"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen "
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
A large part of our ministry, here in interior Alaska, with Lutheran Indian Ministries, is to help coordinate trips for teams traveling to a village to teach Vacation Bible School or complete a hammer-and-nails project. We never tire of hearing the stories of their experiences when they return.
There are a couple of themes that seem to stand out with every team. The first is: "We found incredible beauty both in the majesty of the land and in the welcoming hearts of the people." The second: "In the midst of what is good, we saw so much raw suffering and pain." As one volunteer stated, "it is a conundrum. I can't wrap my head around it."
Volunteers spend the better part of the year raising funds, gathering supplies, studying curriculum, and scheduling their summer around a week-long trip to Alaska. The anticipation of seeing the Holy Spirit move in the lives of the children and adults in the village is palpable. Sometimes, team members get to witness God minister in wonderful ways with people responding immediately to His goodness. At other times, it seems every one of their efforts has produced nothing.
And in relating their stories, they are humbled. It is then they are reminded that no matter how much effort they invest, it is only God who brings the increase. And at what time, and how that comes about, is not up to human endeavor but the work of the Holy Spirit. They are only assured that as they share His word it will not return void.
In gathering around the table of fellowship, sharing stories of highs and lows, tears and prayers, there is sweet release. As stated in Hebrews 10:23-25: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together... encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Heavenly Father, as we reflect on your gift of Jesus, we thank you for your loving kindness. Thank you for the privilege of being able to participate in sharing the Good News of redemption with the world. Thank you for reminding us that your plan and timing is always perfect. In Jesus' name, Amen.