It’s Not In Vain

“Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” 1 Cor. 15:58.



Oral surgery in Lospalos! Dr. Mark is a medical doctor, oral surgeon, and dentist.  He is spending his vacation treating patients in Lospalos, Timor-Leste.

This past week we’ve hosted a team of dentists from The Gap Uniting Church in Brisbane Australia. This year was their second visit to Clinic Immanuel.  During four 10-hour days they occupied two rooms in the clinic pulling teeth and filling cavities on people who rarely have had oral healthcare of any kind. Probably most Timorese families have at least one member who suffers from chronic tooth pain.  Timor Leste has about 12 dentists for a population of over a million and most all of them are in the capitol Dili.


Talia on the left is 14. She is on her second trip to Timor-Leste.  She and Hannah met when they were 6.   Talia and Jo sterilizing the instruments.


Dr. Malcolm, left, is mission and outreach team leader at The Gap Uniting Church.  Here he and Dr. Trish are working one of a number of kids that had rotten teeth.  “Coca-Cola always gets there before we do,” he said.

Another exciting thing that happened is that the team from The Gap and Immanuel Church have agreed on a church partnership.  Last night we sat together with members of both churches and talked about why it’s important to be connected across cultures and national boundaries as the body of Christ.  It was great! The two congregations agreed on a number of areas they could work together: youth, Sunday school, community mission and engagement.  Both congregations agreed the main thing is that they can learn from one another and pray for one another.


Australians and Timorese coming together in Christ.

As we were closing our meeting last night the group from Immanuel Church, who are also clinic staff, thanked the dental team for their visit.  They expressed hope that they would return next year, noting that the need for dental care is so great here in Lospalos.  Throughout the week more than one person acknowledged that in their visit they were only “scratching the surface” of the needs.  This is a constant theme in a ministry of this kind. From Moses to MLK Jr., Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and thousands of unsung saints in between, a reality of faithful discipleship is that no matter how hard you work, you cannot fix all problems, heal all wounds or calm all anxieties.  But the good news is, you don’t have to.


“Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” 1 Cor. 15:58.

The assurance we receive here is that the small things we do in faith do not go to waste.  Whether marching for justice in the Poor People’s Campaign or pulling teeth in a remote corner of SE Asia – it’s not in vain.

And the promise implied by Paul’s previous detailed discussion of the resurrection, is that our work done “in the Lord,” however seemingly insignificant, will be brought to completion in the new creation that God has inaugurated in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

These two things coupled together means that while Christian discipleship always implies engagement with the pain and suffering of the world, we need not be overwhelmed by it.  Christ’s resurrection means that a new world is underway.  We are therefore summoned to get on board.  Simple acts of mercy, words of consolation and prophetic acts of justice are not in vain they are the ingredients of hope and signs — pointers — of God’s future bursting into the present.


Lunch on the porch!


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