Formations lesson for July 1: The Unbounded Locations for Missions
June 15 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Jeremiah 29:4-14

Formations lesson for July 1: The Unbounded Locations for Missions | Friday, June 15, 2001

Friday, June 15, 2001

Formations lesson for July 1: The Unbounded Locations for Missions

By F. Calvin Parker Jeremiah 29:4-14 In the aftermath of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, about 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry - 77,000 with American citizenship and 43,000 without - were uprooted from their homes and herded into 10 detention centers in the United States. Some 13,000 were interned at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona, where 540 crude barracks stood in the desert surrounded by barbed wire. Two Southern Baptist missionaries, who had served in Japan before the war, Cecile Lancaster and Elizabeth Watkins, taught school at the camp. The missionaries found the Japanese-Americans, though resentful of their unjust treatment, to be so cooperative with the authorities that the barbed wire was removed after six months. The detainees made the most of a bad situation. They turned orange crates into furniture for their rooms and toys for their children. They planted fast-growing castor-oil plants for shade, and by faithful watering soon had green lawns and beautiful flowers with hollyhocks taller than the barracks. Their gardens included 42 varieties of vegetables and fruits, and they produced their own beef, pork and poultry. Unwittingly, these 20th-century exiles followed the advice Jeremiah gave in the 6th century B.C. to his own people who had been uprooted from their homes and taken captive to Babylonia.

Living in a strange land Jeremiah 29:4-9 In his letter to the Jewish exiles, Jeremiah urged them to settle down, be productive and carry on a normal life in every way possible. He wanted them to bloom where they had been planted. They were even to seek the welfare of their new country. The Contemporary English Version translates verse 7: "Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be." Like Jonah, some of the people needed to learn that God was not confined to Israel. God was present and accessible in that strange and foreign land, and concerned with all that went on there.

Jeremiah was aware that other voices were competing with his own for the ears of the people. "Don't settle down," some prophets advise. "Don't cooperate with this heathen people. God will restore you to your homeland very soon." Jeremiah warned that these optimists were false seers, that the exile will last so long and the present generation will not see their homeland again.

At a Southern Baptist church in New England, a woman said to me, "I can't wait to leave this God-forsaken place and get back to Texas!" Her husband's work had brought them to the Boston area for a two-year stint. How sad that she failed to recognize the challenging opportunities this location had to offer - opportunities for personal learning and growth as well as for Christian witness and service.

In Japan I saw many Americans become deeply involved in the work of Japanese Baptist churches. Whether in military or diplomatic service, in business or education, these volunteer missionaries found joy in teaching English Bible classes and helping the churches however they could. They demonstrated their belief in "the unbounded locations for missions." I also knew American Christians who, sad to say, confined themselves to their military base or associated only with the expatriate community. They ignored the open doors for missionary outreach.

Looking toward the homeland Jeremiah 29:10-14 Jeremiah assured the exiles that God's long-range plan provided for their return to Judea after 70 years and the full restoration of their fortunes. They must keep faith in God's tomorrow, knowing that He is ever concerned for their well being. God promised them "a future with hope," or as the Revised English Bible renders it, "a long line of descendants after you."

Verse 13 repeats the promise of Deut. 4:29: "From there (where you are exiled) you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search after Him with all your heart and soul."

These beautiful words are sung in Mendelssohn's Elijah. They reverberate in our hearts and give us reassurance, especially when we feel desolate and forsaken.

There is no location, no situation where God cannot be found.

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6/15/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Jeremiah 29:4-14 | with 0 comments
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