Dante, Virginia is a coalmining town tucked away in southwest mountains. Travel west on I-81 to Abingdon, Virginia and then turn west about one hour.
In Dante, drug and alcohol addiction are largely related to poverty. Unemployment is high. Estimates are that 78% of children do not live with their parents---mostly for negative reasons.
In a moment a story from Dante.
Last Sunday's sermon called us to respond to Jesus' death and resurrection with our own cross experience. To follow Jesus demands "seeking first the Kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 6:33).
The cross is death to self and life in Christ. The cross makes us dead to the world, and the world dead to us (Galatians 6:14).
We enter to worship. We leave to serve. We are vessels made by God for his glory. A vessel is to be filled so it can be poured out. We are to be poured out as an offering to God. Our life is not to glory in worldly pleasures and possessions or for the world to praise us. Our life should produce good works so that men may see what we do and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).
Now let's talk about Dante. Pastor Dallas Jones is about fifty years old. He had a terrible accident which changed his health and life. He and his wife live in Pulaski, VA, where she has a job. Pulaski is about two hours from Dante. Three times each week Pastor Jones drives to Dante. His wife joins him on weekend ministry.
When he first assumed responsibility for the congregation of less than twenty people the needs were challenging. In an effort to seek a bold future for the congregation of mostly elderly people Pastor Jones began a ministry reaching out to youth in the community.
Life is hard. Sometimes no electricity or running water. Overcrowded homes. An Assembly of God church gave him a bus. Pastor Jones drives the bus up and down the hollows to pick up young people. Average youth attendance is more than 25.
Pastor Jones reached out to Covenant Church. We are raising money to buy about 75 chairs for a rental building ($400 per month) in a better location for him.
Into the picture comes Rebecca Carpenter, medical student at the University of Virginia and one of our parishioners. Rebecca is doing a six-weeks internship at a hospital about fifty miles from Dante.
I asked Rebecca to consider visiting the Dante church. Last Sunday she did. Four teenage girls gave their hearts to Jesus.
Who is Rebecca? Rebecca grew up in Pakistan. She knows hardship. She knows trusting in Jesus. She knows how to put her courage to work when it seems impossible for a dream to come true.
It might seem like a small thing that Rebecca would make such a visit. But it is not. One young girl lives in a mobile home needing lots of work. Seven other people share the home. The fourteen year-old girl has dreams of being a doctor skilled in caring for women. Can you imagine the power of Rebecca meeting that young girl, talking with her, encouraging her and praying with her?
Consider it God’s timing that Rebecca left for her internship the very week we learned of this girl. What an awesome God we serve.
I have a dream. It is a dream of seeing men and women step forth in leadership in the Kingdom of God. It is a dream of seeing people willing to sacrifice to rescue lives and souls. It is a dream of hearing sounds of rejoicing when souls are brought into the Kingdom of God and disciples are made.
Our world is bold with sin. May we be bold with righteousness. Our world is quick to sacrifice for pleasure, worldly gain and worldly fame. May we take initiative to step boldly to the front lines as volunteers in the Army of God---serving with passion!
In Luke 21 Jesus watched as a widow brought her offering. Offerings were made publicly. Others could see what was put down. Careful records were made. Jesus spoke that the widow gave out of poverty, not plenty; therefore, she gave more.
Oh that God would speak to us about the beauty of generosity. Oh that our eyes would be opened to see our part in Dante, Charlottesville, and the Kingdom of God near and far.
Until we see beyond our own wants and needs we are too small for God to use us.
I spoke to a young man struggling to fully commit to Jesus. This I shared: "The devil will be happy if you let him have only 1% of your heart, because with the 1% he will have your soul. Jesus will not accept 99% of your heart, because you have not taken up your cross to follow him."
We are FINISHING building. Opportunity is knocking at the door! Will we answer the door and welcome the Holy Spirit to guide us into the harvest?
Oh that the story of Dante would call us to passion like that of our Lord!
John 4:35 Say not ye, “There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest?” Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.