Out of the Overflow (Part 2)

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.

These guys lit off so many in the park, they caught bushes on fire.
These guys lit off so many in the park, they caught bushes on fire.

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.

Base camp families had nicknames for their favorite places. This was a fantastic noodle place we ate at regularly.
Base camp families had funny nicknames for their favorite places. This was a fantastic noodle place we ate at regularly.

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.

Our team meets YoYo. He was so excited to see R&J again, and especially their kids.
Our team meets YoYo. He was so excited to see R&J again, and especially their kids.

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.”

Thousands of steps up a mountain that overlooks the city.  Even though it did me in for the rest of the day, it was worth it.  Definitely the signature moment of our time.
Thousands of steps up a mountain that overlooks the city. Even though it did me in for the rest of the day, it was worth it. Definitely the signature moment of our time.
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My panorama overlooking the city of 200,000+ people, all of whom are lost. As far as I know, only a few people have had gospel seeds planted in them. (Be sure to click to enlarge.)

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.

Beautiful cultural architecture in the park on the mountain where we stopped and prayed over the city.
Beautiful cultural architecture in the park on the mountain where we stopped and prayed over the city.
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Prayer walking along the river, we were encouraged to give names to the people who we saw and pray for them.

But what will it take? That’s the heart of my journey that I’ll explore in my next post.

Out of the Overflow (Part 2)

Out of the Overflow (Part 1)

How can I do justice to all that God has and is accomplishing in His global kingdom purposes through my life?  I’ve struggled with how to convey my thoughts.  So I will just share the story as it comes to my mind, and pray that you will be blessed and your heart will see the same call to obedience on your life.  May we all live lives of faith evidenced by our good works in making disciples of all nations.

I opted to go ahead of my church’s team, an extra 10 days, for two specific purposes.  One, I wanted to experience life on the field just as it is day-to-day.  Two, I wanted to engage specific conversations with our missionaries (this is the one time I will use the word, but I do not prefer it; I’ll use the word ‘worker’) on the field about their lifetime calling.  The time was not wasted.  I was privileged to be invited to stay with one family (who I’ll use just initials R & J for their safety) and experience their life.  We had several good talks along the way.  Life on the field is not some super-Christian feat.  I’m not sure what I had in my mind about what life is like, but it wasn’t quite the picture I had.  My mind had fixated on workers just constantly and exhaustively trying to reach people and teach the gospel, and if they didn’t make some quota of believers, they’d be sent home.

Talk about not being what we expect. This is our base camp city, filled with high-rise housing towers, most of which sit empty.
Talk about not being what we expect. This is our base camp city, filled with high-rise housing towers, most of which sit empty.

Here’s the wonderful truth.  Their life is no different from ours except for their location.  They live life, just like I do in Little Rock, AR.  They run errands, do laundry, go to Walmart.  One worker said his typical week looks like going out into the community in the morning with his older kids and meeting people, building relationships, and bridging the gospel.  In the afternoon he studies language and/or the Bible.  In the evening, it’s family time.  Others are there working jobs, usually teaching English.  Just taking what they could be doing here and moving it over there.  My weekly life involves going out into the community (via work), I have time set aside for study.  I am involved in intentional reaching ministries.  They have an event called English Corner, where they invite nationals to come practice their conversational English.  We have an outstanding organization right here that does the same!  We can call obedience to Christ “radical”, but here’s the truth:  it’s just the ordinary Christian life that we are meant to be living.  Oh for the day when this is not considered radical!

Going out into the community.  This is a wet market, where you can find freshly butchered meat of several kinds (pork pictured)...
Going out into the community. This is a wet market, where you can find freshly butchered meat of several kinds (pork pictured)…
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…and fresh fruits and vegetables of routine and exotic kinds.

They follow the command “as you go”, making disciples.  We’re called to do nothing different where we are.  What saddens me is the difference in importance we place this command.  Our busyness and pursuits blind us in ineffectiveness.  The American Dream is landing us right where Satan wants us, complacent in our comforts.  Global disciple-makers are not super-Christians, they just take the command to make disciples seriously because God takes it seriously.  Life is intentional.  I was particularly struck by R’s thoughts on retirement.  I’ve been conditioned to think I need to set myself up for comfort in the end of my life, when maybe God still has purposes for us.  It’s not time to pass the torch until we leave this life.  Am I pouring too much into myself (my future) right now when it is better served in the kingdom, with the express intent to continue work as long as the Lord wills it? Am I more concerned with my 401k more than making disciples?  It’s worth prayer and unbiased biblical insight in the very least.

Another aspect of their life that really struck me was having family worship time.  I’ve come home extremely convicted about this.  Every morning at the breakfast table, R would read a short study, sing a song together, describe an unreached people to pray for, and then offer God thanks for their many blessings.  If only we would be doing this in the American homes where we are not, what might happen for the kingdom’s expansion and God’s glory across the earth?  Rather than relying on the church to be responsible for the spiritual growth of children, parents take ownership of it and start the command of making disciples in their own homes.  It’s not complicated and doesn’t need to be.  What they did was simple and sets the tone for their family’s day and indeed, life.

I have a lot of fears when it comes to considering moving overseas, as I’m sure just about anyone would have.  But I have done my best to give a blank check to God.  I went with an open heart for God to confirm that is the path He has set me on.  But as we (meaning God and me, and R and me) talked, my passions kept steering me differently.  Yes I absolutely want to support efforts to the unreached.  My heart is unequivocally pointed to the places that have no access to the gospel.  I am also very passionate about equipping and motivating my brothers and sisters in Christ to this same calling.  You don’t have to read my blog long or hear me speak at length to know that.  I want to pour into Christ followers what God has poured into me.  To call us out of our comforts and complacency, with a sense of urgency and humility.

Having gone to China expecting to be led to stay there, I find myself affirmed to continue the path of sending for now.  Not saying one day I won’t go, but for now, I confidently believe I’m called to be here, supporting and sending through motivation and move into leading short-term teams.  So those of you afraid I might be moving, take a deep breath.  And if you’re disappointed I’m sticking around (ha), well, maybe in due time.

The plaza where the government set up the eyeglass clinic.
The plaza where we conducted the eyeglass clinic.
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We saw almost a thousand people. The goal was to improve vision, not necessarily get the perfect lenses. Though we were not permitted to share the gospel at this event, a team went back later to take with the locals.
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There was a registration area, a waiting area, seven stations checking eyes, and the dispensary. The crowd surged on registration at one point and the Americans were pulled out. But the dispensary was all smiles as folks left with better sight!
Caroling before a crowd in the shopping plaza.  We'd sing a couple songs then disperse to meet the crowd, then do it again.
Caroling before a crowd in the shopping plaza. We’d sing a couple songs then disperse to meet the crowd, then sing some more!

I can relate briefly some specific events that occurred during this time.  I’ll focus on an eye glass clinic we did in a town a couple hours away from base camp.  Through a partnership with the government and a worker’s company, we served over 960 people with prescription eyeglasses.  The event was purposed in giving face to the government with the people; and it also makes  the workers gain legitimacy in staying in the country.  For a short time, I actually tested eyes with a rudimentary lens system, but most of the day I got to work the dispensary where glasses were handed out.  As mobbed as we were, and as pushy and impatient as the massive crowd was, I was in the best place because I got to see the smiles and receive the “shie shie” (thank you, in Mandarin) as they were able to read or see at distance.  I had a great sense of spiritual purpose here.  Talk about “blind but now I see”.  Perhaps this was literally true that day, but what an avenue to bridge to the gospel when a team returned a few days later to engage the town people again!

The other CIC team I traveled with had several events, including a Christmas program out front of a major shopping complex where they performed a skit of the true Christmas story, visiting college campuses, and going caroling.  I helped carol a little bit.  I was overwhelmed in that place by the words of songs that we are all too familiar with and easily grow quite tired of each year.  “To save us all from Satan’s power when we have gone astray” becomes very real in a place of complete spiritual darkness.  Through watery eyes, I prayed as I sang that Satan’s power would soon find it’s hold shattered in this place, where hundreds of thousands of people live and will perish into everlasting darkness unless they are told of and receive the good news of Jesus Christ.

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Out of the Overflow (Part 1)