A Guest Post from Jennifer Underwood
You know those moments in your life where all the different pieces that seemingly have no relevance to each other start to line up and fit together like some sort of cosmic Tetris game? (You know the ones I’m talking about, right? When you’ve been working on one thing and researching another and struggling with something else and thinking through some thought that just won’t seem to leave you alone until you work it out and then, suddenly, like a ray of sunlight shining through the fog, it all suddenly becomes clear?)
I just love those moments.
A Kindle Challenge
I ran out of books on my Kindle a little while ago and rather than hunting down a recommendation for a new one, I scrolled through the Kindle recommendations that are supposedly “personalized for you” according to what is in your Kindle library. Considering the fact that my Kindle library covers the spread from young adult apocalyptic garbage to Flannery O’Connor and a smattering of pre-Civil War history books, I saw this as a fun challenge for my little Kindle. The first book that came up was Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott.
Through Gates of Splendor is the true story of five missionaries who travel to Ecuador in the 1940s with the hope of evangelizing the Auca tribe. The book tells the stories of each of the missionaries aided by numerous excerpts from letters and diary entries. The crafting is masterful, yes, but I think there’s more to why I had such a hard time putting this book down.
I have never really known a missionary. I mean, yes, I have known many, many people who have gone on mission trips for various periods of time and I have known people who went into missionary work with a specific project in mind that would have a defined end date, but I have never personally known anyone who chose to be a missionary in a foreign land as their permanent occupation. Having this little bit of insight into these particular missionaries, how they thought, what drove them, their worries and the strength of their faith, meant that I was turning pages (or rather clicking my Kindle button) over the course of many late nights.
Through reading their stories, I began to see the allure. One of them mentions a moment in childhood when he told his older sister, “I don’t expect ever to be a preacher, but someday I would like to talk to someone who has never heard about Jesus.” How many people have we encountered in our lives who have truly heard nothing about Jesus? How exciting it must be to leave our world behind, a world where most people have had some sort of exposure to Jesus and summarily rejected him in favor of worshipping at the altar of material comfort, overabundant food supplies and I-did-it-all-myself bootstrap ideology and encounter people who do not follow Jesus because they have never even heard of him? A truly blank slate…
But what about the danger and the hardship?
To Be Expendable
In a sermon Nate Saint (the missionary in charge of flying the supply plane) once delivered, discussing the just-completed World War II:
During the last war we were taught to recognize that, in order to obtain our objective, we had to be willing to be expendable…This very afternoon thousands of soldiers are known by their serial numbers as men who are expendable…We know there is only one answer to our country’s demand that we share in the price of freedom. Yet, when the Lord Jesus asks us to pay the price for world evangelization, we often answer without a word. We cannot go. We say it costs too much.
God Himself laid down the law when He built the universe. He knew when He made it what the price was going to be. God didn’t hold back His only Son, but gave Him up to pay the price for our failure and sin.
Where does such courage and self-sacrifice come from? How do you truly count yourself (and your family, because their wives and children were there too) as expendable in such a direct way? The faith of these missionaries compelled me through the book, looking for something, anything, a clue as to what was special about these particular people. Sadly, [SPOILER ALERT] the missionaries were ultimately killed by the very tribe they sought to evangelize.
But even that is not the end of it all. The book’s author, accompanied by her infant daughter, went on to live and minister to the Aucas, the men who killed her husband, for two years after his death. How’s that for love, forgiveness and mission?
How are human beings even capable of such things?
They aren’t. But God is.
That’s the answer I was searching for, right? God, through the Holy Spirit, works in us and through us to bring about his plan for the world. He uses us as his instruments for sending forth his fruit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The bible study portion will begin with an overview of Paul’s letter to the Galatians and a background discussion of the Holy Spirit, who he is, and his role in the Trinity. The children will learn about the futility of good works with respect to salvation, the Holy Spirit as the unique source of any goodness in us, and the purpose of any goodness he produces through us. We hope to give them a better understanding of the closeness they have with God through the miraculous presence of the Holy Spirit in all believers and what it means to live by the Spirit. We will also explore each characteristic of the fruit and what those concepts mean according to God’s word.
The goal is obviously not to create tiny little missionaries (although there’s nothing wrong with that), so don’t worry about little Sally coming home on Friday and packing her backpack with a plan to travel the world’s rainforests at the tender age of six. Our children will be called to whatever vocation the Lord has planned for them. But we do hope that they will learn what joy there is to be had from understanding the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to work within us, to change and transform us, enabling us to live beyond ourselves…to be used for a purpose!
We hope you will join us as a volunteer or that you will send your children to us this summer. VBS runs July 18-21 from 9:15am – noon. For registration or more details, please visit ste.church/vbs.