Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Creative Evangelism

“Jesus as always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds…” Matthew 13:34a

There is no end to the creative ways we can present the Good News to people. I love the element of mystery and story- telling. God’s people have discovered what works for them and use it for His glory. Isn’t it thrilling to see how the freshness of the salvation story grabs attention and satisfies spiritual thirst? My friend, Kristen, has a unique way of sharing the Good News that works for her. Listen to her story:

“While I was having coffee in a restaurant, I made an origami bird out of the doily underneath the coffee cup. The Turkish waiter saw it and I said, “koosh!”(bird). My total Turkish vocabulary of ten words came out of my mouth. How wonderful it was to speak of Jesus to him. “Jesus loves you. Jesus is the bread of life.”

Kristen went on to explain to me, “Origami seems to attract everyone. Once on an airplane I folded flowers to pass the time. My seat mate became curious. She asked, “What are you making?” which sparked a conversation about her hobbies and interests. Before the plane landed she gratefully received a gospel of John(with some origami flowers tucked inside). Another time I had only ten minutes to visit a school in a refugee camp. But this was enough time to fold a bird for a friendly girl, show her how it’s wings flap when you move the tail and tell her of Jesus’ love for her. At home I like to invite young ladies over to make holiday cards decorated with folded hearts, pumpkins, poinsettias and even camels! What a great way to connect, even if someone’s English is limited. Origami is relatively easy to do and low-cost. The results are beautiful. It makes everybody smile.”

Valentine's Day is a great time for creative evangelism. Sometimes I deliver plates to my Muslim friends filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies or chocolates and give them Valentine cards which are meant for friends, not lovers. We play the game of tic tac toe, explaining that oxox stands for "I love you". Often on Valentine's Day I explain a brief history of Saint Valentine and that the day is all about expressing love for others. I ask them questions like: How do you say ‘I love you’ in your language? Do you tell your husband that? Does he tell you? How do you say, ‘I love you, God?’ Do you ever tell Him that? Do you hear Him tell you that He loves you? How do you say in your language, ‘God loves good people, bad people, white people, black people, healthy people, sick people, enemies, etc?’ It is amazing how naturally the gospel story of God's love can be shared on Valentine's Day. Why not give it a try? 

Dear heavenly Father, please give birth to more creativity when I talk about you to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hand of God

“…I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me….” Ezra 7:28b

What planet is Laurie from, I asked myself? Seldom have I seen a more focused single young woman determined to serve Christ among Muslim women. Her ‘calling’ has already been tested. It was not a matter of being infatuated with a culture, intriguing customs, new cuisine, and beautiful fashions. She spent a few months recently in the country she feels called to return to. While there she experienced a gun pointed at her by a gunman. Laurie also shared about two of her close female friends ministering in another Islamic country who were kidnapped and killed. I saw in her a determination to follow the Lord no matter the cost. It was obvious nothing could distract Laurie from achieving her goal of becoming a missionary to Muslim women. When I was talking to Laurie I could sense ‘the Lord’s hand was upon her.’ She was called by God. A calling is hard to explain but easy to see in another person.

I was a young mother of two preschoolers when I came down sick with hepatitis in Pakistan. I was ready to call it quits. And there have been many more times in nearly four decades of ministry that I have been tempted to quit. Frequently the question has arisen, how can I continue on? It has not made any difference whether I was in a village in Pakistan or in a modern city in my homeland of Canada. Each geographical place has its own unique temptations, distractions, discouragements, obstacles and challenges. The temptation to quit investing my life in reaching Muslim women with the Good News of Jesus and do something else has come upon me with such intensity at times it has shocked me. There have been times I have searched for possible jobs. My mind has envisioned having a career as a writer. I have also imagined being involved in leadership in a church’s women’s program. But none of these alternative imaginings have ever materialized. I feel the hand of God so powerfully upon me to be set apart for this task and privilege of reaching Muslim women that I can not  pull myself away from that hand. It is not a mean forcing hand squeezing the life out of me. It is a strong gracious hand holding on to me. How can this strange conundrum be explained? The temptation to quit always lands up confirming it stronger to me that I am ‘called’. In the early years I was challenged to step out and share Christ with a Muslim woman. His hand was on me then. Today I am challenged to persevere in finishing well. His hand remains on me. It is mysterious, very real, and has staying power. It has a way of encouraging me on. Whether He has called us to reach one Muslim friend in our neighborhood in Toronto or many women in Indonesia His hand will always be there steadying us through the ups and downs, doubts, discouragements, and temptations.  Over time our calling is birthed, grows, tested and clarified.

My growing concern, however, is that we are losing a Biblical understanding of what it means to be called. We do not hear much about this in church anymore. Many of the young adults I speak with who have a budding interest in cross cultural ministry do not have a real sense of being called. Let us bring it back and have conversations about it. Otherwise the attrition rate will be high.

Dear heavenly Father, please confirm Your calling with a woman who needs it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.