On past trips we have talked about seeing things through the eyes of others. Getting a fresh view of mission work, seeing faith in action. The question in this week’s meditation is “Have you ever asked God to help you see the world the way he does?” OK. Seems a reasonable request. Then, the question “Have you ever asked God to shape you?”
We’ve visited the pottery factory outside of Santiago several times. This might look a lot like the place that inspired the verses in Jeremiah 18:1-6. It is a busy place, with lots of finished pottery and ceramic on the shelves. But less visible is the process going on at the work stations: an amorphous hunk of clay is worked into a recognizable shape. Sometimes the artist has to push down on the work, take away the emerging shape if he or she is not happy with it and start over. The result, a beautiful pot or colorful figurine that will serve as reminders of the visit for years to come.
God would have the events of our life and our faith and trust in him build us up in maturity and effectiveness much as the pressure of the potter’s hands as he shapes his work. Look at the verses in Jeremiah ~ the potter shapes his work “as seemed best to him.” The challenge: Do we believe that God knows best? That he can shape us through the events we only now anticipate, but will soon experience, then finally upon which we will reflect? Will we be able to describe our lives as “clay in the hand of the potter?”
Read Jeremiah 18 and think about what it is that you want God to teach on this trip. Bring this to him in prayer and anticipate his response!
Welcome to the 2011 Onalaska Church of Christ Dominican Republic Missions Ministry web log. This site is to keep you informed about our mission, preparations for our trips and communications with the missionaries in the Dominican Republic.
viajar - Servir - madurar
to go - To Serve - to grow
Levante las Velas y Adelante al Horizonte (LLV y AAH)
Hoist the Sails and Onward to the Horizon
Blog updated March 5, 2011
The OCC - DR blog is being updated to provide information about the 2011 trip and the planned visit to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2012
Accounts from our activities on Thursday, February 17 are now posted.
This Welcome section and the Current News section that follow have their permanent homes here at the top of the blog. Starting with this update, posts will follow in order written immediately below the Current News. This means that all posts will be available in this window or through the archive list that can be accessed in the Blog Archive menu at the bottom of the right hand side bar.
What time is it in the DR?
The team for the 2011 visit occurred between February 16 and February 22. Reports are being provided in new posts, one post for each day of the trip. We will soon be making plans for our next visit to the Dominican Republic, tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2012.
When God Arrives Early
The writer of today’s lesson talks about God arriving “early” in meeting our needs, this as a lead-in to a discussion of prayer. God knows what we need and wants us to be engaged in his work. A big part of this is his desire that we be engaged in conversation with him through prayer. Read Daniel 9:4-23. Here we see a really special answer to prayer ~ the angel Gabriel delivers God’s answer while Daniel is still praying! The point we are directed to see in this lesson is not that we should expect an angel to personally deliver answers to our prayers, but the kind of prayer that makes a difference. Look at Daniel’s prayer. We see that:
- He confessed his own sin and that of the
nation for which he was praying.
- He pleaded for God’s mercy.
- He based his appeal on God’s character,
mercy and glory, not on his own.
The lesson then proceeds to look at things that might hinder our prayer life. Here we have:
- Praying to impress others (Matthew 6:5-8)
- Praying without confidence that God will
hear and respond (James 1:5-8)
- Praying with wrong motives (James 4:3)
- Neglecting prayer altogether (James 4:2)
Finally, the lesson writer issues the following “challenges:”
- Take time to talk to God now – no pretense, no fancy
words, no self justification, no personal agenda.
- Take time to listen to God now – he might want to
prompt you in some way… write down any
promptings you sense.
- Don’t be in too big a hurry when you talk and listen to
God. And know that on the trip, we’ll be able to see
And experience him. He is, after all, already at work.
Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary. There are many ways to share the Gospel message. And even more ways in which the message may be responded to. Read Matthew 13:3-9. The focus is on the soil and seed, not so much on the sower. So what does this mean for us as we prepare to go and sow? Hmm… go sow grow?
It seems to me that the emphasis being on the soil and seed says that important as the farmer is to the process, having the right seed and soil are to be the focus. First, we acknowledge that God’s word is the seed for salvation. Even though we sow, it is not our word that goes out; it is God’s. When others hear the word, it is not our response that counts. It is theirs. While the hearer’s response depends on the quality of the “soil,” we might actually be able to have some affect on this, especially if our actions and words display our trust in God’s plan.
We may not see the results of our sowing, but let’s not let that discourage us. Rather, look at the message in 1Corinthians 3:5-9. Here we see that there are those who plant and those who water, playing roles in God’s ultimately bringing forth the fruit. Having a role in this process is a privilege and a responsibility. Our response should be gratefulness for opportunity and commitment to doing the best we can in carrying out the responsibility, in our actions and, when required, with our words.
Pray for opportunities to share the God’s love in word or deed and that we as a team and individuals are ready to meet these in accordance to what we have been given. Pray too for the Spirit to work in the hearts of those whom we will meet during our travels, that their hearts are prepared to accept the seed.
Salt of the Earth
“Muzungu!” Bill and I heard this often during our mission trip to Uganda. Youngsters would point, laugh and call out to us. So much that I decided when asked my name (by the kids), I would say, “Muzungu.” Muzungu is a general term for “white man,” and comes from the description applied to the British in East Africa to describe how the native peoples saw these European visitors: the word conveys the meaning of a lot of action with no good purpose, like a dog chasing its tail. The British stood out in this foreign land. And earned a special name for it.
In Matthew 5:13, 14 Jesus tells us to be “salt” and “light.” Salt because he wants us to heal, preserve and bring flavor; he doesn’t want us to be bland, flavorless and purposeless, rather we are to be full of life, purposeful and useful to the world through our sharing of God’s love. And he says our light should shine before others so that they may see our good deeds and praise God; he wants us to stand out in the world because of saving knowledge of Christ. Read Acts 3:1-10. What is the reaction to the compassion demonstrated by Peter in his healing of the cripple?
How should being salt and light actually manifest itself in OUR lives? In Colossians 3:12, Paul says, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” When we are in the Dominican Republic we will stand out for the color of our skin, the way we dress, our language and our way of doing things. That’s the easy part. Will we also stand out because of our compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience as befitting of the name we carry: Christians?
Pray that we might stand out in the sense of Colossians 3:12 and that God be praised with the enthusiasm of the beggar healed by Peter. Pray for the March travel group as the days wind down ~ and the stress of preparation rises ~ and for the June travel group as they continue their preparation.
Anyone Serving Anyone
“Who is my neighbor?” We are approaching our last month of preparation. One of the things we have to do is to sharpen up our “performance” of the story of the Good Samaritan. Our intent is to provide children the opportunity to see Jesus’ teaching on attitudes of service in terms with which they can identify – our “Samaritan” is a Haitian.
It has been my experience that a good way to learn a lesson is to be responsible for teaching it. What are we learning about Jesus’ message as we prepare? Read Luke 10:25-37. We see in verse 29 that the “teacher of the law” has asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The response is the story of the Good Samaritan. In his response, Jesus teaches that one must be ready to serve without regard to social, political or economic considerations.
We practice the skit so that the story is presented in a way that will capture the children’s attention and deliver the message of a servant attitude. Our Spanish should be passable and the actions carried out to deliver the lesson. This is effective teaching, one of many ways in which we can serve during our week in the Dominican Republic. But through all of this, what are we learning? Will we allow Jesus’ teaching to have an impact on our view of service?
Pray that our understanding of the servant heart grow as we prepare to enter a world much different than the one we live in every day. Pray that we not be distracted by these differences, but will see the opportunities for service afforded us. And, it is OK to pray that our preparation for the skit results in it being effective in delivering the message to the students!
“Whatever.” Today, a word indicating indifference or scorn for something. I’m not listening; I don’t care; whatever. But there is more to this whatever. It is also a big, all inclusive word. Look at Colossians 3:17. What are the things that we should take care to do well, in the name of Jesus, giving thanks all the while? Whatever. Not the contemporary whatever, the “everything, all the time” whatever. No exceptions.
The writer of the lesson this week says, “I challenge you to do whatever is set before you and to do whatever is asked of you.” We may think we know what these things will be. We are, after all, making plans, getting ready for travel, work, programs, devotions. Whatever. But even now we see the uncertainty that is the reality. A tropical storm damaging the camp building, William moving to Puerto Plata, requests for special projects that are just now coming in.
It matters less what we do than that we do whatever in accordance with the admonition to do it “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then, with the satisfaction of providing this service, whatever this service is, remembering to give thanks to God. Thanks for being able to do what are able, “whether in word or deed,” thanks that His work is being done and thanks that His name is lifted up.
Pray for David as he finishes up work in Costa Rica, travels to Mississippi for a brief respite then moves on for the busy team visit season in the Dominican Republic. And pray that we all may embrace the “whatever” with the an attitude that is just the opposite of the contemporary expression of indifference, rather with concern, enthusiasm and desire to bring thanks to God.
The meditation leader for this lesson based her study on the story of Hannah. Read 1Samuel 1:1-28 and 1Samuel 2:1-11, 18-21. Hannah experienced distress – things were “broken” in her life. We see that she put her situation before God. The result, she left the temple where she had prayed and been counseled by the priest Eli with a face that was “no longer downcast” (v18). Nothing had “happened” yet, but her confidence in the Lord had already lifted her up.
I’ll always remember arriving in Santiago 24 hours late after our “vacation” in Miami. When we stepped out of the terminal building into the warm night air, Dan, Sharayah, Cassie and Mara were there to greet us. And Dan observed, “We are whole again!”
It had been a long, difficult day, traveling all the way to Miami only to miss the only flight of the day to Santiago. This resulted in a long wait at the ticket counter to get re-booked and a long discussion with the airline before we were given vouchers for our overnight stay. Then, another wait at the curb for our transportation to the hotel, provided by a driver who asked US where the hotel was. Were we thankful for what was happening? Were we looking for the message that God had for us? Did we see opportunities to serve as short term missionaries, even though we had not “arrived” in the field yet? YES. What a team! The day that we were made whole again, as Dan described it, started with a trip to a park on the edge of Biscayne Bay where we held an impromptu worship service, thanking God for his provision in this special way. And, of course, we made it to Santiago.
While we might see certain situations as our plans being “broken,” God simply asks us to see anything that happens as an opportunity. And we can express our thanks to God throughout, knowing that what we may see as broken at the moment will eventually be seen as a part of the wholeness of God’s plan.
Thank God for what he has done so far in building up our team and for revealing to us already some of the opportunities we will have during our visit. And let’s pray this week that we have the confidence in God’s plan to be excited from beginning to end regardless of what happens at the moment. Pray again for the each member of the Team as we continue to prepare our hearts and attitudes for the trip.
Do you know what the plan is? We have travel plans. Plans to visit the Haitian church, Pontezuela, the mountain camp, Puerto Plata. We are planning lessons and meals. Why do we make these plans? As we have noted, our diverse group carries with it a diversity of gifts and talents, driven by a common desire to serve the missionaries and the people in the Dominican Republic. Our plans are made in order that we be available – available to exercise these in our chosen ministry.
But our plans are only a part of God’s master plan, our role being defined when Jesus said "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” (Matthew 28:19-20). Do we understand God’s plan? How our plans mesh with his? His plan isn’t always understood, you know. Look at Acts 1:6. Jesus came to be the path to salvation for all mankind, but the question here is about his plan for restoring Israel’s earthly kingdom. Saul was one who did not understand Jesus and how he was the fulfillment of God’s master plan. He set out on a journey according to his own plan. But along the way, he learned about God’s. And what a difference that made in the outcome!
Think about the commission we have, the charge to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Understand that plan and strive to make everything you do in preparation and during the trip conform.
Thank God for his plan of salvation; tell him what that means to you. Ask him to help keep your focus on the master plan in whatever it is we choose or are called unexpectedly to do. And pray this week for the pastors and congregations of the new churches in the Puerto Plata area and for William as he continues his ministry of church building in that part of the Dominican Republic.
The writer of this week’s meditation tells us that his “favorite theme in the Bible is that people are blessed so that they will become blessings to others.” My work provided the opportunity to make several visits to Rochdale, England. Just behind the small hotel on a hill above the town stood a monument to authors who wrote to preserve the local dialects of the area, well known once for it’s cotton and woolen mills. A short thought by Margaret Rebecca Lehee appears on one of the four faces of the monument:
When we lay deun life’s shuttle an ston before th greyt judge, he’ll wont to know what soart of a piece we’en woven, an how many floats there’s in it. He winnot care abeawt eawr hee seaundin names an worldly possessions. He’ll ax us how we geet em and what we did wi’ em.
Read 1Peter 4:10. We see that we are given gifts (abilities to use in our ministries) for the purpose of “faithfully administering God’s grace…” It isn’t a question of how many gifts we have. Nor of what these gifts are. It’s “what we did wi’ em” that counts. What will we do with our gifts in this ministry to the people in the Dominican Republic?
Pray for the other members of the missions team as we prepare for the March and June visits. Thank God for the diversity of the groups and that this collection of gifts be given freely and effectively in our part of in “administering God’s grace.”