December 23, 2019

The Advent of small things

Advent greetings to you! After global travels on a rather expansive scale this year, during this holiday season the Lord is reminding me of his interest in small things...

In my role as Theological Education Specialist I had the privilege in 2019 to teach emerging church leaders in Ireland, Burundi, London, Myanmar, India and Thailand, and to stretch out even further through my involvement with Theologians Without Borders and as an affiliate faculty member with Fuller Seminary. Actually, God let you and me do it together
thank you for your faithful prayer and financial support! This sort of work is exciting and wonderful. God’s world is big and dynamic and diverse, and his church is growing strong in what we might consider the most unlikely places.

But right now the Lord is drawing my attention instead to his grace in smaller moments and encounters. Unpacking boxes and painting rooms in my new house in Richmond, VA. Cooking for five for Thanksgiving – my daughter and son-in-law, toddler grandson, and a local friend. Hosting a scaled-down version of my annual Christmas party with lovely friends helping bring this tradition to my new house. Meals and coffee chats here and there with a few special new friends in the Richmond area. This quiet Christmas week in South Carolina with my sweet parents-in-law who continue to demonstrate God’s love to me so generously. And perhaps most of all the birth of another little grandson last Thursday. Simple, ordinary things that refract God’s character and redemptive mission every bit as much as do those larger more dramatic ministry events. I’m struck that the Creator God of the grand cosmic gesture so often chooses to do his work on such an intimate human scale.

Which of course is what we’re celebrating at Christmas, isn’t it? In order to bring us back to himself God entered this broken creation not in his overwhelming power but as a tiny, vulnerable, needy infant. A small baby. Small spaces. Small moments. It surprises me that so often this is exactly where God chooses to make himself known, to initiate his glory to come. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Emmanuel, God with us in the small places, drawing us toward himself as he rules over all the earth.

October 4, 2019

Namaste from Richmond!

Namaste from… Richmond, Virginia! Here’s my report on September spent somewhere in South Asia. Because of continually increasing sensitivities in that region I don’t send it until I get somewhere else. And I’m not going to mention the name of the institution I visited. You and Ralphie can use your Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pins to fill in the blanks.

In fact, due to those increasing sensitivities my friend Teresa travelled with me from Ireland this time and we started in Mumbai, India, at the end of August. Since we were traveling on tourist visas we had a great time touring, shopping and drinking tea in various locales. Just two cheerful old ladies enjoying the local attractions! Then as I’ve done so many times before, I got to spend the month of September doing biblical hermeneutics with another new crop of emerging leaders in a first-tier theological training institution in the Majority World. I was curious to see that this year’s students trended somewhat younger and more urban than before. Which meant stronger educational backgrounds, so I was able to challenge them a bit more academically. But I also missed the village-based experiences and ministry contexts that the older students so often bring with them. Still, a great group of thoughtful South Asian believers committed to taking their place in God’s mission in their own contexts. One of the privileges of visiting annually is that I get to track with them from year to year, as well as catch up each September with former students and with friends from the local church I attend. Precious relationships! I'll include below a few of the sweet thank you notes I received from this year’s class.

I left South Asia to fly to Wilmington, NC, in time for the quarterly meeting of my EPC Mid-Atlantic Presbytery. A rare treat for me to get there. I invited them – and you're invited, too! – to come to Ireland next summer to join me for Serge’s Irish Prayer Summit, July 25-Aug 1, 2020! As you’ve probably heard me say, the Republic of Ireland is considered the least evangelized English-speaking country in the world. The percentage of evangelical believers is something like 2-3% of the population. Irish church planters and leaders often work in challenging and isolated situations. We’d love for you to come meet some of these leaders on site in and around Dublin and Cork. You’ll learn what God’s doing in the Irish church as you intercede for and encourage our Irish partners.

And then finally, finally, last weekend I arrived at my new townhouse in Richmond, VA. So exciting! No, I’m not moving back from Dublin, just establishing a homebase in the US near family with an eye toward eventual retirement. After 30+ moves in my 60 years as a Navy child and then international worker, I’m awed to think that, God willing, this is my ‘forever house’ – specially chosen to grow older in comfortably. If your life is even somewhat as mobile and transient as mine is, you can imagine how good that feels. There are boxes everywhere to unpack, walls to be painted, and an endless ‘to do’ list, but it’s really HOME.

I plan to be in Richmond until mid-January, punctuated by visits to partner churches in VA, NC and SC, along with a trip to Thailand, November 4-14, to help with a theological education program that brings groups of pastors from a less-accessible country for training. A little later in November I’ll be in San Diego, CA, representing Theologians Without Borders at overlapping meetings of three big academic theology organizations, SBL, IBR and ETS. If you’re planning to be at any of those, message me and let’s meet up! I’m also teaching New Testament Introduction online this fall for Fuller Seminary, which fortunately I can do from just about anywhere. (And fortunately the Verizon guy installed my wifi this morning!) But mostly this week I’m just excited about unpacking those boxes, getting ready to paint a few walls, and starting to work my way down the new-house ‘to do’ list…

As always, a deep and sincere thank you to all of you who join me on these journeys though prayer, encouragement, and financial support. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Cor 9:12). I'm looking forward to catching up with many of you in the coming weeks and months!

South Asia highlights

Playing tourist, elephants that suddenly paraded by, classroom time, and hanging out with my church home group

Sweet memories with these students!