Week 4 is in the bag and we really enjoyed hearing about the topic of missions from YWAM’s regional director of the Middle East. The speaker and his family have lived in the Middle East for the last 20 or so years doing missionary work and he taught us so much about God’s heart for missions as well as the Arab world. We learned that missions is what God set about to do in Genesis, what He is doing now and what He is passionate for. Since Genesis, God has been partnering with believers in order to bless the unbelievers and the lost. He sent out prophets and did great miracles so that everyone would know His name and then get to know Him personally. When Jesus came, He made it clear that the Gospel is for everyone – Jews, Gentiles, men, women, prostitutes, lepers…no one is excluded. In fact, God is so good and so inclusive that in Revelation 7:9 He tells us that in Heaven there will be people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. That means that Jesus won’t return until every nation and people group has heard the Gospel. That shows so much of God’s character! He wants everyone to get the chance to be with Him for eternity in Heaven. He’s not cruel or judgemental. Our speaker talked about how a bunch of people in the world hear the Gospel again and again and other places have not tasted the goodness of God. This is a justice issue and we are commanded to do something about it – to give our greatest attention to the least reached people. One of my favorite qualities of God is His heart for justice!
God really confirmed in me this week that my passion for the Middle East is no accident and that He gave me that passion for a reason. For those of you who don’t know, my majors in college were Political Science and International Studies with a concentration in Middle East and North African Studies and a minor in Arabic (whew!). Since graduating I really felt discouraged and like I had wasted my degree because I didn’t see how I was going to put those studies to use. Then this week God just confirmed that He led me to those and that He has a plan for them. As of right now I don’t know what that will look like but I’m excited to find out!
Another huge takeaway I had from this week was when our speaker told us to just RELAX and enjoy the walk of being God’s child. We are not disapointments to God and we’re not working toward some standard where one day we won’t disappoint Him. I don’t know about you but for me that was huge. Worry and fear are big struggles for me and I always feel like I’m a let-down to God so hearing the speaker rebuke those lies was so powerful.
Similarly to what Alix said, I was also struck by the fact that God does not view all of us as sinners but rather lost children made in His image. The speaker described how, for example, a carpenter is a person who works with wood every day of his life for his living. By that definition, a sinner is one who purposefully wakes up each day with the intention to sin and lives by sinning. However, as children of God, we are all inherently good people – carpenters, students, cyclists, whoever you ‘are’ – who on occassion commit sins. I felt like this realization lifts a huge weight off my shoulders to be perfect so that I wont be a sinner, which leads into the next important revelation from this week: that the bible isn’t a Christian rulebook.
While the bible contains many important morals and principles to abide by, the end purpose of Christianity is to love and exemplify Christ. Strictly following rules to gain the favor or kingdom of God is how Christians lived before Jesus, and is the basic principle of Islam! Jesus changed everything. Because Jesus is God’s earthly embodiment, we have His exact example to follow. And because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we are forgiven when we sin and allowed to enter God’s kingdom even after commiting sin or not living 100% by the rules. However, the most important caveat of being a Christian is that we are called to love like Jesus loved people and like God loves us. For me, exemplifying Jesus’ love is even more diffucult than simply following rules. It requires something more, something deeper, that I am just now learning and have to constantly strive for. Here’s to 2 more months of lectures and learning!
In other news this week, we took part in evangelism at the local mall, Youth Street, and went to the beach again. Mall evangelism was, and still is, an extremely difficult thing for Alix and I. We have not had any training or any positive experiences with it – and we’re introverts. Thankfully, God provided an awesome opportunity for Connor. While walking around the mall, Connor and his partner Ben spotted 3 rowdy young teens. As they headed into an elevator, he followed them to begin a conversation. Quickly he learned they were drunk and high, about to steal bags of chips from the grocery store. He and Ben spoke to them for a while, prayed over them, and bought them the chips they were aiming to steal. The youths were extremely thankful and receptive to our message. During Youth Street this week, Connor’s team went skating on the beach, and Alix got to go to the zoo with her team! While hanging out with dozens of teens every Saturday is completely exhausting, it provides some sweet opportunities in the community (See awesome pics below). Finally, to decompress after an extremely busy and stressful week, we got to go to the beach again on Monday. 100% chance of rain forecasted miraculously proved to be sunny and eighties all day! Also just throwing it out there that McDonalds here, affectionately dubbed Maccas, is 10x better than in the States with touchscreen ordering, a seperate full service cafe, and provides not only free wifi but ice cream cones for $0.35 USD. Praise the Lord!