Growing Your Faith

Andthey went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, butthe Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediatelywe sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.—Acts 16:6-10

Although our recent experience in West Africa does not mirror exactly Paul’s experience in the book of Acts, there are some striking similarities. On 11/08, the team arrived in the Wass region, believing we had our itinerary pretty much planned for the week. However, a broken down vehicle kept us in the larger village for a day, and word came to us that we were invited to come to the village of Sol. to speak with the village chief. Once the vehicle was repaired (the water pump had broken and all the parts had been taken off and spread out on the bare ground there by the small “hotel” we were staying in), we headed to the village. Upon arrival, the chief was sitting and hearing about a dispute in the village, which took about two hours to clear up.

Following their discussion, we were given the opportunity to share “good news” with the chief, his brother, the chief’s council, and the main religious leader in the village. The discussion was rich and many questions and comments were put forth. As we prepared to leave, the chief’s brother made it known to us that he wanted to follow Christ. Now, there is a new believer in yet another village. God is at work preparing hearts before we ever make a visit.

We arrived back at the hotel about 10:30 pm with thoughts of heading to the village of Fil. the next day. However, Pastor F had received news that his mother had just passed away—in a town that was some 11 hours from where we were at the time. Quickly, the team got together and discussed the situation, and we all believed that God was directing us to go with Pastor F to his village so he could be a part of the funeral. This was his request, and we all were in agreement.

How does all of this parallel Paul’s experience in Acts? Well, the village of Fil. was high on our priority, and was the village we believed we should go to next. But, God had a different plan. Therefore, about 2:45 am on Tuesday morning (Wednesday night in their time, as the night arrives before the day), we set out on the dark roads of West Africa, no one having had any sleep, for a three and a half hour ride back to the capital city. We briefly stopped by Pastor F’s house so he could get a few things. We all crashed and slept for a few minutes, then were back on the road again for the eight-hour trip to his families village.

Upon arrival, the neighbor’s and friends were beginning to gather. We all greeted, waited, greeted some more, and waited some more until the funeral began. Being that the funeral followed the traditions of another religion, everything was surrounded by  loud, energetic chanting, and moved very quickly from one event to another. Only the men went to bury the body, as the women remained home. Following the burial, the team had some good time with Pastor F at his mother’s grave site. For many years, Pastor F had shared with his mother the truths of Scripture and the gospel message of Salvation. Some years ago, after he’s received Christ, in her total rejection of him for leaving the faith, she’d told him she did not even want him to attend her funeral when she died. Thank God for persistent, stubborn love.

The next day, Pastor F asked for permission to speak to the family, and then asked me if I would speak to them. I shared with a large group of women (only the women stayed in the courtyard during the days of the funeral) and one man—all sitting on large mats that were placed around on the ground in the courtyard . The message came from the story of Lazarus, and how Jesus is the resurrection and hope for all who receive him. Following my message, Pastor F was also able to share with his family. He told me later that this was the very first time that the Good News had ever been proclaimed to such a group in his family’s home.

Later in the day, a young woman who was working in the courtyard saw me reading a book and asked me what I was reading. It was the book, Growing Your Faith, by Jerry Bridges. As I began to explain what I was reading, she asked me if it was about Jesus. I told her it was, and then she replied to me that she wanted to become a believer. She had been watching TV and hearing messages about Christ, and was also one of the women who’d listened very intently as we shared with the group earlier in the morning. Later that evening, she prayed to received Christ, and is now seeking to “grow her faith” without jeopardizing her relationships with family.

Now this is another point where the stories parallel. Just as Paul had wanted to go to a particular region (province of Asia), we had wanted to go the village of Fil. However, also just as Paul was redirected (Macedonia), we were also taken to another city where God was already at work, preparing the heart of a young woman who is the niece of Pastor F.

God’s mercy is great, and He is patient, wanting all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

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