Monday, February 14, 2011

Reflections on Reflecting God's Image To Others

We are missionaries. We would like to think we are missional. We have been in Kiev, Ukraine for 18 months learning Russian and preparing for our ministry of working with present and future pastors in Ukraine in order to see churches planted, strengthened, and mobilized to take the Gospel to parts of the former USSR. But what we are finding out is that it is less about our mission and more about the faithfulness of our Savior who is always on mission.

Our invisible God created the visible world to display His glory and then placed Adam and Eve in the Garden to visibly reflect His glorious character as they managed His Creation. But when they rebelled against Him and forfeited their mission, God made a promise which He ultimately fulfilled in His Son who came to seek and to save the lost. And when He came, He fulfilled every prophecy from God and every requirement that was necessary for man to be reconciled to God (Matthew 5:18).

And so here we are--extending Christ's mission to the Russian-speaking world. But as we learn the language, prepare for classes next Fall, and plan our strategies, we are continually reminded that God's mission starts with us. It's not just His mission through us, but in us. If God's promise was to restore that which sin had marred, that restoration must be evident in the messengers. If we are to be heralds of a Paradise Restored, our lives must take on the look of a movie trailer--providing tantalizing glimpses that evoke a desire to see the rest of the movie.

Jesus did that when He was on earth. And the thing that is most striking was that He didn't just do it through His miracles, but in some of the most mundane moments of life: like taking time for children and eating with people on the lower end of the social spectrum. Not exactly prime stuff for missional efficiency. Just ordinary "love God and your neighbor stuff." The kind of stuff that will one day permeate God's Kingdom.

Which brings me to a story that Kellie recently (and excitedly) shared with me. About a year ago, she noticed while walking to language school each day a Ukrainian women walking from the opposite direction. Several days a week, their paths crossed. Wanting to somehow show some kindness, Kellie began by simply trying to make eye contact (something not generally practiced in the former Soviet Union where the KGB had created an atmosphere of mutual distrust). At first, her efforts seemed to be intentionally ignored. But after about a month, this woman began to acknowledge Kellie by looking back at her. Emboldened by the progress, Kellie added a smile and began to greet in Russian with the words, "Zdrastvuytye." There was still no reciprocation from the woman.

These unscheduled rendezvous went on for several more weeks. Summer passed with no contact. Then in the Fall, they began again as Kellie returned to language school. Again more attempted greetings with no apparent response. Then came Christmas and a break from school. But after Christmas, the unexpected happened. On Kellie's first day back to school, she noticed this time that the woman was not only looking at her, but had been looking for her. There she was...waiting for Kellie! She ran up to Kellie and asked where she had been. Shocked by a voice she had never heard before, Kellie listened and then introduced herself to a woman named Luda. Now, every morning they meet and talk to each other. I know this to be true because I walked one day with Kellie and was also introduced to this woman who obviously feels an inexplicable kinship with my wife. We do not know what God's plans and purposes are for Luda. But we pray that God would allow Kellie to build on the kind deeds of a word and a smile, an opportunity to share with her the Good News of a God who loves and saves people like her. So pray for Luda. And pray for us that we will stay on mission with God's transformative work in us so He can work through us.

Jerry and Kellie

PS Stay tuned as we plan to be blogging twice each month with similar anecdotes and thoughts.