International Ministries

Volunteers 1: Blessing and Being Blessed

October 12, 2011 Journal
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Dear Journal Friends,
So much has happened since I wrote last, that I may have to divide this up into several letters!  When I wrote in July, I had the feeling that all of you had disappeared.  Why?  Because I didn’t hear back from anyone!  But then again I might have goofed up putting the letter on the IM website.  Sometimes it defies me.  But now there is a new website.  Please check it out when you have a chance.  And if you didn’t receive the letter sent about July 25th, please let me know.

On the other hand, shortly after I wrote the journal, I disappeared with volunteers in tow, and felt a tinge of loneliness at that awesome task.  It had been quite a task during June to determine who could go with me and who could not.  In the end, two volunteers and I made up our team.  Although my plans were for four volunteers, God had special tasks for this small group.

Taking off with volunteers There were two goals that we held in our hearts.  One was to hear stories and another was to be of physical assistance in the form of gardening at two churches.  Both of these external goals were fulfilled.  But often it was accomplished in uncertain and unexpected ways.  “Change” was the most common word we heard; to the extent that one volunteer declined my newly written-out schedule.  Sure enough, an hour later there was another change!  The experience reminded me of an Xtreme Team adventure.

Story of pain  Within fifteen minutes of arriving in Shichigahama none of us expected to hear a story poured out so soon.  We had stopped to shop for food when I ran into an old friend whom I will assign the code name of “W.S.” (wandering sheep).  Got my drift?  She was surprised to see me and invited me and the volunteers to have coffee after shopping was finished.  W.S.’s husband joined us from somewhere in the store and profusely thanked us for coming to help serve.  I noticed that he was still wearing his Buddhist beads on his wrist.  Five of us sat down for some welcomed ice coffee and before we knew it, as if on cue (but not from us), W.S.’s husband began to tell us every detail of his experience on THAT day, 3-11.  I had never seen him so animated.  Lastly he said, “every time I see a large puddle of water, the feelings of THAT day overwhelm me and I can’t sleep.”

I was so moved by his story as I reviewed the history of this couple in my heart, that I didn’t know what to say.  However, volunteer, Larry, had the presence of mind to say “Why don’t you pray for them, Roberta?”  (You see, this is why we need volunteers, to pick up the slack when we missionaries are left wordless!)  I wouldn’t have made it through a prayer.  So I asked him to pray, with volunteer Rie translating.  This was just a prelude to discovering how open people were at sharing their stories.  This experience repeated itself during the next two weeks.

Blessing Two weeks later, both Rie and Larry had a chance to share a message of hope that had been forming in their hearts for a few weeks at Shichigahama Preaching Place.  It moved a number of people to tears.  Their short messages were just perfect for that moment for the hearts of a number of people.  How could they have known that one member present had not attended recently because of deep grudges and personal exhaustion, or that another member was facing scary hand-surgery that might ruin her career?

Being Blessed  They left their mark in a small way on that community.  As was true for the rest of their trip, LIVE THE WORD, PROCLAIM THE WORD, leading to BEING TRANSFORMED, was incarnated by these volunteers.  We are reminded again of the chance to give to the World Mission Offering. And in a sense, when you give, that action is “LIVING the Word.”  Here in Japan and around the world, you give us the chance to “PROCLAIM the Word” because of your gifts.  The results are and will be “TRANSFORMATION” in lives overseas as well as in the volunteers themselves, and in me.  Although for both Rie and Larry, this was a different experience than they had had up until now, both negative and positive, I think they would both agree that they experienced transformation of some sort, too.

Please Live the Word by prayerfully giving, so that we can continue to Proclaim it and lead to Transformation in both the giver (you!) and the receiver.

In Christ,
Roberta (Stephens)