I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.Psalm 77:11,12 ESV
I realize that Jesus once told a man that “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62), but occasionally it’s a good thing to rest the horses, let go of the plow, and take a good look behind us. As we ready ourselves to plow forward into the mission to which God has called us in the year 2021 and beyond, we might do well to pause and look backward, not with doubt or regret, but with thanksgiving and praise! This is what we did last month at the annual meeting of our WMPL fellowship, held for the very first time entirely online.
If you’ve ever joined us for one of our prayer meetings, camps or other events, either in-person or online, you may have sung the song How Good Is the God We Adore. I’m sure Joseph Hart didn’t have WMPL in mind when he wrote it 250 years ago, but it seems he could have. It fits our fellowship and work to a tee, and for many decades has served as a theme song of sorts for us. We sing it whenever we send our workers to their fields of service. We sang it at the close of our annual meeting. The second stanza goes like this:
‘Tis Jesus the First and the Last, Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home; We’ll praise him for all that is past, And trust him for all that’s to come.
We find a reassuring and even divine rhythm in praising Jesus “for all that is past,” and then trusting him “for all that’s to come.” Thus, at our annual meeting, we “halted the plows” long enough to look back at 2020 before plowing our way into 2021. Before “praying it forward,” we spent some time “praising it backward.”
Praising it Backward: Thanks be to God for hearing our prayers in 2020 and calling to us new workers in accounting and administration. What a blessing that is! Praise him also for the wonderfully expanded group prayer opportunities we’ve experienced with the use of Zoom. Our reliance on Zoom has also caused our staff meetings to go global. Never before has that been possible. These changes have been great gifts from God! We’re so very grateful to the Lord that in the midst of the global pandemic, our workers around the world, some locked down in their countries of service and others traveling internationally in the midst of the crisis, all experienced God’s merciful protection and provision. Most of those who were in North America for a time have now returned to their countries of service. Through it all, the people among whom our workers live and serve have continued to experience and hear of his love. In spite of the difficulties of this past year, the Lord also has given us some promising new directions. In partnership with our fellow Lutherans in Ranchi, India, we are praying for a few of the many unreached people groups in their country and wondering together how the Lord might have us work together to share the gospel with them. In Africa, we and the North American Lutheran Church have begun to envision with partner churches and ministries there how we might work together in discipling young adults for mission engagement. The year 2020 was certainly not without its difficulties and heartaches, but looking back we see God wonderfully at work, continuing to build his gracious Kingdom. Seeing all of this, and “praising it backward,” we’re now all the more enthusiastic about “praying it forward.”
Praying it Forward: There is so much that we can and will pray for regarding our future labors for the Lord, but we ask you to join us in three key petitions. First, our focus on Commissioned Living will remain “front and center.” Ask the Holy Spirit to move us to hear the call to Commissioned Living, to commit ourselves to it, to live it out, and to invite others to it. Pray that many others would take on this commitment and so join us! Secondly, we envision a residential community wherein young adult Christians are mentored and discipled for lives of prayer and mission engagement. Already a small number of young adults gather together weekly for study and prayer in an online gathering we call FOCUS 20/20. Please ask the Lord to birth this community, guiding and empowering our efforts to help. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enrich, inspire, embolden and multiply the young adults engaged in FOCUS 20/20. Finally, our primary mission focus remains those with little or no access to the gospel. Please pray with us that God will show us still new ways to go, serve, and partner with others so that disciples would be made of all nations!
Having prayed, and continuing to pray, we will “put our hands to the plow” and we will “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). To God be the glory!