Working in the missionary field, spreading the Gospel, and sharing God's love is rarely easy. Ministry workers are constantly on the defense against the enemy, it can be hard to see the fruit of all the hard work.
The Gospel of Matthew says:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. (13:32)
The seeds of faith take time to grow, but slowly, they grow and become a community of believers, who can rest in the strength of God's love.
The majority of Rick and Linda's work revolves around bringing Gospel-based counseling and training, as it relates to trauma and healing, to the aboriginal people of Canada and the US. They travel to conferences and workshops and do all they can in the limited time available to them. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit is evident. People have breakthroughs and leave a changed person. Other times, the seed takes a while to sprout.
Linda tells of a particular young woman she had in a small group training. Julie was a member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation and very active in her church. She came to the training by invitation of a trusted friend and quickly learned about the intensity and confrontation that can occur in small groups, due to the strength of emotions that arise when discussing traumatic events. Julie experienced a confrontation at one point, which often stirs up more emotions and leaves people feeling defensive and hurt.
Linda, as the group leader, ended the day not knowing if Julie would come back for the next group session. Linda stated, “I thought for sure we had lost her as a group member, but I was very encouraged when she came back the next day and stayed for the remainder of the training.”
Linda and Julie had no contact the following year, but imagine Linda's surprise when Julie showed up to the same conference the following year.
Linda excitedly explains: "She didn't just show up the next year, she brought nine people from her church with her! They were all in leadership positions and were ready to work through their past trauma, to become better leaders, and to help their own people!"
On top of that, Rick and Linda learned that Julie, in the past year, had put together and run two separate, twelve-week, small group programs for her community, each addressing abuse and healing with a Gospel-based approach. Linda shared that she cannot wait to see what God is going to do in this church as these leaders gain freedom from their struggles.
Rick added, "It was one of those moments when you see God at work. We can only do so much, but after that first conference, the Holy Spirit worked in Julie's heart and began to heal her. That change affected the leaders and the people in her church, and now they are affecting even more. It's a domino effect."
So, if the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, then the spreading of the Kingdom, and the ministry we do, is like playing dominoes. Not the real game with doubles and boneyards. The game you played as a child, lining them up and tipping them over. You could spend hours setting the dominoes up, one by one; then, it usually ended like this:
Unfortunately, sometimes in ministry, this is exactly what happens. You reach out to one person, maybe you make an impact, but something happens along the way, and the line ends there.
Other times, God takes control and amazing things happen. One person turns into a small group, which turns into a church body, and pretty soon, a nation of people - in this case the Blackfeet - is proclaiming the glory of God.
Sometimes, what we do for God's Kingdom beautifully displays His Glory, and that is why we do it.
Thank you, God, for the days when all the dominoes fall into place!