On Thursday morning, I led the last of 3 Storylearning workshops I’ve held at the church I serve here in Trotwood. These workshops have been a way for me to test some of my ideas for the workshops I’ll be leading in Cambodia, and to “test the waters” for possibly developing a storytelling group at Antioch. The story we were learning today is from Mark 6:34-44 ~ the one where Jesus feeds a great crowd with just 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
That story has me reflecting on the way God still takes, blesses, breaks, and gives whatever meager gifts we offer in service to Christ our Lord. Let me tell you a story…
About the time that the membership and roles of our team began to solidify, we began to get requests from the Cambodian church to move up our dates. Instead of a January, 2012, trip, it was finally decided that we should travel in September, 2011! Meanwhile, excitement was growing throughout the countryside for our planned training event, and we were asked to provide funding for all — ALL — of the Cambodian Methodist pastors to come to Sihanoukville for retreat and training! And then we heard: “By the way, the pastors’ spouses … they’re in ministry, and they want this training too!”
Here we were ~ a ragtag team of 12 (we’ve since gained 1 more, but I had to note the connection with Jesus’ earliest disciples here!) ~ facing what seemed an insurmountable task: Teach and Feed … and transport and shelter … a crowd of 240 Cambodian pastors and spouses! But just as Jesus took, and blessed, and broke, and gave his first disciples’ meager offering of bread and fish, so God took and blessed our humble efforts to raise the bread for this mission.
Not being a natural-born fundraising fiend, I confess how tentatively I asked the congregation I serve if they might be interested in getting involved. And, boy, were they ever! Antioch’s Easter Offering made a substantial contribution to our fundraising in the early days when we were feeling most overwhelmed by the need before us. We knew that if God could put that much bread in the basket through a “little ol'” church like Antioch, God could surely provide all that was needed. And, true to form, God went “over the top” to provide! The training event is now fully funded, with resources to share with other, ongoing ministries in Cambodia!
Antioch wasn’t content with putting a couple loaves in the bread basket, though. When some of our congregation heard that our team needed to provide small gifts for all of the Cambodians attending the training, they organized. So on Sunday, while commissioning our family for service in Cambodia, the Antioch congregation will also consecrate some 500 pocket prayer quilts that have been lovingly crafted just for this mission. All those whose fingers have labored over these prayer quilts have also devoted countless hours to prayer for Christ’s church in Cambodia, our team, and this mission. What is most awesome to me is the knowledge that nearly every household represented at Antioch has now participated tangibly in God’s work in Cambodia! When Chad, Jared, Elisha and I walk among the people of Cambodia and share the stories of Jesus with them, we know that we will be greeting them as ambassadors for this congregation. That is a humbling realization.
Almost as humbling as the realization that God is still taking, blessing, breaking, and giving in extravagant ways today! I wanted to tell you the story of Antioch’s participation in this mission, because it’s a story our “Supersize me” world needs to hear more often. You may not realize it, but Antioch isn’t exactly a megachurch… on most Sundays, somewhere between 50 and 75 people gather here to worship together. But Antioch is a people who, after 200 years, is still committed to God’s ministry. You see, in a land where bigger is almost always assumed to be better, Antioch stands as a reminder that God can do BIG things with a few little loaves and fish!