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Read a wonderful passage this morning that has challenged my thought process:

You see, I've done a lot of work for the Church--I'm aware of it.  IT has been my only thought, my only care.  I have raced hard and covered as many miles as the most committed missionary.  At a certain point it occurred to me that what the Church lacked wa not work, activity, the building of projects or a commitment to bring in souls.  What was missing, or at least was scarce, was the element of prayer, meditation, self-giving, intimacy with God, fidelity to the Holy Spirit and the conviction that [Christ] was the real builder of the Church: in a word, the supernatural element.  Let me make myself clear: people of action are needed in the Church but we have to be very careful that their action does not smother the more delicate but much more important element of prayer.

If action is missing and there is prayer, the Church lives on, it keeps breathing, but if prayer is missing and there is only action, the Church withers and dies.

--From Letters to Dolcidia: 1954-1983 by Carlo Carretto.

What do you think about this?  I'm ruminating over the thought right now, probably to use it to engage our pastors meeting this afternoon.

Spiritual Father

I had an interesting conversation with a Moldovan friend the other day, a leader here.  I was asking him about some issues, especially about dealing with conflict or disagreement in this culture.  I was trying to understand some of the cultural points that influence relationships.

He shared about a recent conflict that he had dealt with a few weeks ago, where a couple men had decided to "do their own thing."  Rather than submission to correction, they wanted to go their own way.  In others words, "You are wrong, old man, and we are right."

His response was simple.  "In the flesh, it would be best for me to just say, go your way.  It is easier for me to just have you go.  But as your spiritual father, I don't to just let you go.  You don't have teenagers yet [these guys don't yet], but someday you'll understand.  Kids think that their parents know everything. But when they are teens, they thing their parents know nothing.  But someday you grow past that and realize that they DO know something."

"Right now you are talking like spiritual teenagers."

I really made me think about both listening to correction and taking responsibility for direction.  First, am I really listening to correction?  Am I open to spiritual fathers, welcoming their insight?  Or do I just look for confirmation of my opinion.  If I make the wrong choices as a spiritual teenager, I may ruin great options for the future. I take responsibility to be a spiritual father?  Do I truly care and love someone enough to confront, talk to them?  Do I want to see the best for them?  Am I committed to speak the truth in love?  Sometimes it is easy to speak but hard to love, while other times it is the reverse.

It is interesting to learn in Moldova, see pastors and leaders that take great responsibility to lead and guide their flock.  They aren't afraid to call immaturity what it is, but with a gentle spirit.  Churches aren't perfect here, but there are some areas in which I want to learn.

Not sure where this leads me, but I know that I want to be guided by a Shepherd as I guide the sheep.

Why Missions Is NOT an Option

April 2, 2006 Iasi-Ungheni 106I've had the thought of Ezekiel 34 running through my thoughts today, a condemnation of the shepherds of Israel because "...they only take care of themselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock?"

The leaders were condemned because they only thought of themselves: the good food, the best clothes, great barbeques (it's there, read it!).  But they didn't worry about the broken and sick.  If they had to do any shepherding, it was only for the pretty sheep, the easy ones.

They were condemned because they were out looking for the strays, the sick, and the lost.  They were only thinking of themselves.

It is SO easy for all of us to just think of ourselves. 
    We think about our personal benefits. 
    Our comfort.
    Our pleasure.
    Good steaks for stomachs. 
    Soft sheets for our bodies. 

Churches can fall in the same trap, where we think only of our church, our village, our city.  There ARE personal benefits when our churches grow, especially if they grow full of "nice" people!  

And as a follower of Christ, I need disciplines in my life that cause me to think of someone else, especially when I don't gain anything.  Churches need to think of Missions, because it causes them to think of OTHERS.  They are pursuing the lost, the stray, and the sick.

As a missionary, I need to remind myself daily that my calling is to the lost, the stray, and the sick.  If I spend my time with only "nice" people, or only Christians, I am being a selfish shepherd.  But when I am the shepherd/leader that Jesus wants me to be, I'll get outside of those walls be a true shepherd.

How does my life reflect God's kind of shepherd?
What am I doing that gives to others where I do NOT receive any personal benefit?
What do I need to do to curb the "me-first" mentality?
How can I become like Christ?

Speed the Light

As Assemblies of God missionaries, we are blessed.  The youth of the A/G churches have a vision to help missionaries do their work, sacrificially giving to help us buy vehicles, sound systems, and other equipment to expand the kingdom of God.  We are SO blessed.

Just saw a video that they did on Moldova.  Looks pretty nice!   Click here to download and watch.  It is a pretty good size file, but worth watching.  I'd love your feedback.

Needs and Opportunities

I am sure this story has been repeated countless times by countless individuals.  How does one deal with the pressure of needs?  What do I do for such a great need, when I have neither the time nor the finances to help?

I love the Church in Moldova, with all its flaws and problems.  It is a good group of pastors and leaders.  They don't always agree with each other, and we run the gamut of conservative to non-conservative churches.  There are churches that think all Christian women should wear headscarves all the time, just in case they need to pray.  There are other churches that allow a simple headband during services, and even allow a little jewelry (gasp)! 

But when it is time to work together, we are one Body, one Church. 

The church in Casunca is brand new, just a year old. (click here for more info).  There are already 40-60 people attending, over a dozen being baptized a couple of months ago.  (In Moldova, when you are baptized you are a CORE part of the church, mature and committed.  Baptism is not done quickly or lightly).

But they still don't have any building to meet in.  They have found a great store building that would serve the purpose, and have already raised and collected about $14,000, mostly from the churches and believers in Moldova, still about $30,000 short of the needed finances.  Pastor Stephan sat with me today as we talked about the need.  

All I could say was, "we'll see."

I know of $500 that was just given toward the need.  I know that I can usually scrounge and scrape up another $1000 from somewhere in my account, from our supporters' monthly giving.  (FYI--all support goes straight to the work in Moldova.  We don't work on commission!  If there is extra in a month, we just plow it into the churches and ministries here). 

But I don't know how to answer Pastor Stephan's need.  God does.

And God might not want him to have that building tomorrow, too easily.  God has a timing for everything.  He knows the church's need, and He can bring in the needed resources.  And I have to wait.  And watch.  And trust.

What do I do about the need?  The opportunity?  Where does God's sovereignty mix with my obedience?  If I fail to sacrifice my $5 toward the need, it is my disobedience?  Should I passively wait for God to multiply the loaves and fish?  Or even more, am I doing nothing because I think my gift or sacrifice is too small and the need is too big?  Do too many needs get unfulfilled because I rationalize a $20 gift as a drop in the bucket toward a $30,000 need?

This is not the most orderly blog, but just random thoughts of mine as I reflect on today's meeting.  What do I DO to fulfill God's plan for Casunca?  What do I NOT do, and trust Him for the miracle?  And what can I GIVE to be a part?