally in their hands now.
Sitting there with a group of about 8-9 guys in the hut I told them that the work we're doing here is going to finish some day (not anything they haven't heard before). One day we're going to tell them the same thing as Paul when we leave. We intend to teach you everything we know and when that's done we're leaving it in your hands. We aren't going to be responsible for what you do with it after that. It's up to you to take this and keep going with it. If you don't it won't be our fault (assuming that we do indeed finish our course well here). It's hard to describe their reactions. They looked around at each other nodding and the energy level of the conversation picked up a notch. They'd obviously been affected by the implications of Paul's farewell. We talked about it for about a half hour or so after that before I headed back up to Tibu.
It was a refreshing reminder to everyone regarding this task of making disciples that has been given to us. And in a culture where something such as the local church is typically expected to be held together by someone from the outside this comes as a reality check. It really seemed quite powerful. For me the wider context of Pauls statement of verse 26 really brought back the importance of not only the message we speak and teach, but of the life we live here. One day I ought to be able to say that they've not only heard the gospel, but also seen it in action in a way that they can reproduce. Enough so, even, that I can expect them to be responsible for themselves in living and producing the fruit of that message themselves. Our responsibility, similar to the watchman of Ezekiel 33, will be finished. Or better yet 'transferred'. It's a great reminder too as our tendency is strong to keep a firm grip on everything and control it to make sure everything continues to go smoothly. But really what we're called to do is relax our grip over time, letting them experience the pressures themselves and grow in their own responsibility and stability.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The attached file was originally sent with another message.

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The attached file was originally sent with another message.

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Friday, August 1, 2008


Yesterday (actually, a few days ago now... been real busy), I went down to Mibu to have our regular Tuesday morning teachers' meeting in which we go through the teaching for the following Sunday as a group study in preparation for the teaching of it.
We were sitting around in Jongetape's house (the lady in the picture) waiting for the rest of the teachers to show up. It was just me and Sesi and his sister and Jongetape, their mother. We were sitting around the firepit just talking about nothing of particular importance. The subject moved to the effect of God's Spirit in Mibu here and Jongetape just lit up and said something to this effect,
"It's true! Before we had God's Spirit we were all going around stealing, breaking each others' houses, hurting each other (and a list of other things I can't remember specifically). But now we see the change that God's Spirit is doing in our lives! Before we were that way and now we're different!"
I've heard this before. In fact, it's a fairly common thing to talk about here! Pretty exciting, eh. But when Jongetape said this the other day it stuck out to me because it didn't come out as just something that she recognized, but something that was extremely precious to her. Her face and expressions just exuded gratefulness and joy. It was very touching.
Needless to say, I had my mind on that even throughout the meeting that followed later. I was so pleased to see that kind of emotion in a place where emotions aren't so readily displayed.
Later when the teachers and I were going through the lesson and discussing the various points I noticed that Jongetape was sitting outside the room we were meeting in, just outside the doorway. She had been busy on and off preparing food for the group. During times when she wasn't busy with the food she'd come over and catch what she could of the discussion by sitting in the doorway and listening to the discussion about how the tabernacle that the Israelites were commanded to build was a picture of Jesus. She was totally into it!
It was a neat day for me because it was just one of those times where God painted out for me very clearly yet another portrait of someone who's treasure is Jesus. Jongetape knows the work of the Lord in her life and in the life of the community of believers and she values it greatly.