Each year, we at Calvary Church have the opportunity to give to our Open Door Project, a mission-focused offering developed with prayer and careful consideration. The various aspects of the project and the ministry partners who will receive gifts through this generosity are planned six months to a year in advance. Promotional materials are developed, often a video for our worship service is made, and we in the Missions and Outreach department eagerly wait to see how God will provide.
This year’s Open Door Project has been, for me personally, an adventure in trusting not just God’s provision but also his direction and his timing. Here’s the story:
- As of early June, I was still asking God, “What do you want for the Open Door Project this year?” Usually, a theme develops as partners present ways for us to help financially, but in 2016, little was happening. I had to trust that God would guide.
- In late June, as part of the Legacy Conference that over 130 people from Calvary attended, we met Pierre Houssney, director of Horizons International’s Hope of the Nations refugee center in Beirut, Lebanon. Through a combination of meeting physical needs and boldly proclaiming the Gospel, in the past two years or so, the staff at Horizons has seen over 850 Muslim Syrian refugees come to faith in Christ and be welcomed into local churches there. With others from Calvary, I went to lunch with Pierre, expecting to hear more about his ministry and possible ways we could help, financially and perhaps by sending some outreach interns. Instead, we found ourselves discussing and imagining how God might use a similar center to reach the 30,000 or more Muslims in West Michigan. I wondered: “Could God be asking us to do something bigger than our typical Open Door Project - something that would require our prayers and our presence, not just our money? Did God want Calvary Church to be a catalyst for a new ministry in our community, a Friendship Center where Muslims and Christians could build real relationships together?” I had to trust that God would confirm this in unquestionable ways.
- Over the next months, God answered. “Yes” there are others at Calvary who want to do more to reach Muslims. “Yes” the Missions and Outreach team sensed his leading as well. “Yes” other churches and individuals in our community have wanted to see something like this happen for years. “Yes” the Friendship Center fits well with other things God is doing to make us a more merciful and hospitable people, things like sending short term teams to Greece to help with the refugee crisis and like our own New Neighbors ministry. I had to trust that God would give us the ability to tackle this significant project.
- All this time, however, Calvary was also on the Grace Beyond journey. Much of the focus of the fall season was on our return from worshiping at Calvin to our own sanctuary and the offering of thanks we would give with it. Rather than having two or three opportunities in the fall to share my excitement about the Open Door Project, I was asked to wait until after New Years to explain it to the church. I had to trust that God would provide, even though in most years about 80% of our Open Door gifts are made in the month of December.
- In January, we began to talk once again about how to tell this story so that each person at Calvary could share in our excitement. A date of February 19 was chosen and a video storyline was developed. I had to trust that God would show me how to weave together the stories of Calvary people who have followed God’s call to welcome the foreigner and whose lives have been enriched as they reached out in empathy and love to refugees, in Europe and here at home.
- Today, once again, God is calling me to trust. Just as His time is finally coming for us to explain the 2016-17 Open Door Project “Welcome” to the whole church, refugees are no longer just a spiritual reality - they are a divisive political issue in our nation. I have to trust that God will help me communicate just what this “welcome” is: an issue of our loyalty to the Kingdom of Christ and our obedience to the Great Commission. Followers of Jesus on either side of the political debate can embrace our responsibility to show hospitality and love to those who need to hear of Him. This Project, and particularly the Friendship Center, is a God-given opportunity to fulfill that responsibility by praying, giving, and perhaps volunteering as plans move forward.
The best part of having to trust God is that He Never Fails. Already, he has provided funds to start the process of developing a Friendship Center. The legal papers for tax exempt status are being prepared, and a team is searching for a location. I’m looking forward with expectation to how he will provide more funds for the other aspects of the Open Door Project as well as to how he will bring unity to our body around a common desire to serve and reach the lost. As my friend Ed on our Facilities staff always says, “God the King is Faithful!”