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Stories of overcoming the odds fascinate us. This week there was one that will stay with us for a long time. Diana Nyad, the woman who has been trying for 35 years to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, was finally able to complete the 110 mile swim after her fifth attempt, at the age of 64. Before she was even completely out of the water, Diana said she had three messages:

1. You are never too old to live your dreams;

2. Never, ever give up;

3. It looks like an individual sport but it is really a team effort.

Diana Nyad

Later on CBS News, still battered and bruised from the brutal swim, Diana said that her mantra was “find a way.” She summarized what this meant to her by saying, “… everything you come up against — and this is why people are relating to my story — all of us suffer heartache.  All of us suffer difficulties in our lives. And if you say to yourself ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through.”

Read more on CBS News.

This Sunday I will be talking about finding a way. Last week we talked about a new vision for our church which we believe to be from God. This week we talk about how to get there. Our mandate is clear. It is patterned after Jesus’ own mandate “to seek and save that which is lost.” We’ve resolutely decided that we will be about “leading people to Christ and coaching them to live for Him with purpose and abandon.”

But how do we get there? We need a map and this is the subject of our message this Sunday.

And one of the points I am going to emphasize is that we need to radically shift our thinking in the way we do church. To use a sports analogy, church used to have home court advantage when it interacted with the world, but now it must play in the opponent’s court, if it gets to play at all. In our attempt to reach the world, we have for too long expected the world to come to us, but that strategy is no longer working. If we are going to “seek and save that which is lost,” we must go where the people who need Christ are.

But this will require a laser-focused-all-hands-on-deck-unremitting commitment to the lost. And it will force us to move out of our comfort zones for the sake of those who have yet to hear that Jesus loves them. Are you ready for that?

Having just returned from SE Asia, I am humbled by the stories of some of the humblest of God’s people I met on this trip. Worshiping with a handful of Akha people up in the mountains of northern Thailand, in a village tucked in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by poverty and disease, I was reminded again of the power of relentless pursuit of lost people.

akha church

The people sat around in front of the church and shared the story of how they heard about Christ for the first time. Since these folks are among some of the most despised minority groups in Thailand, they have lived their lives as indentured slaves, working on farms owned by others, making a miserly salary which only keeps them further enslaved by their masters. But a faithful man of God kept pursuing them. When they lived in a far away region, when they were still all animists, when they had no desire whatsoever to even consider the Christian God.

But the man kept coming back. He cared for them and spoke for them and against the injustices perpetrated against them. And he kept talking to them about a God who loved them in spite of their perceived status as the scum of the earth. Eventually, the people turned to God and moved to a different village, where they can have a little more dignity, and most of all, can come together and worship God freely in a little church building built for them by a group of retired Japanese people who don’t even believe in the God of Christians.

akha church 2

I sat there and watched the face of the man whom God used to start that church, since he was sitting right there with us. He showed no sign of pride or even overt satisfaction hearing the story of the power of pursuit in the Name of God. Perhaps he was thinking about the next frontier. He alone has been responsible for starting dozens of churches among some of the most despised people of this world, an itinerant preacher, with little education, no funding from the outside, a simple farmer whose heart of devotion to God has been the only motivation he has needed to keep forging ahead.

pastor in blog post

This man, like Diana Nyad, has found a way. How about you?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade