Around 100 mission leaders recently gathered in Australia. It is our habit to meet once every two years or so to listen to each other and discern together the places God is taking us. At this meeting, aside from organizational leaders, some church/mission partners were invited from from Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Sudan, and the Solomon Islands. We wanted to hear from them; and when it was over, we realized afresh how much we needed to.
Our friend from Sudan shared how followers of Jesus there are suffering for their faith. We knew that I guess. But we didn’t know that is their expectation. He shared (very humbly) that they view John 16:1-4 as an assurance they would suffer. I felt as though I was listening to Paul himself when, like in Acts 14:19-22, he “encouraged them to remain true to the faith” by saying: “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” I would guess that for most Western believers, this teaching has not been part of our normal discipleship process. We have a lot to learn.
A friend asked me afterward “what did you think of today?” referring to these reports. I spoke honestly when I simply said “I feel irrelevant.” These friends have suffered deeply because they believe in Jesus, yet, they stand strong and with obvious joy. I’ve often wondered quietly and to myself: “when we are sent from here to _____, who has more to teach who? A recent grad from seminary or a Christian leader who has suffered deeply for their faith?” (note: fill in the blank with the one of hundreds of nationalities who suffer for being believers). The truth is though …
We need each other. God is calling for a new way in mission. It is led by the Spirit as we pray. It is thoughtful and courteous. It is globally informed. It is reflective of how we are truly one. And I suspect, if it is these things, our “mission” endeavours will be effective and relevant.
From Lori* a worker in Asia.
“A life of complete surrender is so easy to hear mentioned, and yet it is completely different to live when we are challenged to go another step beyond our comfort. This coming fall I am being asked to live in a remote village as the only foreigner and only light in the area. As an extrovert, this direction is something that I am hesitant to follow. And yet, God has ever been faithful in reminding me that these people are worth the suffering of His Son’s life, let alone the suffering that I might endure as a lonely light here. It is amazing to get a chance to surrender in the hardest areas in my life and to think of what may come our of obedience to Him. Each day leading up to this time is a step of faith and each day He reminds me that He will be with me no matter how challenging it may be. Though the road isn’t always easy, it is exciting that He would think it worth our suffering to use us and refine us in such amazing ways!”
It was a gathering unlike any I had ever experienced. One small person caught up in a sea of multi-coloured faces, I was awed by the experience of having our shared faith transcend our differences.
Within a few days, I worshipped with Christian believers from every continent. I shared tearful prayers with a Solomon Islander in response to a profound devotional by a Brazilian leader. I participated in the laying on of hands and prayer over African brothers and sisters, while they listened to French translations. I sat until the early morning hours discussing what “community” really means, and finding it, with dear brothers and sisters from four different countries. I was convicted by the teaching of a Ghanaian leader, and I was moved by the testimony of a Chinese brother, and the prayers of an Arab fellow believer.
What profound power the gospel has to cross boundaries. We were all moved by the slice of heaven we experienced in the joyful fellowship of a multi-coloured and diverse gathering of children of God.
After a long series of international flights, I found myself hungry in Bangkok at 2 am, so I set off with a few others to find some food. The night life on this busy street was in full swing, and we sat down at a small, cramped table. Tired, and giving myself license to be judgmental, I started to criticize the scene that bothers me every time I visit that beautiful country: so much prostitution and exploitation of young girls. After a bit of ranting I began to realize that one man near our table was listening in on our conversation. What was equally as obvious was that he fell into the category of men I so easily condemned. Continue reading ‘Not so different after all’
From one of our members in South Asia:
“It doesn’t seem like a moment passes here without a dog barking or a rickshaw wallah honking his horn. Thousands of people crowd the streets, alongside animals and garbage, all going about their everyday lives. Chances are that on their daily travels they will visit a temple or idol. Or perhaps they will rush to the mosque or a local saint shrine to pray. The city here is spiritually charged. There is certainly no lack of religion.
“And yet not much changes for the good of the people here. The poverty increases, the government officials seem to become more corrupt, the lives of women get harder, and those beaten down by the caste system sink even lower. This way of life has existed for thousands of years. The siutation is desperate, there is no solution that man can give. Unless the Gospel penetrates hearts, the veil of darkness will prevail and all will be lost. But we are counting on His intervention. ‘But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.’ 2 Corinthians 3:16”
I heard a great quote referenced in a discussion on culture issues among our Exposure participants. I thought I’d share it here. It’s from an article by Jim Thomas, called “What’s culture got to do with it?“
“No single culture truly reflects the Kingdom of God. Rather, every human culture is flawed by hearts that run from God. But not all is lost. Every culture also provides some insights into God’s kingdom. From the Christians in China, for example, we in the west can learn about living sacrificially, for many of them are willing to suffer prison and abuse in order that the word of God’s kingdom might spread. From a Christian in Kenya, we can learn God’s extravagant generosity. From the family in Afghanistan, we can learn of hospitality. If we are to more fully understand and experience God’s kingdom, we need people of other cultures to challenge our cultural assumptions and identify our blind spots. We also need to learn from their insights into God’s kingdom.” (Jim Thomas)