July 29, 2006

Seed-Planting Sheep

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
[James 1: 2-4, NIV]

So it's getting late, but I feel compelled to lay a few questions to rest for the folks at home. Many of you have heard (or read) bits and pieces of our story here in Australia, of a church called mimos and a dream to live and work with people around us as Jesus did. Many of you have also heard of or know (or read about) a pastor named Ruth who helped bring us together here in Melbourne, in whose mind this dream took hold and began to unfold.

And by now, many of you have heard that Ruth, and her family of six, are moving to Thailand.

The rumors are true. I can tell you this because: 1) Ruth told me so, and 2) Ruth emailed everybody she knows and told them too. The Harrisons are moving to Bong Ti, a small village just northwest of Bangkok near the border with Burma to work at an orphanage, teaching english, doing first-aid, living rustic-style, and all sorts of other goodies. However, the emails she sent out don't tell you how mimos is handling this whole thing.

There are, of course, a range of emotions, from "wow, that was quick" to "we're going to MISS you SO MUCH!!!" That's only normal. But as someone in the mix, I can say that there is an air of confidence in the whole thing. Mimos, as a community, feels confident that God is behind this (no, it's not insanity on Ruth and Colin's part). We as a church support Ruth and Colin with everything we have.

We've been learning that it's a given that change happens regularly, and often when we wouldn't care for it. Ruth and Colin were never meant to live in Melbourne a long time anyway. They (and Liz and I, in fact) were meant only to stay as long as necessary to catalyze people into mission, to motivate people towards Jesus. Ruth and Colin did that, and now they're going to go do it somewhere else.

I love this about the church; I love that we can support each other in the endeavors that God puts into our hearts without reservation because we know that He's taking care of the stuff that matters. I love that we can put even our lives on the line, not worrying about death - because, as followers of Jesus, even death no longer matters.

The reason mimos in particular can be this flexible is that leadership, in our church, is spread amongst us all - each person (children included) take part of leading the community, whether it be the time a family takes to lead communion together or the people who put into words the larger vision. We have a leadership team, yes, but their purpose is not to herd the sheep, their purpose is to be sheep and move at the shepherd's prompting. And so to move from one leader to another is easy - the leader usually come from within, a leader who has been on the same journey.

To tell you the truth, I want to go visit them in Bong Ti. I don't think I'd want to BE them just yet (doing laundry in a river just downstream from a farm full of cows and living as a vegetarian is definitely not my definition of a good time), but ... to grow the way they're going to grow in the next few years is but a hope for me at the moment.

Every follower of Jesus has within them the capacity to start a new church from the ground up if it came to it - God gave us those seeds. And so to the Harrisons - seed-planting sheep, the lot of them - we will miss you, but we send with you our love and our prayers. But don't worry about us, we'll be fine.

We say with confidence, "the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me?"
[Hebrews 13:6, TNIV]

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