I don’t know if it’s a good sign or not when it’s rare you feel like a missionary, even though you are one. But thank God anyway, Friday was one of those days.
Recently I saw a man who looked so satisfied and content. He was the opposing coach to our basketball team. He probably could have been home resting or watching TV on a Saturday, but he was at his work, coaching and encouraging the school's girls’ basketball team. He just looked like he was doing was he was supposed to be doing. He was doing was he was meant to do.
Friday was like that for us. Renee and her cosmetic “Inner Beauty” team all worked together to serve the church and neighborhood. Even our girls, who had the day off school and came with us, and were busy helping. Painting nails, cutting hair, giving face massages really drew a crowd and ‘softened the ground’ to receive the message. The girls carried water and really loved helping out.
Our colleague Togsoo taught a lesson about inner healing based on Celebrate Recovery principals, which is Christ-centered. Before we began he wondered if he should preach the good news or not. By the time he was done, he had explained the gospel in very clear terms. Then it was my turn to speak.
The crowd still being so attentive, it was a pleasure to testify to the power and presence of Jesus to change lives. I described faith in Jesus who healed the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead and loved us to death, got out of the grave to lead us home to true life forever in heaven.
I told the people there are two kinds of directors. Government types like Ghenghis Khan conquer, tax, kill, and demand submission. Grace type leaders like Jesus serve, do good, suffer pain, loss and even death for other people. Which kind of boss do you want? Which kind of leader will you be?
Sunday Renee preached at Light of Selenge church, an hour north of Darhan. It was cold in the church hall, and the singing little flock was few and far from flawless. But we made it through the 1 ½ hour service without too much screaming from Josiah or fidgeting from the girls. Renee preached about the importance of praising God in all circumstances using the Acts 16 story of the Apostles being jailed for speaking in the name of Jesus.
After we served communion, still stuck in a cold church hall, we gathered around a couple benches, ate leftover bread, cookies, and candy with hot water. There was no tea. Did I mention there was no electricity either because the church couldn’t pay their bill? You start to get the message about the faith it takes to praise God in tough circumstances. So we were saying our goodbyes. I was getting excited about getting in the car to let my feet thaw out.
But before we left, a lady invited us to her home. Pearl has been a believer for just a year or more now, and she always has a good word to say about how God has saved her and is helping her and her family. So it was not hard to accept the invitation. Soon we were inside her nice, clean warm apartment.
Two hours later we were still sitting around a nice table spread with all kind of good things to eat, the girls watching a Barbie movie on a nice TV and Renee and I reclining as we listened to them talk about all the people in their family that have been brought to faith. Pearl came to church this week with her three sisters! All have believed in the last 2 years. Even her husband has turned from hostile to gospel into a seeker and supporter of his family's new saving faith. We prayed for her younger brother and sister to get saved and praised Him for what a mighty work he has begun. If their whole family comes to faith, they will out number the rest of the members of the church!
That's a kind of hardship I can handle.
Monday at prison
The morning started out with a standard change of plans. One of our team of three heading to the prison to preach and teach English called to cancel. I heard that and said, ‘then we don’t go, or we find someone else’. But in a few minutes the brother who canceled had reconsidered and the three of us entered the prison according to plan. Sean, whose Mongolian name means silver ankle-bone, started by telling the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15.
The prisoners followed the story as if it was their own. Then Togsoo told his own story of becoming a down and outer by making bad choices, ending up a drunk, wheelchair ridden, and hopeless. Then it was my turn to teach the English lesson. I taught them 5 words: Faith, Hope, Love, Dream, Freedom.
I used Mongolian to explain what faith is, that without hope, you are as good as dead. That life without love is meaningless and hollow. Even if you have these three without a dream, you will be aimless, and that true freedom is forever. They memorized each word assigning it to a finger on their hand. Then they ended up with the thumbs up and finishing with the word ‘freedom’ .
Then Sean, the guy who was going to cancel, led ten or more of them in a prayer to use their little finger of faith to believe in Jesus and receive forever freedom, the promise of eternal life that he came to give. My hope is that these ten guys hope in Him, love in His name, trust Him to fulfill their dream, and give them freedom from prison and sin. Some are schedule to get out in the next months.
But more than that I hope they discover the power of Jesus to give them hope, to love enemies and loved ones alike, to dare to dream and to receive freedom even over death. I think some of them will look back on today as a turning point in their life. That’s my hope and I hope theirs too. May the Lord let it be.
On the way out of the prison, the guard, who are usually kind of careful and official about our spiritual message, let it be known she had a medical need. So we went into her office and prayed for healing and she listened carefully as we explained what parts of the Bible to read, and to draw near to God for healing.
As we left, Sean, the man who wasn't going to be able to join us that day assured some of the prisoners that we would be back soon. It occured to me that he was the one who led them in the sinners prayer to admit their sin and need for a Savior, and receive the gift of eternal life. If he hadn't been there, would those lost souls have made this important step into a changed eternity? God only knows.
The promise of God to us in the hard months of this winter has been Galatians 6:9… “You will reap a harvest if you do not give up”. Thank God, He is faithful, even when we are 'of little faith'.