Hands on a World Map…
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Thirty-five years ago.
As a seminarian, I had joined others in a daily noon “Pray for the World” time where we literally placed our hands on countries and claimed people groups for Christ.
I was going to be a missionary. I was going to change the world.
Back then, this place was tucked into a small room behind the Chapel. Today it has been refurnished and renamed the “J. Christy Wilson Prayer Chapel” in honor of my missions professor and mentor.
The room has changed. The pieces of paper with requests have changed. The names of many of those countries on the map have changed. And I, too, have changed in the past three decades.
But God has not changed.
Mike and I are gathering with other Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary grads for our 35th Reunion. We dine together, celebrate, and even spend a day exploring the rich spiritual heritage of this part of New England.
But to conclude our reunion, we are once again in this sacred place – the Prayer Chapel – spending time doing that which we learned so long ago as youths but which still sustains —- praying over one another.
The requests are different now. They are gritty and hard: children with addictions, fractured churches, faith struggles, retirement decisions and health challenges. Many in this room have spent their lives in those very places we prayed for long ago — Cambodia, Turkey, Japan… And I, too, have counted faraway places as part of my own life ministry, though never my home – Thailand, Malawi, Hong Kong, Kenya, Mexico, Tunisia, Israel, Netherlands, and more.
God’s plan for me did not include becoming a missionary. But He does continue to allow me to partner in helping to “change the world.” Through prayer. Through proclamation – both written and spoken.
I will never forget receiving an invitation to speak at the opening chapel on my first day of seminary – a time when women were still somewhat rare in such circles. For some reason out of the entire first year class this Boston school chose me and another guy from Carolina to bring a word to fellow students just embarking on our course of theological training.
Honestly, to this day I do not remember what I said. But I do remember that I said it with conviction and Holy Spirit power.
God’s words to Jeremiah were the promise I clung to back then “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you.” (Jeremiah 1.7) While I am definitely no longer a youth, I still find courage to proclaim truth through God’s power and anointing. *
Tradition has it that Saint Francis once said “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” Do you suppose that was a mandate for us to do the Gospel and not just proclaim it? What do you most remember after hearing a good sermon? Chances are, it’s the stories that take hold of your heart and provide a lasting influence.
Jesus taught through stories too. The world is watching and listening to those who have chosen to live for Christ. What story does He want you to proclaim?
I hope that you will have an opportunity to gather and share stories with old friends as I did recently. And then to pray over each other – gratitude for God’s faithfulness, grace for the future.
“Dear Lord, You have sent me into the world to proclaim Your word. So often the problems of the world seem so complex and intricate that Your word strikes me as embarrassingly simple. Many times I feel tongue-tied in the company of people who are dealing with the world’s social and economic problems… Let me retain innocence and simplicity in the midst of this complex world. What really counts is that all this information, knowledge and insight allow me to speak more clearly and unambiguously Your truthful word. Give me the strength to think clearly, speak freely, and act boldly in Your service. Amen.” - Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)*
under the mercy, Cindy
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©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
*selections from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell