“Asian is on the move.” It’s one of my favorite lines in C.S. Lewis’s classic “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and my affinity for the line has grown on this trip because it is clear Jesus is on the move in the Persian and Arabian world.
For the last two days I have been blessed to hear story after story of how Jesus is drawing people to himself here.
It is quite humbling actually, for if we are honest, the church in America is in decline while it is exploding here. One of my hopes in this trip is to see how God is working and how he might replicate that work in our context. Looking over my notes, I’ve identified three channels of God’s grace.
The first, no surprise, is relationship. God is appearing in visions and dreams, but even then the vision is confirmed by a friend who helps lead the person to full faith and helps disciple the one who had the vision.
Also, more often than not, God is coming to people through friends. Sometimes it is just a noticeable difference in a new believer that prompts a question from a pre-believer and sometimes it is this incredible boldness that new believers have in sharing their faith. I say incredible boldness because the danger of arrest and torture is very real but their love for God and their love for family and friends means they can’t hold back. In the midst of this relationship channel it is worth noting that it is through people who grew up in this context that the relationship channel is most effective. This doesn’t mean we don’t have a role; we just have to understand that it is a support role rather than a leading role.
This naturally leads to the second channel of God’s grace that I discovered, and that is humility. God is doing off-the-charts things through these people but they really couldn’t be more humble, giving all the glory to God. Frankly, their humility convicts me. Given our group’s expertise and resources, it is really tempting to think we can “help” here but the truth of the matter is that while we can help we really are better served taking a position as people looking for help. I mean they are growing while we are declining so perhaps we came here to be helped more than to help. They are the doctors and we are the patients. Having the people we met with pray for us moved me to tears in this regard. This will be important to remember as we think through how to respond to the things we learned both in our own context and here, and it is comforting to know they are praying for us in this regard.
The final channel I picked up on is patience. People have been trying to reach this part of the world for 1,400 years and only now is God moving in real tangible ways. And the people who worked for all the years leading up to this point were faithful in their work. This is a reminder that the harvest is the Lord’s but it is also a call to patience. Will God use the new church here to help revitalize the church in America? Maybe, but that is up to him and we need to do patient, faithful work while we wait.
There is so much more from this trip that I can’t wait to share with you. And there are people I hope I get to introduce you to, but it is time to head to dinner, then the airport and then a 15-hour flight. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Pastor Jon Heeringa has been on a mission trip to London and Dubai and has been sending dispatches along the way. This is his final dispatch before heading back to Harrisonburg.