Tag Archives: waiting

Waiting and hoping on the One who is faithful

by Marta Castillo, assistant moderator (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life)

Marta CastilloI have been delighted to read the previous blogs in this series, “Esperando: Waiting and Hoping.” When the leadership group chose this theme of waiting and hoping, we imagined that it would take some explaining and enlarging. There was the potential for delegates expressing concern, believing that now is the time to act and respond rather than wait and hope. After all, isn’t waiting and hoping like delaying and wishing? Isn’t waiting and hoping what one does when one is unsure how to proceed?

In this series, the writers have created a wonderful way for all of us to consider the breadth, depth, and potential of waiting on God in hope. If you have not read this blogs series and plan to attend the joint conference assembly with Eastern District Conference, I encourage you to read them in preparation for our time together.

John Stoltzfus wrote about waiting in the cold in community and noticing signs of hope. Michael Meneses focused on waiting in the pain, noting that “even as we hurt and carry what seems to be unbearable pain in our lives, we remain steadfast with great expectancy.”

Beny Krisbianto told a story about how Indonesian Christians were waiting for the impossible, encouraging us to “continue our prayer and hope in God until those impossible prayers are answered.”

Krista Showalter Ehst reflected on waiting when it’s hard to explain why and her hope for the church. “Because it is only in experiencing small-yet-profound tastes of a kin-dom where God’s love abounds and all find wholeness that we can muster the patience to wait for that kin-dom to be realized in full.”

Danilo Sanchez reminds us that waiting is often accompanied by doubt but even when we doubt, God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

We are esperando: waiting and hoping on GOD. It is not like waiting in the doctor’s office, alone and unsure. When we wait on God, God is present with us. It is not like waiting with anxiety for the other shoe to drop. When we wait on the Lord, we can expect to be led in the right direction and God’s will to be done. It is not like waiting to see what other people will do so we can follow them. When we wait on the Lord, God’s Spirit can do a transforming work in us.

Waiting on God is expectant and hopeful. Waiting on God is active. We pray, read our Bibles, and listen for God’s voice. Waiting on God is believing in the assurance of things hoped for, with a conviction of things not seen. Waiting on God helps us go deeper into God’s reality and gives the permission to let go of our anxiety and choose God’s peace. Waiting on God is an act of surrendering to God’s will.

You may know that Nueva Vida Norristown New Life bought a building in 2008 in faith that we were acting in obedience to God’s call and vision. For five years, we waited on the Lord. The tenants that we had moved out, the economy went downhill, and our church ran out of money. As we waited, God did sustain us with hope and manna provision, unexpected gifts here and there from churches and individuals. We prayed. The situation became progressively worse. In December 2013, our buildings were up for sheriff’s sale. We still waited. We wondered. We did everything that we could think of doing. We surrendered. We hoped, believing that God is faithful.

In the winter of 2013, God’s Spirit moved hearts and minds of church leaders, business persons, and other people and miraculously our wait was over. The night of the sheriff’s sale, we held a service of thanksgiving. Our minds were blown by the way that God answered our prayers and had honored our waiting on Him.

In our conferences, we are not sitting around delaying and wishing that things will all work out. People are praying. Churches are actively moving forward with the mission and vision for what God is calling them to do and to be. The conference is moving forward by supporting congregations in ministry through missional operational grants, church transitions, credentialing new persons, supporting current pastors, and connecting congregations with common callings.

We are hopefully waiting for God to work all things out according to God’s will and purposes. When we meet together, let’s remember to celebrate what God is doing and let us wait on God together in the cold and the pain, for the impossible, even if we aren’t quite sure why and have doubts. Hebrews reminds us to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Even when we doubt, God fulfills promises

by Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall

Danilo Sanchez with his wife, Mary, and daughter Emilia.
Danilo Sanchez with his wife, Mary, and daughter Emilia.

In my experience, waiting and doubting have a direct correlation. As the length of time that we have to wait increases, so does our doubt. Over time, we begin to ask ourselves, “Is God really listening?” “Does God really care?” “Can this really happen?” “How long do I have to wait?”

So many times, we get tired of waiting for God so we begin to doubt and consider taking things into our own hands. The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to mind as an example: Yahweh promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, but too many years had passed and doubt began to set in. In Genesis 16, the “waiting and doubting” couple decides to take control. Sarah convinces Abraham to have a son through the servant Hagar.

I find it a little strange that the Lord doesn’t intervene at this point to remind Abraham of his promise, but lets their actions unfold. Ishmael is born and blessed, and the “waiting and doubting” couple assumes this is the son that was promised. Yahweh continues to tell Abraham that Sarah will give birth to a son in her old age, however. Both Abraham and Sarah laugh at this idea as the possibility of having their own child seems impossible. Nevertheless, Isaac is born to Sarah and the now trusting couple goes on to have many descendants.

What I learn from this story is that even though Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise and took their own action, the Lord still blessed them and fulfilled his promise.

In Acts 1 we see a similar story of waiting, doubting, and taking action. Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples and instructs them to wait in Jerusalem. The 11 disciples, Jesus’ mother Mary, and other women and followers gather together in a room to pray. After nothing has happened for weeks, the gathered group gets tired of waiting and praying. So Peter, who’s used to taking action, gets the idea that maybe if there were 12 disciples like when Jesus was around, the Holy Spirit would come. The group casts lots and by chance Matthias gets chosen.

The fact that Matthias is never mentioned again in Scripture makes me wonder why this story was included. What I think this story is trying to teach us, though, is that while Peter had good intentions for his actions, his solution to speed up the process of receiving the Spirit had little result. The disciples still had to wait for the Father’s timing to send the Holy Spirit.

So just as in the Genesis story, we learn that despite the actions of the “waiting and doubting,” God still fulfilled his promise.

What if, instead of being quick to take action, Peter had just waited and continued to pray with the disciples? What if in our “waiting and doubting,” God is calling us to more prayer? Perhaps that is a lesson the church needs to learn in our context today.

These stories give me hope that even when we push ahead with our own agenda or ideas, God can still work through us and accomplish his will. I know there have been times after waiting on God’s answer in my life, ministry, and call that I began to doubt and decided take my own action. It was just too hard to wait. But even if I didn’t make the right choice, God was still faithful to me. As I look to the future, I must continue to learn to wait for God. And as we are forced to wait, we must learn to commit ourselves to prayer. For it is in waiting and praying that we discern the voice of God and the activity of the Spirit.

As we go about our lives and ministries, we will have times where we are called to wait, and this waiting can be anywhere from a few days to several years. The longer we have to wait, the easier it will be to doubt and lose hope. When we find ourselves in times of “waiting and doubting,” however, we must not forget that God is still with us on the journey and is faithful to complete his promises.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Waiting when it’s hard to explain why

by Krista Showalter Ehst, Alpha

Krista Showalter EhstI recently attended my first high school reunion as a Mennonite pastor. I am a relatively young pastor, and I think for some of my fellow alumni it was a bit strange to hear about my current career path. I was chatting with two folks (not even discussing church or pastoring at the moment) when one suddenly turned to the other and said, “Are you religious?” They proceeded into a lengthy conversation about the various reasons for—but mostly against—attending church or embracing Christianity. I sat there quietly, absorbing it all and finding myself wondering, “How is it that I ended up on such a different path? Why am I not only in a church but leading one when so many of my peers have given up on church?”

In many ways, it’s easy to imagine myself in the shoes of one of those peers, to come up with a list of reasons for not being part of the church. Many churches are dwindling, and it’s sometimes hard to tell how a church serves people any better than a social club or community center. Even where churches are thriving, they have this persnickety way of wounding people rather than extending a healing touch. Churches have messed up many times and in many ways throughout the years, and it is understandable that some people need to simply walk away.

But I find myself firmly rooted in the church, even choosing a vocation of church leadership, and I wonder just what it is that has brought me to this place. I have certainly not been blind to the ways that church has wounded people, the ways that it is been complicit in injustice. I’ve seen up close and from afar the brokenness and failings of churches.

And yet right alongside the failures and brokenness are these persistent moments of grace and transformation. I’m only six months into my first pastoral experience, and yet I’ve already been privileged to witness many small-but-amazing moments when churchgoers—who in any other setting would likely not be a part of the same social group—extend abundant care to one another or share vulnerably with each other. I’ve seen the ways our small congregation works to give generously to folks in need even while feeling the pressures of a limited budget. I’ve seen high schoolers greeting and hugging an 80-plus-year-old member, and young children running up to ask one of the middle aged members to play with them. These kinds of interactions, these forms of care and intergenerational relationships, they’re kind of rare. They’re certainly not commonplace in our culture. These are the kinds of moments I wanted to tell my fellow alumni about as they speculated about the pros and cons of “being religious.”

And yet at the end of the day it doesn’t come down to looking at a list of pros and cons and deciding which outweighs the other. The failures persist even while grace abounds. Transformation occurs even while brokenness persists. It is one of the most wonderful and most irritating parts of our faith journey. We experience true tastes of God’s love and grace, and yet we continue to experience and confront the places where God’s kin-dom has not yet become reality.

It is, in fact, both the places of “now” and “not yet” that keep me in the church. The “nows,” the times when I see someone receiving healing through their church family or when I myself experience transformation through the community of faith, inspire and energize me. And the “not yets,” the painful moments of witnessing exclusion or becoming entrenched in church conflict—these moments push me to keep struggling, to keep praying, and to keep working on behalf of God’s kin-dom.

I’m not sure if any of this would make sense to my high school classmates. “Why bother wasting all that energy?” they might ask. “Why wait around if the church is still bogged down by all that negative stuff?”

“Well,” I might say, “Come and see.” Because it is only in experiencing small-yet-profound tastes of a kin-dom where God’s love abounds and all find wholeness that we can muster the patience to wait for that kin-dom to be realized in full.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.   

Why should we wait for the impossible?

by Beny Krisbianto, Nations Worship

Beny KrisbiantoThe words “waiting” and “impossible” aren’t fun words to discuss. The word “boring” is usually associated with the word “waiting” and the word “finished” or “dead” are often related to the word “impossible.” Why do we have to wait, if the thing that we are waiting for is impossible? It seems like acting in vain.

Not too long ago, I experienced a long period of waiting when I traveled back to my hometown of Jember, Indonesia. It takes at least twenty-eight hours in flight and four hours by car to get to this town in East Java, Indonesia. I still remember that in my time of waiting, I did everything that I could think of on the airplane, include praying, reading, reflecting, etc, to kill the time, so that I could enjoy my flight. But it still felt boring. Waiting is not fun, but sometimes it’s necessary.

In 1998, we had riot in Jakarta, the capitol city of Indonesia. In that tragedy, almost 3000 Chinese Christians were killed by radical Muslims. Since then, Indonesian Christians have been praying for justice and peace in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country on earth. For almost a decade, the Christians’ prayer has seemed impossible: no result and no progress. In some places in Indonesia, the persecution is even worse than before.

But surprisingly, God is answering the impossible prayer request of the Christians. Today, the Indonesian government passed a law that Christians should have the same opportunities as everyone else in Indonesia, and as I am writing this blog, the people of Jakarta just elected the first Chinese Christian governor. He will lead almost 15 million people in Jakarta in the next few years. Many people mentioned that he could also became the next president of Indonesia.

Nobody ever thought the day would come when a Chinese Christian would sit in the one of the most important public offices in a Muslim country like Indonesia. Indonesian Christians are giving thanks to the Lord for this historic moment. He is truly the God of the impossible. With God all things are possible.

The Word of God encourages us to wait upon the Lord. Before experiencing a great thing in life, most of the time, a process of waiting is required. Some times, God makes even his children wait, especially when we are waiting for things that are impossible for humans like us. I believe that waiting on the Lord is not passive, but an active action. Waiting on the Lord also includes praying, hoping, and believing that those things will come to pass. Several times, I’ve faced some impossible situations in life and ministry; however, when we didn’t give up, it finally changed. Let’s continue our prayer and hope in God until those impossible prayers are answered.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Waiting for the pain to end

by Michael A. Meneses, Wellspring Church of SkippackMichael Meneses

It was a cold Sunday morning. It had snowed the day before, and though the church parking lot had been plowed, there were ice puddles everywhere. I was walking across the lot in a no-nonsense, got-business-to-take-care-of way when it happened: my right foot landed on a patch of ice. My foot twisted backward, facing the opposite direction as the rest of my body.

It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced. I laid there on the icy ground until someone found me and an ambulance took me away.

Yet that’s nothing compared to the pain I experienced when my brother died in January 1984. He would have turned 30 that March; I was nearly 28. How does one explain that kind of pain, the pain of a heart cut through by great loss?

Call it soul pain, a shattered heart: pitch-dark, deeply penetrating waves of grief that leave you raw and exposed. Your heart spasms and you can’t breathe. Dizzy with disbelief, you want to shout and cry out: “It can’t be! Can it? How could it? This is not real! Is it?” It’s as if your soul has swallowed some horrible, ugly truth that you want to vomit out, but you can’t.

There are other hurts: the pain of scorn or rejection. The hurt of ridicule and shame. And you, too, have been hurt in one way or another; all of us have. Indeed, many are hurting even now, as I write these words.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” I might have said, “I hurt, therefore I am.” For some, it hurts just to live. And without hope, a Comforter, something better to look forward to, how can anyone bear the pain of it all?

Yet, when it comes to suffering, the Apostle Paul, who was no stranger to the pangs of suffering, said that the sufferings of this present time are not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us in the end. Indeed, all of creation, which suffers along with us, eagerly awaits its freedom “from its bondage to decay” when we come into the fullness of our redemption (Romans 8:18-25).

The interesting thing about suffering, and perhaps most frustrating, is this: God does not promise to prevent pain and suffering in our lives. No matter how faithful we are, or how spiritually deep we become, God gives us no guarantee that he will relieve us from suffering in this life. In fact, the very opposite may be true: growing deeper and more faithful with God may actually result in more earthly suffering. Nevertheless, God does promise to be with us as we endure suffering.

Perhaps our hurts and our ever-present sufferings fall under the category of Christ’s command to pick up the cross and follow Him. Jesus Himself was no stranger to extreme pain and suffering, having endured the sufferings of the cross. Thus, Jesus is no alien to what we feel and experience in our own earthly sufferings (Hebrews 2:18; 1 Peter 3:18). Perhaps Jesus knows more about the depths of our sufferings than we do ourselves.

Therefore, we are not to live life avoiding suffering at all cost, running from suffering at every turn, or numbing ourselves from suffering by any means, such as the use of drugs and alcohol. In many ways, we are expected to readily face the painful experiences of our lives head-on, especially the inner, emotional pain of spirit and soul, heart and mind. And while we do, we are to allow the Lord to do his work within us, to change, renew, and transform us by its means.

And so, even as we hurt and carry what seems to be unbearable pain in our lives, we remain steadfast with great expectancy. We look forward to something better. Even as we deal with what may appear to be unendurable agony, our trust, our faith, our hope, and our promise is that it will end in due time. And it will have been worth it, once we find ourselves on the other side of it.

Like Paul, Peter also encourages us with the promise and eager anticipation of final relief in the face of suffering: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 5:10-11).

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Waiting and working and hoping

Steve Krissby Stephen Kriss, director of leadership cultivation

The Spanish words meaning “to wait” (esperar) and “hope” (esperanza) suggest that there’s a ready connection between the two.   We wait for something that we expect to happen.   We don’t wait for things that we don’t anticipate will actually occur.

There are places designed for waiting (train stations, hospital waiting rooms, airports, the checkout line) and there are places where we unexpectedly end up waiting, where it’s less comfortable or hasn’t been prepared for the necessities of waiting (traffic tie ups, outside buildings).   The places of unprepared waiting tend to create more agitation and desperation.  After living in New York City for a few years, I’ve learned to prepare for unexpected waiting by carrying a book.  Nowadays, with my iPhone, I’m always ready to work (or at least surf the web) while waiting.

Waiting with hope means that we expect something to happen.  In Advent, we wait in anticipation of the arrival of Immanuel, God with us.  I’d say that I anticipate God’s arrival most days, hope for it, spend a lot of my waking hours anticipating the Spirit’s arrival and incarnation in time and space.   Sometimes I’m able to notice steps toward the fulfillment of God’s intention; other times I’m surprised by the sudden inbreaking and transformation.    With the story of the birth of Christ, we have generations of preparation and months of incubation, but on one surprisingly normal and joyous night, “the anointed one” comes into flesh, bone, blood.

While I know that God is with us in all time, in all space, and in all spaces, there is something special that we wait for in Advent, some holy moment that we expect to see, feel, taste, maybe even touch.   While Jesus warned us not to chase those moments, the sheep-tenders and the learned ones were provoked to come and bear witness to the Incarnation, to drop their work for a moment or to focus their skills for awhile toward the manger in Bethlehem, to witness, to be present, to offer gifts in worship.

I find waiting to be pretty annoying.  But hoping can seem even more ridiculous.   Believing that God is going to do something, to enter and transform what seems ordinary can be both difficult and at times unwelcome.

What we know about resiliency, however, is that to lose hope is to lose purpose.   I’m not “a glass half empty” kind of guy, but I notice too often places where Christ’s presence is not quite yet: in the gaps between the privileged and the poor; in the spaces between loneliness and community; in the struggles for healing and wholeness; in the overwhelming sense of busyness that permeates privilege; in the spectrum from tradition to transformation.   I see glimpses and sometimes full incarnations of the path of Immanuel too: in working across culture, language, and human boundaries to share resources with Mennonite partners in Allentown, Philadelphia and Norristown; in work with veterans; in seasonal congregational initiatives to share and worship with neighbors; in our learning to love all of the places and people that God loves.

Early Mennonite settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania often used the catch-phrase “work and hope” as they faced the struggles of persecution, migrating into the unknown, and finding their home in a new world.   In our working (doing), I believe we’re waiting, too.   In our working, we’re hoping and believing (some days more than others) that Christ came two millennia ago into crushing politics, often misguided religiosity, and hard economics, and that the Spirit of Christ might come again, through us, in us, to us, for us as much as for the whole world.   With anticipation, we wait, we work, we hope.

Waiting for the day of Jesus

John M Stoltzfusby John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Minister

I am confident of this: that the one who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

As a parent, I often impatiently wait for the next stage in my children’s lives. As in, I can’t wait until they are peeing in a potty rather than on the carpet or I can’t wait until they move beyond the thrashing-on-the-floor-tantrum stage!  In other words, I can’t wait until they grow up. Parents of older children tell me to cherish every stage. I sometimes wonder if their memories are faulty!

The season of Advent is filled with exhortations to wait. We remember the waiting for the coming day of the promised Messiah. We practice the discipline of waiting for the day of Jesus Christ. We seek to live into the holy rhythms of Kairos time, waiting for the right time of God’s appearing, rather than Chronos time, a calendar of our own agenda.

The Advent text of Isaiah 40:3-5 repeated by John the Baptist speaks of “preparing the way of the Lord” and “making straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Our journey of transformation into mature Christian adults sometimes feels like a never ending highway construction project.  We all know the joy of waiting through road projects: first there is anticipation as road signs appear, indicating that one can expect traffic delays beginning on a certain date. Then lanes are diverted, flashing lights are hung, rough pavement develops, and we endure months and months of traffic jams, bumpy roads, and alternate routes. It is a laborious process frequently overrunning the initial deadline, costing many resources and much patience.

What if we were to view our own lives and our life as a faith community as a continual road construction project? I sometimes wonder if all of our churches should have a large yellow sign at the entrance reading: Caution: Never Ending Reconstruction Work Ahead. This holy mess is church. Writer Ed Cyzewski recently tweeted: “That’s church. Just gotta pick which HOT MESS is your favorite.”

I confess that I get impatient with the never-ending work of transformation in the church; I tire of waiting for more of Christ to be revealed in us.  Everywhere I look, I see places that have yet to experience the salvation and peace of God: divisions in the body yet to be reconciled; relationships yet to be mended; forgiveness yet to be released; welcome yet to be extended; brokenness yet to be healed; addictions yet to be kicked.

Sometimes I fear that God will lose patience with me. I am prone to wander. I am prone to doubt. I am prone to move forward without acknowledging God’s presence. I am like that road rebuilding project which has a completion date that keeps on getting delayed. Yet we are to regard God’s patience with us as our saving grace. Yes, the work is slow, but we are invited to continue to imagine a different future.

The writer of Philippians imagined with a long-term view: “I am confident of this: that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.  This involves a patient and faithful waiting. In view of God’s grand salvation story, we have the courage to embark on the long road of repentance and change where we tear up the old and lay down the new. At the same time, knowledge of the tender mercies of our God gives us the grace to cherish and accept each other today, even in our unfinished state.

In this time of waiting and anticipation, we do know what is required of us: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God and one another. If we say that we can wait with one another today, then can we wait with one another tomorrow, and the day after, and the next? And, if this is so, can we wait with one another until the day of Jesus?

As we wait together, this is my hope and prayer:

“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79