Saturday, May 16, 2015

“Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage lost of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in your service, and to promote your kingdom” –- David Brainerd

There is a church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I became a member in 1981, later taught Sunday School, led the University Fellowship group, left to enter seminary, and about twelve years later returned as an associate pastor.  There I visited the sick, taught years of Disciple Bible Study, preached a few times a year, worked with the singles group for a number of years, did a whole lot of pastoral counseling, and was asked to go on my first real mission trip to the Amazon.  The son living with us now, was an acolyte when he was six years old in that church.  I performed weddings, funerals, and baptized many from infants to adults.  There were and are many, many wonderful people there, and I made many friends who remain so to this day.  I cannot be the judge of how well I served God and His people, only history and the people themselves can decide that.  What I can judge is how significant it was that the mission program there became for me.  Three trips to the Amazon, one leading a group of nineteen people (with four middle-schoolers in the mix) to build a church right on the Amazon that is still standing and having services twice a week.  This church did not have a large mission budget as a line item but because of private donations from members, spent huge (it seemed to me) amounts on mission and single individuals would pay to fly pastors from Colombia to Fayetteville to ignite even more passion for mission.  This church over the last several years has sent a number of teams to Uganda to do special mission work there.  I could not be prouder of the church or the members who go and those who finance them.  One even adopted a Ugandan boy and brought him back to the U.S. where he is thriving.  This passion, this devotion to mission in a land so far away is inspiring.  There are much closer, cheaper mission projects, but this group (there are many who return year after year) truly has felt the call that doesn’t come to everyone, but comes to many who reject it.  Not this group.  God called them to Africa, and they went, and returned again and again.  I don’t know, but I would guess that the average church member has no idea what each member of the mission team has to sacrifice, what fears they have to face, how long the flights are, and the conditions in which they live while they are there working.  My wife and I know and because we do, we hold this group in a special place in our hearts.  One of the first members of one of the first trips has since passed away from cancer, but she is remembered by us, not for what the cancer did to her, but for what she did for God’s children in Uganda.  She heard that voice that asked who would go, and she said, “I will.”  We pray God’s blessings on the upcoming mission trip and give eternal thanks to the church and the members who support missions to Africa, South America, and the poorer parts of Arkansas.  I would say that all of the participants are blessed, but I suspect that they know that they already are.  Many are called, but few answer boldly and go.  God bless every single one of those who support, pray for, finance, and participate in the mission projects of this church and every church who understands that it is not how many attend that is important but how many that they send.
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