Monday, May 19, 2008

My experience in "Paradise"

This may be my most amazing post yet ... Yes, just when I thought God couldn't top himself, He goes and does it again!


We recently spent a few weeks in the U.S. where we spent some time with family and I spoke about Leaders 4 Life. At the invitation of our friends Jake and Trisha Posey, I spent some time at John Brown University learning about their Institute for Biblical Community Development which is training missionaries to do holistic mission work via basic engineering skills (see: http://www.jbu.edu/academics/ecm/accomplish.asp). Lisa and I also sat down with other mission-minded folks--doctors, pastors, and business leaders--to share the vision of L4L. We had a tremendous response from everyone and were really encouraged by our visit. If this was all we had done and experienced, I would've considered our trip a success. But it seems God had other plans ...


The initial reason for our trip was to speak about Sierra Leone at Paradise Valley Community Church in Phoenix, AZ (http//www.paradisechurch.com/) and to celebrate Lisa's birthday with her twin sister Lyn. This church is led by good friends and mentors of ours, Frank and Jackie Switzer. Lisa and I were the first couple Frank ever married as an ordained minister. Frank and I went to University and Seminary together and have always dreamed and prayed about doing ministry alongside one another. But we never envisioned it would look like this ...


As I spoke at PVCC's two Sunday morning services, I shared the stories and pictures of utter poverty and despair in Sierra Leone. I also told of the amazing ways God has led us to this country, beginning with our dedicating Lisa's diamond wedding ring to help the people of Sierra Leone who had lost limbs over the diamonds. And then God began to move in people's hearts. This is such a difficult thing to describe when it happens, but those who have had such experiences can relate. Frank was crying, I was crying, people in the congregation were weeping. A few times in my life I've been a part of such amazing movements of God, but this is the first time I was involved in leading one.



After the two services were finished, an offering which had been collected for Sierra Leone was counted up. And for the first time ever, someone had put a diamond ring in the offering plate. Frank, Bruce McNicol, along with Gene and Terry Ratley and I huddled around it, ooing and aahing and smiling--not at the diamond--but at how powerfully God had moved and how filled with faith such a response was. And then, after the service, some good friends of ours who we've known from our seminary days, who hadn't seen the diamond ring from the offering plate, handed me their wedding rings. How does one receive such a gift, even on behalf of others? It seems God's Spirit was prompting people to give their diamonds, and people responded.










Sunday afternoon I called David Musa (the Sierra Leonean who took me to the country back in January) to share with him what God had done earlier that day. Giving money to someone in the world's most underdeveloped country in the world is one thing, but for Sierra Leoneans to hear that people are giving their diamond rings--even their wedding rings--to help those who have lost limbs over diamonds is redemptive on so many levels. What else can I say ... God has done it again!

Here is a link to my message, which you can download as a podcast: http//www.paradisechurch.com/explore/messages/audio_archives.php. It is more powerful to listen to the message live and see the pictures, but if you've never heard the whole vision in one shot, it's worth a listen.