blessing to spend the evening with six arabic speaking brothers and one sister, all hungry for
God's Word! Our class had some very young believers and some who have believed
for decades, but all were there ready to learn. Two are from Egypt, three from
Syria, and two from Sudan. The interpreter I am working with, Abdeen, is
wonderful. Though I don't know him well yet, I can tell by his countenance that
he finds much joy in the Lord.
One of the
most exciting parts of teaching the story of Ruth tonight was watching the
faces of the students as they began to grasp the theology that the narrative is
meant to communicate. Some of the students began the evening with the belief
that Naomi's declaration that her tragedies were from the Lord was mistaken.
Yet by the end of the story, as they considered how God had worked all things
for the good of his people, they embraced the comfort of believing in a good
God who is sovereign over all things, even when we do not understand. I look
forward to the rest of the week and all that the Lord is going to do.
Today we all
prepped during the day, and met with our groups of pastors from 6-10 pm.
Philemon and I met with a group of 13 people, mostly pastors from Ghana,
Eritrea, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. We got off to a slow start, opening with a
song led by a woman with an amazing voice, and then we were soon neck-deep in
issues such as the ultimate goal of preaching (to worship God), God's
sovereignty over Naomi's destitution, and levirate marriage. Philemon did not
shy away from the hard questions, and it was apparent that some of these things
were challenging their thinking.
There seems to
be a lot of trepidation about their preaching assignments on Thursday and
Friday, but hopefully they'll feel more at ease after another couple of days
studying Ruth and Jonah, and hearing four example sermons from us.
What is it
like to teach the book of Ruth to a room full of Farsi-speaking Iranian and
Urdu-speaking Pakistani believers? As the two interpreters explain what I am
saying, it is like watching a delayed reaction come over people in waves. They
have a comprehension of hunger, famine, danger, heartache of leaving homeland,
being a displaced refugee, at the mercy and care of God, turning away from
culture to embrace the one true God. It is like Ruth could be their long-lost
for them to know they have a caring Redeemer who, like Boaz, has spread His
wings over them in redemption and protection. How wonderful for them to know
that the same God who watched over Ruth in providence is now watching over
The class is a
wonderful combination of experienced pastors and new believers. Some have
served Christ well for years. Others have come to know Christ in recent months.
When I closed
four hours of teaching with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, telling
them that the God of Ruth was the same God that watches over them, the same God
that has purposes in famine and death and traveling refugees, the same God has
plans spanning centuries that neither Ruth or them could see, but these plans
are for God's ultimate glory and the good of His people among all nations
including theirs, and that they needed to bear Christ's yoke with joy and share
the gospel of Christ's kingdom among their people with courage wherever they
are scattered, the class broke into a round of applause...applause that said,
"amen, it is true, we believe it!"
As they said,
"good night, God bless you, thanks so much, see you tomorrow night",
they then kissed me on both cheeks. As their stubble-faced cheeks pressed
on mine, I thought, "boy am I glad I grew a beard this summer for the
first time in my life. Now I am one of the 'brothers'!"
your prayers, they are deeply appreciated.
For Christ and
My first day
with the Romanian students was a true blessing. I have a group of men who
have been well taught and am again reminded of the value of a faithful pastor
to the health of the Church. The first couple of lessons on hermeneutics
are a bit difficult and require attention from the students, yet these men
persevered throughout it all. There were good questions and quite lively
discussion at times as we tried to apply what was taught. I walked away
encouraged and blessed while I saw yet again the vastness of the Lord's Church.