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June 27 and 28, 1998

LUKE 9:51-62

The instructions Jesus gave to his disciples, then and today, can be summarized in one word-- GO! "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations." And, in the lesson today, Jesus said, "Go and proclaim the kingdom of God." To be a follower of Jesus means to be sent, to go. To commit one's life to Jesus Christ is to be open to going.

Jesus calls you to go, be a neighbor. Go, teach a class. Go, pray. Go, love someone you don't like, someone who has hurt you. Go, get outside yourself, outside your little nest and be of service.

But, sometimes Jesus calls you to physically go. Nanette has been called to leave her home, leave her familiar surroundings, leave her college nest, leave her country, and go to Bolivia to be a short-term missionary. When you give your life to Christ, who knows where you will go. Discipleship is an exciting adventure, venturing into the unknown, trusting, risking, giving up control.

We had Family Camp last week. One wall in the Activity Center is used to teach mountain climbing. There are hand and foot holds, ropes and pulleys. Eunice Duncanson climbed the wall! She climbed an 18-foot wall, straight up, and rang the bell at the top! Talk about risk, faith and adventure! However, even though Eunice is 78 years-old, she does not hold the record. The record at the camp is held by a woman who climbed the wall when she was 86 years-old, and then again when she was 90! No, I did not climb the wall!

I did follow Jesus to Japan, however. Like Nanette, after I graduated from college, I was a short-term missionary, and spent three years in Japan teaching at a Methodist Boy's school in Nagoya, 1,800 junior and senior high boys. No, Japanese youth don't behave any better than Americans! It was a thrilling, inspiring adventure.

Go, called Jesus, and I went. This was before global travel was common, and before telephoning was simple. In the three year period, I didn't even consider telephoning home. This 21-year-old farm boy from Minnesota boarded the train in Minneapolis all by himself. I can still see the tears in my father's eyes. In those days, Minnesota men did not cry or show emotion or affection, but my father had tears in his eyes. I crossed the country in a train, south through Texas, eventually ending up in San Francisco. There I met three other missionaries and we waited for further instructions. A representative from the Board of Missions took us on tours. I remember crossing the bridges-- Golden Gate Bridge to see the redwoods, and Oakland Bay Bridge to visit the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

Then, I said goodbye to my friends, and, all alone, boarded a freighter to go to Japan. Notice, how frugally the Board of Missions, now called the Board of Global Ministries, spends your offerings! I traveled by train and freighter. There were 12 passengers on the freighter. Excellent food. We played cards and made fudge, but I was sea-sick half the time. My roommate, however, a U.S. sailor returning to Yokohama was sick all the time. I took him his meals.

Two weeks later I arrived in Yokohama, and traveled by train to Nagoya. What an adventure! A big adjustment was food! This Minnesota farm kid looked for meat, potatoes and gravy, and found raw fish, seaweed, and rice served without cream and sugar! When Jesus says, go; he means GO! It wasn't long before I learned to feast on Japanese food, and Nagame Restaurant here in Merced is one of our favorite eating places.

I taught English conversation and English Bible classes to groups of students at the school and a class at one of the churches. I played the pump organ for the Sunday evening service at the church. I was invited into many homes. I was loved, made many friends, saw students baptized and become Christians. This summer, we will be visited by a Japanese teacher colleague and by a former student. It was a three year adventure for which I am very grateful. Incidentally, both Nanette and I were supported by conference apportionments. Eventually, the Lord said, "Go to Merced," and here I am!

When Jesus says to you "Go", say "Yes." Children and youth, you have your whole life ahead of you. What will you do with it? Where will you let the Lord take you? Adults, you also may Go. Look at Ed and Peggy Hughell. They went to Liberia where Ed practiced medicine in Ganta Hospital. Now they are in Costa Rica painting a seminary. There are Volunteers in Mission projects occurring anytime any place. You can join the Nomads. These are retired United Methodists who travel in their RVs to our camps and do much needed and appreciated refurbishing or building projects. There are three remaining tent cabins at Lodestar that need to be rebuilt with walls and new roofs. The money is available, but the laborers are few. Let's get a group together and GO. Go, help with Vacation Bible School this week.

GO! Get off the couch and GO.

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris