Wednesday, 20 March 2013

"now it springs up..."

Confession: every time I see photos of this snow-deluged Wisconsin spring, I cringe and feel a selfish sense of relief that spring in Wellington is a different scenario.  My sincere apologies, Wisconsin friends.

The skies are still as grey as ever, and you can see your breath most mornings, but daffodils are poking up everywhere and snowdrops are dotted all along the streams outside of town.  I find myself surprised when I head outside bundled in the usual five layers, scarf, and hat only to find the need to peel off a layer or two.  This afternoon, the sun peered out from behind the heavy cloud coverage for a full two hours.  I’m still always startled by how much that transforms the landscape.

Spring is on its way.

Sunny days tend to be cold...I think everything except
my eyes were wrapped up in 3-5 layers.
As cliché as it may be, I recognize how analogous the physical spring is to what God is doing in Wellington.  The days are more full now. (This is a good time to make an excuse for my pathetic lapse in updating; so sorry!) We’re with people often; with each other as we (“we” = the team) worship and pray in the mornings, with the church as we serve in various capacities and projects, and with people in Wellington most of all.  We’ve connected with many people in the “commercial” areas of town and have built quite closely with a good number- they truly are our friends, not an evangelistic “project”. 

Signs of “spring” come along the way as we build these relationships.  Here are some recent happenings:

-We helped one of our friends, a shopkeeper, pack up her store when she recently had to close.  As we prayed and asked God for wisdom in how to best reach her, we recognized God giving us authentic love and compassion for her.  We brought her boxes, gave hugs, cooked dinner…and shared prophetic words and took opportunities to pray with her.  We trust that God is using these initiatives; she’s been surprisingly receptive, given her background, and we’re continuing to build with her, asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom and opportunities to share along the way.

skittles = bowling the English way
-The manager of one Coffee #1 initiated a skittles night for our team and all of the employees.  Before going, we prayed together, asking God for opportunities to share.  After a fun two hours of learning skittles (and as Americans, losing miserably to the British team), we were ready to call it a night.  As we were saying goodbyes, however, one of the employees made a reference to strange, seemingly “ghost-like” activity that kept happening in her house.  Tahmi spoke up: “Well, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe that demons are real!” An explosion of questions and conversations immediately erupted.  The next thing we knew, we found ourselves in small groups with the employees, dialoguing about everything from the supernatural to whether Christians drink alcohol to what Christianity is all about.  Another hour later, we had all had opportunities to share the gospel as well as our testimonies to very captive and interested audiences!  It was a clear example of how the Holy Spirit does the work: when we pray and look for opportunities, he is so faithful to give them, anointing those interactions. 

Since then, we have had a number of subsequent conversations with these employees over meals and as we go in to “hang out” in Coffee #1.  They continue to ask questions, and one asked if a course is available for those interested in learning more about Christianity.  We’re looking at the possibility of inviting many of them on an Alpha course starting next month, believing for the entire staff to be born again!

-During one of our afternoons in town about a month ago, Jim and I befriended a guy in his early 20’s.  We invited him to come along to an open mic night that coming Sunday.  He came, and Jim spent a portion of the evening explaining why we are in Wellington and  invited him to church.  Subsequently, he began coming to V&C and Sunday morning meetings, though he described himself as an atheist wanting to see “what’s out there”.  We continued to build friendship over the next several weeks, inviting him to meals and game nights- but we frequently asked him pointed questions after meetings, wanting to know what he thought and challenging him to ask God to show that he is real!  He began to recognize that he was changing, considering that perhaps all of this Christianity stuff might be true, after all.

During a recent Sunday meeting, I happened to glance at him during the worship time.  As I did, I heard the words, “gift of faith” and felt that God began to speak to me for him.  Ultimately, I felt impressed that God was extending a gift of faith, giving him the opportunity to come into relationship with Jesus today.  Jim and I stepped into the hall with him after the worship time, and I shared the word I had.  We spent most of the teaching time dialoguing through the final “hang-ups” he had regarding Christianity.  Though he realized that he had miraculously come to a place of believing the whole of the gospel, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to respond.  We returned to the meeting at the end of the teaching time.  John was teaching, and just as we walked through the door, he shared that he believed that there were those present who were being given a “gift of faith” to respond to Jesus today to be born again.  Jim and I turned to our friend, explaining again that God was speaking to him and that he had a choice to make.  He paused for a minute and then said, “Well…I guess I better respond, dammit!” He then prayed and asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life, and we all broke bread together with the rest of the church!

It’s encouraging for us to step back, consider examples like these, and recognize that God is, in fact, on the move.  Still, we know that these things are just the first “daffodils”.  We’re so aware of how much we have to grow in effectively winning souls and bringing others through in the gospel, and we’re constantly asking God for wisdom and anointing.  We’re learning to embrace our weaknesses more and more.  And above all, we’re so thankful that God is not most interested in any inherent skills or gifting; he simply looks for willing hearts, listening ears, and faith to believe that he is able to do whatever he likes!

I find myself praying for a few things more consistently than for any other things.  First, I keep asking God for the “spring”; we so want to see these people that we love take further and final steps to coming into relationship with Jesus, and we know there are so many others who have yet to hear the gospel and be born again.  Second, I pray that he will help us learn well so that we are not simply evangelistic for this season but so that we learn to live differently as the Church.  Finally, I pray that what God is doing in our Wellington team will be a part of the expanding and shaping of the culture of the churches- that we will become a people who are constantly “living outward”, looking for opportunities to pull our friends, neighbors, and coworkers into the family of God.

Climbing up "waterfalls" on an early spring day!

No comments:

Post a Comment