Pastoral Post 12.28.2018

Leaving the Manger

By: Rev. Becky Brown

I’ve been thinking a lot about traveling this Christmas.  I love receiving Christmas letters, cards, and pictures from family and great friends over the season.  Time passes so quickly, and as I’ve thought about these dear friends and family, it has made me want to plan trips to visit them all.  Of course, there’s not nearly enough vacation days for the children or Andy and I to make it possible.  It is fun to daydream and consider what those trips would be like.

There’s an awful lot of traveling happening in the Christmas story.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth and Zechariah, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem and stay with distant relatives, the shepherds travel with their flocks to see Jesus and then spread the good news, Mary, Joseph & Jesus travel back home, the magi travel to King Herod and then arrive at the house where young Jesus was…

All this traveling reminds me that our faith story involves movement.  As much as we would like to extend the days of celebration of Jesus’ birth, the child grows and so should we.  As much as we would like for children to remain precious newborns and adorable squishy cheeked toddlers, they don’t and shouldn’t.  Our faith requires growth to maintain movement.  The manger propels us forward on a journey that often isn’t clear, easy, safe or clean.  Jesus’ entering the world sends us out to glorify and praise God.  Sometimes, I feel we are afraid to travel.  We are afraid of what God will lead us to.

Two of my greatest friends from seminary are living lives abroad in full time mission alongside their families.  I received Christmas letters from both, and loved hearing about their ministry, their families, and how God is moving and guiding them. 

Bethany, husband Steve, and their 3 children (same ages as mine) live in Nam Yuen, Thailand. They have been in mission in Thailand for 9 years, and have moved 4 times according to God’s leading.  They have a house church, hold Sunday School for over 30 children, and disciple adults intentionally and carefully.  They share stories of lives changed, wounds healed, and brokenness that has not been healed after much prayer.  They share about friends who are seeking Asylum in Canada, and are continually denied entry.  They extend invitations to people to come and visit them for short term missions trips, and are looking for an intern to help homeschool their children and learn about missions.  I am amazed by the depth of their faith and their authenticity in praying for direction from God when they openly admit they’re not sure where to go next.  Yet, they boldly go.  I know they are building great Christian community and God is changing lives through their ministry.

Alisha, husband Abdul, and their 3 children (also the same ages as mine) live in Kampala, Uganda.  Alisha spent 5 months in mission in Kampala 14 years ago, and met Abdul.  They became great friends.  Alisha moved back to the US, and completed her Mdiv alongside of me with the hopes of returning to Uganda someday.  She moved 10 years ago, married Abdul, and they opened up a brand new school called Terra Nova Academy.  They have 150 students with a max class size of 20 which is unheard of in Uganda.  Other school class sizes average 50 students for 1 teacher.  Many of the schools have 100 students in one classroom.  There is a huge need for trained teachers, and Alisha and Abdul help them find training.  Because of the class sizes at other schools, the children do not have classes in art, music or drama.  Terra Nova Academy has those programs too.  Their school feeds the children nutritious meals each day, teaches them about the Bible and God’s love and grace, and provides them with an excellent education free from corporal punishment and fear in the classroom.  This huge ministry was created because Alisha listened to God and boldly went.  She and her family depend on God for direction and are seeking new ways to improve the lives of children and families in Uganda.  Their faith has movement.

I share all this because the lives of my two friends inspires me.  I keep up with their lives in ministry because I love them and value their friendship.  Don’t worry, we don’t plan to move our family to Thailand or Uganda to enter the mission field.  I don’t believe that’s what God’s calling is on my life, at least not now.  My prayer is that I will continue to listen to God’s leading and go where God is sending me.  I don’t want to stay at the manger because it feels comfortable and safe.  I don’t want to cling to the past because it’s what I know.  I want to be faithful, to live faithfully, and encourage our family to do the same.  Sometimes that means traveling physically.  It always means traveling with God and growing in faith.

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