The Gift of Presence

The coffee shop where we spent a lot of time building relationships and playing Uno this month

The coffee shop where we spent a lot of time building relationships and playing Uno this month

Here on the Worlp Rape (Nepali Engrish for World Race), we go a lot of places for not a lot of reasons. "Ministry" often looks like going to a church service (or a gathering or a graduation or even a wedding) and sitting there, or worse, just standing there. You're not asked to preach or sing or pray or testify. You just sit.

Meanwhile the people stare at you intermittently between singing or praying in their mother tongues which we of course do not understand.

30 min goes by.Sitting.An hour passes.Still just sitting.An hour and a half passes.

(This is how I go through 2 full battery cycles a day on my iPod touch...)

I don't think this is what Abraham had in mind when he was told God would use him to bless all people groups. It's certainly not what I thought I was signing up to do 12 months ago at Training Camp. Regardless, I am here, and I know God wants me here.

But, why?

There are so many other (read better) things I could be doing.

You have 7 brilliant, passionate, equipped, University-educated 20-somethings at your disposal. And you just want us to SIT HERE?!?

We can teach classes on health, Bible, English, business, finance, hygiene. We can preach and sing. We can host medical clinics. And that's just the list of degrees and certifications on our team!

[photo missing] Krystle checking blood pressure during the medical clinic this month

"No, thank you. You canjust sit here." (to be understood as: Sit down, shut up, don't do anything disruptive, and smile.)


Well, the short answer is I don't know. The long answer goes something like this...

Sometimes, God can use us without us doing anything. Sometimes, we don't need to preach or evangelize.  Sometimes he just wants us to BE there.

Sometimes he just wants us to BE.

Not do. BE.

At times we feel like sports stars or movie stars; people just love being around us.

Sometimes we can be an encouragement to others by just being there, hanging out, playing Angry Birds. During a medical clinic for the elderly, I sat in a chair surrounded by a flock of kids watching me play Angry birds. Sometimes they ooh-ed and awed. Sometimes they provided commentary on the action. Sometimes they laughed at my failures. They loved it.

Somehow, that's ministry.

I can't tell you how many times it has happened, but it feels like we've done more of that than what we would normally consider ministry in these past 10 months.

Sometimes you just being there is all God wants you to do.

Our American culture tells us that we are what we do. Therefore we must perform and accomplish and work and do. But God didn't create us for the purpose of doing that stuff.

He created us to worship Him and enjoy life serving Him and His Kingdom.

Worship is a matter of the whole person, your heart, your mind, your body, the deepest parts of who you are. And, worship is about all of life, not just singing songs or going to church.

You cannot worship when you are not aware of God's presence.

God is in the business of giving the gift of presence, His presence. Our Scriptures are full of theophanies. The Bible itself is a book of divine disclosure; that's what makes it holy. In the Old Testament, He appears to Abraham and Moses. In the New Testament, He reveals Himself to the disciples and Paul. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, He gives all His followers the Holy Spirit.

And because we are Spirit-filled people, God can use us as gifts of presence.

Yes, we are called to be more than just gifts of presence. All followers of Jesus have been commissioned as heralders of the good news in both word and deed. If St. Francis of Assisi really did say something along the lines of "preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words" (which is questionable), then he was wrong. TheGospel is not good news if it is not news that is both proclaimed and proved. But, sometimes, God just wants us to show up and wait.

If I were more spiritual I would now tell you a story about how I did this and share some profound insight with you.

I'm not.

I'm still learning, so maybe we can do this together. Maybe we can play fewer levels of Angry Birds and ask God to speak in those situations. Maybe we open up a dialogue with God in our own mother tongue while the others do the same.

Mad photo props to the fabulous Brianna Danese.