Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spreading Like Fire

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV
"So, why Scotland? Aren't there already tons of Christians there?"

Since moving to Scotland, I have been asked this question more times than I can count. Maybe even more times than I've been asked "where are you from?"

I hold my breath a little when I hear it starting to form in the conversation. Generally, my answer is short, sweet, and vague: "Well, this is where the Lord has called me, so I came out of obedience." This is mostly because I haven't found a better answer.

But, the thing is, I know that I was called here out of more than just obedience. Many of you know my story and my deep love for Scotland and the salvation of this nation. Many of you have heard me talk about my serving, seen me get excited about the ministry, pray for me as I send my prayer requests out.

Finally, last week, sitting down for coffee at another church and meeting a silver-haired saint named Ken, the question came up and I knew that I needed a better answer. Ken wouldn't take my vague "He called me..." response. He reminded me a little of jovial grandfather figure in Aristocats (all smiles and inquiries) and I knew he would want to know why.

So, I prayed for direction as the other missionary there gave his answer (I wish I could tell you what he said, but I was so concerned about what was going to come out of my mouth that I tuned him out). And, as I prayed, the Lord gave me a beautiful picture that I shared with Ken and those at my table.

Imagine a fire.

Multiple fires, actually. Of a darkness being pierced by these fires with many people gathering around them. It is a picture of people, tired of trying to find their way alone, in the dark, being attracted to these fires as though it were magnetic. And the fires are spreading. Those gathered at the fires are teaching others how to make more fire. Then some of those gathered would take what knowledge they were given and walk into the darkness to make another fire.

Soon, the small fires start spreading farther and farther into the darkness. Reaching beyond what the eye could see. The darkness is now dissipating and the light is growing steadily brighter.

But then, where the first fires once glowed bright, they start to dim. From a distance you could see the new fire's glow is still magnetic, but here, the light from where the fires once burned bright and attractive is now a mild glimmer: a memory of brightness. It was growing cold and dark again.

Did too many people leave and there was no one to stoke the fires? Did those who knew how to start, stoke, and maintain the heat and warmth move on? Were there just not enough people to keep the fires burning and so they slowly started to die out? Did they forget the warmth and brightness and grow accustomed to a lukewarm and dimly lit life?

I don't know the answer to the why's...only God does. But what I do know is that Great Britain was once a bright furnace of Christian faith, glowing and attractive to those around them. That faith, their fire, spread outward. The faithful took what knowledge they knew of the salvation of Jesus Christ and lit that fire around the world. Their light spread. The fire warmed. The skills were taught and more people learned how to start, stoke, and maintain the Christian faith.

But here in the UK, somewhere in the yesterdays, the fires lessened. The light and the warmth weakened. Yes, it's still there, and yes, there are still fires being made. The glow is still recognizable. But what once was bright and glorious and unable to be hidden from the rest of the world is threatened to be snuffed out.

Where fires were once prolific and the knowledge of keeping, growing, and multiplying these fires was second nature, there are now just a faithful few seeking to maintain the remnants.

This is why the Lord has called me here. This is why the Lord has called and/or raised up many others here as well. This is the Lord still at work here in the UK...

We are here, with the fire that only comes from the Lord, piercing the darkness and calling people to know who the true Light is. We are seeking to show others how to build up that warmth and brightness so that this 'city on a hill' (or, island on the Atlantic) can once again shine bright, not hidden from the world, but available for all to see.

Recently, I heard an American pastor speaking at a conference here and he started it with this statement (loosely paraphrased from what I remember) "It is an honor to be here today. I owe my Christian faith to you. Christianity didn't spread from the west to the east, it came westward, to America, from here. From you. For this, I am indebted to you and thankful."

So I, being just another indebted and thankful believer, consider it an honor for the Lord to call me here to serve. I have my torch in hand and pray that He would use me to once again pierce the darkness, brighten the dimly fading light, stoke fires, bring His salvation, and set this "city" back on a hill, not hidden from anyone.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scotland Update 5

Hi everyone!

Here are some fun things going on recently. The main points are in bold, if you're pressed for time. =)

Thank you so much for each response, encouragement and prayer! They are more comforting and bring so much more joy than you will ever know!

SoLove Ministry Update
This week, the churches here in Motherwell are teaming up to do ministry under the name of SoLove. Their heart is to unify the body of Christ to reach out in the community and serve, share the love of Christ, and enjoy community with each other.

I can't tell you how exciting this is for me. It's pretty much taking everything I have a passion for, putting it under the banner of Jesus' love and salvation through His sacrifice and and resurrection on the cross, topping it with a bright red ribbon, and saying "here you go, Erika!"

So, some things to pray for as the week goes on: each day, different churches are opening up their doors as serving coffee, tea, and baked goods. Our church will be having our "Open Doors" coffee morning on Friday (we generally have a coffee morning on Friday, but this week we expect more people...and hope to keep them coming back!). Please pray for meaningful conversations and for the gospel to be shared during the different Open Doors venues throughout the week. Pray for boldness and for an openness.

Summer Fun Day
On Saturday (the 15th), we (the SoLove Churches) will be having a Summer Fun Day at a local park in Motherwell. I've volunteered to do one of the stalls (not sure which one yet!). Right now, the forecast calls for rain...eek! We've been having such amazing weather here (yes, Scotland does get sunny days! I know, shocker.), will you pray with us that the forecast changes and we get another beautiful day on Saturday?

We have also been handing out leaflets to all these events. In talking with the staff here at church, they are pretty confident of the Open Doors and Summer Fun Day being attended by church goers but, as this is supposed to also be an outreach, our prayer is that the leaflets (and word of mouth) would spread around and we would see more of the un-churched community come to the events as well. It is so important to have a church that you can call "home" but, from experience, I know how hard it is to take that first step and walk into a church building...especially alone! My prayer is that these events would, at the very least, be a stepping stone to getting people to come to church. Pray for those who may not have a home church to be able to come to one of these events and find a solid church to go to regularly. (ps: If you don't have a home church, I would love to be praying for you to find one and might be able to help point you in a direction of one...just let me know!).

Mexican Food? What's that?
I have been asked a lot if there is anything I'm missing here that I want/wish I could have from the states (as in, physically). My first answer is always: YOU GUYS!! I do miss my friends and family back at home so much, but I am even more grateful that the Lord is letting me live out this experience here (plus, I love Skype and Facetime...if you want to schedule a time to chat, just let me or Amy Maskal know!). Really, though, He is doing some mighty things and I see so much of His heart for the church here in Scotland (I'm in the beginning stages of writing a blog...stay tuned!).

But honestly, I could probably list a lot of things that are "different" here (let's not talk about Mexican food, ok?), or simply unattainable (like natural toothpaste and cornmeal...who knew?), but the bottom line is that I can handle not having these things. The Lord didn't send me here just so I can wish life was back to how I remember it, right? He is letting me experience new places, new traditions, new foods, and an entirely new way of life. For that, I am grateful.

What about YOU?
So, imagine you're on a desert island...just kidding. But, I would love to hear...if you moved away from home--to a new culture and community, what is one commodity that you think you might miss the most?

Erika Bennett

Support: Shepherds Staff, Account 1061