As we come to the end of this year, which has passed all too quickly, I look back on the twelve months of 2008 with a sense of profound gratitude to God. I am particularly grateful for His hand of blessing upon the work of the Lausanne Movement.Here at my office in Boston, I have three images that remind me of the significant events and experiences of the year.
The largest image among them is a map of the world. It is a beautiful map that our Lausanne communications team produced to create awareness for Cape Town 2010. I look at the map and remember the places I have been in the course of just one year. As a boy growing up in Peoria, Illinois, I never imagined that someday in the course of one year I would have the opportunity to be with colleagues and friends all across our world, in Central, South and North America, as well as in Europe and Eurasia, in the Middle East and across Africa, and also in South Asia, East Asia and Asia Pacific.
The second image that is on the wall before me is the annual calendar for 2008. Just twelve months ago it represented plans, visions and dreams. Now it is soon to be entered into the archives of my life. It is a record of meetings, travel, projects, priorities, Lausanne consultations, planning events for Cape Town 2010, and numerous church and family events.
The third image is a bulletin board that is covered with snapshots of people who have been part of the journey. These are the most prized images as they bring reminders of the way in which God has blessed the Lausanne Movement with so many people from around the world – missionaries, business and government leaders, pastors, theologians, evangelists, writers and artists – who are united in their commitment to proclaim and demonstrate the transforming power of the gospel in all the earth.
By themselves, these images are little more than a record of activity. It is only in the context of reflection that these images become instructive, and only in the context of prayer and service that our meager activity is translated into spiritual significance and eternal value.
2008 has also been a year of discovery and deepening convictions. First, I have come to deeper awareness of His abiding presence. Travel can be exciting and enriching but it can also be lonely at times when we feel the separation of being far from home and family. The work can be exhilarating and rewarding at so many points, but there are also those times when we feel weak and inadequate in the face of pressing challenges. Life and health can be taken for granted, but there were moments in this year when life itself seemed so fragile. This was particularly true for Jeanie and me as we walked through her ordeal with an apparent heart attack that was followed by heart surgery. In each case, we were reminded of His words, “Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” What a source of strength to know our Lord says, “I am with you always.”
The second discovery has to do with the growing awareness that God does his best work in the most difficult of circumstances. As I have traveled around the world this year, I have seen suffering and poverty, moral decay, societal and environmental challenges that almost make me numb. Yet, it is precisely in the midst of these adverse conditions that I see the work of grace and the light of hope as God empowers His people for creative, courageous and fruitful service. The gospel is indeed the power of God, and the church is the means of hope and grace in our world – no matter how overwhelming the circumstances may appear to be.
Thirdly, I have a growing conviction that God has his hand of favor upon the Lausanne Movement for a distinct purpose. The Lausanne Movement is providing the context where we can meet together to wrestle with the most pressing issues of our day in terms of both theological reflection and strategic response. I believe that God is also blessing the Movement so as to provide the context in which we can learn to trust God and to trust one another. At this point in history where the leadership center is shifting to the majority world, it is imperative to see that God-centered, trusting friendships are being established and strengthened around the world. It is especially gratifying to see a new generation of younger and emerging leaders from around the world connecting with one another for Kingdom purposes. Additionally, I believe that the Movement is being blessed by God to bring unity, vision and hope to the global church for the cause of world evangelization.
The end of the year provides the occasion for reflection as well as for planning and dreaming about the New Year which will soon begin. At this time of the year, I send you my greetings with the prayer that you will experience the certainty of His presence, the hope and power of the gospel, and the joy of being a part of the global body of Christ. May He continue to use us to be faithful in the work of the Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World – so that those who do not yet know Him will soon be able to join us in singing and proclaiming, “Joy to the World, The Lord has come!”