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Two Cultures. One Ministry.
Seth P. Haakenson
I often tell people that the first thing they’ll say in heaven is not “Wow!”, but “Oh!” In other words, in heaven we’ll have a better understanding of the reasons why God did things here on earth. I’m sure I heard that line somewhere along the way by one of my own pastors. It’s a line I’ve used several times with the Martinez family in the wake of their daughter’s death.
When the Lord called Susell to heaven in November 2018 there were a lot of “why?” questions. Why did God give her only four years? Why did she have to live three of them battling a brain tumor? Rather than spend our time answering questions God hasn’t given us the answers to, we turned to the questions that he has answered.
Such as . . . is Susell in heaven? That answer is a resounding yes. How do we know? Susell was baptized, and in Baptism the Holy Spirit had graciously clothed her with Christ.
How about: Was God angry with her family? No. All of God’s anger toward sin was satisfied by Jesus as he hung on the cross. The good news we can now share with people is that, in Jesus, God has reconciled the world to himself.
Today that same world continues to come to America. Oftentimes, the immigrants of this vast planet come walking right through our church and school doors. What to do? No doubt the answers vary, but the following is what God’s people did at Immanuel in Waukegan, Illinois., when this Spanish-speaking family walked through the church’s doors five years ago.
First, they taught the Martinez family English. Second, they visited them in their home. Third, they prayed for the family. When Susell was diagnosed with her brain tumor, our elderly members started a weekly prayer group for her, a group that continues to exist today. Who knew? Who knew that God would use a four-year-old girl to impact the prayer life of an entire congregation?
And then this same congregation used Susell’s death to honor Christ by holding a Christian funeral. Don’t let that adjective go unnoticed. They gave her a Christian funeral. Through it, two hundred people heard in their native language of Spanish that the dead in Christ will rise. They heard that Susell will rise. They heard that the reason she will rise is because Jesus lives victoriously over death. How many of those people came to faith that evening? Only God knows.
What we do know is that in heaven we will better understand why God decided to use this crazy, messy, and mixed-up melting pot of a nation as a staging ground for the hearing of the gospel. Some of those who hear the gospel will join our churches. Others will move on and take the gospel someplace else. You and I don’t know how it will all work out. But God does. And when we get to heaven, one of the things we‘ll find ourselves saying is, “Oh. Now I get it!” And we’ll praise God for that.
Seth Haakenson has served as a home missionary at Immanuel, Waukegan, Illinois, since 2017. He works with the congregation to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community.
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Author: Seth P. Haakenson
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019