I love it when I get a “Sacred Echo.”
A few years ago I read a book by that same title that noted that God will often give us a “Sacred Echo” by repeating Himself in a variety of contexts. God certainly did this yesterday.
As a team, there are 17 of us, and we have been doing our devotions around John 10. Yesterday we were specifically looking at John 10:7-10 where Jesus calls himself the gate. We talked about how Jesus, as the gate, is the only way we reach people. We have to go through him to get into the kingdom and out into the world. And, yes, sheep have to go out to the world if they want to eat, as all food is outside the sheep pen.
Well, late yesterday afternoon, God repeated himself. Because of some transportation issues, I had the privilege of speaking with the director of Elam ministries (look them up; it’ll be well worth your time). He asked what I was hoping to get out of this trip and I told him I was hoping to learn how to grow our church back home. He preceded to tell me that he thought the key to growth is simply to talk about Jesus, for it is when he and his folks talk about Jesus that things start to happen.
Things are happening big time in Iran and among Iranians. It is estimated that in 1979, when the Iranian revolution took place, there were maybe 500 Muslim-background coverts to Christianity in all of Iran, but today there are at least 1 million, and there is a growth rate of 19 percent per year.
Anyway, the idea of simply talking about Jesus was very much a sacred echo of the idea of Jesus as the gate, and I told him that. We then started talking about John 10 more broadly and God got ahead in a wonderful way because we specifically started talking about John 10:13, where Jesus talks about the way he as the Good Shepherd (and our model for ministry) lays down his life for the sheep while the hired hand runs away.
David proceeded to tell me how one of the Iranian pastors he works with had the verse in his mind when he was arrested in Iran. He was in the process of dropping off his children at school when he got the call that the authorities were likely at his home waiting to arrest him, and he thought of running but heard the Lord ask if we was a shepherd or a hired hand. He knew he needed to be a shepherd, so he kissed his kids goodbye, drove home and was arrested. He spent five years in prison, over 360 days of that in solitary confinement, and he says he would do it all again.
That was inspirational, and it is paying off in Iran and among Iranians. I can’t wait to explore it further with our team, but the bottom line is that God is on the move and he is showing us and telling us that over and over on this trip. And if God is on the move in Iran, seemingly against all odds, just think what he can do in our midst!
Pastor Jon Heeringa is traveling in London and Dubai and is learning from missionaries in those places. While he is there, he will be sending dispatches to his First Presbyterian family.