Healthy cells pulsate with love
“Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:39
When I was serving the Lord in Cairo, I referred to the cell groups of Maadi Community Church as “love gymnasiums”. I came to see that Spirit-filled small groups are ideal places where group members can safely practise the love of Christ on each other before practicing that love outside of the group, on their “neighbours” (the saved and unsaved).
Healthy cells resist the natural tendency to remain inward focussed with their love and are deliberate in maintaining a healthy balance in the life of their group by practising outward focused love exercises. These groups believe that practising a balanced love is critical to their health and development. In our small groups development training we exposed our trainees to “reaching-in” and “reaching-out” in love exercises. The following is a powerful testimony from a member of the church who was touched by God through his participation in a simple act of reaching-out in love during training. This person is Nick Truscott, presently serving on our CCI Team as Senior Associate Director. Nick says…
I finally succumbed to an invitation to join a small groups’ development course. During the training we were challenged to complete several reaching-out in love exercises. One particular exercise challenged us to minister to street cleaners in Maadi; serving them with a refreshing drink and presenting them with a small monetary gift in an envelope that was marked in Arabic “God loves you.” I didn’t have a particular street cleaner in mind, but on the day I set out and walked down Road 83. I chose an old, small guy I saw sweeping the road. I asked his name, served him with tea, made some small talk in my very bad Arabic, and gave the gift to him as I shook his right hand. With my left hand on his shoulder I prayed a simple prayer in English – thanking God for him, for the work he did – asking God to bless him and his family, and asked the Lord to use this task to teach me a life lesson.
Well, quite some time later, God delivered the lesson! While I was working at MCC, Pastor Dave Petrescue invited me to attend a leadership team retreat. After our devotional time Pastor Dave tasked us to “go and listen” to anything God had to say to us about “what we as a church are here for.” Some people went to a quiet place and prayed. I left the cell centre, crossed over Port Said Road and headed towards Canal Street. It was a beautiful morning and although Pastor Dave had asked us all to listen, I couldn’t help thanking God for a really glorious Maadi morning that seemed to herald the end of the winter. Anyway, I didn’t know the Canal Street area very well and quickly found myself in a side road I didn’t recognize. I knew I wasn’t lost or in danger – in fact I was thinking about getting back to the cell centre on time. As I looked around, a little hunched figure ran wildly across the road towards me shouting, “Mister, ya mister, ahlan, ahlan”. Before I could even get a look at this “little” man’s face I found myself in one of the strongest hugs I had ever experienced – even stronger than a Pastor Dave bear hug.
When the man finally let go of me he stood back, still holding on to my hand – and I still didn’t recognize him. His wise looking old face was just beaming. He was pumping my hand constantly and just thanking me. Finally when he told me his name it dawned on me – this was the same guy I had served with tea in my reaching-out in love exercise. I was still very surprised by his behaviour and told him I had to go. This conversation had gone on in Arabic. His Arabic was of course perfect, and mine was very poor.
He was still holding my hand and before I could pull it away he pulled me towards him and hugged me again. With his head in my chest he said, Shukran, habibi (thank you, dear friend), followed by three English words, “You prayed me.” He then let go of me and went off across the street where he had come from. I felt tears stream down my cheeks. To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I walked back to the cell centre a little dazed that this old man would not only remember me from that day a year ago, but that while he parted he expressed thanks that I had prayed for him.
I was the last one to get back to the cells centre and I sat down without talking to anyone. I picked up Pastor Dave’s Bible and flicked open the pages randomly. The Bible opened at the first chapter of the Book of Acts, and as I read, verses 7 and 8 jumped out at me” … the Father sets those dates, He replied, and they are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about Me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8).
When it came to my turn to share my “listening to God” experience I told my colleagues what had happened. God’s answer for me to the question “what are we here for as a church?” was very clear – the Church (the body of believers) must … tell people about Jesus everywhere”. And secondly, the personal lesson I learned was that through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, our lives have eternal significance and it is not for us to know how or when God will choose to use us. These truths, revealed to me by God on a beautiful day in Maadi through a little Egyptian street cleaner, have had a profound impact on both my life and work. Nick.
Friend’s, reaching-out in love to the unchurched/unsaved with the love of Christ is what we are here for. Doing this profoundly impacts lives – ours, and others! The Holy Spirit fills our hearts with unlimited agape love from the Father for the purpose of reaching-in and reaching-out with His love (Romans 5:5).