This past June was the ninth month of the Muslim calendar year, Ramadan. In Pemba, an island off the east coast of Africa, 99% of its 400,000 inhabitants that follow Islam underwent a strict fast. They could not consume anything except water from sunrise to sunset.
Recently in East Africa , Moses and his team of fellow missionaries conducted an outreach in the Nubian community center. As they went door to door, they sought ways to minister to the people in their community who had yet to hear of Jesus and his work on the cross.
The Lord guided their steps to the door of a charcoal business owner, Hawa. Like many people in that region, Hawa and her daughter were devout Muslims. Moses’ team shared the gospel with Hawa and by the Lord’s grace, she and her daughter believed in Jesus. Sadly, the story doesn’t end here.
From the Front Lines:
Powerful report from one of our native missionaries on the ground in Ethiopia: “Today has been an amazing day where I saw God in action! After preaching at a powerful Sunday service, our team felt led by the spirit of God to go visit a family of unbelievers that we have known for almost 6 years. Upon arrival, we found that the mother of the house had been involved in an accident that left her with a wounded knee.
As we kept talking to her and sharing the love of Jesus Christ (like we always do when we visit our unbelieving friends), this woman burst into tears and started asking us how she could give her life to Jesus and make Him her Lord and Savior.
We were in our second year of the ministry in Africa with 30 student missionaries committed to prayer, study of the word, fasting, and reaching the unreached. It was December and the money we expected to receive for support had already come in. There was nothing left. Our only vehicle, a 1994 Toyota van, was on its second engine and was broken down in the shop. This meant that there was no van for the school and not enough money for starting again in January. Maybe we needed to just shut it all down.
He who suffers in the flesh has ceased from sin. (1 Peter 4:1)
It often happens in the Christian life, that people want the easy way out when dealing with their sin. We want to be instantly delivered from our cravings and appetites, or as Paul the apostle called them, “the passions of our flesh” (Eph. 2:3; Gal. 5:24). However, there is no easy solution to overcome sin in our lives. We will have to suffer. Even Jesus, though he never sinned, was not exempt from this truth. The Bible tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). There are no shortcuts here to overcoming passions; we will have to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.
Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, hear me declare with boldness, I am Christian!1
Polycarp and Christian Boldness
Polycarp, Church Father and bishop at Smyrna, rails against the proconsul in Rome. The story describes how people heard a voice from heaven when Polycarp was entering the stadium, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” And Polycarp faced his death with courage and strength. They decided to burn him alive and he requested that they refrain from nailing him to the wood, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.” They did this and, to our great benefit, a prayer was recorded of Polycarp as he lay there waiting for the fire. This prayer reveals the key to boldness.
Every single day we see acts of mass violence or senseless, brutal murders of innocent people taking place all over the world. The multitudes, along with world leaders and politicians, are crying out for peace, but for the moment it’s falling on deaf ears. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty and many are questioning the safety of the world that we live in. No doubt, the world has always been a place of chaos, but many are no longer thinking, “that will never happen to me.” In fact, just the opposite is true. Many are realizing that they are not as safe as they once thought.
As of late, I have been admiring how beautiful the leaves are. Because I live in New England, I often take the foliage for granted, oblivious to the fact that leaves are changing around me. But one day the Lord opened my eyes to notice their beauty, and in that moment I thought, “How can something dying be so beautiful?” It was as if I was looking at the leaves for the first time. While looking at them, I was reminded of the Cross of Christ.
My family celebrated five years in Uganda last week. We left a beautiful house (okay, it was a drafty 1955 ranch, but we loved it!), and a vibrant community of believers. We left a family who is crazy about our children and us. We chose to raise our children in a place where other kids scream “mzungu” (white person) at them, and try to steal their toys. There are no soccer leagues or gymnastics classes, and there are no air conditioners to shelter you from the equatorial sun. This might be understandable if we had been kidnapped by pirates and sold as slaves on the black market, but why would anyone (including our family) choose this kind of life?