International Ministries


August 23, 2013 Journal
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The Mango Ranch

A couple weeks ago I was invited to lead a small group at a one day, multi-church youth gathering.  The place was an old undeveloped property in the small town of Pescadero.  On the property were huge 70 year old Mango trees loaded with fruit to pick and eat.  I can’t really describe a just-picked mango, pealed and savored.  These things were sweet, like candy.   

Youth and Sexuality

The theme for the day was sexuality.  First there were some games and small group discussions.  Then, with all the youth groups gathered in a circle there was an open format where the leaders answered questions concerning sexuality, pornography, temptation, etc.  Most of our answers were about God’s desire for sexual purity, abstinence, and self-control. 

Truth Wrapped Up in Grace

After a while one of the pastors (not part of the leadership panel) walked to the edge of the circle and said – “If you have already had sex, either before you were a Christian or even after, by now you might be feeling pretty impure, maybe immoral, and I suppose you could feel not very good about yourself.  I want you to know that I had sex before I was married.  And I want you to know this: God loves you.  He loves you and forgives you.  He accepts you and will make you holy.  That’s what God Does.  That’s what God did for me.”

Captives Set Free

Looking around the circle, I could see by the tears how this pastor cut right to the truth for several young people.  The truth that they had sinned, and he met this sin reality with God’s Grace.  Instead of experiencing a door slowly shutting and locking them in with their shame, instead of having to hold out their hands to be shackled to their sin, instead of having to sit in the circle with their heads down, this pastor pushed the door back open and gave them a reason to lift up their heads.  The faces of sin and shame came face to face with Jesus. And Jesus gave them the great gift of unlocked shackles, the experience of grace when the truth is hard, the understanding of how, with Jesus, the truth sets you free.  I sat, my eyes filling with tears too.  Happy to savor this holy moment.  I thought about how these young people were still maturing like the hundreds of mangoes still on the trees.  And today, what might have started to rot, suddenly, just got sweeter.

Organization & Ordination

A week later I attended a gathering with a dual purpose.  It was the “organization” of a new church, Alpha & Omega, and at the same time the ordination of their pastor Martin Belmares.  An “organization” is not the initiating of a new church start.  It is when a new church start (called a mission) has become self supporting. It is no longer a mission needing the support of the mother church but is able to stand on its own.  It’s a great day. Even though it must have been 105 degrees in that room, there was joy.

A Willingness to Serve

At the same time the mission pastor was ordained as pastor of the church.  He had consistently displayed the leadership skills, maturity, and spiritual guidance of a pastor.  No seminary degree.  No theological ordination paper to defend.  He answered a few questions about his calling, his Biblical understanding, his love for God and the church.  We stood around him with the laying on of hands and with a prayer, he was ordained to the ministry of this brand new church.  I was invited to give him the Bible he would use to increase life in this congregation.

Mature Fruit

In the closing worship I thought about mangeos again.  Instead of young, still maturing fruit like the youth a week earlier, now I was savoring the sweetness of maturity.  I was witnessing the mature fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control required to yield the harvest of this new church and a new pastor.

It was sweet. Like candy.