An Ethos of Grace… in Europe and the Americas
1 Aug 2010
Pioneers affirms that God’s grace operates uniquely in the life of every believer. We endeavour, in all our relationships, to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and respect. This encourages each of us to attain our full potential in Christ.
An ethos of grace means acceptance despite difference. It encourages trust within team. It provides freedom to take risks; permission to go out on a limb; encouragement in the face of probable rejection. Grace allows us to get up when we fall and have another go when we fail.
An Ethos of Grace… in Hungary
Communism started its rule in the countries of eastern Europe by building a variety of walls, the most famous – and feared – being the Berlin Wall which sliced Germany in two and closed off the occupied east from the so called ‘free west’.
But another wall, one which is not often mentioned, and one which had by far the worst effect, is the virtual wall erected by communists to shut out God from their ‘modern’ societies, thus placing man in a position of authority over all.
Every day, Pioneers workers serving in Hungary grapple with the long lasting effects of 40 years of Godless rule. Hopelessness and depression are just two of the many factors that lead to immoral lifestyles, excessive drinking and a high rate of suicide among the population.
Alan’s ministry demonstrates grace in action in this beautiful, complex country. Alan and his family moved out of the city into a mining town characterised by hopelessness, alcoholism, and despair brought about, in part, by a very high rate of unemployment and exceedingly poor job prospects. Alan, along with his Hungarian colleague Miki, started a church plant which focussed on reaching out to those deemed worthless in the eyes of society; the down and outs. They built relationships and mentored numerous troubled people over the years, showing God’s grace in one difficult situation after another. They laboured, extended grace, turned the other cheek, spent and were spent. The Lord generously blessed their efforts and today the church is pastored by Dezso, a former alcoholic, whose powerful testimony is used by God in wonderful ways to build His kingdom in this small mining town and the surrounding villages.
What is it that we can offer, that reaches the hearts of the Hungarians? What makes people stop their sinful ways and listen? What can change the ingrained habits of the alcoholic, or someone who wants to throw their life away?
Unmerited favour. Receiving what we don’t deserve. Grace.
Extending grace to the outcast, the hurting neighbour, those without hope, the abandoned. God’s grace demolishes the highest walls ever built… reaching the individual at her most tender point… bringing about surrender, openness and change.
Let us walk in the light of the Lord. Isaiah 2:5
By Eva, a Pioneers worker in Hungary
An Ethos of Grace… in Peru
Grace for the poor, yes! but what about the rich?
I felt so humiliated! The mothers at the party were upper class and certainly knew how to look down their noses at someone who was new on the scene and, well, different. They represented the wealthy of Peru. Even though some spoke a little English, their actions showed it was an effort to converse with me. I was blowing up balloons (in preparation for a special event) and, adding to my feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment, I started to have an allergic reaction to the latex; sneezing, mouth swelling up, eyes watering like crazy. I had never had a reaction to anything before and was not sure what was happening! I ran to the bathroom and looked, horrified, at my swollen, puffy appearance. Quite a frightening look… and feeling! Not a good look in a culture where appearances are considered to be of utmost importance. I sat down and cried out to God for His grace. I needed something much more than I could give of my own strength and from within my spiritual arsenal. I was desperate for grace.
Despite my humiliation, I felt God’s heart towards these women. Coming from an egalitarian society (the suburbs of the Australia we love!), class differentiation is something foreign to me. It is easy to feel prejudice against others who have a different culture, a different understanding, a different way of viewing appearances, dress sense and make up. Yet that’s why I am here with my family. There are unreached people groups of Peru who need to hear that God is for them, that their struggling marriages matter to Him, that broken relationships can be restored and a sense of emptiness can be overcome.
I could have walked away from that party. I really wanted to. Instead, by God’s supernatural grace, I went back into the room full of women and had two amazing, Christ-centred conversations… despite my very puffy face and very poor Spanish!
By Alison, a Pioneers worker in Peru
An Ethos of Grace… in Spain
Spain is a country that still displays a lot of religiosity; statues of Jesus, churches, crosses, but there is a striking absence of grace. People don’t know what grace is and haven’t experienced it and therefore have not experienced the gospel. Grace is a strange and unusual concept, totally in conflict with the shame, guilt and the fear and the oppression that are synonymous with ‘Christianity’ here. So just as grace is central to our message of life in Jesus, it is central to the way we want to be living here; showing grace, living it and breathing it in a way that will draw people to the beauty and the wonder of the grace experienced in meeting Jesus. In our team, our commitment to an ethos of grace has meant learning to give the benefit of the doubt and choosing to believe the best of our team mates despite how things sometimes seem. It has meant allowing each other to share honestly and a commitment to really listen to one another. It has meant not holding onto hurts but looking for ways to pursue healthy relationships and unity… all of which display the gospel of Jesus Christ.
By Shane & Ruth, Pioneers workers in Spain