What we hope will happen affects how we live
This session explores where hope comes from and how it can radically change the way we live our lives. It acknowledges God as the source, challenging us to think about the way our hopes for the future can be a part of wholeness in the here and now.
As Christians, God's promise to renew and restore this world should propel us forward as agents of change: feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and caring for those in need.
Excerpt from "In Broken Places"
On March 24, 1999, the US began bombing missions against the Serbian army in response to months of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities carried out against the Kosovar Albanians. I read the reports in the paper and at that time the news was just another terrible situation happening halfway across the world.
Then I became part of a small investigating team that went to Kosovo. My perspective quickly changed once I started meeting the people in the midst of this terrible story. All of a sudden, it was personal. The reality of brokenness weighed heavily on me for the next few months as I came face-to-face with the aftermath of war and abuse. But something much bigger and more powerful overtook me—as I look back now, I call it hope.
I arrived in Kosovo just a few months after the bombings had stopped. The NATO strikes had ended and there were reports that refugees were returning. We flew into Macedonia, grabbed a taxi and headed for the border. Surprisingly, we were forced to abandon our taxi early because there were hundreds of semi-trucks and KFOR tanks blocking the road. I got out of the taxi, extended the handle on my suitcase and began the long walk to the border. I felt so out of place—like a tourist who had accidentally stumbled into a war zone. And it was a war zone. I'll never forget the sights or the smells that seemed to assault us as we crossed the border—the smell of burning houses and large craters in the ground where bombs had fallen.
I walked the road with thousands of refugees. They were coming home to this place. They were traveling back in hopes of finding something they had left behind.
We held in our hands a list of Kosovar villages and the names of some families living in each one. A missionary working in an orphanage located in southern Albania where hundreds of women and children fled had given us the list. Now that the war was over, we were visiting these villages to see about the welfare of the families.
Over and over again, I was startled by the brutality and violence associated with ethnic hatred. As we travelled, the same themes and stories seemed to surface. The Serbs had not been able to fight the evening airstrikes by NATO planes, so in retaliation, they began a systematic assault by storming villages, torching homes and rounding up any men and teenage boys they could find. The women and children joined convoys and headed for the Albanian border to escape being caught and raped or killed.
Each morning I would get up before the sun. When it was dark and quiet my mind would replay the stories I had heard the day before. But just as the day was beginning, things would come alive. As I waited for the sun to rise, I watched an old man pulling his cart past where I stood. Each morning started with him, the only other movement on the street. Where was he going? What was his story? Eventually, the entire community would wake up, coming alive again, and almost everyone there bore deep scars. But they still got out of bed in the morning. Life still continued on and time seemed to bring with it a sort of grace, giving people a reason to hope.
Scripture: Looking to Abraham
It's easy to have hope in something when it's easily attainable, when it's something we can see and feel and wrap our fingers around. But when life gets hard and we face real brokenness, everything changes. All of a sudden, hope becomes a discipline.
This session includes time to read through a reading from the book of Romans, chapter 4. Abraham held onto God's promise in a seemingly hopeless situation for twenty-five years. Count them—twenty-five! During that time, he did a lot of things. He lived a lot of life, day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year. Waiting. Hope not only brings a glimmer of light into a dark situation, but it should also affect how we live in the meantime.
Romans 4:18-25 (NLT) — Abraham's Children
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, "That's how many descendants you will have! And Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah's womb.
Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham's faith, God counted him as righteous.
Each EM Training Resource includes times of discussion among the group. Here is a sampling of a few questions included in this particular training:
What are your hopes for the future?
What are some ways that you can hold onto hope, even when a situation seems desperate or impossible?
When we think about being a light in our world, what pictures come to mind about the ways that we might do this?
How do your hopes compare with God's promise to renew all of creation?
What drives us to fight for hope?
How does experiencing hopelessness help us better understand hope more fully?