Saturday, April 30, 2016

TO ALL THE WORLD by Linden Malki

We are all the beneficiaries of someone telling someone telling someone generation after generation and from many parts of the world. The "Famous Last Words" of Jesus have come true, but it's not over yet--and won't be until He returns. Do we know our faith genealogy? It's a family tree-there are many branches in both directions.

Part of my own story is shared with a good part of the Western world. The first followers spread in many directions after the Resurrection and Ascension; spreading through the Middle East, as far east as India, and also west to Greece, Rome,Egypt and North Africa, and even in those first generations, as far as Gaul and Britain. As the Roman Empire collapsed after 450 AD, the Church survived and grew in the heartland of Europe. Many missionaries were sent out to spread the Gospel in what is now France and Germany; one of which was St. Ansgar. He was born and educated in what is now France, sent as a missionary to Sweden in 829AD, responding to a request from a Swedish king. He became the Bishop of Hamburg, in charge of missions to Denmark, Norway and Sweden. He was known for his visions; one was "I will make you the light of nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth," which was interpreted a call to the "end of the world in the North", which was Sweden. By 1050, The Scandinavian countries were solidly Christian, and accepted the Reformation from Luther's Germany between 1530 and 1593.  All of my great-grandparents, in both Sweden and Finland, were born and raised in Lutheran churches. I have been privileged to visit two of those churches, one in Sweden and one in Finland.)

My father's mother's grandfather was a shipowner in western Sweden, and his sons grew up as seamen. Two of them, my grandmother's father and his brother, were converted to a personal knowledge of salvation at the Mariner's Temple in New York, and decided to go back to Sweden to share their faith, even though it was illegal to have religious meetings outside of the State church. He and his brothers and their families were forced to leave Sweden, came to Minnesota, where my great-grandfather had a house church and his brother evangelized in the Swedish emigrant communities--a long ways from the coast of Sweden.

The Gospel is contagious! Jesus' followers and their spiritual descendants have gone from 120 people in Jerusalem to literally the ends of the earth. When Pastor Paul and a group of our people attended a cell-church symnposium in Waco, Texas that had speakers and participants from all over the world, many of the participants from Asia and Africa expressed their gratitude for missionaries from the Western countries that had brought the Gospel to their home countries.

What can we do? We may be called to go somewhere, near or far (I could say that I was called to San Bernardino, not of my own expectation!); we are called to support others with prayer and material blessing; we can also make a point of reaching out to people from somewhere else who are now on our doorsteps, who may go back, or go on, or become part of our community. We are called to recognize that "God so loved the World..", and we all have the choice to become a citizen of His world.

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