Read: Colossians 1:1-8
In the summer of 1996 I went on my first international mission trip to a small town in the heart of Poland. I went with about 60 of my closest friends and our mission was to help a small Baptist church reach out to their community by helping them run their vacation Bible school in the mornings and then performing concerts in public squares and auditoriums during the afternoons. I had never met or spoken to any of the people of Tarnow Baptist Church, but by the end of that week, I had formed lifelong friendships.
My most cherished memories from that trip include leaving their Sunday morning service and following a caravan of cars down a country road to a tall bridge with a creek running underneath it. Cars and vans lined the side of the road as church members gathered underneath the bridge to baptize three new believers into their fellowship. The church knew the song “Shine Jesus Shine” in the Polish language, so every believer that came up out of the water was heralded by an anthem of “Shine Jesus Shine” in both Polish and English. Every repetition of the first verse was a further reinforcement of my prayer for their people. Shine Jesus shine! Fill this land with the Father’s glory!
Then there was the afternoon of our biggest public concert, set to be hosted in the town square amphitheater. We had advertised and promoted this concert everywhere we went that week hoping for 500-800 people to come. At 3:00 the sky began to pour rain, so we began to pray. At 3:45 we all grabbed our umbrellas and rain jackets and started prayer walking around the amphitheater. We marched around that amphitheater seven times just like the people of Israel around Jericho. As we marched the rain lessened to a drizzle. At the end of our seventh turn we gathered in the middle of the amphitheater and erupted in another chorus of Shine Jesus Shine. As we did, the clouds broke over the amphitheater and the beauty of the sun’s rays glistening off of the soaked amphitheater gave everything an aurora.
We grabbed towels, dried off all the benches, set up the sound system and at 5:00 began singing to about 200 people that grew to 400 people, that grew to 600, 700, 800, 900. By the end of night there were over a 1,000 people and it was standing room only. Testimonies were shared, an invitation was given by the Polish pastor, and 30-40 people responded to the invitation. The Father was answering my prayer and filling the land of Poland with His glory.
You may be asking, “what does this have to do with Colossians 1:1-8”? Paul wrote this letter to the people of Colossae from Rome, 1300 miles away. He is delighting in the news that the Word of Truth was bearing fruit in the whole world! The Father’s glory was filling the land of Colossae as well as Philippi, Corinth, and Rome. This made the apostle Paul giddy with excitement while sitting in that Roman jail cell, in the same way that I now revel in news I hear of the fruitful growth of Tarnow Baptist Church. A people I would have never known but are now dear to my heart.
Ironically, the front page of their website at this moment has Colossians 1:9-14 front and center. I wonder if they are studying the book of Colossians even as we are diving into it this week. What a sweet communion that exists between us even though I haven’t seen them in over 20 years. I think Paul feels this same type of affection for the people of Colossae. I can hear it in his words. I look forward to the day when we will all worship Christ together. And the lyric of Shine Jesus Shine will be fulfilled before our eyes.