We are in the process of gearing up for 4 international trips in 5 months beginning in April, and even in the midst of our preparation for The Amazing Chase my mind is naturally drifting towards these trips and all that we may encounter. It will be the first time we have been to 3 of these countries. Despite us partnering with existing ministries or missionaries, there is still a sense of trailblazing to these trips. I have always felt deeply the words Paul wrote in Acts 15:20, “It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known”. Two of these projects will be to the two most populous countries in the world — over 2.5 Billion people are found within these borders — 35% of the entire earth’s population. Over 2 Billion of these people are unreached! Of a list of the 100 largest unreached people groups, 53 of those are found in these two countries. The lostness is staggering. I could throw out more statistics that would continue to point to the incredible need but they might start to run together. I think Jesus said it best in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
In preparation for this, I have begun to read Acts again. Throughout this book, there are numerous accounts of persecution towards those leading and growing the early church. Despite that persecution costing some their lives, and for many others imprisonment and dispersement, the Gospel spread. Despite the enemy trying to stop the church and the numbers of people “being added to their number daily”, the persecution only served as catalysts for its growth. In Acts 8:3-4, we see that God has no limitations, and that man’s plans have no effect on Him. “But Paul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. But those who had been scattered, preached the word wherever they went.” This is another picture of what Joseph meant when he said in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” The fact is that God’s plan cannot be thwarted and his Word will never return void (Isaiah 55:11).
I’m reminded of an encounter we had with some Muslim women in Ghana several years ago. Some of the women on our team had been sharing the Gospel with some women making shea butter by hand, just outside their village’s Mosque. As they continued to share and others in the village began to realize what was going on, they began to do all they could to distract our team or the women. They began to yell and have loud conversations close by. When that had no effect, they began to play music over the loud speaker of the Mosque which was a mere 30 yards from where we were. When that wasn’t enough to keep these ladies from hearing the Truth, a man rode up on his bike with a machete attached and began to threaten us. It was there I saw the faith and divine courage of our translator, Jude. We had no idea what this man was saying, but it was obvious that he was upset. Jude stood up and left the ladies for a moment to encounter this man. After a few moments of a heated argument, the man reluctantly left. After this experience was over, I asked Jude what had been said. He told us that the man who had ridden up on his bicycle had threatened to kill us, starting with Jude, if we didn’t leave. Jude, in an Old Testament moment of when “the Holy Spirit came upon him in power”, told this man he was going to have to kill us, but we weren’t going to stop sharing the Truth. (It was probably better that we didn’t know what was being said until afterwards!)
As amazed as I was with Jude’s courage, that wasn’t even the best part of the story. When the man rode off, Jude went back and continued to translate for our ladies and there in the shadow of the Mosque, even while the call to prayer rang out over the loud speaker, these women prayed to receive Christ! They found Truth in the midst of a lie and in the midst of man doing all he could to maintain that lie.
As we embark on an ambitious schedule that will lead us to the Far East, the Middle East, South Asia and North Asia, many of these places face persecution of all kinds. We pray that we can be that catalyst for the growth of His Body. I pray we can speak the words of Joseph, “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”