A few days ago I was travelling in a van with a bishop from Mombasa, a church leader from Cote d’Ivoire, a Christian Palestinian overseeing churches in Israel, a converted Muslim now church planter from Bangladesh, an Indian pastor from Tamil Nadu whose churches baptised 20,000 new converts last year, plus other leaders from Brazil and Mexico. The people in that car represented about 3 million Christians around the world.
What on earth do such giants talk about? Food; family; language. There was a lot of laughter, tentative questions finding out a little about each other: in fact, the sort of inconsequential conversation that a diverse group might make anywhere in the world. (How many children do you have? What do you like to eat?) These global leaders were drawn together by Bob Roberts, a Texan church planter from Dallas with a huge heart for mission, and it was a massive privilege to rub shoulders with them, and for Terry to preach to them and a number of gathered church planters from across the USA.
At first we were all a bit shy. Terry and I were definitely overawed. John Lanferman however, was relaxed and friendly, brilliantly breaking the ice. As the days went by, we got to know each other’s stories. Some live in danger of their lives; one had his house burned down; some had planted churches of tens of thousands; all had remarkable stories of how the love of Jesus had reached them and transformed their lives. As they shared from the platform we heard moving testimonies, wise comments, and carefully worded opinions all delivered with humility and dignity. We were amazed by Dion Robert’s story of how his church has grown to 40,000 and his movement to 200,000; moved by Daniel’s search for truth in Vietnam; and not unsympathetic to Kenyan Joseph who refused to be confined to the required 20 mins preach and spoke superbly on prayer for 55mins!
Terry and I were especially honoured to have lunch with Eddy and his wife Rosa from Indonesia. Eddy, embracing and utilizing all the Ephesians 4 ministries, has grown a massive cell church. Even more exciting, if possible, were the video clips he showed us on his iPad of a stadium in a city in the Amazon basin, Brazil, which he had recently visited, filled with 50,000 Christians singing and dancing….in fact a vast percentage of the population of the city! The culture has changed, crime and violence virtually disappeared.
Day by day as we travelled from the hotel to meetings, the car was filled with snatches of talk in Vietnamese, or French from Dion Robert, as well as English in various accents. There were lots of jokes and gentle teasing, appreciative comments on the contents of the meetings, and some lively discussion. I happened to be the only wife present, and often found myself bemused that I should be in such company! Yet although these men were truly giants in the kingdom of God, they were unassuming, modest, gentle and unpretentious. They were interesting, fun to be with and at times it was difficult to remember that in their own countries they represented thousands. Yet you could have passed any of them in a street and been unaware of their significance.
Now here we are, Terry and I, in Mexico, trying to process it all. Yesterday we joined a small Newfrontiers church here in Mazatlan, and Terry preached and prayed for the sick. We rubbed shoulders with ex drug addicts who have been saved and set free from their addictions. There was one guy who had been homeless and addicted, but who came to Christ and has since obtained a law degree!
One delightful man, who was leading worship, had been a well known surfer in his youth. We asked him how he met Jesus. “When I was twenty-one,” he said, “I and my friend were returning from a perfect day on the beach. I was so happy, I thought, ‘there has to be a God’. My friend agreed, and we began to seek him. One day when I was praying, he met with me! My life was changed. That was thirty years ago.” A simple but beautiful testimony!
Daily we thank God for enriching us not only with the fascinating and enjoyable wealth of diverse climate, scenery, food and culture that we have been experiencing: we are also deeply thankful that we have come close to some of God’s choice children, close enough to call them brothers and now dear friends. All have entered by the same narrow gate, by one sacrifice, offered by the same high priest who sympathises with our weaknesses, and ever lives to intercede for each one of us.