Carrying One Another’s Burdens: Lessons From Málaga, Spain

A group from High Point Church traveled to Málaga, Spain and North Africa for a 10-day trip where they provided women’s health education and reusable menstrual hygiene kits through Days for Girls and worked with Diez42, a community center serving refugees and immigrants.

The following article was written by Dietrich Gruen, one of the members on the trip.

“I can never carry anyone else’s bag,” Sue said, apologetically, after Ty grabbed hers and schlepped it across one more interminable airport terminal. Then she rebounded playfully, “But I can help carry their baggage.”

Carrying another’s “too heavy” baggage or burdens—that fulfills the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2,5). That also typifies our 10-day vision trip, October 23 – November 2, and, dare I add, life together here at home. In Málaga (Spain) and North Africa, we educated women on menstrual health and provide free reusable menstrual pad kits made by “Days for Girls.” Six groups of 20-30 women across four cities and two continents delighted in receiving our home-made-with-love kits. Others caught the vision and will offer the same education and kits to yet more people in weeks to come.

Why do this? you may ask. In 140+ countries where Days for Girls operates, girls who can’t afford sanitary pads may be forced to stay home from school during their menstrual period. Missing five days a month, every month for years, means they fall behind the boys and don’t graduate. Not graduating, women are systematically held back in society. Our reusable menstrual hygiene kits help alleviate this huge burden—at least for 3-5 years, if properly cared for.

Hunger is another obvious problem, which we help with. The European Union is lifting this burden for refugees, but they need partners on the ground to help distribute the food, track distribution, and extend other resources. Hence the founding of Diez42—a city-wide community center living out Matthew 10:42, “giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.” Volunteers from area churches and seven NGOs unload the semi-trucks and vans full of food one day; then, for two days, we host 200+ client families among the refugee community.

Refugees in Spain depend solely on this free food—up to 63 lbs of produce per family every week. Without proper documents, refugees can’t find work to buy food—except in the greenhouses, who force desperate refugees into hard farm labor for low pay—then string out that process of documentation for three years.

How to survive during that 3-year waiting period is a burden too much to bear for some: While we were there, one hopeless woman threw herself off a 3-story building on the same block we are working. Such suicide attempts call attention what else these collaborating churches and NGOs provide besides food: social services, job training, sewing classes, English conversation, counseling and prayer. Many suffer “secondary trauma” from getting hands and heart so involved in the lives of these hurting people.

One of our own, Adrienne, gets too close to the action and a pallet of food lands on her toe. Upon seeing this, a former nurse jumps out of the food lines to address the toe with cleansing, cauterizing meds, gauze and bandages. Others provide footrest, support and companionship. We all pray for healing.

Caring for Adrienne, head to toe, provides a microcosm to see the Body of Christ in action. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 12:12,24-26). Hence, a lost toenail for one is felt by all. A body abused in sex trafficking causes us to cry out to God in shared pain. A refugee who loses her housing or his job and fears deportation—that stirs us to intercede and act as one. There are no little people, no unwelcome people in the faith communities we observed. Not just the Christians caring for Muslims, but the Muslims hosting us. We are the stranger in their midst, and they made us feel so welcome.

God hears and provides someone to carry the burden every time we cry out to him—Tori as a nurse for Adrienne, Ashlyn to sub for Adrienne as lead presenter, Lynn with meds and other first aid for one and all; Anon to diplomatically and heroically stop one fierce brawl that broke out between clients; Ty, Mark and Kory to safely navigate narrow passageways and scary roundabouts; Laura to keep—and flex—our schedules on time. Exhaustion, physical and emotional, is common to our team and bonds us in many ways, in prayer and support. Where we see God is working, we join in common cause there to help lift burdens. Such burden-bearing bears witness to Christ in a world of hurt. When one part suffers, we all suffer. When we part rejoices, we all rejoice.

For more, you can also read Dietrich’s interim ministry reports:
Report from October 28, 2019
Report from October 31, 2019

Rev. Dietrich Gruen is Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Columbus and Bethany Presbyterian of Randolph.

2019 Dominican Republic Team Updates

We have a team in the Dominican Republic this year, with a focus on relationships and spiritual growth. They are spending time doing child sponsorship visits, teaching Vacation Bible School to kids, holding Teen Chats, and doing prayer walks in the community. They do all this while, most importantly, sharing the Good News of the gospel of Jesus. Pray for them, and check below throughout their trip for updates as the team invests in the Dominican Republic!

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Grace and Glory

Every field of knowledge has its own words meant to help people communicate and make that communication more effective. However, these technical descriptions can also make the field more difficult for outsiders to understand. They also can leave the impression on insiders that they know what they mean when in reality they are repeating jargon they don’t really understand.

This is especially a problem in religious faith. Churches and parents can easily adopt religious language that they hear repeated without really knowing what it means. This keeps their faith shallow, makes their attempts to share the gospel dramatically less effective, and confuses the church’s children into disinterest in the spiritual convictions of their parents.

For example. two of the most important concepts in the Christian faith are glory and grace. You will read these words in the Bible and hear them in churches and spiritual conversations. It is easy to convince yourself that you understand these words clearly – even if you don’t. Further, these words — grace and glory — are often not found together in many modern churches. To many Christians, the words seem to have cross purposes rather than beautiful and clarifying union. Yet if you misunderstand these two concepts, you cannot understand the gospel, or the message of salvation in Jesus, at the level of depth that produces full freedom and transformation. The gospel won’t change you that much, because you won’t know God that well.

So, let me try to give fairly brief clarifying explanations of the meaning of these two words.

Continue reading Grace and Glory

Why a sword if we are to love our enemies?

Luke 22:35-38  Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered.  He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.  It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”  The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied.

As we come to the end of the Gospel of Luke, one of the passages most people would rather skip over quickly is Luke 22:35-38. This is because in it Jesus commands his disciples to buy swords, which are no doubt instruments of violence. This passage is confusing to most modern Christians for a variety of reasons. First, why does Jesus command this? He seems to be something of a pacifist, and within a few hours, he will reproach Peter for actually using a sword on the high priest’s servant—likely one of the same two swords mentioned in this passage. Further, the commentaries on this point are puzzling. Virtually all of them interpret the passage in strange ways that strike me as cop-outs. This modern commentary by Robert Stein (1992) is typical of most that are presently in print:

“And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Even if the exact interpretation of this verse is uncertain, it is clear that a new situation is envisioned. The disciples would soon encounter greater opposition and even persecution (cf. Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–2; 12:1–5). The reference to the purchase of a sword is strange. Attempts to interpret this literally as a Zealot-like call to arms, however, are misguided and come to grief over the saying’s very “strangeness.” Understood as a call to arms, this saying not only does not fit Jesus’ other teachings but radically conflicts with them. Also if two swords are “enough” (22:38), war with the legions of Rome was certainly not envisioned…The “sword” is best understood in some metaphorical sense as indicating being spiritually armed and prepared for battle against the spiritual foes. The desperate need to be “armed” for these future events is evident by the command to sell one’s mantle, for this garment was essential to keep warm at night (see comments on 6:29).”

Or to go further back, this is from John Calvin, who I often find very helpful:

“And yet he does not call them to an outward conflict, but only, under the comparison of fighting, he warns them of the severe struggles of temptations which they must undergo, and of the fierce attacks which they must sustain in spiritual contests. That they might more willingly throw themselves on the providence of God, he first reminded them, as I have said, that God took care to supply them with what was necessary, even when they carried with them no supplies of food and raiment. Having experienced so large and seasonable supplies from God, they ought not, for the future, to entertain any doubt that he would provide for every one of their necessities.”

Over the years, some commentators have even sought to show that when Jesus says “that is enough” in reference to the two swords, he is not saying, “Two will be plenty,” but “Enough talk of swords. Literal swords isn’t what I mean! Quit talking about literal swords.”

I disagree with all these approaches for a number of reasons. Let me list a few, but that is not my main interest. My main interest is how and why we accept certain interpretations of scripture.

Continue reading Why a sword if we are to love our enemies?

Why Sign Language Interpretation at High Point Church?

by Linda Sey

Hearing loss and deafness are largely invisible and isolating disabilities. Those with hearing loss learn at a very young age to mimic, nod, and laugh along, often completely lost as to the details, if not all, of the dialogue darting around them at breakneck speeds. They laugh at jokes they don’t hear (and therefore don’t understand), they nod yes in feigned understanding, wanting to fit in and be accepted, or thinking sincerely they truly did understand, because in reality, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’

“But, deaf people do speech therapy, talk, and learn to be really great lip readers, so it all works out in the end, right?!” Contrary to popular belief, the English language, at best has only 50% (and at worst, 30%) of the phonetic sounds formed and made visible on the speaker’s lips. This means ‘I love you’, ‘olive juice’, and ‘elephant shoes’ appear identically on the lips, as do the phrases ‘you have talent’ and ‘you have salad’.

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Mentoring [Engage & Equip: LIVE]

Find slides from Engage & Equip: LIVE here.


Mirror Jesus in Making Time

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Luke 6:13
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles

Jesus spent most of His ministry making time for just a few choice others; so should we as we follow Him.

Sacrifice required…

  1. Cut out
    • Use the “3 Year Hindsight” test
  2. Invite in
    • Your life = Gospel + ordinary

…and joy promised

Continue reading Mentoring [Engage & Equip: LIVE]