From Suffering to Glory

Hello friends and family!

The past two weeks in London have been absolutely amazing. We have continued to meet new people and we have had some really great conversations with them. I have enjoyed getting to know the people we’ve met here. I think it all comes with one of the main things that have been emphasized while here: start where people are. To see where people are at we must first get to know them.  If you can see where people are at then you can see where the gospel intersects with their life and  connect there. We have been able to have genuine conversations with people that we can actually call our FRIENDS. Before coming I don’t think I believed I would be able to leave here with actual friends, but once again God proves me wrong.

This past week we took a brief trip to the English countryside, specifically the Cotswold area. We stayed in this small town of about 3,000 called Moreton-in-Marsh. We romped through meadows on a 5.5 mile walk through fields and cow pastures and just enjoyed being in God’s beautiful creation and around one another. We went to Borton-on-the-Water another day, which was probably one of the cutest little towns that I’ve ever been in. It rained a bit, as typical for England, but we didn’t let that get us down. It was a great time to rest and be rejuvenated before returning to the busy city to finish our last two weeks.

These past two weeks we have emphasized two things in our daily Bible study: suffering and false glory (aka, idols). In keeping with our theme verse, all suffering ultimately leads to the glory of God. We intensely studied John 11, which is about Jesus raising Lazarus, one of his good friends and the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead. When Jesus hears that his good friend is ill, he says, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus stays with Mary and Martha for 2 days, and then leaves again… with his sick friend STILL sick! At this point I’m sure Mary and Martha (as well as anyone who reads this), is like “what up, Jesus?! Why’d you leave? You could’ve saved him RIGHT THERE, just like you’ve saved others from their diseases!” Anyways, he leaves and heads to Judea with his disciples. A few days later, Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus has died and they’re going back to be with Mary and Martha. When Jesus got Lazarus’ tomb he knows that Lazarus is already dead. Martha runs to Jesus and is like, “Jesus! Why didn’t you do anything?! If you were here Lazarus wouldn’t have died!” She is obviously hurting and her heart cries out to him. Jesus replies with theology, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11: 25-26). Jesus now calls Mary, who has been sitting inside by herself weeping. Mary runs out and falls at Jesus’ feet, proclaiming that if Jesus had been here then Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus knew what Mary needed at that time, and it wasn’t theology like he gave Martha. Jesus weeps with her and asks to be taken to Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus commands the stone to be rolled away from the tomb, but Martha protests. She knows that bodies that have been dead for 4 days stink! But Jesus reminds her of what he said before, that if you believe you will see God’s glory. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb… and out he comes.

Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus from the dead when he left for Judea. He was so incredibly intentional in doing that. He took something that would be good (healing Lazarus) and made it into something great (raising Lazarus from the dead). I’m sure I would’ve been confused at first by what Jesus said when Lazarus was sick, that this illness does not lead to death and that God will be glorified through it. How confusing that must’ve been for the disciples and all around?! Jesus knew at that point that he would raise Lazarus. Furthermore, for the ones who have surrendered to Jesus we now have eternal life in heaven through his death (John 5:24, 1 John 5:11). No struggles on this earth will ultimately lead to death because we have eternal life. I would love to be able to say through all my struggles “this (insert struggle here) does not lead to death, but it is for the glory of God.” That brings so much peace! God uses our suffering to bring us closer to Him and to see him glorified in our own lives. This doesn’t mean that in our sufferings we cannot be sorrowful, for Jesus himself wept with Mary when Lazarus was dead. However, through our suffering we are not without hope. Romans 5:3-5 illustrates this perfectly, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” SufferingàEnduranceàCharacteràHOPE.

Wow, how amazing is God? How amazing is Jesus? I can’t even go a day while being here without just standing in awe of his goodness and greatness.

Please email me any prayer requests that you have so that I can be praying for you. I would really appreciate that. My email is bawilkes@live.unc.edu

There are some things that we would love for you to be praying for us.

  1. Pray that we wouldn’t give up just because it’s near the end. Relationships can still be made and conversations can still be had. We can’t determine what God does with a seed that’s planted here. A small conversation could move people closer to Christ.
  2. Pray that we do not undervalue these conversations. Pray for the people that we have met. I estimate we have met at least 100 people while here.
  3. Please pray for their hearts, that they would be open to knowing their Creator and they would begin to ask questions about Him.
  4. Pray that we can be bold in our conversations and not be afraid to ask THEM questions about where they are in their faith, if they don’t believe at all or if they are questioning… anything.
  5. Pray that we are not afraid. God has equipped us to do His work here on the earth, and he knows exactly what we need and has given to to us.
  6. Pray that we can sharpen each other. Proverbs 27:17 says, “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Pray that we sharpen each other in our time here.

Thanks, friends. See you in less than two weeks!!

Bethany

The Eagle and Child--the pub in Oxford where CS Lewis frequented.

The Eagle and Child–the pub in Oxford where CS Lewis frequented.

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The Bell Inn--where JRR Tolkien wrote much of The Hobbit. A lot of Bree is similar to Moreton-in-Marsh (where we stayed) and the Prancing Pony is modeled after the Bell.

The Bell Inn–where JRR Tolkien wrote much of The Hobbit. A lot of Bree is similar to Moreton-in-Marsh (where we stayed) and the Prancing Pony is modeled after the Bell.

Team photo in the countryside

Team photo in the countryside

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Today marks three weeks in London, England. I can’t believe how quickly time is flying here; however, at the same time it feels like this place is becoming another home for me. I know where things are, can (occasionally) give directions,  and have felt like I have a sense of place in this bustling city. In only a few days we’ll be half way done… crazy!

Not the weekend that just happened, but the one that happened before that, a past intern (Natalie) took us to South hall, another borough in London that is known for housing a large amount of the Indian population of London.  We went there to we could see other places of worship. Religions have always been something fascinating to me and I enjoy learning about others’ beliefs. The experience ended up being harder than I imagined. The first place we went was a Hindu temple. Upon entering we took off our shoes and proceeded inside to a big, open room full of statues of different Hindu gods. There was a man reciting prayers at one of the gods and people worshiping and praying to the gods on the floor. You could purchase milk and fruit there to make a sacrifice or an offering to the gods if you wished. We were allowed to look around, which ended up being pretty difficult for me. John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” It’s clear—the only way to God is through Jesus. That is something that other religions cannot fulfill. We were encouraged to observe in the temple and then pray, so that’s what I did. After the Hindu temple we went to a Sikh temple. The Sikh people are known for being very peaceful and hospitable, and it showed upon entering. Everyone was so friendly and they offer shelter and food for anyone who comes through their doors at literally any time of day. The day we went to observe worship there was a wedding going on; however, the altar was still at the front. Under the domed building there was a book (their holy book) that was being fanned by a man. People lined the aile up to the book to give offerings to the book and then sat on the appropriate side (men on the right, women on the left). There was a man who walked the book praying all the time, unless the book was in its “asleep” (for lack of a better word) state.

One thing that was interesting to think about while in these places was how others would perceive these places of worship. Our friend Natalie said that every time she has gone in the Hindu temple that we went to, the people have always been eager and excited to tell visitors that it was in an old Baptist church whose congregation had fizzled out. The Sikh temple was located near a church. The Sikh temple always has its doors open and a meal for all who enter, whereas the church has its doors closed. What kind of message does that send to the outside world? For me, it was just a further testament to the spiritual deadness in this place. People don’t know the Truth here. Seeing people worship something that isn’t true, that will do absolutely nothing for them besides get them an eternity of hell, put an urgency in my mind for missions. These people are souls that, if they don’t confess Jesus as Lord, will have an eternity of torture. I really long for these people to know Jesus, and not just for their eternity’s sake, but also because there is so much joy to be had in a relationship with Him. Jesus and the resurrection apply to today just as much as they apply to our eternity. Because of the resurrection we are never alone and we have a God who is in control of absolutely everything, a God who is limitless in power and abilities, we are free from judgment and we have purpose. We are free from sin and death through Christ, now and eternally… what greater gift could we give people than knowledge of a God bigger and greater than anything in this world?

Other than that, this week has been really good. I have definitely been learning that God knows my needs way more than I know mine (which can be hard to keep in mind sometimes). Some days this week have been really hard to want to go out and talk to people, but other times I feel joyful and desire to go talk to others. God has been so persistent in showing me his goodness and his grace throughout this week. When I don’t believe that anything is possible, that conversation isn’t going to happen, He always proves me wrong. He is molding and shaping my heart. He is transforming me “into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

On Friday mornings we have a meeting to dialogue about the verses we have been studying this past week. This week’s theme has been spreading God’s glory. We took a few minutes at the end of the talk to write down all the names of people that each of us have come into contact with while here that are not believers… a total of 81 names. All of them have different ideas about religion and some of the coolest stories that, for us, are evident that God is working in that person. Upon talking to one we discovered that one of her co-workers is a Christian and has talked to her about Christ. I truly believe that God was 100% sovereign in us forming that relationship and that one day she will be worshiping the Lord as well. Please take a moment and pray for these peoples’ hearts and for our interactions. These aren’t just arbitrary names on a piece of paper, but souls that long to know their Creator.

In Christ,

Bethany