Walking with Hope

Evangelism is one of the three pillars of TIME Missions’ mission statement.  Along with construction and discipleship, evangelism is where we get to the “meat” of the Gospel, and we use many different types of outreaches, English camps, Vacation Bible School, Medical, Sports Ministry, and Women’s Ministry to name a few.  Prayer walking and sharing the Gospel in neighborhoods and parks has also been an effective evangelistic outreach.  However, since TIME began, our key purpose has been to partner with the local church and local pastors.  Long after the short-term groups return to the United States, these pastors are the ones that will make sure the seeds have fallen on fertile ground and will follow up with people in their local communities.

In my 12 years of missionary service with TIME Missions in the Dominican Republic, I have had the privilege of participating in several of these prayer walking outreaches.  We break up into teams of three or four people, accompanied by one of the leaders of the local church.  Sometimes we visit poor barrios in the middle of the city, other times we travel the dirt roads of the campo (country).  We pause at an intersection to pray for the community, we interact with people on the street.  They may be just hanging out or playing a full-contact game of dominoes in front of a local store.  We approach homes and call out “HOLA!”, because there usually aren’t doorbells!  In virtually all cases, the people of the Dominican Republic have been very friendly, often times inviting us into their homes.  They will sit down with us, serve us coffee or a snack, and talk about their lives.  Even people who are professed non-believers will ask for prayer for relief from illnesses, reconciled relationships and the like.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit helps us lead them to Christ, and there is much rejoicing!

Can you imagine a similar response to the Gospel in America?  Before becoming a Christ follower, I remember the times I glanced out from behind a curtain trying not to be seen when someone holding a bible knocked at the door!  Share about my life and family with a perfect stranger, let alone invite them into my home?  Of course not!

Recently, we partnered with a church from the Atlanta, GA area and prayer walked with a Haitian pastor and church in a Santo Domingo barrio known as “El Tamarindo.”  We’ve worked with Pastor Majuste for the past few years, building a chapel, women’s ministry, medical missions, Jesus films and payer walking.  They have been very active in their neighborhood, at one point even cleaning up trash on the streets left behind by others.  Haitian immigrants to the Dominican Republic will often settle in neighborhoods together because of their cultural and language differences, not to mention a two-hundred-year animosity stemming from the Haitian occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1822-1844.  TIME Missions has sought to build chapels in Haiti, and while a few were built there before the 2010 earthquake it became much more difficult after that due to the bribes that border officials wanted to let us bring supplies into the country.  The door has been closed to us serving effectively in Haiti.  However, God has brought the Haitian people to us!

During a recent prayer walking journey in El Tamarindo, I was struck by the hopelessness and questioning of God that so many people expressed.  One gentleman admitted that he had invited Satan to come into his life until his sister invited him to church, and he accepted Christ.  Another woman reminded me of the Biblical account in Luke 8:43-48, where a woman had been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years.  While this particular woman didn’t reveal the nature of her ailments, she said that she had numerous health problems.  She did not want to receive Christ because then she wouldn’t be able to visit the local witch doctor for healing anymore.  Of course, his only power was to remove her finances!  Yet another group of women couldn’t understand why a loving God would allow them to live like this, with no work, little food, abusive husbands or boyfriends, and no hope.

What do you say when you encounter a situation like that?  “Thanks for sharing, I’ll pray for you?”  “You should go to the local church and things will get better?”  “Read the Bible?”

I don’t have an easy answer, I don’t know that any of us do.  When you are hit with such hopelessness, how do you react?  How do you walk away from an encounter like that?  How do you not feel responsible for not being able to help?  Fortunately, one of the short termers who was with us had a testimony she could relate.  She had been in a similar situation to one of these women.  God brought her here for that one moment, that one opportunity to share that there is hope.  Of course, we shared the Gospel message, we did lay hands, we did pray.  One of the leaders of the local church that was with us took note and so we have confidence that they will follow up.  Perhaps even our Women’s Ministry or Medical Missions outreach will help them someday.

Some of you know that in my pre-missionary life I worked at a planetarium in a science museum.  According to the “world”, we are just an ordinary planet, orbiting an ordinary star, in the outskirts of our Milky Way galaxy, among billions of galaxies.  We are born of stardust and return to stardust.  Nothing special.  And that is how many people feel, who don’t have the promise of a living God.  But God sees his creation differently!  In Psalm 19 we read:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Ephesians 2:10 says:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

And so, for those who Know God, see his creation, and know his word, there is hope.  And it underscores the importance of what we do, what you do, to help Advance Missions.  Whether that mission is across the world to people you have never met, or to that neighbor across the street who needs to know where our hope comes from.  But what else can we do?  In the case of our prayer walking visits, are we upset because God doesn’t immediately to fix the situation, or because he didn’t use US fix the situation?  Though it may sound overly simplistic, we must have faith and trust in his word and plan.  Know that God knew and saw all of this long before our little team wandered into that neighborhood.  Know that in that obscure place that many of us will likely never visit again, God is there and is working.  And yes, PRAY!  God hears our prayers on their behalf.

What else?  At the risk of sounding self-serving, support the ministry of TIME!  Pray, Partner, and Participate!  Help us help the local church to continue reaching out to their communities.  Your commitment to serving “the ends of the earth” helps pastors and their congregations to serve their own Jerusalem!  Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to the hopelessness of the world.  We have a deadline, but none of us know when it is, a limited opportunity, to share hope in a world of hopelessness.

Let us continue, to Walk with Hope!