30 Days of Prayer for the Nations - Macedonia

This summer, we are participating in 30 Days of Prayer for the nations. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing stories from men and women in our church family who have actively invested in making Jesus known across the nations.

EASTERN EUROPE: THE GOSPEL REACHES TO MACEDONIA

Two years ago, my wife Rachel and I crossed the Atlantic to spend time learning from and ministering to the people of Skopje, Macedonia. It was a different kind of mission trip than what you might think because we knew we wouldn’t come away having built houses or dug wells. Instead, we went into it praying and asking that God would allow us to build relationships with the people of Macedonia. 

He answered our prayers.

During our second week in Macedonia, our team helped facilitate and teach English classes at a local university in Skopje. We engaged primarily with ethnic Albanians, a predominantly Muslim people-group. Several of the students were Muslim and preparing for the start of Ramadan.  Ramadan is a yearly event for Muslims where they fast from morning to evening, pray, and rededicate themselves to their faith. The Lord opened an opportunity for us to talk about their stories and the role of faith in their lives. Literally, from the first day of meeting these students to the last, they were extremely eager to spend time with us. We spent up to seven hours with some of them each day! We would eat döner kebabs with them, drink chai and Turkish coffee, walk through the city, chat about life, learn about their culture, and even just watch local television with them. It was great! Through it all, I was struck by their kindness, their desire to get to know us, and their hospitality. They were willing to just listen to our stories and even discuss our beliefs and values. I struggled to understand this because I expected it to be difficult to develop relationships with them. Honestly, sometimes it was. At times, I wrestled internally because I wanted to simply fix their theology or set them straight in what I observed of their misunderstanding of who God is. I want to be clear because there are certainly core differences between the Christian and the Islamic understanding of God. This is crucial and should be discussed; but perhaps we often miss opportunities because we are afraid of engaging in relationships with people who are Muslim.

During our time in Macedonia, I observed that Muslims have a very serious view of Allah (their name for God). They see Him as transcendent and untouchable, an almighty God who is the creator and sustainer of all things. In their view, He is a God of power, completely holy and "other." Therefore, created beings should not be so presumptive to stand without fear before Him. Interestingly, this is very similar to our Christian view of God. He is transcendent and to be feared above all else. We understand that we cannot (on our own) stand justified before Him. Although this is only one aspect of who God is, I feel that so often in our Christian communities we forget it or minimize it. I know I do. I cannot help but realize that, in some ways, my Muslim friends have helped me in my understanding of God. They have sparked in me a fresh emphasis on certain aspects of God's character.  

However, I cannot forget that this is only one part of God's multi-faceted character. Consider the immense beauty of Jesus. The fact that God made himself known and revealed His nature to us by becoming human.  It’s the transforming beauty of the truth that he has atoned for and dealt with our sin, our impurity, and now grants us full access to holy God in Christ. This means that God isn't just transcendent; He is also quite immanent - He is near to us. This is foundational to our Christian faith but too often I approach God in a one dimensional way. I treat him as though He is merely "my bud,” as though He is on my level. I can be cavalier and casual in relationship with Him. I am so thankful that my time spent with Muslims, both overseas and here in Denver, has helped me to place a more faithful, beautiful balance between two realities of God's character — His transcendence (distance from us) and His immanence (nearness to us).

It is absolutely wonderful that we don't have to approach the throne of God in fear of His unavoidable judgment and condemnation. Although many Muslims continue to approach God in this way; I think our Muslim friends can help us realize the reality of God's holiness, his transcendence, and how utterly unique He is. We should have absolutely no right to stand before Him with our head held high, save the sanctified life and justifying cross of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God! It makes the reality of Jesus and His Gospel that much more brilliant!

Would you pray for Muslims around the world and in Macedonia? Here are three ways you can:

  1. In light of Ramadan and in light of a Muslim faith that does not acknowledge the God-man Jesus as the means of being made right with the fullness of the Godhead, please pray that Muslims will seek Jesus.
  2. Pray for our relationships with Muslims that we may develop strong and faithful friendships, and that we be not afraid to enter into relationship with them. We can learn a lot, even as we present the salvation that comes through the person and work of Jesus.
  3. Pray that instead of avoiding God's transcendence, making light of it, or minimizing it; let us marvel at the magnitude of God's mercy and pray for Muslims to see both His holiness and nearness through who Jesus is.

PT is on staff with The Summit as a pastoral resident focused on corporate worship and liturgy. PT  and his wife Rachel live in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver with their son Banyan, foster son Baby J, and are expecting another baby boy this month.

30 Days of Prayer for the Nations - Finland

This summer, we are participating in 30 Days of Prayer for the nations. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing stories from men and women in our church family who have actively invested in making Jesus known across the nations.

EUROPE: THE GOSPEL REACHES TO THE FINNISH PEOPLE.

Hi Summit Church! This is Adam Gold. I lived in Finland for two years and worked as a missionary to the Finnish people by supporting the work of a young church in Helsinki. Of course Europe, let alone Finland, is probably not the first place you think of when it comes to missions work. However, I think that needs to change. Gospel-centered churches are few and far between throughout much of Europe. The Finns are in need of redemption and restoration just like the remaining peoples of the world, all who are loved by and made in the image of God. I once thought that mission work was really about me and my service to God. I felt I should seek out the most difficult places as a missionary and suffer in some way to be good enough. But, I learned that God is on a different mission; one that destroys false beliefs and replaces it with hope. When I finally understood this, I was willing and motivated to go to any end of the earth to see people saved by the gospel.

So what are the Finnish people like? I had an experience during my first month in Helsinki, which I think gives the perfect glimpse into their culture and who they are as people. I was on the train heading downtown for a Finnish lesson. I had taken out my wallet to scan my train pass, but I dropped it while quickly attempting to put it into my pocket and take my seat. I had no idea I no longer had it. The trains, buses, metro, and trolleys are almost completely silent. People don’t typically talk to strangers in Finland, and you try not to make eye contact. I didn’t realize my wallet was gone until I started to get off the train and realized I couldn’t feel it. An older woman could tell I was starting to panic. She quietly told me that a woman picked it up off of the ground but had just left the train. I immediately rushed outside asking every woman I could find about my wallet. I assumed it was gone forever with all of my cards, IDs, and some cash. I put in a report at the police station, but never thought I would hear back. I felt terrible and so stupid. How could I lose my wallet during my first month in a new country? To my shock and amazement, a week later I got a call from the police station. My wallet was turned in, and not only that, but not a single thing was taken out of it. I still believe that the women who picked it up never even bothered to look inside. It was hard to believe at the time, but over the course of two years in Finland, it all made sense. The Finnish people are proud, strong, and honest, as well as unbelievably reserved. You don’t make a scene in Finland, and you don’t draw any attention to yourself. Even if you see someone fall off a treadmill while running, you act like nothing happened and don’t even acknowledge it (that honestly happened to one of my friends). This woman who picked up my wallet was not going to draw attention to herself or embarrass me in any way; but she was going to do the right thing. They may seem like an entire nation of shy introverts, but they value their friendships and treat those they care for like family. It is honor to be invited into someone’s home, and it is an even a greater honor to be invited into their life as a friend.

Something changed in me during my time in Finland. I think it was a greater realization of the patience and faithfulness of God to long suffer for his people. I learned a lot about myself and how certain expectations and views of life and ministry needed to change. Developing meaningful relationships with Finns took time, and gaining trust wasn’t something that was easily given away. Through this time I realized how much self-reliance I had and how much I wanted to believe in my own influence. However, God was faithful to humble my heart and give me clarity and ultimately help me to see how valuable each and every person is to Him.

Now, back in the US and in the city of Denver; I feel a lot less mechanical in the way I practically try to live out a missional life. There is so much freedom in the gospel. It is freedom I continue to experience the more I learn to trust in God with every area of my life, and the more I have learned that He provides a safety that I previously never believed existed. In the first few years after I became a Christian, I tried serving him with so much guilt and with the weight that I was making up for the first 17 years of my life. Ultimately, the gospel was more about me than it was about Jesus. My time in Finland, especially the amazing mentors and friends I found there, helped transform my perspective and appreciate how God works so uniquely in his people. Now I feel freer than ever to share the gospel and build friendships with the freedom that God will work and his word will not come back void. I feel less consumed by what missions means for me and more concerned about what it means for every individual that I come into contact with, knowing that God is more concerned for them than I can ever be and He is ready and able to save them.

Would you pray for the Finns? Here are three ways you can:

  1. The Finnish people value peace, and often they find it in the quiet of nature and solitude. Pray that they would find true peace and joy in Jesus.
  2. The Finnish people value purpose and determination, but often try finding it in working hard in their jobs for the greater good, only to realize that it leaves them empty. Pray that the Finnish people would see their purpose first and foremost in the God that gave them life and pray that their determination would lead to His glory and their joy.
  3. Although Finnish people are reserved, many of them dislike it and they want to be vulnerable with others. In fact, Finnish people rarely tell anyone that they love them, even family members. Pray that those who would like more courage in their lives to be open and vulnerable would find this strength rooted in the God who made them, and that it would greatly impact their culture for their good.

Adam Gold is one of the pastoral interns at Summit. He is working on his ministry graduate degree with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He worked for the International Mission Board in Finland as a missionary for two years. He currently lives in northwest Denver with his wife Katie and son Ellis.

30 Days of Prayer for the Nations - The United Kingdom

This summer, we are participating in 30 Days of Prayer for the nations. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing stories from men and women in our church family who have actively invested in making Jesus known across the nations.

THE UK: THE GOSPEL REACHES TO INDIAN IMMIGRANT FAMILIES IN LONDON

A member of their family had just passed. I was visiting their home for the Satsang, which is a time of singing in Gujarati and Hindi. They were doing this to remember their loved one who was no longer with them. The lyrics were unknown and the mood was sullen. I joined them on the floor. Incense and flour covered a picture of the departed husband and father. Awkwardness and uncertainty both enveloped me as I was the only non-Indian (from South Asia) member present. So, I simply sat in the circle tapping the tambourines to their bhajans. Then, I was asked to sing. Me? We had sung bhajans to Prabu Isu (Jesus) at church every Sunday but the lyrics and tunes to any of those songs escaped me. The only song I could think of was Amazing Grace. In my reluctance, nerves, and fear; I sang about Jesus saving a sinner like me and bringing me to this place. This was a home which had generationally prayed to their multitude of gods for good life, success, and a higher status. This surreal moment of the family welcoming me in only happened because I had been doing life with them. I saw their daughter and son at kids club each week, I had knocked on their door and been invited in for chapatis (food), chai, and dhal. Even greater, the church I was working with there had been building relationships with this family and community for years before I ever landed. This meant as a white, American, outsider I was kindly invited into this intimate moment.

Hi, my name is Danielle Martinelli and I’m a member at the Summit. In 2013, I ventured to a London I never knew existed. The London I stepped into for two years was not one of high tea, crumpets or posh British accents, but instead full of saris, curry, and gurdwaras. After college graduation, I felt directed by God to go back to the UK to work with an Indian culturally contextualized church plant. This church aimed to live out the gospel in a way I had never seen before. The pastor there continually reminded me that when reaching out to these Hindi immigrants, one has to belong before belief. I even walked by a temple every day to get to the church building. Jesus was another god they were fine to put on their shelf with the other gods who they hoped could bring good fortune. But to say Jesus was the only God they followed and then to be baptized was like “spitting on the grave of their ancestors”. In our conversations, I was told they thought well of Christianity, but then when one of their own said yes to Christ, so often it was followed with rejection from the whole community. In accepting the hope, love, truth, and grace of Jesus; the startling reality is that it could and often meant losing their community. As immigrants and refugees, they would likely feel they were losing community that provided comfort and security in a foreign country.

I came to doubt and wrestle with this question. Had I ever made such a choice? Was Christ worth it to ask them to do this? In this wrestling, I saw it was not about me. Christ had already come to save, I was not asking them to do something that Jesus had not already done by leaving His own throne and sacrificing everything. In seeing others come to faith amidst this foreknown sacrifice, I was humbled. I saw the weight, but the true freedom that came when a close Hindu friend saw the truth in the gospel and could let go of the endless cycle of good deeds that were so weighty and turn to Christ.

During my time in London I learned that the church was so important in order to show they had a family, a tangible place they belonged to if they chose Christ. Forming these relationships was paramount to seeing the gospel in action through a long-term perspective. Saying goodbye to these friendships hurt as I ventured back to America. I was hoping but uncertain if and when I would return to the mission field. However, seeing an example of a continual pursuit to love your neighbor with a long-term kingdom-of-God perspective has been instrumental to how I make decisions and live a life that is not cultural Christianity. Rather I am living by daily faith with, of course, my own mistakes and sin mixed in; yet with a covering of God’s amazing grace.

Would you pray for Indian immigrants and refugees in the UK? Here are three ways you can:

  1. Pray for the church in the UK to grow and for the workers to find strength, persistence, and encouragement in their endeavors to share the good and hope-filled news of Christ.
  2. Pray for the growing tension against refugees and immigrants that has been intensified due to Brexit.
  3. Pray for leadership from locals, especially British Indian Christians to start leading the church 

Danielle spent two years working with Indian immigrants in London. She is currently attending Denver Seminary and is active in reaching and working with refugee and immigrant communities in both Europe and Denver.