Waiting has never been my strong suit. Having to sit through the entire Christmas story (from the Amplified Bible – thanks Dad) in order to get to the presents was agony for me as a little boy. As a teen, I longed to be an adult and in college I quickly discovered that I wanted to get married when I met the love of my love the second week of freshman year. I really hated adults saying things like “All in God’s Time.” I wanted God’s time to be now.
Not much has changed over the years, except that now, I am the adult telling teenagers to be patient and yet I am really not as patient as I should be. I still want God to make things happen when I want them to.
This past week, I spent a lot of time with some of my favorite people. Rubbing shoulders with folks who make Christian books and Bibles available all over the world was energizing and inspiring. Truthfully, though, I had the most fun with my CLC tribe. We had 12 representatives from all over the world meeting with publishers to make decisions about the books that will ultimately end up in places like Colombia, Trinidad and India. On Sunday afternoon, we held an event that has become an annual ritual for us as we shared about what God is doing in CLC around the world and most importantly, we prayed together.
It was very interesting to hear the stories of how God is working and to realize that He does not work the same way in every place. For some of our teams, this past year was pretty tough and for others they experienced significant growth. In almost every case though, we heard stories of God’s faithfulness and perfect timing. Here are some of the highlights:
Caribbean – we had two representatives from the islands with us who shared about God’s sustaining power in a time of economic uncertainty and even dangerously violent surroundings in Trinidad.
England – despite the closing of many independent Christian bookstores in the UK and even the collapse of a major distributor, God has been allowed CLC grow. We now have 20 bookstores and a rapidly growing distribution warehouse ministry that received the Award for Christian Distributor of the Year for the second time in a row.
Australia – despite the closure of our work in this island nation, we had the privilege of having David Scouler with us who shared that they had finally been able sell their warehouse and will complete the legal closing of the work by the end of the year. What a blessing that they were able to pay all their vendors in full for what was owed and to “finish well”.
Colombia – this country that was known for so long as the drug capital of the world is now the largest CLC entity by sales volume in the world. It was exciting to hear about their pioneering efforts to get a new CLC work opened in the country of Mexico which may happen in the very near future.
India – the development of the retail and publishing ministry in India over the last few years has been marvelous to watch. The team leader, Christopher Robert, shared about the exciting potential for CLC to be re-established once again in Sri Lanka and the possibility for opening another store in India this next year as well.
Sierra Leone – this past year was a year of seeing long term plans finally come to fruition as the main store in Freetown was remodeled and the CLC work in Liberia was re-established after nearly 15 years of being closed.
The theme that seemed to be evident was that of resurrection. Whether it was the restoring of a work in Liberia or the potential to open again in Sri Lanka, one thing was evident – we work on God’s timetable; He does not work on ours. Waiting to see if we would ever re-open again in Liberia and not even knowing if it would be possible to do so again in Sri Lanka can try the patience of the best of us. In some ways it is a little like how Mary and Martha must have felt after Lazarus died while they were waiting for Jesus to come – why did He take so long?
It can be pretty frustrating to hear that we had to close our ministry in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Togo and Tanzania in the past year. At the same time we did see the resurrection of the work in Liberia, new ministry starting in Bolivia, Mexico and now possibly Sri Lanka. So for now, I am learning to take a new view of these things. Just like we “temporarily suspended” operations in Liberia many years ago, maybe that is what God is calling is to do in some of these other countries. In His time, may we see renewed ministry in many more countries around the world – not just the ones that we have already been in, but new ones as well.