Today is my first day back in the office after a three-week study leave, and it’s great to be back! You may be thinking, Well, it must be nice. I’d sure like to get a three-week “study leave” (a.k.a. “vacation”). I understand. There are blessings and challenges that come with the territory of serving as a pastor, and one of those blessings (at least for this pastor) is to take some time in the summer to teach and study. I don’t take it for granted, and I pray the benefits to our church’s health and ministry far outweigh any issues that may arise from my absence.
On the home front, we are greatly blessed at East 91st Street Christian Church (E91) with a fantastic teaching team who stepped up and preached while I was gone. Thanks to Dave Faust (Associate Minister), Pastor Eric Whitaker (friend and local preacher), and Adrian Fehl (Executive Pastor). When I visit other churches when their senior pastor is out of town and someone else preaches, I’m reminded of what a blessing we have at E91 with others who provide excellent preaching.
If you’re a part of the E91 church community, I want you to see yourself as an integral part of our ministry that reaches around the world. E91 has always been a strong advocate for the multiplication of leaders and ministries as evidenced through church planting and our numerous mission partners. One of those partners is TCM (tcmi.org), a fully accredited, graduate-level seminary that exists to multiply disciples and leaders. Their main campus is outside of Vienna, Austria, but they have extensions throughout Eastern Europe. It was at one of those extensions in Bucharest, Romania that I had the privilege of teaching a small group of pastors a course on evangelism.
After a week of teaching, I had the honor of preaching in a church in Bucharest, and then I traveled north to Oradea to meet with our own Andy Baker, director of Remember the Children (remember-the-children.org). This ministry supports the national work of orphan care, church planting and leadership development in Romania and Tanzania, and I was able to witness their incredible impact first hand.
I spent time with orphans who literally were rescued off the streets and some out of human trafficking. When I heard their stories, my heart broke but my spirit rejoiced that they are now in a safe place where they are loved and cared for in the name of Jesus.
I met pastors and church planters who serve faithfully in the work of bringing the Good News of Jesus to the hurting and brokenhearted, and I saw their faithfulness in being the hands of Jesus to restore hope and participate in the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom in their lives and communities. I walked through a Roma (gypsy) community where the Light of Jesus Christ is overwhelming the darkness and the entire community is being transformed.
Every time I travel I am reminded of how big our world truly is and how extensive is God’s mission and work. It’s a joy to be a part of a globally-invested church.
I share all of this with you because I have a conviction. I heard someone say many years ago, “In order for the sun to reach further, it has to shine brighter at home.” And that’s my prayer for all of us. May the Light of Jesus Christ shine even brighter in your life and mine. May our church be a beacon of light that glows with such warmth and brilliance that it penetrates our community and world. And may this light multiply in and through us, so that even a young orphan in Oradea, Romania will receive its radiance, and others will stand in awe before the illumination that comes from the Light of heaven.