As you well know, I have the privilege of not only travelling globally to meet with listeners and connect with our on-the-ground partners, but I also have the privilege of working here in Canada with so many incredible people who partner with us to make the work of TWR Canada possible. On rare occasions, I have the opportunity to see these two great privileges come together and get to take ministry partners to places where we have ministry on the ground. This was the case this past March when I was able to take a few of our faithful donors with me to our Central Asia conference, one of them being Amy. Amy has been involved in the ministry of TWR Canada for many years. She lives in Winnipeg though she is from Malaysia. She has shared her experiences here, and it’s my prayer that you are as encouraged by her interactions with the Persian believers as I am.
The conference in Central Asia has been fruitful and a great blessing to many, including me. It was an eye-opener and an encouragement to see persecuted Persian believers’ hunger for the life-giving Word of God which draws, feeds and satisfies the spirit of man (John 6:63).
Those attending the conference were zealous to know God more, to grow into greater faith and service. Back in their homes, keeping a Bible or even having a Bible app on their cell phones can be grounds for their arrest. With this challenging backdrop in view, I met and understood the genuine faith and desire of Mr. A, a Persian believer in his thirties. Although he and his wife only came into faith two or three years ago, he showed and expressed a thirst for the deep things or “treasures” in Scripture. He also desires to be used by God as a facilitator to nourish young believers.
He had read the gospels and started examining the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis and Exodus. However, he had some confusion and asked for clarification. I sat down with him, and we spent time examining Scripture together. I highlighted the relevance and application of the lessons we can learn from the life journeys of the Bible patriarchs: the carnal and spiritual nature that we all share, their choices and decisions that either defined them through God’s eyes or broke them as failures. Even their strategies in managing wealth and resources differ in correlation to their level of faith and their character traits. Illustrations and specific examples made the discussion real and applicable to our similar challenges today.
Mr. A was very open and focused on the treasures revealed in Scripture. It was like leading a child to a candy store and then seeing his eyes brighten up when he is given complete access to any or all the assortment of candies in different wrappings. Truly God has no favourites: to those who seek and pursue, they will find his treasure. Isaiah 45:3 promises us, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” (ESV) All the candies or treasures are only gifts and cannot be valued above the Giver – the Maker of all candies – himself. All the gifts are meant to lead us to the most precious unspeakable gift, Jesus Christ.
I pointed out the most attractively wrapped and the most delicious treat in the “Genesis Candy Store,” one to be unwrapped and enjoyed unhurriedly: I suggested a study of the life journey of Joseph. Studying Joseph as a foreshadow or a representative of the life and work of Jesus Christ was a new concept for him, so we began with a brief outline of Joseph’s journey.
Towards the end of our session, it was clear that Mr. A had already committed himself to unwrapping this most attractive Genesis candy. Interestingly, all this sharing took place in a room with other conference participants talking and fellowshipping around us. However, we did not hear a single sound outside our “bubble” because of the superseding, drawing power of Scripture; neither did anyone interrupt us.
At the next opportunity, Mr. and Mrs. A approached me to ask about my background, my coming to faith and my being led to Canada. Soon a group of eight people joined us. I was happy to share as I’ve learned that personal testimonies and stories of life and challenges together with encountering Christ at life crossroads are very powerful; we all can attest to this being a real part of living. Once again, I used Scripture to highlight the general principle of God caring and leading us. I highlighted Genesis 24:27: “… the LORD has led me … ” and Genesis 24:48 “… the LORD … who had led me by the right way … ” (ESV)
These verses refer to the faith of Abraham’s servant who was sent on the difficult mission of finding a bride for Isaac; however, it is a general, basic principle for us as we seek God’s guidance. We must always place ourselves in the way of the Lord by abiding in Christ (trusting and obeying) through his Word. We will find his leading and our life direction, for Jesus is the Way (John 14:6), and he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6).
On the last day of the conference, I spoke with Mr. M, recently released from prison for his faith. Mr. and Mrs. A joined us, and we talked about living through persecution as this is a real issue for Persian believers. In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul warned us that “… all who desire a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (ESV)
Only our God of certainty knows what the future holds for each of us in the face of uncertainty. Mr. A has shown much zeal and desire to follow Christ and to serve as a facilitator to nourish younger believers, even though he is a relatively young Christian. And God can do wonders through one’s willingness and availability. All we need to say is, “Here I am Lord; use me!” It is not about maturity and ability but about abiding and availing oneself to the Master. In John 15:4, he calls us to, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (ESV)
Will we heed his call, no matter the cost?