By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — The theme for the 15th annual run of Mission ConneXion Northwest last month was a clear and simple three-word question — “Who is Able?”
The more than 3,100 people who attended the conference Friday night and Saturday, Jan. 20 and 21 received an equally clear answer from not only the featured speakers, but also in the many workshops and other activities at the event.
All followers of Christ, with God’s help, are able to play a part in fulfilling the Great Commission to take the Gospel to a needy world.
Anyone who thinks otherwise better not try telling that to Joni Eareckson Tada, the famed author, artist, singer, radio host and ministry leader who spoke Friday evening. This coming July 30 will mark a full half-century since she became a quadriplegic a result of a diving accident. Crediting God for bringing her through anger, depression and suicidal thoughts, she is today an advocate for disabled people worldwide. Yet at age 67 she lives with constant physical pain and also in recent years battled Stage III breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Tada openly acknowledged to her audience at Portland’s Sunset Presby-terian Church that so many years of pain and struggle have left her so weary that she often can hardly bear to face each day. But it is then, she said, that God gives her the needed strength to help her “just show up.”
“I better not be telling my God I have a big problem,” she said. “I’d better be telling my problem, that I’ve got a big God.”
Tada told of a woman stricken with severe diabetes who had told Tada that she felt similarly inadequate to serve God. And no wonder — she was an amputee, blind, had three heart attacks, a failling kidney and had lost several of her fingers. But Tada told her that she still had great purpose in sharing her faith with others, and the woman did just that in the remaining years of her life.
“Every kind of trial and travail can become your blessed day of spiritual prosperity and the day of your sacrificial service,” said Tada.
Tada said the key to ability is a firm reliance on Jesus.
“Who here says they’re not able? I dare not hear that phrase,” she said. “You better believe you are able … if you will admit (to God) your inability. Isn’t that ironic?”
And besides, the need for sharing the Good News of Christ is too great to ignore, Tada said.
“There are just too many people who do not know Christ for you to not go and tell and serve,” she said.
Portland-based evangelist Andrew Palau, who spoke Saturday evening, sounded a similar theme. He said those who have experienced the joy of salvation through Jesus need to reflect His compassion for the lost.
“It’s so beautiful to think of God’s attitude,” said Palau. “That’s what we want to have. (After all) we’ve been rescued, right?”
Palau said a supernatural walk day by day with God can allow “things that seem impossible start to become expected,” making it possible to reach out to others.
“He gives you life and love more than you can use for yourself,” Palau said. “He wants us to share it.”
Explaining that both he and his wife have a spiritual heritage that owes a debt to missions work, Palau said outreach to the world for Jesus is an effort worth pursuing with fellow believers.
“His Kingdom is advancing and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, and we’ve got a pretty good team going on.”
Michael Oh, executive director and CEO of the evangelism coordinating program Lausanne Move-ment, based his Saturday afternoon talk on the Lord’s Prayer. He outlined how examining the prayer line by line can reveal God’s loving heart for the world.
Oh called for believers to respond to Christ’s invitation with “Gospel-centered and Gospel-activated” lives of repentance, prayer and investment in God’s purposes.
He suggested the fundamental purpose behind each Christian life is “to passionately pray for and pursue the eternal worship, and living for, God.”
Also serving as a keynote speaker Saturday morning was author and Middle East ministry expert Tom Doyle of e3 Partners.
Sponsored by a variety of churches, the free-admission Mission ConneXion Northwest is one of the region’s largest annual Christian events. Each year it offers a carefully and prayerfully designed mix of plenary sessions, scores of seminars related to missions, dozens of exhibitors and more. It also sponsors a variety of smaller related events throughout the year. For full information, go to www.missionconnexion.com.