Reflection

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours: Reflection from GCG

By Esther Chengo

Global Cohort Gathering (GCG) 

Every year, cohort members from different countries gather for a global leadership retreat, where they participate in trainings and also get to be mentored and network amongst each other. The 2019 GCG was held in Los Angeles, and the theme was ‘Catalyst for Gospel Action’. Cohort members looked through the lens of Christian leaders and professionals who are implementing the hope and truth of the Gospel in some of the massive and well-known areas of their cities. 


Reflections 

Participating in the 2019 GCG was quite a wholesome learning experience for me. Listening to speakers such as Bethany Hoang talking about God’s passion for justice and for the vulnerable, and His invitation to join Him in the same space as He brings wholeness and restoration. 

As part of the program, we got to visit a mission in Skid Row, Downtown LA and do a prayer walk in the district. This was my first time to interact with homeless people living in tents on paved streets.

As part of the program, we got to visit a mission in Skid Row, Downtown LA and do a prayer walk in the district. This was my first time to interact with homeless people living in tents on paved streets. 

As we walked down the street from the Mission, we passed a set of tents, where in one tent, I heard a spirited shouting match between a lady and a man, with the lady pleading for the man to stop. 

While still taking this in, at the street corner, we walked straight into a birthday party! There was a young lady, turning 30, and she was dressed in a pink dress and a tiara, surrounded by her family, listening to music and dancing. When they saw our group, they asked us what we were doing, and we mentioned we were having a prayer walk in the area. So, they asked us to pray for them, and our team leader directly asked me to pray for the birthday girl. Incidentally, having turned 30 just weeks before, I felt that God couldn’t have mistakenly chosen me to be the one to pray. I thought about my realities, I thought about hers. Being 30 and probably wondering what the decade ahead would bring. And I prayed for her. 

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We continued with our prayer walk. Most of the people I saw in or around the tents were senior citizens. No young children were in sight that day. Some were sleeping in their tents, others were seated on mats outside their tents, others were listening to music, others were having a meal, others were deep in conversation, while others sat and stared into oblivion. The prayers continued. 

After a couple of blocks, we got to a street corner, and I saw my first ever soup kitchen. There was a church that was distributing food, and I took note of this particular elderly lady. She wore a tea-length dress that had seemingly seen better days. She was pushing a hand cart with one hand and with the other, she held onto her jacket potato meal. The hand cart probably held all her possessions, as she seemed to have a tight grip and sharp eye. 

She walked slowly toward our group, and stopped right next to us. And she asked if she could sing us a song! I looked her in the face, and immediately faltered. Half of her face, from her eyes to her shin, had been scalded. Yet, the beauty of her smile caused the rest to fade away. And she sang a song about how Jesus loves her. Could have been the renown “Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me…” but I was moved. How could she sing about God’s love, yet her only assured meal was the one in her hand? How could she sing about God’s love, yet she has probably been judged by those she met even before she opened her mouth to speak? How could she sing of God’s love, yet her tomorrow was so unsure? How could she sing of God’s love, yet her family had probably deserted her? Where did her confidence come from? How could she sing the Lord’s song in a Strange Land?

As I asked myself these questions, before I knew what was happening, this lady opened up her arms and drew me in for a hug! It was so spontaneous, it could only have come from the heart! She then hugged two other people in the team, and turned and continued pushing her hand cart, as she walked away limping. I could only think about when her last hug had been, and when her next would be. And the prayers continued.

I see no better way to end this reflection, than to quote from one of the GCG theme songs that Sharon Ma led us in: 

“Heal my heart and make it clean, Open up my eyes to the things unseen,
Show me how to love like You have loved me;
Break my heart for what breaks Yours, Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause;
As I walk from earth into eternity.”
— Hosanna, Hillsong

Esther Chengo is our Nairobi Project Coordinator and works at HESABIKA.

When Empty, Cracked Vessels are Good

We live in an age age that demands perfection more than ever. With today’s technology, airbrushing has never been easier, if not more convenient, to display or sell the truth. Images of things we market and sell are airbrushed, and even various images of ourselves.

First, we airbrush the photos (the way we look) we post on social media. Then, we “airbrush” our character or personality to match what we want others to perceive of us. Soon, we easily “airbrush” our own spirituality. Now, we are not showing our true selves.

Why do we do this? Is it because you don’t think you look good enough or are enough? Do you fear not having it all? This basically means that you donʼt believe that God knows what He is doing when he created you. You donʼt trust Godʼs design (of you).

There is a practice in Japan, the Kintsukuroi method, where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. Now picture two Vessels. One being perfect and intact and the second having cracks, but with hints of gold. Which is more beautiful and real? Which of these vessels would you like to be?

How To See and Embrace Your Cracks

No one is perfect. So, the choice is yours to plaster your own cracks or let God plaster your cracks. Who better to go back and fix the original masterpiece than the Potter Himself? He designed and made the vessel in the first place. He is the only One that knows what your functions are and why you are designed the way you are. He has called you to fulfill a purpose that only He knows. If you understand that, let me share a little of what I went through when I made the decision regarding my own cracks.

For me, the process began with a willing heart, prayers and self-reflection. You need to be still, be willing, and be honest. But the hardest, most crucial part was being courageous enough to be vulnerable and be real. This process also involves the help of others. So, do not be afraid to seek trusted Godly counsel or communities. Weʼve become so good at plastering our own cracks that sometimes it is hard for us to be able to see what is real and what is not an original part of us.

Only when an honest, trusted opinion gets lovingly spoken to us, do we realize we have cracks and see where they are. This is the hardest part for me. Some of the things that I cover my cracks with is perfectionism, self-sufficiency and feminism. And to top it off, I keep a safe (emotionally and spiritually) distance from people. If you maintain a safe distance, people cannot see you for who you truly are, an imperfect person. But with that action, you forget the importance of your imperfections...that your imperfections is the greatest testimony of His mercy. When there are cracks, there is room and need for grace.

“for My strength is made perfect in weakness” - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I am done being seen as one who has it all together. If anything, that is the biggest misperception that others often have of me. For those that have earned my trust and see me for who I am, they know how far from perfect I am from it.

The Need for Empty Vessels

God can only pour into empty vessels. Grace is flowing and can overflow. So, in order to receive God, you need room for Godʼs oil in your vessel. But you also need to keep your vessel clean so that the pure oil may continue to flow to and through you.

The “cracks” are what sometimes prevents us from showing our true selves or God’s glory. But it is those cracks and conflicts that actually best represent His blessings and allows His glory to shine through the most. You are Godʼs chosen vessels, imperfect and with cracks. Cracks ensure His glory and allow His grace to be visible. This way people wonʼt compliment the vessels, but in turn, might value the oil that is placed inside.

Pour out what is inside your vessel. Leave your vessel empty, by pouring into Him, so that He may pour into and make you anew. One must have the courage to pour out our own pride, opinions, insecurities, walls and defenses. Only then can you come before the Lord, willing, vulnerable, honest and ready to be renewed in His grace. Let God repair the cracks (part of His original design) that you have tried to plaster yourself, and let Him fill it with gold, His grace.

Pour out to People - The call to love

The main principle is that you pour love to other people, knowing that you are pouring for the Lord. This is in spite of how they may respond, appreciated or not, and regardless of whether they asked. Remember the source from where it comes from and the very reason why you began pouring out to others in the first place. Continue to offer a word of encouragement, a touch of love, an offer of strength, but no matter what, you gotta keep pouring.

The concept of Daily Sustenance

“Your mercies are new every morning” - Lamentations 3:22-23

2 Kings 4:5-6 - The widow poured in secret (behind closed doors) into empty vessels

When vessels are empty, they are ready. Ready to receive, ready to give, ready to daily draw from Him. Usually, one gives as much as they “have” or can “afford” to give. But know that because God is your source, you will never have nothing to give. So, you should always give and let His blessings continue to flow upon you and others. Let the oil continue to flow out and into vessels.Just as the Israelites were told not to save manna for tomorrow, trust that what God gives to you today is meant to be shared for today. Do not hold back worried that it won’t be enough. God will always provide just enough not only for you but for others that you want to share it with and with those God wants you to share it with. Then you come again to Him tomorrow for another portion.

My prayer today

Lord, I believe that You have given me what You have required. I trust that I have enough. Enough love, strength, encouragement and faith to give. I choose to not to wait until I have what I think I need, before I can give.

I trust that You are sovereign. So, if You have led me here, I believe that You have a plan. I thank you for all the paths which are aligned with Yours. And I trust You with the detours that You have lovingly let me take out of my own misdoing. Help me now to turn those detours for Your glory and for your purpose.

Give to me, in all your ways, just enough for today, for myself, to give to others, and to all those You have placed in my life.

Word of Encouragement:

I believe that every decision you have made until now has led you to where you are at this moment in time. You are where you are supposed to be, doing what God needs you to do, not later, but now.

Sonia Wirya, Jakarta Cohort 2018

Loving Your City

When you think about creation and God's original intent for mankind, what do you envision? Does your mind immediately fill with images of wide open spaces filled with beautiful creatures living in perfect harmony and free from the busyness, noise, and clutter that comes with urban living? It is easy to think of the Garden of Eden as the ideal dwelling place, but it is just as easy to forget that God's original mandate to man was to "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." In fact, as we look at Scripture, the Bible gives a very positive view of urban areas and even gives us a glimpse of the eternal future of all believers:  the Holy City, the new Jerusalem.

Cities have a dual nature:  the capacity for great good if they are God-exalting, or the capacity for tremendous evil if they are man-exalting. A God-exalting culture brings glory to God's name and is a means of serving God and neighbor, but a man-exalting culture results when something is done with the motivation of self-recognition. As we look back over mankind's history as it unfolds through Scripture's narrative, we see how this dual nature has played out in cities like Babel, Nineveh, Babylon, and the Roman Empire. Interestingly, the city is also a glimpse into God's redemptive story and one which should give us encouragement to love our city and to be excited about its tremendous potential as a mission field.

The city of Babel is an excellent example of what can happen when the potential good of a city is perverted. The inhabitants—who the Bible describes as resourceful, ambitious, driven, and hardworking...all good things—set out to build a city and a tower. But instead of using their talents to bring glory to God, the people sought to make a name for themselves and to avoid being scattered over the face of the earth. Their actions were in direct opposition to God's command to Noah and his sons that they "be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth." Their hearts were filled with pride, and their actions brought about God's judgment. As we read the Bible's account of the city of Babel, we are reminded that God will not let evil go unpunished; but we can also be encouraged that there is hope for our cities. When we recognize how the potential for good in our city has been perverted, we have the opportunity to step in and bring God's light to very dark places.

Nineveh, like Babel, was a city filled with people with evil intentions. In fact, Nineveh had built up quite a bad reputation among its neighbors. As we read the Bible's account, we are even told that Nineveh's evil had come up before God. But instead of intervening the way He did at Babel, or bringing swift destruction as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah, God gave the Ninevites a forty-day warning. It can be easy to look at the evil that is being done in our cities and wonder why God does not step in and act, but we forget that "our Lord's patience means salvation." The people of Nineveh believed God's message through the prophet Jonah and repented. They turned from their wicked ways, and God showed the city mercy. Throughout Israel's history, prophets had been raised up and sent to preach to God's people to call them to repentance, but Jonah was the first prophet sent to a pagan city. Jonah and Nineveh are a new phase in the unfolding story of God's redemptive mission. No matter how evil a city is, God wants everyone to have the opportunity to repent, which is why he is so patient with us.

As believers, we know that this place is not our home. I 1 Peter 2:11 Peter writes that “we are like aliens in a foreign land, eagerly awaiting our return to our heavenly dwelling.” But just as God told the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah that they were to settle down and invest in the good of Babylon during their time as exiles, we too are to be contributors, not just consumers, in our places of residence. Hananiah, the false prophet, dishonestly prophesied that God would bring the Jewish nation back to Jerusalem within two years of being exiled in Babylon. Instead, the exile lasted seventy years. If the people had believed Hananiah, they would have remained disengaged in their new city, waiting day after day for God's imminent deliverance. But through Jeremiah, God reminded the people that He was the one who had placed them in Babylon, that this was His plan, and that He wanted them to pray for the city and seek its peace and prosperity, promising that if the city prospered, the Israelites too would prosper (Jeremiah 29:7). In the same way, we as believers may long for heaven, but we should not put our lives on hold simply because we prefer to be somewhere else. Instead, we must recognize that God has placed us in our city for a reason; it is His plan, and we are to make the most of our time here.

Have you ever considered why the early church grew so quickly and the gospel message spread so rapidly throughout the province of Asia? The believers' strategy was to evangelize the cities. Acts 17, 18, and 19 tell us that Paul made it a point to travel to Athens, the intellectual center of the Greco-Roman world, Corinth, the commercial center of the empire, and Ephesus, Rome's religious center. At the end of the book of Acts, Paul makes it to the empire's capital, Rome, the military and political center. Major cities are the unavoidable crossroads of societies and the place from which culture is influenced and ideas flow. As we consider our evangelism strategy, it should give us great encouragement as we think about the potential our cities have to reach entire nations!

From the time of David onward, the prophets spoke of a perfect urban society that was yet to come. We are told that the city of God, the new Jerusalem, will be "the joy of the whole earth." The Bible's narrative recounts the great spiritual conflict throughout history of the struggle between a society that is created for self-salvation, self-service, and self-glorification versus a society that is devoted to God's glory. This future city will be the culmination of that history. The new Jerusalem is the reason for our hope and why we strive to share the Good News with people. Our cities are temporary; God's city is eternal.

The final goal of Christ's redemptive work is not to return believers to a rural, Edenic world. From God's command in Genesis that man "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it," to the new Jerusalem as described in Revelation, it is clear that God's intention for mankind is that we raise up cities that glorify him and be good stewards of the resources He has entrusted to us. Our work in our cities is vitally important, and we can take great comfort, just as the Israelites in exile did, that God, himself, has placed us here and that He has a plan.

It is a good thing for us to love our cities and it is a good thing for us to seek the wellbeing of our cities. God's heart longs for their repentance and redemption. Shouldn't ours?

Tommy Lee