I tend toward full disclosure, which makes this post such a challenge. I can’t go there. Not because I don’t want to, it’s just not wise. I need to be more vague, general, veiled, in order to safeguard followers of Jesus in a more restrictive setting. In this particular case the trainers would probably not be in any danger other than expulsion. It would more likely be pressure that would come to the believers in our training, and those serving among them. The gospel is advancing as the Spirit of God moves among the body of Christ in this amazing land.
This was my first trip South Asia. These are some places in the world that are just hard to get to, so the travel attached was harder than usual on this old man. But God was kind to sustain me once again. However, I was forced to deal with a first. For the first time in my life I set out on a hike I was not able/willing to complete. I have several available excuses, but the reality is the same.
Due to limitations on our movement we had to do our training each evening. The first obvious gift of God was those God had called from other places to embrace the people of this culture. I was humbled by their sensitivity, combined with the motivation of Jesus’ honor. The gospel is taking root in some amazing national leaders through their faithful service. It was easy to observe some of the qualities God poured into foreigners serving here; the desire and gifting to connect quickly, genuinely, with people here, curiosity to learn the uniqueness of this place and people, the ability to let go of past conveniences to embrace new life realities. Most of all a clear devotion to live for the King of Glory wherever He might put them. Not surprising, those God was gathering around them have come to love Christ and the beauty of the gospel. They are growing in service.
We were studying the New Testament letter of Galatians in a place where the promise of a Savior who IS our freedom is desperately needed (where isn’t it?). I had the privilege of traveling and training with a young pastor from California. The first evening of training the question was raised regarding the “youth” of my teaching partner. Again the dramatically different response to age in a culture other than the U.S. became apparent. My affirmation of the younger teacher seemed important to the group. Most importantly the wisdom, gifting, and preparation of this young pastor was key. He was understanding and gentle but clearly placed the authority on the Word of God. I was so grateful for God’s faithful care for each of us.
I will just note two of the most remarkable elements of this week. First was the way God is so wisely deploying gospel servants in key areas of this country. Of course one I’ve already mentioned with those who have moved here to serve. But, there were also young servants relocating within the country to give themselves as evangelists, others serving key roles within local churches, there are business leaders being equipped as teachers of the Word, and those shepherding groups of churches. The other was listening to leaders in this group challenging and affirming each other. Early in our training one in our class approached me expressing concerns about how another student has typically handled the Word of God, not being faithful to the text. As we studied We continually pressed the need to study and preach the Word (not our opinions). The elements of faithful study and teaching were apparently being driven home by the Spirit of God. Later in the week students gave a ten minute sermon from a text we had studied. I was drawn into the presence of God as the student who was the “object of concern” delivered what I think was one of the best sermons I have ever heard in a training scenario. He dealt with the text faithfully, and powerfully. The classmate who expressed concern for him affirmed his teaching as did everyone in the room. The power of the life-giving Word, empowered by the Spirit of God through the people of God is glorious.
I made the mistake of setting a timer which tracked the elapsed time from my hotel room to the airport, all our stops and layovers until I reached our condo. Without the timer I lose track as time zones are crossed, but this time I knew I was in transit for 43 hours, 18 minutes. I have had more trouble readjusting following this trip. Maybe strategic ignorance is bliss after all.
For all those who have prayed and sacrificed in giving to allow me to participate in training these precious servants of Jesus, I say “thank you” until Jesus takes us home and you have the joy of meeting.