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God’s Love is a Gift: Day One of VBS in Martin, Slovakia

July 10, 2017

Today was finally the day! After months of preparation, hours of travel, and a couple of wonderful first days in Slovakia, it was finally time for Vacation Bible School. By 8:15 this morning, the courtyard of the Center for Christian Education was swarming with 200 or so children. We quickly organized into our groups and got down to the business of having fun learning about God’s love. Our curriculum draws us to Rome, to the days of St. Paul and the Christians who lived out their faith boldly but in secret.

We did this same curriculum for our VBS at Grace just a few weeks ago. It was wonderful, but not quite the same. After all, our children’s parents and grandparents do not personally recall true challenges of discipleship lived out under an oppressive regime. Not so in Slovakia, where two generations were lost to the church due to communism and the persecution it brought to Christians. And yet here we are, talking and teaching about Jesus, singing songs of praise, and joining together in the Body of Christ – a body that knows no borders.

By all accounts, the day was a success. People reported being exhausted but exhilarated, the good kind of tired that leaves you feeling fulfilled rather than emptied. Our theme today was, “God’s Love is a Gift.” What kind of gift? A free gift, lavished upon all people through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s free but not unconditional; the condition, however, has nothing to do with our performance – past, present, or future. It is conditioned upon the dying and rising of Jesus, and is therefore guaranteed.

Yesterday, I was blessed to preach the sermon at worship in Martin. After worship, Bohdan Hroboň, president of the CCE, said, “Thank you for not saying ‘but.'” As in, you have rest in Christ, but. Or, you are saved by grace, but. No, there is no need for the “but.” That’s what God’s love has done for us; it has removed the “but,” the conditionality that we assume must exist between ourselves and God because it is how we treat one another. It is not, however, how God treats us. God’s love is a gift. Full stop.

Not a bad way to start the week.

And then we went to a sheep farm and ate Bryndzové Halušky, which further demonstrated God’s love for us. I mean, really; dumplings in sheep’s cheese covered with bacon and bacon grease? That’s divine love!

What a gift – a free gift – to be with our sisters and brothers in Christ here in Martin. What a gift to be drawn together in Christ by grace and nothing else. What a gift this week has already been.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

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From → Slovakia 2017

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