The Jesus Place
In 2013 our family began serving as World Gospel Mission missionaries in partnership with Planters Seed Foundation in the country of Albania. Our goal was to bolster the existing ministries of Planters and help plant an indigenous church in the village of Vlashaj.
Planters had already been working in Vlashaj when the door opened in 2001 for them to buy a house in the center of the village and renovate it into a ministry center for the community. Having a permanent presence in the village by way of the center announced that Planters was there to stay and was committed to being a part of this obscure village in central Albania. More than 600 Bible clubs later, our family is blessed to be reaping the years of investment as the Planters staff have sown the seeds of the gospel.
Recently, our colleague Genti was told, “Our son is always asking to go to the Jesus Place!”
When he later shared the conversation with me, I asked, “The Jesus Place?”
“Yes,” he said, “that is the name all the kids use for the ministry center!”
The Jesus Place. I can’t think of a better way for the ministry center to be known! That title didn’t come via a marketing campaign or even a sign on the building. It was given in response to the love of Jesus that has been demonstrated there throughout the years. As I thought about what it takes to create a Jesus Place, I was reminded of a quote by Dr. Steve Elliot from a recent WGM leadership retreat: “If you put love where there is none...then love is there.”
I believe that is how a ministry center becomes known as “The Jesus Place.” You put His love there!
Could that really be a way to begin the process of discipleship—making Jesus Places? As I have pondered this concept, I have had to ask myself, “Nathan, do others see you as a ‘Jesus Place,’ where they can come to find His love?”
The answer is simple: without the overflow of Christ’s love, No! I have absolutely nothing of value to give! I need personal Jesus Places in my own life so that I have His love to give to others. During our training to come to Albania, we were told, “When you go, they won’t just get the Message, they’ll get the missionary!” It is only the daily Jesus Places of time in His Word and prayer that give us the strength to live the message, not just speak it.
A weekly Jesus Place via a Sabbath rest has forced us to trust that God can accomplish through us in six days more than we could do ourselves in seven. Honestly, I don’t know what we would do without our Sabbath rest here in Albania. Sundays are the one day we don’t study a language or do office work (or even write articles for The Call). God uses the mental and physical rest of Sunday to propel us into the new week in His strength.
We have also sought to make a Jesus Place in our family. Family devotions help us re-focus on who we are in Christ and His call on our family. Cydil and I also realized that if we were to nurture and disciple our own kids, we needed to set aside intentional time with them, birthing what we affectionately call “Waggoner Wednesdays.” We spend Wednesday afternoons and evenings focusing on having fun as a family. It is less important what we do and more important that we do it together.
Jesus loves the people of Albania. He is at work here, and we are so blessed to be a part of what He is doing. As the church grows in the village of Vlashaj, we pray it won’t lose the nickname “The Jesus Place.” In Mark 6, Jesus’ own hometown rejected Him. The very place that had known Jesus the longest was the least open to His teachings and miracles. However, at the end of the chapter, Jesus returns to Gennesaret where He had recently been begged to leave, but this time they “immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region” bringing the sick to Him and “whoever touched him” was healed. That’s the kind of church we want Vlashaj to be—a place where Jesus is recognized instantly, the sick and hurting are always welcome and invited in, and healing is found for all who come to “touch Jesus.”
What about you? Where is your Jesus Place? Where do you experience the love of Christ? Could your family, work, community, or even you yourself use a Jesus Place? The good news is that anywhere can become a Jesus Place if you bring Christ’s love there!
ACT: Has your Jesus Place gotten a little dusty? Over the next month, be intentional about taking time to rest, study the Word, and pray. Create a pattern that can keep you growing in the love of Christ.