Stream / General
by Alexa Rossi, Mission Coordinator
In October of 2018, I spent seven days with our many mission partners in Madagascar. It was humbling for me to visit, pray with, and encourage them in their ministry because truly, the Lord has taken seeds our church family has planted over the last six years and grown them exponentially. Two things, in particular, impacted me deeply, especially as First Pres continues in our re-visioning process and considers where we might be headed in the future:
LOOKING AHEAD WITH FOCUS
The Fiangonan'i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (FJKM for short, which stands for Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar in their native Malagasy language) is in a season of church planting, and they continue to relentlessly pursue their goal of planting an FJKM church in every commune (which is like our equivalent of a city) in Madagascar. There are 407 remaining communes without an FJKM church, and they plan to reach their goal by their general assembly in April 2019. You read that correctly—in six months. To clarify, in Madagascar, that doesn’t mean they will have church buildings by then, but they will have house churches established in those places.
In the midst of our own re-visioning process, it is encouraging to watch the FJKM laser-focus their resources on such an enormous calling for this season of their ministry. What struck me is how easy it could be for the FJKM to be pulled in many directions. According to the World Bank, 70.7% of the population in Madagascar live below the poverty line. Rather than the Church trying to answer every problem that their people face, they have chosen a simple path of order. The churches they plant will be the foundation for the rest of their ministry, which includes caring for the impoverished. This is the kind of focus and drive that our re-visioning process aspires to. My prayer is that we too would be able to seek the Lord for clarity and vision, and then pursue it wholeheartedly.
LIVING IN OVERFLOW
We were invited to our dear friend Myriame’s home for tea. (Some of you have met Myriame on visits here because she often travels to translate for various partners.) As she often does, she also invited the children from her neighborhood that she feeds every Saturday to join us. What is remarkable about Myriame is the way she lives missionally, right in her own home.
I was overwhelmed with joy as 90+ children sang and chuckled over hearing themselves greet us in English. They clapped and praised together with their generous matriarch loud enough that neighbors stopped what they were doing to peer at the curious gathering. Myriame then gently lead us into her tiny kitchen to show us where she invites the children to eat around the table—twenty at a time, lining the walls and sitting with Myriame until they each finish their meal, and the next shift of children can partake. Myriame knows each one of them by name. She pays their school fees when they cannot. She celebrates with them in joy and grieves with them in their sorrow. She learns about their families and visits their homes. She is wholly theirs.
I have never met anyone like Myriame. I am convinced that one day I will feast as a guest at Myriame’s table in heaven, along with countless others who will say they came to know the living Christ through Myriame’s ministry on this earth. She lives on a small percentage of her income (certainly less than half) and quite simply gives the rest to those around her. Even though Myriame has suffered and had difficult and dark days in her life, she counts them as an opportunity for fellowship with the suffering Servant who redeemed her life. The only explanation I could find for the way she chooses to live is Jesus. I felt like I was standing on hallowed ground as I watched her serve, knowing that Myriame’s home is a place children can freely come and encounter the generosity of the Lord.
Myriame would probably admonish me for speaking so highly of her in this public way because she lives to glorify Jesus as King and refuses any credit in the way she lives her life. I like that about her. But I share this piece of her story because as I encounter the overflow of her heart, I am personally challenged and even convicted at my own ideas of living missionally. How would our families, neighborhoods, and our workplaces be different if we attended to the smallest details of our daily lives with unending generosity and great love as Myriame, with the conviction that Christ has done it for me? Orlando would change.
We, the Church, are uniquely equipped to move into these spaces, and like Myriame, it starts with Jesus captivating our hearts and making us new. Only then will we see it overflow to our families, our neighborhoods, our coworkers.
That’s the story I want for us.
by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
It’s that time of year again. All the cutesy people start wearing cutesy stuff and take cute Christmas card photos and post them. Just between us, I feel lucky to get my hair washed. (And I don’t even have little kids anymore.) But begun to catch on to the illusion we all live in as I scroll through the social media blitz associated with all of this: that many smiling faces do not necessarily equal happy hearts. Far from it.
Before you write this off as one more rant to “get real” on your social media, hear me out. I’m not saying the photos do not generally represent our families; they do in many ways. Our photos of kiddos/dogs/anniversary trips/tailgates/niece’s wedding are awesome. But having lived in this tired old world long enough, I know that trouble is coming. Maybe not now or even this year, but at some point, that family photo will not be representative of the emotional state of the people in it.
It could be true of this morning, when two of your kids were fighting over the last available snack pack in a lunch box. Or it could be true this evening, when your teenager has produced a D in his math class, something you didn’t see coming because progress reports tend to disappear into the abyss of electronic communications that assault us daily. (I’m not saying this is necessarily an Allen problem; I’m just saying that it could have theoretically been a problem at one time in my mothering career . . .)
Some recent lessons God has been teaching me—both in my personal life and my professional career and even observations of my friends’ lives—have revealed to me that everything may not be as it seems on the surface. There is conflict or sadness or despair present, whether I recognize it or not. And it doesn’t just go away in most cases. You would think that I have learned this lesson before now, and indeed I have, but evidently, I need to learn it again.
I am re-learning that time and space and Scripture are the balms that God gives us for these kinds of wounds. Friends are a bonus, but at the end of the day, if I have these three things, that is all I really need. Time and space have a way of distancing my initial emotional reaction and allowing me to respond rationally to a person or situation. It would serve me well to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, as James 1:19 warns us. The part of this passage that is sometimes not seen is the continuing thought in verse 21, to “receive with meekness the implanted word”.
I love the way the late Eugene Peterson phrased this concept in The Message, his paraphrase of the New Testament:
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
What I think God is trying to teach me (again) is that other people’s “issues” that come to my attention are not really only about them; their problems reveal my anger and impatience that are lurking beneath the surface. God uses sore spots and hurt feelings and tough conversations and damaged relationships to change my heart and conform me to the image of Christ, not just to “fix” the other person. He uses these situations to demonstrate my absolute need for the Holy Spirit and the fruit that comes only from His life in me. Through the regular reading of His Word, He convinces me once again that I am very much in need of His love, forgiveness and grace, even if the whole mess is “not my fault.” I can only truly extend grace and forgiveness if I have received it myself.
Now that’s a salvation-garden I’d like to live in every single day.
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.
We are delighted to announce Compassion Corner, one of First Presbyterian Church’s ministries to the homeless community, will reopen on Monday, October 29 in a new location.CONTINUE READING