Tag Archives: suffering

A Message of Transformation

My name is O.F.S. and I’m a Bible group coordinator in Nicaragua. 2018 and 2019 have been crucial years of change and surprises for me, my country and our student movement. What has happened in Nicaragua over the past two years? In April 2018 students marched to protest the lack of measures to deal with forest fires in an important reserve in our country. A few days later, a law to reform the public health service came out, which affected minority groups, and hundreds of people took to the streets to demand justice. What followed were days of violence, death and repression by the government. Since these events, human rights organisations have reported many deaths, people have been exiled and hundreds of others have disappeared.

Universities were closed for eight months, the country came to a standstill, people became desperate and in our groups many were asking questions – how can we offer hope in our context? And how can we continue the student work if the universities are closed?

I returned home feeling anxious, looking for answers and facing the challenge of continuing our mission; so I decided to meet up with some friends and young people from church and read the Bible together. This gave us strength and meaning in the midst of so much pain and suffering. We used the booklet called “The Word Among Us” and tools like “Writing a Psalm”. It was a liberating experience and our spirituality was really challenged. We were sorry we weren’t engaging with our community because the situation was so delicate, and we felt powerless because we weren’t helping our neighbours enough. As we tried to express our whirlwind of thoughts and examine them in the light of Scripture, we felt peace as we poured out our hearts to God and to one other. This helped us to experience a kind of faith that we should put into action thanks to Scripture engagement, and it showed us how prayer also calls you into action.

I was in exile. But I returned to my country because I want to be salt and light in this moment in time and because I believe that if we change the university we’ll change Nicaragua and we’ll change the world, because we should continue to proclaim the prophetic message of our God of true PEACE, JUSTICE AND LOVE. I realised that where there was a student, there was student work to be done. Our movement continues to embrace this belief, the call to be defenders of justice and ambassadors of faith. This is our commitment and it is only through Jesus Christ that we can change our reality and our country.

We cling with all our hearts to the redeeming hope that we find in Jesus!

Messengers of Hope – The University in God’s Story

This World Assembly theme was developed in a series of Bible expositions from Luke and Acts. What follows is an excerpt from one exposition. You can listen to it fully and to the other World Assembly Bible expositions at https://ifesworld.org/worldassembly.

Please read Acts 1:1-11 before continuing with this article.
In her exposition on Acts 1, Janna Louie from InterVarsity USA invites us into a deeper hope – a hope that brings meaning and perspective to our lives and to our broken world.

Jesus reframes power for the apostles. Not only will God’s Spirit be manifest through what the world deems weak, but the Spirit is given to a broken and vulnerable people. In this reframing, God deepens their hope. God’s Spirit is not self-protective. God’s Spirit is not nationalistic. Instead, the Spirit expands their hope for what is possible.

The apostles expected King Jesus to bring about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, but restoration will be greater than their hopes for Israel. Instead of seeing themselves merely as victims to be vindicated, they are witnesses who testify to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They are given a vision in which they are no longer just the oppressed, but they bear the testimony of Jesus across the borders and boundaries created by the empire. They are not confined to walls built by superpowers, but they join God’s Spirit to reach across man-made walls. Their testimony will not just be confined to Jerusalem, but will go to all who are within Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. In this statement, Jesus deepens their vision about restoring the kingdom of Israel. The testimony of Jesus will not be confined merely to the Jews, but will be manifest through them to the Gentiles. Their hope reaches beyond their community to include the Gentiles – and even their oppressors. Relief from oppression is too small a hope. Instead, Jesus invites a vulnerable community to steward the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus even to the ones who make them vulnerable.
[…]
The power of the Holy Spirit is an invitation first to see the resurrected Jesus in the places where we live. It is to see our homelands with Jesus’ eyes. To bear witness to the hope of Jesus where we are most vulnerable. The power of the Spirit is the power that enables us to endure in the places that cause us pain. The command to receive the Spirit’s power is not a quick fix. It’s a power that refuses to conquer and dominate, but perseveres in suffering. To touch and to heal. To grieve and to mourn. To wait with hope. It’s the power to testify of Jesus’ life in the very places we live. […] The Holy Spirit’s power invites a vulnerable people to transform the world around them.

You can listen to the whole exposition here.

Life-Giving Water in Difficult Circumstances

My summer holidays in 2012 turned into a bicycle accident, followed by emergency surgery, a two-month recovery period and a further surgery. I found it very hard to find peace about this situation, especially since I was still suffering from the consequences of a more severe accident which happened three years ago.

I said to the Lord, “I know you are good, you are good to everyone, but not to me. I don’t see your goodness in my life. I am following you and serving you, but my body is broken and my heart is broken. Where is your goodness?”

Sadness, confusion and apathy surrounded me as I walked through this spiritual desert. I could not “fix” myself, nor could other people help me – their words went into my ears, but did not reach my heart.

During these months, it was only through the Bible that I could hear the Lord speaking to me. The Holy Spirit used my decision to read the Bible no matter how I felt or what I thought about myself and God. In my dryness, the Holy Spirit gave me a tiny bit of water to survive each day. I was living only by that water – the Word of God – drinking it little by little.

I read the book of Job. He understood me. He called out to the Lord in his misery and bitterness of soul: “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest but only turmoil” (Job 3:26). My anguish and distress were there in the middle of the Bible!

The Lord spoke to me through Psalm 145: I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (v8). I am good to all (v9). I uphold all who fall and lift up all who are bowed down (v14). I am near to all who call on me, I am near to you. I fulfil the desires of those who fear me; I hear their cry and save them. I watch over all who love me (v18-20).

The Holy Spirit let these words drop deep into my heart: “I am watching over you, I hear your cry and will save you…” Through Scripture I was able to believe again that the Lord is good, he is always good, he is good to everyone, even to me!

Lilit Avayan, IFES General Secretary Armenia
lilitavayan (at) yahoo.co.uk