Saturday, February 24, 2007

a foretaste of heaven

To some, hanging out with a mob of missionaries might not sound very exciting. But honestly, being a part of the InterAct Alaska Winter Retreat has been an incredible experience.

Yesterday, during the worship time, I felt like I was standing on holy ground.

I think that Alaska represents one of the toughest mission fields around. Think about the analogy of evangelizing being like sowing seeds. Just as the ground up here remains frozen most of the year--it's called permafrost--so the human heart has remained resistant to God's furrow. Many seeds have been scattered over the years--all the stories I've heard from these precious saints attest to that--but so few have been able to penetrate the hardened hearts and take root.
And many of the seeds that have sprung up, were choked out by the thorns and thistles that grow all too well in this frigid soil.
I know that more than a few struggle with feelings of futility and frustration. But they keep tossing out the seeds of Life, one handful at a time.

During this afternoon's hymn-singing session, I sat between two men who have spent the vast majority of their lives serving the Native people of Alaska. They have seen their share of heartache and struggle--but they've also pioneered two of the most effective ministries in the State of Alaska (in my opinion). Through their school and camp ministries, they've touched hundreds of Native kids with the love of Christ over the decades. They have been so very faithful and it was my great privilege to worship alongside them.

Tonight, however, I was sandwiched between beautiful Native believers--men and women who were touched and delivered from darkness by the ministries of the men I worshiped with earlier. Now they serve as lights and beacons of hope in their communities, and though they are few, they are growing strong in the Lord. Sometimes as we sang, I would just be quiet and listen to their beautiful voices, lifted up in tribute to Jesus.
It was truly a taste of heaven . . .