As I prepare for this much-anticipated mission trip to Kenya this Easter period, to the Lord's glory, many wild thoughts are running through my mind. It is not because I dread travelling within Africa, though I actually do, sometimes, anyway, but I keep asking myself: "does my 'love' for visiting this people match their expectation"? Iím I going there to meet their needs or for the harvest?
Reading through the mail of one of the people I will be visiting, my heart pants. Being an African who have been to many African countries before and knowing how real and great the needs are: from extreme poverty such that you can feel even with your eyes closed; people dying of hunger; many living in unimaginable situation to abject poverty, etc., a situation which has actually fanned the flame of mission in me to my people, it is clear to me that only Jesus can face these challenges.
Millions of helpless people are waiting to be rescued from preventable diseases, deaths, poverty, etc. In the lists of the urgent needs is an orphanage with almost 200 children with nothing to feed or care for them. Many of the 'inmates' were picked up on the street because their parents and relatives had died of HIV/AIDS, famine or other preventable deaths.
The Government is not responsible for them, anyway. Some not-so-lucky ones have been forced into child labour, sex trades and modern slave trades for survival. But some are being cared for by people who need care themselves. How sad. The needs are unquestionably great, but so also the harvest: millions of souls are eagerly waiting to be rescued from hell. Unfortunately, both the needs and the harvest no longer attracts the attention of the church any more than building a strong congregational membership, solid denominational structure and personal financial empire.
Now the question arise: which one should be urgently addressed: the needs or the harvest? Should we bring Charity or the Gospel to the people? Should we rescue their souls or their lives? Many are bringing charity, reliefs, gifts, etc and are rescuing a lot of people and yet bringing the Gospel along at the same time. That looks pretty neat and the result awesome.
I remember in 2005 through 2006 when I visited the Refugee Camp in Ghana where those who escaped from war in many African countries were camped as refugees, though without care, it was such a deliverance and relief, when almost 300 destitutes, especially children and ageds who, although escaped from death through guns, but were faced with death through starvation received help. Clothes, shoes, food, books, bibles, etc were shipped in large quantity and soon, a church was established standing till today. That seems to be charity and Gospel in action.
Similarly, in October, 2011 during our medical outreach to prisons in Nigeria, about 80 inmates responded to the altar call. In December of same year, two of them were released by State pardon and one of them told me: "I came to the crusade because of the rice and meat, knowing that that would be the only decent meal I might eat for the rest of the year, but somehow, I met Jesus truly and now, He set me free. My release that no one could do in seven years despite spending money, etc, Jesus did in 48 days" (referring to the time between the outreach and his release). Such wouldn't have met Christ if not for the 'rice and meat'. Again, that's charity and Gospel. Jesus said without signs and wonders, the people will not believe (Jn.4:48).
But I have discovered through all these wonderful mission experiences that many actually believe that charity is Gospel, but it is not. Charity is religion, good religion, but Gospel is life. One might be moved by the needs of the people and give them charity instead of the Gospel, just like one can also be moved to go to the mission field by burden, but not by leading. They would receive the gifts but not necessarily the giver of all gifts. Charity meets immediate needs, but Gospel, eternal. True love does not give fish, but teaches how to fish.
We might be able to establish denominational church or religious movement through such charitable endeavours, but must not confuse it with Jesus. Charity is the love of man; Gospel is the love of God. What these people need beyond anything is not pity, but help, help from above. James tells us that "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jas.1:27).
Our mission activities can be a pure religion, but God is not looking for pure religion, but Jesus in us. Love gives. God GAVE His only Son to the world. His Son GAVE His only life. If what we are giving is not our only, or it is not a life, it may be a good and wonderful giving like the offering of Cain, but lacks the blood, which is the life. The life of everything is in its blood.
Our giving or offering may appear good, but does it have the element God is looking for? If we give charity, can charity save them from damnation and hell? Charity will give a sense of service, but does God need our services and sacrifices or our obedience? "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1Sam.15:22). God does not need our service, He needs us. We can give our lives to charity and the course of humanity and that doesn't spell giving our lives to Christ.
In replying the rich young ruler, Jesus asked him to go and sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor (charity), but after that, he should come and follow Him (Gospel). It is in the following Jesus that there is eternal life, not in the giving of all he had. Charity is a good work, but following Jesus is a God work. Countless philanthropists have donated millions of dollars to charity and that doesn't change their relationship with God or make them born again. Paul said even "if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing" (1Cor. 13:3).
Giving only Jesus to people who are expecting something more tangible can be challenging, but we must give it all the same. We must not be so moved by the immediate sufferings of the people and destroy their eternity by short-changing them with charity instead of the Gospel. God is more concerned with their souls, not their lives, which is temporal, although, that is also important but will amount to a fleeting seconds in the eternal works of God when times will be no more.
But missionaries from the West need to really trust God to present Jesus as the Saviour and not ordinarily as the problem solver. First impression, they say, matters most. To many in the third world, Missionaries come with charities, gifts, etc because they come from a land flowing with 'milk and honey' like America and other prosperous countries of the world where moneys are harvested on the tree and picked up in the main road (wish that was true) and it will be a bit awkward to bring only Jesus to a land with such needs without anything to back it up! We must not allow the quest for charity and service (Martha), take our eyes away from the Jesus and knowing Him (Mary) (Luke 10:40).
Peter and John told that man at the beautiful gate: "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6). Isn't that far better than the silver coins the man was expecting? Peter and John could have tossed a coin to him and he would have appreciated them and call them merciful and good guys. It would have been able to meet a physical need, but he needed something more than that and he didn't even know it. Even when Peter asked him to arise, he was still looking disappointed. But at the end, he knew better.
People don't need bread, although they think that's what they need. That underscores the fact that we cannot give what we don't have. Most people are comfortable giving charity because that's what they have. But we must realize that good as it is, it is not the gospel. After the charity, they need the gospel, but the danger is, both the giver and the receiver believe that is the gospel. People respond to charity at altar-calls more than they respond to the gospel in times of need.
Iíve discovered that as much as the charity is in place, people 'serve' God, but when the flow or channel ceases, it is easy to know whom they have actually believed. Many simply 'de-camp' and join another charitable movement that has the flow, regardless of whether it is Hindu, Islam, Mormons, etc, as long as there is survival there. They never knew Jesus, they only knew good works and by good works shall no man make heaven. Charity is good; miracles, healing, blessings, prosperity, etc are just wonderful, but none is a qualification to make heaven.
Denominations, church building, organizational movement, ministry establishment, etc are very wonderful too, but none is needed as criteria to making heaven; only Jesus. They are wonderful activities which are good just for religious clout and togetherness, but have no relevance in the eternal work of God which is a personal relationship with Jesus.
As I seek the face of God in prayer on this trip, asking what He would want me take along for these precious people with great and real needs, it sound super spiritual of me to say, I'm taking only Jesus, but that is exactly what is required. What a consolation. It gave me rest in my spirit. I desire to take some food, medications, clothes, shoes, bibles, toys, etc. But the funds I have can barely take care of the flight ticket to and fro and some other lodging and transportation expenses.
When the people asked for hotel booking and transportation arrangement, brother David, the other brother, a white American we are making this trip together told them: "don't worry about all that; we will sleep where you sleep, stay where you stay, eat what you eat, take public transportation...a simple mat on the floor is OK for sleep ...". That blew their minds, but that is actually the truth. Brother Dave taught me many other things especially having the heart of Jesus.
Sometimes, it is good they realized that coming from the West doesn't mean bringing wealth, just like its only if you come from God that you can bring God. As we told this brother yesterday to forget about making banners with our photographs, renting hotel or a hall for massive meeting for miracle rally and other announcement, and that we are content meeting just a few people under the tree instead of a large crowd in an organized meeting and we desire personal home fellowship with them, it is kind of strange development different from what they have been used to, but we must decrease, while Jesus increases.
The more attention we take away from ourselves, the more attention Jesus receives. He is the one who wants to be there and meet with these people and we must give Him a chance through our attitude.
As I wrap up my final preparation, I keep praying to Jesus and looking unto His face that the people will not see us, but Jesus in us.Silver and gold we have not; all we have is Jesus and only Him we have to give, because it is Him they need, not us. Every thing we give them will finish, but Jesus will not! When we are no longer there, Jesus will remain there with them, teaching them much more than we can and giving them much more than we can ever give.
The more the world gives charity, the more impoverished the world is. The more we give Jesus, the better the world is. Charity is good, but the Gospel is better because Jesus is the best gift the world ever needs!