Monday, June 2, 2014

If I Die Without Ever Knowing

It has been the same routine every Thursday morning for almost three years now.  The alarm brings a frown much earlier than usual, no matter how late my work the night before.  Except for those mornings that find the temperatures below freezing or rain pouring down hard upon the earth, I obediently rise to lace up my well-worn tennis shoes, load up whatever children are in the house, then drive to my local church house.  There, I gather with a handful of heavenly brothers and sisters to pray before driving together to one of dozens of neighborhoods within a ten mile radius of our church. 

Unlike three years ago, I no longer have to lug out the stroller and push two year old twins down the asphalt or maneuver them up and over the concrete curbs.  My now five-year-old children bounce, run, and leap as we walk, pray, speak God's love to any neighbors we come in contact with, and leave Scripture on every door in each subdivision. 

When I first felt God's call to commit myself to this ministry, I hoped I would make a difference.  I trusted in the words of Isaiah 55:11: "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."

My heart clings to these words, that God will accomplish what He desires from our giving others His Word, no matter what.

But even the gentle wind manages to wear solid rock down to mere sand.  Year after year, I have not seen much fruit as a result of my obedience.  What's more, it has sometimes been difficult to find fellow laborers to walk with me on this journey to fulfill the command that "you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

My feet continue to pound the pavement in my Jerusalem.  Every time I even think about calling it quits, that gentle voice within reminds me of this fact and spurs me onward once more. 

I remember my first voyage through the winding roads and cookie cutter houses that looked all the same.  More than once, we got "lost" while walking.  Now, though, I don't see my Jerusalem the same way.  Instead, I see the nuanced differences.  I pass by the yards a second, third, fourth time and remember them from before, praying for my Jerusalem not as an unknown place with unknown people but as somewhere familiar and filled with individuals

I know the house with the large dog whose paws reach the top of the fence, the house where the man asked me to pray for his cancer and who was cancer free when I knocked a year later.  There's the house with the pet potbellied pig, the one with the new mother of twins, the one whose occupant grew up in an orphanage.  I remember the house whose driveway was torn out last year, the one with the creepy pretend graveyard on the front lawn, and the one with cigarette butts strewn down the tiny front porch.  

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is a giant step in coming to see people as God does--individuals, all in need of a Savior, not just identical house after another in an endless line of nothing that I can ignore as meaningless and unimportant. 

A few weeks ago, I read an article I haven't been able to get out of my mind:

Missionary Died Thinking He Was a Failure: 84 Years Later Thriving Churches Found Hidden in the Jungle.

The article begins, "In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man – believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return."

Meanwhile, Christian natives who had heard the gospel from Leslie began a network of small churches that began spreading the gospel throughout the jungles.  Not till 2010 did someone re-enter those jungles to share Jesus only to find He was already there and quite alive in the hearts of many.


The question is the same as always--are we willing to serve the Lord for nothing?  Are we willing to serve Him, however He commands...even if we die thinking ourselves a failure?

For the sake of a world full of the hopeless and lost, I can only hope our answer continues to be yes.

Image: Dr. Leslie's Vanga mission from 1912.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, Jennifer. I'm so glad you can see the impact of your commitment to this work, even if it's all internal, perspective-shifting for now. We know that His word never returns void and your obedience will produce fruit, whether you see it in this life or not. So encouraging.