Looking past a troubled, secular world, we see a swelling tide of faith
Today’s world is more complicated than at anytime in my life. The days of the Cold War were difficult, but less so than the current world where Middle Eastern issues become increasingly complex and where China is emerging as a consumer like the U.S. and Europe.
Half of the summer I have been optimistic that faith is rebounding and people are turning back to God. The other half I have been depressed because secular values are overwhelming even those seeking to know and follow God. I have been reminded of a poem by Matthew Arnold in the last decades of the 19th century.
“Dover Beach” opens: “The sea is calm tonight. The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits …” and the beauty of the full tide reminds him of the ceaseless tide that goes back through all history.
Arnold then makes an application of the retreating tide to faith: “The Sea of Faith, was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore, lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear its melancholy, long withdrawing roar, retreating to the breath of the nigh-wind, down the vast edges drear, and naked shingles of the world.”
Even as I think about retreating faith, my mind is brimful of thoughts of people who are exercising their faith to spread the kingdom around the world. I have just finished the latest newsletter from a team of four young and capable families that moved to Vienna, Austria, to plant an evangelistic church. The European championship for soccer has brought into full view the prevalence of human trafficking and its evil.
Last Sunday at lunch I was blessed with a chance to visit with Leopoldo Villacorta, a Salvadoran who studied at the Baxter Institute, doing his internship in Guatemala. Leopoldo now preaches for the church in San Mateo, a village on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The San Mateo church is a model of growth and service with a plan to plant 10 congregations in 10 years. Leopoldo has the amazing vision for the Kingdom reminiscent of Jesus.
In the evening, I went to dinner with Moses Gitau, an evangelist for the Kisauni church in Mombasa, Kenya, and about 35 U.S. citizens who have gone at different times to Mombasa to teach and support the spiritual development of growing churches. Moses is an amazing man of faith whose evangelistic spirit shows in all his dealings within his community.
Late in June my home congregation hosted Robin and Allen Dutton along with Edinilson Souza. These families work with a Campinas, Brazil, church that has doubled its membership three times since the congregation began nine years ago. Bob and Donna Carpenter, former missionaries in Brasilia and now our neighbors, have just returned from a Let’s Start Talking campaign in Natal, Brazil, where their daughter Chris is working with the church.
Early in July, I had lunch with Wil Norton, an Oklahoma Christian University student who had spent May at the Village of Hope in Ghana. Wil, like most of the people who have worked in Ghana, can hardly wait to go back. Another student e-mailed me that same week from Uganda. Travis Hughes graduated in April and began his summer in Rwanda with a group that dreamed the Wishing Well project, a plan to dig water wells in African nations where pure water is a scarce necessity. The project has spread from OC to other Christian universities, and college students have contributed thousands of dollars to assist with the wells.
I know dozens of people who have gone on Let’s Start Talking campaigns to places such as India, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Korea, Tanzania, Russia and Madagascar. I know of many other friends who daily share their faith on their jobs, at Little League games with the parents of their children’s parents and in bookstores and markets where they regularly shop.
Although I am aware that faith is a precious stream that appears to retreating from us, I believe that faith is a rising tide. I see people of all ages abounding in faith and longing to share their faith. A new, energetic generation is eager to serve and try new ways of touching lives. A swelling tide of faith is crashing against the shores of secularism and materialism.