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“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” (John 5:6).

This verse is part of the story of a man who had been crippled for 38 years. He used to lie on a mat by a pool in a town called Bethsaida, waiting for the stirring of the waters, which was a sign to indicate that the first person to get in the pool would get healed. When you are on the ground, though, and you cannot walk, jumping into a pool is not much of an option, is it?

The text tells us that a great number of sick people — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed — used to lie there. Not exactly the most attractive citizens in town, wouldn’t you say? This man’s zip code was close to dung, scraps of food, people’s feet, spit and all sorts of other undesirable things. He was among “the least of these.” No one in their right mind would come anywhere near that group of people. I guarantee you that a trip into town by the elites of the day would be carefully mapped out so as to avoid the place where the undesirables resided. Even from a distance people could hear the cries of those whose sickness had brought them to a point of despair. That was a place of unfulfilled dreams.

And yet we see Jesus placing himself right in the middle of that place. Yes, Jesus was headed to a religious festival in Jerusalem. He had “important” people waiting for Him. He would probably have a place of honor in somebody’s house and enjoy a delicious meal. But before He got there He made a stop at this ominous place. Was this an accident?

I don’t believe so. The story speaks of intentionality. Noticed that Jesus took some time to ask around and find out what the man’s condition was. Not that Jesus needed someone to inform Him about anything, but Jesus wanted the people to know that He cared. He already knew that the man had been paralyzed for 38 years, but He took the time to assess the situation. This speaks volumes about how much Jesus cared about people who were considered the rejects of society. In fact, He had a special place in His heart for them.

When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, his answer was “I have no one to help me.” Every time I think of those words, they almost bring me to the point of tears. Every day, if we pay attention, we meet people who have no one to help them. But Jesus didn’t just meet this type of people randomly — He intentionally looked for them and made a point of making them whole again.

This Sunday you will hear the phenomenal story of a young lady from Thailand who left a lucrative job and decided to spend time with some of the most despised and rejected people of Northern Thailand — poor minority children who have been physically and sexually abused. Her friends thought she was crazy. Her family didn’t understand why she was doing it after sacrificing and working hard to graduate from college. For her, though, she was only following the footsteps of Jesus. She was obeying a divine mandate, and God has blessed her for her obedience.

If you want to have some background ahead of Sunday, please go to grow-worldwide.com and read the story of Faa Sumitra, one of the founders of G.R.O.W. And by all means, please come Sunday. You will be blessed by this follower of Jesus!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

G.R.O.W. President

 

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Southeast Asia 2013

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

We’ve had so many rich experiences here in Southeast Asia. It is often the unexpected experiences that touch our hearts the most.

In the mountains of Northern Thailand there are nine officially recognized tribes of people, one of which is the Akha people. The other day, we traveled to an Akha village where one of the rescued, at-risk children at the GROW home grew up. I road in the bed of a truck with a few of the children for the 90 minute drive through the (MOST BEAUTIFUL) mountains. It was all dirt road…so I had trouble sitting the next day…if you catch my drift!

I could write ten blog posts about the things we learned from this experience, but I will focus on just one idea for now.

These people have been robbed of dignity and freedom. They own nothing because they are prevented from doing so. They are not considered citizens of Thailand for a variety of reasons. And they are essentially trapped in the mountains, lacking the ability for any opportunities in other villages or cities. (Side note: three cheers for the International Justice Mission who is addressing the roots of these injustices…Google them)! They live the simplest of lives because they have nothing.

The thing that breaks my heart though, is that the decades and decades of living like this have led them (even the Christians among them) to believe that they are worthless. That somehow they are less valuable than ‘Thai’ people, or Westerners.

I’ve been reading through Ephesians during this trip and have been reminded of the significance of our status as Christ followers:

– we are blessed with every spiritual blessing

– we were chosen & adopted, and it brings him pleasure

– we have been redeemed, forgiven

– we are sealed with the Holy Spirit

– we are saved

– and we are SEATED WITH CHRIST IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS…FAR ABOVE ALL RULE AND AUTHORITY, POWER AND DOMINION, AND EVERY TITLE THAT CAN BE GIVEN, NOT ONLY IN THE PRESENT AGE BUT ALSO IN THE ONE TO COME…

And those are just a few selections from chapters 1 & 2! Let those truths simmer a bit.

Are you living in light of this new identity in Christ? Or are you comparing yourself to others based on surface level lies fed by circumstances, culture, and the enemy?

Understand and live under the love and grace of Jesus today!

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

Post 9

Southeast Asia 2013

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

My wife was helping me pack for this trip and I asked her if bringing five books was too ambitious. We agreed that though I will have spent 40+ hours on airplanes, alone, I probably should only bring 3. I just love learning. (Which is probably why I keep going back to school :)… I promise, honey, I will be done soon!

I’m currently reading books related to missions philosophy. A lot has been written in recent years, especially related to how our Western perspectives of ‘helping’ can sometimes actually ‘hurt’. Challenging stuff that we need to be responsible to consider.

I won’t elaborate too significantly here, but thought I’d share a few highlights from the book by Peter Greer, “The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good”. (You should Google him and his Lancaster-based organization, Hope International)!

“…it’s possible to sacrificially serve God and be completely self-centered in the process. Morally upright people fully immersed in service can be…far from God…” (p. 33).

Personal application: I need to check my motives for serving. Is it to make me feel good or look good? Is it to try to earn God’s favor? Or is it in humility and simple obedience to God’s leading in my life?

“It is possible to be successful, even in service, yet be heading in the wrong direction” (p. 54).

Personal application: How am I measuring success? Jesus said that apart from Him, I can do nothing. Am I abiding in Him? Are indicators such as my marriage and home life healthy? Are the things that are most important to God most important to me?

Quoting Dorothy Sayers: “It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred” (p. 91).

“…an elevated view of full-time ministry is thoroughly unbiblical. Sabotaging our ability to impact the world for Christ, it leaves most of the church on the sidelines, cheering on the pastors and missionaries” (p. 93).

“If there is such a thing as full-time ministry, we’re all in it” (p. 95).

Quoting Abraham Kuyper: “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!'” (p. 95).

Personal application: We are all ‘in the ministry’ no matter what our vocation. How am I expressing my commitment to the ‘mission’ through what I’ve been called to do, today?

Quoting Henri Nouwen: “I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me – my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts – and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards instead of developing them for the glory of God” (p. 101).

“Breaking free of our inflated view of ourselves comes when we ruminate on the amazing story told in Scripture. When we orient our view toward God’s glory, we get a glimpse of the grand story, one of redemption of wholeness and hope from a very big God…When we turn our eyes away from ourselves, we see that we’re not the superheroes-but we’re part of a much bigger story than we ever could have dreamed” (pp. 108-109).

Personal implication: It’s not about me. Never was. Never will be.

This post has gotten lengthy. To wrap it up, I ask for your prayers for me and our church leadership as we consider these kinds of challenging thoughts in our missions and outreach strategies. We want to partner in ways that are pleasing to God and that richly benefit his Kingdom. We want to participate in short-term missions opportunities that aren’t about making us feel good, but that are advancing the power of the gospel.

I challenge you, too, to be praying about your investment. What may God ask you to do to advance the message and transformative power of the gospel both at home and abroad?

I’m looking forward to the journey together!

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

Post 7

Southeast Asia 2013

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

I was able to get a few moments alone this morning and was reading in Ephesians 4, where Paul begins by saying ‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.’ Any other morning, this may not have struck me the same.

But this morning, I met 2 men who have been prisoners because they were sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. One spent 48 days in prison, nearly dying.

They probably decided to quit preaching, huh? Nope. They are both here at a pastoral training seminar, learning how to be even more effective as evangelists and teachers. That is inspiring. That is convicting.

Paul reminds the church at Ephesus of their calling. He’s not talking to pastors, he’s talking to all who claim the name of Jesus Christ. And he challenges them to life a life worthy of that calling.

I can’t help but think about my own life. I claim the name of Jesus. I call myself a Christian. But am I living my life in a manner worthy of the name of Jesus and of the calling on my life as one who has been redeemed by His great grace? Or do I simply claim His benefits and disregard, and disrespect His name.

My life has been void of the kind of challenges and heartache that these pastors in Asia have faced. How much more should I be living in a manner worthy of the calling? They have to make life-altering decisions on a regular basis. The words that they speak can cost them dearly. They face incredible suffering. But they are committed to Jesus, and living life in light of His call.

What about you? Are you living a life worthy of the calling you have received? What would you be willing to sacrifice in  order to do so? (Sidenote: Ephesians 4-5 offer some practical ideas if you need a great place to jumpstart your commitment today).

And what about our brothers and sisters who are suffering for the gospel around the world? How is God calling you to be involved?

Let’s magnify the name of Jesus together today, in word and in deed, for He alone is worthy of our praise!

Post 8

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

Southeast Asia 2013

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment

What did you accomplish by age 32?

My heart is so full. Tonight we visited G.R.O.W. here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Grace Refuge Outreach Worldwide is a ministry that Pastor Ivanildo has been instrumental in leading for the past several years). It is a home that currently houses 11 children who have been victims of some horrible things…things which I will avoid detailing here. The point is, that because of the compassion and vision of one young woman, these children have been rescued.

If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ changes lives, you need to meet these children. The situations that these kids come from wound and scar children in significant ways. Most people wouldn’t waste their time trying to help them… and even those with good intentions may give up because of the massive amount of time, heartache and sacrifice it takes to walk with them through such trauma. But in time, healing comes. And we saw evidence of the redemptive work of Jesus tonight.

Several children showed above and beyond hospitality, greeting us with cold drinks. A 9 year old showed the awareness and kindness of an adult, sliding her chair closer to mine so that I could follow along with her in a songbook. A 12 year old LED an entire devotional program for the whole house and us guests. A 10 year old recited several different passages of Scripture from memory. Several children articulated their testimonies, including the painful details of past trauma. And every single child exhibited responsibility helping to clean up dinner. Yes, every single child…including a 4 year old. And in the midst of all of it…joy! So. Much. Joy.

Who is behind this? Jesus, of course! He is the one who transforms lives. But he has used a 32 year old woman, my new friend Faa, and her staff and volunteers to love, serve, protect, train and disciple these children. She is investing in the kids that no one else wanted. And she is changing the world. There is a house full of kids in Chiang Mai who will continue to do radical things for Jesus. And her motivation has everything to do with her own life experience. She, too, was rescued – in order to rescue others.

What about you? How has God rescued you? What painful history have you dealt with? How are you using it to rescue others? There is a generation of broken people – some by choice, but many by no fault of their own – who need the love of Jesus in their lives.

For more inspiration, please check out www.grow-worldwide.com

Take a moment to pray:

  • For Faa, her staff and the GROW kids
  • For YOU to recognize how you’ve been rescued to rescue others

Guest writer: Doug Kegarise, Pastor of Development and Deployment