One Sunday in church, I happened to talk to a young woman I do not usually talk with. I know that she is a Christian who married a non- Christian. She also has told me that her husband does not mind her going to church either. But coming from a patriarchal+hierarchical culture, she still is under the command of her father-in-law and her husband’s older brother. She shared that her husband’s younger sister and brother who professed to be Christians were also reprimanded. However, all of them show up on Sunday mornings for church. When I invited her to the Saturday fellowship that comprise of 95% Christians, what she said really made me think. She said, well, her elders were fine with her coming to the Sunday morning service but not to the Saturday afternoon service. And she would very much like to be part of the Saturday group for Christian support and community and keep feeding her spiritual desire for Jesus.
Now that was eye-opening.
Let me give you a background of both these services. My husband and I have been equally involved in both Saturday and Sunday services so far. The Sunday morning service has been going on for 4 years. Our church initially co-sponsored one of the first refugee families in Grand Rapids. This first family also was baptized as Christians in this church after about 2 years of coming to the US and regularly attending the church. My husband was invited to teach a Bible class every Sunday. With his full-time student status and the constraints of being on student visa, that was all the time he was offered.
Ministry can be addictive. It can be taxing. Ministry is just not a Sunday morning thing. What Satya was teaching was confrontational for many. Claiming that Jesus is the only God can me uncomfortable for many who come from rigid mindset of thinking. Many people who came to the Sunday morning class were Hindu priests, Buddhist priests, strict Hindus and others who have gotten used to the rigid culture. Thinking outside of the box, thinking for themselves or exploring is not exercised in this community. And, thus, teaching about the exclusivity of Jesus is a major spiritual battle in this world.
When one is not covered in holy prayers to reach out to such a community, the worker can get easily burned out and discouraged. For 4 years my husband and I have been part of this battle. Battle that we were willing to take on, but the battle that had very less prayer supporters. We felt like lone rangers. We were not able to provide the support that fresh believers needed in such a stringent community. It was sad to see the new Christians falling back to their pagan community for support merely because the church could not offer the community that was needed. We, as leaders, did not have that community . How could we offer enough of that against the massive community they could easily depend on. Being Christians without a solid community is difficult. One can easily fall into the complacency of things without that vibrant and continual support and community.
Since we lacked in that community where we were serving, we started seeking such support from Nepali speaking Christians who did not attend our church. Gradually, this support started growing. We were now feeling confident in providing that culturally appropriate support to the new believers. Christians in town started owning up this Saturday fellowships. Our meetings grew from four families to ten to fifteen and more; we needed to rent a space to do a combined fellowship. The weekends started packing with house fellowships and home visits. The spiritual support that we needed, the support that the new believers needed came from this group. Obviously, our pull to this fellowship started getting stronger and stronger.
This fellowship conducted its first Christian wedding of one of the members. Christian pre-marital counseling were offered to this couple. It ended up being a powerful witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. We did not rent a hall or hotel for a reception. We did not have a catering company catering food. We did not have professionals hired for any part of it. Each member of the church contributed in making the wedding program. Every thing felt so beautifully in place that we could only be thankful to our God we worship. Soon another wedding of this fellowship’s member will follow and we do not see anything different happening. The community will come along side this young man who does not have a real family in town.
All in all, that one conversation with this young woman was eye-opening to us. As Christians, the message of Jesus needs to make the audience uncomfortable. They need to be challenged. For four years we thought our message was challenging. But what we forgot was the comfort the Refugee Ministry’s mission had been offering. People did not come on Sundays to church to feel uncomfortable by hearing the exclusivity of Jesus. The mission of this ministry already sent the message that one was welcome to worship with us in this neutral environment. You will have an American friend. You can help yourself to the pantry. A liaison will be there to help you navigate the American system. Man, all these are so great. We love this heart of service. But, man, in all this, us- as the people who serve the Word are downcast. We do not even have as much support in this spiritual battle as the person in the audience. This Compassion and Justice ministry is NOT for us, not right now at least.
We are tired of serving the Gospel to the audience who already come with the mindset that they are welcome to ignore the pastor. Jesus’ message will not be pushed down your throat. You are just welcome to the social event we have on a Sunday morning. The pastor can pray and work hard all week for a powerful message, and then it is served to an audience who already come with cotton balls in their ears. But, I am not saying God cannot use this. God has. God will. But, we now feel a calling to serve God’s Word to ones who have been wanting solid food. In trying to be fair to the mission of the Ministry, we probably have done injustice to the ones who have been wanting to be uncomfortable and challenged by Jesus’ exclusive teachings and God’ s people who are hungering for more than a Sunday morning message. We want to challenge Christians to live a life that is uncomfortable for the non-Christians so they may go back to their community and share this. We, as a team, want to be there for believers who want to grow and go out there to be a witness.
We love this church and has been our home church for four years. But, we never know when God will call us to revisit the calling on our life. The past four/five months have been as painful as walking on shattered pieces of glass. To completely shut out the overbearing voice of what we need spiritually versus materially, we went through a dark phase of confusion, struggle, and prayer. And now we have come to a clear understanding of what God is wanting us to do. One is never 100% sure of this God’s calling, but we feel peaceful. We probably would be much better financially in this church. But, if every minister, Christian, is fulfilled by just that much, he will be missing out a lot on what God has to offer him.