I've just returned from an awesome, rejuvenating, spirit filled two weeks at camp. It's a tradition that we've taken on as a family, to attend family camp at a church camp outside Paris, Ontario. It's an awesome way to start my summer as I often come out of the school year feeling tired and sometimes defeated and this start of summer break in a setting like Braeside camp is so inspiring.
We were blessed to hear at least 7 different speakers who shared various messages under the theme of Hope this year. The resounding message I came out with though wasn't one that I feel directly ties to hope, at least not in the sense that many would think of.
I went into my weeks at camp after many months contemplating God's plan, God's desire for us and his wish to have his kingdom, his heavenly Kingdom, dwelling here amongst us. I've come to the realization through teachings in my own church that this is what he sent Jesus here to do. To bring his kingdom here. Now I'm not saying that he didn't send Jesus here to save us, to give us salvation. But while Jesus was here on earth he wasn't just preaching about salvation, he wasn't just teaching people, he wasn't just reaching out to share teachings and scriptures. No Jesus came to live amongst God's people. He came to help, he came to serve. He came to be with those who weren't righteous, with those who didn't know the Lord. He came for the sinners, he came for the lost. He came for the prostitutes, the desolate. He came for the widows, the children, the orphans, the poor. He came to serve first and to give his life second....
Mark 10:45 (NIV)
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And because I have really felt those things on my heart, I have really felt that our churches, many of our church I should say, are not living this out. Many offer wonderful programs, they may preach great messages. But the pastor's are preaching to the people who are sitting there, the people who have heard it before, the people who have a knowledge of the Bible and can apply it. And while that's all great and fine and dandy, those who need to hear it the most are the people outside of the church who aren't accessing the messages, who aren't meeting Jesus.
Okay so I diverged there a little bit there but it gives you an idea of where my heart was at going into this time at camp when I heard so many wonderful messages.
One of the speakers we heard talked about asking God to fill us with Kingdom purpose. He repeated over and over that Jesus came to serve not to be served. He talked about inviting guest pastors to his church who had a list of requirements an arm lengths long and included such silliness as water at a certain temperature and a congregation with a minimum of 500 in attendance. He mentioned how those were the preachers he didn't want in his church because they weren't there to share God's message, they were there to share their message.
He shared his story of being a new graduate with no perspectives for jobs in site, no church asking him to preach to the call. And so he went to a place out of his comfort zone...a children's Bible camp. He went there because he knew that God was calling him to serve, to be in the trenches, hands dirty, sweat on his brow, and offering help and in that offering hope. His first moments of arrival were met with a bucket and a mop and the request to go clean up the bathroom because a child had just thrown up everywhere. This pastor told us he willingly went and did it because that was what needed to be done. That his calling was to serve.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
And it just resounded with me that we don't do what's needed to be done sometimes. We avoid situations that make us uncomfortable, we avoid stepping out even though we've felt nudged or pushed to do something. We avoid getting dirty, we avoid being with the dirty. That day he asked us to pray to God for him to 'Fill us with Kingdom purpose'. And I've continued to pray that every day since... because I'm not sure what my purpose is, I'm not sure where I'm supposed to get dirty, I'm not sure how uncomfortable I'm supposed to be except I know it's a whole lot more uncomfortable that I am right now.
I know that I'm not meant to sit in a church pew once a week and listen to someone share their interpretations of the Bible with me. That's already been made clear and a few years ago it resulted in us moving to a setting where we engage continually each Sunday in the messages that are presented. It resulted in us being in a environment where we frequently are called out to serve in various ways.
But I don't think it's enough. I don't think it's all God's called me to do.
Later that same week we heard from the same pastor and another pastor about listening to God's message to you, to asking God for a word. Well I've asked God for words over the years but I don't think I listen very well and I also know that even when I hear them I don't do, I don't follow through. For the last three camps in a row, so the last three summers in a row, I have felt God tell me to write,to share and to speak. The last one is 100% out of my comfort zone but I feel like I can work up to that.
And so I plan to be back writing again. It's been, well, years I guess, since I consistently, month after month, shared the words God puts on my heart in this forum.
I have a plan, a theme of sorts, that's been put in my mind and in my heart that I plan to follow through with over the next several months. Within the communities of people that I frequently engage with, those whose hearts have been broken by the loss of a baby or a child, I feel like I have words that I could share that might help, that might give hope, that might offer peace. Hopefully I will start that with something that has sat on my plate for almost 2 years now either later today or in the next day or two. After that I have a study of sorts that I want to write about and share and perhaps even lead an online group with. Stay tuned for that.
Another interesting thing that happened to us while we were at Camp began with a pastor who spoke about remembering the words that you've heard and the Hope they gave you when you find yourself in a situation where you're losing hope. He shared that we can't forget the God is there and that we had hope. Sometimes we get discouraged, tired, depressed, but we can never forget those words we heard from God and they hope that they provide it. This pastor also shared that we need to respond to the nudge from God. That when he's pushing us in a direction, even when it feels uncomfortable, even want it doesn't make sense, even when you can't imagine yourself in that situation, we need to respond. Of course that ties in so well with what I felt was the words I was hearing from God but it also lead to another nudge, or as my husband said, an all out shove!
The following day, after that message, we went to hear a different speaker who shared his heart about a mission field that he has felt on his heart for 25 years and that has no all come together to make a clear picture for him.
While I've felt drawn to missions before, I've always felt like they weren't the right fit. My husband has gone on mission trips to build houses before and that's very much not my calling. I've always resisted when he said I should come a long. I've always said that if I was going to go and do anything, I would want it to be something to do with schools and children.
Well guess what this pastor's mission field is...to build a school in the 4th poorest country in the world, Liberia Africa. Now not only was this a mission field that I felt strongly connected to, but when he shared a little further into his experience in Liberia, I knew that God was shoving not just nudging me.
You see this pastor met boy in Liberia who cannot attend school, even if a suitable school is built. This boy is deaf and he does not have any means of communication. No one in Liberia teaches sign language, no one in Liberia seems to know any form of sign language. When I heard that, when I saw the face of this beautiful little boy, my heart pounded.
After the service my husband went to talk to the pastor while I talked to some friends. I walked into the conversation as the pastor excitedly talked to my husband about how he could help in this mission field but then went on to mention they also had a need that he wasn't sure how to fulfill. He said, right as I walked in, 'what I really need is a teacher, someone who could come along and help teach special needs children like this little boy, someone who knows sign language, even just a little bit.'
For those of you who don't know, I work with special needs children for a living. And those that do know that may not know, or remember, but I was hired almost 25 years ago, to work with a student who was hearing impaired and used sign language as a means of communication. That is my background, it is a skill set I have, and I'm pretty sure God wants me to use that skill set too...
So while I don't know what this means right now, I know it means a lot of prayer and probably a lot of work to make something like this happen. And while I work in the background on that project, I hope to work in the mission field that God has called me to right here, or perhaps I should say write here....helping those who are struggling after loss, struggling to find hope and peace with the words God puts on my heart.