Gracie and I have been enjoying being back at Tierra Nueva after our year away in France. We’ve appreciated our weekly worship services, which are drawing ex-offenders, people in recovery and immigrant workers.
For the past three months on Monday evenings Salvio, Bethany (TN Family Support Center directors), a growing number of Tierra Nueva apprentices and Gracie and I have been meeting at the Tierra Nueva building for thirty minutes of prayer before seeking to enter into a contemporary practice of Jesus’ mission according to Luke 10.
In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 70 workers in pairs, telling them to “beg the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” because the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (10:2). Our group varies from four to eight. As we’ve gone out we’ve seen that Jesus’ assessment of First Century Palestine is true today for Skagit County. There is spiritual openness, great need and a longing among ordinary people to engage in some kind of outreach.
During our prayer time together we thank God for what the Spirit is already doing in our ministry and community and deliberately ask how we can best collaborate with God. We seek guidance regarding where we should go. We expect God to speak, bringing to mind families to visit, specific places to go, conditions needing healing—whatever the Holy Spirit wants to show us.
In Luke 10:3-4 Jesus sends out the 70 dependent and vulnerable (no shoes, money, extra clothes) and specifically commissions them to go as guests rather than hosts. Seeking the person of peace is all about receiving people’s hospitality- and yet there’s a proactive side to this involving going out looking for receptive hosts.
Usually we visit people in their homes, and end up praying for their concerns—which include anything from the need for work (Boni and Lourdes, photo below) to physical healing and comfort (Alredo, pictured below, longs for his blind 30-year-old son to be able to see him).
A few weeks ago Gracie got the impression: “soft like a marshmallow” thinking it was about the condition of someone’s heart. She also thought of the laundromat across the street beside a Mexican grocer. Anna and Salvio thought we should go to the megastore Wal-Mart, and Salvio got “palm tree” and someone else thought of “black hair.” I wasn’t sensing anything but decided to join Salvio and Anna and head to Wal-Mart, even though I dislike this particular megastore.
Meanwhile, Gracie and Paul headed across the street towards the laundromat, but as they passed by the Mexican grocery store, “Los Antojitos” they felt they should go in. There Paul noticed a bag of big heart-shaped marshmallows by the cashier, and in front of it was a Mexican woman making a purchase with whom Gracie struck up a conversation. They accompanied the woman outside into the cold December wind. After they introduced themselves and briefly described how they were praying for God to bless people, they asked her if she needed prayer.
“Yes I do, but doesn’t everyone?” she said in Spanish. Gracie agreed that everyone needs prayer but told her: “I think God is highlighting you,” and shared how they’d been praying and had gotten the impression of a heart as soft as a marshmallow. At this the woman seemed to melt and said that in fact she needed prayer: for pain and swelling in her leg from deep-veined thrombosis and some other conditions.
The cold wind motivated them to duck into the laundromat, which was empty, and they prayed. The woman cried as she told how she’d been longing for someone to tell her about Jesus and help her understand the Bible. Gracie and Paul invited her to our Sunday service.
At that point she invited them to her car and offered them bags of oatmeal and granola from the factory where she works. She’s come twice in to Tierra Nueva’s services, and we recently visited her and her family in their home where we celebrated God healing her leg, and prayed for her family. Afterwards she invited us to share a meal delicious home-made chicken tamales and strawberry atole (a sweet pudding-like drink) (photo below).
This woman truly has a soft heart towards God and us. She is longing to go out with us on our Monday night outreaches, which shows us that Jesus’ call for disciples to beg the Lord of the harvest for laborers is a prime example of evangelism as recruitment.
That same evening when Salvio, Anna and I went into Wal-Mart I was skeptical about our prospects. However, as we walked down the first main aisle we ran straight into a big tower made up of stacked cases of Corona beer (a Mexican favorite). Atop it was a big plastic palm tree! (photo below). There beside it was a man with jet-black hair pushing a shopping cart full of hot chili cheetos.
Salvio and I approached him about our mission and he immediately agreed to receive prayer: at which time we learned he was from India but living in Vancouver, BC. We prayed for him and encouraged him, realizing that our church aisles were becoming strangely inclusive, and the nearness of Jesus’ Kingdom was coming into places I would never have chosen (Wal-Mart).
We rejoined Gracie and Paul and truly could identify with joy of the 70 who returned to Jesus to debrief (Luke 10:17-21). Last week I sensed God speaking to me to “double” these outreaches—which we plan to do beginning in January.
May you too experience the joy of the harvest as you venture into whatever version of Jesus’ ministry the Spirit leads you into in 2013.