As we move away from 2020 and into 2021 what word best describes how you feel at present? I am certain all of us have experienced a range of emotions during the past year. Most of us have been deeply affected by the events of 2020 in some way. A few of us have had our lives completely upended through grief and loss. So, where do we go from here?
There is a word that comes to my mind these days…as the vaccine begins to take effect and the positive test rate across the country continues to decline. That word is “hope”. I have heard it said that we can go several weeks without food, several days without water, but we can’t go a minute without hope. Hope is that belief that there is something better to come. In Romans 5:3-4 (CEV) the Apostle Paul says, “We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.” In the way God has designed life on this planet for Christ-followers, trouble has an intended result…hope. When I face a trial and choose to endure, my character is formed, and my hope in God is renewed. I’m “hoping” this has been true for many of us during the past year.
Now as we prepare to move out of winter towards spring, we have hope for better days. I am hopeful that God has been teaching each of us something about enduring, and refining our character during these past months. So, just maybe, we will come out of this a little more like Jesus than when it all began.
But, I am also hopeful for Evangelical Friends Church – Mid America. I believe God wants to do some new things among us in the months and years ahead. Together with five other regions we make up Evangelical Friends Church – North America (EFC-NA). Through EFM (our mission sending agency), we have a vision of launching 5 new mission fields by 2025. In order to accomplish this we believe we need to not only identify 5 new fields, but to identify and train 10 family units to fulfill this vision. If you do the math that is a pretty lofty goal…one new field every year! Does that sound nearly impossible, humanly speaking? Does it reflect the heart of God? I believe both are true. I am hopeful that God will fulfill that vision as we each seek to do our part. Would you pray that God would make this vision, this “hope”, a reality? And, at the same time would you ask Him if He might want to use you in some way as part of the fulfillment?
I am also hopeful because I believe God is calling us to reach people right next door to us, by planting new churches. In just the past 6 months we have partnered with Walter Lawson and his team in Texas City to launch “Come and See Friends Church”, a multi-ethnic urban fellowship in the heart of Texas City. In this newsletter, you will read more about our newest church planters, Shane and Adele Brown, who have a vision for launching a new church in Raymore, MO, on the outskirts of Kansas City. Shane and Adele are sensing God’s call to go full-time and focus on launching a new work right here in Mid-America. They will need your prayers and financial support, as well. Whether it is halfway around the world, or across the street, the truth is God deserves all glory for who He is and what He has done. And, He is most glorified as an increasing number of people recognize Him as God and choose to follow Him.
I am also hopeful, because I believe God is able to bring renewal in our existing churches. Part of the role of trials in our lives is to shake us up from our complacency, and reveal our true colors. Having come through the past year, do you like who you are more or less than you did a year ago? Did the past year reveal some things in you that you didn’t know were there; perhaps some things you don’t like? Trials have a way of doing that…as they did for me. The past year sort of “upset the fruit basket” with our personal lives and our churches. I am hopeful that what we discovered through the trials of 2020 will be used to ultimately bring hope.
Easter 2021 is coming! Have you considered Easter as a regathering time for your church? Even if we have to do multiple services for social distancing purposes, wouldn’t it be exciting to see Easter as a time for a fresh start? None of us liked what we went through this past year, but “hopefully” we are stronger and more like Jesus because of it. There is reason for hope ahead!
As we move forward from the troubles of 2020, you will hear of other opportunities to be hopeful, and to partner with us locally and globally to plant churches by praying, giving and going! We will all have the opportunity to take what we have learned and grow to be more like Jesus because of it. Out of the greatest darkness the light shines the brightest. As was at the time when Jesus was born, a light shined out of the darkness, so in our day God will continue to shed His light on the darkness around us as we join Him in bringing His Kingdom from heaven to earth.
Thanks for weathering the storm. A new day is dawning. Hope is on the horizon.