Christiansen’s sermon from July 29, 2012

Called

 

Ephesians 4:1-7. 11-16

 

We bring you greetings from the people of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana West Africa and from our friends in the villages of Takla and Kpenoe and the city of Ho and wish to thank you all–that we are able to share our ongoing story of a wonderful and mutually beneficial mission partnership. We rejoice in what we see God accomplishing through the peoples of the EP Church and we continue to be blessed beyond measure even as we seek to serve our God and fulfill our calling..

 

In the lesson shared today, the writer of Ephesians most likely Paul urges the people to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with humility and gentleness and making every effort to maintain the unity n the bond of peace. He also reminds us that by God’s grace we have been gifted so that the body – the church will be built up and come to unity in faith.

 

You and I have each been given the gift of life, as well as a talent, a skill, an opportunity, a vision, a dream, faith, tradition, and resources. We are called to be what God has given us wherever we are and whatever we are called to be. Gifted and called by God. Thanks be to all who continue to support and follow through on mission and ministry of God.

 

God has called us to Ghana but mission does not need to be half a world away. It can be working in Hati or Costa Rica

Helping on an Navajo Reservation or in Louisiana

Volunteering at the food bank or Habitat for Humanity

The important thing is that we do something for someone in need with love and prayer.

 

We started 10 years ago by asking the United Church of Christ’s global mission partner, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana, what we could do to help. Ours was to become a ministry of presence for this church of 800 congregations. They requested our presence in their churches, programs, projects and schools, for by being there we are telling them it is of worth and value and worthy of THEIR support.

 

In the rural schools we work in we have seen the starting age drop from 8 & 9 to 5 & 6 year olds kindergarteners. By starting at an earlier age more will complete Jr, High or higher. They are just starting crèches or nursery schools in Ghana. We visited many creches this past March to choose a couple of needy ones give to give them grants and educational materials.

For we bring educational materials, medical supplies and clothes to widows and orphans. Eye glasses and hearing aids are given to a seniors program…thank you for your donations to that project. We learned recently that a scholarship given to a women studying at the university was well used. She graduated and passed her teaching exams this March and was one of 20 out of the class of 700 to be asked back to take the Master’s of Education program.

 

The people of Ghana know and trust God and recognize that it is by the grace of God, that they and all peoples live and move and have their being. The Psalmist writes, “Unless, God builds the house its builders labor build in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Palm 127:1. In Ghana the people truly know the truth of these words. In fact for as long as they can remember, they have trusted in God and being a symbolic and oral society, they constantly utter the words and share the picture “Gye Name” which translated means Except- or without God nothing is possible but that if God is in the midst of it, all is possible. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stand guard in vain.” Psalm 127: 1 As we gather for worship that is the consistent theme whether it be Sunday AM, mid week services, weddings, funerals, baptisms. Even as we have come and gone now these many times,

 

I truly believe that though we go and find ourselves leading worship, serving communion, Baptizing and leading people to Jesus, teaching school, bearing gifts, though we have raised funds to help with projects, though we have purchased materials over there and helped stimulate the economy, regularly we continue to be blessed with letters, e-mails and prayers by and from the people of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Ghana itself. We are all of us blessed to be a blessing. And it is in letting go and serving that we are blessed. We have gone from village to village, but we have always felt welcome and the hospitality and love we experience is wonderful.. God is good! All the time God is good!

 

 

So we go and bring others with us in answer to the call and we share the gospel and sometimes even use words to share the way. And the way is the way of love. God wants the people to be safe and healthy, living with God and healthy, whole and well. To that end our work in Ghana supports and helps people.

 

We raise funds through the sale of jewelry, carvings, and cloth items as well as donations. When we go with our teams we help share in hands-on labor or work in the schools or minister to health needs. It is amazing what God does with the funds we bring and supplies we give and how timely it seems to be. A God Wink (there are no coincidences) A girl assisting at an elementary school I visited had dropped out of school due to lack of finances and hence was earning money to go back….the God wink?.. her name was the same as my middle name..she got a grant to pay for next year’s junior high classes.

 

As our time in Ghana has progressed, leaders of the church brought to our attention significant community needs. God wants the people to be whole and well and to that end we have been and continue to work with the leaders of the villages, the church elders, the District chiefs and ministers of the country to help facilitate the process of getting safe drinking water to our partner villages which are now supplied only by several major hand-pumped wells and lack sanitation.

 

Beginning 2002 it became quite clear to us that safe water was a major need in many villages. As we expanded our ministry of presence we built bridges that have seen completion of 114 water & sanitation projects in conjunction with Rotary International & USAID. We are presently working with the leadership of the village of Jo-pay-pem-may and matching the Ho Rotary Club with Rotary Clubs in Florida and Connecticut.

 

. And it is true that whatever there is that has been done to enhance the quality of life it has been initiated through the local churches. We help with medical clinics – mobile & static …give grants to an agricultural extension program that is in partnership with Church World Service… give educational scholarships at all levels of education…work with a training center for unwed mothers….and give grants for micro-loan business start-ups …all programs of the church.

 

One of our major projects for the last several years has been the overseeing of the building of a library at Mawuko Girl’s School, an all girls high school. Robert Everson, my cousin, went with us to Ghana in 2006 and taught at Mawuko. Upon both of us retiring we planned to teach for a semester. Unfortunately Robert died a week after he retired. His widow wanted something good to come from his death so decided to build a library at Mawuko in his memory. We went to Ghana 2 weeks before the dedication of the library only to find much work left to be done and no money left to do it. The God wink was we had brought enough money to complete 2 of the four rooms and furnish them. Men worked around the clock for two weeks to complete it in time for the celebration.

 

The people of Ghana praise God, trust God and are doing all that they can to help themselves and for this reason Carol and I believe so heartily in what we are doing . Their faith, honesty and integrity bless us so much. Jesus demonstrated in His life and ministry that he met people where they were and helped them become what God intends that they be. We have tried to do so whether in leading worship, teaching in schools, sharing in mission projects, or simply witnessing by our lives. God’s way is not restricted to one nation, racial or ethnic group. God’s way is for all humanity.

 

Through our mission partnership God has transformed us all. We are all changed, our perspective is more global, our priorities different and our sense of being part of God’s family enlarged. On earth amongst God’s family, we have brothers and sisters in the faith, whom many of us have not seen but God promises us blessings and all the ends of the earth will come to know God as we all lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Amen

 

A dialogue sermon preached at Chilmark Community Church, July 29,2012 by the Rev. David Christensen and Carol Christensen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dialogue sermon preached at Chilmark Community Church, July 29,2012 by the Rev. David Christensen and Carol Christensen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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