Two little words (last time) kept cropping up in our conversation as we headed to church that Sunday. Last time to worship with the believers at Eastern Gate Baptist Church in Papua New Guinea. Since 2004 we had called this our church. They actually called it Machine Gun Beach Church for there is an old machine gun right across the street right on the ocean left over from World War II.
It was to be our "last time" with the believers and I was struggling. Not only do I not like goodbye's but I could come up with several reasons not to go.
1. too steamy hot...
2. ants would be crawling all over me...
3. usually only understand half of what the preacher says…
4. tired from the week of packing and cleaning in the heat...
I could go on with more reason but that’s enough to express a heart not in a thankful mood. We parked in the pastor yard which also housed the small church with gravel floor, thatch half walls around it. I looked for the pot of meat I had cooked early that morning for the pot luck....like a flash I could see it sitting on our porch step where I left it as I ran back in the house to get something I forgot. So now we have come to the pot luck empty handed.
Oh no, add another reason…number five..shame..for not wanting to go to church. But I put on my happy face, shook people hands, talked a little, finally went to the women side of church, my husband to the men side as they gathered for a last time service with us. Then the singing without any instruments started and God begin to work in my anxious heart and I could not stop the tears from flowing out. Song after song I thought my heart would burst from emotion. It dawned on me….they really were going to miss us and I was going to miss them, these dark skinned believers who lift their voices every Sunday to the Lord. This was the last time we would sit in this little church across the sea. Soon we would be heading home for a stateside ministry probably never to return.
Recently I was cleaning up some old drafts and came across the above and thought I would finish this one even though I started it Sept 2011 and it is now July 2012. Memories flood my heart as I recall those dear saints of God attending the little church there in Papua New Guinea. Our first Sunday there was quite an eye opener. Their needs are so easy to see, more comfortable seating,, concrete or wood floor, fans to circulate the hot humid air, teaching material, an office for the pastor and their list could go for while. Yet I never heard folks sing with such passion. You know they did not even have enough silver wear or plates at their pot lucks to give out...so as soon as one got through eating their fork or spoon and plate would be wash and handed to someone in need. They were insistent we always have the first turn with a fork. As we ate that last Sunday I just kept thinking, this will be the last time we will share a meal with them.
Now we worship in a church with air con, comfortable chairs, carpeted floors and an abundance of silver wear among other things. Sometimes it's hard to hear the words of a song due the loudness of the instruments. My mind floats back to those hot sweaty Sundays , sharing forks and hearing them sing Rock Of Ages in four part harmony and knowing their every day struggles to just provide enough food to feed their families. People ask if we miss our ministry across the sea...YES WE DO...yes we wish we had another life to give...but we believe God is in the "last times" as well as the "firsts."
Through the years we've had lots of first time. First job, first car, first and only marriage, first child, a last child and first and only house, . First time and last time of hearing the gospel before I became of believer. First overseas ministry in Bolivia, last in Papua New Guniea. At this writing, first time to live in California...wonder WHERE His last place will be for us...hummm?
Like all believers I wait for the ultimate last time of events to happen in God's time span. I can think of no better ending to this post then this:
He came the first time to die; the last time He is coming again to raise the dead.
When He came the first time, they questioned whether He was King; the last time the world
will know that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
The first time He wore a crown of thorns; the last time He will be wearing a crown of glory .
The first time He came in poverty; the last time He is coming in power.
The first time He had an escort of angels; the last time He will come with ten thousands of His saints.
The first time He came in meekness; He is coming again in majesty.
(core of message by Adrian Rogers.)
Come on Lord Jesus...for the last time.
This post is linked to Tell Me A Story