"Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.'" (Acts 15:36 NIV)
A fellow missionary who has helped spread the Gospel in New Zealand and other places, called a few minutes ago and we had a talk about the work of missions in the former Soviet Union. He was sharing his excitement about the possibility that East European Missions is in the final stages of distributing Russian language Bibles to all the schoolchildren in one of Ukraine's largest regions. Jerry also gave me many encouraging words for Galina and I as we plan to leave on the 26th of June for a four week mission trip that will mainly be for the purpose of rekindling the fires of faith at a church near the Arctic Circle that I helped establish in 1992. Please pray for our mission trip to Inta, Russia.
When this worker for the Lord heard about our plans, he told how the church where he is a member is preparing to send their preacher on a 6 weeks trip to the former East Germany. The local church leaders realized that with the high price of tickets, it makes sense to stay in the country for more than just a few days. Praise God for their wisdom and commitment to spreading the Gospel around the world. They even established a mission fund to help with the couples travel expenses called the "Acts 15:36 Fund."
It sometimes creates a large imposition on the local church for the preacher to be gone and the church must either have local men to do the preaching and teaching, or else ask some men to come from congregations in nearby towns. Two men in the Cedar Key Church of Christ where I serve as the minister of the Gospel have agreed to look after the preaching for one Sunday each. This is a major load lifted from our back and heart as we struggle to complete many travel details.
One nearly hair-pulling portion of the travel preparation process involves gathering all the necessary documents that will be needed before leaving our country, and before entering another country. Entry and Exit documents are very important, and if our travel documents are not all in order, we may be turned around - even though we have already paid dearly for the airline and train tickets.
Before going abroad, it is usually necessary to have a Passport that identifies you as a citizen of the United States. It has always been a source of amazement whenever I hear of many Americans who have lived almost their entire lives without even thinking about a passport. Apparently, many people in this country do not have any desire to leave its borders. Far off places like Japan, Mongolia, Chile, Zimbabwe, Mumbai, Timbuktu or Siberia remain a fuzzy part of what they've learned in literature or watched in a video or movie. Without much doubt, perhaps the chief benefit of going abroad is the homecoming. You see it written all over the faces of people as they quickly exit the plane and stand on home territory with a sense of joyful relief.
A little friendly word of advice, get a Passport. You never know when you will be invited to accompany a missionary on a trip. Without this, many countries will not allow you across their border. In addition, many countries also require that U.S. citizens have a visa issued by the host country. The visa, when approved by the Consular Affairs office of the country you want to visit, is affixed onto one of the blank pages of your Passport. The airlines and airport security police will want you to prove that you have proper travel documents before boarding the aircraft.
Slavic people from countries like Russia and Ukraine for example, have a habit of sitting down on their travel bags before leaving the house or hotel room. This pause is an almost untimely interruption in the rush to arrive at the airport on time. The taxi driver, family or friends are waiting to carry your luggage to the car or bus. This old tradition may be steeped in some ancient superstition, nevertheless it is a convenient time to stop and make certain that you have your Tickets, Passport, Driver License, travel itinerary, money, credit cards, prescription medicines, along with every document, bag, purse or briefcase you intended to have with you when you arrive at your destination several thousand miles away. Just to make certain that we are not being superstitious; we have gotten into the habit of using this brief time before departure to say our prayers.
Soon, perhaps very soon, whether we have made any preparations or not, we must all take a journey across a wide ocean from which there is no possibility to return. When I say "we," this is a reference to our souls that all come from God, the wise and beneficent Father in Heaven. In the first chapters of the first book of the Bible, we learn from this God-given book that our human ancestors did not appear upon the earth by accident. Like everything else that exists, the great and invisible God created the first human beings. God gave our first parents a living soul. This soul is destined to live for all eternity. The earth and everything consisting of the various created elements is atrophying at an alarming rate. Only God the Father knows the exact moment in the future when created life and all matter will cease to exist.
God looks down upon humanity with powerful compassion. Before Creation, His love devised a plan that makes it possible for sinful man to cross over that great divide and enter into the blissful paradise. Before entering into that eternal home, we must be prepared to prove that we have been examined and found worthy of eternal life. In spite of all the laughable stories of the proverbial St. Peter standing at the "pearly gates," I am not aware of such a doctrine anywhere in the scriptures. There is only One who can open that door or keep it closed. The Son of God came to bring Gods' dazzling light of truth to this dark world. Jesus said: "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:47-48 NIV) The fate of our eternal soul lies within our own free will to follow Jesus Christ as Lord of Heaven and Earth. He will lead us safely Home into a place from which we will never desire to leave. We will be home at last!
You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ which meets at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Please write to me with any questions or comments at P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Please visit our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com.