13 January 2011

Sometimes, when you wonder if what you are doing makes any difference at all...

...you hear a testimony like this one ~

When Jesus saw the crowds he was moved with compassion because they were harassed and helpless as sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

"His Father sent Jesus and He came into the world, 'entered our world His glory veiled.' He was sent and He arrived in the Jewish culture in Bethlehem. He left via a cross and the resurrection. In between, He entered the lives of a Peter, Matthew, a leper, a Bartimaeus, a Samaritan woman…

We’ve been sent by Jesus, just like His Father sent him. But have we really arrived? Have we entered the lives of people around us?

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, thirsty and you gave me a drink, in prison and you visited me...

I can leave Australia, be sent to Niger, and never really enter into the lives of the people around me……….. [I can] be more like a tourist!

Every day, on behalf of Jesus, we have the privilege and honour of entering the lives of people we live among.

Three years ago, we went out to stay the night at a Wodaabe camp. It was Christmas Eve, and under the stars around the campfire we sang and then read the Christmas story, reflecting on God’s amazing love.

The next morning, while visiting with the king of this Wodaabe clan, three Muslim mallams rode up on horses. After greeting the king, they said, 'You must do something about the deranged woman of yours who is cursing our people and frightening them with her bizarre behaviour, even sometimes killing our goats and sheep. She is crazy.'

The king sighed, and said, 'We’ve done everything that we can. We’ve spent a lot of money on medicine and sorcerers, but nothing has worked.'

They hesitated, and then said, 'Well then, you must tie her up and beat her.'

After mallams had gone, we asked if we could help: "Would it be possible for us to go with a few men to talk with her?" He [the chief] seemed surprised and pleased with this suggestion. So we set out to find her. At about midday we saw her in the distance following her donkey. We stopped under the shade of a tree while her son went to talk with her. Y agreed to come into the shade to meet us. We told her that we were concerned for her and wondered if we could help in some way. I asked her when her sickness began, and if she was troubled by evil spirits. She said she wasn’t sure, but that she was often troubled by terrifying dreams and sometimes heard voices.

We shared with her about God and His love, about Jesus and why He was sent, about His compassion and power. 'Jesus is the good shepherd who gave his life for his sheep.' I asked her if she would like to change and to be freed from her bizarre behaviour, to go back to live with her family instead of being alone under a tree in a thorn enclosure. We prayed for her and encouraged her to trust Jesus, to call out to Him in her need.

As we left her, we asked her what she was going to do. 'I’m going back to live with my son and his family,' she replied.

About a month later, we were surprised one morning when Y appeared at our door. She had never visited us before. She said, "I’ve come to see you because I remember how kind you were to me." We discovered that she had a hunger to know more about Jesus. We’d heard reports that her health seemed to be better but we were keen for her to see a doctor at the town hospital while she was with us. The doctor prescribed a daily medication.

About six weeks ago, when we were visiting at her son’s camp, we were amazed to see how passionately he shares the Gospel message. He has come to understand it by listening to the cassettes we had placed into his hands two years ago.

On this last Christmas day [December, 2010], Y was our first visitor, arriving early at our door. She had returned from visiting relatives, and asked if we had any news about where her nomadic family might have moved to. She enquired if her cassette player was repaired, and then asked us to pray for her safety as she prepared to travel on. She left soon afterwards, with new cassettes for her family.

She is a different person today. Many people have been impacted by the way Jesus has changed her life.

Every day, you and I have the opportunity to enter people’s lives, to feed the hungry, give to the thirsty, and to visit. It is so important that we feed them with the 'bread of life,' that we offer them the 'living water.'

We can bring Jesus near to people so that they can believe. But it takes more than being sent. We have to arrive and to enter their lives...

We are reminded of the lyrics of a song, 'I won’t just stand outside the door and never enter in. I won’t turn away and go my way again.'

Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me I am sending you."

You and I are sent, but have we arrived and entered in... or are we still on the way?
The above testimony was given by an Australian missionary working with SIM in a desolate, lonely part of Niger. He and his wife have faithfully served the Lord for many years and in the past 5 or 6 years, Tim has been able to come alongside them, using the studio to duplicate Bible cassettes, evangelistic and discipleship stories and Bible teaching which this couple has then distributed to many nomadic groups and encampments throughout Niger. When I asked this missionary last weekend how many people he thought were listening to these cassettes, he said it now had to number in the thousands. And, he testified that for those listening, lives ARE changing, groups ARE passing different cassettes around much as the early church passed around the epistles of Paul - people are seeking and hungry for living water and the bread of life! Even more exciting, many are recognizing and accepting the truth when they hear it.

Sometimes, we wonder if what we are doing here is making a difference... God gives glimpses and then He gives us a grand, wide open view like the above testimony. We have no way to know what sort of effect the cassettes Tim helps produce or the radio programs he records and then distributes to the government and local stations will have on the hearts and lives of people, but we do trust the promise that God's Word does not go out in vain. It is for that reason that we are still here...

...even when things seem less than secure ~
...when we can't be with the people we love when they are sick ~
...when we can't be with the people we love when they hurt ~
...when we are sick and lonely and tired and discouraged ~

God [is] faithful, by whom ye were called
unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
I Cor 1.9

Faithful [is] He that calleth you, Who also will do [it].
I Thess 5.24

Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering;
(for he [is] faithful that promised;)
Heb 10.23

Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, [and] his Holy One,
 to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth,
to a servant of rulers, "Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship,
because of the LORD that is faithful,
[and] the Holy One of Israel,
and He shall choose thee."
Is 49.7

So pray with us: We have been sent, we have arrived... by the Lord's strength and His grace, we continue to seek to enter into the lives of the people in this land around us, ministering to and with, serving, loving, remaining faithful to Him Who is faithful...

(Testimony used with permission; some names and details have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.)

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