Friday, March 28, 2008

Extravagant Leadership - Ramsey and Amanda

Ramsey Pershing (on the far left), Amanda Armstrong (in the brown shirt) and their team are seen here enacting a scene from a Thai passion play based around the verse: ‘he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’. The wardrobe department’s budget was a little limited so that had to use same costumes from the Christmas pageant. Their next production is "Amanda and the King".

Ramsey says, “Leading a STINT team this year has helped me to grow more this year than any other. We entered onto Mae Fah Luang University (in Chiang Rai, Thailand) at the start of the second semester and were able to build a base of 64 students that we regularly see and meet with! The decision was just made to continue with another STINT team next year and it will be really excited to see how this base becomes a movement of students.”

Amanda adds, “This year has been a huge blessing, one after another. Compared to last year, it seems like a night and day difference. We are so thankful that our team has been so easy to lead, (I am sure threats of bringing back out the snake help) and that we have had fruit on campus this year even though the soil is hard. Oddly enough, it has been mostly international students from a larger East Asian country that have been the most receptive to the gospel; however, we have also seen a genuine change in Thai students praying to receive Christ. Another difference from last year is that the university we work at teaches all its classes in English so everyone on campus wants to be friends with the farang (foreigner). We have been doing more relational evangelism this year and lack of language barrier allows us to form deeper relationships with the students and this in turn opens them up to the gospel.”

In the passion play of the Four Gospels, one of my favorite characters is Mary of Bethany. (Not to be confused with Mary mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mary the wife of Clopas or Mary mother of John Mark.) In the credits Mary B. would be listed just above ‘woman in the crowd scene’. In three scenes, she only has one sentence of dialogue. And yet Jesus twice defends her from rebuke, honors her choices, weeps when she weeps and sets her up as one whose story should be told around the world. So let’s tell the story…

A few days before the Passover in Bethany, a little village a short distance from Jerusalem, at the home of Simon the Leper a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Mary B.’s recently-back-from-the-dead brother is there (hopefully he no longer ‘stinketh’) and Martha, her sister, is exercising her Spiritual gift of hospitality. In the middle of this feast, Mary comes to the Savior carrying an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She breaks the alabaster pint-sized jar of perfume made of pure nard and its intense, warm fragrance fills the room. Jesus is at the table and Mary B. anoints our Savior’s head with the perfume. It runs down his reclining body. She pours the rest on his feet and gently, lovingly wipes them with her hair.

The Accountant of the Apostles, Judas I., scoffs at this act of love calling it a waste. “This could have gone into the benevolent fund”, he says. He didn’t care about the poor. He was a thief always skimming some of the top and would look to make a few silver coins with a kiss of treachery. “At the very least, she could have gotten the knock-off brand of semi-pure nard in at the Wailing Wal-mart”. Others, indignant as well, join the chorus of criticism.

"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Mary B. is a woman of extravagant faith. She understood what no one else did. She was listening when others were working. She knew the story that would be played out. This was for His burial.

Mary B. is a woman of extravagant love. It is an act of intimacy and love of one who knows that she, like us, is the bride of Christ.

Mary B. is a woman of extravagant surrender. In every scene in which she appears Mary B. is falling at the feet of Jesus. She knows her Savior is worth even a whole year’s wages. She is shameless in her worship.

May we carry on the memory of Mary B. May we break ‘the alabaster jar of perfume’ and pour out all we have on the body of Christ. May we worship at his feet fully believing, fully loving, and fully surrendered. May we like Mary B. be leaders who move the heart of God.

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