Friday, June 08, 2012

Skinner Family Prayer Letter

"Let the weak say, 'I am strong'" (Joel 3:10)

I like movie previews. The best ones give us a tantalizing look at the film they summarize. The funny parts. The drama. Just an impression of intense emotional struggle or sudden relief. An expertly-crafted preview can even make a mediocre movie look entertaining. But for the best films, a tiny glimpse of the highlights could never oversell what's in store.

Movie previews are like testimonies. A committed Christian's testimony can only represent a few of the highlights—glimpses of God's intervening grace in their lives that they've been privileged to perceive and interpret for us.

One of the best parts of helping with the approval and training process for new Online Missionaries is getting to review the testimonies of the applicants. Often the story starts out like a tragedy. For instance, one applicant was molested by her biological father. She felt immense pain and self-loathing. Then, to her surprise, she found that no less an authority than the Word of God had better things to say about her. God said she was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” When she walked toward the altar following the invitation, she says it felt like something was pushing her back and something else was pulling her forward.

Another had been on the FBI's most wanted list and even spent 11 years in Federal Prison - seeing and experiencing terrible things before turning to Christ. One man even fled a war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and walked with his family to Zimbabwe. (Over 300 miles) God miraculously provided them protection, food and water, as people died all around them. Both men testified that they sensed God saying He had plans for them.

As a child, one man spent years walking with crutches because of a bone disease. He asked his mother “why God picked me to be crippled.” She replied that God had a special plan for him and wanted to make sure he was strong enough to do it.

These wounded people are now part of our ministry. They are the weak, made strong for Christ's sake. As the Apostle Paul said, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) The beginning of the same letter explains a little more of this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

These applicants have experience with trauma, with temptations and abuse. And they know from experience that Christ came to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15) None of it goes to waste, as they likewise encounter visitors who say:

“I desperately need Jesus in my life. Right now I am so confused,I thought I knew God who would really take care of me I call upon him for answers to my problems but somehow there seems to be no reply I feel so alone.”
“I have always heard of Salvation but Can you please enlighten me more about it?”
“Could God can forgive all my sins?”
“Just need your help, most importantly spiritual..I want to really get close to God the creator of the world.”
“i want 2 know how 2 pray?”
“why of me still alive this world? If every i feel lonely sad and hurt and no hope”

From such weak, tortured and tangled voices come the next generation of storytellers. Like movie previews, testimonies also precede the full revelation of the story. If you take time to read Hebrews 11 carefully, you’ll glimpse a few amazing revelations that aren’t explicitly part of the stories from which they're drawn. That’s because Hebrews 11 gives us a little more flavor of how God will tell the stories of His children. Like one of my favorite verses, Ephesians 2:7, I think it’s there to whet our appetites for what we’re destined to one day experience:

“...that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)

I will close with one final story - one that I just heard today. Dorothy was in her 80’s when she became an Online Missionary. She had recently lost her husband, and, in her thinking, really had nothing left to live for. But she saw a presentation about GMO in her Sunday School class, and was reminded that she had a computer. She could use e-mail. So for the next 3½ years, she shared Christ with seekers all over the world on the Internet, excitedly checking to see who had written her back all during the day and night. Yesterday, her own failing health forced her to retire, but what could have been a sad and lonely conclusion to her story took a dramatic turn upward because of how she spent the last few years of her life. I’m warmed by just anticipating what she will soon experience. God changed her life and gave her a fruitful worldwide ministry just before she meets Him face to face.

Can’t you sometimes see glimpses of the “feature presentation” that lies just beyond this preview? Don’t you yearn for the rest of the story? When this corruptible has put on incorruption and this mortal has put on immortality... when the country it seems you've been homesick for all of your life becomes your experience, and the invisible is revealed as the true reality; that’s when we will see what God was really doing!

We know and experience some of what God is doing through you as you manage your life in such a way as to be able to invest in our work. You help make all of this possible - and we will one day share His joy over the whole story. We are always thanking Him for the strength He shows through you.

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