FIRST-PERSON: The Gospel on a houseboat
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- In the shadow of the Himalayas, amid much cultural chaos, there rests a houseboat. Though modest and rustic, this boat ferries a brotherhood of young men bringing a powerful light of love and truth into a region of great spiritual darkness.
For nearly four months, these men have shared the truth about Jesus Christ freely to any who will listen. They have seen many listeners become friends and their hope is to see many of their friends become brothers.
These represent one of several teams in Midwestern College's Fusion program, spread out around the globe this spring as a part of their freshman-year missions experience. During my first year as provost at Midwestern, I observed the rigorous physical and academic training these students received while on the seminary and college campus in Kansas City and wanted to see firsthand how their training paid off during their second semester abroad. Hence, that is how I found myself on a drafty houseboat a half a world away in South Asia.
Just as the apostles Paul (Romans 15:15) and Peter (1 Peter 1:13) wrote to their disciples to remind them of the truth, I wanted to remind them of two things.
First, I told them to remember that the Gospel is still for them.
Reflecting on Luke 7:36-50 and the account of the woman who loved much because she had been forgiven much, I said that she is like all of us. In this missionary context where they daily see a lost world's pursuit of sin and error, it is easy to forget that we who are in Christ were once just as lost. Indeed, this woman reminds us that it is us who should be most mindful of what is at stake and what it is we deserve apart from Christ, and that should drive us back to the Gospel and love for God.
An important part of this is the reminder that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We weep at His feet because He died for us and took the punishment we deserve. I said to the students, "I don't have many words to say here other than to remind you the Gospel is still for you and that I wanted to come and look each of you in the eyes and tell you that no matter what you have experienced -- highs and lows -- no matter what you are feeling or thinking, God loves you. He loves you and He is here with you right now, and the greatest reminder I can give is that the Gospel is still for you."
Second, I reminded them that the Gospel still transforms others.
Sharing from something I heard in a sermon on Luke 9 recently, I read the story of James and John and their disparagement of the Samaritan people. However, thanks to the transforming power of the Gospel, by the time Luke recounts the activities of John in Acts 8:14, he is seen preaching to those he despised, the Samaritans.
I reminded the students that, as they have seen time and time again over the last few months, the greatest message they have to share is the Gospel, and the Gospel still transforms people. It is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and just as John was transformed and was now preaching and loving those he despised, God can use the Gospel to transform even the hardest and most distant heart they have encountered in this land. The Gospel can transform those they have come to love into disciples and messengers -- and it can transform those who hate them and hope they never return.
While I was only with this team of students for a few days sharing their cramped quarters and eating their food, I loved every minute. And now, having returned just a few weeks ahead of these students, I am all the more hopeful for the days ahead. For even though just hundreds of miles away from these students there has been a devastating earthquake, and in our country there is much strife and cultural disintegration, I am hopeful.
I am hopeful because in the midst of these times there is still a God in control -- a God who does not change. The Gospel is still for you and the Gospel can still transform others -- and God is still about that work all over the world. For, as just one example, in the shadows of the Himalayas, in the midst of much chaos, there rests a houseboat. And on that small boat, God has brought to a dark land a powerful light of love and truth.