Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Ten-Day Whirlwind!

Eleven days ago I went on a backpacking trip with my son Drew for his 14th birthday. We hiked 8+ miles, stayed the night in a cave behind Big Laurel Falls, swung on a rope into the Caney Fork river, explored the deep (and wet and cold) Sheep-Pen cave, and climbed to the top of beautiful 110-feet-high Virgin Falls. It was fantastic. Drew is a hiking/exploring/camping/caving maniac!

But the whirlwind was just cranking up.

The next day was Sunday. After services, I prepared to leave for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic early the next morning. My mission was to help lead a pastor's conference in the border city of Jimani (pronounced, him-on-EE) where God has opened a door via One Vision International to plant a church in a place where there is no evangelical church for many miles. One Vision has been given the opportunity to manage the Jimani Project, which includes building/staffing a world-class hospital (done), building a facility for an existing orphanage (under way), and planting a church in order to share the light of Christ in a stunningly beautiful, yet otherwise forgotten area of the world that is plagued with darkness (spiritual, economic, political, and social). Needless to say, the need is great. The pastor's conference was the perfect place to begin searching for a pastor for this church plant. There were several Dominican pastors and a few Haitians. The bottom line of the conference was this:

The church is the hope of the world.
The pastor is the hope of the church.
God calls the pastor to be…
• A Disciple
• A Preacher
• A Theologian
• A Shepherd
• A Leader
• An Evangelist

I won't bore you with the details. It went great. Most of these guys seemed to be doctrinally sound and godly men. There were a few who are definitely candidates for being the pastor for this church plant. I am praying for God to raise up the right man.

While in the DR, we got to go across the border to Haiti. I've been to poor areas of Africa, Brazil, Europe and other impoverished places around the world, but I have never seen squalor and oppression like this. People there sometimes boil the mud and drink the water to get nutrients. Naked kids walk among the animal and human waste. Shacks are made of sticks and mud. Voodoo is a dominant influence. Ignorance, abuse, corruption, disease, and instability are the norm. It is profoundly pitiful.

If the church is indeed the hope of the world, WE MUST BEGIN HERE WHERE HOPE IS VIRTUALLY NONEXISTENT. I am convinced that this is both an opportunity and a calling for us. Some might say this is impossible, and that the task is too great. Perhaps so. But I choose to be obedient to Christ who is Lord over all. I've heard it…I've PREACHED it: "Christ in you, the hope of Glory." "Greater is he who is in you than he that is in the world." "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." "Ask anything in his name and it will be done for you." Question is, DO I BELIEVE IT?

God has opened wide the door. I believe we should walk through it and watch him do great things.

So I got back from the Dominican Republic late Friday night and woke up at 5:30 am Saturday to go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala and to spend a couple of days with my family in North Carolina. Whew! I'm ready to hide the suitcase. I've missed my bed. I've got 600+ emails to work through. I've got to prepare to teach a class on Eschatology and have much more to do.

But I will not forget the great need and opportunity God has revealed in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

God let me see with your eyes.
Let me see the great darkness in this world.
Let me see the blessings I've been given as a responsibility.
And that I have limited time on this earth.

God, let me see with your eyes.
Let me see how you care for hurting people.
Let me see them with the same love you have for them.
And that their only hope is to know you.

God let me see with your eyes.
Let me see opportunities not obstacles.
Let me see you as the Sovereign, Eternal, Omnipotent, Loving Father you are.
And that nothing is impossible for those who respond to you.

God let me see with your eyes.
Let me see you work in us.
Let me see your people unite in faith and deed.
And a world changed by you.

Job 38:1 says "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind." He speaks like that.