Life is Urgent
“Jesus said to another, Follow Me! He said “certainly, but first … I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: announce God’s Kingdom!” Luke 9:61 The Message
I planned to return to Sri Lanka in the fall of 2006, and yet the Lord had other plans, close but…. Aaron Burke of Gateway Outreach, notified me the situation in Sri Lanka was growing more dangerous for foreigners because of increased civil unrest. The day I left in April, there was an attack in Colombo near the hotel where we took our last lunch. Aaron’s enthusiasm to continue to “go forth to the ends of the earth” is contagious, and he said “Char, I have a contact in India where we can do an outreach. Let’s go there.” I was ready, willing and able – and off to the next great harvest field on earth. There are over 1 billion people living in India, less than 2% of them are professing Christians – sounds like an opportunity to me! Three Americans and 15 local missionaries (not all are pictured above) worked together for 10 days. We sponsored a pastor training seminar, held a program for the orphans at the COM (Christian Outreach Missions) children’s home, conducted believer’s meetings in the evening to strengthen the local body, and organized two children’s festivals with over 1,000 children attending. We also had an opportunity to work in rural villages ministering to over 3,000 children and adults. It was a phenomenal experience! I saw so many new things about the God we serve. I gained a deeper compassion and commitment to the work He has commissioned me to do. And I realized, there are so many people in the world who have NEVER heard the Name of Jesus. I am eager to get “on about my Father’s business.”
You can imagine there are many good stories from such a harvest. I will only share a few that made the greatest impression on me during my first journey into the land of saffron and silk. The village outreaches, especially ones in gypsy areas of the countryside were amazing adventures into a world seldom seen by foreigners. One of the first things you notice in a gypsy village are the clothes worn by the people. The children’s attire is predominately the same – school uniforms and shorts with un-tucked well-worn shirts, but the women wear beautiful multi-layered silks of bright colors banded in gold and silver trim, and when strangers or men approach they are quick to pull a scarf over their head. Most wear elaborate beaded nose rings for adornment and jeweled bangles on their wrists. The women always sit on the peripheral of the crowd of children – occasionally, when the gospel began to be preached they gathered the cloth beauty that covered their outside and left empty inside.
To break the proverbial ice, we hand out balloons when we arrive but then as we prepare to leave the children clamor to have one more “pooka” even though they are hiding them in their hands or pockets. At one stop, after the program Pastor P asked us follow him to the house of the one believer (out of 700 people) in the village.
We stepped inside the one room house, and noticed a picture of Jesus hanging proudly on the wall in the 8x8 space. The Pastor asked Aaron to bless the couple and their house. They knelt on the mat in front of him and he placed his hands on their humbly bowed heads, and prayed for blessing and boldness to speak the truth into their community. I looked around the small room. The garments they owned were hanging on a clothesline strung from one corner to the other. There was an old drink crate suspended on the wall whose small compartments held the entirety of their worldly possessions. Their hospitality humbled us as they passed around a plate of cookies and glasses of tea, and as soon as the plate was depleted, the husband ran out and purchased another sack of cookies.
I wanted to cry in humility. These people were honoring God, and giving to us out of thanks for bringing the Gospel to their village – to help “them” tell the Good News. It made us bold and courageous to “go” to the ends of the earth – privileged to see what awaits us. We loaded the car and set off for the next village “in the dark” literally and spiritually.
Again, we parked at the outskirts of the village and started our praise and prayer walk down the dark streets. The smell of fire permeates the air. Women crouch around small flames in the streets cooking the night’s meal. Children run freely up and down the lanes along with a menagerie of animals. We are the curiosity in this place – and they wonder not just “who” we are but “what” we are. In this particular village the best place for our presentation was directly across from the Hindu temple. We presented the Gospel, sang praise songs and watched the children watching us, and seeing Him. At the close of our program, the Pastor led the people in an altar call of acceptance and salvation.
“Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matt 4:10
I think today Jesus would also say “I will make you fishers in villages in India, among gypsies and outcast, orphans in all parts of the world, learned University students in China, tribal women suffering in Africa, the war wounded in Bosnia, and disaster victims in Sri Lanka." He is calling to those who are listening. The conversations in heaven are always concerned for the lost and hurting of this world.
“ and then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8