Most appointments you schedule yourself. Some … are scheduled for you.
November, 2000, found me in Indonesia as part of a short missions trip. I’d read much about the intense persecution our brothers and sisters face in this overwhelmingly Muslim nation. As I discovered, the reports were an understatement.
The constant life threatening opposition the body of Christ faces daily continues to impact my walk even now, eleven years later. I was there to encourage them. Yet I can’t imagine I did to the level they inspired me. Of the many stories I brought home, one stands out.
I was sitting with our Indonesian national overseer. He was telling me about the church’s overall growth in spite of the challenges. He showed me pictures of churches being planted and children being fed and clothed. He also showed me images of buildings being vandalized; some even burned to the ground.
My normal church upbringing hadn’t prepared me for this. Yet, it soon became clear how orchestrated this moment was. For some reason, there was one picture that made me ask him, “Tell me about this church.” He mentioned that this pastor and his wife had planted this church a short time ago and it grew almost immediately. He also said it was one of the churches that had faced the fiercest attacks.
I asked, “Is the pastor okay?”
He then showed me a picture of a funeral. One Saturday night, the pastor, who lived next store to the church, heard a mob outside. A militant group had come to the church and began throwing rocks at the windows and destroying the walls. The pastor and his wife, along with a deacon and his wife who were there visiting, ran into the building to try and stop them. But the crowd intensified their attack.
Seeing that they couldn’t stop them, the four tried to leave the building. But the crowd prevented them from leaving and began throwing torches at the structure. It caught fire and was soon a blaze. Even as the four cried out in agony, the crowd prevented them from escaping. Within a few hours, the fire had claimed the building … four soldiers of the faith.
What could I say? I sat there for what seemed like years. I still to this day don’t know why I said what I did next. I picked my head up and asked, “How did that church respond to all this?”
He turned to me and said, “Hop in the car.”
We drove to an outdoor gathering. It resembled a food distribution center. There were stoves and pots that faced and outdoor porch … sort of like an outdoor soup kitchen. Scores of food were being given out. People from this small town were being fed, from the smallest child to the elderly. The overseer asked me to help. I do so gladly. But as I was ladling soup into bowls I never lost sight of my question.
There also was a group of medical professionals there. They were giving children vaccinations and giving expectant mothers vitamins and prenatal care. The overseer told me that all of these services, food and medical, were given free of charge to this community, as an expression of Christ’s love. I was excited. But to be honest, I was still focused on my question about that church. So again I asked, “This is all great, Sir, but how did that church we spoke of in your office respond?”
He said to me, “We’re standing in their response.”
I must have looked confused. I didn’t get it. He continued.
“This small town is the base for that angry mob that attacked that night. This outreach is from that pastor’s church.”
I was stunned! It was like a moment from the Matrix where I was moving in real time but everything around me slowed. He then quoted from Luke 6, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
It took a while but I got it. In the most tragic of events, this church was doing … what Jesus would do. I also realized this was no random moment in my trip. God scheduled this time for me, a moment to more deeply understand His truth and how to put it into action.
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I pray I never do!
(A true story)
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