Tag: God

Father’s Day: Sparring with the Spirits

DemoniacOn Father’s Day I was challenged and honored to preach on Jesus’ encounter with the Demoniac.  A man oppressed by a legion of evil spirits.  Jesus came off a boat into the area of the Geresenes, and immediately the encounter brought new life to the man.  The power of our Heavenly Father, God Almighty was made manifest through Jesus Christ.  In this sermon, I explore what that means for us today.

Click to Hear Rev. Griswold’s Sermon: “Sparring with Spirits”

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-19

The Gerasene Demoniac

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding [b]nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might [c]accompany Him.19 And He did not let him, but He *said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them [d]what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

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A Bit of Sadness and a Prayer in Trust: Wesley’s Prayer and Committment

woman and candles

Today, I worshipped quietly at a funeral service for a well loved member of our community.  The music was beautiful, and I was glad to see so many wonderful people there to remember her presence and impact among so many.  I was reminded that we’re born, we live our lives with family, our friends and our communities, and live out our faith in a world where we are interconnected – often in a  winding and confusing but ultimately good way.  We are fragile though, and we age and see and experience the lives of those who’ve entered the world after us who bring change and renewal.  Then, inevitably (unless you’re like the prophet Elijah) we exit to return to our Creator, God, and those who remain feel the deep sadness of loss, but also the bittersweet memories that can be full of goodness and great joy.  I still feel the pain of losing my Grandmother Nancy Sampson, and my Great-Grandmother Alice  more recently as well.  The electric grip of loss still affects me years after these losses.  A few years ago, my wife remembered the life of her sister, who passed much too young, but left a deep and lasting impression on us all.   Also very confusing, but essentially part of being human.

When I returned to the office at Trinity today, I prayed for many people and made a few calls to visit with folks from our churches in the next week, but when I sat down at my computer, some immediate news hit me pretty hard.  I think that news, with the aid of technology always on, has begun to pang life with a constant stream of grief as we become reminded of the evils our world continues to face.  We haven’t made it yet.  This particular story, of at reporter and her camera man, being shot live on air hit me deep in the spirit as many stories lately have, and I walked out to the alter and stood in front of the cross, felt a shiver go down my body and soul, and I spent a moment without words sharing my deep sorrow with God.

In that moment, I knew God felt the same, but more so than I did, and it heightened my mourning over our inability to love one another.  It confirmed for me that God is deeply invested in us and that our work to make “Thy Kingdom Come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” is a mission worthy of continual and constant emphasis – and that the Good News – “euangelion” – The Gospel, needs fresh testimony among all people who are being pinged by the same reminders of evil in the world that we are.  By actively promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proclaiming a Kingdom where peace is possible inwardly, through right relationship with God, and through that inner spiritual transformation in the Holy Spirit, we bond together to form this amazing Kingdom without any geographical center, initiated by baptism in water, and through discipleship we’re slowly made whole.  This is the mega-polis where Justice and Peace are practiced (rather than merely preached, or politicized), and we are reminded that the depths of our selfishness and ability to self-destruct are temporary, and through grace and self-sacrifice, God will cap this age with the re-arrival of perfection in our affairs.  God will destroy evil once and for all.

All that and more. I surrender to this future reality, and I pledge to work towards it in my own life and to be more and more like Christ in His ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross.  So at the altar, now, I recommit myself, and I will pray Wesley’s Covenant Prayer because I can’t think of a better one for these times.  If you’d like to pray this with me, I would be honored and humbled:

“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

In all this, in God’s plan, I will not be afraid.  I will continue to celebrate what is good, I’ll mourn and feel these losses knowing that it is temporary, and I’ll actively seek to represent God’s joy and goodness when some desire to bring evil to us all.  Strengthen your people, Lord. Remind us of Your Presence.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  Amen, and Amen, and Amen.

 

Waiting for Miracles? Consider Some Already Done

20080716 Sacred text

Rather than waiting for a sign of God’s existence, turn to the Bible, where his miracles are well-documented.

HARKER — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Waiting for Miracles? Consider Jesus’ Resurrection

danielgriswold@Gmail.com

Originally Published: April 1, 2014 in the Bluffton Edition of The Island Packet

In reading Matthew 12, there are two verses that have bothered my soul. Jesus goes around performing miracles and refuting critics who are plotting to kill him and he amazes the crowd constantly. In the midst of this, in verses 38 and 39, someone states, “Teacher, we want you to show us a sign.” Jesus responds quickly and doesn’t perform a miracle on demand. In paraphrase, he says, “Come on people, you’re being terrible, you’ve turned away from God. Your only sign will be the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Jonah sat in the belly of a large sea creature for three days, and Jesus is foreshadowing his future death and resurrection. He refuses to give into being the entertainment and centerpiece of the story. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, he has done many miracles. But he is about to do something so much more important than make y’all say, “Wow.” Lastly, he’s going to rise from the belly of death and open the doors to a greater work of our father. That’s big stuff.

I was once like a member of the crowd calling out for more signs and miracles. In fact, I still like to ask God to show me he is real. I have hardly ever received a moment like Gideon, who asked God to place dew on a fleece in the book of Judges in order to determine God’s purpose and agency. I’ve had to build a trust with Him over time, and have had to mature beyond the need for “mountaintop” experiences every Sunday and every retreat to remain engaged with God.

As a child, I thought of church and altar calls (a minister calling those who seek repentance and a filling of the holy spirit to come forward and receive God’s presence, forgiveness and otherworldly touch) as an end in religion, and I fully expected to see miracles to prove my faith.

I wanted to see with my own eyes the physical and scientific reality of the God who created the universe. I didn’t want to trust the testimony of the millennia, because I’m new, the world is new, and certainly things have changed. The spirit behind my curiosity was, “God, show me something now.” Much like a sports fan saying a prayer for his team to win the current game, I wanted to have a story that would change my life.

I didn’t understand that that story had already been lived out. And in this scene, returning to Matthew chapter 12, we have a crowd that wanted an immediate sign, and Jesus said, something bigger than you can imagine is coming. Have patience; just wait.

How many walked away that day saying, “Man, Jesus was a disappointment”? He called them bad people; he didn’t create matter from nothing to prove his claims as a prophet; and he passed the buck to a future event. How can he be trusted?

Today we have the story of the gospel, we have the testimony of the apostles recorded for our discernment, the traditions of the church passed down and, even better, the living holy spirit working among us and binding us as believers in Christ, who calls us into ministry as the people of God.

God’s love has already been shown, and yet we still want a further sign. We are simply impatient to wait to see what God is about to do.

In this season of Lent, perhaps we can take a breath and remember that our time is not God’s time. The miracle we are looking for may be soon to come — it may have already occurred and we refuse to trust in it. As a community of faith, let us spend time in prayer and contemplation, giving God a place to do something even better than what we are asking for.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

(Read more @ The Island Packet)

 

Don’t let noise distract you from God’s love

Don’t let noise distract you from God’s love

BY DANIEL GRISWOLD

danielgriswold@gmail.com

Originally Published in the Bluffton Ed. of The Island Packet, on February 18, 2014 

20111216 No talker

Thomas Merton, a somewhat mystical Catholic monk I’ve been prone to read, has impressed me with his strong commitment to silence. In an age of action and commotion, is this a call worth heeding? Can we be quiet in the storms of life?

Like nervous electrons, we like to keep moving in constant circles, only thinking of our being in terms of action and what we have been doing recently. This constant motion and outside analysis cannot bring peace with one’s self, and we become distanced from what we truly are (whatever that might be). I love this quote in a book of his essential writings: “When we are quiet, not just for a few minutes, but for an hour or several hours, we may become uneasily aware of the presence within us of a disturbing stranger, the self that is both ‘I’ and someone else.” Merton’s concept of the stranger is an eerie ghost to most of us who have taken too little time to seek inward, into the center of our being, where silence is the only communication and the key to self-discovery.

This silence is not easy for a generation that has put action and outer self-satisfaction above all else. We prize our rewards for hard work as our homes fill with items of our conquests here and there. We’re not used to quiet stillness. It is scary, like a horror movie, we might accidentally reflect, accidentally be silent for a minute, and we become disturbed by the stirrings of what is within us, perhaps lying dormant until that time when we’re listening and processing what it might be.

I’ve been reminded by Merton that the actions we must take before we help the world are the actions that are, as he says, “non-actions” and “the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God,” this way we would receive “his one word of love.” And if we lived without this “one word,” we would be cursed to live within a life of illusion, like the electron, the ever-spinning slave promoting the goals of a world that is hell-bent on action, instead of the heavenward non-actions of contemplation and prayer.

So, as the world spins (and it does not stop for anyone), when will we make time to disengage and hear what heaven is really calling out to us? There is a real danger that even the best and most righteous follower of God, whose entire life has been devoted to doing good works, and whose energy has been poured outward, may find that the superhuman effort didn’t bring the rewards they’d hoped for — something was missing. If we just take the time listening, whispering, contemplating the word of God, and seeking the will of our creator, we may find ourselves rejuvenated and more alive.

Don’t let busyness take hold of you. Say “no” to some good things, say “no” to all evil things, and say “yes” to being enveloped by God’s love. Be continually transformed by the moments of grace and appreciate that God is everywhere; you are never alone. This moment is your moment: Close your eyes, be still, listen and know, “You are loved.”

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.


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A Short Guide to Visiting Churches for Worship and God Forbid…Fun

I can’t hide the fact that I love visiting different churches.  While I sometimes get frustrated by the fragmented nature of Christianity post-1000-ish AD, I’ve also found that the diversity allows for what may be lightly called “Church Tourism”.   While I believe that when you’re home, you should have a home church where you live out your calling and pour everything into, when I’m traveling, I take the opportunity to check out the landscape.

I’ll end this article by giving a few accounts of churches I’ve visited lately and how the experience went (including my personal reactions).  But first, I’ll drop a few thoughts on the “HOW TO” of respectfully visiting churches.  Yes, there is an etiquette to this.  It may help you especially if you are seeking a church home and don’t want to burn bridges prior to deciding where God is bring you.

Some Principles for Visiting Churches:

(1) Don’t judge anything.  When going to a new church, it is easy to criticize and in your mind say a lot of “Well, at our church we do this..” etc, etc.  Don’t fall into this trap.  Every church is different and has a slightly different expression of culture and worship which can be offered to God.  Go thinking “I’m going to become part of this place and worship amongst this people”.  You can give yourself to it and have a great time.

(2) Don’t be uncomfortable.  I think that many people who say a church just wasn’t welcoming were likely giving off “uncomfortable” signals.  If someone comes into your home and they’re frowning, acting like they don’t want to talk, and just keeps to themselves, its going to be an awkward visit and those folks might not really want you there after a while.  In a church, I think at least on the sociological level, its the same way.  Go in with a smile and shake some hands.  People will likely be friendly and want to talk. If you’re intentionally friendly and no one returns the favor, then you know somethings up, but I don’t think that’s the case most of the time.  Someone wants to say hello to new people in just about every church.

(3) Compliment and thank the pastor.  Pastors get a lot of flak and critique.  In smaller churches, visitors are big deals, and when a visitor says something nice it eases relationship building and allows everyone to get to know each other.  Focus on the positive and smile.  Pastors are sometimes introverts so they may not naturally come and say hello, but most want to meet you.  Don’t guage the pastor by posture, but keep an open stance and let happen what needs to happen.

(4) Spend some time in worship.  All the evaluation stuff can keep you from remembering that ultimately you are looking for a place of worship – not just a place to find a best friend.  Focus on the Big Guy, pray some, close your eyes and seek Wisdom.  Picture Jesus and spend time in His company.  I think most folks would enjoy a church more if they realized and practiced actual worship in the church rather than thought about whether they’re going to be accepted or not.  If you want to find God, He’s there.  Spend time with Him and let the church be who they are – also – let them worship too.

Lastly (5), go with the flow.  All churches have quirks.  Learn em, and learn to love them.  All the grumbling I see in churches tends to be in bad spirit.  Rather than grumble, learn the history of the church.  Learn why there are so many sections.  Experience and understand that generations have come and gone in most churches and there is an abiding love for the spaces created for learning, fellowship, worship and partaking in the sacraments.

I think if you follow some of these guidelines you’ll have a great time on vacation going from church to church. Try it out and see.  Its actually quite refreshing.  And if you don’t have a church home yet, I hope you find one too!

Recent Visits:

(1) First United Methodist Church, Waynesville, NC (Late August 2013)

My wife and I had been given the opportunity by some amazing good people in our church to use their cabin in Lake Junaleska, a United Methodist gathering area, for a personal holiday/vacation.  As we enjoyed long walks around the lake, talked about possibly seeing elk, and enjoying small town coffee shops, and visiting Ashville, the conversation came about which church to attend.  I checked some websites and First UMC Waynesville (where a nice coffee shop and some local shopping were located) came up quickly.  We’d see the church on our journeys so we decided to attend.

Finding parking was easy.  They had a visitors parking lot and that made it easy.  Not so easy for a visitor, however, was finding the sanctuary.  We ended up in the Youth Center (we could tell because it was the oldest part of the building and there were pool tables).  I knew that if we kept walking something would lead us there, so we went up some stairs and ended up in a large gym, where perhaps an contemporary service had just ended.  There were a few families lingering, so I walked up to someone who looked friendly and she introduced herself.  She brought us through a few corridors and we went up some stairs through some welcome areas (it was quite a complex due to local hills/geography) and we came out into an airy wide open completely new sanctuary.  Lots of bright colored woods, non corroded metals aluminum in color, and banners hanging all around with a well dressed choir.  The families sat up in the balcony (where we sat), people helped us get up there and smiled a lot, and older people sat together down below.  It seems that every UMC with a balcony does this.  Young people and families up top, older folks below.  Seems strange to me.  The service started, and it flowed much like our home church (which is also UMC), and we sang hymns, listened to an awesome choir, a children’s sermon went probably a few minutes too long and the kids wiggled, robed ministers administrated the service, and there was a well done sermon.  We left, not really knowing anyone, which makes sense for a first visit, and we went back to vacation.  I got a good picture which I’ve added.  Beautiful and well done church/service at FUMC Waynesville.

(2) Trinity Assembly of God, Derry, NH (Just before Christmas 2013)

My brother was getting married in Ipswich, NH and so we were near where I grew up and also near the church in MA where I worked in High School ministry (Grace Chapel).  I wrestled a bit, but we were going to visit my parents in Derry, (my hometown) so I ultimately decided to attend my first church – the Pentecostal Trinity Assembly of God near Pinkerton Academy where I attended High School.  I was wondering who would still be there, and how the church was faring, so we went.  We parked, and then entered the same warehouse like church structure that had been built while I was a child.  We were welcomed by a good friend of my family and former Royal Rangers (sort of like scouts) leader, who warmly greeted us and made us feel at home. The pastor wasn’t there so the worship leader (who I’d never met) led worship and I looked around and saw a few familiar faces.  A sprinkling of families I know, and many new people.  It was near Christmas, and apparently the youth and the children had charge of parts of the service, and they announced that young people would be playing instruments.  One young man, who had only played 30 days on the clarinet, was introduced.  I was about to cringe – 30 days?! But it was fantastic.  I think Pentecostals have music in their blood.  Its born in them.  I don’t really understand it – it just happens.  Pretty amazing.  Granddaugthers of the man who was preaching this particular week also played piano and it was great.  Then a whole children’s pageant happened.  It was hilarious, but accurate Biblically, and got the Christmas juices flowing.  Then a great sermon on living out life seeking Christ like the wise men happened.  I remember this guy who preached from childhood, and he was again amazing.  Lots of passion and a great backstory to share.   We ended up staying after service (and after my wife experienced a whole church alter call), and met up with Jenny, who is now the Youth Director there (we were in Youth Group there together).  She brought me to the old sanctuary, which had been converted into a Youth Center, and she was doing an amazing job!  It was encouraging so see so much.  Loved visiting – and hope to return.

Bethel Baptist

(3) Bethel Baptist Church, Bethel, NC (Just after Christmas 2013)

Amanda and I are visiting her parents for Christmas and New Year’s and her sister is moving into town.  Her sister’s family will be looking for a church, and we all decided to check out the Baptist church within walking distance.  It was raining, but we drove around the corner.  We went in the wrong door, but a kind man shook my hand, greeted us and brought us into the sanctuary from the back door.  We walked in and sat near the front (in this church most people sit in the back – interesting), and we looked around.  Children were in one choir area by the piano.  Some men in the opposite side.  The pastor sat in a chair and ordered the service.  Worship started and the Pastor (who we found out was interim until a pastor was called) gave announcements and called the worship to order.  We sang a few hymns with a Christmas theme, the children sang Christmas songs, there was a Children’s Talk calling them to be Transparent and show Christ in the new year, and a mens group sang O Holy Night, which was actually pretty good.  I was worried.  The pastor then got up and spoke a well thought out sermon on the Magi and gave lots of background of what may have actually happened between the wise men and young Jesus and them worshipping him.  He talked about why Gold, Incense, and Myrrh – which I thought was great.  We then sang a few more hymns and we were done.  We hung out a while, and many people (and children) greeted us.  There were a lot of families.  And afterwards we headed home after a pleasant experience.

Learning to Breathe – Finding Quiet and Living in God’s Presence

 

We must find quiet in our lives to be able to breathe in God’s presence

BY DANIEL GRISWOLD

December 18, 2013 

I have a memory of my sister that I’ll never forget. We were sitting together in our parents’ brown 1980-something Caravan, and she began to gasp for air and after a moment of hysteria, she regained composure and stated, “Oh yeah, I forgot to breathe.”

That scared me a bit, and I’ve since reflected on that moment because I find it fascinating that something so essential — the taking in of air into the lungs — could be short-circuited. It is a life function we don’t often think about until it is missing. If forgetting to breathe is possible, what other essential things are we missing in life?

More recently, I was able to visit a Christian spiritual director. If you haven’t visited a person with this profession, their job is to help you along in your spiritual journey. I had no prior knowledge of how this would work, but I was excited to enter the process since I had worked pretty hard the previous five years and was feeling a bit dry. When I entered the session, worship music was softly playing, an icon of the Trinity (God the father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) sat on a table and a candle was lit. We sat on opposite couches and introduced ourselves to each other.

Very quickly, I was directed to spend some time in silence prior to beginning our conversation. I believe it was about 10 minutes, and this is where my spirit wandered. First, I started to pray, “Lord, Lord …” and then I trailed off. I felt blocked. This is something I’ve dealt with in my prayer life for the past six months. I’ve felt so distracted I can barely find words that fit my experience to tell God my celebrations, my sins, my thankfulness, intercessions and supplications. I have been so dry I barely knew where to go.

After the time ended, we talked and I mentioned how I felt. I assessed where I’d come from and where I was going. I recalled a pastor who had lost his ability to speak because he’d been so busy. The prescription was to go to a monastery for a month and stay away from work. My spiritual director gave me the name of a monastery I could visit as needed, and she recommended I find times of peace and quietness.

As I write this I now recall a pastor charged with evaluating my extroverted personality. He had said, “Remember that to you, keeping the Sabbath in your way will be really important.” I realize that, but I hardly follow through.

My spiritual director and I hugged, which was strangely more powerful than usual, and I left feeling refreshed. My homework would be to make myself a Sabbath.

Even the busiest, most “important” people in the world, with high-functioning professional, extroverted tendencies, need rest. Constant pings from technology make this harder and harder.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Case for Slacking Off,” Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries quoted a company executive who testified to the need of not making yourself crazy by responding to constant emails: “I am not paid for doing this kind of work. If I’m so busy doing what people expect me to do, there will be no time left for what I ought to do. You can’t do creative work at a cyber pace. Creative work has its traditional rhythms. To be creative, you need to possess a more serene state of mind. Over the years I have learned the hard way that technology sometimes encourages people to confuse busyness with effectiveness. I need quiet time to be able to function.”

In our spiritual lives, this is even more important.

When the prophet Elijah was running for his life, he holed up in a mountain where he was told by the word of God to stand at attention, and he would have a meeting with God there. In 1 Kings 19, it records that a hurricane wind came, and then an earthquake hit, and God was not in those, then a fire arose, and God was not in it either. Eventually, a quiet whisper spoke to him, he muffled his cloak over his face, and he listened. Elijah could have continued to run from those who wanted him to die, but he waited for God in that place.

We all need to stop, put away our distractions, especially during Christmastime, and learn how to breathe in God’s presence. Elijah heard a still small voice, and in the quietness, we can be given wisdom and be refreshed too.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Experiencing A Better World Through Mission

Juaqin and Me
Juaqin and Me

Experiencing pure joy through helping others is closest thing to heaven on earth

Published: July 3, 2013 in The Bluffton Packet

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

There are so many ways to make a difference in this world, and everyone brings different skills to the table when building groundbreaking coalitions for global unity.

Some people are gifted at raising funds, and they finance the future of philanthropy — such as Bill Gates. Others build awareness and research causes to direct people toward their personal mission fields. Invisible Children made a splash last year, and their success in building awareness of forced child militaries in some regions of the world was both celebrated and reviled worldwide. Then there are those who feel a strong calling to be the hands and feet of the mission itself. They are called to go out into the world to shake hands and hug their fellow human beings across the globe.

Last week I flew to Panama with an intergenerational team to live out that call to be among people who were once “other” and completely alien. By intergenerational, I mean we had high school youth, a college student, a mom, local business owners and some wonderful retired people who wanted to make a difference. Our church has been connected and has supported a pastor named Rhett for years, and he has spoken at our church about Panama and the work there, but we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes or placed stakes in the ground with our own hands.

It was from a desire to build stronger ties that we headed out in an initial trip in October 2011. A local team traveled to Panama with to meet with Rhett, participate in the work of the mission, meet the people whom this pastor served, and build stronger ties with Christians working faithfully apart from us. That first mission was a success. We held a Vacation Bible School led by a retired teacher in our group, and the worker bees (including myself) painted the mission building, built a retaining wall for a new soccer field and repaired insect screens on the open-air windows. We were unable to visit the Gnobe people’s villages, which is the native tribe for whom the mission served. A tree had destroyed a bridge during a flash flood. We left strong as a team, feeling the Lord’s presence. We had strengthened ties with Christians in the city of David and the village of Cienaguita, but we still felt we needed to go further.

Last week we returned. Rhett had been able to build a connection between the natives, the village, the government, some Methodist churches in the U.S., and the Methodist church in a local city. A bridge had been built, and this new team made of up of people of many different views and stages of life were able to walk across the river and mostly uphill for 38 minutes through rainforest-like conditions to build the foundations for two homes and the steel grid structure for a second. We worked hard, drinking about five bottles of water a day in heavy humidity, making concrete, drilling holes in steel plates, digging and leveling space for the foundational platforms. All this for families who worked with and among us.

As the week came to a close, one young man named Juaqin, who is the oldest of a family of 10, whose mother had carried the bricks for their home up that mountain two at a time, invited us into his home. It was probably about 16 feet by 16 feet and had two bedrooms and a main area, but he glowed as he invited our team of 15 in. He felt as if he were in a mansion. My heart was warmed, and I could feel the presence of God, who had worked through the hearts and hands of so many people to make this happen. We closed by reciting together the “Lord’s Prayer” and thanked our father in heaven.

I thought about this and realized we had experienced a sign of what heaven will be like. People of all ages and nations coming together in unity to worship and thank God for his blessings. I imagined Christ on a throne in each of our hearts, and I was overcome with joy.

My prayer is that every person of the earth will experience this joy at least one time in their lives, if not continually. Not everyone can be out in the fields of the earth, but everyone in the chain made that moment possible. Let’s be thankful that the holy spirit continues to prod us like the apostles and the early believers who shared what they had and went out to care for all people. Let’s continue to be agents of God’s love and spread God’s good news to every living soul.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.