Friday, September 18, 2009

The Team in Amon Hen

One of the coolest aspects of my job is the really cool people I get to work with. It is, or has become my job to facilitate the work of many. This was not always the plan. When I was a pastor in the West I imagined myself coming out here alone with my family, leading people to faith in Jesus, baptizing them, worshiping together, starting churches that started churches.... it all seems simple and straight forward. Surprisingly, I did an odd but wonderful thing. I allowed my basic faith in Jesus to guide my actions. Oh, you think that sounds easy? Simple? Obvious? You would be quite wrong. I remember when we set up our new team in Minas Tirith in 1997. We were immediately overwhelmed with the number of western workers who needed more care than the nationals we came to serve. We worked hard to do both. Basically, I as team leader spent more time with Westerners and the other two families stayed on task ministering to nationals. Then, in 2000 we had new families join us. It was hard. I remember during one team meeting that some of the others complained that we were taking too much time dealing with the new folks. There were all kinds of issues... I cut them off. I said in no uncertain terms that any child of God deserved our love, our respect, our loyalty. How we treated each other was a big signal to the new Church in Gondor on how they were to treat each other, how we all valued each other in the Kingdom. Hospitality is a primary value for me. My door is open to all who need to come in. My table is ready to serve all who come by. If you have not had water in three days and need a shower or need to wash clothes my house is available to you. In the 13 years that I have been on the team hospitality has been a non-negotiable value.

I saw firsthand the results of this two weeks ago when I went up to Amon Hen. Amon Hen is a town at the head of a remote valley here in Gondor. More than 300,000 people live in that valley with no access to the Gospel. This wrong is now being righted as we have a team there now. The team is made up of four couples. Two couples were thrown out of Rohan three years ago. Even though one of them was not with our organization we gave them a visa and set them up with housing. Another couple tried to go to Rohan and was unable, again we took them in and helped them with visas and language training. Another couple was worn out by the unrest in Mordor and needed a new place to serve. We took them in again. Now, we have four experienced families in Amon Hen who know language and culture already. They are fantastic folks who will see the Lord do more in that valley than I could have ever hoped to dream to accomplish myself. Two weeks ago I sat down at a long table with all of them and all of their kids and they said, "Strider, this is your Amon Hen team!" I said, 'No, this is the team that God has placed here in His timing for His purposes." This is true but it is also false humility. I should not forget why that team is there. It is because my family and our team made the simple yet difficult decision years ago to love God's people regardless of the costs. There have been costs but I would pay a hundred times more to see the people of the Amon Hen valley reached for Jesus. He deserves the worship of everyone up there. I don't know how or when they will worship Him but I know now for sure that they will hear that He is worthy to be worshiped.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Surprised by Passion

I complain a lot actually. Here in Middle Earth there seems to be plenty of things to complain about. We have not had electricity in the daytime for the last five days and today someone said that could become a permanent regime. Our secretary went down to the local government office to register some guests and was told that because they were only here for three days that they did not need registering. She had already paid a $100 for the registration fee when they told her this and now they wont give the money back. Life as normal in Minas Tirith. I complain about it often. They are tearing all the old trees out of the city to widen the streets and it is a mess and it is taking away the only attractive part of our city. There is a lot to complain about. And then this happened.

I heard from a colleague of mine that his home church would not support him anymore. There were a couple of reasons for this. They said that being in Gondor was too hard on his family and they said that he did not have enough fruit to show for his efforts. I wrote to them to encourage them to support him. When they refused something in me was greatly offended. A man and his family had come to Gondor and learned the language and communicated the love of Christ (effectively I might add) and they want to take him away? But these are MY people. Jesus loves them and we MUST reach them with His truth. I was surprised by my passion for these people, for this place, for what God is doing and will do here.

So, I here and now determine that I will be thankful. Thankful for a sending organization that loves Gondor and believes in the work that we do. Thankful for the privilege of sharing Jesus in a tough place. Thankful to serve a people who are hospitable and gracious. Thankful to live on the roof of the world amidst majestic mountains and beautiful river valleys. Thankful to serve my Lord who gave up everything to serve me.