This post is a little longer than most, but hang tight with me and I promise you a little musical treat at the end. I might not be very eloquent with my words, but the topics are important ones.If you know me well, you know that I have always loved global missions, and that I have increasingly become more aware of (and vocal about) global justice and mercy issues. Like many of you, I've been trying to keep up with the news of what is happening in Cairo, Egypt, as protesters are demanding democracy and the ouster of President Mubarak.
So you can imagine my delight this morning at Lake Baldwin Church when our pastor, Mike Tilley, interviewed a young lady named Kate who is a student at American University in Cairo. Kate is returning there tomorrow; her apartment is right in the center of the action, just across the street from government buildings, and a mere five minute walk from the main square. Her friends have told her there is a tank parked right outside her building! Kate is pursuing a master's degree in International Human Rights Law and is actively involved in the Resettlement Legal Aid Project which serves refugees from other parts of Africa, including the Sudan. Many of these families have suffered severely from torture and imprisonment. She attends an Anglican church for ex-pats; her pastor and the congregation are involved in inter-faith dialogue and community service. She mentioned that the Coptic Christians were holding a mass in the main square in memory of protesters who had been killed, and that the Muslims had vowed to stand guard and protect them. According to CNN's report today, "The demonstrations Sunday generally seemed peaceful, often taking on a festive atmosphere. Among those taking part were members of Egypt's Christian minority, who held a Mass in Tahrir Square paying tribute to those killed during clashes. Some Muslim protesters vowed to form a ring around the Christians and protect them during the service. Egypt's population is 10% Christian, a minority mostly made up of Coptic Christians."
Kate's pastor requested prayer along the lines of Psalm 71:1-6, "In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel. For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you."
I spoke to Kate after the service, and she was quite pleased when I asked if I could share this information with you. I also met her mother; I can relate just a little bit to how she might be feeling sending her daughter off into this tumultuous situation, since my daughter Julia went to Bolivia for three months around the same time as a government coup there. ("A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.") At least Italy is a little more stable place to send Rachel and Joanna for three months this time around! They left here on Wednesday and love being in Chiavari. (Happy 20th birthday, Rachel!)
Kate is already aware of International Justice Mission but hadn't heard yet about author and speaker Carolyn Custis James, who is trying to mobilize Christian women to get involved in global justice issues. I had read her book When Life and Belief Collide, about women and theology, which Thad bought me for Christmas. When I went to buy a second copy to send with my girls to my friend Jeannette Walti in Italy, I found another of her books, The Gospel of Ruth, which also touches on global women's issues as it relates the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. I'm right in the middle of reading that now. Then, doing a web search, I found that her newest book, Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women, will make its debut at her Synergy2011 conference March 4-6 here in Orlando. I can't attend the whole conference, but I am planning on at least going to the Saturday evening session presented by Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer prize winning Chinese-American journalist and co-author of the NY Times best-selling book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Ms. WuDunn (who is not a professing Christian) will be speaking about the ongoing violence & oppression against women and the belief that "Women aren't the problem - they're the solution." I think this will be very eye-opening to anyone who gets stuck thinking of what's going on what around them. Time to take the blinders off!
Also this morning at church, Mike Tilley started a new sermon series on Jonah, reminding us that "All people matter to God" -- no matter where they live -- and that "God gives us unexpected assignments" even when it means preaching the gospel of grace to your enemies. For ultimately, God's perfect justice (against sin) and mercy (for sinners) meet at the cross of Jesus.
Last Sunday, the final sermon in the "Rhythms of Grace" series was on the Great Commission. Dave Abney encouraged us to look around for opportunities to serve in our communities, as well as further the cause of global missions. As part of a responsive reading, we recited an Affirmation of Faith from the Church of South India. "We believe that God has called us to a partnership for the continuance of his mission in this time and place, and that, though we live in the midst of confusion, turmoil, exploitation, oppression and in the grip of the forces of death, we are called to be instruments of peace and justice."
The justice theme again! And that wasn't all! Josh Bales, the worship leader, led us in singing "A Hymn for All the World." When I looked it up on-line later, I realized he had written it. I asked him this morning if I could include the lyrics here. He mentioned that you can download it on iTunes (it's from his CD Underneath the Armor), so now I have it on my iPod. (I also downloaded his renditions of "Psalm 84" and "May the Mind of Christ My Savior.") Just 99 cents each for great music! He also said you can find it on YouTube, so here it is, followed by the lyrics.
"A Hymn for All the World"
by Josh Bales
There is no place in all the world
you do not call your own.
Creator of all peoples
every nation every tongue.
From every corner of the earth,
boundless is your reign.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
hear us sing your praise.
We your people call to you,
asking for your help.
God be merciful to those
whose pain we've never felt.
Give them rest from worldly sorrow,
bless them Lord with food to eat.
We ask you, Gentle Shepherd
call the ones that are your sheep.
All seeing Lord, now look to those
in city and in field,
Who seek to spread your fame and love,
this broken world to heal.
See your persecuted children,
soothe their violent wounds.
In their weakness be their strength,
that they might hope in you.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
may your kingdom come
In all the earth as it is in heaven,
may your will be done.
In all the world in all our hearts,
Jesus you are King.
We wait, we hope, we trust, we know,
your face we soon shall see.
For justice & mercy in the grace of Jesus,
P.S. If you haven't had the chance yet, take a peek at my