In This Issue:
+ Living Boldly
+ Update from the Field: Peacemaking Training for a Young Denomination in Asia
+ Remembering the Lessons of 2006
by Chip Zimmer, Director of International Ministries
“The boldest measures are the safest.” With these six words Admiral Nelson, leader of Britain’s forces at the Battle of Trafalgar, summed up his approach to naval warfare. Eighteen hundred years earlier, another leader prepared his followers for a different kind of battle. As I read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, I am similarly struck by how boldly he lived and by the boldness of his words.
But, contrary to Nelson’s statement, such boldness is anything but “safe.” It certainly wasn’t for Jesus and it is not today for believers around the world who are persecuted for their faith, as members of the Peacemaker Ministries network learned firsthand on their recent trip to Bangladesh.
Yet, as I read of their experiences, recounted below in our “Update from the Field,” I found myself thinking that maybe Nelson was right after all. For Christians, eternal safety is found as we live out the commands of our Lord. And, despite the daily threats that confront our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh and elsewhere, I suspect they would agree. Their lives are testimonies to bold living. You and I can learn much from their example.
UPDATE FROM THE FIELD: PEACEMAKING TRAINING FOR A YOUNG DENOMINATION IN SOUTH ASIA
In mid-December, a team of three people from our network traveled to Bangladesh to teach peacemaking to the leaders of a young, growing denomination. Bangladesh is a country where Christians are persecuted for their faith, so we are not at liberty to share their names or the names of their hosts. However, their reports of God’s work are so encouraging that we wanted you to be able marvel at God’s goodness and power as he worked in and through them. Below are testimonies from a missionary who helped to coordinate the seminar, the pastor from the United States who conducted the teaching, and the leading pastor in Bangladesh who will be responsible for implementing this teaching in the lives of the churches in his denomination.
From a Missionary in South Asia:
Bangladesh is not the place to visit if you want to prove that the Christian life is easy. I met with the church planter who had been threatened by a mob and arrested by the police. I thought that he and his wife would be interested in moving to another town. The only evident effect of the incident is that both of them claim to have lost their fear! Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the book of Acts!
Speaking of Acts, if you were a part of one of those first-generation churches, how would your elders be trained? This month was the inauguration of ordination training [for this denomination]. We sat in a circle, four from the West and 17 Muslim converts talking about the gospel-more specifically, about what the gospel has to say about our relationships with our wives and with one another. It was amazing! Yes, our cultures are very different. But really, conflict is so much the same anywhere. And the Scriptures are the same and teach the same gospel. Each conflict was percolated through the gospel, yielding fresh insights into ourselves and an awe of God’s love.
Pastor P, from the United States:
After the first two days of intensive training, it was difficult to know how much this group had learned. What with translation and all, I wonder how much was lost. We taught the Four G’s , calling them, the “Four Steps,” since the letter “G” would be lost in translation. That was Monday and Tuesday. The next day, on Wednesday, our morning devotions began as usual. But it was not to be a usual day.
Up until this time, the group had been rather subdued in their words and comments. In an honor and shame culture, few openly discuss intimate affairs of the heart. But the culture was changing. Hussein spoke up. He told us how the teaching had affected him. He told us that God’s love and forgiveness of him, as expressed in Matthew 18:21-35, moved him greatly. Then he told the story of his marriage. Hussein, a rather young man in his early 30s, said the first year of his marriage went well. Yet for the past four years, it has been a living hell. He pointed to his face: “Look at my scars.” On first glance, I could discern little in his olive complexion. But on closer examination, they began to appear: many, small lighter colored marks all over his face in a distinctive downward angle. Then Hussein explained: “These are from the fingernails of my wife. You see, I married against my parents’ wishes. And the first year of marriage we had to live with my parents. But for the past four years, my wife and my parents have fought with each other and I have taken their side and fought with her, too. But after learning of God’s forgiveness of me, I wanted to bring glory to God. So I went home and told my wife last night.”
Here I got a little concerned that he may have gone back to his wife to demand that she be “reconciled” to him. But Hussein continued his story, and his story surprised us all.
“I went back and first confessed my sin to my wife, how I respond to her. And then I confessed the sin of my parents against her. I pleaded with her to forgive me. And she did. Not only did she forgive me, but she confessed her own sins against me and together we got on our knees to pray-for the first time in four years-for one another and for my parents. We were reconciled by God’s grace.”
It doesn’t take much to read between the lines and find the Four G’s in Hussein’s story. But it is not the Four G’s that saves us but the gospel of God in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the Four G’s, or the Four Steps as we called them, gave rails for me to teach the gospel and for Hussein to run on. And run he did, right into the reconciling love of Christ. It pleases me to know that tonight, halfway across the world, in a poor country, a poor man and his wife have discovered their true riches-the gospel of peace.
Pastor A, from South Asia:
This is the first time this type of seminar has been held in Bangladesh. In our denomination we are proud of having the seminar because Bangladesh, especially the churches in Bangladesh, is suffering because of conflict and lots of evil practices in the churches. Relationships among Christians are not good, so in that crisis we are so blessed to have these seminars in Bangladesh…
Since the two-day seminar, we have seen lots of changes, because even among our staff, we have discovered that there are lots of unresolved issues. We had thought that some conflicts had been resolved, but when Pastor P allowed them to share their testimonies and cases, we found out that there are lots of problems because we couldn’t handle the conflicts very well-not scripturally… Through this seminar we have been blessed to learn these principles and peacemaking to apply in our own families and in our churches…
Two things have especially touched me. From the seminar, I have learned that we should try to resolve the conflict, the crisis, by the power of the gospel. In our context, we always try to order someone or to command someone, “do this,” or “don’t do this,” to our wives, to our church members, or to our fellow staff, or to our subordinate staff. But, when I learned that the power of the gospel can actually change and transform a person, it was amazing to me. If anyone is excited about how much he has been forgiven by Jesus Christ, if he’s excited by the message of the gospel, I think most of the areas in peacemaking will be resolved.
REMEMBERING THE LESSONS OF 2006
by Molly Routson, Assistant to the Director of International Ministries
Scripture tells us over and over to remember the good things that God has done (see, for example, Deuteronomy 6:12 and Psalm 103:2). But I frequently get so caught up in what I need to do in the future that I neglect to praise God for what he has done in the past, or to thank him for his ongoing faithfulness. Since we are just beginning a new year, this is an appropriate time to remember several lessons that God has taught (or re-taught) me as I have worked with Peacemaker Ministries’ international ministry in the last 12 months.
God is faithful. This is a lesson that I seem to forget almost as quickly as I’ve learned it; but God in his goodness continues to remain true to his character. God is faithful to me personally and to Peacemaker Ministries, in large ways and in small ways. One small way is that our international travels have gone remarkably smoothly this year; from getting our visas in a timely manner to making our flight connections and meeting friendly people along the way, I acknowledge them all as evidences of God’s grace.
Don’t limit what God can and will do. At this point last year, we were beginning to work on a syllabus to teach peacemaking in seminaries and Bible schools around the world. Some of you were praying for us, as our deadline of three months seemed impossible to meet. Not only did we complete the project in time, but we have also seen tremendous fruit from being able to share this course with nearly 100 different institutions around the world.
God loves reconciliation. My understanding of the biblical foundations of peacemaking has deepened immensely, as has my appreciation for the way that reconciliation is a prevalent theme throughout all of Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Paul summarizes the work of God in Christ, and the subsequent work of Christ’s followers, as the “ministry of reconciliation.” One of the most exciting things about this ministry is seeing people grasp-perhaps for the first time-what an impact the gospel can make in their lives.
Sin is messy. I was privileged to be involved, in varying degrees, with two teams that intervened in large-scale conflicts. In both cases, I was reminded of how much our sin can blind us to our own contribution to a conflict, and how many ripple effects our sin can create. Even a little desire that we elevate to the level of a demand can have a devastating impact on our relationships and on the lives of people around us. But praise be to God, because experiencing and extending his grace can have an even bigger positive effect on those around us.
God works in the long run. One of the worst things we can do when ministering to people in conflict is to set the expectation that their problems will be quickly resolved if they follow the steps outlined in The Peacemaker. The Four G’s and the Seven A’s are powerful ways of expressing the gospel, but they are not a magical formula. In fact, even if we do everything we can to be at peace, the Bible is clear that we may continue to experience conflict. In a similar way, God does not always develop ministry opportunities in the timeline that I think he should. Ultimately, both of these changes are in God’s hands: after I have been a faithful steward with what he entrusts to me, I can rest in knowing that God will bring everything to completion in his perfect timing.
As you begin the New Year, I hope you will also take time to remember what the Lord has done for you and what the Lord has taught you in the past year. Perhaps, like some of our friends in Bangladesh, you have learned for the first time the power of the gospel to transform lives; perhaps you’ve been reminded of this truth through recent events in your life. Whatever your circumstances might be, Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is what I pray for all of us this year:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)
Peace on Earth is a quarterly e-publication of Peacemaker Ministries (http://peacemaker.net). All Rights Reserved.