It is remarkable to us how many people live in bondage to fear of some kind. Out here, it is often the fear of evil spirits, incantations, spells, or the shame of losing face. In the past two weeks, we have averaged a daily small group discussion with people who are actively sharing the Gospel while doing Community Health Evangelism (CHE) or initiating Discovery Studies in hopes of seeing a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) begin. It is quite common that the subject of fear arises. One Christian brother remarked Thursday that the village he visits weekly to share the Gospel and help villagers with an agricultural project is steeped in witchcraft. His Christian siblings will not even go there because it is considered a stronghold. Nonetheless, he boldly continues, knowing by faith that the blood of Jesus protects his life. An Ivorian sister who recently gave her life to Christ also testified that Jesus’ presence has replaced her fear and despair with peace. As a widow with several children who receive little family help, she is learning to listen to Jesus’ voice and to trust Him to help her find work with her hands to meet their financial needs.
Surely one of the greatest differences between disciples of Jesus and everyone else is how we die. Pagan funerals here are lavish and tradition-laden affairs full of despair. Extended family might not be able to “afford” the money for a surgery that could have saved the person’s life, but they will usually find a way to make the funeral spectacular. Their fear of death, and the perceived influence of ancestors or spirits, compels them to all sorts of excess.
Contrast this to the simple and hopeful celebration of a believer being “free at last” to go Home to the Lord! Although tears may flow, and our hearts may ache from the void left in our lives by their sudden absence, we know that they are eternally happy, and we will see them again. Donations to the bereaved family are often used to buy Bibles, serve the needy, or help missionaries to spread our common hope of eternal life because of The Resurrection. Earlier this month, a precious one-hundred-year-old friend met Jesus face to face. She and her husband had helped send Debbie’s parents as missionaries, and the family has continued to support our ministry. Even at her passing, the family blessed the people of Cote d’Ivoire with a donation as Debbie’s dad helped with the funeral. Praise the Lord that we are free from the fear of death; that we can look to be a blessing, even during what many consider sorrowful circumstances.
Prayer and Praise:
- Thank you, Jesus, for destroying the one who had the power of death and so deliver us from a lifetime of fear and bondage! We rejoice in Your victory which shines not just at Easter, but every day of the year.
- Pray for the recently saved widow, that she will daily grow in grace and find means to support her children.
- This upcoming week, we will again be in Abidjan for a time of coordination in ministry. Both of us feel a bit under the weather, so pray for healing and an extra measure of strength. Ask that the meetings result in the Gospel penetrating West and North Africa.
Verlin and Debbie