On a recent trip to Kansas where I participated at a mobilization weekend for young leaders (read the story of the event on page 10), I met a software engineer named Nasser. Last spring, he had served on a short-term mission assignment with us in Paris. His father’s family is from Saudi Arabia and his mother is a Mennonite. Nasser has been asked to help five hundred Syrian families re-settle in his city in Kansas. Ten minutes into our conversation, I sensed the Lord prompting me to invite Nasser to join me on a trip to Central Asia and Germany where we are also beginning to work among refugees. Even though the trip was only two weeks away, Nasser and his wife prayed about it and he agreed to come.
Days later, we were on the Syrian border having coffee with a university student named Amar. He had just fled from Syria two months earlier where he had witnessed much death in the name of religion (read more about Amar on page 6). I watched Nasser share his story with Amar about meeting Jesus after being raised in Islam. It was amazing to see how these two young men could relate to each other and to hear Nasser’s clear testimony about finding the way to peace with God and others. Through this conversation and many others, God was confirming his call on Nasser’s life to join him in the harvest.
What has the Lord of the harvest called us to do? What is the role that you are playing today?
I’ve been impacted by John’s vision of the Lord of the harvest from Revelation 14:14-16. In this window into the eternal realm, outside of time and space, John witnesses an exchange between an angel and Jesus: “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” I heard three simple phrases through this text: the harvest is ripe, the sickle is sharp, and the time is now.
The massive upheavals that are occurring around the world today through conflict, economic crisis, and natural disasters are exposing the empty promises of the gods of this age. It is in these very contexts that Jesus is inviting us to reap the harvest with him!
If we are to join Jesus on his mission, we must confront a culture of fear that is focused on security and health. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). This is the true Gospel seed, not some genetically-modified seed of happiness and fulfillment. Fear is natural, but we confront it when we choose to daily die to self. For many first-generation disciples of Jesus who are giving their lives for their faith in the Muslim world, this high-cost Gospel is the only Gospel they have.
What has puzzled me over the years is why new disciples in these high-cost contexts seem far more active in sharing the Gospel than those of us in low-cost contexts. Here’s my theory: when the Gospel costs you everything – your family, job and possibly your life – you value this Gospel more than anything and you are willing to take great risks to share it with others, while in low-cost contexts, where the Gospel is presented as something that adds to an already-good life, we value it little. In the West, we tend to place greater value on our sports teams and media heroes! With freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of worship – so few of us seem free to share the true Gospel.
In Germany, I visited with church leaders responding to the influx of refugees in their communities (read more about the story in Germany on page 4). The churches are engaged in developing plans based on their context. We talked about the need to emphasize the importance of building relationships. In Detmold, I was going out for lunch with Johann Matthies, our Regional Team Leader in Europe. On our way, we passed by groups of refugees. I asked Johann to stop the car and we invited four Africans to join us for lunch. Three were from Ghana and one was from Sierra Leone; three were Muslim and one was a Christian.
For the next two hours, we listened to their stories. We heard about travelling across the Sahara in the back of a pick-up truck with fifty other people and surviving two days without water. Another shared about hiding in the engine room of a container ship from Ghana and ending up in a port city where he slept in a mosque until he was offered a job. He was brought to a “camp” where he was expected to learn how to kill people. He escaped from this camp and made his way through to Europe.
All of these young men wanted nothing to do with violence and were eager to understand the way of peace in Jesus. After lunch, as we said goodbye to our new friends, they told us that they would never forget us and that, in all their travels, they had never been treated with such kindness and respect.
How difficult is it to invite a recent immigrant to share a meal with you and listen to their story? Do we love our security more than we love the privilege of living on mission with Jesus?
This is not the time for us as the Church to retreat and to focus on our own comfort and safety. We have been largely unwilling to travel to least-reached countries and live on mission there, but now the Lord of the harvest, in his sovereignty, is bringing the least reached to our communities. I believe that their hearts are yearning for the peace that Jesus offers. The harvest is ripe and the time is now!