By Alice Kinyua, a member of the first reverse-mission team from Kenya.
As the time for our departure for New Zealand drew nearer, the cost of obedience started becoming clearer. Our reverse-mission team had just finished a section of our training that covered ‘the cost of discipleship.’
There was the financial cost. Not only did we have to raise over $4000 to cover our expenses, but we also had to convince our employers to grant us a whole month’s leave from work. One of the evangelists – a father of four – had to resign from work a few weeks before the mission in order to go. At one point four of the evangelists were denied visas and it was discouraging, exhausting and expensive to reapply. Another one of the missionaries was five months pregnant, making long-distance travel that much more taxing.
Then there was the emotional battle of leaving behind little children. I remember one of the parents asking for prayer because, as she said, “the thought of not being there to feed my three year old daughter, tuck her in bed and read her bedtime stories for an entire month was almost too much to bare.”
But somehow in our hearts we knew that the Lord was urging us to keep going and to keep trusting him.
Why would the Lord not allow us to give up? Well it is because he had some work to do in us and also through us. Through the time of preparation, our faith was stretched. Our sense of dependence on God was heightened. With all the miracles God did for us – providing finances, visas, assurance, peace, and wonderful partnership with our Kiwi hosts – our confidence in sharing the faithfulness of God was increased. God was preparing us to be able to celebrate the 200 years of Christianity in New Zealand by sharing what it means to hope in him.
I will never forget the conversation I had with one lovely lady. We were in the kitchen of the Mornington Presbyterian Church, preparing food to share with the people during the African cultural night. This lady walked in looking for me, holding her three year old daughter. It turned out that this lady had listened to a sermon I had preached the previous Sunday at Dunedin City Baptist Church on the story of the prodigal son. The focus was on the compassion of the father mourning the loss of a child. According to the father, the prodigal son was not only lost but also dead. I related this to my testimony of the loss of our child and how God had worked in us to give us assurance of life defeating death forever. In the same way, God, through forgiveness of sin, brings life back to those who are dead in their sin.
During the service this lady felt what I term as a conviction of the Holy Spirit. The only thing is that she had no vocabulary to describe it. She hadn’t been to church for over 16 years. She was there this Sunday because a friend invited her, and as she listened to the sermon she couldn’t stop crying. She said that she was shaking uncontrollably the entire time. She had sought me out to ask what to do because she couldn’t shake the experience off.
Upon enquiring, I realized that her life in the more than 16 years she was away from church had been a wreck. She had lost her mum at the age of 15 and she had no way of dealing with the loss and the pain. In desperation she turned to drugs and reckless living. But she knew that she needed to turn her life around. A message of a God who identifies with death and who has power over death was what she needed to start getting hope.
She gave her life to Christ that day. She wanted this God who restores lives, who gives hope beyond this life. That was a special moment. I remember Debbie, one of my team who had chatted with this lady earlier, saying to me, “Alice, if this is the only reason we came to New Zealand, then it was worth it!”
That was not the only life that was saved. There are others that gave their lives to Christ during the mission – at least ten in our count. There may be more. What is even more encouraging is that many others heard the gospel. The seed was planted. Others are watering it. We are also continuing to water those seeds through prayer. We believe that in due time the Lord will cause the fruit to grow and the harvest to increase.
Looking back, I realize that all the challenges we had to overcome in planning for the mission were just part of the plan. There is no price too high to pay when it comes to the privilege of sharing the gospel of Christ. It is always more than worth it!
Originally published in Intermission (July-August 2014).
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