I could write a hundred pages just of people’s stories that I’ve heard over the last three days.
I could tell you about Libby, a woman whose husband was killed for his faith just two months ago in Afghanistan. Listening as she read what were probably his very last words in his bloodstained journal.
I could tell you of a Palestinian Christian, a minority among minorities, and Messianic Jew standing on the platform together in solidarity. The Jew admitted that his own father would be absolutely horrified if he knew he was standing next to this woman, the “enemy” he now considered a sister.
I could tell you of S, a pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in Serbia who carried on the work of his father reaching to Roma Gypsies. Now he is in New York City studying international relations, desiring to be a voice for reconciliation.
I could tell you of Sharon, a Singaporean young girl in her 20’s who is training other young people in music ministry to reach the masses of Singapore.
I could tell you of Celestin, a young man whose five family members were killed in the Rwandan genocide, with only his mother surviving. God said he had to forgive the murderers before he even found out who they were. And when he did find out he shared with the man who killed his family, apologized for his hatred of his enemy (the victim asking forgiveness from the perpetrator!!), and also extended forgiveness. The murderer was soon set free by Jesus, receiving no eternal condemnation anymore, and they are now able to call each other “brothers.”
I could tell you of a very prominent evangelist and theologian who exhibited complete humility when he said to the participants, “I feel like a lion in a room of Daniels.”
I could tell you of the white South African and the black South African responding together as a church to the issues of apartheid.
I could tell you of Maike, a pastor in Fiji who started a church with a mere 28 people and grew so much that it became not two churches, but 60! Yes- six, zero.
I could tell you of M, who was sexually abused by her father, came to Christ at 21, and then went back to her father to face him and forgive him. Now she works with other victims, particularly girls trapped in sex trafficking.
I could tell you of Paul, a man from Switzerland who is using his artistic gift to create comic books that draw people into the redemptive story of Jesus.
I could tell you of a Muslim woman and follower of Jesus with a quiet faith whose witness allowed for her devout orthodox Muslim husband to also turn to Jesus.
I could tell you of an 18-year old girl from North Korea (now living in South Korea), whose mother died of leukemia and father was imprisoned twice for this work for the gospel (first by China and then by North Korea). After the second time she never heard from him again. She doesn’t know whether he is alive, but acknowledges that he was most likely executed. What she does know is that the God of her parents spoke to her in a dream and said, “how long must I wait for you? come to me!” and she responded. She responded not just as a believer, but also now wanting to go to school to study diplomacy so that she can work on behalf of the North Korean people. She knows the cost all too well, yet she goes. She wants to bring honor to her earthly father for the glory of her heavenly Father. 18 years old!!
I could tell you of a man who was about to be executed by a street mob. When he asked if he could pray before they killed him, they allowed him. When he opened his eyes they were gone. They were suddenly scared away by something and ran away. God protected him that day.
I could tell you of the man from Papua New Guinea whose quietness in speech was matched by his loudness in anguished facial expressions that spoke of his heart for the massive problem of AIDS in his country.
I could tell you of Beverly, who works with the poor of Colombia, and whose heart despairs, for the drug problem and violence, yes, but much more so for the people who are in ultimate despair and end in deep depression and suicide. If they only knew of that which is Hope.
I could tell you of Jude from Ghana who deeply desires his country to train up real disciples and not merely believers.
I could tell you of A, an Iranian Christian, whose home is a place where the church is growing faster than at any other time since the arrival of Islam in the 7th century, but also a place of profound persecution.
I could tell you the story of John, a Korean-American working as a pastor in a prominent church in Boston and seeks actively to impact his community. Or the young Australian woman in the United States who is mobilizing college students to get involved with the work that is happening in our world.
I could tell you of Alice from Angola whose life is dedicated to organizing prayer movements, praying for the suffering women of this world, providing translation services, and speaking as a woman of hope through radio programs.
I could tell you of Jack, who has worked to combine the congregations of an African-American church and an Anglo-American church to work on community projects together, to be agents of reconciliation together in their community.
I can tell you of the man I sat across from at lunch who is the pastor of the largest evangelical church in the Middle East.
I could tell you of Michael, a Korean working in Japan, who has a tender heart to build up younger leaders from across the world to be actively involved in the Great Task before us.
I could tell you of the U.S. college students who came halfway around the world (have you looked at a map? South Africa is FAR away), giving up classes for two weeks, in order to serve us here at the congress as a steward in those thankless tasks that go on behind the scenes in order to make our time here flow smoothly.
Indeed I could tell you of a church planter in Brazil, a minister of reconciliation in Zimbabwe, a woman trying to be incarnational by grappling with the secularization in her country of Norway, and the young 25-year old who is doing the same thing in New York City. Then there’s the Asian woman professor who requires her seminary students to live among the poorest of the poor for a period of time, as well as the woman who opened her home wide in the middle of the Nigerian conflict and invited hundreds in to work through issues of brokenness, providing a safe place to seek real healing. I could tell you of the Taiwanese man whose father fought alongside the Communists against the enemy during the first world war, and then was killed for his faith by the very people with whom he served in the army– and this man’s journey of forgiveness and reconciliation and eventually love for the people who took his father as a young boy.
I could tell you of media people, academians, counselors, lay workers, tentmakers, linguists, social workers, second and third generation missionaries, authors, and major thinkers of our time. Most of these people are not foreign “missionaries”, but nationals of their own countries. 1200 are pastors; 1200 are mission/ministry leaders; 1200 are in the academics, technology, media, psychology, and medicine fields; 600 are involved in business as mission; 1/3 are women.
I could tell you of the story of all these people with their arms raised singing loudly “He is Lord, every knee shall bow, every tongue confess” simultaneously, each in their own heart language.
I could tell you of scores of people who are touching whole communities through their own stories of brokenness…and hope. Wounded healers.
I could tell you of simple people whose simple faith speaks of an extraordinary God who came down and lived among us. And invites all of us to participate in this together.
Finally, I could tell you the story of a man named Jesus, who was born in humble conditions, fished among men, set the captives free, died a criminal’s death as the ultimate martyr…for you and me. And then came back to life, conquering death, by the power of God. And if that wasn’t enough he gave His Spirit to live among us…and within us. He transforms life. He provides hope. He gives meaning and purpose. HE is the Ultimate Story.
I could tell you all these stories, but perhaps we’d have to wait for the book. 🙂 🙂
However, these are stories not from a novel or from a movie. These are real life face-to-face interactions…just over the past three days. These are people with whom I’ve personally talked, eaten lunch, prayed, listened to, and struggled together with in order to understand the brokenness of our world and our response to it in the name of the One who Reconciles all things to Himself. To be in the company of these people is transforming. These are the stories I am going to walk away with. And this grand mosaic is only a microcosm of all that God is doing in our world. Our only response is to fall on our knees and worship.