Ever since the Lord opened my eyes and heart to the spiritual needs of the “descendants of Ishmael” while working with OM in Pakistan from 1987 to 1989, my desire has been to share with them the love and forgiveness of God, given through the Lord Jesus. While using my limited Urdo to share Christ with my Pakistani friends, I saw the opposition from the religious and spiritual forces against the Gospel. Local people were not often interested in what you had to say and they had a low opinion of Christianity and Christians. What saddened my heart the most was that, although they are very sincere in seeking God’s approval and trying to be pure, they still live in great fear that they may not be good enough to enter into Paradise. I know that God loves the descendants of Ishmael and desires them to be in His Kingdom (Genesis 17:20).
After leaving Pakistan, I attended Bible College, read many books, spent time with missionaries already working in the ME and studied Arabic for two years. In all these years of preparation, and then actually living long-term in the ME, my passion has always been for these people to embrace the forgiveness and deliverance of Christ. Over the years, however, my discouragement grew. Although I did not expect to see quick results, I was still trusting the Lord to show me some fruits of my “labour.” Since arriving in the ME in 1995, I have faithfully made friends, visited my neighbours (often 5 days a week and twice a day), shared the Gospel verbally and through my actions, given Bibles and Christian literature, and offered to pray for my friends whenever the opportunity arose. In our present country, even though people do not often visit others outside of their family circles, I tried to be “thick-skinned,” contacting and making new friends.
My prayer and personal “vision” since arriving in the Middle East has been that the Lord would bless me with ten disciples by my tenth year in ministry. Although I was blessed with many good friends, who would happily tell others about me and what I believed, I felt disappointed that none of these friends had progressed spiritually – there was not even a glimpse of my first “disciple.” Four years ago, I started to feel discouraged that my “ministry” was going nowhere, although I was glad whenever I saw other team members discipling local friends who had come to faith. I began to examine my heart and life to see where I might have gone wrong: was there sin in my life that was stopping me from being fruitful? Had I been lazy? And so on.
In the midst of pursuing the “fruits” of ministry, the Lord began to show me the sin that was in my heart – because with all my good “intentions” of saving the lost, my first love was no longer Him, but rather what I wanted to do for Him. I was dictating to God about my “goal” in life of having ten disciples in ten years, rather than wanting Him alone, worshipping Him and seeking His face. The Lord has been showing me that I needed to put Him first above all, worshipping and adoring Him, reading and meditating on His Word. These are what my priorities should be. So rather than “pursuing” my friends to help them become interested in Him, I saw that I needed to spend more time with the Lord, and pray for the Holy Spirit to open my friends’ hearts. I needed to have more faith in God to do His work in their lives, and to lead me to spiritually-interested people. I am very thankful to God that in this way He has patiently pointed me back to Himself.
In these past two years, my desire to pursue God first has increased. I have more peace about the “lack of fruits” in my “ministry.” My heart is filled with God’s love for me and that He is pleased with me for wanting to pursue Him alone. He does not need me to “do” anything for Him – He wants me to simply BE: to be one who wants Him for Himself, to be His child. I also know that God loves the descendants of Ishmael, and that as He is faithfully bringing locals into His Kingdom, He is employing me here in His plans. For example, last week, my co-worker and I met with a wealthy lady in her 50’s who had taken the initiative to track down some followers of Christ, with the intention of doing a systematic Bible study. Also I have recently met more local believers, and am excited to see the Lord is bringing them into His Kingdom.
I have faith in my faithful God that He loves and accepts me, just as I am, and that He will use me in His time and in His ways.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the field produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in my God my Saviour.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3: 17-18
Excerpted from “Journey Jumbles – Real Stories...Real People...A Real God,” a JMM publication for Bartley Christian Church July Mission Month 2008.