Hey, Lee, I’m going to miss you SO much after you leave. It has been a privilege to study together. I want to say something really important as you go, hence putting it in this letter. Here goes: Stay strong in your faith.
Remember Mei, who was part of our small group last year? I skyped her last night. It was great to chat. But when I asked her how she was going faith-wise, she just replied, ‘Oops’. Not ‘rejected’. Not ‘abandoned’. Not ‘gave up’. Not ‘pressured’. Just ‘oops’.
How could that happen?
Just like you, after Mei arrived here, she started coming to our student Bible study. She grew quickly and even helped run a small group sometimes.
Where did it all go wrong?
When Mei returned home, she knew it was important to find a church. It was different to what she’d known overseas. Not bad – just different – and lonely.
With an overseas qualification and excellent English skills, Mei quickly found a great job. She says her work is stimulating, challenging, stressful and demanding at times, but this is life and she is happy enough.
Mei also has a boyfriend now, who isn’t opposed to her faith. Last month, they got engaged. Preparing for a wedding takes a lot of time and energy too, let alone on top of a high-pressure job.
So what about God, I asked? That was when she said, “Oops.” She occasionally carves two precious hours out of her busy week and slips into church. Her fiancé isn’t too happy – he sees very little of her as it is – but still, if it makes her content, he’ll put up with it.
Don’t let this be your story, Lee. Make decisions NOW which will help you stay firm after you return. Remember the story of the sower and the seed? Don’t let the seed in your heart be snatched away, wither away under pressure or be choked by the worries of this world.
You know how we’ve met regularly this past year? It’s actually an old pattern, this idea of mentoring. Confucius taught his band of disciples in China not too long after Moses mentored Joshua there in the Middle East. Jesus trained the twelve. Paul mentored Timothy. What we’ve done is nothing compared to all that. But it’s been useful, eh? Try and find someone there to meet with regularly as well, maybe as two equals who hold one another accountable.
Read 2 Timothy over and over. It is full of gems written by a wise mentor to the one he mentored. It’s about the input Paul had in Timothy’s life, and the importance of staying grounded in faith in the midst of difficulties. Remember that when the hard times come, Lee, and come they will.
Don’t put off going to church either, even if you find it strange compared to what you’ve been used to here. Persevere. Hang back and talk. Be bold. People need to spur one another on in faith.
Perhaps you’ll find some local believers don’t have much Bible background. Make the most of the training you’ve received here. Paul also challenged Timothy to correct, rebuke and encourage other believers.
How could you speak into the lives of your peers, you might ask? You might lose face yourself or, worse, make them embarrassed. Well, you know your culture better than I do, but I know you desperately want your family and friends to have eternal life. So you’ve got to be firm in your own faith, and you’ve got to reach out to them.
Like Paul said to Timothy, I say this to you: Keep the flame of your faith glowing brightly, Lee. God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, Paul said, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
And that’s why I’m writing you this letter. Self-discipline. You’ve got to be proactive. You’ve got to keep your faith vibrant. I’ll be praying for you. We’ll keep in touch. But life is going to get busy. It’ll be tempting to let your faith slide. Don’t do it.
Mei says ‘Oops’. It isn’t too late to pull her back if she is willing. Look her up, will you? I know she is in a different province, but she too has that precious seed in her heart, and the evil one is in a good position to snatch it away. Do what you can, Lee.
And whatever you do, guard yourself. No ‘oops’ from you, okay?
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