Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ministering cross-culturally - Jennifer Edwards

Jennifer Edwards is leading the team in Nantes France which is the home of Jules Verne, French novelist and a pioneer of the science-fiction genre. While Jen and her team are not journeying to the center of the earth, traveling the world in 80 days nor going twenty thousand leagues under the sea, a lot is happening in their little corner of France.

Jen writes, “We have had some great events the last couple of months that have drawn non-Christians. At our Christmas party we had 37 people and 11 of those were non-believers. We have not seen anyone trust in Christ yet but are having some fun on-going good spiritual conversations. For instance one of my friends Camielle claims to be an atheist but still believes that there has to be something to have hope in, because life always disappoints you. We have been talking a lot about how we can experience hope and joy in a relationship with God.”

Jen and her team have found that students in Nantes claim atheism as truth, even without knowing what they really believe. Students there naturally do not talk about spiritual things at all with friends. So when Jen and her team talk about it there is usually some interest or at least curiosity.

Laurel Kehl
, who you might remember helped coached the leaders from PSW and MA last summer, is our guest devo writer this week. Laurel served in Russia as ICS and before that STINTed in Poland. So she has a great deal of experience learning new worlds.

One of my favorite memories of my STINT year in Poland was the sound of the cuckoo birds! It wasn’t the harsh sound that sometimes comes out of cuckoo clocks, but was more of a haunting, yearning cry that would go on for a long time before becoming silent. I loved walking in the forest listening to that sound…until I found out what cuckoo birds are really like!

A cuckoo bird never builds a nest of its own, but sneaks up on other birds and lays eggs in their nests when their backs are turned. When the cuckoo egg hatches, it’s really an alien in the nest, but the unsuspecting mother feeds it. This alien proceeds to become the largest bird in the group and takes more and more of the food, so that the other babies get less and less. Eventually the cuckoo throws all the other birds out of the nest, so it’s the only one left!

Is this example from nature sounding a little too familiar? If you’re like me, your experience of cross-cultural living has brought out a lot of the ugliness that lies in all of our hearts. For me, at times during my STINT year, it would seem like there was some alien inside me that was hungrily devouring me and anyone else in her way…and I couldn’t stop her! I wanted to love God, love my team, launch a movement, and learn a new world, but that alien was making it very difficult!

What do we do when our flesh gets right in our face and we can’t do what we long to do, but instead do the very thing we don’t want to do? The options are: #1 ~ Ignore it and hope it somehow goes away (preferably before others notice!). #2 ~ Try to make the flesh more presentable and controllable (this would be trying to look better than you really know you are!). #3 ~ Cry out for help.

Now because I know that God has given you and me a “mother bird” (I hope the Holy Spirit doesn’t mind the analogy!) who is NOT unsuspecting, but very capable of recognizing and opening our eyes to see that we have a depravity problem, I can be assured that He is already teaching you how to cry out to Him for help! (And you’re probably getting lots of practice!) But let me encourage you to remind yourselves of two things when you encounter the flesh: #1 ~ You’re worse than you know (so don’t be surprised when you sin!) #2 ~ You’re more deeply loved than you can EVER imagine! Just look at the cross.

Have a great week (and watch out for the cuckoo!)
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