Dear Partners in Ministry,
As many of you know, in February I had the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip to Honduras with my brother, who is a dentist, and serve, in many respects, as the resident chaplain for our group. (Besides being the camp chaplain it was my job to distribute the 700 water filters and 1,400 mosquito nets that our group provided to those coming to the clinic.) There was a team of 19 of us from the United States and we connected up with an additional 25 Hondurans, i.e., physicians, translators, and support staff that made it all work. It was a real eye-opener of a trip. I say that not because of the devastating poverty that surrounded us, or the numerous needs of the people that were apparent everywhere you looked, or the dogs, the family pets, on which you could count the ribs as they sauntered by (hence they were called "skinny dogs,") or the tap water that was so polluted with parasites and bacteria that you had to be cautious when you bathed and bleach became your best friend. Since we would be the only medical mission group to visit this village this year, hundreds of people came to the clinic to get the minimal medical treatment we offered. And it appeared that nearly everyone came, mothers with infant children to senior citizens with crutches, to men with wounds that would not heal. Their need was so dire that they began getting in line at 2:30 a.m. in the morning just to see one of our doctors and receive some medications and treatments. When the day was turning to night and we had to close the doors with people still waiting (who received slips so they would be seen first the next day) we asked the last ones we served what time they had gotten in line and they said 5:30 a.m. And we had seen and offered care and assistance to nearly 700 people that first day. Needless to say we were tired and they were so appreciative, but that is not the amazing part of my story.
The one room church where we had our initial 2 day clinic (before moving on to 3 other villages) was smaller than most of our congregation's fellowship halls. While we were there we attended their Wednesday Evening Worship Service. As part of the service when they collected the offering there were different baskets for the different ministries of the church. I asked about the different baskets and was told there was one for their bus ministry, one for the church itself, and one for the church's missionary.
That really impressed me. Here, in the middle of one of the poorest countries and areas of our world, where there are more mission groups, like the one I was on, from around the world visiting than most other places around our globe. This small congregation that is surrounded by devastation is intentional on collecting money to send missionaries to continue to spread the "Good News about Jesus Christ" to others in need. Now that's amazing intentional stewardship.
As part of our 2015 Confirmation experience we do several service projects. Matter of fact, we are preparing to go to Camp Lutherlyn this weekend to help clean-up the ravages of winter and get the Camp ready for its summer programs. Some ask, "Why is that important?" "We could stay home and clean up our own yards." While in fact, that is the mentality of many within our world and our churches, it is most of the time contrary to our Christian witness. Our world emphasizes living for ourselves. Christ emphasizes living for "our neighbor," "others," and "the least of one of these," etc. Our world emphasizes get the most you can for yourself; Christ emphasizes it is more blessed to give than receive. And that is always hard in our busy, ‘me’ first lives, because it forces us to be intentional. And it is here that we are losing the fight.
Did you know that the mosquito nets are becoming less and less effective in preventing the spread of malaria? This phenomenon is taking place because the mosquitos that carried the malaria virus which historically were nocturnal, night creatures, are now becoming diurnal, meaning they are becoming more active in the daylight.
I wonder, if mosquitos can adapt to spreading the malaria disease in the daylight, might we as the remnant of God's grace be able to relearn the importance of once again being the bread for the world for which we have been claimed by Christ?
As I was entering the church this morning two young children, who were walking to elementary school, stopped as I was unlocking the door. The one youngster declared to his friend, "I know what that is," pointing at the church. "That's God's house!" He then turned to me for an affirmation of his declaration, and said, "Isn't it!" I assured him that he was correct, that this was one of God's houses and that God loved them both very much. At those words their faces beamed as they continued their stroll down the street to their school. As they went on their way I sent a pray off to our heavenly Father that they might meet some of God's people, you know, "the Body of Christ", i.e., "YOU" that would show them His care and love in their life's journey.
And I also pray that you "are up for the task."
In Christ's Service,
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600