In the midst of the book of Jeremiah is found one of my favorite passages in scripture:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
It is a passage of great hope and promise – of the Lord’s sovereignty, His love for his people, His plan for life, His eternal presence in time of need. It was only recently, as I was preparing a sermon, I was looking through some commentaries and came across something that I have not been able to let go of; and for me, it has become a centerpiece in my thinking as Terri and I have travelled. It has truly been a revelation.
In the passage above, the Lord has plans to prosper his people. In the English, the, according to Merriam-Webster, the word prosper means, “to become very successful, usually by making a lot of money; to become very active, health, or strong.” I have to say, in the back of my mind, I struggled as we have travelled and/or read about the church abroad, especially in conditions of abject poverty. Even as we travelled to the Philippines a few weeks ago, what is scripture saying, according to my very English thinking brain? I always considered that prosperity was broader than financial, but included financial prosperity. And then, I saw it… the word is translated into English as prosper, but the Hebrew word is shalom. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to shalom you…” Wow… an explosion of revelation. Shalom is generally translated peace, but the meaning is so much broader than that. Again, in the English, we thing of peace as the absence of conflict or war, but that does not do justice to the Hebrew word shalom. It is complete peace, wholeness, welfare … it comes from the root verb shalom, meaning complete, perfect, full.
Shalom implies wholeness of soul, being in right relationship with God and man, inner peace that passes understanding. And, true shalom only comes through Sar shalom, the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Messiah. When we come into relationship with Jesus, he restores wholeness to us through His grace, mercy, forgiveness and calls us to be a conduit of shalom to those around us. It literally has little to do with finances. And as we visited the Philippines in June, we saw it vividly.
There is abject poverty everywhere in the Philippines – people literally living from meal to meal, no running water, homeless, crowded into small dirt floor shanty’s. In the midst of one of the poorest neighborhoods is Mamatid International Mission for Christ, pastored by Florante Torres and his wife Myrna. Florante and Myrna lived in the Fresno area for years before God called them back to the neighborhood where Florante was born and spent his early years. Partnering with Clovis Hills, an old house owned by his father was transformed into a church. They have an amazing ministry, conducting Bible studies daily in the neighborhood, a children’s ministry – which includes feeding hundreds of kids, a ministry to the local prisons – all by a team at MIMC that lives in and is a part of the neighborhood. The door opened for ministry with MMI as Florante visited the Batangas hospital to pray for one of his congregation that was sick and saw the conditions in the hospital – overcrowding, a shortage of critical supplies and equipment, and a team of doctors and nurses severely limited by those conditions. Literally, in the maternity ward, women were sharing beds. In the week we were there, we:
- Conducted a medical clinic with Batangas Hospital doctors, with MMI providing medicines. We saw over 150 people, prayed with them, shared,as the Lord provided opportunity, to people and the medical staff about God’s plans to shalom His people.
- Had numerous Bible studies, which often included bring food, in the area around the church.
- Visited 3 prisons, a children’s center, and two local health clinics, again sharing shalom, and meeting with local government officials, talking about possible work in the future delivering medical supplies.
- Had a meeting with 40 local pastors, with Terri and I sharing over 6 hours, encouraging, praying and worshipping together.
- Had a picnic with over 40 members of the MIMC after church on Sunday, sponsored by MMI, to celebrate and thank them for the work they are doing in the community.
Terri and I truly experienced Jeremiah 29 in the church in Mamatid… people who have overcome their circumstances and the challenges of their daily existence through the shalom of Christ. They have come to know Christ, and he has brought wholeness into their life. They live in community and support, love and pray for one another through life’s daily challenges. There have been miraculous healings, restored marriages, favor in the community, lives touched and changed as they become conduits of shalom to their neighborhood and to the city they live. They have called on Him, prayed, and He is listening. Where all around there is evidence of “captivity” from poverty, abuse, drugs, hunger – they live as a church family prospering with the riches of shalom and making a difference in the world they live in. It has caused me to consider the lack of shalom in our very prosperous society – prosperous in a very different sense than the prosperity of shalom. What a great opportunity we have, wherever we live, to show the world true peace through Sar shalom, the prince of peace.
We have numerous containers planned for the Philippines and the Batangas hospital as well as assisting as we can in the local clinics. We look forward to sending a construction team to build a second floor on the MIMC – to provide a bedroom instead of a roof tent for Pastor and Myrna and additional meeting space for the church. We know that our partnership with MIMC gives MMI the opportunity to have a long term impact through our short term visits – coming alongside a great work God is doing in that community through MIMC. Won’t you join us in supporting the Philippine ministry? Perhaps you would like to share in the cost of shipping a container ($20,000) to the Batangas hospital – we have already sent one (June 2) and hope to send at least 3 more. Or, perhaps you would like to help with the cost of building a second floor on the MIMC – we are trying to raise about $60,000 for that and send a team in early 2016. Remember, in 2015, donations of $1,000 or more will be matched by one of our MMI partners.
Keep the church in the Philippines in your prayers, and pray for Terri and I as we travel to Cusco, Peru, July 14-26 to visit a children’s hospital badly in need of medical supplies and equipment. We covet those prayers and will keep you posted via Facebook – Medical Ministries International.
-Robert and Terri Gulack, CEOs