My home church has partnered with a few different missionaries and ministries in a small, poor country in Eastern Europe for several years now (I'm not saying the name for the protection of my dear friends). While the Soviet Union is officially no more, the government in this place continues to operate in a very similar way. There is very little religious freedom and very little spiritual interest.
This past week, two pastors and one of their wives were here with us. It is always such an encouragement to see them. They claim that they are so refreshed to come and visit us, but I hardly think that they are more strengthened than we are.
Their ministry is hard. Most churches have between 10-30 members; several pastors have been in an area for 15 or 20 years and still have only seen 10 people come to know the Lord during that whole time. Christians are not treated well and their are many legal restrictions on their activities. Additionally, the economic state of their country often means that churches cannot support their pastor part-time, much less full-time. They usually work multiple jobs to provide for their families. Life is difficult.
But...their faithful service and their commitment to the gospel are so honoring to the Lord and a blazing testimony to His grace. One of the things that they repeated over and over as they were sharing with us yesterday is that their ministry in their home and our ministry here in the States are not two different ministries, but one unified proclamation and display of God's grace, in response to the gospel, for His glory. It is so sweet and beautiful to be reminded that God is working worldwide. We have the opportunity to truly love and support our brothers and sisters in prayer, in training, in encouragement, in finances and more.
But in our loving and supporting, we are not the losers, not by any means. Instead, as we share the Lord's blessing with them, they share His blessing with us. I left church yesterday reminded of how firm the gospel remains in the midst of tragedy and heartbreak because I had seen the testimony of those who lived it. I left reminded that the most important thing I can spend my life and my resources on is proclaiming the truth about Jesus because they give everything to do that.
So today, I ask and encourage you to pray for our dear brothers and sisters. Pray for God's provision for them, for encouragement and strengthening in the truth of the gospel, for open hearts and fertile ground, for training in the Word of God, and most of all, that God would be glorified by them. I know that they appreciate your prayers!