John McCall (PCUSA) - September 2016 Update
Sowing Seeds of Understanding in a Divided World
It can be depressing to hear the daily news from around the world. So much division among people groups, among political parties and their supporters, even among church folks. So, I have been convicted by the Apostle Paul’s challenge to the church at Corinth and to us, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
I am weary of the news but also excited about this message of reconciliation which God has given to us. So, I have been praying about ways to allow the reconciliation with God to impact our daily lives around the world. I know we Christians are called to be those who build trust among different kinds of people and allow these people to experience loving those who are different.
So, it was in that spirit that I, along with a number of other international friends, began to plan a consultation/retreat called “Sowing Seeds of Understanding: Ministry in a Global World.” We brought 18 Taiwanese pastors and two Guatemalan pastors to Montreat Conference Center in Western North Carolina to live together in community in a big old house. Every day, in everything we did, we used Mandarin, Spanish, and English and learned how to trust each other. Among the Taiwanese we had at least five different people groups.
And God did a beautiful thing among us. Each day as we shared meals together, worshiped together, studied the Bible together, and shared life together, we caught a glimpse of God’s Kingdom in our midst.
For two days a group of about 20 U.S. Presbyterian pastors joined us. Each U.S. pastor had an international prayer partner and while not all of the folks could speak English, they found a way to share prayer concerns and pray together. We shared the joys and challenges of doing ministry in this day. And the participants found how much united us. We learned to trust God in the process and the Holy Spirit led us into deeper understanding of those from at least three different cultures.
We traveled to the Methodist Church in Black Mountain, N.C. to eat at their Open Table with the elderly, the lonely, and the homeless. We joined with the Episcopalians in their healing service, and then they cooked a huge dinner to welcome our international guests. We visited a homeless shelter for veterans and heard the testimony of a former firefighter and his journey back from addiction. We worshipped at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, and the Taiwanese pastors shared their gift of song. We stayed overnight in U.S. homes and were warmly welcomed by these church members.
In this divided world, it was a joy to see strangers become friends and discover their connection as children of God. One evening I was walking by one of the bedrooms in the old house where we were staying and heard some of the Taiwanese pastors counting in Mandarin as they did calisthenics together. And then I also heard Pastor Hugo from Guatemala counting in Spanish. They were all exercising together in their own languages.
These international pastors live busy lives both in Taiwan and Guatemala. My hope for them in the North Carolina mountains was that they would have time to breathe deeply of God’s love for them. I prayed that this time away from their families and their churches and communities would not be an escape but instead a gift from God to remember who they are and to remember why God has called them. My hope is that as they have now returned to high mountain villages and teeming cities to continue serving God, they will also have new joy and peace. And that the U.S. pastors will now have prayer partners halfway across the world but connected in Christ’s trust and love.
It is easy to despair, but God calls us to join in God’s reconciling work. What a joy it was to see that reconciliation made real.
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