Valentine’s day is coming up this month. It is a day where we think about love, and showing each other that we care about them. There are many ways that we can do this. Many send cards, chocolate, flowers, and other gifts. Buying gifts is one way to do this. There is another way to show love too, in our actions towards each other. An example of this is shown in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
First, lets talk about what we don’t see happen to this man, lying on the side of the road. The first 2 people to passed by this man. The first one was a priest, a Jewish religious leader. We expect him to stop. We expect him to show compassion on this poor man. But no. He sees the man, realizes he is too busy, crosses the street, and keeps on walking, forgetting all about him. There comes a Levite, an assistant to a priest. We expect him to stop. Once again no. He again sees the man, and crosses the street, and keeps on walking. This story specifically tells us that both these men noticed him, but neither one would stop to help one of their own Jewish brothers in need. We don’t know why they didn’t stop, but we know they keep walking.
Finally, someone else comes down the road. It’s a Samaritan. This is the worst possible person. From other stories, it is obvious that the Jewish people and the Samaritans did not get along very well. We expect this traveler to do many different things. We expect him to just keep walking, like the others. We expect him to laugh at the man. We expect him to finish off what the robbers had begun. At that moment, it would have been easy. What we see is unexpected. He cares for the man’s wounds and bandages him up. He loads the man on his own animal, and leads him to an inn. He pays for this stranger’s stay, and for someone to care for him. He even offers to come back, and pay more money his next time through, if that is needed. Which of these 3 acted like a neighbor? It is obviously, the third. Jesus closes by saying “go, and do likewise”
How sad it is that in 2019 we are still surprised by the outcome of this story. What the Samaritan does is still unexpected. Many times, it is easier for me to just keep going rather than stopping to help someone who needs it. But Jesus calls us, to go, and use the Samaritan as an example.
Through my years at Bdecan, I have seen something time and time again. This congregation may do things differently than others. They may eat different things or sing in a different language. But repeatedly, I see that we have way more similarities than we have differences. One of my favorite moments is when individuals and teams realize this, that they are people like us. That what they desire most, is what everyone wants, to be valued, to be accepted, to be loved.
I love people and teams coming to Bdecan, and would love for you to come and see what we do. Know that ministry doesn’t end here though. My guess is that many of you have neighbors in need in your home communities, or at least closer to you than we are. Although we are separated by miles, we have the same mission, to go out, and love our neighbors.
You may be able to do what the Samaritan did. If you cannot, there is still plenty you can do. Get a group together to help serve a meal to those in need. Give those things that you no longer use away to those who may need it more than you do. Go and hold the door to someone whose arms are full. Mostly, just go and be present. Listen to someone’s story who isn’t being heard. Go and be LOVE.
In this month where we are constantly talking about love, my hope is that we continue going out, and showing God’s love to others. Showing love in what we say, and what we do. My hope is that the more and more that we go out in love, the more and more regular it becomes. It is then that the Good Samaritans actions will be less unexpected, and be more of an everyday thing.
Blessings to you all!
Bdecan Presbyterian Church
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year.
Since I was young, I’ve always loved the moment that I can put my Christmas decorations out. I love seeing others Christmas lights and decorations going up all over. I love going to Christmas pageants, concerts, and programs. I love going to Christmas movies, or watching them and Christmas specials at home. I love the Christmas baking. I love shopping for the perfect gift for others. I love all the festive events that lead up to Christmas. As much as I love all of this, this month of December always seems to get busy.
But then Christmas comes, the thing I love the most. I feel joy as I see the kids at Bdecan presenting the Christmas program I work weeks to put together, and the smiles it brings to our congregation. Then, I go home, and get to celebrate with my family and friends. All the work that goes into getting ready for Christmas seems to fade away, and I get to experience what Christmas really is.
It’s about Mary and Joseph giving up their plain, ordinary, comfortable lives to become the parents of the Savior of the world. Jesus, the King of the world, not being born in a palace or a castle like he deserved, but in a manger, in a barn, surrounded by animals. For Jesus to save us, he had to be born like one of us. A humble, quiet, non-extravagant birth. The shepherds leaving their sheep (the things that mattered most to them) to be the new King’s first visitors. Wise men traveling thousands of miles to meet the new Savior that they had only been told of in a dream. Bringing him the best of what they had.
In the Nativity story we are reminded what Christmas is really about. The lights, the decorations, the extravagant gifts, and all the rest are nice, but these things pass away. Jesus didn’t have much of this on the first Christmas. It was a simple event.
It is about being together with those who we love, and remembering those not able to be with us. It is about relationships. It is about keeping traditions alive, and creating new memories. It is about letting those we love know how much they mean to us. Besides the gifts we give to friends and family, many also feel this special urge to give to those who don’t have what we do.
This shouldn’t be just a Christmas thing, but many seem to be more willing to give at this time of year. We at Bdecan and on the Bdecan Ministry Team are so thankful for how you have all opened your hearts to Bdecan. Not just at Christmas, but for what you give us year-round. Whatever need we bring to our supporting community, it is met. We cannot thank you enough.
With so many people around the country struggling right now financially, I expected our giving to be down this year. I am so proud that we have received more donations this year than ever before. Because of what you give, we are able to involve more kids and youth in our programs. We rely on donations from others. You are the ones that make this ministry as successful as it is.
The thing that we are the most thankful for is the way you have spread the story of what God is doing at Bdecan way beyond what the members of the Ministry Team can do on their own. When you go out, and share our stories with your groups, churches, families, and communities awesome things happen. You have no idea how many relationships that have been built because someone shared our story. We cannot say thank you enough for all that you do for us both at our church, and in your home communities.
Know that you are loved and appreciated. We could not do what we do without the work of all of you. This is OUR ministry, you are an important part of it.
My hope for you is that you may never loose the magic of Christmas. May this feeling of generosity that this season brings continue to grow in us throughout the year. In the busyness of December, may you never forget the reason we celebrate. Remember to go back to the Nativity.
On behalf of the members at Bdecan Presbyterian Church, and the Bdecan Ministry Team,
We want to wish all of you, and your families a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
Christmas Blessings to you all,
Youth and Outreach Coordinator
Bdecan Presbyterian Church
The past few weeks, my personal devotions have been focused on the story of David and Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel chapter 9. I encourage you to read that whole chapter to see the full story. David had lost King Saul, and his best friend Jonathan a few chapters before. David is now the king of all Israel. He is probably busy with many different things. Still, he decides to spend time trying to see if anyone is left in the house of Saul that he could show kindness to for Jonathan's sake. We only hear of 1 son of Jonathan remaining, Mephibosheth.
Now, to me he doesn’t look that special. One of the few things we know about him is that he is lame in both legs, so cannot get around on his own. We don’t know if he has any family, besides a son mentioned later in chapter nine. I see, Mephibosheth as ordinary. Trying to live a quiet life, out of the spotlight. He probably lost his chance to become king when his legs became lame. A guy who is struggling just to get by.
I imagine him trying to stay hidden from King David. If you remember, Saul got very jealous, angry, and afraid of David later in life. A few times, King Saul tried to kill him. My guess is that Mephibosheth knows the history of David and his Grandfather Saul. He is brought before King, waiting nervously to see what David will do. Can you even imagine the fear Mephibosheth must be going through?
David said, “Mephibosheth!”[b] He answered, “I am your servant.” 7 David said to him, “Do not be afraid, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always.” 8 He did obeisance and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?”
As I said before, and as Mephibosheth admits here, he is not that important. There is nothing that David owes him, or his family. There is no reason for David to fear him trying to take control away. Why does David show all this kindness? He does it out of love. Out of love, and respect for his best friend Jonathan who was taken away from him much too soon. Not only does David restore to Mephibosheth all the land of his grandfather Saul, but he also invites him, and his son to eat at his table.
This is a table that is reserved for only the king’s family. In this gesture, David is pretty much adopting Mephibosheth and his son Micah into his own royal family. There is nothing he has done to deserve this. It’s because David chooses to show him kindness. Micah and him always ate at David’s table from then on.
This story reminds me so much of another king, and another table. This table, a Heavenly one. And the King? He is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. He has the table set, the banquet is ready. He is waiting for the guests to arrive. If God symbolizes King David in this story, then we symbolize Mephibosheth. Maybe we’re not lame in both legs, but we are beaten down, worn out, damaged by our sin. Like Mephibosheth, we feel unworthy to be in God’s presence. But like King David, God loves us enough to look past that. God comes, cleans us off, so we can be with him. We can never be good enough on our own. Because of God’s love for us, we are invited to sit at the table of the King.
It would be easy to stop here, and leave everyone happy and comfortable, but this is not the end. This table, God’s table is not just meant for the few people in this world who look and act like we do. It is not a table meant for just those who agree with us. No, God’s table is meant for ALL people. Not everyone will accept His invitation, but everyone is invited.
We live in a world where it is easy to fear what we don’t understand. We hear rumors about people different than we are. Instead of taking some time, and inviting them into conversation, some become afraid, and treat them like they don’t exist. I believe that all that these people want is for their voices to be heard. To be able to defend what they believe. To be in conversation about how we are the same, before discussing our differences. To have a place at the table. It seems that many times, that the voices I don't agree with, become silent to me.
I started at Bdecan over 5 ½ years ago. I still remember attending a service here the day before I started. After the service, we had a potluck meal (as we do every Sunday). Once the kids got done eating, they all left the fellowship room. As I finished up, I thought I would go and see what they were up to. They were all playing in the sanctuary. Watching them thoughts began filling my head. I was a middle aged white guy in a congregation of Native American kids. I looked very different than they did. Would these kids listen to me? Would they respect me? Would they accept me into this community? I soon found that I had nothing to worry about. As I entered the sanctuary, the kids were absolutely all over me. They wanted to jump on me, hang on me, get hugs, just be with me. More than anything, they wanted someone who took time out of their day, to be with them. Over the years, I have grown to love this community, and the people here, and be loved by them.
Through your support of Bdecan, you have allowed us to invite many children to Christ’ table. Some of the kids, youth, and families that are served here, may not feel welcomed to God’s table, without us. Because of you, we can provide a safe place for these kids, away from the tough realities that some of them live in. We provide a meal for them, a meal they some may not ordinarily get. We give them a chance to play, to create, to just be kids. We let them know that they are accepted, important, and that they belong, just the way they are. Most of all, we share with them time and time again that they are loved, and nothing can ever change that. In a world where many seem to still not be heard, I am so blessed to be where I am.
There are many others out in the world who are not as lucky as this. People who don’t have a place, and who don’t have a voice. People who are wondering where their next meal is going to come from. As we enter this time of Thanksgiving and leading up to the birthday of our Lord and Savior in December, I want you to think about this question. Who are you inviting to the table this Holiday season? it's more than just a physical table.
Who are you inviting into conversation? Who will you invite to share their story with you, maybe for the first time? It’s more about just inviting our close friends, and people who agree with us. It’s about inviting the otherwise uninvited. It's about inviting the least of these!
This fall, the kids at Bdecan have been focusing on the story of Moses in our KICK and Sunday School classes. We’ve talked about Moses leaving his life of royalty behind, and escaping to the wilderness, running away from his problems. Although he was trying to hide, God found Moses in the wilderness and called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Finally, out of excuses, Moses reluctantly agrees. He went to Pharaoh time after time, asking him to let the Israelites go and worship God. Each time, time Pharaoh said no, and the plagues followed. When they finally get the okay, God shows the Israelites the path to the Red Sea. At the last moment, we see God separate the Red Sea for the Israelites can cross but drowning the Egyptians. Over and over again in the book of Exodus, we see God providing for His people.
Now, the Israelites in the middle of the wilderness, complaining about not having food.
You would think that after all that they had seen, they would trust that God would provide for them. Nope! Instead they complain to Moses “Why did you bring us here? It would be better for us to be slaves back in Egypt”
God hears their cries and provides them quail in the evening. In the morning, after the dew lifted, there were flakes on the ground, a bread like substance, called Manna. God tested them, telling them to only gather enough manna for their household for that day.
Exodus 16 tells us,
“18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.”
No matter if they gathered much, or little, none was wasted, and everyone had enough. This passage shows that even with their grumbling and bad attitudes, God still provided for the Israelites. There were those who got greedy and did not trust that God would provide it again the next day. They saved their Manna, and it spoiled overnight. God provided us just what they needed, just when they needed it.
God still provides for his people.
Again and again in the ministry at Bdecan, I see God providing. I talk to our ministry team leader Donna most weeks over a conference call. Sometimes I will share a crazy idea, or she will share one with me. Both of us wonder, is this going to work? Is it too crazy? Are we too out of the box? Are we pushing the envelope too much? It amazes me that every idea we share with our supporters, there are individuals, congregations, and groups that step up to the plate and say they support what we are doing. For every request we make, and God brings someone or some group that rises to meet the challenge.
In mid-September, we moved our KICK program to after school, something we did last spring. We give the kids a meal shortly after they arrive. Our second week, we made walking tacos (taco’s in a bag). It was simple, meat, lettuce, cheese, sauce. Most of the kids were eating outside. One was eating alone inside. I sat by for a while. He had about 3 walking tacos in total. I joked with him about how hungry he was, and we were both laughing. He shared with me that he had barely anything for lunch that day.
This showed me the importance of the program that we have.
It is about providing these kids a place to play, and to create. Giving these kids meals, that some may not receive outside of our program. It’s about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them every single week. Most importantly, it is providing these kids with a safe place, where they can feel the love of God, and just be kids. God provides for this ministry, so that we can go out and provide what is needed for these kids, for this community.
God has provided and continues to provide for every single one of our needs.
It is so amazing to look back at our history, and to see how God has brought our ministry to where it is. God provides. Not always how we expect it, but God provides every single time. Just like God provided for the Israelites, God provides for us.
May you go to God, trusting that he will provide for every single need you have.
His love for us endures forever.
Youth and Outreach Coordinator
Bdecan Presbyterian Church
When thinking of how to summarize what’s been done this summer at Bdecan, 1st Corinthians 12 came to mind. There are way too many fantastic verses in this chapter, so I took out a few excerpts:
Verses 4 - 7 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
Verse 12 "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. "
Verse 27 "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
Each and every single one of us has been made individually and has unique gifts and talents to use to further God's kingdom. Things that make us different. Things that make us special. Things that not everyone can do.
Sometimes we forget about our talents when we see the abilities of others. We wish that we could be more like them. Being prettier, faster, smarter, or just better in some area of life. But if we were like them, who would share our gifts with the world? There are countless little bits and pieces that form the body, and each piece is critical. one part of the body is in pain, the whole body suffers. If one part of the body isn't functioning the right way, the body doesn’t work at its best. The same thing is true about the body of Christ. Every individual part is critical, to have the body work correctly. If one part is missing, the body can’t function right.
This summer I’ve seen many mission groups use many different gifts. The team that came from First Presbyterian Churches in Rochester, Ely, and Amboy MN did a fabulous 3-day Vacation Bible School for the kids at Bdecan. They were the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to the kids of our church, and the community. We had countless groups, churches, and individuals give all that they could financially, so we can have a new clothing closet for our community. Members from Westwood First Presbyterian in Cincinnati Ohio were physically the hands of Jesus, helping put together the inside of our clothing closet. They did all the electrical work needed and started the insulation and paneling. Not just that, but other members of their team did yard work, helped clean and organize the church, cooked, painted, and did so much more. There were so many people involved in our ministry this summer. Each of them had so many gifts and talents. Working together, we got AMAZING things done.
Remember, you are part of the body of Christ. Without your gifts and abilities, the body doesn't function the right way. I’m not saying to stop trying to improve your skills and desiring to learn new skills. That is important, never stop trying. But know that you are an important part of Christ’ body, just the way you are. Remember, you have amazing gifts and abilities to share with the world in your own way. What you offer the body is irreplaceable. Without you, the body does not function the same way. You are special. You are important. No one else can do what you do, the way you do it.
Youth and Outreach Coordinator
Bdecan Presbyterian Church