Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It Is Not About Us

We had an interesting weekend.  About two months ago one of the pastors invited us to come sing a few songs at their church and for me to preach.  It was both an honor and a privilege to be invited to to do that.  This pastor and I have developed a special friendship, even though communication is difficult.

When I saw him about a month ago, he asked me to share about my call.  Following God's call is not about us.  As I prayed and started pulling thoughts together, God led me to the scripture about Elisha's call to follow Elijah.  There are three simple verses at the end of I Kings 19 that paralled our experience of following God's call:
  1. Like Elisha, we needed to say goodbye to our family and the familiar
  2. Like Elisha, we needed to share our call publicly
  3. Like Elisha, we needed a time of preparation that would prepare us to fulfill God's call, once He said "now"
From my own experience and what I have read, sermon preparation normally takes about 5-6 hours on average (though some would argue that each sermon is developed through a lifetime of experience and study).  In a country where they speak another language, preparing the sermon in my native language is just part of the work (the easy part, I might add).  It took me more than six hours to translate everything into Russian (I'm only a beginner!).  Next, it took several hours to have someone review my translation.  Then, it took several hours to update my sermon document with all the corrections.

Finally, I read through the message (about 30 minutes long) outloud at least four times.  My guess is that I invested close to 18 hours in that message.  Needless to say, it was not possible to wait until Saturday to write it.  I had to prepare ahead of time (which is normal for me).  I had it all written at least a week ahead of time and the rest of the time was spent translating and reading through it.  That was a lot of work!!  But it is exactly what I came here to do.

The pastor and his wife were in Krivoy Rog for a wedding on Saturday and they would be riding the same bus with us to travel back to their city on Sunday morning.  Our family was up about 5:00 AM so we could leave home about 6:10 AM to reach the bus station in time for the 7:45 AM departure.  Hope said "This was too early, even for an early person."  (She is the early riser in our family and is often the first one up.)  I reminded her (as I reminded myself and the rest of the family), this trip is not about us.  Sometimes it is easy to forget that.

We had hoped to sleep on the bus ride, which would take close to three hours to go 120 kilometers (about 75 miles).  Yes, we stopped several times to drop off and pick up people, but the bus never goes very fast because of the bad roads.  Between the slow downs/speed ups and swerving to miss potholes, there was no sleep for me on the bus (though Hope did get a little nap).  When we arrived a little after 10:30 AM, Laura and I went with the pastor and one man from their church to go see the house of prayer that they had purchased and were working to remodel, while Denise and Hope were able to go to pastor's apartment and rest.  The pastor's wife and our translator friend (who also travelled with us and attended that church while going to university in that city) worked to fix lunch for us.

After lunch, we headed over to the auditorium that they have their 2:00 church service in.  They had a few challenges that day, but our three hour service started just a few minutes late. We enjoyed the worship time (they have two exceptional guitar players) and they shared a few special songs.  Denise and I sang a song (could have been better), then I sang a song in Russian before preaching my message.  There were some words that I butchered, but I was glad to know that, for the most part, they followed what I was sharing. The pastor was thrilled with what I shared and really believed that it was something his people needed to hear. That was very encouraging.

Preaching the sermon was both interesting (and challenging) for me because I had to read it.  I do not like to have every word written down.  When I play piano, I add and subtract notes at will, and I like to do the same when I speak.  However, at this stage it is better that I trust God's inspiration in my preparation and not during the actual preaching, because my Russian grammar is not ready for going "live" just yet.  It is good to know that it will only get better, however!

After the service we had tea and cookies, then headed back to pastor's apartment for supper.  We talked for quite a while, then he and his wife left to go to someone else's place to spend the night so we could have their apartment to ourselves.  We would have their bed and the girls had an air mattress in the living room floor.  We were willing to go home on the night bus, but they would not hear of that.  We slept pretty good after watching "Sarah's Choice" starring singer Rebecca St. James (it was a good movie).  They returned about 9:30 AM to fix breakfast sandwiches so we could be to the bus station for our 11:00 departure.

We made it home about 2:15 PM.  We were exhausted from the travel.  It had been somewhat frustrating (communication is such a challenge when you are still learning the language, but we were thankful that our friend was there to help us).  But the time, effort, and travel was so worth because it was so rewarding to hear the pastor say that is just what his people needed to hear.  We were an encouragement.  And it is great to know that we were doing just what we came here to do.  It was not about us.

Do you, like me, forget that it is not about you?  God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives.  Only when we are doing what He wants us to do will we be truly fulfilled - because it is all about Him, not us.

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