David in Lithuania
NBA’s visit to Lithuania, with a MiT from LKH /YBA chucked in for good measure! 19th -26th June 2017 - the reflections of David Skeet
May I start with passing on the greetings and blessings from our brothers and sisters, in Jesus Christ, from Lithuania. May the grace, peace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.
My name is David Skeet, I am a MiT in my final years studying for a BA Hons degree in Contextual Theology at Luther King House Manchester. I’m also the student Minister at Harehills Lane Baptist church in Harehills, Leeds. As Ministers in Training we are encouraged to venture out on a mission trip. Sally Nelson announced that NBA were organising a trip to Lithuania, I didn’t need asking twice, I leapt at this amazing opportunity with arms flung wide open. The team was eventually made up by; Revd. Dr. John Claydon, Regional Minister (Pastoral), Revd. Gary Collier, Blackhill Baptist Church Consett and Melanie Nixon, Deacon at Blackhill Baptist Church.
The theme was developing breadth in mission and we looked to Matthew 5 as a guide to discover what it meant to be “salt, light and a shining city”. This would be explored during the Saturday seminar. However, the rest of the week would be spent visiting some of the Baptist churches in Lithuania. We visited Vilnius; Panevezys; Klaipeda; Mazeikiai and Ylakiai and covered some 78,442 steps as we shared the love of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
It is worth pausing at this point to say that the trip was challenging in many ways. I did not really comprehend the shadow that Lithuania still lives under from the old Soviet times. Although I knew little of the oppressive times they faced, I felt that time may have healed old wounds and through liberation the Lithuanians would forge a new future. A future where the Baptist union of Lithuania would spread the gospel message and see lives transformed. This does happen in small ways but there is still scepticism and there is a great work to be done in this Country.
We spent the first five days travelling to various towns and cities meeting with the congregations, where we would share testimonies and be a listening ear to those we met. We truly witnessed God pouring out his blessings on us all. Henrikas, President of the Lithuanian Baptist Union, and I discussed the poor and marginalised in Vilnius. Henrikas spoke of the real sense of poverty, he said, “people do what they can but it is not enough. Wages for those lucky enough to be employed are low but the cost of living is high and the problems continue”. I asked Henrikas if he can address the problem or is it a case of being a service provider. He simply said, “there is too much to tackle with little resources. The authorities put too many barriers up and even if we had the money and resources we would never end it, for we will always have the poor with us”. We moved on but I continued to reflect upon the situation.
The week was filled with meetings and fellowship, sometimes in the churches and at other times in people’s homes. There were two amazing events that stood out for us over the week. The first occurred in Panevezys where we saw God move in an unexpected way and the love of Jesus clearly shone through a darkened heart. I often speak before I engage my brain, which often gets me in trouble and this particular day was no exception. During a long pause whist ordering a meal with the waitress I asked how her day was. Now I would say this is acceptable and friendly here in the UK. However, this is not so acceptable in some parts of Lithuania. The waitress abruptly said, “why do you ask me this”, quick to apologise I tried to explain that I was only being friendly and meant no harm. I felt it had darkened the day a little. We needed directions to the church and she gave them asking why we were going. We explained, got directions and made our way over. A pastor from the church gave us a Gideon new testament and asked if we could give this to someone. So that next morning at breakfast the same waitress served us. Undeterred we chatted with her and gave her the bible as a blessing to her so that she may read the gospel message of Jesus, that she may come to know Him as her Lord and Saviour. What a great end to an otherwise awkward situation. Testimony that God uses all situations to reveal his glory. His love poured out to those who are willing to receive. This story was retold on the visits we made as an amusing story but one of hope and encouragement that there are people willing to listen and accept Jesus.
The other story I want to share with you is one that led us to pray with a young woman. After a great seminar on Saturday, we were returning to our hotel. I was reversing into a parking bay when a young woman drove up behind and collided with us. Thankfully there were no injuries, and she spoke English which was also a blessing. I suggested we go into the hotel reception to complete the necessary paperwork. We had been filling the forms out and chatting but I was resisting to ask her questions based on my earlier experience. However, I have an overwhelming sense that could only be the Holy Spirit urging me to ask if she knew Jesus.
I fought the urge for all of two minutes and simply asked if she went to church. She calmly said no and that she had fallen out with God some time ago. I explained we were Christians and why we were in Lithuania, I then went a step further and asked if we could pray with her. She accepted, so right there and then we all prayed over her, praying that she would come to know Jesus and have a unique relationship with Him. Although the day may have had a bad turn God used the situation to His glory and revealed his grace love and mercy to us all.
There are so many more encouraging stories where God is at work. We shared these during the seminar as we looked at what it was to be Salt of the earth as we express care and speak the truth, the truth being Jesus. Where we can be light for the world as we share good news beyond the walls of the church as Jesus is the Light. Bringing life into the shadow of death, purity and wholesomeness through hope of the Gospel and to bring “immortality to light” (2 Tim 1:10). Seeing His love poured out, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave us his Son to be the means of our forgiveness. Bringing transformation to individuals, groups, even to the whole of Lithuania, that the light is a great light, but not just another light, it is the LIGHT.
It is easy to say we want to go and tell people of who Jesus is, but is it easy to go and do? We were often asked what the hindrances and possibilities of sharing the gospel are, and how can we grow in the sharing of the Good news with confidence. I would say we do it in Jesus’ name, in boldness, strengthen by Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit that we may walk into the shadows and fear no evil for He is with us. For he leads us in right paths for his name’s sake. That we may do His will as He works through us, his light shines through to all who we come across. Be it in fellowship of people’s homes, amongst church congregations, seminars or even when ordering a meal in a restaurant. He calls each of us to be part of the mission to go out to seek the least, the last and the lost proclaiming the good news to all we meet. Amen.