As I reflect on this week of evangelism, on the one hand it does feel like we’ve gone “to the ends of the Earth”: We took an international flight from Dallas to London, then another from London to Entebee, then a propeller plane from Entebee to Yei (landing on a dirt runway…), then a two-hour drive along a dirt road (which was almost impassable without 4-wheel drive), then finally another 30-45 minutes of walking through the bush just to get to these villages. So clearly, we’re not in Dallas anymore!
But on the other hand, even with all our transportation efforts heading deeper and deeper into the third world, we still felt at times that God actually beat us to some of these locations. Believe it or not, we came across other churches and a fair number of born-again Christians during many of the week’s evangelism journeys.
But there were also plenty here who had never heard of the love, forgiveness, hope, and eternity offered by Jesus Christ and I was blessed to see so many accept Christ this week. But their reactions caught me a bit off guard. When people accepted Christ here, they accepted him with more of a reverence than an exuberance. When the gospel was proclaimed and the call was made, those who accepted usually came forward very solemnly. They silently knelt in front of us. Their heads were down, their eyes were closed, and as they mouthed the words of the pastor-led prayer of salvation, the sound was barely audible as their lips moved ever so softly. At that moment, I wondered what they were thinking. It’s as if they were mourning the death of their former selves more than they were rejoicing in their adoption into his kingdom for eternity.
But that wasn’t the only reaction I was surprised by. The bible says there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance, but where was my joy in watching it? Sure I was happy, but was I happy *enough* for what just happened in front of us?? I think the problem in both cases is that it just hasn’t really sunk in yet.
I’m sure it was strange for a tribe of South Sudanese to suddenly be bombarded by six white people accompanied by a dozen local church members with drums and flags, clapping and singing, and dancing their way into their homes. But it was equally strange for a bunch of middle-class, white, Dallas kids to come into a village and see families half-clothed and living in mud huts. I wish my emotion at the moment was a deeper joy, but I’m ashamed to confess it was more “relief” that tended to be the predominant emotion for me. I was relieved that this trip wasn’t “a waste”. Relieved that I could report back a tangible “return” on the investment made by all my family and friends in funding this mission trip. Relieved that all the prayers for salvation were answered and harvested. Relieved that I didn’t “mess up” the gospel presentation and thereby affect someone’s salvation. But to even feel “relieved” means to sinfully think as if I had anything to do with this. To think as if my gospel presentation was some kind of plausible words of wisdom and not a demonstration of the Spirit and His power. To think as if my preparation was something I can claim. As if my convictions came from myself and not the Holy Spirit. As if this would all somehow fail if I didn’t “cram” and memorize just what to say. It’s not that no preparation was required, but it certainly wasn’t anything I was consciously doing right before this mission. In fact, as soon as *I* started preparing was probably when my true preparation stopped…
The truth is God was preparing me for this mission since becoming a Christian four years ago. With every Scripture, every sermon, every bible study, every podcast, every class, every conversation with mature believers, every confession, every prayer, every praise, every act of service in the name of Jesus, God was really just preparing my HEART for this trip. He could handle the rest of the details. It wasn’t that I had to understand the gospel inside-and-out, I just had to understand and trust the nature and character of the God who was at the center of the story. Trust that He has a pre-determined plan for my life which for whatever reason had me carryover vacation and spend it going into South Sudan and telling people about Jesus.
God has been so gracious to this entire team these past 12 days. Not only did he protect us from every illness and injury, he graciously allowed us to witness over 60 South Sudanese actually give their lives to Jesus Christ! Come on. Over 60?!?! I’m sure many will never get to experience this and I’m sure it’s something I personally will never forget. But… the real question for me is: would it have been OK if no one gave a life to Christ this week? If only seeds were planted without us seeing any tangible fruit? But what if that happened to be God’s plan for this trip? Would we have had the faith needed to persevere and trust that His will was still being done regardless? Could we have faced our church, family, friends, supporters, and prayer partners when we got back home? What would we tell them? What would we put on the blog? There are missionaries who spend their entire lives evangelizing in difficult places and never see *any* tangible fruit. God must have counted them quite worthy and deep in faith to endure that kind of a calling.
But here’s what’s so crazy about this: if we spend our entire lives trying to help save just a single soul it would have been time well spent. You see, whether we help impact 1 soul, 100 souls, or 100,000, any of those numbers times infinity still equals… infinity! The “return” on our life investment would be incalculably high regardless of the scenario. A soul is forever and eternity is a very long time… We simply can’t be “counting” souls won the same we we count our Ugandan Shillings in the markeplace. When we do, we completely miss the idea of eternity.
There’s no doubt God has moved mightily on this mission, and for that I am so humbled and grateful to be a part. But as I fly home and reflect on what has been done here, I’m not concerned about numbers. For me, I choose to rejoice in the fact that God granted me the privilege of planting a seed or two, that other believers will surely come along and water, that God will or will not grow in His perfect timing, and maybe, just maybe, God has given me a small, but real role in affecting the eternity of someone, somewhere on this planet. And for that, I am truly humbled. To Him be the glory. See you soon.