You've been busy!! I have been inspired by the glimpses I have caught of God at work through New Jersey Baptists, and heartily thank God for you! May the Lord continue to multiply the impact of your witness in work and word, as people continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy! I have prayed for, given to and tried to stay informed about your ministries from afar this last week, as I have been serving among our sisters and brothers in Nicaragua. Here's a glimpse of what I've been up to:
"I thought I knew these stories in Acts, but I'm amazed at the new things I found." "What I really liked about this study was that the speaker did not come to tell us what to think, but helped us to discover the meaning for ourselves."
It was, as they say, music to my ears. The music was playing in CEPAD's Nehemiah Center in Managua, where I had just spent three days with pastors and congregational leaders (CEPAD is Nicaragua's Council of Evangelical Churches for Denominational Alliance). Gilberto Aguirre, affectionately known to all as El Profe ("the Prof"), was conducting an evaluation session at the end of our inductive study of the Book of Acts.
I appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone. It is a wonderful encouragement to be thanked for our efforts. It is very affirming to be both warmly welcomed and eagerly invited back. Feels great.
But the kind of response I both pray for and work for goes far beyond "getting strokes," as good as that feels. My desire is to be used by God to help people grow, not only in knowledge, but in capacity. I am especially eager to help people expand their capacity to discover the meaning of Scripture by working together as a learning community. I am no Paul of Tarsus, but I share his desire to work in a way that helps us all to grow into maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
There is nothing I can do to force that outcome. Sometimes what I don't do is the most important thing. Waiting. Resisting the urge pour out my own views. Or, at least, resisting that urge long enough to allow others to do some creative thinking.
Of course, not everything is unprompted discovery. I share not only silence, but also the fruit of learning I've had the privilege to do previously. But, if I can couple that prior learning with careful listening to the observations and questions in the room, I can use it less to supplant and more to support the learning that others are doing. If I can affirm and encourage fellow learners to risk sharing their own observations, questions and hypotheses--even, or perhaps especially, when their ideas do not quite seem to me to be "on the mark," it builds confidence in the group and accelerates their rate of discovery. Delightfully, it can accelerate my own rate of discovery, too!
At the end of the evaluation session, Dámaris Albuquerque, CEPAD's executive director, spoke on behalf of the group and the whole organization: "Thank you for coming and for giving yourself to us again this week. Please express our gratitude to International Ministries for enabling you to come!'
I am, indeed, grateful to International Ministries for the opportunity to serve in Nicaragua this week. I am also deeply grateful to New Jersey Baptists for the prayer and financial support that makes this service possible! It is great to be in the service of God's Reign together.