27 Nov 2011

Skype with Pinner Free Church

Today we were up at the almost civilised hour of 5.10am to have a live skype chat with one of our link churches - Pinner Free Church. It was lovely to hear some friendly voices and especially to be prayed for in English! Thanks guys!

The church has a new student minister - Jamie Kidd - so please pray for them all as they seek what God has in store for them over the next few months, and for Jamie as he juggles college and church life.

We should have a new prayer letter coming out in the next few days, so watch this space for more news!

12 Nov 2011

God Wins

Last night we were invited to a ‘presentation’ of the book of Revelation at a local seminary. Despite being a little cynical, a couple of friends were going so we decided to tag along. After sitting outside in the queue for some time, and being warned that there might be some explosions in the Battle of Armageddon(!), we were led as a group through a series of scenes (which were, to their credit, very well produced) attempting to depict the horrors of what is allegedly going to happen in the end times. We were shown the chaos and destruction on earth immediately after all the Christians are raptured, with car accidents and bloody corpses everywhere. We had women and children grabbing our hands and begging us to help them as they starved on the roadside. We were forced into an interrogation room and watched as the newly-formed military force who had taken power (and who had a logo and initials suspiciously similar to the United Nations) tortured and killed those who refused to be branded with the ‘Mark of the Beast’. We had guns pointed in our faces and were pushed and shoved through dark rooms in an experience designed to be as disorientating and terrifying as possible. Eventually we arrived before God himself, who dispassionately consigned those whose names were not in the Book of Life to be thrown into the fires of hell. Finally, we were all sat down in a room and told that if we wanted to avoid the events we’d just seen, we just needed to pray a simple prayer saying that we believed in God. Then we were sent home.

Although, as suggested above, we had suspected that this was the sort of thing we were going to, we left feeling a mixture of sadness and anger. Not because we doubt the sincerity or good intentions of those behind the production, but because what we saw only told half the story. Leaving aside the ongoing arguments about whether Revelation should be understood as a prediction of how things will pan out in the future or (more likely) a theological and political commentary on contemporary events, surely most people would agree that the loudest voice crying out from the pages of Revelation is not the voice of gloom and doom, but rather a far more positive message: God wins. The Lamb is victorious. Evil is conquered. And the day is coming when the God who mourns for his creation will make everything new; when there will be no more pain, or crying or death (Rev. 21:4).

And this is where, ultimately, the presentation we saw last night failed. It was so occupied with trying to scare the pants off people to make them convert that it forgot to offer any sort of positive vision of what they would be converting to. Accepting God was an escape plan from hell rather than an invitation to something better. God was portrayed as an emotionless tyrant rather than a loving God who wants to see all his creation come back into relationship with him. 

Peru is a country where people are still reeling from the after effects of civil war, where grinding poverty still blights a huge percentage of the population, and where the majority of the scenes we saw above are or have been a regular part of daily life. The people of Peru don’t need reminding of these things – they’ve seen them. And so it seems to us that what the Church has to offer above all here is not a vision of life without God but rather a vision of life with him; a vision of the coming kingdom which we can begin to taste and touch here and now. A vision of hope, forgiveness, redemption, justice and love, which forms communities of people living in the knowledge that God's promises are true and seeking to enact that truth in their lives together. Because the Lamb is victorious. God has won. And that is the good news we have to share.

10 Nov 2011

Peru Action Team 2011-12

As we said in our previous entry, last week we had the privilege of meeting the first ever BMS Action Team to Peru! Jess, Rob, Amy and Liz arrived in Peru a couple of weeks ago and will be working for 6 months with BMS workers Scott and Anjanette Williamson in Cusco.

We really enjoyed meeting them and getting to know them a little last week. At the moment they're mostly settling into life at altitude, learning Spanish and generally helping out wherever they can. We'd love it if you could pray for them as they continue to settle in. Pray for them as a team - that they would be a good support for each other, pray for their language learning - we certainly know how tough it feels early on! And please pray for those they are going to meet and serve. Pray that in everything they would be great witnesses to the love of Jesus and to his good news!

Action Teams is the Gap Year programme run by BMS and is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 23. After one month's training, young people go out in small teams for six months to join with BMS workers or local people who are seeking to share God's love in a totally new country and context. They then return to the UK and tour churches for eight weeks, sharing all that they've learnt and experienced. It's a great opportunity! If you're interested in being on an Action Team next year check out the BMS website for more details.  

3 Nov 2011

Day of the Dead

Yesterday many of the Catholics here in South America (as well as in Europe and other places) celebrated the Day of the Dead. We are in Cusco this week meeting our new boss and visiting the Sacred Valley again, so had the chance to go with the Peru Action Team to the local cemetery to see what was going on.

For many people the Day of the Dead is an opportunity to visit the graves (or resting places) of deceased loved ones, pray for them and share food and drink together in their memory. Stories are sometimes told about the person's life as the family remember them together. For others, the day is a time when the spirits or souls of the dead are 'closer' and able to come back to be with the family again. The person's favourite food and drink is taken to the grave and 'shared' with them in an effort to entice them back for a while.

We went relatively early in the day, but apparently later on the mourning turns into more of a party atmosphere, as food and drink is fairly liberally imbibed!