One afternoon, we were sitting in a park with people of our focus group all around us, but not with us. My wife remorsefully shared that it had been awhile since she had a good discussion with them. Days and weeks are one thing. But to go months without a good discussion is just hard! This field can be difficult. How can we reach these people for the LORD?!!
Later that afternoon I read John 4:35-38,
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
At times I lament to the Lord, "Where are the white fields here?" However, the white fields and the concept of sowing and reaping are directly intertwined.
A couple weeks ago it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. A few days later, a friend and I set up a Bible stand on the sidewalk, which may have been naive. An older Jewish man approached us and when he found out we were Christians, he became very angry. With tears of anger in his eyes, he erupted, “You don’t know your history!" He went on to explain, "I am from Lithuania. Do you know what happened there? Before the Germans invaded, the Catholics, good Catholics, just started killing the Jews.” Then came the part that cut into my heart, and into the heart of anyone who longs for another’s salvation, “All Christians are Nazis!”
Is this what it means to “sow in tears?”
Another time a middle aged lady came to our stand and wanted a Tanach (Old Testament) for her nephew and a New Testament for herself. When we made sure she knew that the materials were about the Messiah Jesus, she said with a serious sort of smile, “I want to read it for myself.” Then she slipped off without giving us a chance to exchange contact information.
While I was doing a job for a Jewish couple, the Lord opened up the door to share the Gospel with the wife. After listening to the presentation she said, “Do you hear bad things about Jewish people? (Implying from our church) Not everyone likes Jewish people.”
We met a dear family about three years ago in Illinois. We had many good interactions with them, involving questions like, “Could Jesus really be God?” Friends of ours who currently live in Illinois were also able to meet them. Good questions and an invitation to a Shabbat meal followed.
I often reap seeds sown by the enemy of our souls. At times it takes discipline to not dwell on the negative and to REJOICE IN WHAT GOD IS DOING! Too quickly I get discouraged when I try to throw in the sickle for a good harvest, only to have the sickle bounce off with accusations like, “You’re a Nazi!”, or to pick one of the many lies that have been planted through false brethren. I so easily forget that the fields have been in the enemy’s hands for way too long without the King’s workers laboring in them.
Is your field hard? Keep pressing on! It’s high time we get about our Lord’s work of planting good seed!
--Written by a DNI worker.
Imagine that overnight all Christians became expert evangelists. The next day, all of us went forth boldly proclaiming Jesus to all of our friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. Surely, it wouldn’t be long until every person on the face of the earth had heard the gospel, right?
Unfortunately, no. Although it might be hard for us to imagine, there are some people so removed from the Gospel and isolated by barriers of language and culture that they still wouldn’t hear the Good News even if every Christian actively shared Jesus with everyone they know.
These people are Unreached People Groups (UPGs). Although other, more technical, definitions exist for UPGs, I like this one because it helps us see people and places rather than just numbers and statistics. The majority of UPGs live in Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. However, surprising numbers of these people have moved west to North America.
If it’s hard for us to imagine a village in the mountains of Nepal having no contact with Christians, it is much more difficult to imagine that, behind the drawn curtains of the apartment building beside Walmart, lives a woman who is just as unreached as her relatives in the Himalayans.
THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR
When immigrants or refugees move to the United States and Canada, they inevitably come with high hopes for a new life. They want something better for their children, and they are determined to do what they can to make their dreams a reality. Some of them press on courageously for years – overcoming tremendous hurdles. Others gradually lose hope that their own lives will ever be rich and meaningful. They abandon language study and throw themselves into working hard to provide for and protect their children. They spend years in jobs that most of us would barely endure for a season, going only from home to the workplace and back again.
Still others seek out friends from their homeland and sequester themselves in communities where they can shop at an Indian grocery store, eat at an Indian restaurant, and work at an Indian-owned hotel. These people enjoy their lives and surround themselves with friends, but like the others, they remain unreached unless someone reaches across the barriers of language and culture to bring them the Gospel.
COMING TO US - GOING TO THEM
These unreached peoples in North America do have one advantage over their friends in the homeland. They could decide to go to church if they wanted to. However, even if I can imagine myself a refugee in Egypt, I cannot imagine myself walking into a mosque with an open, seeking heart, much less finding anything in the Arabic words and unfamiliar rituals that would draw me back again. No matter how sincerely I went, without understanding, I would never embrace Islam. Plus, I wouldn’t go to a mosque if I were spiritually seeking, anyway. Even if I had wandered from my Christian upbringing, in a foreign land and already uprooted from everything familiar, I would go back to my roots. I would search out a church. I would try to fill my hunger in the ways familiar to me.
How can we expect anything different from the refugees in our towns? Their lives have been shaken, and though they seek peace and truth, they will tend to look for it in the places they have been taught to look. Does this mean their ears are deaf to the Gospel? Not at all! Even while they turn back to the religion of their childhood, they may realize that this religion has disappointed them. But where else can they go with their questions?
They can go to a Christian friend who has extended generous love and hospitality. They can go to a church that speaks their mother tongue. They can seek for answers in a Bible translated into their own language. They can find truth in a Christian home.
But they will not have these opportunities unless the Christian friend extends love and hospitality, opening their home to someone different from themselves. They cannot go to a church that worships in Arabic unless Arabic-speaking Christians haven’t been isolated as single converts in English-speaking churches. They can’t pick up an Arabic Bible unless it’s there on the shelf beside the English one.
It’s clear, then, that our responsibility as English-speaking Christians in North America is great. We have been passive for too long, hoping they will come to us. They have come – to our neighborhoods – but it is up to us to invite them into the Kingdom of God. We must actively seek ways to befriend and help the foreigners among us. This isn’t as hard to do as it sounds. We must open our doors, move out of Christian enclaves into cities, study a new language, and order Bibles in Hindi and Turkish and Arabic and Cantonese.
If we wait for the day we all wake up feeling unusually evangelistic, we’ll be waiting a long time. And even that won’t be enough. The Great Commission has always required action, intentionality and sacrifice. Go. Preach. Disciple. Do it in the uttermost parts of the earth. And do it here – in Ephrata and Mechanicsburg, Sarasota and Warsaw.
--H.L. (from a recent Near and Far issue)