Emanuel means God With Us!
To live missionally means to live in awareness that God has a mission and that it’s a privilege to be invited to take part in it. God invites us into His mission! Christmas marks a milestone in God’s mission. For in Jesus, God himself enters into this messed up creation to redeem it and make it new!
What does this have to do with Nicaragua?
Jordan and Seth are home from college. At lunch,they were remembering the last time the three of us were in Nicaragua together. It was a difficult time for me. Leading the trip had fallen to me kind of late in the process when another leader had to drop out. I’m not sure I would have agreed to it, otherwise. I was discouraged about several things in ministry, and was facing some major challenges in the church I was serving. At times, I felt overwhelmed. When we left for Nicaragua, I was weary. When we arrived, I was exhausted.
That year, during the middle of the week, our hosts took us out to experience a Central American Soccer game. This was not on the schedule, but our friends in Vida Joven encouraged us to go and were excited to show off their home team, Esteli Real. They were playing against a team from Korea that was associated with an athletic ministry in New York City. At the half-time break, the Korean team did a dance performance before a Spanish speaking Nicaraguan crowd to a song called “Great Big God”… which was in English.
I remember thinking, “Somebody messed up. The only ones in the crowd who could understand the song were the English speakers – maybe a few hundred people in a crowd of 30,000!”
Later that night, I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t feeling well. I got up and sat in the hotel bathroom and things started coming to mind. I remember feeling uncomfortable and mildly miserable. I started thinking and praying about the stuff I was facing back home. By praying, I mean complaining to God and wondering if he cared at all about me, my stuff, and the challenges I faced.
And that’s when I sensed God drawing my attention back to the “messed up” half-time show.
On a trip to Esteli – which I wasn’t too excited about,
At the soccer game – which I hadn’t planned to attend,
I heard a song in English – which I could understand,
About a Great Big God – who is bigger than the problems I faced.
And that God was present with me in Esteli, Nicaragua.
Emmanuel means “God With Us!” God was with me in my mess.
The truth of Christmas on a mission trip to Esteli in June. Boy, did I need to be reminded!
The next night we went to a CLUB. The talk was about David and Goliath and we were told (in Spanish and English), “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problem how big your God is.” Apparently, God knew the point needed to be driven home.
When I came back home, the challenges did not go away. For that matter, they got worse. But they also got much smaller in my eyes. God, Emmanuel, God who IS with us WAS with me and so much bigger than my problems!
And that’s part of Christmas we need to remember. We want to see God’s Kingdom advanced, but the problems in our groups, churches, communities, and cities can look so big until we get a sense of the size of the God who is with us!
Oh Lord, open our eyes and remind us again who you are!
By the way, we are returning to Nicaragua next summer. We have come to experience and believe that spending a week serving there along side our brothers and sisters in Esteli helps us to live and serve with greater energy, intelligence, imagination, and love here. Get in touch if you’d like to come with us!