Praisegiving

November 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Every day God is at work in the world, whether we are aware of it or not. Certainly I’m not always paying attention to what He is doing. And other times, even when I am, I can take His divine acts for granted. I think that might be a good thing; a sign that I’ve come to a better understanding of who He is and what He can do. But the fact that I’ve seen hundreds of brilliant sunsets and witnessed countless broken people come to new life in Him doesn’t diminish my delight.

2013 10 28 sunset 1 vale covo portugal

And He can still take my breath away with an unexpected, unbelievable miracle [that may be redundant, but it sounds right]. Over the past year I’ve seen Him accomplish such a miracle, something I never, ever thought possible.

Our international church is an amazing Christian community, a kind of spiritual Noah’s ark of culture, education, language, and faith practice for those of us living far from home. There are challenges too: the stress of being a miniscule religious minority, and a constantly changing congregation of ex-pats, many on short assignments.

We dreamed of having our own building where we could choose when to worship, and have space to meet during the week. But it was only a dream. Instead, for decades the congregation met at a French church, one of the dozen actual church buildings in this country.

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It had a convenient downtown location and a very low rent, which was a good thing since the congregation could not always meet the very small annual budget. This wasn’t because of a lack of faith or commitment. But with continual turnover and a large majority of the congregation on a limited income, it was all we could expect.

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Then a few years ago, the congregation was given 24 hours to decide whether to stay at the French church on the condition that they get rid of their pastor. The congregation decided to keep the pastor. The next week, we met at the beach. The following week, we were welcomed by another French church to share their worship space in the basement of a house. The space was smaller, the political climate uncertain, and yet we experienced a deeper sense of community.

2012 4 14 easter 2012 132

Coffee hour in the street.

Coffee hour in the street.

Last fall God made it clear that we needed to find a place of our own. It had to be big enough and accessible by public transportation [two miracles in their own right.] Then we’d have to furnish it completely and cover the additional monthly costs. Our yearly budget would almost double.

It didn’t seem possible. The congregation wasn’t any bigger. The financial resources were pretty much the same as always. In spite of all the ways I’ve seen God work over the years, I didn’t see how we–God and we–were going to pull it off.

2013 11 24 ric  (10)

And yet we did. We found a place, raised the funds, and met the budget increase. It sounds so simple to say that. A piece of cake. But it wasn’t. When you’ve lived through lean years, it can be hard to trust. You can look at your five loaves and two fish and feel pretty foolish.

Almost as foolish as when you stand in amazement at God’s provision.

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I’m still pretty speechless over it.

Now we don’t have to rush out after the service to make way for another congregation. We have space for Sunday School classes, a prayer room, a library [pretty vital when you live overseas].

Now after church we can talk inside--a help on rainy days!

Now after church we can talk inside–a help on rainy days!

How did God do this? Frankly, I couldn’t tell you. It’s a mystery to me how His power and our faith came together. It was like moving a mountain into the sea, or a grain of mustard growing into a tree.

It makes me want to echo the Psalmist and shout:

Sing to the Lord! Praise His name!
Announce every day how He delivers!
Tell the nations about His splendor!
Tell all the nations about His amazing deeds!

Psalm 96:2-3

And like John wrote in his first letter, it makes me want to share this with you to make my joy complete.

One generation commends Your works to another;
they tell of Your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty—
and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of Your awesome works—
and I will proclaim Your great deeds.

Psalm 145:4-6

What about you?
What have you seen God do this year?
When will you praise Him?
Who will you tell?

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