Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Meeting Jesus over lunch

In a certain sense I am reluctant to share what had happened in 2005 which led to the forming of Shiselweni Reformed Home-Based Care. This was such a deep personal experience that I had with God that it was only recently that I started sharing this story with others. In a previous post which you can access here, I did share part of the story but refrained from sharing the real personal story. Now I feel more ready to tell openly what happened to me.
Since 1989 I have had a deep interest in the problem of HIV and AIDS, specifically in Swaziland. I had done a lot of research on the topic, published an article about this pandemic, with the title: Why are we losing the battle against AIDS? and found myself in 2005 preparing for a number of workshops which were to be held in Utrecht in the Netherlands as part of the general assembly of the Reformed Ecumenical Council, where I was asked to lead the workshops on the task of the church in this time of AIDS. The lectures I delivered in the Netherlands was entitled: Towards a Theology of HIV/AIDS. However, while preparing for these workshops, I had an uncomfortable feeling that God was expecting me to do more than merely presenting a number of lectures.
While attending the assembly in the Netherlands, all the delegates were invited one Sunday morning to attend church in Rotterdam. In spite of the wealth of the majority of the people in Rotterdam, this city, which hosts the busiest harbour in the world, has a large number of people normally regarded as outcasts, people such as drug addicts and prostitutes. The Scots International Church in Rotterdam, the congregation which had invited us to visit them, has the vision to reach out to these outcasts and to serve the poor and the destitute of the city. Although this vision was clearly displayed at the entrance to the church it was only later, in a remarkable experience, that I realised that this church truly lived out their vision.
After the church service, all the delegates were invited to lunch. Most of the delegates were prominent church leaders in their countries: professors, theologians, moderators, general secretaries and people of equal stature. It was while we were busy with lunch that something happened to me that changed my life in a profound way. I noticed a man entering the dining room. This man was obviously mentally challenged. With a slight feeling of discomfort I kept an eye on him, wondering how the local church leaders were going to handle the situation and expecting them to guide this man outside the church, at most with a sandwich in his hand. And then, instead of doing what I expected (and what I perhaps would have done myself in similar conditions), this man was invited to share our lunch! And it was at that moment that I knew that, had Jesus been on earth that day and at that place as a human Person, He would have done exactly the same. While sitting at my table I cried out to God and said that I wanted my own congregation in Swaziland to be like this: The people in Swaziland had to experience Jesus in the way that this man had experienced Him that day in Rotterdam.
While on our way back from Rotterdam to Utrecht in a luxury coach, reflecting on what had happened that day, I realised that I might just have had one of the most important moments in my life and I made a decision not to ignore this. As I was privileged to sit on my own, I had the chance to pray quietly to God and asked Him what He was trying to teach me. I didn’t hear voices! I saw no flashing lights! But in that coach I knew without a doubt that God was laying a vision for our church in my mind: We had to become the hands and the feet of Christ within the communities surrounding our church. Our congregation has several “preaching points” spread throughout the Shiselweni region of Swaziland and with growing excitement I became convinced that each of these communities of faith could become a centre of hope for the sick and the dying within the community where it is situated.
I have often thought about that day. I have discussed it with a few people who were also present that day and up to now nobody else I had spoken to had seen what happened that day. I wrote to the pastor of that church and told him what had happened, but he never answered me. It is as if that experience was meant for me personally. Today I know why I had to travel all the way to the Netherlands so that God could personally touch my life.
Josh and Lindsey Parks recently told a similar type of story and it was while reading this that I decided that the time had come for me to share me story. They actually tell two stories, one positive and one negative. Possibly the negative story touched me even more than the positive story, because it shows us how much harm we can do if we fail to live according to Jesus’ example.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - Posted by | Church, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland, Theology

1 Comment »

  1. Arnau, thank you for sharing your story. I think one of the most profound things you said was “I realised that I might just have had one of the most important moments in my life and I made a decision not to ignore this.” So often God allows us to witness things in order to teach us, but, unfortunately, many choose to take those moments and ignore them because they cause us shame, embarrassment, or make us uncomfortable. Imagine what would happen if everyone took those moments, reflected on them, and allowed God to teach us. Our world would change…and our relationship with our Father would deepen.

    Comment by lmparks | Monday, March 31, 2008 | Reply

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