WASHINGTON (BP)–A Christmas message on the transforming love of God is not particularly unusual this time of year, but the audience of ambassadors and deputy ambassadors from around the world made a dinner in Washington Dec. 17 particularly special.
“An Evening of Friendship and Celebration” was sponsored by Christian Ministries to the Nations and hosted by Segbe Cyrille Oguin, ambassador from the African nation of Benin.
Christian Ministries to the Nations is the ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to the diplomatic community in Washington. It is headed by North American missionary Cecil Mahendranath, himself a former diplomat from Guyana.
Attending the dinner were about 63 ambassadors, deputy ambassadors and their wives, including at least five Muslim ambassadors, a Chinese diplomat and his wife, and many other non-Christians.
Mahendranath said NAMB sponsors events like this about every three years both to raise the profile of his year-round ministry and to communicate the Gospel directly to world leaders in a public setting.
“Diplomats are really accustomed to events like this,” he said, noting that it is often easier to gain access to diplomats through social gatherings than through making a direct appointment because of the nature of their work.
“They may never have an opportunity to go to church,” he said. “But they will come to an event like this — and they heard the Gospel from beginning to end.”
Mahendranath visits embassies and international agencies throughout the city, sharing Christ with unbelievers and providing discipleship and encouragement to Christians through regular Bible studies and other efforts.
The Christmas program — which featured recording artist Babbie Mason — also included several Christian diplomats who have been a part of Mahendranath’s ministry. Ambassador Oguin served as master of ceremonies, while ambassadors from Lesotho, Zambia and St. Kitts read familiar passages of Scripture describing prophecies of Christ and His birth.
The featured speaker for the evening was noted Southern Baptist author Henry Blackaby, who offered a straightforward message on the love of God and His plan for mankind.
“The person who has come to know the profound love of God in his own life is so radically transformed, they are never the same again,” Blackaby said. “The heart is changed, and therefore the life is changed. God’s purpose is to love every solitary person, and He does.”
Blackaby shared the classic evangelistic passage from John 3:16-17 as well as several examples from his own life of how God has used him to touch others.
“What God is looking for is someone whose life has been changed by the love of God in such a way that the love of God can go through them in such a way as to touch others who have not known that love,” he said.
Blackaby also challenged the diplomatic guests to consider how God might want to use them to reveal Himself to others around the world.
“Many of you have incredible opportunities to let the love of God flow through you,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous joy for me to listen to so many of you who have encountered that love, and in the amazing mercy of God He has so many of you as ambassadors.”
Diplomats lined up at the close of the program for Blackaby to sign gift copies of his widely used discipleship book, “Experiencing God.”
Oguin said he was especially honored to host the event because of the influence that Mahendranath has had on his life and the life of his family since he first arrived in Washington. Mahendranath met him at the airport and has been a faithful friend and pastoral counselor ever since.
“What we did here tonight is to let other people see the love of God through ourselves,” he said. “So we can testify to what the Lord Jesus has done through our work, our home and our family.”
Gary Frost, who oversees Christian Ministries to the Nations as NAMB’s vice president of strategic partnerships, said the dinner allowed the entity to proclaim the message of Christ unashamedly amid a culture that tends to sidestep matters of faith.
“For many of these diplomats, their time is so tied up in the secular activity of America that they’re not really exposed to the spiritual activity — and this is an opportunity to give that exposure,” he said. “Sometimes there’s almost a fear to share Christ with the men and ladies, but they’re hungry for what makes America America — and that’s part of who we are as a people.”
For many, the dinner also allows a chance for Christian diplomats to celebrate their common faith in Christ, Frost said, noting, “This gathering allows them to see another side of one another.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: WELCOME IN WASHINGTON and DIPLOMATIC MESSAGE.