Sunday, June 5, 2016

A different kind of mission

Love, confidence, financial support, last minute hugs.  We’ve had these and much more from our church when sent on a “mission.” It helped clear away many threats clouding our vision. These missions have often come down to anywhere between 1 to 3 week trips to wondrous lands such as Mexico, Arizona, China, Thailand, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Haiti. No matter the risks, the unknowns or even the results, we’ve always been surrounded by the goodwill of great people.

The reason it’s all so fresh in my mind is because, over the past two years, we’ve been sent on a different kind of mission yet with all the same support. So many times we have left and come back, left and come back. Now we’re being sent off again. It’s not to carry out the church’s mission with teams prepared to share culture, resources, and the joy of eternal life through Jesus. This mission is to go with a team of five, who are my wife and children. We go in hopes that our oldest daughter can keep living. We have more than we could possibly need as we soon head out.

It’s unnatural to talk about my church because it feels like I’m talking about me.  What I mean is that my church is all about who I aspire to be, and this subject hits close to home because I am a tangible part of the very thing I want to be like. One might think that, because I’m a pastor, I’m just a temporary figure or representative of the church. I guess that’s true if you’re just looking at printed documents or a name plate on an office door. But there’s something deeper uniting me to this church and every church family I’ve had the privilege of being a part of in Minneapolis, Saskatchewan, Denver, Naperville, Rolling Meadows, and now Deerfield. True, I will not always have the position that I’ve been so blessed by over the years, but I could never be who I am without that deeper connection that goes beyond a title or responsibility. The church is one family because of Jesus, as it says, and I know this truth experientially: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27, KJV).

I serve an amazing group of people, where actually the more storied description is to say that I’m served by an amazing group of people. Half of the group operates in a completely different language than mine. Despite me not knowing well enough the language they speak, people have gone far out of their way to make sure that nothing is lost in translation: “Take care of your family, keep up your strength and determination by eating and resting well, we love you and God is with you.” The other half of the church does speak my language, and these are some of the most skilled and influential people that I know.  Yet they’ve been able to muster only a few words over the years because of just how painful it is for them to see us go through these trials.

I try imagining what our people are going through, and my shoulders fall at the thought of so many sisters and brothers who have chosen to walk with us up close over the years. How does it affect their faith when the person that is supposed to bring God’s conviction, comfort, and guidance is the one that needs the most empowerment, the one who needs to be carried, the one who needs direction? They’re led into a series of questions and doubts about God’s sovereignty, His providence, and His intentions. They come across frustratingly short lived insights during this up and down battle. “Ah, now we get it. Wait, no we don’t.”  Not much can be answered even after several months, perhaps even years after following this journey. The same questions linger on for them, and it boils down to the core of what they are to believe. They’re also faced with wondering, “What have we believed so strongly that maybe we should now more loosely hold onto?

I feel like I have very little to stand on at this time in terms of heralding newfound convictions and realizations. What may be said today could change tomorrow, just like this diagnosis has evolved. The prognosis has many times shifted.  Even set doses of medicine prescribed for Ava gets altered. So much is uncertain that a bigger question has emerged, bigger than “what must we do” and “what will happen?”

It’s that of all that’s been shaken up in your life, what still remains? What is STILL true? That’s what I imagine to be the most important thing our church is here to witness, after all is said and done.

Are we still believing? Are we still hoping? Are we still loving?

If yes, then how?

I’ve got no words, but the answer is yes.  The how is every single one of you. Thank you, Church, and All the Faithful who have been with us. All who have given even half a thought or prayer to God for us, that’s why we’re here. For a single penny spent on us, our gratefulness to you extends forever beyond the trappings of this life. To anyone who has made our family any part of your own goals toward lasting, meaningful commitment both to God and to each other, we promise that we will make it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Lee,

I just listened to your sermon from May 29. What a profound message. Praise the Lord!

Thank you. May the Lord be with Ava and your entire family.