Tag Archives: Missions

A Labor of Love

It is amazing to see God change so many lives in one short week. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into the Ireland mission trip but even my highest expectations were exceeded by God’s plan for our time in Dublin. I am now back in the States and still processing everything that happened in Ireland. Although I posted a few quick blog entries during the trip, I didn’t have the time to share deeply with you.

On Monday morning, we met Doug. He is a 46-year old recovering heroin addict who is HIV-positive. Doug is struggling to break his addiction to heroin. After many years of prayer and counseling by Christian family members, he recently professed faith in Jesus Christ. We also met Doug’s brother, Jonathan, who lives with him in the apartment and who is also addicted to heroin. Jonathan is not a Christian. Our task was to clean and renovate the apartment (i.e. flat)—to transform it into a place that Doug is proud to claim as his own.

As I walked into the flat on Monday, I was struck by many things: the mess, the smells, the darkness, the amount of work to be accomplished. However, I was also struck by Doug’s openness and honesty with us. He did not hide his struggles from us. And although he did not understand it, he was so grateful for our willingness to help him. His fragility overwhelmed me. Looking back, I see God’s hand gently guiding us into Doug’s life. Our team jumped right into the project with energy and determination. We surrounded Doug with love and laughter.

By our second day at the flat, we felt more comfortable there. In addition to the progress made on the renovation, God had given us an overwhelming compassion for Doug and Jonathan. In particular, my heart was breaking for Doug. I asked God to give me a specific way to connect with him.

I had never mentioned to Doug that I’m an aspiring writer. However, Doug approached me that day and wanted to share his journals with me. I stopped cleaning and sat down with him. The more I encouraged him (because his writing really was phenomenal—from the heart and so real), I watched him become more animated and alive. I realized that God was giving me a connection with Doug. I mentioned to him that I am attempting to write a book. His face lit up and he pulled me over to his computer. He had started writing a book and asked me to read the first few pages and give him feedback. As I read the words aloud with Doug expectantly crouched by my side, my eyes filled with tears. The story he wrote was amazing; I told him that God had given him a gift. I was able to encourage him to continue telling his story through the written word. Later that day, the initial connection we made led to another conversation. I don’t remember the exact words, but I was able to share with him that his sins are no worse or bigger than my sins. We are all sinners and we all need Jesus. However, God loves us unconditionally. He seemed skeptical, but I trust that God is nurturing the truth in his heart.

Wednesday was our final day at Doug’s flat. We brought light and laughter to Doug’s apartment; we tried to show Doug through our words and actions that God loves him unconditionally. Then on Wednesday morning, Doug gave us an unexpected gift. He led us in worship. As we gathered in a circle to pray just like every morning at the apartment, Doug said that he wanted to play us a song. He went over to his computer and played Hillsong’s worship song, Power of Your Love. We stood in a circle and worshipped God together—with Doug leading us. Whenever I hear these lyrics in the future, I will immediately be back in that apartment at that moment:

Hold me close
Let your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side

And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of Your love

(Lyrics by: Darlene Zschech)

During our three days at the flat, the transformation was astounding. Twelve people performing a labor of love changed the apartment into a new place. It took a lot of hard work: hauling loads to the dumpster, sanding down and refinishing furniture, scrubbing tile, washing baseboards, moving furniture, removing carpet, replacing carpet, painting, and so on.

What a beautiful picture of how God works in our hearts. He knocks on the door of our “apartment”. We let him in to see all of the messy parts—to shine light on the dark corners, to expose the things that we have kept hidden so well from everyone. He performs a labor of love—never judging—just cleaning and sanctifying all the parts of which we are so ashamed. He doesn’t ask for anything in return; it is a gift. And that place is now changed forever—by the power of his love.

allisonsign

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Big Shoes to Fill

I arise today
To witness a mighty strength:
God’s power to guide me.
Patrick of Ireland (389-461)

Did you know that St. Patrick was one of the first missionaries to spread Christianity within Ireland? I had not previously heard the history of the man behind St. Patrick’s Day, but according to History.com:

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God’s—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission—to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion.

As I prepare to leave on Saturday for the mission trip to Dublin, Ireland, it comforts me to know that I am in good company. Unlike Patrick, however, I had no dreams or angels telling me to visit Ireland. Although I have never visited the country, I am drawn to it nonetheless. Like many of us, some of my ancestors were Irish.

I do not believe that the country of Ireland needs the love of Jesus any more or any less than any other country. There are hurting people everywhere. I can serve God anywhere. Lately, I have been pondering the notion of being called versus driven, as my friend Hilary describes in this post. Like Hilary, I am very driven. However, I now realize that my busyness can get in the way of God’s calling. Hilary says, “I am now in the process of stripping everything away except that which I am called to do in this season of life.” I cannot stop thinking about this, and I want to do the same thing.

I do realize that God has called me to go on this trip to Ireland. I don’t know all of the things he is planning for me or for the trip as a whole. But I am praying that my expectations don’t get in the way of God’s perfect and sovereign plan.

Some of my other prayer requests related to the trip:

  • Pray that God puts me in situations where I can use my unique abilities to reach people—and in situations where I have absolutely no abilities so that his power shows through.
  • Pray for safe travel for our group of twelve (travel days: May 16 and May 24).
  • Pray that I can truly listen to those people I encounter—only then will I hear what they need. People are hurting; I pray that my actions and words will point them to Jesus, the only one who can make them whole.

Thanks, internet friends! If you have any prayer requests, please leave them in the comments and I will add them to my list.
allisonsign

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Filed under Faith, God, Travel