Tuesday, July 5, 2005

opportunities galore

Well, I'm still here in Prague. Still loving the city. Still loving getting to spend time with the church. Still loving the culture. Things are a bit different though. For the past seven weeks, I've been working with the church, teaching English Bible classes, forming relationships with my students in order to show Christ to them, fellowshipping with the church and trying to encourage them, while probably receiving much more encouragement than I was giving. It was great! Now, though, I'm participating in a study abroad program with 20 or so other American students. And it's been a challenging experience so far. They're definitely typical American college students -- focused on themselves, what they can get out of life for themselves, wasting their time in meaningless gossip and backstabbing conversation, and spending countless hours at the numerous pubs and discos here in town, downing drink after drink after drink after drink after, well, you get the idea. Needless to say, I'm a little different. As far as I've been able to tell so far, I'm the only Christian in the group, which is a new experience for me. I'm used to being mainly with Christian friends, and even when I'm not with a Christian group, like when I'm hanging out with the drumline, there are at least some Christians among the group.

I know that in the past couple of days, I've learned a lot about what it means to be salt and light in the world. I'm trying to make a difference by being different. But at the same time it's been a challenge for me to find new, innovative ways of sharing my faith with these people who really don't care to hear about it. I've been doing quite a bit of praying and reading from encouraging books like Philippians. And one thing I've been praying for is the ability to love these people. It can be difficult when they don't exactly make themselves lovable. But as Christians, we're called to love because Christ loved us. No other reason. Not because we like someone or because we have something in common with them or because they are willing to be loved. We love because Christ loves. That simple. And 1 Corinthians 13 has got quite a bit in it that's difficult to do: have patience, not be proud or arrogant but be humble instead, etc. Even more difficult than those, I find that it's the always trusting, always hoping, always persevering part that's really tough to do. Always trusting in God that He's got a plan for these people who are His creation just as much as I am. Always trusting that He knew what He was doing when He put me here in their midst. Always hoping that one of them may see the light and love and truth of God in me in some way and may be convicted to change and to draw closer to God. Always persevering, through the difficulties, through the frustrations, through the doubt and fear. Never giving up. Never letting Satan get ahold of me and tell me that I just can't do it, that it's not making any difference, that I should just give in and join them. But though those things are difficult and I am way too weak to do them on my own, I've found that God is strengthening me. He's giving me the courage and the love I need. He, once again as always, is proving Himself faithful to me and to His promises!

I've been praying a lot for opportunities. For the ability to recognize those opportunities when they're presented. And for the courage to take ahold of them when I recognize them. And in that area, too, God is faithful. Perhaps these are new opportunities, perhaps they're ones that have always been there that I just haven't recognized because my eyes haven't been correctly focused. But whatever the case may be, they're there.

One very exciting thing happened last night. I was wandering around town with three of the girls, Kat, Jane, and Allison. They'd bought a bottle of wine and we'd sat down at the bottom of Wenceslas Square so they could drink it in celebration of the 4th of July. After they finished it up, we were headed to join up with a larger group at U Sudu, a pub not too far from Tesco. But instead, the girls decided, just for something different, to go to Tesco and buy some wine there. They ended up getting the cheapest stuff possible, which they said was really nasty and did I want to try some? I stuck to my fruit tea. Anyway, as we just sat on some benches and they drank the two-liter bottle of cheap white wine, Jane asked Kat how much she'd have to pay her to get her to go hug a homeless man who was standing with his bottle of alcohol not too far away from us. About a million dollars was the answer. But Allison mentioned that she is actually planning on opening a homeless shelter when she graduates. So, I started talking to her, asking her plans and how she got involved in working with the homeless people. And that led to an opportunity to tell her about my spring break work with the RFCs in inner-city Chicago and Atlanta. I told her how I loved getting to do work that makes a difference in people's lives, that gives them hope, shows them the love of God. As our conversation continued, I was able to talk about the work I've been blessed to participate in here in Prague and how it is so fulfilling to share the love and peace and joy that I have found through Christ. Then she told me about how, as her parents raised her, they gave her the freedom to explore religion and to make her own decisions about God. We talked for a while (as we walked to U Sudu after all...) about her spiritual beliefs and about the nature of truth and of God. Allison told me that she's trying to figure out what she believes about God, trying to find her own spirituality. We shortly arrived at the pub, so the conversation was cut off, but for what it was, it was good. Definitely an opportunity from God to see into Allison's life, into her soul, and to see that, underneath all of her outer layer of flirtation and continuous drinking, there is really a person there who is lost and is in need of God's guidance and salvation. Please pray with me and for me as I am given more opportunities to reach out to Allison with the love of God!


Anonymous said...

Well, I have to say, you have quit the testimony! Good luck, much like you I am serving the Lord. I am in the Philippines, I am an American, and I will be seeing the States in about a week. God Bless, Write me if you get the chance...

Graham Kervin said...

it's amazing how easy evangelism can be if we break it down into small, manageable moments of reality instead of letting it inflate into a giant, blown out of proportion beast that terrifies us away from ministering. when we take away all the pre-reqs and disclaimers it's actually very simple, and it challenges us to be creative with the delivery and presentation of God. keep it up, dining with the sinners and tax collectors, and touching the lepers, because this is the core of the Christian force - finding the tiny spaces of vulnerability in people that everyone else has trained themselves not to see. what would Jesus do?