March 11, 2011

Hear His Voice

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:17 am by Steve

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

If you had an opportunity to follow Jesus, would you do it? Sounds like an easy one to answer, until you think about it. And that’s the problem isn’t it, we don’t think about it. Most of us think of Christianity in the abstract, taking little time to really consider the practical implications of what Jesus said, did and asked of those who followed Him. So much so that when the real Jesus does comes knocking, we’re not that prepared for the shock-and-awe of who Jesus is and where He’s asking us to follow. So we create labels for those opportunities like ridiculous, outrageous, impractical, or simply crazy, and then watch God Himself walk right on past.

Such was my life and my spiritual journey until I met Barb and Jim Richter in one of those odd ‘chance’ encounters that creates an itch in your soul that no amount of religious busyness can cure. I first met Jim and Barb who live in Ohio last July when they visited the church I pastor in West Virginia as part of a Florida mission team. Coincidental? During their visit we were able to share a meal together, talk at length about their passion for Haiti and in general make a connection that looked an awful lot like a one of those crazy ideas. You see for most of my life I’ve been pretty comfortable listening to God filtered through stained glass and well worn traditions and translated through carefully crafted liturgies and my favorite hymns. But hearing about Haiti was different and I knew it. Up until then I really didn’t know what following the Shepherd involved. Maybe I really didn’t want to know or maybe God just knew I wasn’t ready yet to see the world as it is. Either way I knew this was no ordinary opportunity, it was crazy.

Over the months that followed I badgered Barb with too many questions, thought and prayed about Haiti, and worried how in the world I was going to explain this to my family and friends. I solved that last one by not telling them until the week before I left! In the end I’m not sure who took a bigger leap of faith, Jim and Barb or me.

So on February 1, 2011, I set off on my journey to follow Jesus to Haiti not really knowing what to expect but willing to experience the unexpected. During the week of our stay, my prayer each morning was simple but sincere “God grant me an encounter with you today that will change my life, no matter the cost.”

What God did was open the eyes of my heart to see the Kingdom of God, perhaps for the first time. I was so inspired and moved by the passion and spiritual connection Jim and Barb have with the Haitian people. In a country of unimaginable poverty, they have planted an oasis of hope for children who have no family and invite them to become part of theirs, to live, learn and know in Christ, and to ultimately become ambassadors of Christ to transform Haiti.

While in Haiti we were all blessed to participate in a true movement of the Spirit of God when six young people were baptized in the blue Caribbean waters. Through Jim and Barb’s passion for sharing Christ, I saw a man living in the most deplorable conditions accept Christ and come to church the next morning to hear me preach. (of course no one ever said if he came back the following Sunday) We played soccer with the kids, we shared our gifts and were overwhelmed by their love and generosity. I experienced an honest faith in Haiti that has been purified by adversity and is stronger through weakness. The Haitians love to sing and praise God, not for what they have but for who He is.

So much happened and so much was experienced in Haiti that I am unable to put into words. There impression on my life, however, will continue to be a significant part of my future.

I wish to thank God for Jim and Barb as well as Bato and Gina for their passion to share the Love of Christ in a real, honest and personal way without seeing borders, color or economic status. Maybe, in the end, the Christian life really is outrageous, impractical and simply crazy. And still he says “Follow me.”

Blessings,


Steve Gedon

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