14 February 2011

University of the Nations: a vehicle of hope

Last week, YWAM in Cape Town had the great privilege of hosting the international leaders of the University of the Nations. In town for their strategy and planning meetings, the leaders also took time to join the local YWAM community for times of worship and staff development.

Tom Bloomer is the international provost of the UofN. As he stood in front of volunteer missionaries from at least 5 YWAM training centres, he encouraged them to think long-term about their missionary calling. Youth With A Mission is known for its opportunities for short-term volunteers. What is less well-known is that we also have tens of thousands of missionaries who have been working for many years with YWAM, all following the same call to 'Make God known' among the nations of the world.

After recently celebrating a half century of sending missionaries around the world, YWAM has been asking what we need in order to be effective for the next 50 years. Tom addressed this question from a personal angle.

What is it, Tom asked, that will keep a missionary going through years of inevitable ministry challenges? He asserted that it is hope that will help us to continue our work over the long haul and, as he looks back on almost 40 years as a YWAMer, he is himself testimony to the power of hope to build perseverance and tenacity.

Hope, Tom pointed out, is the foundation for faith. "Tell me where you've stopped praying," he said, "and I'll tell you where you've lost hope."

Taking the story of Lazurus' death as his starting point, Tom looked at the question of unanswered prayer. In spite of Lazurus' sisters sending for Jesus, He did not arrive until days after their brother's death. Jesus didn't answer in the way they expected and neither did He explain His delay; it is this lack of explanation that can most offend us, Tom argued. He admitted that we are all tempted to bury our hope when God doesn't seem to answer our heart cries; this can become a hard place in our hearts. Indeed, many end up leaving the mission field for this very reason; prayers for finances, healing or for loved ones remain unanswered and people leave disheartened. Nowhere is this more true than in Africa.

Tom asked why Jesus wept at Lazurus' tomb, and argued that it was perhaps out of sorrow that Mary and Martha were not able to wait through more than 4 days of unanswered prayer before doubting His ability and desire to help them. "When we pray," Tom argued, "we are trusting God. When He doesn't answer, He is trusting us." He reminded us of Jesus' response to the grieving sisters: "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?"

In closing, Tom connected our personal need for hope with the ministry of the University of the Nations. He reflected that one of the principal callings of YWAM's university is to bring hope to communities, to demonstrate to people that the reality of Christ's resurrection has a redemptive impact on all of life. And if the university is to truly be this vehicle of hope, then each of us need to be living with hope at the core of our attitudes and behaviours.

In what ways has your hope has been challenged? How have you renewed your hope? In what ways can you see your YWAM ministry offering hope to the communities in which you work?

1 comment:

  1. Very thought provoking. I was there at Tom's talks to the local YWAMers here in South Africa and was moved by what Tom said about hope and faith. I was also challenged to re-kindle my prayer life for those friends who have fallen 'off the radar'. In my YWAM work - communications - I see hope is the vital tool for connecting individual ministries with the wider vision of Youth With A Mission.