International Ministries

Preaching to Exiles

August 19, 2009 Journal
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Elder Victor Omeregie is returning to Nigeria for 6 weeks to rebuild his mother’s dilapidated house.  He has entrusted his congregation and the preaching to us.  Through the preaching I have the opportunity to have an extended conversation with these folks.  They live with financial uncertainty.  They are far from home and carry the struggles and financial difficulties of their families back home in their hearts.  They often feel unwanted and at risk here in Italy.  They can grow discouraged and fearful.  They live here as exiles. 

The experience of exile lies at the center of the history of the Israelites and generated a wealth of powerful literature (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel).   I will preach to them from Isaiah 40-55, where the prophet tries to encourage and comfort the Hebrew exiles living in Babylon.  Each week I will share a piece of that preaching with you. 

On the first Sunday I preached on “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child—Isaiah 40:1-11.”  The Jewish exiles had lost their home land and their temple, separated from all that was familiar and reassuring.  They wondered how they could sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land (Psalm 137).  They felt forgotten and lost.  Our African brothers and sisters in Italy sometimes feel this way, like motherless children, forgotten and alone.

Isaiah has powerful words for exiles.  The Lord is coming to you; you are not forgotten.  God’s promises are still good.  God has bigger plans that you can imagine writes Isaiah.  God’s enterprise is broader than you have known.  The Hebrews will come out of exile with a richer, deeper, more resilient faith.  Isaiah will paint for them a God who has universal designs on the world.  They will depart Babylon with a faith that enables them to sings the Lord’s song anytime, anyplace, under any circumstances. 

They are not motherless children.  This is what I tried to say yesterday.

Thank you for your partnership in this ministry.  Thank you for your part in sharing words of hope to people who sometimes find very little reason in this world to hope.

Jim (along with Debbie, Ben, & Luke)

As you pray:
-Remember Ben, Luke, & Debbie as they travel to Belgium this week so Ben and Luke can visit their friends there.
-Remember Emma as we try to work out a way for her (and other young African women) to get documents under a new Italian plan that extends amnesty to wealthy Italians who have been employing household help without paying taxes on them.
-Remember a new Nigerian church outside Florence who has applied to the Baptist Union to get legal recognition.  The pastor’s wife said that the church is mostly “people they have brought in off the street.”  Pray for us as we try to help this church move to stability and extend its outreach to others.