By Adam Evans
There I stood, in a room, soaked in sweat, in front of 150 children who were staring at me. We had zero in common. They were Dominican, I was American. They spoke Spanish, I spoke English. They were poor, and I, well, I was rich. They had never been outside of their village, but I came from a different village that very day. By all intents and purposes, there was absolutely no reason for us to ever interact, ever meet, or even talk to each other. But there I stood, in a wood-framed hut with a tin roof and no air circulation. It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. I should have been miserable, but I wasn’t. I should have been hot. Okay, I was hot – extremely hot. But I didn’t want to be anywhere else. That was exactly where I needed to be, that is exactly what I wanted to be doing, and I couldn’t picture a better day. Why? Why was a day so perfect in such miserable and awkward conditions? The Gospel.
You see, in February, when I came to First Federated and learned that the youth were going on a mission trip to the D.R., I was excited. I had never been there, it would be a new experience, and I would get to be a part of something a lot bigger than myself. That excitement quickly turned to fear. Plans kept changing, we didn’t know what we’d be doing, and so we didn’t quite know how to plan for ministry down there. Is this going to be a failure? What if we have a bad time? Are we going to be ready in time? That fear, over a few months, turned into peace. At all of our training times, we worked diligently to plan for this trip. We tried to figure out what we could, but there were still many questions left unanswered. Finally, our group came to this conclusion: whatever we may be doing, even if it’s completely different than what we planned for, we will share the Gospel. The Gospel became the prime focus of every decision we made, every plan we worked out, and every question we had. And even if our plans flopped in a dramatic fashion, we were determined to share the Gospel with everyone we came into contact with. This reliance on the Gospel drove within us a peace that was absolutely amazing. So what could have been awkward situations of unpreparedness turned into opportunities to share the Gospel. Miserable conditions of heat, exhaustion, and pain (hammers and thumbs don’t mix too well) turned into times for us to rely on the Gospel. The Gospel became the focus of every facet of our trip – for us personally and for those we were serving.
I can’t help but think about how we need that same focus now. A lot of things have gone down in the past month that could easily get a lot of us distracted, frustrated, angry, sad, and miserable. We have a new church name, some people were for it, others against it, and still some indifferent. We have some upset that we’re even moving at all, others for it, and still some others who are indifferent. We have changes in staff, budget, focuses, and even future plans. Again, some are for it, some against it, and others indifferent. How in the world do we move forward when there are so many distractions and divisive issues in our midst? The only way – The Gospel.
Even though that time in the D.R. could have been awkward, it wasn’t. Even though I could have made it miserable for myself, and everyone around me, it wasn’t. Even though we had nothing in common with most of the people we served, we were connected with them. How? The Gospel. The Gospel has this ability to break down barriers, walls, awkwardness, and even struggles. It has the ability to penetrate the human heart to the point that we stop thinking about what divides us, and we start to focus on what unites us. That’s what we need as a church. Moving forward, every decision we make as a church, every decision we make individually, needs to be based on The Gospel. Each one of us needs to be so focused on advancing the Gospel that we don’t have time to think on anything else. We can let things get awkward, we can let opportunities pass us by because we’re afraid, or we can choose together to submit to the work that God is doing through us, both individually and corporately. There are amazing times ahead of us as a church – hard, but absolutely amazing. However, it has nothing to do with the name we have, the building we’re in, or even what color the new carpet is. These times are solely based on us coming together under the banner of Christ, focusing on the Gospel, and striving to share that sweet message of salvation with everyone we come into contact with. Not for us, but for the sake of the Gospel.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”- Philippians 1:27