by Joy Casey
I am winding down my time in Ethiopia and have a few hours to myself to ponder all that God has done, is doing and wants to do going forward. Thoughts are spinning in my head as I recall the individuals God has called out of Is!am and what it has cost them. Saturday I listened to women tell me their personal stories, what God rescued them from and how they were shunned by their family and community because of their belief in Christ. Not one of them would exchange their former life for the security of being a daughter of the One True God, even though it has been extremely hard.
Our missionaries introduced me to individuals who have become Christ-followers who are in hiding and fear for their life. This makes me pause. I champion evangelism in hard places, yet meeting these people is a reminder of what we are calling people to. To a spiritual battle that can lead to some serious consequences. To work among people who, if they believe what you say, may get beaten, have their life threatened or, at the very least, be ostracized from people and community they hold dear.
On the surface, it seems audacious for us Christians to call people away from all that is familiar and cause suffering. But that, of course, is a short-sighted view. Is!am, like other deistic or monotheistic beliefs that deny Christ, cannot save. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), and Is!am’s rejection of Christ has left its adherents lost without the Way, oppressed by falsehood without the Truth and in danger of eternal death without Life. So, NewLife will continue reaching out to people and introducing them to Jesus … Jesus who paid the price for our sins, heals our hearts and emotions, gives us peace and, amazingly, gives us life with Him eternally without sorrow, suffering or tears.
Then I think about the poor I have interacted with these past weeks. I visited a family who lost their 10-year-old daughter to starvation. She died because she was poor. But then I was encouraged when an elderly lady kissed me over and over thanking me for the corn our organization brought her. She said the corn saved her life. She was so weak she couldn’t even get out of bed, but she is alive and well today. Just a little bit of corn … could have made the difference for a little girl …
So I ask myself (since I am in a pondering mode), what is God asking me to do with the wealth and privilege I have? Ignorance of the poor and of the opportunities I have to help the poor is no longer possible. Neither is indifference. I read Proverbs 21:13 that clearly tells me, “The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.” And the poor aren’t just an ambiguous set of statistics. They are people.
Because of the circumstances of birth, boys and girls have no access to learning. This is a tragedy we are trying to rectify for a few … each child who learns to read and is exposed to the gospel is valuable in our eyes. And God sees them, too, as well as seeing how we help as an organization and what I do personally.
Who has touched me this trip? The one, the individual. Not masses of people in need of a Savior or whole villages in need of food or the 2 million children of Ethiopia under the age of 15, half who will never, ever know how to read. These needs are doors God provides for us to walk through so His love can touch the one and change a life for eternity.
Jesus told three stories that have a common theme. The first is about one sheep out of a hundred. The second is about one coin out of ten, and the other is about one son that was lost and then found. In each story, there is exuberant joy and celebration when the one is found. God is passionate about the one.
“God has a universe to run, galaxies to uphold, governments to rule, and more than seven billion people to sustain, yet the Bible doesn’t say that heaven rejoices over these cosmic mysteries and universal realities. Instead, something special happens in heaven when one person who was separated from God in sin is restored to God in love.” (from David Platt’s book Something Needs to Change)
I know many of you reading this have hearts full of compassion and are doing much to build God’s Kingdom to serve image bearers all over the world. NewLife Ethiopia concentrates on one speck of the world’s globe, but we are doing so out of obedience with joy and gratitude for being called to beautiful, exotic, troubled Ethiopia.