Sunday, October 24, 2010

The “Signs” of the Kingdom


Last Sunday in church I was listening to the pastor preach about the fall of man, the broken world and how we continue to live in broken bodies that decay but that Jesus brought hope of a new earth, new heaven and new bodies. He spoke of the deposit, the ‘Holy Spirit’, that Christ puts in us that will be completed the day Christ returns. He also spoke that for a while Jesus healed and performed miracles but he did not heal everyone nor did he focus solely on this with a broader mission in mind. These were ‘examples’ of what it will be when Jesus returns and restores our bodies, the heavens and earth. These were ‘signs’ of the kingdom to call people to his larger mission.

I struggled with that a lot. I felt like what he was saying was that the healing the physical brokenness, which I have come to believe and am putting my energy into here in Mozambique as an integral part of Christ’s ministry is only a ‘sign’ as opposed to part of Jesus mission. I know he was not exactly saying that and what he was saying was right in the context it seemed to hit a chord with a struggle I have had the last few years. I have always struggled when living in the US where Christianity permeates and taken for granted in our culture (at least in my experience) and there is a lot of 'speaking' the gospel and the great commition. While these are good and necessary, I have always felt there are not enough people concentrating on ‘doing’, for example, feeding the hungry and demonstrating the love of Jesus, including myself. Here in Mozambique, I have struggled with the fact that there is such a deep spiritual poverty. Christianity is fairly new and there is much work and discipleship that needs to happen but not enough workers and a lot of the problems are stemming from this spiritual poverty. I suppose that the same can be said in the US but I feel like our challenges are different because in the US we have ‘heard’ a lot but need to ‘do’ or spend the time doing. In Mozambique people need to ‘hear’ and ‘do’. But the question is always how do you ‘do’ if you have not ‘heard’. I have often struggled in my life as well because I feel like I am a better ‘doer’ than a ‘proclaimer’ of Jesus message and salvation and that my gifting and desires are more concentrated in what I am doing with MCC. But I have not been without my doubts and questioning. I have questioned at times whether I am doing what God wants of me when everyone else seems to be evangelizing and discipling in Mozambique. I have struggled whether by 'doing' we really do anything sometimes when there is so much spiritual poverty and when the doing does not always work the way we had desired. To add to my struggle a fellow missionary asked me a year ago what the ‘mission’ of MCC was. I tried to tell him and he proceeded to ask how it was different than a secular organization working humanitarian assistance. Inside I felt like I wanted to shout, ”We are doing it in the name of Christ, that should make a difference.” And “Many secular humanitarian organizations have Christians working in them.” What I was really feeling inside was the opposite of affirmation for the mission which I have always felt a desire to and had felt God had put there. His comment really added to my struggle and made me doubt myself and my work and whether my gifting and desires were really in line with what God wants for my life. This has caused considerable pain for some time.

In light of this history I thought a lot about what the pastor meant by a ‘sign’. I was reading in Matthew 15 where Jesus heals the Canaanite woman and then feeds the five-thousand. The very next chapter the Pharisees and the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask him for a sign from heaven.

Jesus replies,”When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’, and in the morning you say ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Somehow it just jumped out at me. Here these men are asking for Jesus for a sign from heaven and the signs are all around. They are clearly stated in the chapter before. They maybe even came to Jesus while he was doing these ‘signs’. By doing this he was fulfilling scripture and proclaiming that the kingdom was near. They were unspoken signs. These men did not get it though it was all around them. Of course Jesus is not going to tell them anything. They were looking for something else.

Then it dawned on me. I am one of many people in Christ’s body who are working to feed the hungry, heal the sick, bring water to the thirsty and release the oppressed. When we do this we are showing the ‘signs’ of the kingdom. We are ‘proclaiming’ and ‘fullfilling’ scripture that started with Jesus. These are the ‘signs’ that say to people, ‘Draw near to Jesus, come, repent, join the kingdom of God for it is near’. I have always heard this said over and over in sermons and Christian writing but I do not think I really understood it. I was ‘seeing’ but never ‘understanding’.

This was one of the most affirming realizations for me and what I am doing. Honestly, I cried. It was as if Jesus was saying, no, you are proclaiming me. Continue to do so.

Joel
Vacation

We went on vacation for two weeks to South Africa. We spent a few days in the Drakensburg Mountains, exploring the natural beauty and the rest of the time at Mercy Air's hospitality house in White River. We didn't do much. We visited a number of a waterfalls and read alot. Here's some pictures:

Joel and Nadia in front of a water fall.


Joel and Nadia at "Potholes" (circular holes in the rocks in this canyon dug out by the river)


Jenny and Nadia on the trail.


Nadia at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Joel and Nadia relaxing. Notice, Nadia has Daddy's phone in her hand. Every morning, the first thing she did was grab his phone and jabber away. She'd talk a bit then hand it to one of us to talk then want it back.


One of our picnics outside. We took advantage of the space to eat outside as much as possible. In the background is a trampoline where Joel and Nadia spent many happy times bouncing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learnings
Two years ago, I wrote a list of some of the Things I’ve learned during our first two years in Mozambique. Considering that two years has passed since then and we have two more years of our contract, here is my list at the year four mark:
- Living simply is complicated and not easily understood.
- Sometimes dressing nicely matters.
- Having a child opens doors and closes others.
- A child creates space for many conversations that I ordinarily would not have.
- A child changes one’s perspective.
- If I am generous with myself, I am more apt to be generous with others.
- God is faithful.
- The African sun is a powerful bleach for diapers.
- I’ve wanted to be involved with MCC for a long time and now after four years in it, I still don’t know what I want to do in it! But I enjoy what I do.
- Beauty matters to my personal happiness.
- God is good. Even when life isn’t.
- Prayer is necessary for my sanity.
- Clean feet feel good.
- It is a lot easier to be self-sacrificing when it is for my child.
- Laughter helps keep perspective.
- My favorite things about Mozambique are still the same—Mozambicans’ smiles, lily pads and bananas.
- Tea tastes better if it is made in a tea pot
- Nothing else matters to me when my child is sick.

Many of my learnings from year two still apply…