The pastor at Shiloh UMC asked me to speak in the morning services, 9:30 and 11:00 this coming Sunday. She wants a testimony on evangelism, and wanted to know if I wanted to share about Peru. Of course I jumped at the chance, but want to share what's happening here in Cincinnati, too, since my mission field is here.
So here is tentatively what you'll hear if you come. I'll also be showing images, and singing. I'd love to hear your comments before I do this on Sunday. Here goes:
If you want to REALLY hear about my trip to Peru, like riding a Peruvian horse, getting spit on by an alpaca, nearly getting robbed, and my amazing daughter, then set up a milkshake date with me at the Refuge on Glenway and I'd love to share all the amazing details. For now, I’m only able to share one part of my amazing journey.
Right now, Pastor Rachel would like me to share my evangelism experience from Extreme Nazarene Peru that occurred in June, my month of "bring your mom to work", sharing in the missionary work with my awesome daughter, Cailyn Dawn. And what an experience it was. I'm going to focus on only one event during that amazing month.
Let me start off by saying - Extreme Nazarene started with a vision. A vision that turned into a long term plan. Then a plan that was put into action, through a LOT of prayer, trust in God, and good old fashioned hard work.
It began with this - an idea of a mega event in Arequipa where they would offer entertainment, cheap food (including the delicacy guinea pig), free medical services, including doctors AND dentists, huge kids events, stuff going on every where all day. Guys walking around in Cuy Rico suits, and of course the main event, hearing Nick Vujicic, the world evangelist who was born with no arms and no legs.
As my Sunday School teacher used to say, "Pray with a hoe in your hands". We prayed with a lot of different things in their hands - computers, phones, duct tape, clear tape, flyers, soles (Peruvian currency) for Combis, balloons, construction crews, Cuy suits (think Scooby Doo at King's Island, but a giant guinea pig named Rico). Lots of leg work and talking to everyone you pass.
The short-term volunteers and the 40/40's (those missionaries like my daughter, committed to staying for 2 1/2 years) put up flyers EVERYWHERE. We handed them out in the streets, at the bus stops, to the taxi drivers. No one knew if anyone would even show up.
We began praying for this event months in advance. That week people with Internet access were putting the information up on Facebook and Twitter to make sure the people back home were praying. This was going to be HUGE. We could tell in Peru because Satan was bringing out his big guns to do everything in his power to stop it from happening. If you don't believe in spiritual warfare, you're numb to it, because it's everywhere.
The Saturday of the mega-event, we gathered for prayer, then headed out to the event center. To our amazement, (not God's of course), people began waiting in line to get in the doors. Not just a few, soon it was thousands. The people in the Prayer Room began praying earnestly.
By the end of the day when the counting was done, over 10,000 Peruvians had come. In the women's conference that morning with Tammy Trent who lost her husband in a freak diving accident, more than 150 women gave their lives to Christ for the first time. At the same time over in the men's conference where former Drug lord, leader of one of the largest drug cartels in Columbia and murderer Felix Vargas was giving his testimony and more than 150 men responded giving their lives to Christ.
That was only the begininng. Those 10,000 Peruvians were anticipating the main event - when Nick Vujicic would take the main stage. Nick was amazing. Nick's personality is charismatic and his testimony unbelievable. He will tell you, "I have a pair of shoes in my closet because I know God can heal me, but I would rather be just like I am and be able to witness to as many people as I can so they can all come to heaven with me, than to be normal, and take just a few people to heaven. I want you to get to be there with me."
When Nick (view image) gave the call to respond, he had to explain through the translator THREE times, if you are raising your hand, or standing up, this is not about a blessing (explanation necessary in a country primarily Incan Catholic). This is not about re-dedicating your life to Christ. This is only about making a first time commitment to Jesus Christ, that for the first time, you want Him to come live in your heart. Finally, trusting they understood, he prayed with them and, invited them to follow the gold flag to the convention center where the Consolidation team, which Cailyn was part of, would pray with them and get some information. Here's the amazing part. 6,000 had responded, and over 1,000 of them were willing to walk to the convention center to hear more.
On the way to the airport, Nick was overwhelmed. He says he generally expects a response of maybe 10-15% at most. He has never seen 60% of an audience respond to the call to accept Christ as Lord of their life. He said the only way that could happen is if the event had been bathed in prayer. We already knew it, and Nick acknowledged it. When you ask, when you seek, when you trust God, He does what it takes to love His people into a relationship with Him. Prayer effects the outcome. Never stop praying.
When you have a vision, and you bathe it in prayer, God shows up. The experience I will never get over, and the rejoicing afterward I will never forget.
But the plan didn't end there. The staff understood the statistic that 97% of people making a decision for Christ at an event like that have gone back to their old life within 3 weeks. So the next Monday, they began calling all those 1,000 people who had come up to the conference center. They set up appointments to visit them in their homes. They are determined to KEEP these people for Christ and not let Satan have them back. They invited them to a spiritual retreat happening that coming weekend, that these people would have to pay for. They responded. The retreat was full with over 20 going and a waiting list for the next one. At the retreat, they taught them more about how to be disciples and 4 were baptized in Peruvian winter cold water.
And the work goes on. They've already had another retreat, they have people clamoring to start churches in their homes.
God is on the move.
Why do I get so excited about this? After all, it's 2900 miles away from me. Does it give me a warm, fuzzy feeling? of course. My daughter is involved and doing what God has called her to do, so yeah, I get a little excited.
But the real churning in my stomach is knowing that if God can work in Peru, then He can and will work in my mission field, Cincinnati, Ohio.
We have neighbors, relatives, friends, co-workers, longing for something - they don't even know what - that God shaped hole only God can fill. I see it every day - people I know and love looking for love in all the wrong places, while God longs to lavish His love on them if only they knew or understood.
I see it as my job not to preach at them, but to love them. I have a friend when we talk calls Christians haters, and is very vocal about his contempt for what he's seen in Christianity.
Unfortunately, In our culture in the U.S., the top 3 perceptions of Christians are that we're gay haters, judgemental, and hypocritical.. As my friend I mentioned spews his thoughts at me, I just smile at him and tell him he can say what he wants, but I'm just gonna keep loving him and hopefully he sees through my actions that I mean it. He paid me a humbling compliment once when he told me I was indeed different than other "Christians" he's come across. I'm not giving up on him!
I want to show people there's a different kind of Christianity. Where we admit we aren't perfect, tell them my personal story of sin, and just love them and love them some more until they get it
That may mean I have to get my hands dirty. It may mean I have to step out of my comfort zone, like helping feed the hungry across from Washington Park at Nast Trinity UMC, or going to Joann Burton's funeral (the woman killed in the park by a police cruiser) just to tell the homeless and hurting I care, or finding homeless people and getting involved in their lives, taking them simple things like ice, feminine products or other essentials we take for granted.
It's about sitting down with them and sharing a glass of flat generic pop out of a cup you're not sure is clean, but trusting God about the germs. It’s about tasting their stove top tuna casserole they’re so proud of when you don’t even like tuna. It's sitting out on their homemade "love seat" talking, and letting a million bugs bite you because you keep forgetting to bring them bug spray.
It's about sitting there letting them know they matter. That I'm interested in their stories and friendship, not about heading home feeling good about myself, but rather heading home all the while wondering what else I could be doing to help.
How do I know I could be doing more? Because I know there are 1,500 people in Cincinnati on any given night sleeping on the streets. with 45% of the homeless being children, and while 31% are there because of mental illnesses. I may not be able to save them all, but I can start with one or two, just like the starfish on the beach.
That's what Jesus has called us to do. For He said in his parable about the sheep and the goats, "whatever you've done for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you've done for me".
It's what we are ALL called to do. As Rich Mullins said, "You can use the highlighter in your Bible to mark the Scriptures you like, but you're still responsible for all of them". And when God calls us to go, to be in community with everyone, even the least of these, it's not an option. His friends were the outcasts, the lowest of society. We're not better than Jesus, and 2000 years later the command hasn't changed.
You can't really care about the poor until you KNOW the poor. I challenge you today to join me in fighting the upside down economics of our society where 20% of us have 80% of the stuff. Ghandi said it well when he stated, "There's enough for everyone's need, but there's not enough for everyone's greed."
Some friends here at Shiloh and I are on a mission to find the poor and show them Christ through our love. God has already lead us to some amazing homeless people who have been a delight to now call friends.
Step out of your comfort zone. While we’ll probably be posting immediate needs from time to time, like right now we’re looking for tarps, don't just give money, but join us in hanging out with Jesus' friends. As Tony Campolo challenges us, "Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned.' Jesus in his disguises."
It's about doing small things with great love. You will be amazed at the joy it brings you, joy you won't experience dropping shoes or a coat in a safe bin at your church or local Salvation Army. The joy is found when you watch the face of the recipient of your shoes or coat, and seeing the difference you've made.
That's my testimony for Sunday, a bit extended and changed to be this article. I want to know what you're thinking, feeling.
Do we Christians want to hear about the needs? Are we ready to get our hands dirty helping "the least of these"? Or would we prefer to stay in our protective bubbles and give from a safe distance every once in a while to make us feel better?
What about you? What about your church or your group? What are you doing? Do you want to get involved but don't know how to help?
if you'd like to help, you can send contributions directly to the Shiloh church marked, "Namaste". Or we'd love to have you join us at 6:00PM Sunday evenings.
Shiloh is located at
580 Anderson Ferry Road
Cincinnati, OH 45238-5299
Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below. I want to hear what's on your mind.