“I will wait. I wait. I will wait.” So sing Mumford and Sons. Their words are literally music to our ears. Everyone longs for happily ever after, to be waited for, to be special, considered, loved.
All too often we regard this as romantic love, but God has a far bigger vision than this. He came to bring together those who are far off a and those who are near, to allow everyone a love lasting and true, offering family to “whosoever will” and save a place at the table for us.
This is the call of the church, to be as Jesus: “Those whom the Lord gave Him, He loved until the end.”
Old faces light with joy, wrinkled visages are wreathed with smiles, gnarled hands tentatively reach out. Gifts are proferred- Graham crackers, withered apples, spotted bananas, and the kids receive them. The fog of pain, loneliness, and confusion is penetrated, if only fleetingly.
Mother Teresa has said that loneliness is the greatest poverty, and we believe she is right. Weekly visits to the convalescent home are our attempt to break down those gates of Hell. One of many advantages of homeschooling is the flexibility to schedule regular visits to lonely folks, to remind the kids to be thankful, and to focus their attention on others besides themselves.
Long-term faithfulness and consistency really do matter; we celebrate more than five years of the privilege and honor of bringing the touch of Jesus into lives in desperate need. And we are richly blessed in turn.
Our friend who babysits for us was having a conversation with me about how people who didn’t know her before she was a Christian can’t imagine was she was like. When she told them how she had gotten in the pastor’s face and yelled at him, they were shocked and aghast. “And they let you watch their kids?”
But she is really not the same person, and it is hard to remember who she used to be. God is gracious to give us second, third, and so many more chances, the power to be reconciled in a falling apart world, and the grace to transform us from who we once were so that others can’t even imagine it. And for this we give thanks-that he can do”far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Eph. 3:20. He can even make gifts out of miserable sinners.
Saturday night we served a banquet to 240 people who came to support a vital inner-city ministry. We realized this was something of an anniversary as we had been serving this group for 25 years; this also marked the inception of our banquet ministry. The first time we were asked to come and help at one of their early fundraisers, we quickly ascertained that it was a rather chaotic event. The people who were actually the leaders, teachers, and ministers were in the kitchen with us, frantically trying to serve the guests!
To say there was a drastic lack of leadership and direction would be a mild understatement. Everyone was pitching in and trying to help but there was no way for the hosts to visit, explain, or answer questions about their ministry, much less enjoy a meal. And voila! A seed was planted in us and we realized that we could offer our hands in service.
Though we are few in number, we have a vision for unity in the body of Christ. Currently we are blessed to serve many banquets each year, Some are gourmet, catered affairs, and some we cook ourselves. This service is offered up free of charge, asking only for out of pocket expenses such as food or decorations as well as covering our gas money. We have learned to be very economical, saving considerable money. We cook pretty well, and we clean up too!
Some put in their reservations as soon as their banquet is over for their next year’s event. A few years ago we served a banquet where the late Frank Pastore was the speaker. “What a neat ministry,” he said. “Come on my radio show and I will gladly promote your services!” While we appreciated his enthusiasm, we weren’t sure we could handle the outcome, so we never pursued the opportunity.
But we gladly promote the need for brothers and sisters to get creative and use whatever gifts you have to support, encourage, and edify the bigger body of Christ. This may help fulfill our Lord’ s last prayers, “…that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me…” John17:23
You won’t find this on MTV’s “Spring Break”! Today a busload of teenagers and adults from Texas is arriving in El Segundo, California, donating time off work and school to improve a church building desperately in need of help. New lighting will be installed and new coats of paint will “cover a multitude” of scars, bumps, and bruises. New ramps will be installed for easy wheelchair access.
There will be hauling, scraping, prepping, digging, cleaning, and no doubt some complaining too. But there will be joy and laughter, and probably some drama and tears, as well. This is a far cry from Cabo San Lucas, wet t-shirt contests, and endless drinking competitions! Christians rolling up their sleeves and helping other Christians, and finding joy and purpose in doing so, is just what this me-first world needs to see.
Donating time and energy on behalf of others which in no way benefits oneself is the love of Christ made manifest. These “girls gone wild” will be outdoing one another in helpfulness and servant-hood. What a concept! And there will be no hangover in the morning.
“Be ready with a meal or bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it.”
Hebrews 13:1-2 from The Message. For spring break we were blessed to entertain some angels from Concordia University in Irvine. Five college girls partook of our hospitality, building what we hope are lasting memories and relationships.We enjoyed hosting students from as far away as South Africa and South Korea, experiencing the love of Christ reaching around the globe. Midnight doughnut runs, lunch with the homeschool gang, favorite restaurant lunches and dinners, and a trip to the beach were a few of the events planned for our guests.
Of course there was time to sleep in (catching up on the usual college sleep deficit), as well as sharing in our typical events and traditions: Lord’s Supper, Bible study, convalescent home visits and letter writing. We are hoping this will not be their last visit. We do take our hospitality seriously and have had countless priceless encounters as a result. There is never a dull moment, and seldom an empty room, thank God!
We look forward to many more opportunities to entertain angels, giving thanks to the One who welcomed us when we were strangers and gives us the wherewithal to extend hospitality in His name.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…seems as if there are more and more of them each year. We talked about splitting up households for Christmas Eve/ Christmas morning, but I for one am not ready for that! We reluctantly acknowledge, however, that we will have to eat in two locations on Christmas Eve :-(…The rest we will attempt to do all together.
We lit our second Advent candle this Sunday night, the Bethlehem candle, which followed our first one, the Prophets’ candle. There are so many fine and wonderful Advent traditions that we can all be thankful for and from which we can learn and imitate.
Last night we tried humming some Christmas songs and letting others guess the answer. You have to be a bit brave for that one. Then we imagined what some of the headlines in the Bethlehem Gazette might have been on Christmas morning. That sent our imaginations soaring.
We look forward to Christmas caroling this weekend, the pastors’ high tea, strolling through Naples along the canals, and just being together to anticipate the coming of our Lord into this world. How He has changed the entire course of history, and how He has indeed changed our own histories! Wonderful, Counselor, and He shall reign forever and ever. God rest ye merry! And God bless us all, everyone!
To elaborate a bit on our national connections: our pastors are returning today from a visit to Oregon/Washington. On their whirlwind tour they visited an Orthodox monk and Abbot on Vashon Island, and a couple of Christian brothers for the purpose of mutual edification and encouragement.
In Oregon they attended a championship college soccer tournament, taught several Bible study sessions, met with various leadership in the area, had individual pastoring meetings, ate lots of delicious food, and maybe even rested a little bit! We also celebrate and enjoy friendships with congregations in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Kentucky to name a few. When the body of Christ is built up, the Kingdom of God benefits!
When we speak globally, we refer to friends in Kenya, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, and Jordan. It is good to be reminded of God’s work all over the world and to have some small part in the work of the Spirit in the larger arena…
Speaking of which, last night we welcomed two visitors from Concordia University where our youngest member attends. One of the girls is from South Africa and the other from France; they will be staying with us for the entire Thanksgiving week. We rejoice to see the continuing expansion of Kingdom contacts and relationships. The last two summers we have enjoyed brief visits from five French high school students from various areas of France. We have found these encounters to be both challenging and exciting. The more recent group treated us to delicious homemade crepes during their summer sojourn. Enough for now. Thanks for your interest in our story.
At Church of the Servant-King we are blessed to enjoy partnerships locally, nationally, and even globally. Through the years our contacts have grown, and we are especially glad to connect others so that the ripple effect goes far beyond us.
Here in the Los Angeles South Bay area we are connected to several congregations that we regularly visit as part of an encouragement ministry. Just last Sunday we paid a visit to one of our sister congregations, Christian Force MBC. It is great to be able to “drop in” and be received with open arms, and to know that our presence can and does make a difference.
Next weekend we will be visiting another local friend, New Mount Calvary MBC. Our friendship goes way back to the weekend of the L.A. riots, but that is a whole story in itself for another time. Through the years we have been graciously received there and our friendship continues to grow… As part of our banquet ministry we will be serving another outpost in El Segundo known as Casa de Renovacion. This will be the first, but hopefully not the last time to serve and encourage our brethren there.
Several pastors across various denominational lines gather regularly to discuss issues, share burdens, and build up one another. We think the Lord is pleased when we are able to see beyond ourselves and encourage the Body of Christ in a larger context! We hope this might motivate others to do the same, and to find ways that we can build on the many things we have in common. We are, after all, family not because we agree on everything, but because we have the same Father!