I experienced two amazing extreme versions of following God's vision to bring people to Christ in the past couple of weeks. These two expressions of faith were as far removed from each other as possible, one as extravagant and immense as one could imagine, the other as humble and primative as could be here in the United States. But both incredibly moving and inspirational and both reminded me that God can use every person I whether rich or poor.
The grand experience was visiting a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark. My wife and I vacationed in Kentucky for a week and decided to experience the Ark Encounter, which had opened this past summer. This "theme park" was the dream of Ken Hamm whose vision was to educate the masses about the Genesis account of the ark and flood. So he decided to build the ark based on the dimensions from scripture. It is 510 feet long and 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, the largest wooden structure in the world. It has three decks which spam more than 120,000 square feet.
It is a truly awesome structure out in the middle of nowhere, much like what it would have been during Noah's time. We spent a couple of hours with a few hundred visitors walking the three levels inside the ark, reading the educational material and seeing the exhibits. It is an impressive and massive undertaking, reportedly 33 million dollars to build and much more to operate.
Within a few days of the Ark Encounter I spent a Sunday on a small mission project at a RV park, helping clean up and build some picnic tables for this very low income neighborhood. Our church chooses to do mission projects when there is a fifth Sunday instead of meeting for worship. This RV park was actually the permanent housing for about 300 people, all living in small RV's.
When I arrived, I was directed to the back of the park to help with another project, where there was this odd looking structure that had been built out of cedar branches. There I met a woman named Donna who explained what we were to work on. This woman said she was the park manager. She was probably in her fifties but you could tell had weathered a rough life and was wearing a tie-died shirt. She was enthusiastic and animated as she told us all about this structure was similar to an Indian longhouse, how it could withstand a tornado. It stood next to a smaller version which had been used as a greenhouse.
|"Pastor" Donna on the right|
Donna explained that they decided they needed a church building to house their Bible study during the winter and thought a bigger longhouse would be perfect. She said that she had given the idea to one of the residents and explained how this uneducated man who spoke little English, looked at the old structure and built a larger version just by sight without any drawings or plans.
We were to help put the outside covering on the building which was rolls of heavy plastic. She described in detail where to start and end leaving the bottom third uncovered for ventilation. Donna told us they would put a stove inside to heat the structure, running the stove pipe through the roof to carry the smoke out.
When I asked her if they had a pastor she said "no, I guess I'm the pastor." I was amazed at the excitement and passion this woman had as she talked about their small church. They would meet here in this longhouse during the winter when the weather turned cold on Sundays and for Bible study during the week. Her enthusiasm for God inspired me. This middle aged lady with the smoker's voice living in an old weathered tiny RV took her job as manager to a higher level, one as a priest or pastor to her community. I have a notion that she was not ordained or anointed by some church authority to do this. She just stepped into the void doing what God wanted her to do.
Two visions, one grand the other incredibly primative, both expressions of faith you'd be very surprised to see in the United States. And I'm not sure which I was more impressed with. All I know is God uses us all in amazing ways when we say yes to His dreams he gives us.