I shared a talk at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata on October 16th, which ended up as part of a very special missions Sunday. Not only did I preach via the lectionary (flavoured with African lessons and experiences), but various members of St Paul’s SchoolBOX outreach shared as well. Both of our teams are full of ordinary Christians, from St Paul’s , learning to do extraordinary things for God. That talk is available on this site – just click on October 2016 on the sidebar. The SchoolBOX clan are looking forward to returning to Nicaragua and build a school in Fr. Rick Marples’ name. My husband Tony and I also are planning to be long-term missionaries in South Africa hopefully by the summer. But you don’t have to go to Africa or Central America to reach out – although if you do go, it forces you to rely on God so you can minister to others more effectively. You trust God, since you are out of your comfort zone. However, if you reach out to others where you are, you are needed just as much. It’s just that you have to intentionally step out of your comfort zone and trust God. Many of you prayed for and supported Tony and I in Africa, and the team in Nicaragua. Some of you even had stirrings in your heart that you would like to do some sort of outreach, whether wherever you live or much further afield. But where does one start?
Not all of us feel called to volunteer with the homeless, although this is a great ministry for those who do. Others go into the prison to lead an Alpha course, or hold one in a seniors centre. We hope to have one in our condo apartment this January. One way that all of us can reach out is to stop for the divine appointments that God brings our way. This little door of heaven can open up right in the middle of an ordinary day, and in your own neighbourhood. The world is in fact a 360 degree mission field. I will never forget my seminary missions professor telling me that. You don’t have to be a professional full time missionary to love your neighbour. You can also look for opportunities to love within the church walls. Do you know your pew neighbours? Do you see someone you don’t know? You never know how kind words and a touch may impact a life.
Heidi Baker (who co-founded Iris, the mission organisation I joined as a Harvest School alumna) often says that we need to stop for the one. This is her way to describe a divine appointment. This is to STOP for the one that God brings you. This person could be anyone. The key I’ve discovered is that you sense a nudge inside you, and your fears fills with compassion towards that person. You just know that you know this is the person you are to talk to. This is the right one.
Yet, you don’t always have to wait for this nudge. There are many obvious opportunities. You may see someone struggling with their grocery bags. You may see someone in obvious physical pain. They need practical help and prayer! People rarely say no, and you’ll bring a touch of hope into their lives. You may even be asked why you’re filled with love and joy, or they may remark about the peace that surrounds you. It’s Jesus!
Many of the encounters Tony and I have had in South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana were appointments set up divinely- especially in Botswana, since that whole trip was an unexpected surprise on our part. Had we stayed longer at the time, these encounters could have led to deeper relationships. Here in Canada, we can be blessed by knowing these people better, because we live right here. Tony is continuing what we learned at the Iris mission school in his outreach here in Ottawa. Shortly before we went to Africa, we downsized into an apartment condo in the Britannia neighbourhood. That opened up a whole new community to us, including the nearby Ritchie Street. We figure that it’s an Ottawa equivalent to a South African township. We would like to visit people there. I’m also part of an outreach to help struggling families at Christmas. It’s called Holiday Dream. Through this, I hope to do some home visits with those I sense a strong pull towards. Who knows where God could take this?
The key components are to allow God to love others through you, and to trust him to guide you. You don’t need fancy words or a formula. Be you, and be willing to be humble. Don’t rush. Heidi always says to “go low and slow.” This means to be humble and take your time. The person before you is precious, as are you. The journey is a wonderful one, especially at Christmas. People are always more open than you think.
Pray about the opportunities as God opens doors for you. You don’t have to go to Bible school or missions school to be active in your Christian faith. I pray you may experience this unique joy this season. I’d love to hear your stories as you step out. Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!