Friday morning marked the beginning of our annual staff conference. What a treat to see our International Messenger family gather from Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Slovakia! Couples, singles, families – more than 100 folks showed up to encourage and be encouraged.
Each day we enjoyed two worship services. The music – led by a band of five young men – moved my heart to focus on Jesus Christ. And seeing these musicians – an American fellow who came to Poland especially to serve the missionaries in this way for the weekend, three IM teenagers, and a Romanian fellow who’s interning with IM in Ukraine (whose smile lit up the room as he sang and played the keyboard) – thrilled me beyond words. These fellows represent the next generation of spiritual leaders. God bless them as they use their gifts for Him here, and as they begin stepping forward to pursue career ministry in Eastern Europe.
One song contained a phrase that has taken on new meaning for me: “You are the Lord, the famous one, the famous one. Great is Your name in all the earth.” Indeed, my role as writer, speaker, and missionary, is to help make Jesus famous throughout the earth. The instant my attention or motives point toward me rather than Jesus, the ministry loses focus and effectiveness.
The daily messages reinforced the lessons I’ve been learning lately and also gave me new material to think about. I think my favorite was the one about Christ’s humility as illustrated in Philippians 2. Imagine – Jesus Christ existed in the form of God but didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. Instead, He emptied Himself and became a servant, even to the point of death on a cross. That thought boggles my mind. It’s the opposite of what society teaches – to stand up for our rights and demand what we deserve. Where is that attitude condoned in God’s Word? Nowhere, I’m afraid. Rather, as Christ’s followers, we’re to empty ourselves and serve others sacrificially.
At the end of the last session, silence fell across the room – a holy, awe-inspired quiet. God’s presence felt tangible, and no one dared move or speak for what seemed forever. Then one person prayed. A second person followed, and then a third. Someone led in a worship song, and then another. Words cannot justly describe the reverence in that place. Oh, I long for my brothers and sisters in Christ to experience the same in North America. Sadly, I think we’re too often controlled by the clock, or by fear of what might happen if we let the Holy Spirit take over our meetings. “God, bring revival to our hearts!”
The music and messages filled my spiritual tank, and fellowship with other IM women filled my emotional tank. I was blessed to have the opportunity to speak at a special session just for them. I based my message on Hebrews 12:12,13 which refer to taking a new grip with tired hands and strengthening shaky legs so those behind us who are weak and lame will not stumble and fall but be strengthened. Darlis Anderson then gave each woman a bookmark with the theme verse, and a package of Mary Kay skin products donated by a generous friend in the U.S.
These missionary gals are truly amazing. Some are North Americans who have been in Eastern Europe for many years. They’ve borne their children there and are fluent in the language, well-adapted to the challenges of cross-cultural living. Others are North American empty-nesters who have recently sold their possessions, said goodbye to kids and grandkids, and followed God’s call to pursue career ministry here. We have single gals of all ages – early 20s through 70s. Several IMers are North Americans married to Eastern European men. And about half are Eastern Europeans, born and raised here. What a glorious mix! Together, we’re sisters in Christ, and we have much to learn from each other.