Many eyes are focused on the incoming rockets and tensions of the Middle East. These are challenging times; tough times for families caught in the crosshairs of political and economic upheaval. The incoming missiles need to be replaced by people consumed by the compassionate fire of the gospel.
Erich Bridges, a global correspondent, tells of a father and mother crossing the Syria-Jordan border with their five children. They watched in horror as their teenage son was shot in the head in an ambush. As he lay bleeding in his mother’s arms, she screamed for help. A soldier approached and pointed his rifle at them as if he would finish the job someone else started.
The 4-year-old son of this couple, who rarely speaks, stood and held up his arms. “I beg you, Uncle, don’t hurt us anymore. Have mercy on us,” he appealed. The child’s eloquent words must have stopped the soldier. The teen was taken to a hospital for treatment. The whole family later made it into Jordan, where they found comfort from a local church. The teen recovered but needs physical therapy.
Bridges tells another story about a young Sunni couple that fled their town. They escaped being slaughtered along with their friends and family members. At one point, Syrian Christians sheltered them, hiding them under a church building. Finally, the couple drugged their 8-month-old daughter to keep her quiet during the dangerous border crossing into Jordan.
They ended up in a huge refugee camp, a windswept, sun-blasted expanse of tents holding more than 30,000 Syrians. The harsh conditions there threatened the life of their daughter, who has breathing problems.
Eventually, this couple slipped out of the camp and found a tiny apartment in Amman, Jordan’s capital. But the husband can’t find enough work to pay basic expenses. If he can’t find a dependable job, they might have to return to the refugee camp. The thought of winter in a flimsy tent — and what it could do to their daughter — torments them.
Erich says that when these stories were told to a young Lebanese pastor, he said, “The main question that was coming to my mind was: Who’s going to reach those people with the gospel? I looked around and we [Christ followers] are few; they are thousands, hundreds of thousands. They are all from Muslim backgrounds and there is no one in Lebanon thinking to reach them. As I was crying and asking this question, the answer came to my mind saying, ‘You are going to reach them.’”
“The early church had no buildings, no financial abilities as we have today,” the young pastor says. “They had so little but they were able to do so much. In Lebanon, we have more freedom than what they had back in Jerusalem or in the Roman Empire, so why can’t we do what they did?
“I felt the Lord leading us to start something new, old but new, to bring back those principles and put them into practical life … I cannot go to the Muslim villages and rent an apartment or a building, put up a cross, bring in pews and a piano and say, ‘Come to Jesus.’ But I can go there, sit with them on the floor around a cup of tea and discuss about salvation and I will be accepted by them. It’s not changing the message but changing the tools. Our vision is to plant churches following the biblical model, reproducible churches that teach people how to have a gospel-centered life for God’s glory.”
To fearful Lebanese churches that tell him Syrian Muslims will never believe in Jesus, this young pastor points to those who already have believed. And the good news is making its way back across the border.
Who discipled this young pastor—this young pastor who will touch the lives of those refuges with the transformational truths of the gospel? It is the International Mission Board personnel and their friends called Southern Baptists.
This is the time of year that we must renew our passion to reach the ends of the earth with the gospel. If we cannot go ourselves, it is our task to hold the rope for those who go—to make disciples of all nations.
Southern Baptists have a window of opportunity that is rapidly closing. Before it is too late, let me challenge us to give a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions that exceeds our weekly tithe.
Last month, I was visiting with Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, following their commissioning of 84 new missionaries in Springfield. He encouraged me to do everything I could in 2012 to help Missouri Baptists understand the desperate need—the incredible lostness of most of the people in the world.
This year, we need our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to substantially exceed our 2011 giving. It is important for us to know that our churches’ regular giving to the Cooperative Program already underwrites the infrastructure cost so that every dollar, dime or nickel that is given by our churches to this offering goes directly to international missions.
Imagine what would happen if every person, family, and church exercised their faith and increased their giving to the Lottie Moon offering by a tithe, or by 20 percent – or even 50 percent? Think about the greatness of our God at work through your giving in these days prior to the Lord’s return.
Remember that the return of Christ is only Good News to those who are ready. So let’s be bold and take the gospel to the peoples of the world.