Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lent Day 8: Thankful for renewal

Bleary-eyed, I stumbled into yesterday's obligations. When I woke at 2am, I thought I'd just go back to sleep in an hour or two. A few interruptions chased ideas into my head; I was still awake at 7:15.

Time to rise and shine - or maybe glow dimly.

Our daughter Kirsten came in early December for foot surgery and bone tests. Jono and I took her to the airport yesterday morning and she's arrived safely home in Austin. Thanks be to God. One thing done.

I wasn't sure I was up to the afternoon meeting of MRI - Missionary Renewal International. However, my fatigue subsided (and the cold I started to fight in the morning disappeared) when I got there. All I can say is: "People, I'm inspired!" by the work of this veteran team of missionary therapists, rescuing their own.

An MRI pastor-counselor told us about one young man. He's let them know he's ready to return to the field--after vowing never to go back. Mark's mission team had won an extraordinary number of converts (70,000 documented) and trained nationals for outreach in their first term. One day, on the way to preach with a group of nationals, their van was stopped at gunpoint. He was forced to watch the assailants beat his coworkers almost to death before the attackers disappeared. Mark came home devastated and throwing in the towel. "I can't go through that again!" Yet with MRI's help, he's going back with a renewed sense of calling and commissioning by God.

Mark's is one of many dramas being played out around the world, including among American pastors. MRI says, "Let's stop the attrition. Let's help missionaries and ministers return to fulfill their calling." Will you help? Click on the link for more information.

It costs an average of $250,000 to get a missionary through their acculturation, training, and first term. It costs MRI about $5000 to help restore hurting missionaries, facilitating healing so they return to the field after they suffer trauma, moral failure, or other breakdowns. Missionaries and ministers pay their expenses if they can. Otherwise, they depend on our help for a place to stay, transportation, and food.

"We send ordinary people as our missionaries to spread the Gospel on our behalf," MRI states. "They face similar and greater challenges than we do at home." It's worth spending our resources to keep experienced personnel rather than having to drop their ministry or train another missionary single or couple for the field.

All of us need renewal from time to time. Some of us need heroic intervention. But sometimes a kindly word, fervent prayers, or an unexpected gift is enough to sustain us through our darkest hours.

Would you encourage your pastor this week or in the next month? Pastoring is among the loneliest professions. (When our son felt called to ministry, we warned him to depend on God and reject idealism in youth ministry: "The senior pastor might not support you. The board will call you in for a scolding. The parents may become angry and fight you. The teens won't want to follow if they don't want to obey God. Are you sure of your calling and ready for whatever God has for you?" He said a firm yes--because God had called him.)

What has God called you to do? Are you in ministry? Do you have resources to send and support others? During Lent, a time when we recall Christ's sacrifice for us, consider giving an extraordinary gift from the next paycheck to MRI, your church, or your pastor. Thus God will encourage and renew them through you.

Read more:
*This is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever. Psalm 48:14
*Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV

*Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23

Moravian Prayer: Faithful God, on this day, we are mindful of those who have gone before, who held fast to their hope. Like them, may we today walk forward unwavering, trusting in your guidance and faithfulness. Amen.

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