March 5, 2013

What's Your Role: Burdens

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Throughout this season of Lent, we will be posting a devotional series written for us by Johan Plug - a missionary currently serving in Benin.  

Johan and Marijke Plug are serving the Eglise Reformee Confessante au Benin (ERCB) as advisory pastor and pastor's wife/social worker. They are being sent out by an organization called De Verre Naasten as well as the Reformed churches in the Netherlands.

He will exploring what it means for us to find our God-intended, authentic roles in His Kingdom plan.

Before anything else, pray! Remember? So we prayed that morning. And then drove the four-wheel-drive along the red-dirt track to Fanahenhoue. There is a little crowd waiting for us in the church. Things are not as they should be, it turns out. Sunday attendance has dwindled, family worship is non-existent, the local elder is dispirited, the Sunday-school teacher has moved away. Good people, but the burden of maintaining healthy spiritual life has grown too heavy. And all look to us for the solution.

What’s our role? As missionary couple we could take over. Start weekly visits to relieve the local elder. Be there on Sundays to lead the services. Arrange for the neighbouring parish of Kpodaha to send someone for the Sunday-school . And who knows, that might well break through the malaise which has taken hold of Fanahenhoue. Carry each other’s burdens, the apostle says in Galatians 6.2.

But here’s one of the greatest temptations in missions. When you see inability: to take over. When you see hunger: to provide food. When you see lack of education: to build schools. Well-meant, and sometimes effective. But too often our desire to help, to carry each other’s burdens, gets in the way of enabling the other to do what he could well learn to do himself. And that is why the apostle says something else a few verses later: for each one should carry his own load.

So instead of helping, we helped them help themselves. We asked a teenage girl: if we bring you a children’s Bible next Sunday, would you read a Bible story to the children before church starts? Yes, she said, of course. And two others offered to assist. And during the service, we asked the elder, would you be able to ask the children to share what they have learned? We turned to the mothers: and would you be willing to ask your children, when they get home, to tell the story again, and to talk and pray about it together? Their eyes lit up: why, yes. Of course we could!

We didn’t do so much, that morning at Fanahenhoue. But when we left there seemed to be something new in the air. Renewed confidence. Excitement even. A burden shared always seems lighter, doesn’t it?


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