Thursday, September 18, 2014

What I learned about being wimpy - Ecuador, Part 5

I would make a terrible salesperson. I hate the feeling that I am inconveniencing someone or that they are doing something they don’t want to do simply because I asked.

Some people are naturals at this. I had a friend say of another friend that “He could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo!” (I apologize if this is in any way a racial slur). It’s a gift that some have, and I did not get.

I have tried even hosting Pampered Chef and Longaberger parties in my past, and you can imagine how well I did when my invitations went something like, “Please come! You really don’t need to buy anything. 
Seriously, don’t feel like you have to buy something. Just come. I really don’t need you to make a purchase, just come for fun!”

Even if I love the thing that is being sold, promoted or offered, I automatically think of 10 million reasons you might not and I feel terrible inconveniencing you by asking and putting pressure on you.

And don’t get me started on school fundraisers. If Noah makes any sales at all, it is because we bought something ourselves. I can’t bring myself to peddle it.

So you can imagine how great I would be as a 2-week missionary.

I know people need Jesus, but I would just imagine that they were tired of getting flyers, they were skeptical of our nail painting, and wondering why in the world we wanted to give them oatmeal. I assumed they were cynical, which made me feel wimpy when it was time to interact.

Well, God can provide the guts for us as we need it. It seems that when I see other people not being wimpy, it makes me have a little more courage too.  

Our job ultimately was to pray and to represent Jesus in everything we did, whether it was nail-painting, passing out oatmeal, or passing out 1 gazillion flyers.  Noah and I were even encouraged to be a little less wimpy when passing out the flyers – “Be bold!” a missionary said to us as he assertively exemplified giving this piece of paper to a stranger. He rocked passing out flyers.

And another lady we were with was so good at this! She would go to car doors at intersections and excitedly hand them this invitation to an event ultimately designed to connect that person with Christ! You could feel her excitement.

I saw a lady accept Christ during a simple flyer distribution. I saw, and cried, as a woman and her daughter were so thrilled to hear about this new church that they hugged us as we finished talking to them. I saw an answer to prayer as a guy riding past the church on his bike, stopped  because he wanted to know more about it, asking a lady who, at the very moment, was praying for that very thing to happen.

People want to know. People need to know.   

You need to believe in what you’re selling.

When we finished up the two week trip, we had some reflection time to consider the things we had seen and done, what we had learned. And we were given some questions to think about. One of them was, “What have you learned about yourself.”

In my journal I wrote this –

“I’ve learned I’m wimpy at home sometimes…Knowing I’m offering them the best gift ever – that is nothing to be wimpy about, or to feel like I’m inconveniencing them. They need this. I’ve learned I can be brave when I need to.”

In a place far away from my home, I was able to catch the excitement other people had about sharing Jesus with people, and I don’t want to lose it now that I am back in Barboursville.

And I know people here need Jesus just as much as the people there. We all need Him. Do your part where you are to talk about Him. There are people who want to hear it, I promise.

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..."
Romans 1:16a

Noah offering oatmeal to a stranger

Our group offering oatmeal
and offering prayer

Shawn helping prepare the oatmeal
to be handed out

My friend Hannah and my new friend
 Audreyanne in a break from passing
out flyers

Passing out flyers :)

Me and a friend I made during the free nail-painting :)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Look to your left...

If you go to a church somewhere, please read this.

Close your eyes and picture yourself in your church service. Actually, don’t close your eyes because then you can’t read the next instructions… Anyway, picture yourself in your church service on any given weekend service. The music is happening, people are worshiping. Look to your left, then look to your right, look in front of you and behind you. See who is there. And then look to see who isn’t there.

Now get out something to write with. If someone in front of you, beside you, or behind you is no longer going to church, but still lives in the area, write their name down.

*Imagine Jeopardy-ish music playing in the background as I wait for you to write the names down…*

*Seriously, write them down*


Ok, that was step one. You are doing great.

Think about that person for a second. Remember some of their great qualities. Are they funny? Understanding? Kind? Passionate about things? Did they have a sarcastic sense of humor that you admired?  
Now, this is step two, and it is likely it will mean stepping right out of your comfort zone.

Invite them. I don’t mean to church (although that is great too… I want you to do that too, but maybe try this first). Invite them to your house. Invite them to meet you for lunch somewhere. Invite them to coffee. Invite them for a walk at the park. And give yourself a deadline for initially getting in touch with them, like 1 week. (I promise it will be so much easier after the first time).

Get involved in their life. There is a great phrase going around called “Doing life together.” Just inviting someone to church can work, but this is more of how God intended it.

God created us to be a community, whether we like it or not. (For a somewhat-introvertish person like myself, it can be a struggle). But life is so much better when you share it with other people.

In Acts chapter 2, we meet the first church. We see what made them who they were. Take a look for yourself…

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. “(NIV)

While the needs of the first church might be a little different than today’s church, it sounds like God wants us to be around people. Have dinner with them. Help them. Give to them. Praise God, talk about God, and be excited about God with them.  

This post isn’t meant to guilt you into being friends with someone. Nobody wants to be your friend because you feel guilty. This is meant to remind you of the people you already know and want to be friends with. You like them. You miss them. This post is encouraging you to do something about it.

Also, if you don’t know of anyone missing at your church that you could get reconnected with, find someone who still goes there that you would be sad to lose contact with and do something with them. We need each other.

And if you don’t go to church anywhere, but you read this anyway, try going to one. Preferably mine J 

Hope to see you Sunday J

Huntington First Church of the Nazarene
321 30th Street
Huntington, WV 25702

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What I learned about remembering - Ecuador, Part 4

Our two weeks in Ecuador were divided equally into 2 separate, beautiful cities. Our itinerary was different for each city, as the churches in each city had different needs.

The Ibarra church was new, only a few months old, and had a significant need to get people informed about its existence. We were able to be part of several smaller-scale events like “free manicure” stations at the park, a soccer tournament, wearing crazy wigs and hats while holding “Jesus Te Ama” signs in the middle of an intersection… Things like that.

At each city, we also had a “big event” that we focused on. In Ibarra that was a breakdancing competition. So cool! In the middle of a enormous and beautiful park, a stage was set up, complete with microphones and music, and people came. We each had our own jobs to do while we were there. My job was to invite 
people to come. So we looked for people walking and said things that I hope meant, “You’re invited to come to watch a breakdance competition! It’s free! And there are activities for children!” Shawn and Noah had cleanup duty, keeping the park free of litter during the competition.
Noah and me at the
breakdancing competition
in Ibarra 
Shawn and Noah at the
breakdancing competition
in Ibarra
I had my doubts that people would come. At the beginning, the crowd was small and I worried that after all the time and money they had spent preparing for the event, it would be a disappointment to all those at the church who had worked so hard.

But they did come.  More than 800 of them. People came, watched the competition, met church people, saw the church’s name, the church made some contacts, and many heard the message of Jesus before the evening was over, with people making eternal commitments to Him.

Noah and the drama team
performing during the
breakdancing competition

In Ambato, the “big event” was the main focus of the week. Here, the event was called “Gran Noche de 
Esparanza,” translated as “Great Night of Hope.”  An evening of music, entertainment, prizes, and Pastor Ferney.

Just some of the
entertainment for the
Gran Noche de Esparanza
Pastor Ferney sharing his story

Pastor Ferney leads a church in Cali, Colombia, and he came to share his story with the 400 people who came out that evening. He shared with them how Jesus can change the life of a man deeply involved in the drug cartel, freeing him of the life he had and giving him a new one full of hope in Jesus. We watched and prayed as 76 people came forward to dedicate their lives to Christ.

The next morning we were privileged to hear Pastor Ferney at the church in Ambato, with a translator, as he spoke to us about the importance of family. We watched as he got on his knees, with tears in his eyes, asking the North American section of the crowd for forgiveness for the pain his life’s work has caused our country. So humbling and such an example of the redemption of God. We are never too bad for the forgiveness of Jesus.

Pastor Fernay sharing his story
at the church in Amato
Pastor Fernay with
David Morrison translating

The last day we were in Ambato, before we headed for the airport, our trip leaders, Chris and Anndee Stringer, led us in a time of reflection. We were able to answer some pretty deep questions for ourselves about the ways we were changed from the trip, the ways we had seen God work, the things we needed to remember. Anndee said it is too easy for us to go back home and answer the question, “How was the trip?” with telling them about the chicken feet in our soup.

How is it so easy to forget the undeniable work of God in the 2 weeks we were there, and focus only on the chicken foot soup or the toilet paper we weren’t allowed to flush?

But she was right. Even after my time of reflection and knowing how I was changed from this trip, the first couple of times I was asked about the trip – chicken feet and toilet paper.

I kind of reminded myself of the Israelites. In Exodus 16, we see them after God had miraculously convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt where they were oppressed as slaves, then let them cross the Red Sea, then destroy the Egyptian army chasing after them, they began to complain about being hungry.

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!.. you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then God sends manna, a kind of bread, from heaven to feed them daily.

Then in Numbers 11, in verses 4 and 5, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

Why in the world can’t they stay focused on the miracles God just did to save them?

While I wasn’t complaining about the chicken feet or the toilet paper- it was simply an interesting tidbit- how in the world could I let that trump the miracles we saw take place while in Ecuador?

God provides. God heals. God redeems. I saw all of this happen in South America. And I have seen His provision, healing and redemption in my own city, in my own life. Yet still I find myself complaining, or focusing on things that don’t matter.

I think a prayer journal of sorts could help here. Take a few minutes and think of ways God has provided for you.  Think of ways He has healed you or someone you love. Think of how God has redeemed you from what you once were. Write it down. Thank God for it. Remember it.

And, if you would, share some of these things here so we can thank God for it together.

"Let all I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me." (NLT)
 Psalm 103:2

I couldn't leave you without a picture -
chicken feet soup