Saturday, 15 November 2014

Highways, Byways, and Bus Stops

'Master,' the slave said, 'what you ordered has been done, and there's still room.'Then the master told the slave, 'Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled.' - Luke 14:22-23

The second week at Pilgrim Dinners was an instance of God’s sovereign grace

At 7 of the clock, when dinner was meant to start, we had zero guests. Seven happy team members doing last minute prep, one happy team member playing lovely live music, but zero guests. ‘It’s ok, it’s only 7,’ thought I. 

Fast-forward all of five minutes, to 7:05, and we had… zero guests. At this point, hope flagged. “Praise God we had people last week,” I thought, “maybe God gave us those folks to encourage us to endure a week with no one?” Not much of a pump up

Jump with me forward another five minutes, to 7:10 on the clock, and... zero guests. We had some very tasty food plated and ready, a great vibe to the room, and I’d prepped a talk on Faith which (rarely for me) I was feeling I’d really nailed in the writing, but… we had no guests. We had our posters up across the valley, we’d fliered backpackers, and sent cars to shuttle guests from the two hostels, but… no guests. None, zip, zero

“Ok,” thought I, “let’s sit down, and I’ll give the talk to the team. It’ll be good for us too."

And then, out of the nowhere, praise to God, 12 people appeared: 8 Japanese travellers, a couple from Korea, a guy from the Netherlands, and an Aussie youth. And the twenty of us + kids sat down and did Pilgrim Dinners, with a great discussion after. 

Now where did these folks come from? Very much God’s sovereign grace through one tenacious team member, who did not lose hope but like the slave in Luke 14 kept going out asking folks to join us, long after we were meant to start. She even braved the local bus stop and asked some hoodied youths to join us (hence our lone Aussie, who was more scared of us than we of him, considering his friends had to dare him to come, and they kept checking on him to see that he was still alive). 

It was a great night, for which we praise God and have learned a good lesson - keep asking. And so we pray and ask again for guests to come each Thursday to Pilgrim Dinners, so that one day they would fill our Father's house at the Great Banquet.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

At the Gates

Enjoy the community artwork on the walls!
Did they have this in OT times?
"Fellowship is having your church friends over, and that's great, but hospitality is inviting the stranger in. ... Hospitality by definition means meeting the stranger at the gates...and bringing the stranger in."
- Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, in this interview

In the world of the Old Testament, the community gathered at the city gates. Elders and judges sat and heard cases. News and current events were shared. Strangers arrived here, looking for hospitality. (In Genesis 19 and Judges 19 you can read two stories of strangers arriving at the gates and being offered hospitality. Things don't go so well from there on, but the horrifying developments of these stories are partly why they were included - hospitality was a very solemn duty and violating it was serious.)

So where or what are the city gates in Huonville, Tasmania? I suppose you might make a case for a local pub, or perhaps the visitor information centre. But for us, it is the public library, where many travellers come to read the newspaper, check email, and glance over community notice boards.

On October 30th, we took ourselves and our hospitality to "the gates". We laid tables, heated up pots of curry and chili con carne, prayed, and waited for the strangers to come.

And they came. 

Yes, those are baby legs on my lap.
On the first night, five of them came, from Taiwan and Hong Kong. They shared a meal with us, they listened attentively to Peirce's talk on God, and they discussed it with us. 

They asked questions. They listened. We asked questions. We listened. I talked with "A" about her fear of the supernatural world and the fact that she hasn't carried on her family's traditional ancestor worship. I shared with her that as Christians we are free to both acknowledge the reality of the spiritual world, and not live in fear of it. Another guest, "M", claimed his only belief was in naturalism, but admitted during our discussion that naturalism offers no explanation for the origin of all things.

So please pray for us every Thursday, as we go to the gates, and welcome the strangers in Jesus' name.