25 June 2005

Real World: WorldMish Training 2005

I'm proud to be the first to introduce to you...Team Taiwan! This fetching portait of the nine of us plus our fearless coordinator was taken after our satisfying meal together at the Grand Shanghai Restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Team Taiwan is a collection of committed folk from around the country. The team will travel to ChiaYi, Taiwan, where we will teach English to students at Concordia Academy or Middle School and more importantly, tell the message about Jesus. This, as we learned over the past two weeks, is no light task. It will require reliance on the Almighty, a willingness to make an utter fool of oneself, and a little hand-eye coordination.

As LCMS World Mission (hereafter referred to simply as World Mish) knew we'd need a little help with all three of the previous initiatives, they invited all of us along with the rest of the new missionaries out to St. Paul for 2 weeks in an attempt to help us develop some mad skills. Because skills are important.

Together, the assembly of 55 soon-to-be intrepid polytopians plumbed the depths of every corner of missiology, from Sharing the Gospel Naturally (thank you Jim Found) to Spiritual Warfare; from Culture Shock to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Little did we know that the sessions of this orientation would play a minor role in our spiritual formation throughout the week. (Cue music). It's written in Ecclesiastes that the Lord had written eternity in the hearts of men and it's true that most of the time we scamper about on the face of this planet in total ignorance of this "eternity". However, when the Lord gathered that group of 55 missionaries in St. Paul, he knew that through the work of the Holy Spirit, we'd each get a taste of what it'll be like to celebrate with an eternal, heavenly family.

Though we didn't know it was happening while we were praying or singing, while we were sharing a meal or a game of ultimate frisbee, while we were caring for one of us unexpectedly hospitalized or staying up late to figure out the meaning of life, our Counselor was making very tender stitches. Now, as we can look back at what He's woven, we see the moments and hours as thousands of blessings. I myself have no guarantee that I'll see all of these "new" brothers and sisters again in earthly life as they cover the ends of the earth, but the mystery of the union alone moves my heart to give glory to God. If the Lord in his awesome power can create a memorable bond between his children in just two weeks, imagine the tapestry he can weave between, for instance, myself and a Taiwanese child who doesn't know him yet, or more importantly, himself and one of his children.

Suddenly finding myself "back in the real world" after all this, sitting by myself at the airport and sorting through the blessings, I faced a whole new world of people ignorant to the incredible blessing of "eternity". I rejoiced to remember that as much as the Lord had sought me, called me, and walked with me, he also seeks every "lost sheep" with undying tenacity. Even now, as I revel in a whole new perspective of the breadth and width of the Lord's kingdom, I suspect the blessings to come will eclipse what I now understand onehundredfold.

To the missionaries: I praise God every time I remember each of you. I am blessed to have been written into a brief chapter in your lives, and I count your continued presence in my life a gift. I have all faith that the Lord will multiply your gifts for his glory. Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.

*Apologies to MTV