Adults

The Blessing of Listening

When was the last time you really felt heard? When have you really felt like you heard someone else’s heart?

This month, we have been thinking a lot about how to grow relationships. One way that is harder than it sounds is by learning to listen.

The gift of listening is more than just keeping our mouths shut. To listen, really listen, we need to engage with our minds and hearts. We need to enter into someone else’s reality to the point that we can sense what God is doing in their lives. It is rarely what we think about on the surface. Something is always deeper. Our God’s love is deep and wide. It removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. Truly only He knows the plans He has for us. Only He can walk us through the valleys. Our relationships with others recognize His work in their lives and we must listen well to even begin to see His ways. He often surprises us in the journey.

Listening: A Relationship Builder

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is an old quote and it holds the key to building deep and lasting relationships. One of the ways we genuinely show we care is by listening.

Offering Biblical hospitality in my home and office has generated spontaneous moments to listen and to show I care. Over a cup of hot tea served with scones or coffee served with muffins, what has started out as a generalized conversation turns into my guest sharing their most deepest needs. Once a person knows you can be trusted and that you truly care; pretenses crumble and the foundation is laid for an authentic relationship.

Everyone needs someone to simply listen. It isn’t that you hold the answers or can solve the problems, but there is something therapeutic about being able to voice our ‘whatever’ to someone who will accept us as we are with a listening ear and heart. Who in your life that needs Biblical hospitality and a listening ear is God placing on your heart?

 

If I Will, You Will

One minute I had my perfect post-college plans set, and the next I was convinced they would never come to fruition.

The plan (or so I had hoped) was to move overseas in 2015, a few months after graduation. I saw no need to look for a full-time job or move back in with my parents, because I was going to start my life as a cross-cultural worker when I wanted.

It quickly became apparent that my timeline and God’s timeline weren’t matching up, despite my best attempts to get my way. I went to my university pastor for advice, and he told me to pray and listen to what God was telling me about it.

I prayed and very clearly God told me, “If the Lord wills, you will do this, but wait.”

While that wasn’t the answer I wanted, I listened, and it paid off. I’m only a few months into my term, but I can see that if I hadn’t waited and listened, delaying my plans by a year, so much would be different.

Even as I try to stay focused on my work in South Asia, I find myself wondering about what’s next, and He continues to remind me, “If the Lord wills.”

Are You Listening?

My toddler, positioned on my left hip, was jabbering away. Suddenly he realized I wasn’t listening. With his two chubby hands, placing one on each side of my face, he turned my head so it was positioned directly in front of his face. Happy that he now had my full attention, he continued to speak to me as if I understood every word. That scenario happened almost 38 years ago and I still find myself having a problem listening with my full attention.

Listening is something which does not come naturally to us. In our selfishness we talk first and listen lastly. Listening is a skill, an art. It means consciously making the effort to listen with our mind and hearts, being intentional and disciplining ourselves to learn the skill. Listening involves all of you. It is eye to eye contact with full attention devoted to the person who is sharing.

Over the years God has placed women in my life who have listened in that way. Ears attuned to my joys, sorrows, problems, and giving me their undivided attention. They have listened, prayed and invested in my walk with Christ. Are you that kind of listening friend?

Prepare with Prayer

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” Oswald Chambers was right. No matter what kingdom work calls us, that work must be grounded in and fueled by prayer.

As your church prepares to send out short-term missions teams this summer, make prayer a priority. Recognize that prayer unites the body of Christ and makes those who pray just as important as those who go.

Consider these ideas to ensure those going are covered in prayer:

Prayer Cards: Create postcard-sized prayer cards that include a team photo, a key verse for the trip, and 3 specific prayer requests. Distribute cards to members of missions organizations and consider including in the church bulletin.

Prayer Sync: Challenge church members to set clocks or phones for a daily reminder to pray in the weeks leading up to the trip. If the missions trip dates are July 10–13, consider praying from 7:10–7:13 each day, for example.

London, Listening, and Counter-Cultural Living

If we are going to make changes in our culture, we have to live counter-culturally. A mentor of mine often repeats these simple, wise words. Opportunities to live in a way that challenges our culture are easy to find in college. By choosing to make godly decisions in the midst of the temptations and challenges students face almost daily, counter-cultural and cultural living can seem as starkly different as black and white.

Then, suddenly, something happens that rips you away from your comfortable student bubble. You could graduate, transfer colleges, or even simply realize that you don’t know your university as well as you thought you did. If you’re like me, you can study abroad for a semester in London and realize just how little you really understand about other cultures. I no longer have the luxury of simply living against the status quo. I first have to identify differences between England and my home that do not reflect God and then live against the flow. In new places, though, not getting caught up in the flow is hard to do.

Law Enforcement Ministry: Offer “Peace”

Reading the headlines of the newspaper or a news website can fill your mind with fear instead of peace. Over the past week, I’ve seen articles about a mentally challenged man beaten and abused by teenagers, a shooting at an airport, and drug busts. Crimes are being committed every day. How does a society deal with those who go against the laws of the land? It begins with the men and women who take an oath to protect and serve the citizens of this country.

There is a huge need to minister to these dedicated individuals who are on call 24/7 and put their lives in harm’s way. Here are some ways you can show your support:

Pray specifically for law enforcement officers and their need to know Christ. Pray for opportunities to share the good news and build relationships. Obtain a roster and pray specifically for protection, health, officers’ families, wisdom, discernment, and the ability to make quick and rational decisions.

Starting Over Again

For Loren and Karen Dickey, the beginning of 2017 brought many challenges as they moved from Veracruz, Mexico, on the Gulf Coast inland to the Bajío. This region is considered the “Heart of Darkness,” the least reached area in Mexico, where only about 2% are Christians. This was the Dickeys’ fourth move in 18 years as International Mission Board missionaries in the Americas (having served in Nicaragua, Chile, Peru, and Mexico), but they sensed that they were “starting over again.”

From the onset, the couple knew this move would be different. Even though they only moved to another state in Mexico, they are learning the culture of the Bajío. They are also “still getting a grasp on Mexican Spanish,” which is different from the Spanish they’ve used before.

Missionary Spotlight Update: David and Regina White

Missionaries David and Regina White in Guatemala share that the believers in Nearar are making an effort to share the gospel in the Nenoja area, which is about an hour’s mountainous walk away. The Whites share that the citizens of the spiritually dark Nenoja area have been resistant to evangelical efforts thus far but believers from Nearar have been attempting to visit in the area every Saturday. Pray for the family in Christ of Nearar as it leads the effort to reach those in Nenoja and for the lost who need the hope of Christ. Additionally pray for the church in Nearar as it pursues building a facility in which to worship.

The Whites ask for continued prayers for their Sunday Bible studies in Nearar and Thursday gatherings in Muyurco. Additionally they will be participating in and encouraging Bible studies on Sunday evening in Chiquimula and Zacapa for which they covet your prayers. Lastly lift up the Whites as they continue work this spring while transitioning to depart for stateside assignment in July.

Get Plugged In

Arriving in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, NAMB church planter Jay Parks knew building relationships was vital to building New Life Church. When his son got involved in soccer, Jay attended practices and games, looking to “plug in where families already were,” he says. He soon began coaching, and after a year-and-a-half, he has met many families through it.

Jay and his wife April also committed to engage two families a week by inviting them to dinner, hosting over 100 families so far.

“This shifts a focus from just inviting them to church to simply trying to get to know them,” he affirms.

The soccer field and the Parks’ dinner table have brought many into the fledgling congregation. “Building relationships is so important when trying to reach people with the gospel,” Jay emphasizes.

(You can read more about the Parks’ story at www.newlifekona.com.)


By Ann Maniscalco

 

 

 

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