Times and Seasons

– A MESSAGE BY DOUG YODER

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the sun. Eccl. 3:1.

What is it like when a new life is on its way into the world? Uncertainty, hope, and expectation. Boy or girl? Who will it look like? What will it like to do? Will it be healthy? Then, sudden activity and joy. Even the most professional doctor’s eyes will light up — congratulations!

The time to be born is a time like no other.

We don’t think about the time to die unless we have felt it near somehow. Under the sun, the time to die is as sad as the time to be born was happy. Jesus wept at this. We miss the warmth of a human hand, words said in a certain way. The day is lonely, grey, and hard. Cold.

The time to die is a time like no other.

Each life has its times and seasons. There is a time for silence, a time for speech. There is a season of joy, a season of hardship. Times can be short and seasons long. Maybe very long.

If we don’t discern the times or seasons we can miss the most important thing.

Joseph knew that seven years of bounty would precede seven years of drought. Planning in the season of plenty led to distribution in the season of want. Would Joseph have gained anything by fighting against the seasons? Probably not. As things turned out, what could Joseph say to his brothers, at the end of many seasons, who had given him a dreadful time? “What you designed for evil, the Lord designed for good.” Joseph knew how to discern the times and seasons.

On a different day Daniel must’ve wondered if his time had come. But the next morning he woke up with praise because it hadn’t. A vision had been given to Daniel that led him to give thanks to “God who is wise and powerful, who changes the times and seasons, who sets up kings and takes then down, who reveals the deep and secret things, who knows what lies in darkness, and the light with him abides” (Dan. 2:20-22).

Things change. In our own lives, in the lives of our loved ones, or in the lives of our ministries, things can change slowly or quickly, and they can last for a while. We can be thankful that the one who changes the times and seasons is a God of love, who wants nothing but the best for us between the time we were born and the time we die. Our seasons and times are in His hands.

We cannot discern the times or seasons on our own. We do not set up kings, or take them down. We do not know what lies in darkness, or the deep and secret things. If we do not inquire of the Lord about our times and seasons we will step off the path of Joseph and Daniel, and of Jesus, who in the fullness of time came to be born, and at the appointed time, to die, in an act of deepest love.

What season am I in? How has Jesus been revealed in it? What does Jesus want to show me?

We can rejoice with the angels during the season of Advent that Jesus comes to those who long, and wait, and search, and hope.

Merry Christmas.

CCI in Prison

On Valentine’s Day this year CCI was…

In Prison!

This month the Christian Communications Institute (CCI) went to jail.  Well, it was actually a juvenile detention center for young women.  It all started when an Interserve partner of ours (who leads a regular prison ministry at the center) was sharing about the problems the women had faced — broken families, drugs, violence, and abuse.  Immediately something came to mind — CCI’s dramas!  These plays highlight the challenges of youth, the choices that must be made, and the hope, forgiveness, and power to change found in Christ.  CCI usually performs these plays in schools, but wouldn’t it be great if the team could present one at the detention center?  Andy (who works as an audio-visual specialist at CCI) took the idea to the CCI team leader who loved it.

When we stepped off the bus we were pleasantly surprised at the welcome we received at the gate, and the fresh, open feeling of the grounds.  Our team set up the backdrop and audio equipment in the open-air hall, and then 55 young women, six of them with infants in arms, quietly filed in and sat down on the floor.

The program was powerful, as CCI programs often are.  Hands clapped and tears flowed as the girls became immersed in the story — a story that echoed many aspects of their own lives.  At the end, one of the actors gave her personal testimony, relating how she endured years of drug abuse until finally coming clean and giving her life to Christ.  The reaction was positive, even from the center supervisors who had been wary of the fact that CCI is a Christian group.  “Please come again and perform for the boy’s center too,” they insisted.

As our CCI troupe mingled with the girls after the show, we felt a real sense of the joy of serving in partnership.  Interserve partners working in separate ministries had united to fill a need, partnering with Thai Christians who share their faith through the performing arts.  We were privileged to be part of a witness bringing light and hope into some young hearts that day.  God blessed us all, and because you enable this type of work to happen through your prayers and support, you are blessed as well.

A quote from one of the drama team: “It was the best Valentine’s Day for us!  We were able to share the love of God through dance, drama, songs, personal witness stories, and chatting with the girls after the performance.  God’s love can touch our hearts too.”

Posted in CCI

The Hills Burn

hillsburnYears ago, a young man named Allan courted a young woman named Joan. He was in the US Army, a veteran of the Korean War. She was on stage on Broadway, and claimed a cameo role in a “Lone Ranger” episode. They married … then moved to Thailand for full time Faith work.

Decades later – during our border trip, as nearby hills burned to clear away unwanted brush — I watched as Allan shared the nuts and bolts of his own faith for the umpteenth time.

Allan using Pictures to preach

Note what Allan is using to talk about his faith: pictures.

His faith — the thing that matters more than anything in his life, the thing that he’s staked his life on — is shared in simple, evocative images. After so many decades, he’s learned that there are few tools more successful at TELLING HIS STORY across cultural and language gaps. Images seem to break down barriers … allowing one man to share his soul with another.

The man who’s listening to Allan’s image story in the near-dark is a quiet, thoughtful man named N who has often been on the run from the Burmese army. He is a leader in his village and his decision to join Allan in Faith would be complicated. Near midnight, N explains that he needs more time to reflect on Allan’s story of — and invitation to — Faith. They shake hands … and go to bed.

Turns out, N touches souls with similarly evocative images in song. This one was recorded during a chapel service at a refugee camp inside Burma.

N’s song is about how a village was burned in 2010, how the people were scattered, how they were reunited … and how their community church was rebuilt. Evocative stuff, full of sensory imagery … even though we don’t understand the language. It’s perhaps one of the most evocative recordings I’ve made on this journey.

These two men — Allan and N — came together for us during our border trip in the life of our trip leader, D.

Allan is D’s father. N is D’s comrade in a border region organization he leads to help displaced ethnic minorities under fire.

Like Allan and N … D knows the power of stories and images. He’s constantly telling a story, pointing to this hill or that mountain where battles once raged. D comfortingHe puts his arm around people he reveres in stories. He shares the details of how he messed up seasons of his own life. He acts out scenes of heroism. He talks freely about Faith.

D’s personal story is powerful on its own merits — the child of a missionary, a soldier in US Army Special Forces, a new recruit to the mission field, a failed first marriage, an ordained second marriage, bullets and bullets and bullets dodged, and the ongoing fruit of a sprawling organization in a conflict zone. There is only one answer to his question: “Easy way, or hard way?”

Still, it’s D’s stories that break down barriers. It’s his stories that compel men to follow, in battle … in Faith. It’s his stories that connect souls so powerfully.

It’s his stories that burn inside the hills of men like fire.

– J Wildman

(For more pictures and the song, visit Hearing the Echoes).