I’ve been avoiding this post for the past two weeks, mainly because I could feel the pressure from everybody expecting a detailed and glorious account of my recent trip to South East Asia. And although I am in part excused for the delay in delivery having been sucked back into the busyness of life ever since I set foot again on Lebanese soil, I can still feel it, an ever present reminder in the back of my head that I need to write something, anything that would appease the demanding public. (Makes me sound like an acclaimed writer whose writings people eagerly wait for, but I’d like to think someday my name will appear on a best-seller. Ambitious I know, but who knows?)
For the past 17 days I’ve been answering almost on a daily basis the same two questions, “How was your trip?” and “What was the highlight?”, and I could see in people’s eyes that they were expecting to hear stories on the likes of New Testament stories like “Jesus heals a man with a demon”, “Peter heals the lame beggar”, “Paul raises a boy from the dead”…
Well, truth is, I would love to tell you stories like that, how God used us to heal many, how we preached to the masses and they got converted and baptized, how we raised people from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and all sorts of Spirit-filled stories that one would expect to bring back from a mission trip, except that none of that took place. (Well actually we did witness healing on one occasion of all the people we laid hands on to pray for them).
However the nature of the mission trip I went on was somehow different and by different I don’t mean at all less glorious. I’ve learned that it’s not about signs and wonders as much as it is about doing the work that one is assigned to do.
Shortly after arriving there (with no prior agenda fixed), we could see God’s work being unfolded day by day as He started opening doors for us to meet the local Body of Christ in several remote villages and opportunities were handed to us to minister to the people we got in contact with, whether it was by simply spending time with the kids in schools and teaching them songs and games, blessing schools with soccer uniforms and balls, praying with the teachers, having lunch at the village church, having a time of worship and laying of hands over the sick, doing prayer walks around the city and villages, cleaning up a newly bought abandoned house, doing Sunday school, and finally prophesying over people.
We could see that God had sent us to bless the church there and to refresh the persecuted Body of Christ with good news. We had the privilege to meet people who went to prison because of their unrelenting faith, people who didn’t let anything stop them from proclaiming their faith and turning many to the Lord in the land of their affliction. We met people who had their church burnt down only to rebuild another one shortly after, people who had their church closed by the authorities only to come and worship boldly in front of the building knowing that the church is not the building but the church is them, people who got divided into several villages because they were getting stronger together only to evangelize even more where they were sent and turning every place they went to into a Christian village, thus proving that it is when they are weak that they are strong. We had the honor to be in the presence of such heroes of the Faith who were but ordinary people who told their stories in the most modest of ways as if this was their daily bread. And when it all slowly started to sink in, my response to everything that God was doing and using me to do was utterly overwhelming.
I realized I had been sent by God to bless people who have been in the Faith long before I was born, people who have undergone the type of persecution that makes everything I had to put up with so far for being a Christian downright laughable, people who were making history, pioneering in a country where Christianity has barely been around for 150 years, give or take. I was meeting first-fruit Christians and I was sent to refresh their spirits with words from God and impart on them something from above.
One evening we had the evening to ourselves to do whatever we wanted and since everybody for some reason decided to use this opportunity to stay in and watch a movie, I decided to turn the invitation down and take a long walk instead. (Those who know me know that I’m not such a big fan of watching movies at night because I can barely make it through half of the movie without falling asleep). I had some things to talk about with God and made my way to the banks of the mighty Mekong River where I stood gazing into the deep and dark water and renewed my vows there. In tears I declared that I will live my life and endure everything that comes my way, looking forward to the day when I will see Jesus face to face and He will lift his glass proudly to me and say, “We did it!”.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
As I celebrate today my 8th anniversary since the day I committed my life to Jesus, I’m realizing that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this verse really means. This isn’t but the tip of the iceberg.
“Oh, our love is beautiful…”