Before I continue, I want to interlude with a few fun anecdotes.
Firecrackers! Oh my goodness, were the firecrackers relentless. Thousands and thousands of them going off any time, day or night to celebrate whatever that person felt like celebrating. They would echo through the high-rise houses in the city at 3 pm or 3 am.
Stares. White people! Whoa! We were pretty deep into the country, probably the equivalent of someone coming to the U.S. for the first time and for whatever reason stays in Little Rock. It’s just a cultural difference we were told to be prepared for and had to deal with. People would stop in their tracks and gape at us. Some would take photos, intrusively or politely. A few even grabbed at us.
Food. What wonderful eats we had. The workers definitely knew the best places and boy did we eat good! There was nothing I didn’t try that I didn’t like. I did keep it tame. No duck head or chicken feet or wild dog meat. But aside from the day I caught a 24-hour virus of some kind, I absolutely loved the food. I’m grateful to J for having some “normal” breakfasts to break it up a bit, and there was also a KFC at base camp, but I did not burn out on Chinese food at all.
R-isms. We picked up a few fun phrases from our family. Particularly, we noted his abundant use of the word “whence”, which he says comes from watching too much Sherlock. Ha. When they are having a bad day, they just affectionally remind the other that it’s just “life on the field”. When they are frustrated with the culture or the people (it happens), they are having a “China Day”. If you are having bathroom issues, which can be fairly common (we won’t go into detail), you are riding the “D-train”.
Alright, so I want to talk a moment about the darkness where we were. It was overwhelming. To know that every person we saw in passing was lost. To know that only 4 families are serving an area of over 4 million people who are considered less than 0.1% evangelical. The darkness is palpable. It is so easy to be overcome with emotion because of the compassion for the people. But there is a deeper God-given sense of grief that there yet exists a place on this planet where His name is not being renowned. In a Q&A with all the base camp workers near the end of our trip, I asked with tears in my eyes, how they are able to see past the seemingly insurmountable work to be done. Yes, I understand and believe fully that God’s victory assured, and these people will be represented before His throne, but how do they keep going without drowning? They told us they just work one at a time. Whatever it takes, no matter the cost, through all the hardships, even if they talk to 500 people a year and maybe 1 is receptive, God is worth it. (This is a recurring theme that will come up again.)
I read John Piper’s “Let the Nations Be Glad” during my time there and the theme of his biblical study is that missions exists because worship does not. This is what drives us to go to the unreached. We cannot be satisfied that anything less than global glory for God is acceptable; we cannot tolerate the term unreached when we have the answer to eternal salvation within us.
Two days after Christmas the rest of my team arrived and we set about the work of seeking God, gathering information, and praying for the province. We traveled to our family’s “thread” city for a few days. The sending company that all the families in base camp serve under is moving to a team-based approach, where the Christ-followers live in a city together for fellowship and accountability, and they each also have their own threads, or people groups, to reach out to. Our family had just recently moved from a city about 3 hours away from base camp. They had prayed for either additional workers or for God to move them. He chose the latter and it has been such a blessing for them. But they are still laser-focused to this city and this is where we traveled to for 3 days. It is a beautiful place, tucked amongst the mountains, far more compact than what we were accustomed to in base camp. We had the opportunity to meet a few folks who they had already been investing in, including an 18-year young man and a couple of ladies.
Unfortunately, this is where I went down for the count. I got some bug that left me riding the “D-train”. Nothing to do but let it run its course and get out, but it took all my energy, and in the end, I was down to Sprite and crackers. But on the second day, I was determined to go up a mountain with the others. In the middle of the city was a stairway about 30 stories high in my estimation; thousands of stone steps up to a monument and park overlooking the city. With several stops along the way, I did make it. The reward was worth it. We separated after a while of photoing and chatting, settling in to intimate times of prayer and worship. For me, to overlook the city as I prayed for it was so powerful. And I believe this is where we were affirmed to God’s calling for us as a church to partner, support, and equip the workers reaching this area. I pulled out my iPhone and played Chris Tomlin’s “God of this City”. Wow. “You’re the God of this city. You’re the King of these people. You’re the Lord of this nation. You’re the light in this darkness. You are hope to the hopeless. You are peace to the restless. Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.”
Praise God He assures a people will be saved from amongst them. I pray with urgency that this happens soon so that no more than already have will perish. I pray that God would lead our friends to persons of peace who will receive and believe and will be raised up to lead a secret study, then multiply out from there into the surrounding areas to reach their neighbors. Two people cannot reach them all. But together the body of Christ can when He is our basis and example for reaching the unreached. Two becomes four, four becomes eight, eight becomes sixteen… 1,048,576 becomes 2,097,152, which becomes 4,194,304. That’s just a simple one-on-one discipleship model. And everyone in that province can be reached. Multiplication rather than addition. It’s really not that insurmountable at all.
But what will it take? That’s the heart of my journey that I’ll explore in my next post.