Q. In his sermon Dean talked about how daunting it was for Paul to go to the city of Corinth: He had been separated from his ministry partners (Silas and Timothy) and had come to a place that provoked fear (Acts 18:9). In what ways does being in your place of ministry seem isolating or overwhelming?
A. We live in a city where about .3% of the population are Christ-followers. It’s quite a feeling to stand in a mall with hundreds of other people and know that chances are, we’re the only believers. And we’re in a country and region where powerful actors have an agenda that is often antithetical to the Kingdom. So it’s easy to give into fear: partly about potential opposition to our work, but mostly about the possibility that our efforts here might never make any difference. That fear comes from believing that we’re alone. But then we remember what God says to Paul in verse 10 of the same chapter, that he is with us. Being aware of God’s presence and love displaces fear, and instead we’re energized to creatively show his love to those around us.
Q. Despite being in a difficult place, it is surprising how many people God brought along to support and encourage Paul (Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Timothy, Titius Justus, Crispus). What kinds of people has God brought along, expectedly or unexpectedly, to encourage you in your work?
A. We have the privilege of serving in a setting with a wonderful combination: it’s a pioneering work in an unreached area, but we serve in the context of a small but vibrant church. And the local believers have been such an encouragement to us. When we arrived, the congregation came around us to help with logistics, childcare, meals, and translation. This is clearly not a paternalistic missionary setup: we’ve been on the receiving end of the care and service! Also, hearing the stories of local believers has been a huge encouragement. Some come from ethnic groups that are historically Christian, and are such an example of living faithfully as a minority. Others are recent converts who have courageously taken a stand for Christ. These stories strengthen our faith and also give us clear reminders that God is at work in this place.
Q. When Jesus appeared to Paul in the vision he provided, as Dean put it, “a window into the unseen,” telling Paul about the “many in this city who are my people.” What glimpses have you gotten into the “unseen” in your city? How have you heard Jesus saying to you, “Do not be afraid, do not be silent”?
A. Our window into the unseen has been to discover afresh how powerfully the message of who Jesus is speaks to the hearts of those around us. The most common fear we have when sharing our faith is, “I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not going to be able to say something meaningful to this person.” But God has been showing us that he has given us more than we need: we know Jesus and we can talk about him. Muslims have an odd relationship with Jesus: they revere him as a prophet, but they have almost never heard the most basic stories about his life. So, when we share those stories, the vivid details get people’s attention. And the beauty of his character offers meaning and hope more powerfully than any arguments we might formulate. So sometimes, like Paul, we feel overwhelmed and inadequate regarding the task before us. But then God reminds us that our job is actually pretty simple: tell people about Jesus (who would have thought?).