Evangelism is not as straight forward as you think it is. What does it mean to tell someone the Good News? I used to know but then I got very confused. This is the story of that confusion and how God led us down a new path.
When the team did a disaster preparedness program in Anfalas I told them something that they did not fully understand. I told them that when it came to doing community development work I was the boss. When it came to doing spiritual work however, we were all in uncharted waters. I told them that I had led individuals to the Lord and so had they. I had worked with whole families and a couple of them had as well. But none of us had led a whole village to faith. How do you do wholistic village evangelism? We were going to find that out.
Of course, old habits die hard. The team had all done what I call in-your-face evangelism before. Roman Road, Four Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion we had done it all before here in Gondor and had seen its utter fruitlessness. It does not communicate good news to the peoples of Middle Earth. So, the first week they tried it all. They spoke to many people and shared boldly- behind my back. I found out later how they did not want me to know what they were doing for fear that I would not approve. I did not disapprove of trying anything but I knew it would not be effective. One day Frodo came to me and said, 'I went up to a guy and told him that Jesus lived 2000 years ago, died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead. Do you know what he said to me? He ask me how much beef cost up in Minas Tirith!' Friends, he was not changing the subject. He could not hear us. Frodo said that everyone in the village was blinded by a veil and some had an iron veil! What do you do when someone can not hear your words? If you can not have logical argument with them can you lead them to faith? We were going to find out.
At the end of the disaster preparedness training the villagers thanked us and said they appreciated the training but they did not have any immediate disaster needs. Could we help them with water? Their water system was broken and they were walking three kilometers through the desert to get water. It should be noted here that Gondor is a mountainous country but in the south there is flat desert that can see temperatures over 120 degrees in the summertime. We helped them dig two wells. Because of many mishaps and circumstances that were not our fault and not terribly interesting to talk about the project took about seven months.
In early January of 2004 I went down to see the team. They were staying in a small abandoned house in the village and it was cold. Everyone sat around the wood stove trying to keep warm. The room was filled with visitors and I sat and waited for them to go away so I could meet with the team. After some time Merry leaned over and said, 'All these people, they never leave. Last night they stayed until we went to bed and then they went out and shut the door behind them.' I determined that if I was going to minister to my guys I was going to do it in front of everyone. I pulled out my Bible and said, 'hey everybody, I've got a lesson for the team.' They all stayed. I gave a devotional and we prayed. We prayed for each other and we prayed for the village. Later we got out a guitar and sang some worship songs. The next morning we got up and were eating breakfast and Frodo said, 'The lady across the street could use this bread and butter because she just had a baby and isn't doing very well.' So, he got up ran the food over to her and came back and finished breakfast. Later that day as we sat with the villagers Frodo said, 'Hey everyone, keep it down as it is our prayer time.' We prayed for twenty minutes an no one left. We ceased to tell them about the Gospel and lived out the Gospel instead. We were very intentional. Everything we did was worship. From the time we got up to the time we went to bed we prayed, sang, read the word, and served others all in the name of Jesus. We did not TELL anyone about Jesus. We just lived honestly in front of everyone. This transformed our thinking about how we are to live. We began thinking that if this is how we live on the project site why am I not living this deliberately at home? We are still struggling to live in Minas Tirith the way we live in the villages.
Then one day Frodo said, 'Guys, every week we go back to Minas Tirith and I travel across town on a Sunday morning and I meet with a bunch of people I don't really know and worship for an hour and a half and I call that church. That is not church. What we do here in Anfalas this is Church!' I could not agree more. And more importantly the people of Anfalas were accepting us as spiritual people who could be trusted. God had a plan and he was about to reveal it to us.