Friends, you do not need me to tell you that this has been a horrendously difficult season for the United States. We have watched the fissures of our racial divisions and societal injustices exposed in painful ways. We grieve along with our brothers and sisters who are more directly affected by that racism. The wounds of our nation are raw. Underneath that, a global pandemic continues to cause immense suffering, both physical and economic, to many of us, and to those living in poverty around the world. We mourn along with those of you who have been touched directly by the virus or the ensuing loss of income, or even both. Amid all that, it can seem callous or trivial to share our hopes for the coming weeks. Yet, several have asked for an update on our plans. So, let me (Lisa) first share two glimpses of hope from the past week, then our schedule as far out as we know it, and a few specific ways you may be praying for us.
A Glimmer of Hope in the night: One evening last week, I stayed up late to join the staff prayer meeting of St. Paul’s Theological College. That same night, Rich and I got up at 4am to join their online chapel service. This is the college whose faculty I will join this fall, God willing. It was lovely to get to know them a bit better, and to chat greetings to the students in chapel. It was a little reminder of why we are so eager to join the good work of the vibrant church in Malaysia. This video of the churches of Malaysia singing God’s blessing gives a glimpse of that as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9vJw3tZ7E0
Last Friday, ninety pastoral leaders from Malaysia and Singapore gathered on a Zoom call, thanks to the agile leadership of Dr. Siew Pik Lim, President of Alpha Omega College (AOIC). They shared in breakout rooms the greatest challenges of leading their congregations while under quarantine, and the surprising ways they have seen God at work. I then spoke for about forty-five minutes about a theology of hope in hard times, followed by specific, practical resources for preaching and pastoring online. To prepare, I read broadly about how optimism is affected by trauma, disasters, and constrained resources within organizations, and studies of people who display surprising resilience in the face of those challenges. I dug into the little gem of a book, On Hope, by theologian Jose Pieper, and meditated on key Scripture texts. I also read multiple reports from the field regarding what is working well in the strange new world of online preaching, and reflected on what has gone well and not-so-well in the dozens of sermons I have heard preached online for my classes this quarter. (Suggestions included: Preach as if to one friendly-but-struggling person, expect humor and vulnerability to be much harder, expect it to be more draining and less rewarding, and yet celebrate all that it makes possible. Listeners can still be moved, inspired, and galvanized to action by your words…more than you can imagine.)
The ninety-minute gathering was so inspiring! These pastors are passionate to serve their congregations well. Some are working in settings with limited or no internet, and most have experienced a loss in giving to their churches. They are persevering under more severe quarantines than many of us in the United States. They asked excellent questions and kept up a lively chat presence throughout the time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rich will do a similar workshop this coming Friday:
These workshops give us renewed hope that there is good work to do in partnership with the church in Malaysia, even if we cannot physically get there yet. We will both teach intensive online courses (Communication for Ministry, and Biblical Leadership) for Alpha Omega International College. In late May, we had to make an educated guess as to whether the borders would open for foreigners to enter Malaysia, and after much prayer we chose to seek housing in North Carolina, where we could teach these courses, which are scheduled for evenings in Malaysia, at 7am, rather than at 4am, from California. Housing there is also cheaper than in CA, and we are also of course happy to be a 4-minute walk from our daughter and son-in-law, Becca and Avery, for the month!
I will also begin a Homiletics course for Asia Theological Seminary https://www.ats.ph/ in the Philippines, two evenings (North Carolina mornings) each week for six weeks.
Here is our itinerary for the coming weeks, after we leave our current perch at an Air BnB in Pasadena:
Rich and Lisa
Rich and Lisa Lamb