Many, many years ago, I became convinced I was to go to Guyana, South America and remain on the mission field for a year. Struggling a bit with what I believed was a clear directive of the Holy Spirit, I counseled with a number of individuals with the majority confirming and encouraging me to follow through with just a couple of individuals not so convinced.
Ultimately, there I am 36,000 feet in the air, on my way to Guyana and then it hits. “Are you crazy? What are you doing?”
You see, I had sold everything – my truck, my house, household and personal possessions – down to what I could get into just two suit cases.
The ultimate was having to find a new home for my dog. I am a huge dog lover to the point that I say even today, “You can take my new truck, my condo, everything I’ve got – but heaven help you if you mess with my dogs. You just might go home to be with Jesus much sooner than you anticipated!” Oh, just kidding.
It was during my flight that it dawned on me I really didn’t have clarity in terms of what I was to do when I got to Guyana. I know, I know. But I knew I was to go. Now, I am convinced what I am about to share will leave some of you asking, “Really, seriously?” As I stepped off the jet way on to Guyanese soil, I instantaneously, immediately knew what I was to do in Guyana. I was to travel from village to village, staying about three months in each village, teaching personal evangelism and leading teams to go out in their respective villages (communities) and share the Gospel. Now, once again, this was many years ago, when personal witnessing and evangelism was foreign to most Guyanese. For the most part, the view and opinion of many Guyanese Christians was, “Isn’t that the Pastors job?”
One day in a village called Mahaica, I was leading a team of approximately 6 individuals when we came upon a house with a man sitting on the front steps of his home. As we approached, I immediately noticed by his body language he really didn’t want to be bothered. However, when I asked if we could talk to him, he agreed. I also noticed that his left foot was bandaged and appeared to be swollen to 3-4 times normal foot size. As we began to share Jesus with him, his whole manner began to soften and change. At one point, he interrupted me and said, “I thought all you wanted was money just like another group that came by some time ago that was handing out religious material.”
Assuring him we did not want money, I asked about his injured foot. He shared he had cut it while gathering wood in the jungle and it was now severely infected bordering on gangrene. I asked if we could pray for God to heal his foot. I will never, ever forget his facial expression and reply. A look of dismay brought, “You don’t want money and you want to pray for me?”
The next morning was Sunday and I was to share at the church in Mahaica. Wanting to get settled and fully prepared before the Sunday morning service began, I arrived early. I was met by two individuals that participated in yesterday’s evangelism team. Standing at the entrance of the church, they said, “Phillip, look toward the front of the church.” There sitting on the front row was the man we had prayed for yesterday. Lloyd (the man’s name) was sitting there weeping. As I approached him and our eyes met, he said, “Look – pointing at his foot.” God had completely healed his foot. That Sunday, Lloyd surrendered his life to Christ Jesus and ultimately became a pillar of the Mahaica church.
As we stand upon the threshold of a New Year, I am fully persuaded God is asking , “Will you go to places, people, surroundings and atmospheres that you would just as soon not go?”
Jesus told His disciples very clearly to “go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
That was His last injunction to them before He left this earth. Jesus, our perfect Role Model, poured Himself out for people (all people) and He intends His followers to do the same. Clearly, if Jesus made evangelism the subject of His last command to His disciples on earth, then it must be important. If we love Him and seek to obey Him, then we must carry it out.
Witnessing and evangelizing is not an optional extra. It is a major part of the obedience of the whole Church. The Church, Peter reminds us, exists not least to “declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
I would be the first to admit that love is the most attractive quality in the world. And it lies at the very heart of true Christianity. Who knows just how many “Lloyd’s” God has just waiting for you to come along. The God you and I worship is a missionary God. And so we, too, should be committed to mission.
“The people who know their God will be strong and take action.” (Daniel 11:32)
This is all about people – all people.