Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wales is a land of history, legends, castles, water, magnificent lush greenery and gorgeous flowers. She has also been called “the land of revivals,” deriving her reputation from some 15 major revivals that took place during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The most recent in 1904, called the “Great Welsh Revival,” brought curious spectators and participants from around the world. In spite of her magnificent beauty and splendid history, most of her people today walk in darkness and are in great need of the Savior.

Llanfairfechan, Wales, is the quaint, seaside town along the coast of the Irish Sea in which the Libanus Baptist Church is located. Missionaries Kim and Kevin Davis and the Libanus Baptist Church were the focus of the North Village Baptist Church’s Crossing the World mission team effort for 2009. See the NVBC Crossing the World-Wales slideshow here.

In the weeks prior to leaving Tepic for Wales I found myself on multiple occasions asking, “Why on earth did I commit to this effort? It certainly isn’t that I don’t have plenty to keep me occupied in Tepic! Oh, yes, ... the promise … the “open door”...OK, God, I was invited, You opened the door, I walk through, so…the outcome is up to You.” Again, He reminds me in Jeremiah 33:3 if I call on Him, He answers me and shows me great and mighty things that I couldn’t have imagined, ever...not even in my wildest dreams...

First things first -- He showed me the theme for the first devotional I was asked to prepare for the team – the “great and mighty" theme He used from Day One of the trip – Eternal Perspective. In fact, He continues to use the Eternal Perspective theme as ripples radiate, extend and ebb out from that original point of impact. May we never forget His lesson to see every situation and every person with whom we come in contact through His incomparable lenses of Eternal Perspective.

Every Situation – Eternal Perspective

• Emergency evacuation of British Airways flight #288 just before take-off at Phoenix Sky Harbor
• Tweaked agenda - missing the 1st scheduled day and Sunday service in Wales
• Strenuous effort in preparation of materials, hauling them in enormous suitcases up and down way too many flights of stairs and on the underground in London
• Scraping, sanding, priming and painting installations at Libanus Baptist Church – Llanfairfechan, Wales
• Ladies’ tea
• Men’s fellowship
• Holiday Bible Club
• The beauty of Wales, the mountainside, the Irish Sea, the food, flowers, fun and friends
• The “FAMILY”

The mission trip to Wales was not about any of the isolated circumstances or opportunities, but about seeing God’s FAMILY through His indispensable lenses of Eternal Perspective.

From the moment I shared that I had accepted the invitation to walk through the “open door” and travel across the Atlantic, 5352 miles (8613 kilometers) from home, with a short-term mission team to Wales, pastors Martín, Nacho, and José Luis and the brothers and sisters in Mexico began to pray for the venture. How “great and mighty” is the concept that the very people, people whom at that time we had never met, who certainly didn’t know Jesus personally, and some of whom weren’t even born yet, people to whom Kirt and I had been commissioned from the platform of NVBC, our sending church (formerly Alice Avenue Baptist), would be praying for and commissioning me some 30+ years later, from the platform of their little church to go on a mission endeavor to Wales?!?! Martín, Nacho and José Luis, sending out the missionary that was sent to, that’s a “great and mighty, unimaginable” thing!

Romy, my friend from the Tepic church, assured me she would be praying for the outreach, especially for the children’s Holiday Bible Club. I shared with Romy that the ladies of the team were preparing to teach the significance of the five colors of the Wordless Book: 1. the golden page representing the golden street in Heaven where God is; 2. the black page that symbolizes the sin that keeps us from a perfect relationship with God who created us and loves us; 3. the red page that corresponds to the very “Good News” that in spite of our sin, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to shed His blood on the Cross and die to pay the price of our debt; 4. the white page that stands for the clean hearts of those who have believed, asking for forgiveness of their sin and for Jesus to be their Lord; and lastly, 5. the green page that typifies growing things that are examples of what newborn babies in God’s family are to do as they talk to God, listen as God talks to them through His Word, and as they talk to others, telling them the truth about Jesus. She said, “Here in Tepic, you always use props to exaggerate your points, and I want to have a part in helping you teach about the priceless place in Heaven that God is preparing for His FAMILY. I will make you a ‘golden tunic’ to wear for your day.”

Also before I left Mexico for Phoenix for the flight to the United Kingdom, several Huichols like Manuel, José, and Emilia told me that they would be praying for me and our team. They admitted that on this side of Heaven, it was most unlikely that they would ever meet the brothers and sisters of the FAMILY in Wales, but they wanted me to be sure to tell them that they love them and they are glad they are part of our big FAMILY...they would be happy to meet them in Heaven. I took 18 beaded bracelets, hand-made by Huichol ladies, to give away as God directed. How “great and mighty” and unimaginable is it that exactly 18 ladies attended the Thursday evening Ladies’ tea at which I was invited to speak! I should have taken 40 bracelets!

Every single victory God has ever provided in the ministries in which I have been privileged to participate in Tepic, or anywhere else in the world, has been the result of first, God’s perfect design, and second, the collaboration of a host of vital, enthusiastic, and committed teammates. This short-term mission venture to Wales was no exception. Some very good friends gave generously so I could have the privilege of going. Virginia joyfully cut out each rectangle of fake fur in the 5 colors of the pages of the Wordless Book that we used for the glove craft. 91-year-old Dorothy made 100 bookmarks featuring the 5 colors to give to the children who came to the Holiday Bible Club for them to use as tools to share the “Good News” with their friends and family members. Tony, Esther and Becky pledged to be my official prayer partners everyday during the mission trip to Wales. That is exactly how “Family” functions.

The fact that Finley, Naomi, Hannah, Erica, Trai, Jessica, Sophie, and Kes prayed on the last day of the Holiday Bible Club to ask for forgiveness of their sin and accept the free gift of a relationship with our Creator and everlasting life that Jesus shed His blood to offer, the fact that we were present to witness the birth of our new little brother and sisters into the “Family” is not because of our faithful prayers, or because someone was willing to give and send, or because of our hard work, or even because we went. But because some prayed, gave, worked and went, we were marvelously privileged to participate in God’s plan for bringing them into His Family.

Speaking of “great and mighty,” “unimaginable” occurrences, what is the earthly probability that a practical lady named Debbie, whose life’s goal once-upon-a-time was to become a sensible school teacher, would find herself extracted from her now-familiar tropical surroundings (also pretty unimaginable), with two very good friends, sipping tea in a quaint little tea room next to Conwy Castle overlooking the coast of the frigid Irish Sea? Before we ever left for Wales, Barbie and I had prayed for our friend Kim asking God to give us the opportunity to share a special time with her alone, to pray with and for her, and to assure her that we understand the trials and concerns that often arise in ministry, in families and in missions. No strings attached, we committed to be her true friends.

And, how likely is it that I would “just happen” to run into Olive Howard? After finishing up in Llanfarifechan, we arrived back in London with one day left before returning to Phoenix. We were invited to visit the Family Night outreach that the Upney Baptist Church in conjunction with Christian young people from all over the United Kingdom had organized for their Holiday Bible Club children who are from many distinct cultural backgrounds. We NVBC volunteers offered to help Upney volunteers, Olive and Hazel, clean up the kitchen so the youth workers could get their stations set up for the program that afternoon. What is the likelihood that volunteers Olive from London, and I, from Mexico, would discover we have a mutual friend? Olive Howard was a Bible translation student of Dr. Joe Grimes in the 1980s after he finished the Huichol New Testament project, and before she left for Africa to work on a New Testament translation in one of the Gbaya languages. That’s “OUR” beloved Dr. Joe Grimes, who worked 50 years ago to complete the Huichol New Testament translation and who is still working on the current Huichol Old Testament translation project. Olive was ecstatic to hear of her old friend, and to inform me that in 2 weeks, they would be beginning the distribution of Mp3 players with the audio version of “her” language! What are the chances I from Mexico, would run into Olive from Africa in the Upney Holiday Family Night celebration in London!?!?!? That’s another “great and mighty, unimaginable” thing!

Jesus with his unique lenses of Eternal Perspective in place went about His work reaching out with great compassion to people He found in their every-day surroundings, people who bathed in God’s grace, had great potential for the FAMILY.

The Sunday after we returned, the Wales team members gave our mission trip reports at NVBC. Esther said “We have discovered ... that missionaries are just regular people who allow God to use them anywhere.” Jon said, “It’s all stuff we can do right here at home.” A young lady named Adrianna, for whom we’ve been praying, in the Phoenix congregation, agreed to let me review our Wordless Book glove with her, and she made the wise choice to join the “FAMILY,” as well. Isn’t that just how God works!?!?! He continues to use the Eternal Perspective theme as ripples radiate, extend and ebb out from that original point of impact. May we never forget His lesson to see every situation and every person with whom we come in contact through His incomparable lenses of Eternal Perspective.

Oh, and one more thing, speaking of FAMILY, I got to visit with “Prince” Anders and his 3 little ladies-in-waiting (Elianna, Mara and Brianna) in their princess T-shirts that “Grandma from Mexico” brought back for them from the United Kingdom. What a “great and mighty, unimaginable” delight!