This reflection was shared at the 2015 Christmas Eve service at Evergreen SGV.
This season, it can be easy to get caught up with the festivities, gatherings and gift giving, that Christmas passes us by and we forget why Jesus came in the first place.
Why did Jesus, God the Son, come to this world?
It would seem too fleeting to say that He came to merely cause a scene –a glimmer of hope with choirs of angels and shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.
It would seem too shortsighted to say Jesus came just to die. For He lives, and He lives to see us free.
It would be too limiting to say Jesus came to simply rescue you and me. For the entire creation groans in expectation of His coming again.
No. Jesus came to make things right. He came to make good again what had turned bad. He came to overcome injustice. He came to turn sorrow into joy. He came to reverse the curse. Jesus came to make all things new.
Jesus came to redeem, yes, but for what purpose? He came to redeem a people for himself in a world free from pain, suffering and death, where the blind see, the lame walk and the dead are raised to life again.
Jesus came to reign, yes, but not merely in our hearts. He came to reign over all of creation, over all of the world, for all eternity. For of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
Jesus didn’t just come for you and me. He came as the light of the world that all the ends of the Earth might know His name.
Jesus came to bring life and life abundantly. Not merely life that lasts forever. But life with God at the center and Christ on the throne, a life lived together under the kingdom of God here in this world.
Don’t you see? Jesus came to make all things new, to make the sad things come untrue, to make children of wrath children of God, to redeem all of creation to be good once again. He came into this world so that we could come into it too, bearing the light and life found in Christ to the entire world.
So this Christmas, maybe it’s not a feeling that your heart is longing for. For Christmas will come and go, and with that may come a tinge of sadness.
But Jesus came to reign forever. In this, may we find joy that will last forever.
In this age of instant replies, instant commenting and instagrams, it can be easy to expect instant updates from our Outreach projects and missionary endeavors. After all, we would love to read testimonies and see videos moments after they happen on the field.
However, as God continues to call more individuals to serve overseas and teams to reach unreached places, Evergreen SGV Outreach Outreach will grow increasingly quiet online.
No daily email updates.
And that is not a bad thing. In fact, it reflects a very good thing that is happening.
For one thing, our work is increasing in closed countries where missionary or even Christian activity is illegal. To protect our missionaries and partners in these areas, you will not hear about any of this online.
For another thing, our work is increasing in remote areas where there is no wifi, much less electricity or running water. Our teams and missionaries will grow silent for days or even weeks while they minister in these areas.
Now there may be teams that minister in areas that are completely open where wifi and cellular data are easily accessible and thus, online activity more frequent (e.g. Serve/OKC and our Japan missionaries). However, that is the exception and not reflective of the majority of our Outreach activity (e.g. Thailand and E. Asia).
Our missionaries and teams will keep their supporters up to date with snail (sic) email updates when they are able. Outreach testimonies and articles will be published on our newsletter, The Leaflet, for subscribers to view.
But as a whole, Evergreen SGV Outreach will grow increasingly quiet online.
I hope we can all agree that this is a good thing.
Special thanks to Garrett Inouye for producing this video!
I was able to spend two nights at the village of Chamadenga and see firsthand the ministry of Bright Vision. Here are some quick thoughts:
- The needs of the village are great if not overwhelming. Add to their material poverty the common broken family situation and it makes the situation dire. Today we visited two child-run households. These are orphans who take care of their elderly grandparent(s) and so most are not able to go to school. It is heartbreaking.
- It is good to know therefore that Bright Vision sponsors such households and also sponsors older children to go to secondary school (it’s not free)
- Shirley Ogata brought two soccer balls from home and when I kicked one to the children, they were so excited. I will never forget the look on their faces. These children don’t even have a ball to kick around.
- It’s strange that households don’t have running water but some people have cell phones! (They manage to disrupt meetings even there)
- There is need for biblical training for leaders. I assumed the leaders I trained knew the Bible but quickly realized some had heard the passages I taught from for the very first time.
- What makes a ministry like Bright Vision thrive is a key leader in the community who has the trust of the people like Stanley and a leader who can provide administrative insight and outside perspective like Kellen Hiroto. The village is being transformed because God brought these two men together.
- Though I led training sessions for leaders of Bright Vision, I told them that they trained me in what it meant to be faithful, diligent, content and committed to demonstrating sacrificial love to the children. In many ways, I learned more from them.
- Getting away from the distractions of the city, the biggest lesson may be realizing just what it is we need to live. Hint, it’s not much.
I’m grateful to God for my time in the village and experiencing firsthand the needs of the people and how God is moving there.
Was under the weather and getting over jet lag since I’ve been here but here are some interesting things I’ve learned about Malawi since being here:
- Malawi is now the poorest country in the world by GDP!
- 40% of its budget comes from foreign developmental aid
- Simple English is commonly spoken
- The famous missionary doctor David Livingstone resided here
- The people here are friendly and very hospitable
I’ll end with paraphrasing an intriguing quote from locals that our missionary friend Kellen Hiroto shared when were discussing punctuality and the common view on time:
“You [foreigners] have many watches but no time. We Malawians have no watches and all the time in the world!”
In a few hours I will be departing for Malawi, Africa. With any overseas outreach endeavor, I always ask people what their expectations are for the trip. Here are some of mine: Continue reading “Great Expectations”