On this sad day of leaderless leaving (31 Aug 2021), I (Leslie) reflected back to 25+ years ago.
I stood on a rooftop in South Asia. The moonlight outlined the mountains surrounding the 100% Muslim city (at 11pm all the city lights blinked out). I was there serving a population of Muslim refugees from Afghanistan. The Hazara fled Afghanistan because they were hated and persecuted by the Taliban. (And once again, they are in grave danger.)
During my time there, I did not meet even one Christian. The rooftop darkness accentuated the despair I felt. I could literally feel the darkness – not just physically but spiritually. I was miserable, and I wanted to leave.
I begged God, “Please send me back to the light.” Through tears and in my broken, 21-year-old voice I muttered, “Lord, it’s so dark here. No one here knows you. The lostness feels like a hot knife twisting in my heart. But I don’t know what to do. I can’t change it. I just want to leave.”
Emotionally spent, I was silent and bowed my head looking over the dark city.
“The burden you feel is only a small portion of what I feel when I look over these people.”
Awed, I pondered. I had just described the pain of a knife digging into my heart. Yet Jesus, the Creator of the world, softly whispered that my pain was only a fraction of what He felt for this vast, lost Muslim people living in total darkness.
I lifted my head, humbled by my Savior’s burden.
“Will you share the burden with me?”…
Whoa! That was unexpected! I had always asked God to carry my burdens…
Now the Most Powerful, Most High, One True God had invited me to join HIS heart. He offered me a depth of friendship, an eternal opportunity, a God-human partnership.
Through that simple impression, Jesus invited me into a purpose far beyond my own life.
“Yes,” I whispered.
And at that moment more than 25 years ago, I knew I would give my life for the most unreached areas of the earth.
Nothing else would do, nothing less would suffice. Even if my mind, my flesh, my will wanted to just “Get out as fast as possible. Run back to safety. Run back to the light. Drop everything outward-focused and escape and live for comfort. Live for self.” Today I look back on that rooftop moment – the moment I wanted to depart, but the moment God invited me to stay and fight.
I wanted to leave back then, and I still struggle at times craving comfort and a life of ease. But we’ve been invited to live a life of honor – fighting with God for the world’s redemption. God’s burden remains for these least reached areas, so our burden to engage the world must remain as well.
When you see worldly signs of retreat and defeat and chaos, know that Jesus is not in retreat, nor is he defeated! Jesus’ burden and his purpose remain steadfast.
The Church in Afghanistan during this month became more attackable. Vulnerable women and children now hide. Whole families will suffer great loss. Evil will be exported globally more quickly. Our job as outward-focused Christians just became more treacherous, yet we must remain in the fight with Jesus.
Have you discovered how you can line up with God’s global purposes? Jesus’ offer to share his burden was NOT a one-time invitation to only me. He is inviting you also. He wants the entire Church to share his heart.
Stay tuned for Part II