The Harvest is Still Plenty

By Daniela Santiago

A few weeks ago I had the chance to be part of Third Wave 2019 in India. I am grateful that the Lord allowed me to be a part of this experience.

It’s natural for people to limit their vision of life to what is around them.  We know there is a bigger world out there, but it’s difficult to understand it. Beyond our borders there are different ways of living and different ways of understanding what it means to be a follower of Christ. Many times it means losing your life, and sometimes it means losing your freedom.  Still, none of these risks compare to the love we have and the commitment we have to extend the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.

It was incredible to be able to get to know and experience what the Church of the Nazarene does around the world.  What a blessing to know the gospel of Jesus extends to the furthest reaches of the earth, and that our Nazarene family is willing to go.

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One of the moments during Third Wave that most affected me was hearing the testimonies of people who live and serve in Creative Access Areas.  They are places where sharing the Good News of Jesus requires great commitment, patience, wisdom and perseverance.  They shared in India that they felt free to yell and praise God in that moment, but that in their countries, they must do it in silence, hidden away. The realization that the harvest is still plentiful, and that God still needs people to respond by saying, “Send me,” brought tears to my eyes and a burning desire to my heart.

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I am used to getting quick results, so it was challenging for me to hear how they work in those countries.  At the same time my heart kept filling with joy to know that the fire the Holy Spirit has placed in the hearts of our brothers and sisters to serve in those places is the same fire that burns inside of me.  I learned that God is a God of order and processes. My response to his call is valid, and despite my feelings of limitation to serve at this moment, I’m exactly where He wants me to be. The gifts of God are irrevocable, as is his call.

Having a chance to spend time and exchange ideas with people from more than 60 different countries truly changed my perspective of the world.  We exchanged ideas and talked about strategies, points of view and creative evangelism resources. I learned about culture and how much influence it has when the time comes to create and plan strategies to share the gospel.

I learned so many things on this trip. I learned patience is a reward from the Lord and that everything begins with prayer. But I also realized the profound importance of going to those who we do not know in order to share the love we have for Jesus and his gospel.

*Daniela Santiago is a youth leader in the Northwest Oaxaca District of Mexico.

“Restricted…but not Silent”

By Diana Gonzalez

A few days ago I had the blessing to be a part of Third Wave 2019 in Hyderabad, India.  I will never be the same after this experience.  I found new perspectives –  new ways of seeing life.  I was also challenged to hear the needs that exist, and what the Church of the Nazarene is doing to meet them in the name of Jesus.

People from more than 60 nations met to worship God. We shared our experiences, strategies, and ways of doing youth ministry in different contexts, just to share a few examples.  It was indescribable to be among so many nations, languages, cultures and flavors, but all with the same passion for the Lord.  I experienced a small taste of what it will be like after Jesus’ return.  On top of that, in some way, the world became smaller for me, because now I have friends all the way on the other side!

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50437954_447724335764950_2678421380508155904_n.jpgThe most significant thing for me in all of it was hearing the testimonies of the missionaries that work in Creative Access Areas.  In those areas, patience is part of their strategy, and what we understand in our contexts as “good results” must be reconsidered and valued in a different way.  In countries where they do not have the freedom to meet together for a service or the people are simply not interested in hearing about Jesus, the Word of God is “restricted, but not silenced,” as the Eurasia Regional Director shared.

I have learned about relational evangelism in a Youth Ministry class, and how Jesus established his kingdom through friendship and paying attention to important details. In Creative Access Areas, relational evangelism is crucial.  It is through years of friendship that someone is able to share the Good News.

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It is difficult to express how grateful I am for this experience.  It was a time in which God reminded us that this is our moment, this is our place, but it is also our decision to act!

*Diana Gonzalez is a youth leader and the Global Mission Coordinator in El Salvador.

Many Ways to Worship One God

By Saraí Ramos

A few weeks ago, God gave me the opportunity to travel to Hyderabad, India where I participated in Third Wave, a global gathering of emerging leaders within the Church of the Nazarene.  The main purpose of the event is to provide a space for youth to connect in a cross-cultural setting through fellowship, training, and group dynamics, in order to develop leaders who will make a global impact.

260 people from 61 countries came together January 8-13, 2019, and you can just imagine all the differences in language, forms of dress, food, and other craziness that we lived through there!

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In fact, one of the most memorable times of the event happened the first day when I was able to meet Olly and Clayton, two young men from Australia that love their Samoan culture and enjoy sharing it with anyone who will listen.  Throughout the week we were delighted to get to know them and admire their Hakas, typical Samoan dances, language, clothing, and many other things.

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Saraí with Olly and Clayton

But the thing that impacted me most was the passion on their faces when they danced during the talent show.  Clayton, Olly, and the Asia-Pacific Region made us all feel like we were part of a Samoan movie.  It was as if we were all in Disney’s Moana!  Can you imagine the excitement in the room when we were all experiencing that dance?!

84181241-c50c-4ec1-bc8b-5397c8b5e32d.JPGWhen they finished their presentation, they told us that the music was a typical Christian song. That was one of the ways they worshipped God in their home countries.

You know what? All of the time spent with them reminded me that there are innumerable ways to praise the Lord and share his love with others.  I believe every one of us should be like Olly and Clayton: proud of our Christian culture and passionately sharing the love and joy we have found in Jesus at every opportunity.

*Saraí Ramos is president of Nazarene Youth International in the Gulf District of Mexico.

Gifts from Worshipping in a Multiethnic Urban Church – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

Most churches I’ve been to are designed for someone just like me.

As much as I enjoy the Caribbean flavor of our worship, it is a constant reminder that our service and programs are not designed to reach me—they are designed to speak the heart language and meet the needs of other people in our community.

That’s how it should be, of course. But it strikes me that for all of my life I’ve been part of churches that were actively accommodating to people just like me—people my age and my race and my socioeconomic status. And I never thought of our worship and programs as “how we do church.” I thought of those things as “how people ought to do church.”

The implications of this lesson don’t stop with my past church experience. It’s become clearer to me in recent months that the vast majority of ministry resources, even Christian resources more broadly, are produced with “me” in mind. I’ve enjoyed a privileged status for a long time and never really realized it. I feel it as soon as something isn’t tailored to my tastes.

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The gift that comes from worshipping in a service that isn’t designed for me is that it reveals the depth of my consumeristic relationship with church. This is not a fun lesson, but it’s an important one.

Diversity doesn’t just “happen.”

We thought moving to one of the most diverse cities in America would mean that we would find comfortable diversity everywhere. Boy were we mistaken. The longer I live in New York City the more striking it is to me how segregated the city is. Neighborhoods and even blocks divide along ethnic designations. Schools can be monocultural even in diverse neighborhoods. It’s harder than I realized to find churches in the city that are committed to radical diversity.

All our social and civic systems work against ethnic and socioeconomic integration. It’s possible I knew that intellectually before now. But living where we live and worshipping where we worship has driven the point home: diversity doesn’t just “happen.” It takes deliberate and uncomfortable intentionality. It takes a group of people who are happy to hear all the church announcements twice—once in English and then again in Spanish—happy to sing all the songs in two languages. It takes a group of people who are willing to sacrifice their preferences so someone who sits near them can hear God speak to them the way they need to hear him.

I suppose the real gift of worshipping in a diverse urban church has been the tangible hospitality. While our service is not designed to appeal to my tastes, I am frequently moved by how accommodating people are to make sure my family feels welcome. We have been the recipients of great grace and kindness. That grace and kindness has made this vast new city feel small and familiar.

This article was originally published at: City to City.

Gifts from Worshipping in a Multiethnic Urban Church – Part 1 of 2

By Brandon O’Brien

When we moved from Arkansas to New York City, we settled in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. Our decision to live in Washington Heights was determined primarily by economics. I just could not imagine paying so much rent for so little space somewhere like the Upper West Side.

So, completely naively, we moved into the Heights and immediately became ethnic minorities.

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In addition to being white in a predominately Dominican neighborhood, my wife and I also have two adopted children. Both of them are ethnically different from us and from each other. We are quite a sight. And we’ve received our fair share of stares in the last several months—not just in the Heights. But the one place we feel totally normal is at church.

We worship in a new church called Christian Community Church of the Heights. Our service is bilingual—with music and announcements in both Spanish and English and a sermon delivered in English and translated live for Spanish speakers. The congregation is majority Latino but very diverse. In fact, the congregation reflects the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood (60-something percent Latino and 40 percent “other”). There are as many or more trans-racial couples as same-race couples.

Being surrounded by diverse families is a gift in itself, for a family like ours. We’ve received several other gifts by worshipping in a multiethnic urban church. Here are a few, presented as lessons learned. I’ve learned, for example:

Hips can be used in worship.

I’ve raised my hands in worship. I’ve bent my knees in worship. Doggone it, I’ve even clapped and swayed. But never before have my hips been tempted to involve themselves in worship. And it shows: they are very bad at it.

There’s a serious point in here somewhere. Style of worship is more than a matter of taste. Different musical forms open different possibilities, even theological possibilities. For example, I’ve sung the song “Blessed Be Your Name” in many churches in the last fifteen years. In all of them, the tone of that song has varied from reflective, even repentant, to triumphant. But when I sing it over a Caribbean bass line and rhythm section, a new possibility opens up. The song becomes positively celebratory.

In this case, musical style is a reflection of deep values and cultural personality. Our Dominican brothers and sisters know how to party, and they know how to bring that party to church. I never thought I could sing, “You give and take away” with a smile on my face. The fact that I can do it now is a gift from my diverse congregation.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Be Joyful

Many readers of this blog know that my family and I are in Russia right now for the World Cup. Yesterday we attended the France v. Denmark game, which was amazing. Interestingly enough, Dr. Eugénio Duarte, one of our General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, wrote about Denmark and their positivity.  I can confirm from my limited experience with fans of Denmark that they are a happy nation, indeed. I hope you enjoy this article on Denmark, but really more focused on the contentment that Christ gives every believer.

By Eugénio R. Duarte

Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. My only stay in the city was short, but I was able to spend a couple of hours on a tour that introduced me to its historical, cultural, economic, political, industrial, and social life. One of the things I heard, and needed to ponder, was this statement by one of the tour guides: “Denmark was recently rated the happiest nation in the world.”
 
The moment I made my first purchase and saw the bill, I decided that with such a high cost of living, people must require a sizeable income in order to stay happy. But a quick recall of what the same tour guide said about how highly they value community and mutual accountability — especially as it relates to family life — caused me to think again.

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When we learn to appreciate one another and the contribution each can make without constraint to the overall good, our human tendency to complain about any distress or hardship disappears.

Indeed, we are amazed at what some social doctrines can do by using the spirit of tolerance and responsibility. They can generate and even sustain contentment.
          
However, we need more than contentment. Our lives are meant to be full of joy, and joy is far more consistent, reliable, durable, stable, and fruitful. Joy is rooted in “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” and “guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Contentment and joy both reside in our hearts and minds, but contentment is there in a relationship that relies on temporary things, conditions, promises, and results, while joy is established on eternal values. When the title to our hearts and minds is in the hands of Jesus, our part in maintaining joy is trust and faith.

The Bible says, “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). God empowers us to be joyful not on the basis of a temporary agreement or arrangement. His Holy Spirit faithfully fulfills the mission of pouring — not dropping — His love into our hearts; the love that generates, feeds, and grows real joy in us. 

“It is Jesus, the vine, that produces fruit; and we, the branches, bear the fruit, including the fruit of joy.” — Billy Graham 

 

2018 World Cup

Hello, readers, and greetings from the 2018 World Cup!  Our family has been saving and planning this vacation for five years now and we are ecstatic.  We have tickets to two games and are hoping to obtain tickets to a third while we are in Russia.  We arrived yesterday (June 25) in Moscow, and we are recovering from some jetlag before we attend our first game today (France v. Denmark)! 

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In the last month, some friends and acquaintances have asked why we would dedicate the time and money to go to Russia and attend the World Cup, especially if the United States did not qualify this time (I am still embarrassed about that to be honest!).  Others have wondered why I occasionally write about sports in this blog that normally is dedicated to missions, leadership, etc.  The futbol (soccer) fans who read this understand completely, so I do not need to persuade you all.  But to the others, here are the reasons the World Cup is so important to me, and why we have written about it in this blog for three straight cycles (2010, 2014, and 2018): 

  1. Culture – and cultures – fascinate me. While in the London airport we were with people from seven different countries all going to the World Cup.  We all look different, speak different languages, and have different customs for sure.  But there is a respect – and even appreciation – for differences here that can prove instructive in a world of so much ethnocentrism.  How can we learn from each other? How do these other people enrich my life and understanding?
  2. Passion, passion, passion. A life without passion is a sad existence!  I confess that I have a hard time comprehending how people can float through life without urgency or excitement.  And admit it: the World Cup is THE place to find fans and players and coaches that are crazy about futbol and their country! Did you see the Brazilian coach who celebrated so hard that he tripped all over himself after a late goal against Costa Rica? Or what about the Panamanians celebrating their first-ever goal in the World Cup, even when they lost the game 6-1? Did you know that Mexico’s goal against Germany arguably caused an earthquake in Mexico City due to the euphoria in that mega-city? Yeah, passion.
  3. Sports can be a microcosm of life. Sports are results-based.  If you succeed, you are rewarded; if you underachieve, there are consequences. This is not to say that the most talented team always wins; sometimes the most well-prepared underdogs can pull off some stunners (See: Iceland v. Argentina). But even that gives us a lesson. There are so many things I have learned from sports about teamwork, perseverance, leadership, and integrity.  The World Cup will bring out the best and the worst in many players and fans and coaches.  It puts a magnifying glass on our character.

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Those are just three of the many reasons that I write about sports and the World Cup in a blog that hopes to help Transform the Globe.  I could go on and on, but it is now time for me to head to the stadium – who knows what cool things we will experience there and in the next week!