The table seems so long as we pass sushi from one end to the other. The birthday boy sits yelling distance away, but there isn't any need to yell. The live musicians play music fitting for a classy party, and I am struck by how wonderful the people present are. I love their adult lives: their jobs, their relationships, their children, and their travels.
They are all Pilgrims - their lives forever shaped by Fred and Stacy Vanderwerf and David and Shannon Goran and all the other mission interns and teams that have walked this road over the years. They live out the Gospel that they heard over and over again. They live in Christian community together. It's a beautiful thing, and near the end of the table - I am just overwhelmed by the beauty of how God has worked and continues to work in their lives.
At our student center, we are beginning the process of forming a group of new students. If all of the school students and first and second year students came on the same night we would have 15 or more new students, but they are hit or miss and generally uncommitted. It's the way that things begin and we are just thankful for the opportunity to be there on the journey with them. We have the love and support of our long term Pilgrims - of those who graduated years and years ago and still show up every week to lead worship and disciple new students and of those who pray for us and show up on the off chance that their work schedule allows them a free Thursday - and we certainly couldn't embark on the journey of reaching out to a new generation without that support.
The sushi restaurant where we gather for the Birthday party perfectly captures the city we work in. In a quite alleyway that used to be filled with a few unique restaurants, over two dozen options present themselves for where to eat. The sushi shop looks perfectly plucked out of Japan and placed in our European fort-city. This city is changing fast, and we must have the courage to move with it or we will be lost in it. English language outreach doesn't have the pull that it did even three years ago. Dozens of new schools pop up each year, and cult religions bring in increasingly large numbers of American young people to bring in young people through English.
It is exciting to see our core leadership, an open and enthusiastic group of young servants, make the decisions that make this ministry what it is. On Wednesday nights we gather and pray, plan, and clean. Our prayer time is eager and honest and our cleaning heartfelt and sincere - it's wonderful to see their servant hearts in action.
Please keep this little ministry in your prayers. We have faced unparalleled challenges in the last year and a half and it seems that new tasks present themselves every day. Doing this remodeling job in a legal way has been more work and taken more time than anyone could have ever dreamed - offer up an extra prayer of thanksgiving for Pastor Volodya and his tremendous work of guiding our community on the narrow and treacherous path of legal reconstruction. Please continue to pray for our new young students - pray that they will continue to find community and joy in this group and that they will be called back over and over again to join with us in worship and fellowship.
And please keep me in your prayers. This has been one of the hardest times in my life. I never asked for this job, but God continues to give confirmation that I am right where I should be. I am thankful that God is faithful even when I am not, and that our wonderful local leadership picks up the slack in all the areas that I am just not capable of doing. It is wonderful to see the Gospel being lived out by such a dedicated group of people.