Glendale UMC invited us to share our witness and plans for service in Malawi at their worship service this past Sunday. It was a perfect morning that will remain with us always.
They prayed with us,
“As members of this Christian assembly representing the whole church, we send you into service with your special gifts and graces. We support you. You are our gift to Malawi. We will receive you back again in a year on behalf of God’s people...
In Sunday School the children learned about Paul’s missionary journeys and the activity for the day was to give cards to persons currently serving in mission. What a blessing to receive these cards saying, “No matter how you get there… God is with you! Thank you for sharing the good news about Jesus with others.”
“Like you, we have special gifts and graces, particular endowments of mind and spirit, through which God seeks to be made known to the world. Together we are the people of God, whose task is to participate in God’s mission in the world. We celebrate the gifts of life, and we face the future with unshakable hope…
The gifts and graces of Glendale flow freely and spontaneously from the individual members and corporate body of the church. We feasted on a catfish dinner on Saturday night in their common room and arrived Sunday morning in the same room, transformed into a beautiful worship setting filled with cloth and pictures from Malawi.
And during the opening prayer, Betsey Heavner offered a prayer of dedication for a prayer shawl recently completed by the knitting ministry. When the congregation invited us forward – including my parents, sister and nephews – to pray for us, Rev. Sandra Griggs brought the prayer shawl over and draped in around my mother’s shoulders, a mantle that will comfort her in the months to come.
The congregation at Glendale embodies extravagant generosity.
“Loving God, we ask you to bless the Olivers. Fill them with your Holy Spirit and strengthen them for the tasks ahead. Be in all their work and all the words they speak. Bind this family in your care. May their work glorify you and advance the coming of the kingdom on earth…
This amazing service reminded our family, in the midst of our good-bye tears, of the calling and desire to make our own small contribution to the coming kingdom that moves out beyond the comfort and stability of our family, our friends and our geography and culture. I know that our family joins Glendale in sending us off with their blessings, prayers and excitement for our adventure; but it was also with heavy hearts and tears that we embraced and kissed. It’s difficult to imagine what it will be like not to see them for a year, not to pick up the phone whenever I feel like it, or be close enough for birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I am so grateful for the faith that binds us and the prayers of the faithful embodied on Sunday that will continue to strengthen those bonds.