Friday, February 19, 2010
I have just returned from nine days in Mexico City, training a group of new missionaries who are joining our team in that city. The team works in one of Mexico City’s largest slums, a community of about 750,000 people. I am always inspired by being among our missionaries who willingly and joyfully choose into hardship in order to live directly among the urban poor, and be the presence of Jesus and his kingdom in difficult places. It was a privilege to be among these new missionaries, and to participate in their training.
Among other topics of the training, we studied the Gospel of Luke together. As you probably know, the major theme of Luke’s gospel is Jesus’ welcoming love for the poor, the weak, the beggars, the lepers, the “little ones,” “those of humble estate,” the notorious sinners, the prostitutes, the tax-collectors, the “sick,” the “unclean,” the demonized, the Samaritans, the “other,” – those who were despised, disregarded, and cast aside by “respectable society.” These are the ones with whom Jesus primarily spent his time and shared his fellowship – people that Brennan Manning affectionately calls “ragamuffins.” Jesus earnestly desired that they know that to God they were not worthless, or inferior, but beloved and valuable; and that God’s kingdom (if not human society) was for such as them – those most tempted to believe that God had cursed, abandoned, or rejected them. Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus calls the privileged, respected, “religious,” and everyone else, to prove to be a neighbor to such as these (10:29-37), not to care about them less than we care about our own children and animals (13:15-17, 14:1-6), to be generous and kind toward them in their need (12:33), to invite them into our homes, and to eat at our tables (5:29-31, 14:12-14, 15:1-2, 19:7), not merely to give to them, but to make friends with them (16:9), and in this way, to prefer greatness and reward in the kingdom of God, at the resurrection of the just, over maintaining our reputation or our exalted, honored status in society (6:22-23, 6:26, 9:46-48, 11:43, 14:7-14, 18:14, 18:17, 20:45-47, 22:24-27).
While, of course, these teachings are directed to us all, their application is a daily, inescapable reality for our missionaries who live in urban slums, and rub shoulders with “ragamuffins” day and night. Please pray for our missionaries in Mexico. Two families with children are joining the Mexico City team, and participated in the training -- Tim & Philippa, and their three sons, Hudson, Oscar, and William (from New Zealand), and Philip & Beauty, and their son Tadi and daughter Tino (from Zimbabwe). Please pray for them as these families transition into the slum community in Mexico City in the coming weeks. I enjoyed so much sharing these recent days with them in the training. Their commitment to Jesus and the gospel is admirable. I am sure the love and light of Jesus will shine from them among the poor of Mexico City.
The Sermon on the Mount
In January we began studying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in our small group Bible studies with our church here in Long Beach. We will be working through it until June. This is one of my favorite sections of Scripture, and I have greatly enjoyed preparing for the first several studies we have done so far in the small group that meets at our home. I have been putting together some notes on each section that we study each week. If you would like to read my notes, please let me know and I would be happy to send them to you.
Emily is a year and a half, and is saying quite a lot of words now. Her favorite thing to say is, “Uh oh!” whenever she drops something or sees something fall to the floor. She also sits and “reads” her kids’ books, turning the pages and babbling eagerly with baby talk. Very cute!
Lily is 3 years and 7 months. On Monday, January 18 Lily wanted to know why the mail carrier didn’t come. I explained that it was a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, and I explained who MLK was, and that he had taught some white-skinned people how silly it was to think they were superior to black-skinned people simply because of their white skin. Then, a week later, Lily and I were talking about her “Thomas the Train” video, Steamies vs. Diesels, in which both the steamies (steam engines) and diesels (diesel engines) think they are better than the other, and so they are mean to each other. As the story goes on, the steamies and diesels have to learn to appreciate their differences, value each other, and work together. Lily made the connection to what I had told her about MLK a week before, and said, “Yeah, that’s what Martin Luther King said! The steamies and diesels don’t know about Martin Luther King yet!” :^)
We are so grateful for you and are always happy to hear from you! We pray that God’s grace, peace, and joy will be with you.
For the joy set before us,
Dave, Mini, Lily, and Emily
A quote to ponder:
O that God should desire that my interpretation and that of all teachers should disappear, and each Christian should come straight to the Scripture alone and to the pure word of God! You see from this babbling of mine the immeasurable difference between the word of God and all human words, and how no man can adequately reach and explain a single word of God with all his words. It is an eternal word and must be understood and contemplated with a quiet mind. Go to the Bible itself, dear Christians, and let my expositions and those of all scholars be no more than a tool with which to build aright, so that we can understand, taste, and abide in the simple and pure word of God; for God dwells alone in Zion. (Martin Luther, 1522)