[This is part 5 of a 5 part series on seeing God’s glory across the nations.]
“I’m ready to go to Somalia, whether that means death or anything that God has for me”
They were bold words from a young person, in their late twenties, sold on following Jesus. Here was a person we’d dreamed of finding. Someone who valued everything else as rubbish, for the sake of knowing Him and making Him known. Someone who would care nothing for finding their ideal spouse, living in comfort, or travelling the world compared with the joys of being united to Jesus, sharing in His glory, and following Him. Someone who’d been shaping their life around heading to unreached peoples, for years.
Not many young people reach such convictions at such an age. And so here we were.
A tear welled up in my eye, as I turned to chat to their church leader. They, as a church, had affirmed her calling and were willing to send her. But first they suggested with all that she was to face in future, that she would need to be equipped theologically, or else she would struggle to survive long term out there.
“We recommend 2 years in Bible college before you go.”
The words hit like lead balloons.
Tears formed in her eyes. She couldn’t do that, could she? 2 more years of cold ivory tower learning, while passing thousands in Somalia died every day and headed to a lost eternity. Did these church leaders not care? Do they not understand her heart for these people now? I won’t be ruined by not having yet more theological study, she thought. And so she refused, thinking that they’d see her logic with a bit more explanation. But they didn’t budge:
“I’m afraid if you’re not willing to go with us on this one, we’d struggle to send you to Somalia. Perhaps it’s best if we wait a few more years”
And so she stormed out, in a rage.
And so often my heart has done the same. Weeping uncontrollably at passers by in the University of Nottingham, as they went to lectures. Struggling to do what God had set in front of me first, and to honour Him in that. Wanting to be the quick fix solution to a problem that I couldn’t ever solve by myself. To some extents, a Messiah Complex.
It’s the trouble when Unengaged People Groups become our first love. It’s a minor problem of great sites like Called Together which match people by calling. What happens when God says dying to self looks different? What happens when your church leaders and all those wiser than us think differently? What happens when circumstance ruins the dream?
I’ve been in sad situations in Morocco where God has allowed a death of a husband (and father of four) to ruin someone’s Unengaged People dream. I’ve been in others where longterm, life-debilitating illness has taken the dream from others. And I’ve been in places where people’s church leaders have simply said “no, we don’t feel you are right to be sent. Please stay at home and serve God here”.
It’s a common problem with us evangelists – we can slip into thinking it’s godly to sacrifice [insert thing] on the altar of mission. Family. Friends. Church. But disaster after disaster has unfolded. Broken marriages, hurt families, kids rejecting all faith, individualism. I’ve been in the sad place where even once, my non-Christian friends have noticed what I was doing and warned me. “Peter, you’re obsessed. If you want us to consider all this stuff, stop running around trying to know hundreds of people”.
You see, despite the fact that the people who go to the unengaged world are few and far between, God’s glory will not be shared with another. His plans are bigger than ever needing any individual, much as he dearly loves every one of us.
And so my prayer for my own life, and for yours, is that we love Jesus, and let everything else click into place. Simple I know. But so very difficult. May we never glory in Jesus’ words about unreached peoples, more than we glory in Him.
Otherwise you may as well be travelling the world for your own pleasures.