Have you ever seen God play the table-top game of dominoes? Like all else that we might expect from God, the mastery of this game becomes an art that can put you in awe of The Almighty in seconds!
Take a random meeting of visitors to the church I was appointed to in 2011. The typical off-the-cuff invitation to visit the opposite minister’s church in a far-off land was God’s first and crucial move, knowing the other players so well that their move was almost guaranteed … and the rest is history, as the line of dominoes, then set up, now continues to fall for the good of the Kingdom.
An invitation to Argentina allowed the youth of First UMC, St. Petersburg, to travel to Buenos Aires in March 2014. There the eight youth were introduced to poverty beyond their imagination but also to community bonding and cooperation beyond such comprehension as well. They learned firsthand of what others in the world must fight for in human rights, as they heard from Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel about what Americans call Argentina’s “Dirty War,” wherein over 30,000 people disappeared at the government’s hands as killings took place nightly, with tied up bodies thrown from airplanes into the river. They toured Methodist-sponsored schools and fell in love with the youth of a world different from their own, while opening their eyes to stories of similar lives in their own backyards when it came to small group time. They also marched in an annual parade of tens of thousands in order to recall the end of the war and the establishment of human rights, and to talk about the rights of people today.
From there, one invitation led to another, as one friend in Argentina led to friendships with other social justice workers, both inside and outside the church establishment. All of it culminated in our group being invited to a special greeting by Pope Francis, in Rome, during the Easter Holy Week of 2015. God saw fit to energize and enable so much, though, in between!
In a little more than a year’s time, our youth came home and spoke to their youth group about the conditions in the neighborhoods they had seen and the diligent efforts of students and faculty to teach the disenfranchised. In turn, the youth helped to collect over $1,500 for yearlong scholarships of $15 a month for schooling that includes uniforms and food, for their new Facebook friends. They aided in collecting used and new laptops from the congregation for the schools that needed them. They collected clothing that is expensive and, suitcase by suitcase, sent it with friends to the needy of their church. They worshiped with and witnessed to others in Argentina as they went to different locations, such that the message that each of us need only be one domino in God’s line-up so as to beneficially affect others, in God’s name, could or can take place. That message, we are told, continues to inspire our sisters and brothers within Argentina today.
After returning from Rome, the nine youths who had the privilege of hearing Pope Francis’ homily from the second row of seats that were parallel to his tent and his seat, and on the same level as St. Peter’s Basilica, presented a PowerPoint show, as well as video of what they shot on Easter Sunday, during our own service in a Waldensian/Methodist Episcopal Church in Rome. (Click here for the youth group's Facebook record of the trip.) These youth came away telling their church family that they better understood how economics affects us all, what community really should be like, how people are all alike at heart, how to relay their beliefs in Christ to others, how Catholics and Protestants are alike/dissimilar, how it is to be a Protestant minority, what it feels like to not be able to communicate as you wish to when you are educated but cannot speak on such a level, and their wish to do more missionary work throughout their lives. They benefited at least as much as those they worked alongside. One even told of how much her career aspirations had changed, and another told of her appreciation of being in a relationship with God.
The dominoes keep falling into place and leading to God’s next move, which opens more dialogue, love and understanding as we, God’s children, create stronger relations with each other and with our Lord. Many of the dominoes God set in front of us are easily replicated; just ask this believer! All of them are timelessly connected to doing work the way Christ worked with others. Timing in the emerging world and emergent church, worldwide, is critical too though, as acquiescence keeps contributing to a decline in the numbers of those fighting for all people to know Christ. God will do the rest, I told the students; one simply needs to help place her or his one domino on the table so that it affects the next one in line!
-- Dawn Worden began a new appointment as pastor of First UMC, South Miami, this month.