“We have a surprise for you.”
Our hosts were almost giddy with excitement as they shared a secret I was asked to keep to myself for the next four days.
After nearly 30 hours of travel and two nights of sleeping on an airplane, we had finally arrived at our destination. My wife and I were accompanying thirteen students and one brave teacher from Covenant Christian High School on the adventure of a lifetime. Covenant employs J-Term, a two-week out of the box learning experience (including cross-cultural travel) in between the fall and spring semester. Our daughter had been targeting this trip for her senior year since she was a freshman, and a dozen of her classmates followed.
Our goal was to expose the students to the culture, history, and spiritual challenges of a region where the “tectonic plates” of Islam and Christianity are colliding every day.
We visited a Mosque and talked with the Imam.
We witnessed the call to prayer.
We met a persecuted pastor and his family (their church has been burned to the ground 3 times).
We heard stories of how God has manifest His power over the witch doctors in the community.
We bartered for fruits and vegetables in the local market.
We ate food from street vendors.
We learned the history and and experienced the culture of the area.
And we interacted with the Business as Mission workers that are utilizing the marketplace to proclaim Jesus and plant the church in this 99.9% Islamic community.
That’s where the aforementioned surprise comes in.
We found ourselves in the living room of one of the worker’s homes listening to the testimony of a local Muslim man who had just given his life to Christ three months earlier. We weren’t emotionally prepared to hear his story. Since that day:
His father-in-law forcibly removed his pregnant wife from his home saying he only gave her to him as a Muslim man, not as a Christian. He has not seen or spoken to her since.
His mother and brothers locked him out of his home and took all of his possessions. He was left with only the clothes on his back.
His brothers threatened to stone him, a warning that could still become reality.
And yet here he was, in a room full of high school students, sharing his newfound faith in Jesus. “They have taken everything from me,” he shared. “What else can they possibly do?”
So with conviction in his heart and joy on his face, we walked with him from the house to an inlet of the Indian Ocean and witnessed his public baptism! As if that wasn’t enough, the persecuted pastor we met just days before is the one who baptized him.
A Powerful Moment
Over a week later and I still get teary-eyed thinking about that moment. A surprise indeed! In this part of the world, where it takes the average seeker 7 years to come to faith, this baptism is the equivalent of a stadium-full of people in other parts of the world. We also believe it’s just the beginning of what God is going to do in this community.
Stories like these are unfolding all over the globe. We hear the sword-rattling and fear-mongering of principalities and powers, yet in the midst of it all the Kingdom of God is doing what it always does. It’s advancing. Not in ways you will hear about from major global media outlets, but the way the Gospel always spreads – in and through the lives of individual people.
I will never forget watching our beautiful new brother emerge from the water on that humid African evening. When you interact with an unreached people group, when you look into the eyes of the persecuted church, it’s humbling and transformational.
Let me pass along their most powerful message to all of us: Jesus is worth it.